Terracottas from Tomasso Brothers on View in New York

Posted in Art Market by Editor on December 21, 2017

European Terracottas from Tomasso Brothers Fine Art
Carlton Hobbs LLC, New York, 25 January — 2 February 2018

Giovanni Bonazza, Allegory of Winter, ca. 1710, terracotta, 34 cm high.

Tomasso Brothers Fine Art of Leeds and London is participating in Master Drawings New York (MDNY) for the first time this coming winter when they hold their annual catalogued exhibition at Carlton Hobbs LLC on the Upper East Side from 25 January to 2 February 2018. Tomasso Brothers has for a number of years held a highly-regarded exhibition in New York in January. The decision this year by MDNY to additionally encompass painting and sculpture at its next edition (Saturday 27 January to Saturday 3 February 2018, Preview Friday 26 January 2018) offered a golden opportunity for the gallery to take part in this preeminent event.

This year Tomasso Brothers will present a selection of important European terracotta sculptures from the neolithic to the neoclassical periods. The exhibition traces the history of ‘fired clay’ starting with the Vinca civilisation of South-Eastern Europe in the fifth millennium BC, which produced the fascinating Idol of a Mother and Child in the show and from there, via the ancient classical period and the Renaissance, to the high baroque, ending with the neoclassical era.

Among the works to be offered is a North Italian idealised Portrait Relief of a Lady from the late fifteenth century, and an attentively described Portrait Bust of a Man from Emilia in Northern Italy, ca. 1500. Both testify to the birth of terracotta as a medium for portraiture which continued well into the early modern era. Among further highlights is a Portrait Bust of a Gentleman by the rare Flemish sculptor Servatius Cardon (1608–1649) and a poignant Portrait of a Young Man attributed to the great French artist Philippe-Laurent Roland (1746–1816). The latter work is a beautiful representation of the birth of the modern portrait, where hierarchy and status give way to the expression of individuality and emotion.

Parallel to this, the exhibition also demonstrates how terracotta was essential to artistic practice as a means for sculptors to develop ideas and compositions, shown by a recently rediscovered terracotta model for an allegorical representation of Winter, by the Venetian baroque master Giovanni Bonazza (1654–1736), which offers a crucial insight into the work of the sculptor, presenting a highly accomplished model for a finished work to be carved in either stone or marble.

A similar case is illustrated by a Character Head executed by Antonio Canova (1757–1822) around 1780, when he was still a young sculptor on the cusp of greatness. Inspired by the famous Laocoön group in the Vatican, this terracotta exists as an invenzione in its own right, and so a testimony to the sculptor’s search for his own artistic vocabulary. Deeply and richly modelled, the Character Head betrays a preoccupation with the representation of emotions, framed within a wider exploration of antiquity that would be a central theme throughout Canova’s career.

Another remarkable discovery and a highlight of the exhibition to be presented by Tomasso Brothers Fine Art is a terracotta model for a figure of Saint Mark by Giuseppe Piamontini (1664–1742), a colossal marble statue carved for the new baroque church of Santi Michele e Gaetano in Piazza Antinori on the central Via Tornabuoni in Florence.

Important European Terracottas, presented by Tomasso Brothers Fine Art as part of Master Drawings New York 2018, will take place at Carlton Hobbs LLC at 60 East 93rd Street NY from 25 January through 2 February 2018. A fully illustrated catalogue will be available. Prices will range from around $15,000 to $500,000.

At Auction | Gold Laurel Leaf from Napoleon’s Crown

Posted in Art Market by Editor on October 13, 2017

Martin-Guillaume Biennais, gold laurel leaf from the crown made for the coronation of Napoleon, 1804.

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At Fontainebleau on November 19, Osenat plans to auction a gold laurel leaf from the crown made by Martin-Guillaume Biennais for Napoleon’s 1804 coronation, estimated to sell for 100,000 and 150,000 euros ($118,000 to $177,000). As reported by Agence France-Presse, via Art Daily (12 October 2017) . . .

The French leader crowned himself emperor at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris in 1804, famously taking the Roman-style laurel wreath and putting it on his own head, instead of letting Pope Pius VII do the honours. But at a fitting for the crown in the days leading up to the spectacular event, the ‘little Corsican’ had complained that it was too heavy, the Osenat auction house said. So goldsmith Martin-Guillaume Biennais took six large leaves out of the crown, later giving one to each of his six daughters. . . .

