The artwork is accompanied by an export licence.
The artwork is accompanied by the expertise by Dr. Charles Avery of September 2020 (an excerpt of which is edited below) and by a document of examination of the metal alloy. Mark "BM" on the truncated top of the tree stump (Boissel de Monville). Dimension of the marble base: 8.5x10x10 cm.
Provenance: Baron Hippolyte Boissel de Monville (1794-1873), collector and agent, especially for the Rothschilds;
"Catalogue de la Précieuse Collection de Bronzes Italiens des XVe et XVI siècles, composant la ColLection de M B. de M [onville]", Drouot, Paris 24-25 January 1861, lot 11, sold for 750 Fr .;
Comparative literature: W. Bode, "Collection of J. Pierpont Morgan: Bronzes of the Renaissance and subsequent periods", Paris 1910, pp. XXXIV-V;
G. Brière and M.-M. Lamy, "L'inventaire de Barthélémy Prieur, sculpteur du roi", in Bulletin historique et littéraire de la Société du Protestantisme francais, XCVI, (Paris 1949, pp. 41-68);
C. Grodecki, "Documents du Minutier Centrai des Notaires de Paris: histoire de art aux XVIe siècle" (Cl 540-1600), II, Paris 1986, pp. 129-33;
M. Buckling, "Die Negervenus", Liebieghaus, Fratùcfurt-am-Main, 1991;
A. Lefebure, "L'atelier de Barthélemy Prieur et imagerie royale sous le règne d'Henri IV", and R. Seelig-Teeuwen, "Barthélemy Prieur, portraitiste d'Henri IV et Marie de Medicis", in Avènement d 'Henri IV, quatrième centenaire, vol. 5, Les arts au temps d'Henri IV, Association Henri IV, 1989 (Pau, 1992);
R. Seelig-Teeuwen, "Barthélemy Prieur, contemporain de Germain Pilon", in Germain Pilon et les sculpteurs francais de la Renaissance (Louvre, Conférences et colloques. La Documentation française) (Paris 1993), pp. 365-85;
A. Radcliffe, "The Robert H. Smith Collection: Bronzes 1500-1600", London 1994;
R. Seelig-Teeuwen, "Prieur", in The Dictionary of Art, London, 1996, vol. 25, pp. 576-77;
A. Radcliffe and N. Penny, "Art of the Renaissance Bronze 1500-1650", The Robert H. Smith Collection,
London, 2004: R. Seelig-Teeuwen, "Prieur", in The Encyclopedia of Sculpture, New York / London 2004, pp. 1362-65;
R. Seelig-Teeuwen, '"Barthélémy Prieur", in G. Bresc-Bautier & G. Scherf [ed.], Bronzes francais de la Renaissance au Siècle des lumières, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, 2009, pp. 102-47, pp. 136 -38;
R. Seelig-Teeuwen, D. Bougarit and F. G. Bewer, '"Barthélémy Prieur fondeur, son atelier, ses methods-de travail", French Bronze Sculpture: Materials andTechniques 161h -18th century, London 2014, pp. 18-38.
Barthélémy Prieur was a French sculptor working in stone and marble who - especially towards the end of his life - specialized in casting bronze statuettes in series that were aimed to attract retail commerce (slightly preceding the efforts of the Fiorentine sculptor-foundryman Antonio Susini with his statuettes after models by Giambologna). Between 1564 and 1567 he worked at the court of Duke Emanuele Filiberto di Savoia at Turin and, while he was in Italy, he may have visited Florence, Milan and Rome. He is recorded in Paris in 1571, where, for a cousin of his first patron, Madeleine de Savoie, he executed two bronze Virtues for the monument to the heart of the Connestabile Anne de Montmorency, her late husband. An inventory drawn up after the death of Prieur's first wife in 1583 reveals his affluence, and the range of the models that he was producing in bronze. On account of being a Protestant, he fled to Sedan, where in 1591 he was named sculptor to the king by Henri IV. Returning to Paris with that monarch in 1594, he became involved in the architectural decoration of the Palais du Louvre, as well as preparing statues for the monument of Henri IV and of his queen, Marie de' Medici.
A quarter of a century later another inventory, drawn up after Prieur's own death in 1611, reveals a still wider range of models of small bronzes in the process of production - plaster moulds, wax casting models, and bronzes, some only partly finished, standing in rows in the foundry, etc. These included images of the king and queen, most famous of which is a group of King Henri IV on horseback defeating his enemies, animals, and classical or genre figures of humans.
PRIEUR'S NUDE LADIES:
Characteristic of Prieur's many statuettes and busts of young women, which - like the present example - are nearly always secular, indeed pagan, classical nymphs or goddesses - and children -often Cupid, or ordinary, naughty little boys - is the profile of the face such as is used here: a high forehead sloping back in an almost 'Grecian ' continuous line from a small nose, with a reced ing hairline, while small pursed lips appear above a daintily receding chin. Several of Prieur's statuettes depict nude women attending to their toilet. When cataloguing an excellent example of the present type, Radcliffe wrote in 1994 and repeated it (with N. Penny) in 2004: "lt is not identifiable with any item in the inventory of André le Notre of 1700. However, it correspond roughly in height with the standing statuettes in the inventory after death of Barthélémy Prieur of 1611, described as being 8 pouces high. Support for its adherence to the statuettes by Prieur of seated women at their toilet is provided by its pairing in the former Pourtalès collection, Paris, with the statuette of a woman braiding her hair from that group.' Radcliffe concluded, '"[...] the present model, which is less sophisticated in its composition, is rare", citing items B and C in the list of 'Other examples' given above.
