Terracotta library bust of Flora

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Object Description

19th century, possibly German
Bust of a young woman as Flora
Terracotta, on integral socle
Inscribed/dated on left shoulder: ‘G. E. 1876’ with old inventory number ‘65’
19.5 cm. / 7 ¾ ins high

This diminutive yet captivating bust of a classical young female subject wearing a garland of flowers is a fine example of terracotta modelling on a small scale, exhibiting stylistic influences from both nineteenth-century Neoclassical and eighteenth-century Rococo sculpture.

There is no obvious antique or modern prototype for the present bust; this, together with the fact that it is inscribed and dated, indicates that it was created as an original work of art, rather than being a copy of another work or after the antique. The classically proportioned facial features, along with the long twisting loops of hair and serene gaze of the sitter turned sharply to dexter, are reminiscent of the works of the great Italian sculptor, Antonio Canova (1757-1822). Compare, for example, the heads of Canova’s figures, such as his Terpsichore (1811, Gypsotheca e Museo Antonio Canova, Possagno) and the Venus Italica (1812, Florence, Palazzo Pitti, inv. no. 1912 n. 878), which exhibit the same sharp turn of the classical head and long loops of hair. The truncation of the present bust in a trapezoidal shape at the shoulders and the turned socle and base-plate are also typical of Neoclassical sculpture, indicating that the author may have trained or worked for some time in Rome or another centre of classicism in mid nineteenth-century Italy.

The free modelling of the hair along with the material used and the small scale of the present bust, on the other hand, suggest that the artist was acquainted with French Rococo sculpture, most notably the works of Claude Michel, Clodion (1738-1814) and Joseph Charles Marin (1759-1834), both of whom executed small figures and busts in terracotta. See, for example, Marin’s bust of a Bacchante (1786, Victoria and Albert Museum, acc. no. 890-1882), with its similarly voluminous hairstyle.

The garland of flowers, elaborate all’antica hairstyle and idealised facial features suggest that the bust depicts a young lady in the guise of a classical deity, such as Flora, the Roman goddess of Spring. Although no author has been confirmed, the initial ‘G.E.’ may identify it with the German Romantic sculptor Gustav Eberlein (1847-1926), who studied in Rome in the early 1870s and whose mature works, such as his Boy with a Thorn (1879-86, Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin) demonstrate both classical training and Rococo influences.

Object Literature

Adolf Rosenberg, ‘Eberlein’. Bielefeld and Leipzig, 1903, pp. 4-5, figs 1-2

Object Details

Dealer Opening Times

By appointment only.

Dealer Contact

+44 (0)7768 395500
+44 (0)7768 395500

Dealer Location

London W1 (Mayfair), by appointment.

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