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Equestrian statuette of Archduke of Austria Ferdinand Charles  (1628-1662)
Equestrian statuette of Archduke of Austria Ferdinand Charles  (1628-1662) - Sculpture Style Equestrian statuette of Archduke of Austria Ferdinand Charles  (1628-1662) -
Ref : 99379
45 000 €
Period :
17th century
Provenance :
Medium :
Dimensions :
l. 13.78 inch X H. 15.75 inch
Sculpture  - Equestrian statuette of Archduke of Austria Ferdinand Charles  (1628-1662)
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Classical Sculpture

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Equestrian statuette of Archduke of Austria Ferdinand Charles (1628-1662)

Equestrian statuette of Archduke of Austria Ferdinand Charles

Bronze on a wooden, marble-encrusted base,
c. 1650, attributed to Caspar Gras (1585-1674)
With inscription on paper label:
“Archiduc Ferdinand Carl vers 1650/ No86/ 40/ 600000”

H 40 cm (15¾ in.); with base 61 cm (24 in.)
W 35 cm (13¼ in.)

Provenance: Collection of François Antonovich

This magnificent equestrian statuette dating to the middle of the 17th century depicts the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Charles (1628-1662). The latter is portrayed in all his glory on his majestic horse, dressed in his splendid armour with his abundant curly hair falling down over his shoulders. His horse is steadily trotting with its head slightly tilted to the right. The bronze has been meticulously elaborated down to the finest details: from the Archduke’s armour, his face, the spurs on his boots until the saddle, the reins and the halter on the horse. Across his chest the Duke is wearing a large silk scarf, tied together on his back by an elaborate knot, its ends lined with lace dangling.

There is a bronze equestrian statuette, attributed to Caspar Gras, that is nearly identical to the present group, at the Museum Lázaro Galdiano in Madrid (inv. 00145). Another, slightly more different, gilded variant depicting Archduke Ferdinand Charles and also attributed to Caspar Gras is housed at the Tyrolean State Museum. The horse but also the rider of these statues follows the model of the famous ancient statue of Marcus Aurelius that formerly stood in the Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome, but was more directly based on Daniele da Volterra's variation of it for his monument to King Henry II of France (1519-1559). The latter statue clearly also inspired an equestrian gilded bronze statuette of Philippe IV, attributed to Pietro Tacca and now housed at the Prado (inv. E000444).

The present bronze also shows certain similarities with a number of other equestrian statues and statuettes from the 17th century. Among them a group of equestrian statues kept at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, depicting Emperors Ferdinand III and Leopold I of the Holy Roman Empire riding prancing horses. The many details of the horse and the rider’s body of the present bronze closely correspond with those of a 17th century Florentine bronze statuette formerly owned by the Kunsthistorisches Museum depicting the Archduke Ferdinand Charles on a prancing horse (inv. no. 5995). Furthermore, it also shows significant similarities to an equestrian statuette of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, son of Ferdinand II of Habsburg (1614-1662) at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, which depicts a rider on a horse in a similar pose (Kunstkammer, inv 6002). The particular execution of the horse of the present bronze is reminiscent of the style of the famous statues of Philippe III King of Spain and that of Henry IV King of France, both produced by the workshop of Giambologna.

There exists uncertainty concerning the origins of the present bronze and the other aforementioned equestrian statuettes. The bronzes of prancing horses from the Kunsthistorisches Museum, but also the present bronze and other statuettes, housed in the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen, the National Gallery in Washington and the Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf, belong to types that originated in Florence, most notably among the successors of Giambologna. The designs by Pietro Tacca for the equestrian portrait of King Philipp IV and Duke Karl Emanuel of Savoye may well have prompted choices of motif. The apparent practice of preparing maquettes for equestrian figures with interchangeable horses, riders and heads is documented for the first time for Tacca's workshop, and was reportedly also used in Gianfrancesco Susini's workshop.

The equestrian bronze statuettes have therefore often been attributed to Gianfrancesco Susini, nephew of Antonio Susini. However, they cannot easily be related stylistically to those works that are today ascribed with confidence to Susini, even if they can’t be definitely excluded on stylistic grounds. A reason for attributing them to Susini’s workshop might be that hardly any of the depicted horsemen wear insignia of the Order of the Golden Fleece. Caspar Gras would have been acquainted with the Habsburg family Order, whereas Susini worked for an international clientele, not all of whom were members of the Order.

In 1742, Anton Roschmann for the first time proposed an attribution to Caspar Gras (1585-1674), pupil of Hubert Gerhard and sculptor to the Imperial court at Innsbruck. The monumental equestrian statue of Archduke Leopold V (1622-1631) by Gras at Innsbruck is considered to be the model that inspired the smaller equestrian bronzes of the Habsburgs. Gras was familiar with contemporary Florentine sculpture. Furthermore, there were close family relations between the Court of Innsbruck and that of the Medici. For example, Archduke Leopold had maried Claudia de’ Medici, daughter of the Grand Duke Ferdinando I de’ Medici, and his son, Archduke Ferdinand Charles, married Anna, daughter of Cosimo II de’ Medici. Artistic relations between the two courts existed and have been demonstrated for painting, but were very likely to have existed for sculpture as well. Inventories of the Innsbruck collection namely mention works by Giambologna’s school, though none of the equestrian statuettes.

Caspar Gras was born in Bad Mergentheim near Würzberg in 1585. After training with his father, a goldsmith, he became an apprentice embosser at the court of Archduke Maximilian III in Bad Mergentheim, under Hubert Gerhard, whom he followed to Innsbruck in 1602, and remained a member of his workshop until 1606. By 1610 Gras had obtained the post of Court Embosser and, after Gerhard’s departure for Munich in 1613, he received most of the court’s commissions, including the bronze memorial of Maximilian III (1615–19; Innsbruck Cathedral).

Among Gras’s finest projects was the monumental Leopold Fountain (1623–31) in Innsbruck. It is surmounted by an equestrian statue of Archduke Leopold V (d 1632), the first Baroque statue of this kind in Austria, while various river deities and allegorical figures are set around the base and bowl.

Gras created many collector’s or Kunstkammer pieces, including an elaborate mortar for Hans Taurnhauser of Schwaz. He was the leading bronze sculptor in the Tyrol during the first half of the 17th century, but with the death of Leopold V in 1632 and the financial depression prompted by the Thirty Years War, his career suffered somehow. During this period he focussed on small-scale bronzes, such as the highly sought after equestrian statues of the late 1640s and 1650s, including those of Emperor Ferdinand III and other Habsburg princes.

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