Already well-known (Avery, 2008, p. 185, cat. 54), this representation of America is one of the singular "machine allegoriche" produced by the highly original, enigmatic creative mind of the Venetian sculptor Francesco Bertos.
With its typical pyramidal structure, the marble consists of a round base on which the scene is laid out around a kind of tree trunk. While not violent, this is a decidedly curious scene, to say the least. On one side, we see a half-reclining nude young man, right arm raised, dagger in hand, sitting on a "lucerta" ("lizard": the way Cesare Ripa in his Iconologia defines what critics generally call an "alligator", meaning the canonical attribute of this continent), which he has just given a mortal blow – we imagine to avenge the death of the child lying out beside him. On the other side, another, naked child stands brandishing stones, which, in a primitive impulse, he is preparing to throw at the female figure (whose left hand holds what was probably once a pointed stake, the right being placed on the visible part of a bow), perched on the shoulders of a sturdy bearded man. The latter has one foot on the dead child and the other on the leg of the young man with the dagger, and holds up a kind of stick in his left hand, while the right hand, emerging from the folds of a falling drape, supports the back of the woman. Facing him, another full-length male figure, whose tensed left leg rests on the ground, while the right is slightly raised, is shown pulling on part of the drapery with his left hand, while the right hand, the arm slightly bent, also seems to be holding a slightly sharpened stone.
Probably one of a series of allegories of continents – of which only the representation of Africa still exists, as far as we know (Avery, 2008, p. 185, cat. 53) – the sculpture presented here should be compared in terms of both stylistic affinity and composition with the group of the same subject now in the Palazzo Reale in Turin, along with many others (idem, p. 183, cat. 50). Even if there are obvious differences between the two versions of the Allegory of America, the similarities are considerable – for example, between the figure of the reclining young man with the dagger in the Piedmontese work and the one here: the pose is the same, as is the depiction of the facial features (the aquiline nose, the ears, the delineation of the lips, etc.) and the modelling of the muscles. Another point in common is the figure with the raised right leg, holding in his left hand the drapery of the female figure at the top of the pyramid. This figure is important in the composition, because it is the only one looking towards the viewer.
As we know, works like these and others produced in bronze, made Francesco Bertos an "uomo celebre... solo nell’arte di simil genere" ("a famous man... singular in this kind of art") (Alice Binion, La Galleria scomparsa del Maresciallo Von der Schulenburg, Milan, 1990, p. 127-128). The importance of these words and this precise definition lies in the fact that they come from the editors of the catalogues for the collection of Marshal von der Schulenburg, one of the greatest collectors of Venetian art in the 18th century. His collection, famous throughout Europe, contained at least twelve works by Bertos, making him the sculptor most represented.
Charles Avery, The Triumph of Motion: Francesco Bertos (1678-1741) and the Art of Sculpture, Turin, 2008.
This delicate terracotta with its elongated proportions recalls the style of the Franco-Piedmontese sculptor Francesco Ladatte who lived in Paris as part of the suite of the Prince de Carignan. He won the Prix de Rome in 1726 and then studied at the French Academy in Rome. He was back in Paris from 1734 to 1744, and was admitted to the Academy as an agréé in 1736. He became a full member in 1741, presenting a marble group of Judith (Musée du Louvre, the terracotta study is in the Musée de Chambéry) as his reception piece. Its sinuosity is closely comparable to our statuette. He was appointed an associate professor and exhibited regularly at the Salon and worked for Versailles, but the best known project from his French period consists of the two plaster sculptures adorning the altars of the transepts of the church of Saint-Louis-en-l’Ile in Paris, dated 1741. In 1744, he settled definitively in Turin where he was appointed sculptor to the court, while continuing his production of ornamental bronzes, collaborating, amongst others, with the famous cabinetmaker Pietro Piffetti on the queen’s Toilette Cabinet in the royal palace of Turin. Our figure’s face is very close to that of the main figure of the terracotta group of the Triumph of Virtue signed and dated 1744 (Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs), and also to that of military glory in the gilt bronze group that forms the clock Time and Military Glory (Turin, Royal Palace). Our group should therefore be dated to the artist’s second Italian period.
La sculpture au siècle de Rubens dans les Pays-Bas méridionaux et la principauté de Liège, Bruxelles, Musée d’Art Ancien, 15 juillet – 2 octobre 1977, catalogue exposition, pp. 47-60.
