William Brodie, Scottish (1815-1881): A sculpted white marble figure of 'Corinna', also known as 'Corinna, the Lyric Muse'
Lot 250*
William Brodie, Scottish (1815-1881): A sculpted white marble figure of 'Corinna', also known as 'Corinna, the Lyric Muse'
Sold for £18,750 (US$ 25,062) inc. premium

Lot Details
William Brodie, Scottish (1815-1881): A sculpted white marble figure of 'Corinna', also known as 'Corinna, the Lyric Muse' William Brodie, Scottish (1815-1881): A sculpted white marble figure of 'Corinna', also known as 'Corinna, the Lyric Muse' William Brodie, Scottish (1815-1881): A sculpted white marble figure of 'Corinna', also known as 'Corinna, the Lyric Muse'
William Brodie, Scottish (1815-1881): A sculpted white marble figure of 'Corinna', also known as 'Corinna, the Lyric Muse'
The semi-clad classical maiden seated on a rockwork plinth, her down cast head wearing a laurel diadem, her coiffure arranged in a loose trailing chignon to her nape, holding a paper scroll and a stylus in her right hand, a lyre to her feet on her left hand side, on oval base, signed to the right hand side W. BRODIE RSA, 87cm (34.25") high.


  • Literature:

    R. Gunnis, Dictionary of British Sculptors 1660-1851

    I. Leith, Delamotte's Crystal Palace – A Victorian pleasure dome revealed, English Heritage, 2005

    William Brodie is reputed to have worked on the original marble model of Corinna, alternatively known as Corinna the Lyric Muse, whilst studying in Rome in 1853 under the supervision of the renown Scottish sculptor Lawrence Macdonald (1799-1878). A carved marble or stone head entitled 'Corinna' was apparently then exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture in Edinburgh (known as 'The Twenty-Eighth') in 1854 which was presumably a fragment of the later finished work. The completed marble sculpture was then exhibited in the Academy's exhibition the following year (known as 'The Twenty-Ninth') in 1855.

    It is unclear if the present lot is the same sculpture first exhibited in Edinburgh in 1855 but Corinna is also known to have been exhibited at The Crystal Palace, Sydenham South London where the famous glass and metal structure from the 1851 Hyde Park exhibition was relocated and extensively extended and reopened in 1854. As the Crystal Palace at Sydenham was known for primarily displaying plaster casts of the finest antique classical, medieval, Renaissance and modern sculpture, it is debateable whether the sculpture of Corinna was in marble. A contemporary photograph of Crystal Palace dating from the 1850s or 1860s shows a Corinna sculpture in the Sculpture Court interior. The sculpture in this photograph, whether executed in marble or plaster, differs from the current lot in a number of minor ways including a stringed lyre with a great number of strings. It seems likely that if this sculpture was carved in marble it was used as part of a display for The Art Union who are known to have regularly exhibited at the Crystal Palace and who took paying subscriptions from visitors. The possibility that the figure displayed at the Crystal Palace not being a plaster cast is further enforced as an original marble sculpture would have be more likely to have been used to promote The Art Union and its subscriptions. A rare edition of the Parian reduction of Corinna was produced by Copeland in conjunction with The Art Union in 1856 and it could have been this edition that the figure was used to promote. As the Sydenham structure was subsequently damaged by fire and rebuilt in 1866 and then again completely destroyed in the catastrophic fire of 1936, there is a distinct possibility that the sculpture in the photograph was also destroyed leaving the current lot as the only known surviving marble example and is possibly Brodie's original 1855 sculpture.

    William Brodie began his working life as an apprentice to a plumber in Aberdeen. However he became interested in sculpture and thus began to model small medallion portraits. On moving to Edinburgh he studied at the Trustees School of Design in Edinburgh. He later travelled to Rome in 1853 and studied under Laurence Macdonald. Establishing a successful studio specializing in portrait busts, public monuments and architectural sculpture, he also provided Edinburgh's cemeteries with some of their finest monuments and portrait busts. He exhibited his work at both the Royal Scottish Academy and the Royal Academy in London.

Saleroom notices

  • Raised on a later grey marble pedestal, the circular plateau top above a short column shaft on moulded circular base, 90cm (35.75") high. Corinna was a 5th century Greek poetess described as a lyric poet or poet singer and was ranked as the first and most distinguished of the nine Lyrical Muses. She was known as a noted beauty and winner of people games against her many male counterparts and as such antique statues of Corinna were erected in various parts of ancient Greece.
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