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The Sale at Stowe, 1848

Source: The Illustrated London News, August 26, 1848, p.125

On Monday last the antique and modern sculptures, hitherto scattered through the rooms and in the corridors and hall, were disposed of, and some of them realised high prices. Some of the marbles are of the highest class, and all of them interesting.

A statue of Venus arranging her hair, and known as the Marine Venus, is the most beautiful of the productions of the chisel, and is of great purity of outline and wonderful softness and delicacy of workmanship, if we except a portion of the arms, the hands, and head, which seem of modern character; they are, perhaps, restorations, and certainly inferior to the rest of the statue in point of expression. This statue was found in excavating the Baths of Agrippa, at Rome, and brought to England by the present Duke of Buckingham, when Marquis of Chandos. The competition for this statue was highly exciting: at 157 guineas the hammer fell, and Mr. Gruner became the purchaser, it is reported, on behalf of Prince Albert.

A group of three male figures supporting a vase, on a truncated column of grey marble, is highly interesting as a relic of antiquity; but, though good, is decidedly of inferior execution to the Venus. A goat tied to a tree is apiece of very beautiful Grecian sculpture, and full of spirit—the animal endeavouring to release his horns from the bands which confine him to the tree. An antique chimera, in white marble, is remarkable for the singularity of its form, and represents an ancient testudo, or lyre, supported on the outspread wings of a swan. This singular work of art was found in a tomb near the Villa Adriana, by the Marquis of Chandos. The antique Roman sarcophagus (lot 745), a representation of a portion of which we gave in our last week's Journal, a very fine work of art, sold for 31½ guineas. Two other sarcophagi, inferior to the one just referred to in delicacy of workmanship, though highly interesting, sold for sixteen guineas each. One of them, lot 748, was discovered by the present Duke, when Marquis of Chandos, in 1817, on the Via Appia, near the tomb of Cecilia Metella; the sculpture upon it representing a group of figures lamenting over a corpse, placed on a couch in the centre of the piece. The other sarcophagus was ornamented with figures of Cupids hunting wild animals.

Two white marble vases, each three feet ten inches high, of exquisite design and elaborate decoration, sold for small sums considering their beauty, only seventeen and twenty-two guineas respectively; but this may be accounted for by the circumstance that both have had several pieces of marble let into them to restore fragments lost or injured. The first one, lot 738, purchased by Lord Nugent, has twisted handles of exquisite form, springing from masks. and on the front of the bowl of the vase is a bas-relief of a faun pursued by a bacchante; the same subject altered, being repeated on the reverse. The socle of the vase is sculptured with rich foliage. The companion vase, lot 739, has handles formed of serpents; the bowl is ornamented with Cupids intermingled with vines in relief, beautifully wrought and the neck of the vase has the Grecian honeysuckle pattern upon it. Both these vases were discovered in the Villa Adriana, and have been engraved by Piranesi. There were also two beautifully sculptured and well designed figures of small size, one representing a faun carrying a goat on his shoulders, and the other a bacchante holding a young faun, which sold for rather large amounts and are now the property of Mr. Beaufoy, of South Lambeth. The head of the faun is full of expression, and well carried out. A fine statue of Hygeia, of full life size, deserves some mention on account of its beauty; but, unfortunately, the head and hands are modern restorations. Lord Nugent was the purchaser of this lot for 51 guineas. Some antique busts, of no great merit as works of art, realised but poor prices. Of the modern specimens of sculpture, the head of Prior, by Roubiliac, before mentioned, is unquestionably the finest work of art. The numerous other busts, chiefly by Cornollé and Trentanova, having no claims to notice further than as mementos of departed statesmen, and members of the Buckingham and Grenville families, met the usual fate of secondary works of art in realising but small sums, with two exceptions, the busts of William Pitt and Philip Stanhope Earl Chesterfield, which Sir Robert Peel obtained 27 6s. and 28 7s. The others were mostly purchased by the Earl of Ellesmere, Earl Bathurst, Lord Chandos, Sir A. Grant, &c. Two groups, one by Scheemakers, the other Delvaux, which once adorned Canons, the seat of the great Duke of Chandos, were sold for moderate sums, 85 and 82 guineas each. The groups represented Venus and Adonis, and Vertumnus and Pomona.

Amongst the modern figure pieces in marble, which, by the way, were chiefly copied from the antique, or celebrated works, the small copy of Canova's admirable reclining figure of the Princess Pauline Borghese, Napoleon's sister, from its delicacy of handling and truthfulness of imitation, attracted great notice and spirited competition; the copy is the work of Trentanova, and Mr. Nathan purchased it for Mr. Beaufoy for the sum of 71 guineas. We may here observe that the other modern sculptures fetched but moderate prices. With the statues were also sold some magnificent bronzes; the truly grand bronze, by Carbonneaux, of the celebrated group of the Laocoon, the size of the original antique, from its merits and size, attracting great competition. It is one of the finest bronzes in the kingdom, and was reckoned amongst the celebrities of Fonthill. At that sale it was bought in for 350 guineas, and afterwards sold for the same sum to the Duke of Buckingham. On last Monday's sale it was put up at 150 guineas, and the biddings quickly reached to 400, Mr. Hume of Berners-street and Mr. Brown of University-street being the principal competitors; and, after much excitement, Mr. Hume secured it at the sum of 540 guineas. It is believed to be purchased for the Duke of Hamilton. The bronze copy, the size of the original, of the well known and beautiful figure by Giovanni di Bologna, of Mercury rising and pointing upwards, realised 112; as may be supposed, it is a splendid specimen of bronze casting, and merited the high price it obtained.