Francis Carrette, Denis Coekelberghs (& al.), Le baroque dévoilé, Bruxelles, Racine, 2011, pp.81-89.
The deep and dark color of this terracotta slab points towards Northern Europe and especially Walloons artists. Jean Del Cour seems to be the most suitable attribution for this fiery sketch. We recognize here the sculptor’s hand, using mooring with maestria to give a real deepness to the details of the eyes, and carve the clothes pleats whereas he also gives lightness to the background subject, incised with a wooden tool providing a real fluidity.
The son of a carpenter, Del Cour was born in Hamoir (south of Liège) and makes his apprenticeship with the sculptor Robert Henrard (1617-1676) in Liège. He would have travelled twice to Rome where he met Bernini and was influenced by him, as testify the two angels from the altar of the collegiate church of Saint John the Evangelist in Liège. Animated by a slight movement, arms towards the altar, their wings balancing their movement in an almost spiral make this pair one of Del Cour masterpieces.
Our slab was certainly a model for the decoration of an alter or another monument, non realized, or lost, and not documented. The artist wished to work with an underneath squaring, which enabled him to report it on a later marble. He used it on the terracotta slabs of the viaticum, or the finding of the True Cross both in the Walloon art museum. Those slabs are very close in style to ours. The small deep eyes , the same baroque movement, or the way to put in evidence some thin and small details are common with our slab. More, a model for an allegory of Fame has the same characters.
The representation of the massacre of the innocents is reminiscent of Del Cour’s Italian experience, to which must be added the precise use of Marcantonio Raimondi’s print after Raphaël. The group on the right side, the mother protecting her child, or the left one, the mother weeping her dead child is to be found in this print, which goes back to 1511-1512.
The original marble was discovered probably in 1569 or somewhat earlier in Rome and as soon as 1613 is described in the Borghèse collection. It was acquired, with the main part of the Borghèse antiques by Napoléon in 1807 and is since in the Louvre. It has been sometimes described as Saturnus devouring his children, and though this interpretation was widespread in late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the identification to Silenus is preferred.
It was one of the most admired sculptures in Rome, and many copies of all materials and sizes were made of it.
Cybèle, considered The Mother of Gods by the Ancients, is a divinity of Near-Eastern origin, goddess of fertility (here illustrated by the cornucopia), also worshipped by Greeks and Romans. Her head is crowned by a wall with towers, she holds the keys of the earth, giving access to all the wealth.
Jean-Louis Ajon studied at the Toulouse academy sculpture with François Lucas, and drawing with Jean Suau; in 1786 he is at the Paris Academy studying with the sculptor Bridan. The Revolution surprises him that city, where he takes part to the demolition of the Bastille, before returning in his hometown to attempt the grand prix. He will make all of his career in that city and we can mention works for the Dalbade church(canopy, under the direction of Pascal Virebent, and in collaboration with Beurné and Vigan), Notre-Dame de la Daurade (a Black Virgin in 1806, and the the altar for the Holy Thorn, on a drawing by Virebent , of which remain two angels in adoration , gilt wood, in 1812), Saint- Nicolas (a group of Our Lady of Mercy ), Saint-Jérôme(pulpit, on a drawing by Virebent)and the cathedral (the ravishing of saint Augustine, and four trophies). We also know another terracotta sculpture of a seated Mars , signed and titled, belonging to the Musée du Vieux-Toulouse (see exhibition catalogue Toulouse et le Néo-Classicisme, les artistes toulousains de 1775 à 1830, musée des Augustins, 1989-1990, pp.124-125). The two gilt-wood angels, and the terracotta Mars share this massive body that we find here in our Cybèle. Thanks to his academic education, Ajon knew well the antiques without going to Rome: so we can recognize the Ludovisi Mars as inspiration for the Musée du Vieux-Toulouse terracotta, and for ours the Mattei Cérès (for the general figure) and the la Farnèse Flora (for the idea of raising the gown). Ajon’s after-death inventory, discovered by Jérôme Bouchet, to whom we are grateful, in the Archives départementales de Haute-Garonne (archives de Me Prouho), established on October, 3, 1843, mentions many statuettes in plaster or terracotta, either of Antique subjects (« la mort d’Achille en plâtre prisée dix francs », « le cheval Pégase en plâtre prisé trois francs », either modern (« deux petites statues représentant deux joueurs de vielle en terre cuite prisées trois francs »), but also portraits, decorative arts (« douze corbeilles en terre cuite prisées quinze francs »), and religious (among them « une statue en bois représentant notre dame la noire prisée quatre francs », possible modello for the Daurade ?),and a « une vierge en marbre ayant la main gauche appuyée sur un vase prisée quarante francs », material quite unusual in Toulouse.