The original wreath was melted down after Napoleon’s fall in the wake of the Battle of Waterloo. . . . [It] had 44 large gold laurel leaves and 12 smaller ones. It cost him 8,000 francs, a considerable fortune at the time, with the box it was stored in setting him back a further 1,300 francs. . .

The full article is available here»

Jacques-Louis David, The Coronation of Napoleon in the Cathedral of Notre Dame; oil on canvas, 1805–07 (Louvre, Paris).

At Sotheby’s | Joseph Wright’s ‘An Academy by Lamplight’

Posted in Art Market by Editor on September 20, 2017

Press release via Art Daily (18 September 2017) . . .

Old Masters Evening Sale
Sotheby’s, London, 6 December 2017

Joseph Wright, An Academy by Lamplight, 1769, 127 × 102 cm.

The genius of Joseph Wright of Derby A.R.A. (1734–1797) will come under the spotlight this winter, when one of the artist’s most important candlelit pictures, and one of his last major works remaining in private hands, appears at auction at Sotheby’s. Painted in 1769, An Academy by Lamplight (lot #11) is a supreme example of Wright’s dramatic rendering of light and shade and his association with the Enlightenment movement. Almost certainly the picture that Wright exhibited at the Society of Artists in 1769, this rare painting was first securely recorded in the collection of Sir Savile Crossley, 1st Baron Somerleyton (1857–1935), the scion of a great carpet manufacturing dynasty from Halifax, and has remained in the possession of his family ever since. One of the star lots of Sotheby’s London Old Masters evening sale on 6 December 2017, it will be offered with an estimate of £2.5–3.5 million, the highest estimate for a work by Joseph Wright of Derby ever at auction.

Julian Gascoigne, Senior Specialist, British Paintings at Sotheby’s said: “Joseph Wright of Derby is one of a small and select group of British 18th-century artists whose work transcends national boundaries and speaks to a wider global sensibility. Drama and passion are at the core of his oeuvre and this is particularly true of this exceptional painting. The artist’s masterful use of light brings to life the sensual antique statue and brilliantly captures the contemporary aesthetic infatuation with the art of the past. With its overt reference to the classical legend of Pygmalion, and the transformative power of art, this is one of the most important works by the artist to come to the market in recent years and we look forward to presenting it to collectors around the world.”

Joseph Wright of Derby is widely regarded as one of Britain’s most interesting and versatile painters and his greatest works, such as An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (National Gallery, London), The Orrery (Derby Museums and Art Gallery), and A Grotto in the Kingdom of Naples with Banditti (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) have become icons of British art the world over.

An Academy by Lamplight is one such masterpiece, and one of the artist’s most famous and celebrated works. This is the first of two versions of the subject painted by Wright and most likely the one he exhibited at the Society of Artists in 1769—a period when Wright was rapidly establishing himself as one of the most exciting and innovative young artists in Britain. Whilst it has rarely been seen in public in the 250 years since, the other version, painted in 1770, was acquired by Paul Mellon in 1964 and is now in the collection at the Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven.

Nymph with a Shell, first century CE, marble (Paris: Louvre, photo from Wikimedia Commons). Roman copy of a Hellenistic type.

In An Academy by Lamplight, Wright of Derby tackles a subject with a long and illustrious history dating back to the first academies of art established during the Renaissance in Italy. Wright may have been inspired by the profusion of such organisations in 18th-century Europe and especially in Britain, where the Royal Academy in London was founded just a year before the work was painted, in 1768. The picture depicts six young draughtsmen contemplating the cast of Nymph with a Shell, an antique Hellenistic statue much admired in the 18th century when it was housed in the Villa Borghese in Rome. Today it can be found in the Louvre.

Wright was closely associated with the key members of the Enlightenment and, in particular, with the group of scientists and industrialists who made up the intriguing Lunar Society. A peculiarly 18th-century fusion of science, the arts, philosophy and literature, the Society’s members challenged accepted beliefs and pushed the boundaries of scientific and intellectual exploration, counting among its members leading figures like Josiah Wedgewood, Matthew Boulton, Joseph Priestly, and Erasmus Darwin (grandfather of Charles). Though Wright himself was never officially a member of the Lunar Society, he was intimately bound up in that world of intellectual, scientific and, commercial enterprise and drew succour from its activities, which forms the spiritual core of his art.

