South German/Viennese, second half 16th century A bronze model of an elephant, probably of the Imperial elephant, 'Soliman'

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Lot 7
South German/Viennese, second half 16th century
A bronze model of an elephant, probably of the Imperial elephant, 'Soliman'

Sold for £ 42,000 (US$ 57,210) inc. premium

Sculpture

15 Apr 2008, 14:00 BST

London, New Bond Street

South German/Viennese, second half 16th century
A bronze model of an elephant, probably of the Imperial elephant, 'Soliman'
12cm wide, 6.5cm deep, 20cm high (4.5" wide, 2.5" deep, 7.5" high)

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    Collection of Carter Burden (Sotheby's, New York, 18 October 2003, lot 158)

    Literature:
    C. Ricci, Il Tempio Malatestiano, Milan / Rome, 1924, pp. 324-25, pl. 392
    L. Planiscig, Piccoli Bronzi Italiani del Rinascimento, Milan, 1930, pl. 151
    P. Fusco, Summary Catalogue of European Sculpture in The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 1997, p. 66, as “German, 16th century”.

    Other example:
    The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (inv. no. 85.SB.64).

    This rare statuette of an elephant, with its trunk raised auspiciously, resembles some elephants from a bronze fountain of c. 1576, once in Schloss Hessen (see V. Krahn, Von allen Seiten Schön, Bronzen der Renaissance und des Barock, Berlin, 1995, pp. 260-67, nos. 67-68), but it cannot have formed part of a water display, for its trunk is not pierced. Therefore, it is purely ornamental, and was perhaps created as a souvenir of a real elephant, for - by the standards of the day - it is accurately depicted.

    In the absence of specific data, its place and date of manufacture can be determined only by connoisseurship and no consensus has been reached. Earlier authorities believed it to be an example of the Paduan school of animal studies and so dated it around 1500 or - more vaguely - to the 16th century. However, its appearance and facture do not really support this idea. More recently, therefore, in view of its increased naturalism and its relationship with similar animals that were then being produced as automata for the table and for clocks in south Germany, the tendency has been to date it later, c.1550, and to move its presumed place of origin northwards.

    In this case, its appearance and the liveliness of its pose may be due to a gifted sculptor at the court of Maximilian II in Vienna, entranced by the fame and rarity of his pet, Soliman, a young Asian elephant. This he had brought to Vienna personally from Madrid, by ship across the Mediterranean, on foot across north Italy and over the Alps, and finally by boat down the Rivers Inn and Danube in 1552. Kept it in the imperial menagerie at Kaisers Ebersdorf, until his death a year or so later, Soliman was portrayed more than once in bronze and stone, and perhaps also in this statuette.
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