Three « statue en terre cuite représentant Cérès » are listed in this inventory, the first one valued five francs, the two others fifteen francs each: can we imagine that our Cybèle, with her cornucopia that could refer to the harvest goddess, is one of them, « victim » of a misinterpretation ? Nothing enables us to affirm it, (the inventory give no indication of size, signature, we then suppose that all works are by Ajon), but it is tempting to suggest it.
Nagaland is a small state north-east of India, south of Himalaya, close to China and Burma, constituted by some thirty tribes, and was officially created in 1963. They are mostly (80% Christian), being the most important Christian sates in India.
This important element is typical of notable houses, and was located on the main façade, on one side and another of the door.
Expedition 1908-1910, Der Kaiserin Augusta Fluss, Otto Reche, Hambourg 1913, p. 413
Kunst vom Sepik 1, Heinz Kelm, Berlin 1966, ill. n°78 (expedition Sepik 1912-1913)
rattan mask, Mindinbit Iatmul, Middle-Sepik, P.N.G.
Peltier, Phlippe (ss dir.), Sepik, arts de Papouasie-Nouvelle-Guinée, Paris, coédition Skira / musée du quai Branly, 2015
According to anthropologist Heinz Kelm (1925-1983) "Masks made of rattan weaving and overmodeling of coconut or palm leaves belong to the oldest artistic forms of the Papuans. Usually kept in Houses of Worship, they were used more particularly in initiation rites, but also in other ceremonies. (…) Those that do not have a wooden mask are made earlier than the others”. It is therefore to this type of dance mask that the example presented here refers.
The use of Awan masks among the Iatmul speaking population of the Middle Sepik was restricted to instilling social rules and punishing children. They often take the form of human faces (that of ancestors) or animals such as fish or pigs and completely cover the dancer's body in order to materialize the idea of a body envelope. These masks were worn for dancing by the male members of the clan. They do not have a particular sacred charge and can thus be seen by all members of the clan, unlike other masks more particularly secret in initiation rites.
These voluminous and complex costumes have very rarely been preserved. Another example is currently known in the collections of the National Museum of Port Moresby (ill. 1) and a copy in the Museums of Cultures in Basel (ill. 2).
This polychrome wooden mascaron with a human figure, surrounded by a string of pearls, set in a large shell and decorated with acanthus leaves brings us closer to the Nordic area and more particularly to the art of Johan Gregor Van der Schardt. A sculptor born in Nijmegen in 1530, Schardt spent a long time in Italy, where he was documented in Rome, Bologna and probably Florence in 1560 and in Venice in 1569. The following year he moved to Nuremberg where he worked on the terracotta portraits of Willibald Imhoff and his wife. He made a speciality of these terracotta portraits by developing models in medallions. From 1571 to 1576 he worked for Frederick II of Denmark and for Emperor Maximilian II of Habsburg. He moved back to Nuremberg in 1579 and established his own workshop.
Our decorative bas-relief in carved wood is more in keeping with the master's style, recalling the fine, light forms he gave to female faces, as in the tomb of Ingeborg Skeel (ca. 1545 - 1604) in the Voer church in Vandsyssel, Denmark. Finally, it should be noted that Van der Schardt also participated in the elaboration of the epitaph of the Rosenkrantz family in the church of Hornslet, for which the decorations are richly sculpted and abundant, like our mascaron.
This large and massive marble bas-relief surely has its origins in the sculpture of Southern France at the very end of the 15th century. The Occitan cross on the rider's shield is the symbol of all the regions that speak the Romance language, which does not exclude some geographical areas of Spain (valleys of Catalonia) or Italy (valleys of Italian Piedmont). This same cross was however, from the 11th to the 13th century, the emblem of the Counts of Toulouse before becoming the symbol of the whole southern region of France including Provence, Occitania, and even part of Aquitaine. It is surely in the Occitan part of France that we must look for the origins of this beautiful bas-relief.