Wright ‘candlelit’ pictures, with their dazzling use of chiaroscuro, are in many ways the artistic manifestation of the intellectual endeavours of these luminaries of the Enlightenment: the introduction of light into darkness acting as a metaphor for the transition from religious faith to scientific understanding and enlightened rationalism.

Note (added 7 December 2017) — Wright’s An Academy by Lamplight sold for £7,263,700 (hammer price with buyer’s premium).

Newly Attributed Self-Portrait by Wright on View at LAPADA Fair

Posted in Art Market by Editor on August 3, 2017

As noted at Art Daily (29 July 2017) . . .

LAPADA Art & Antiques Fair
Berkeley Square, London, 15–20 September 2017

Joseph Wright of Derby, Self-portrait, 1793.

An 18th-century painting catalogued as being by a ‘Follower of Joshua Reynolds’ at auction has been revealed as a genuine self-portrait by renowned British artist Joseph Wright of Derby (1734–1797). The discovery, a rarity for 18th-century works by high-profile British artists, will be unveiled at the LAPADA Art & Antiques Fair in Berkeley Square, Mayfair, from the 15th to 20th of September.

Acquired by Archie Parker of The Parker Gallery, a leading dealer in Old Master and British works of art, the painting has been traced back to 1793, when records indicate that Wright gifted it to the Rev. Thomas Gisborne of Yoxall. Gisborne was a close friend of Wright’s and had amassed an extensive collection of paintings and drawings by the artist, including a portrait featuring Gisborne and his wife, two landscapes of the Lake District (subsequently at Kedleston Hall), and a painting of Mount Vesuvius.

In 1793, Wright presented Gisborne with a self-portrait that had, until now, disappeared from view, its existence known only from a copy belonging to the collection of Sir John Crompton-Inglefield. A Latin inscription on the copy’s reverse reads: “Joseph Wright the artist presented this painting by his own hand as a gift to his friend T. Gisborne in the year of Our Lord 1793 and 59th of his age.” The newly discovered self-portrait is almost certainly the missing original that inspired the copy and was later reproduced as the frontispiece of the 1885 monograph The Life and Works of Joseph Wright A.R.A., commonly called ‘Wright of Derby’.

Thomas Gisborne (1758–1846) was educated at Harrow. Scholarly and artistic, he was later admitted as a Fellow Commoner to St. John’s College, Cambridge, where his immense achievements pleased his old headmaster, Dr. Heath. In celebration of his achievements, Heath arranged for Gisborne’s portrait to be painted by Wright and despite their significant age difference, Gisborne struck up a friendship with the artist that was to last until the end of Wright’s life. In 1781, Gisborne was ordained a deacon and then a priest and subsequently inherited his father’s mansion at Yoxall, three miles from his church. Wright was a frequent guest at the peaceful house and produced some of his most beautiful sketches and studies while exploring the surrounding ancient oak wood. In 1793, Wright was once again staying at Yoxall when he presented Gisborne with the recently discovered self-portrait.

The annual LAPADA Art & Antiques Fair, sponsored by award-winning investment house Killik & Co, returns to Berkeley Square, London, for its 2017 edition from Friday 15th to Wednesday 20th September—this year bridging two weeks—and will showcase a fascinating array of one-of-a-kind works of art, antiques, design, jewellery and decorative art.



At Sotheby’s | Canaletto Drawing Sells for £2.6million

Posted in Art Market by Editor on July 8, 2017
Canaletto, The Coronation of the Doge on the Scala dei Giganti, ca. 1763–66; pen and brown ink and three shades of grey wash, heightened with touches of white over black chalk, within original brown ink framing lines, 39 × 55 cm. The drawing sold on 5 July 2017 for £2,633,750 / $3,404,385 / €2,999,591 (meeting the low end of its presale estimate of £2,500,000–3,500,000).

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Via Art Daily (6 July 2017) . . .