However, he missed a brilliantly perceptive passage by Bode in the Introduction to his catalogue of the Pierpont Morgan Collection, 1910: "There is an artist whose name is not known to us, but who closely follows Gian Bologna's manner and period. Eight or ten different bronze statuettes, all of entirely similar character, may be ascribed to him. Like Gian Bologna, this artist seems to me to be a native of the Netherlands or of the North of France who studied in Italy, perhaps under his famous countryman. His figures are small and purely genre-like in character, youthful women bathing, or at their toilet, as well as costume figures. In build his figures are still more slender than those of Gian Bologna; their height being more than nine times the length of the head; the limbs are firm, but less individual and naturalistic than in the work of the Fiorentine master, but they are almost more elegant in appearance, and are executed and finished with -if possible - still greater care.No collection is so rich in the works of this anonymous master as that of Mr Piepont Morgan; it contains excellent examples of five characteristic specimens, one of them being twice repeated: the Woman Bathing and about to dry her feet (No. 167); the Woman Bathing who plaits her hair (No. 168); the Woman Bathing who half turns round and touches her right foot (No. 160); the Woman Bathing who combs her hair (Nos. 170-171) -all of them of course are nude and seated on the stump of a tree or on a drapery. Mr. Morgan acquired these charming little figures with the Mannheim Collection and, together with them, the bronze statuette of a youthful woman with a market-basket on her arm (No. 172), the entire type, the small head, slender form, elegant carriage and shape of the hands, as well as the powerful chiselling and brilliant patina have so many points in common with the figures of women bathing, that this statue is undoubtedly the work of the same artist. On one of the women bathing we even find the same peculiar head-gear. The costume of this woman with the market basket, at the same time gives us a clue as to the period and origin of the creator of all these little figures. The dress is pronouncedly Northern in character and in 1600 was worn in the Southern parts of the Netherlands and in Northern France. The same evidence is afforded by the companion piece to this little figure, a young man in 'modern' dress, holding his gloves in one hand -a bronze statuette of similar size, of which, among other places, there is a good specimen in the Rijksmuseum at Amsterdam. The form, the slender build and the small head are characteristic of the art of this part of the country, particularly of the North of France, at the end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth century. We may therefore, with great probability, assume that the artist was a fellow countryman and younger contemporary of Gian Bologna, who, as we know, came from Douai, at that time in the Netherlands."
Thus Wilhelm von Bode, with absolutely no documents at his disposal, built up a hundred years ago - purely on the basis of observation and comparison of Morellian details and circumstantial characteristics - a group of bronzes that still constitutes the core of the oeuvre of the artist whom we now know was Barthélémy Prieur. Four of the statuettes are now in the Huntington Art Collection, San Marino, California. Prieur was in fact seven to ten years younger than Giambologna (1525 /-29 - 1608) and died only three years after him. It is interesting that Bode was able to perceive from their styles and practices that they were - more or less - fellow-countrymen, from northern France and French-speaking Flanders (Wallonia) respectively.
The present, well finished and patinated cast of Prieur's fascinating composition, of which only some half dozen examples are known, dates perhaps from quite early in his production of statuettes, in the 1580s and 1590s. It stands comparison with the one in the Smith Collection in the National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.) and enjoys the prestige of a provenance from the collection of Baron Boissel de Monville, one of the most perceptive and selective connoisseurs of bronzes who has ever lived.
THE COLLECTOR, BARON DE MONVILLE:
Baron Hippolyte Boissel de Monville (1794-1873) is a figure whose name crops up frequently in sales reports and art market gossip in the middle decades of the nineteenth century. Monville was the last in the line of an old aristocratic family from Normandy. He married the daughter of Napoleon's general Lannes, who became the marquis de Montebello; their daughter in 1843 married the marquis de la Roche-Aymon. There were no male heirs and the barony became extinct with Monville's death in 1873.
Monville was a marchand-amateur who, in the course of his lifetime, created at least three collections, which he then sold at auction. The best-known of these sales is that held in Paris on 24-25 January 1861, consisting of a large collection of Renaissance plaquettes, as well as bronze statuettes and utensils. For this sale it was decided to mark every item with a "B.M." stamp, the matrix being destroyed after the sale. The significance of the B.M. initials has been recognised only in recent decades. Thanks to them, exceptionally, a large number of the items sold in the 1861 sale may be traced today. Monville started building his collections again, lending a number of items to the Musée Rétrospectif in 1865.
The Baron de Monville is recorded in a number of Parisian trade directories in the 1860's and early 1870's, presumably maintaining a Paris office for his business, which very largely consisted in his work as a principal buying agent for the Rothschilds. He constantly travelled for them and was often in Florence, where he was a close associate and rivai of the dealer Alessandro Foresi. In an article for the satirical journal "Il Piovano Arlotto" in 1858, Foresi castigated the leading Fiorentine dealers whose greed led them to try to make fortunes out of "the Foulds, the Rothschilds, the Aguados, the Monvilles, the Selliers and ali those collectors hungry for Italian crockery and other knick-knacks from the sixteenth century". Foresi elsewhere noted that Monville had at his disposition the purses of Jarnes de Rothschild, his wife and three sons, Gustave, Adolphe and Salomon, and two of their wives; he "travelled often in Italy and emptied those purses more in Florence than anywhere else, acquiring for these seven Croesus the most important and graceful spoils of the Renaissance". Monville is therefore likely to have been responsible for helping to acquire many of the treasures of sculpture and decorative arts assembled in the nineteenth century by the French Rothschilds.
Technique: Bronze with brown patina
Measures: 19.70 x 9.00 x 6.00 cm
Starting price: € 50.000,00
Estimate: € 80.000,00 - 120.000,00
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