'Il Gruppo del Laocoonte' A very rare and large Naples, Real Fabbrica Ferdinandea, biscuit porcelain model of Laocoon and his sons, circa 1785

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Lot 24
'Il Gruppo del Laocoonte' A very rare and large Naples, Real Fabbrica Ferdinandea, biscuit porcelain model of Laocoon and his sons, circa 1785

Sold for £ 40,000 (US$ 50,957) inc. premium
'Il Gruppo del Laocoonte' A very rare and large Naples, Real Fabbrica Ferdinandea, biscuit porcelain model of Laocoon and his sons, circa 1785
Modelled by Filippo Tagliolini after the antique, on a naturalistic rockwork base, the Laocöon seated on a larger rock, his sons by his side, 52cm high (some restoration)

Footnotes

  • The only other recorded example of this group - on a rectangular base - is in the Museo Civico 'Gaetano Filangieri', Naples, published by Angela Caròla-Perrotti, Le Porcellane dei Borbone di Napoli (1986), no. 491, and Giuseppe Morazzoni, Le Porcellane Italiane, vol.II (1960), pl. 367.

    The statue of Laocoön and His Sons was excavated in Rome in 1506, placed in the Vatican, and is one of the finest expressions of the full hellenistic baroque. It represents the Trojan priest Laocöon and his two sons being attacked at an altar by two large serpents. Since its discovery, it has been connected with a marble Laocöon group praised in the highest terms by the main Roman writer on art, Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia. Pliny attributed the work, then in the palace of the (future) Emperor Titus, to three Greek sculptors from the island of Rhodes, Hagesandros, Athenodoros and Polydoros, but does not give a date or patron. It is generally believed that although the Laöcoon and his Sons, excavated in 1506, was not discovered in an imperial house, this group was indeed the one seen by Pliny. The monumental Laocoon Group by Baccio Bandinelli (Florence, 1493-1560) in the Galleria degli Uffizi differs slightly from the original but shows the right arm of the priest and the right arm of the son to his right in the same position as we find it in the Naples biscuit copy. In the original marble, the priest's right arm was missing, and Giorgio Vasari's Life of Baccio Bandinelli tells us he made a wax arm to replace the lost one and used it as a model for his copy of the Laocoon, commissioned in 1520 by Pope Leo X de' Medici as a gift to King Francis I. It is therefore likely that the Naples biscuit is based on a copy of the Laocoon by Baccio Bandinelli rather than the Vatican original.

    One could say that, notwithstanding the beautiful figure of the Pietà (see A.Caròla-Perrotti, le porcellane dei Borbone di Napoli (1986) cat.no. 438), religious sculpture was more the exception than the rule at the Real Fabbrica Ferdinandea under Domenico Venuti. When Venuti became director of the Naples factory in 1779, he whole-heartedly embraced the new neo-classical style heavily influenced by the archaeological finds and the large number of antiquities in the collection of the King. One of the most famous collections of antique sculpture, the Farnese Collection, comprising marbles from the Caracalla Baths in Rome, was moved in its entirety to Naples by Ferdinando IV in 1787. Many of these marbles were translated into biscuit porcelain in large sizes, for example the single figures of Hercules and Flora. Additionally many small-scale busts were incorporated into table-designs as most recently published by Angela Caròla-Perrotti in her book L'Arte di imbandire la tavola (2017).

    The Gruppo Lacoonte can be counted among the largest of these faithful copies of classical sculpture in biscuit porcelain, only rivaled in size by the equally impressive Toro Farnese. The genius of Filippo Tagliolini is again illustrated in the two other large-scale sculptures of his own invention, namely the Caduta dei Giganti and the Il Carro del Sole which seamlessly fit into this canon of neoclassical sculpture.
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'Il Gruppo del Laocoonte' A very rare and large Naples, Real Fabbrica Ferdinandea, biscuit porcelain model of Laocoon and his sons, circa 1785
'Il Gruppo del Laocoonte' A very rare and large Naples, Real Fabbrica Ferdinandea, biscuit porcelain model of Laocoon and his sons, circa 1785
'Il Gruppo del Laocoonte' A very rare and large Naples, Real Fabbrica Ferdinandea, biscuit porcelain model of Laocoon and his sons, circa 1785
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