Old Master and British Works on Paper, L17040
Sotheby’s, London, 5 July 2017

A superbly preserved drawing ranking among the greatest ever made by Canaletto sold for a record £2,633,750 / $3,404,385 / €2,999,591 this week at Sotheby’s London [L17040, Lot #44 ]. The price eclipsed the previous record for a work on paper by the artist (£1.9 million achieved for Campo San Giacomo di Rialto, Venice, sold at Sotheby’s in London in July 2012).

Greg Rubinstein, Worldwide Head of Old Master Drawings at Sotheby’s, said: “The record price realised today for Canaletto’s superb drawing is a fitting testimony to its importance and its quality. Nothing like it has been seen at auction. A more total expression of the essence of Canaletto’s genius as a draughtsman than this extraordinary drawing, which transports us to the very heart of 18th-century Venice, in all its glory, wit and mystery, is hard to imagine. That it was loved and cherished for so long by one of the greatest families of English cognoscenti is the final piece in the jigsaw of elements that together make this by far the most important drawing by Canaletto to have come to the market in recent decades, and one of the most illuminating and enlightening, as well as one of the most visually exciting and satisfying, that he ever made.”

Both in scale and in compositional complexity, The Coronation of the Doge on the Scala dei Giganti is one of the most ambitious of all Canaletto’s drawings. It belongs to a highly original series of twelve depictions of the ceremonies and festivals of the Doges, the Feste Ducali, conceived in the first instance as drawings, but made specifically to be engraved. Though the artist’s drawings and paintings are often very accurate renderings of specific locations, images like these of actual historical events are relatively rare in his work. In this composition, the third in the series, the Doge is being crowned at the top of the Scala dei Giganti, the grand, ceremonial staircase that forms the focus of the courtyard of the Doge’s Palace. The principal subject, though, is Venice, her life and her people.



At Auction | Isaac Newton and the South Sea Company

Posted in Art Market by Editor on June 17, 2017

Press release, via Art Daily (16 June 2017) . . .

A document signed by Isaac Newton (1643–1727) sold for $53,805 according to Boston-based RR Auction. The one-page document is signed “Is. Newton” and dated 15 November 1721. The pay order was issued to “the Accountant General of the South Sea Company,” John Grigsby. The letter reads: “Sr, Pray pay to Dr Francis Fauquier the four per cent Dividend due at Midsummer last upon sixteen thousand two hundred & seventy-two pounds four shillings & nine pence South Sea stock in my name & his Receipt shall be your sufficient discharge. from Your humble Servant, Is. Newton.”

In the spring of 1720, the South Sea Company, created as a public-private partnership to stabilize and reduce the cost of national debt, witnessed an incredible boom in company stock. Newton, a stockholder and the current Master of the Royal Mint, wisely sold off his South Sea shares in late April after nearly doubling his initial investment of around £3,500. However, with prices still rising heading into the fall, Newton reentered with an even higher investment and was soon caught up in the first major ‘bubble’ in stock-market history, losing an estimated £20,000— equivalent to more than $3 million in today’s terms. Unlike many others, Newton survived the crash on the strength of his position at the Royal Mint, but the experience prompted the scientist to famously note that he “could calculate the motions of the heavenly bodies, but not the madness of the people.”

“It’s an extremely rare and attractively penned document with an association to one of Newton’s most questionable experiments,” said Bobby Livingston, Executive VP at RR Auction.

The winning bid came from a science and technology enthusiast from New England, who wishes to remain anonymous.



At Bonhams | Sèvres Vases

Posted in Art Market by Editor on June 13, 2017

Pair of Sèvres hard-paste vases, decorated by the gilder Jean-Jacques Dieu, ca. 1778. Lot 217: Estimated £70,000–90,000
(Photo: Bonhams)

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Press release (9 June 2017) from Bonhams:

Fine European Ceramics
Bonhams, London, 14 June 2017

A rare pair of late 18th-century Sèvres hard-paste vases (Lot 217), made for a member of the Court of Louis XVI at Versailles, lead Bonhams Fine European Ceramics sale on Wednesday 14 June 2017. Once in the collection of the Earls Spencer, they are estimated at £70,000–90,000.

