Sunday, March 9, 2008

Roman, Porphyry Bust, partly ancient with 17th century additions

Roman, Porphyry Bust, partly ancient
with 17th century additions
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Roman, Porphyry Bust, partly ancient
with 17th century additions

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Roman, partly ancient with 17th century additionsa fine and impressive porphyry bust of a consulthe head of a dark porphyry with ruffled curling hair and strong powerful features with deep set eyes set into pinker porphyry shoulders clad in classical armour with a toga thrown across the left shoulder, the aiguilettes decorated with grenades and lion masks with rings terminating in ribbon ties, the cuirasse centred by a winged Medusa's head, a gilt bronze collar at the truncation of the head60cm., 23 1/2 in. on mottled green socle
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This head with its powerful physical likeness and expressive eyes is representative of late Roman portrait sculpture of the 2nd half of the third century and later. The hair which has been left in its weathered state is in contrast to the face which has apparently been restored as is evident with the infill executed at a later date. It had been suggested that this portrait may be rather of early Byzantine origin. The head of Emperor Constantine of around 315 in the Palazzo dei Conservatori in Rome shows the pupils to the eyes which do bear some resemblance. The mysterious four imperial figures, probably the Tetrarchs in Venice, said to be of the early fourth century and from Constantinople, are carved from the same dark brownish hard porphyry but show much less physical likeness than the present head. Indeed they appear somewhat stylised in contrast.
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The shoulders are of a late to High Renaissance style and of a more flamboyant form. However the back does appear strangely enough to have an ancient surface and has been strenghtened with an iron bar to secure it to the socle. It is again possible that the shoulders have also been reworked and polished from an ancient original. Katrin Kalvaran in her study of the collection of Cardinal Scipio Borghese (p.170) describes the restoration of two parthans now in the Louvre which was begun in 1616 and refers to the restorer and intagliatore Lorenzo Nizza.
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Red porphyry marble was first mined by the Romans in the province of Egypt, from the reign of Claudius. Prized by the Romans for its beauty and rarity it is difficult to carve and the technique was lost until the sixteenth century when it was revived in the Grand Ducal workshops of Medici Florence.
Sale: L01291 Location: London, New Bond Street Auction
Dates: Session 1: Wed, 11 Jul 01 10:30 AM
PROVENANCE: Private collection - SDK