Tomasso Brothers Fine Art Offerings at TEFAF 2016

Posted in Art Market by Editor on March 7, 2016


Massimiliano Soldani-Benzi, Ganymede and the Eagle,
bronze, 31.5cm high, 38.5cm wide, ca. 1714.

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Press release for the Tomasso Brothers:

Tomasso Brothers Fine Art at TEFAF
Maastricht, 11–20 March 2016

Leading international dealers in the field of important European sculpture, Tomasso Brothers Fine Art will unveil a rare work by the Florentine master of the late Baroque era, Massimiliano Soldani-Benzi (1656–1740). Ganymede and the Eagle, circa 1714, depicts a poetic moment from classical mythology when Zeus, disguised as an eagle, captures Ganymede, in Homer’s words “the loveliest born of the race of mortals,” to become his cup-bearer. This dramatic composition is a wonderful example of Soldani-Benzi’s suave modelling of form and the sumptuous finish of his bronzes. It is also an extremely rare model: the only other known version is held by the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Soldani-Benzi is acknowledged as the finest bronze caster in late 17th- and early 18th-century Europe and, along with Foggini, is considered the most significant proponent of the Florentine late Baroque style in sculpture. He excelled in medal and coin-making, enjoying commissions from Pope Innocent XI and Queen Christina of Sweden, and in 1682 he became Director of the Grand-Ducal Mint. His workshop, situated on the ground floor of the Galleria degli Uffizi, was patronised by the Medici Grand Dukes, the Elector Palatine, and the 1st Duke of Marlborough, among many prestigious foreign clients.

The present model is first mentioned in correspondence between Soldani-Benzi and his London agent Zamboni, dated 15th October 1716, regarding four casts Lord Burlington had ordered two years previously but not yet paid for. They included a Venus and Adonis, of which there is an example in the J. Paul Getty Museum, and a matching pair of groups depicting Leda and the Swan and Ganymede and the Eagle. The latter was sent to England, although Leda and the Swan is now missing. The present bronze was previously at Swithland Hall, Leicestershire, residence of the Earls of Lanesborough.

This historic work is just one of the highlights at Tomasso Brothers Fine Art, stand 166, TEFAF 2016, offered for sale priced in excess of €1,000,000 (euros). The fair, which is the world’s leading art and antiques event, takes place at the Maastricht Exhibition and Congress Centre (MECC) from 11–20 March 2016.

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And as a centrepiece for their TEFAF offerings, the Tomasso Brothers reunite a pair of Roman busts from Wilton House:

Horace, Rome, 17th century, Red Imperial Porphyry and Breccia Pernice marble , 54.5 cm wide, 71.5 cm high.

Horace, Rome, 17th century, Red Imperial Porphyry and Breccia Pernice marble , 54.5 cm wide, 71.5 cm high.

Extensive research by Tomasso Brothers Fine Art has reunited an important pair of polychrome marble portrait busts depicting Cicero, civic hero of the Roman Republic, and Horace, the famed poet. Carved in the same seventeenth-century Roman workshop, the busts have an illustrious provenance. Originally part of the Valletta collection in Naples, they were acquired around 1721 by Thomas Herbert, the 8th Earl of Pembroke (1654–1733) for his family’s splendid residence, Wilton House, near Salisbury, one of England’s finest stately houses.

For more than two centuries, the busts were displayed at the heart of one of the finest private art collections ever assembled in Europe. They flanked the main chimneypiece in the Earl’s ‘sanctum sanctorum’ of the Great ‘Double Cube’ Room designed by Inigo Jones, among family portraits by Sir Anthony Van Dyck, and works formerly in the esteemed collections of Cardinals Mazarin and Richelieu, King Charles I of England, and Thomas Howard, the 14th Earl of Arundel.

Pembroke’s influence on the tastes and collecting trends of the aristocratic English in the early eighteenth century were considerable. When he embarked on his Grand Tour in 1676 and set about building a collection in the 1680s, he was all but alone. Yet the fame of the galleries at Wilton House spread among the aristocracy, and by the time of his death in 1733, many of England’s great country houses were beginning to be decorated with antiquities, renaissance, and baroque sculpture.

Horace, Rome, 17th century, Red Imperial Porphyry and Breccia Pernice marble , 54.5 cm wide, 71.5 cm high.

Cicero, Rome, 17th century, Black Touchstone and Breccia Pernice marble, 61 cm wide, 76 cm high.

The history of this pair of busts is inextricably linked to some of the most important European art collections ever assembled, the rise of ‘The Grand Tour’, and thus with the history of art collecting.

It is through the expertise of Tomasso Brothers Fine Art that the two works have been reunited since their dispersal from Wilton House. Cicero came into the gallery’s collection a short while after the directors had become aware of Horace. They knew instinctively that they were both great 17th-century busts and that the particular specimen of imperial porphyry used for the Horace was a wonderful quality. While recognising the physical similarities of the two works, it was finding an old photograph of the Double Cube Room at Wilton House that set off months of study to discover the full history of the busts [photo from Arthur Stratton, The English Interiors (London 1920), plate XLII].

“Our research has taken us across Britain, from the Pembroke archives in Wiltshire, to the British Library, and on to the Bodleian Library, Oxford” says Dino Tomasso, Director. “We have uncovered eighteenth-century manuscripts, printed catalogues, and early guidebooks to the Wilton House Collection that detail in remarkable depth the journey of these illustrious busts from Naples to Wiltshire in the first quarter of the eighteenth century.”

Raffaello Tomasso, Director, adds: “It has been an exciting discovery to unearth the provenance of these two important works from Thomas Herbert’s famous collection, and our privilege to reunite them at TEFAF.”

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This year’s loan exhibition includes drawings by Fra Bartolommeo assembled in 1729 by Niccolò Gabburri:

Collecting Collectors in the Boijmans
Maastricht, 11–20 March 2016

As in previous years, the loan exhibition in TEFAF Paper will offer visitors a one-off opportunity to view a unique selection of prints and drawings from a museum with a major collection in the field. This year’s exhibition, entitled Collecting Collectors, shows a selection of master drawings and prints from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The drawings and prints were acquired over the last 167 years.

A particular highlight of the collection are the works by Fra Bartolommeo (1473–1517), numbering 400 sheets with 500 drawings assembled in two luxury albums by Florentine collector Niccolò Gabburri in 1729. One of the albums will be included in the selection at TEFAF Maastricht 2016, as a prelude to the forthcoming large Fra Bartolommeo exhibition in the Boijmans in the autumn of 2016. Also included in Collecting Collectors are works by old masters such as Albrecht Dürer, Lucas van Leyden and Rembrandt van Rijn to modern and contemporary artists like Paul Cézanne, Salvador Dalí, René Magritte and Yayoi Kusama. . . .

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