Only 13 vases of this style were ever made by the Sèvres porcelain factory. They were manufactured to order between 1778 and 1779, and buyers included the King himself and his aunt, Madame Victoire. It is believed that the pair of vases in the Bonhams sale was bought by the king and presented to his sister in law, the Comtesse d’Artois.

The vases were decorated by the prominent gilder, Jean-Jacques Dieu, whose name appears in the archives of the Sèvres porcelain manufactory between 1777 and 1811. They are richly decorated with chinoiserie sea battles—one ship on each vase bears a shield with the French royal arms—and have goats head handles. A service with comparable battle scenes is in the Wallace Collection. The only other pair of vases of this shape is in the Getty Museum.

Just over ten years after the vases were delivered to Versailles, the French Revolution broke out in 1789 and many of the aristocracy, including the Comtesse d’Artois, fled. The pair in the Bonhams sale next appear in England in the collection of diplomat William Poyntz, though how he acquired them is not known. They passed by inheritance to Poyntz’s daughter Georgina who, in 1755, had married John Spencer, later First Earl Spencer, the family of Princess Diana.

Bonhams Head of European Ceramics Nette Megens, said, “These vases are exceptionally rare and with a wonderful provenance, having been in distinguished English collections for most of their existence. Their close connection with the court of Louis XVI make them even more intriguing and attractive.”

Other items in the sale:
• A rare Capodimonte teapot and cover, ca. 1750, £15,000–20,000
• A rare tureen from the Brühl’sche Allerlei Service, ca. 1745–46, £10,000–15,000
• A large Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica dinner service, second half 20th century, £35,000–55,000.
• A large framed Berlin plaque of The Wise and Foolish Virgins, 1884, £20,000–30,000.

Canova and His Legacy at Tomasso Brothers Fine Art

Posted in Art Market by Editor on June 7, 2017

From Tomasso Brothers Fine Art:

Canova and His Legacy
Tomasso Brothers Fine Art , London, 30 June — 7 July 2017

Antonio D’Este, Portrait of Antonio Canova.

Tomasso Brothers Fine Art is opening a new London gallery space at Marquis House, 67 Jermyn Street, St. James’s with a very special exhibition timed for London Art Week 2017. Canova and His Legacy will focus on the Italian master Antonio Canova (1757–1822), arguably the greatest and most illustrious sculptor of his age, and synonymous to this day with the height of Neoclassicism. His works, celebrated for their timeless beauty and grace, have never ceased to inspire generations of artists and collectors alike, and are exhibited in pride of place in the most important museums across the world.

Highlights include a magnificent and exquisite pair of plaster busts by Antonio Canova depicting Paris and Helen, cast at the artist’s atelier in 1812; the supremely graceful Baccante Cimbalista (1837) by Cincinnato Baruzzi (1796–1878), one of Canova’s leading pupils; and, by Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770–1844), a charming portrayal of Cupid with His Bow (Amorino), dating to 1826–28, and which has remained in the same Scottish family since its purchase from Thorvaldsen in 1828.

“Tomasso Brothers is committed to being part of the rich and vibrant art scene in the heart of this historic area of central London. The opening of our new space on Jermyn Street, timed for London Art Week 2017, is an exciting development,” says gallery Director, Dino Tomasso, who has recently been appointed to the Board of London Art Week.

“We chose Canova as a central subject for this exhibition,” adds Raffaello Tomasso, Director, “because, like Michelangelo and Bernini, Canova was a revolutionary force in the field of sculpture. His impact on the Italian School and beyond cannot be overstated. Throughout the Neoclassical period his workshop represented the focal point of sculptural studies in Europe and for generations of marble carvers to come. His legacy reached as far away as Denmark and Scotland, Germany, and Spain.”

Dino and Raffaello Tomasso are recognised internationally for specializing in important European sculpture from the early Renaissance to the Neoclassical periods, and have had a presence in St. James’s since 2013, in addition to their principal gallery at Bardon Hall, Leeds.



Montreal Acquires Rigaud’s Modello for Portrait of Louis XIV

Posted in Art Market, museums by Editor on June 2, 2017

Press release via Art Daily (31 May 2017). . .

Hyacinthe Rigaud, Modello for the Portrait of Louis XIV in Royal Ceremonial Robes, 1701, oil on canvas, 55 × 45 cm (Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal).

