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Athlete Holding a Vase
Athlete Holding a Vase - Sculpture Style Athlete Holding a Vase - Athlete Holding a Vase -
Ref : 111846
48 000 €
Period :
18th century
Provenance :
Medium :
Dimensions :
l. 3.74 inch X H. 12.2 inch X P. 3.94 inch
Sculpture  - Athlete Holding a Vase 18th century - Athlete Holding a Vase
Desmet Galerie

Classical Sculpture

+32 (0)486 02 16 09
Athlete Holding a Vase

Bronze, gold-reddish lacquer patina
Firenze, early 18th Century
Massimiliano Soldani Benzi (1656-1740) (and workshop)

Julius Böhler Gallery, Starnberg (Germany
Private Collection US up to 2023
ALR reference: S00238727

H 31 x L 9,5 x P 10 cm
H 12 1/5 x L 3 3/4 x P 4 inch

This refined bronze statuette is made after the antique marble statue currently in the Uffizi in Florence.

The statue of Apoxyomenos (or the “Scraper”), most likely came from Rome around the middle of the 16th century and was taken to the Uffizi during the period of its construction, in the late 1500s, after a period on display in the Nicchie Room in Pitti Palace. The statue, of a nude athlete, is a copy of a bronze original that can be dated to around the mid 4th century BC, attributed to a pupil of Polycletus, famed sculptor from the latter half of the 4th century BC. The athlete is portrayed while cleaning his strigil or rather, passing it over the back of his left hand. It almost seems that the artist wanted to put a face with the features of an adolescent against the extremely developed body that allowed the athlete to take part in boys’ competitions, earning successes in weighty arenas - possibly boxing, as the slightly swollen ears would seem to suggest.

In age terms, these competitions were reserved to athletes who had not reached adulthood. Some think that athletes up to the age of nineteen were allowed to participate, while others believe that the upper limit was eighteen years of age. What is certain is that the winners of these matches were given honours and celebrations. Suffice to mention Antipatrus of Miletus, youth boxing champion in 388 or 384 B.C. Dionysius I tried to corrupt him into saying he was from Syracuse, but on the statue’s engraving, carved by Polycletus II, it was stated that he was the first of the Ions to win in Olympia, where Athenaeus of Ephysus also received great honours as winner in the same competition, perhaps in 352 B.C.

In this context, it may make sense that two of the bronze copies of the Athlete with a Scraper seem to be from the same workshop, somewhere in Asia Minor. The existence of faithful copies in different materials (marble, basanite, and bronze), accompanied by smaller versions and variations, does in any case confirm that the original Athlete with a Scraper was a famous piece even in the Classical period. The shape of the eyes and the half-closed lips on the Florence statue appear clean-cut and elegant, while the model of the face has a sober, classical, yet refined style, which point to a period between 130 and 150 AD. This can be confirmed to a certain extent by the palm trunk support, a type in use on statues of the period.

Certainly, the clear golden bronze and the high degree of finish on the present statuette of Uffizi Apoxyomenos bear out Soldani’s claims about his technique. The particular way in which the figure is fixed by metal tangs extending down from the soles of the feet through slots in the separately cast socle, and secured by iron wedges through slots in the tangs, is typical of the technique used in Soldani’s workshop.

The bronze statuettes after ‘Antique’ and ‘Old Master’ sculptures in the Uffizi Gallery and elsewhere in Florence

This series was first studied and published by Professor Klaus Lankheit (Lankheit 1958). Some of them - and their general implications - have also been discussed by Dr. Hans Weihrauch (Weihrauch 1956). The present author summarized this for an exhibition in Toronto in 1975 and later published some revisions and discoveries.
The subjects eventually were not confined to ancient sculpture, but by 1723 included ‘modern’ works by Michelangelo, Jacopo Sansovino, Cellini and Giambologna, presumably included by Soldani as alluring additions for the ‘Grand Tourists’ to his commercially successful series. Two of the latter, for example, are to be found in Blenheim Palace.

The bronze statuettes are intimately connected with a set of twelve wax figurines that Soldani sent from Florence on 21 February 1702 to Johann Adam, Prince of Liechtenstein, to serve as models for full-scale garden statuary for his newly-erected Palace in Vienna. The wax statuettes were cast in sections from piece-moulds taken from a number of small models made by one of Soldani’s assistants after the most celebrated Antique statues in the collection of the Medici Grand-Dukes in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. The same piece-moulds may have been used in Soldani’s workshop for casting the bronze versions. As none of the waxes or garden sculptures has survived and there is no descriptive inventory of them, we can reconstruct the lost series only by a process of deduction from various inter-related strands of evidence.

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