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has just acquired a remarkable work: the modello, or painted sketch, for the famous Portrait of Louis XIV in Royal Ceremonial Robes by Hyacinthe Rigaud (Musée du Louvre, Paris).

“We are pleased that we were able to acquire this iconic painting on the art market. It is the modello for one of the most famous portraits in the history of Western art,” said Nathalie Bondil, the MMFA’s Director General and Chief Curator. “Often copied and even imitated, the painting is the origin of a rich iconographic lineage in the history of state portraiture. It is an important addition to our collection of historical international art, since Louis XIV enabled New France to evolve from a trading outpost to a populated settlement.”

Hilliard T. Goldfarb, Senior Curator of Old Masters, had this to say about the work: “The canvas is in very good condition and has not been refixed. The exquisite execution succeeds in concentrating formidable power into a small format. The attention paid to the textures is admirable and is to some extent more impressive than the large final version: look attentively at the rendering of the ermine and the velvet and also the way in which the fleurs de lys, following the curves of the folds in the cloak bend and twist, catching the light, something that is not evident in the final version.”

“By representing the contact of the king’s skin with the regalia, the painter is accentuating his special status among men,” added Sylvain Cordier, Curator of Early Decorative Arts. “Louis XIV is the only one who can touch with his bare hands the sacred instruments that confirm his royalty: anyone looking at the painting was aware of this. In our world, awash in political images, it is exciting to look at the composition of an official portrait as emblematic as this one, which uses specific codes and a profusion of detail to depict his royal majesty and legitimacy as a ruler in the seventeenth century. We are the inheritors of this past, which also raised profound questions that led to the rise of democracy and citizenship. Today, as we view this ‘icon,’ it feels both familiar and distant.”

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The Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal acquired the painting from Paris-based Galerie Éric Coatalem, which, as reported by Didier Rykner for La Tribune de l’Art (16 May 2017), displayed the painting at this year’s TEFAF in Maastricht.

Much more information is available from Ariane James-Sarazin’s essay “Le modello du portrait de Louis XIV en grand costume royal” for the online catalogue raisonné Hyacinthe Rigaud (1659–1743). L’homme et son art (Editions Faton, added 2 March 2017 and updated 17 May 2017).




UK Export Ban Placed on Meissen Commedia dell’Arte Figure

Posted in Art Market by Editor on May 13, 2017

Press release (2 May 2017) from Gov.UK’s Department for Culture, Media & Sport:

Meissen Böttger stoneware commedia dell’arte figure, partly polished and with original colouring, ca. 1710–13, 16.4 cm high; sold in the Emma Budge Sale, Paul Graupe, Berlin (27–29 September 1937, Lot 779).

A commedia dell’arte figure is at risk of being exported from the UK unless a buyer can be found to match the asking price of £270,000. Meissen is renowned across Europe as being the first true hard-paste porcelain factory in 18th-century Europe. The rare, fragile, and translucent porcelain imported from China and Japan was a source of wonder to kings, princes, and aristocrats across Europe at the time, with many attempting to replicate these efforts. The production of hard-paste porcelain was preceded by the creation of a very fine high-fired earthenware. This stoneware figure is an outstanding example, which demonstrates the cutting-edge technology of the time. It is one of an extremely rare group of models after the Italian commedia dell’arte theatre, for which the factory at Meissen subsequently became famous.

The item was formerly owned by Emma Budge, a prominent Jewish art collector whose collection was sold at the Graupe Auction House in Berlin in 1937 following her death. The Nazis replaced the executors of her will with their own and the proceeds from the sale were paid into a blocked account. Emma’s heirs never received any of the money. The figure was eventually acquired by a prominent member of the Jewish community who escaped Nazi Germany in April 1938.

The decision to defer the export licence follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), administered by The Arts Council England. The RCEWA made its recommendation on the grounds of the figure’s aesthetic importance and for its outstanding significance to the study of Meissen porcelain and 18th-century sculpture.

The decision on the export licence application for the figure will be deferred until 1 October. This may be extended until 1 January 2018 if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase it is made at the recommended price of £270,000 (plus VAT of £4,500). Organisations or individuals interested in purchasing the figure should contact the RCEWA.