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36 of 7,993

Roman, Antonine period

Bust of a boy

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Object Details

Culture

Roman, Antonine period

Date

ca. 140 A.D.

Medium

Marble

Dimensions

Height: 14 15/16 inches (37.9 cm)

Credit Line

Acquired through the generosity of Susan E. Lynch in honor of Elizabeth Trapnell Rawlings and Hunter R. Rawlings III, with additional support from the Ernest I. White, Class of 1893, Endowment Fund, and the Herbert F. Johnson, Class of 1922, Endowment

Object
Number

2003.016

Provenance:

Collection of Jules, Cardinal Mazarin (1602-1661) [1]. said to be in England in(…)

Provenance:

Collection of Jules, Cardinal Mazarin (1602-1661) [1]. said to be in England in the late 18th century [2]. by 1872 collection of the Earl of Lonsdale, Lowther Castle, Penrith, Cumbria, England [3]; 1872-1944 collection of the Earls of Lonsdale (by descent) [4]; 1944-1947 estate of Hugh Cecil Lowther, 5th Earl of Lonsdale; [5] (1947 sold at Lowther Castle auction by estate of Hugh Cecil Lowther) [6]. -2003 collection of Charles Ede Limited, London [7]; 2003 collection of Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University (sold through Charles Ede Limited, at The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF), Maastricht) [8]

N.B. The provenance information listed here is taken directly from the object file, and is in the process of being confirmed.

[1] inventory number “132” carved in the back of the sculpture, which corresponds to two different inventories of Mazarin’s collection dated 1653 and 1661 respectively, with matching descriptions. See Michaelis, Adolf, and C. A. M. Fennell. Ancient Marbles in Great Britain. (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1882), 43-45, 667. [http://ebooks.library.ualberta.ca/local/ancientmarblesin00michuoft]

[2] According to Souren Melikian, “Safe Harbor” in Art & Auction (June 2003); p. 56: “The sculpture had arrived in England in the late 18th century and had been bought by the Earl of Lonsdale. It made a brief market appearance in April 1947 as part of the sale conducted as Lowther Castle in Penrith, Cumbria.”

[3] The date of acquisition by the Earls of Lonsdale is unclear because of apparent confusion between two William Lowthers, the 1st and 2nd Earls of Lonsdale, respectively, and the latter of whom died in 1872. As it was purchased by one of them, the death date of the second is used, until further information is obtained.

Prior to acquisition of the object, research was done by Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art staff to determine which Earl purchased the bust, as Melikian notes only “the Earl of Lonsdale”, and an object factsheet from Charles Ede Limited, undated, states: “Ex. Collection The Earl of Lonsdale, Lowther Castle, sold as lot 549 in the sale of 15th April 1947.”

An internal memo summarizing the research, titled “The Earls of Lonsdale”, undated, it is noted that “the ‘Bust of Young Boy,’ 140 AD was probably acquired by an earlier earl [sic] (perhaps William Lowther, 2nd Earl of Lonsdale).” The dates given for him are 1757-1844, and the 3rd Earl of Lonsdale is identified as William Lowther (1787-1872).

However, according to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, William Lowther (1757-1844) was the 1st Earl of Lonsdale, and William Lowther (1787-1872) was the 2nd Earl of Lonsdale. [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/17113?docPos=27], accessed 12-Dec-2013.

[4]-[7] Object factsheet from Charles Ede Limited, undated. Although this factsheet indicates the bust was sold on “15th April 1947” at the auction at Lowther Castle, according to a search of the auction catalogues through the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Watsonline, the estate sale was held between April 29, 1947-May 1, 1947. Review of the catalogue(s) to confirm the correct date will be done. [http://http://library.metmuseum.org/], search terms “Lowther Castle”), run 12-Dec-2013.

[8] Invoice from Charles Ede Limited to Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, 13-May-2003.

——

Catalogue text:

This sensitive example of Roman portraiture is characteristic of sculpture produced during the reigns of the so-called Antonine emperors, Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, Lucius Verus, and Commodus, which covered the span from 138–193 AD. The sculptor brings us a little boy just leaving toddlerhood, his baby fat and tousled curls giving way to an upright bearing, firmly set mouth and intelligent gaze.

For nearly two centuries, this work belonged to the Earls of Lonsdale, and was displayed in their home, Lowther Castle, in the north of England. It was most likely acquired by William Lowther, the second earl (1757–1844), who constructed the castle. Scratched into the back of this marble bust of a young, and perhaps shy, boy is the number “132”. Just above that is a sticker, placed vertically, with a handwritten number. Because of the orientation of the sticker and the style of handwriting, the numbers are ambigrammatic, meaning they can either be read from bottom to top: 6092, or top to bottom: 2609.

What the numbers mean and why they were added to the bust, helps tell the story of the object’s ownership history. But with an object as old as this Roman portrait from the Antonine period (138-193 AD), deciphering the clues sometimes leads to more questions.

The carved 132 carved into the back of this bust confirms that this object was in the collection of Jules, Cardinal Mazarin, a papal diplomat and later the first minister of France, until his death in 1661: the number appears in two different inventories, with matching descriptions. After Mazarin’s death, his collection was dispersed amongst three people: the Cardinal’s niece and her husband, Duc de Mazarin, and the Cardinal’s nephew, Duc de Nevers. According to the authors, Duc de Mazarin was mentally unstable and took to hammering off parts of the objects and sculptures he and his wife had inherited.

Further research is still needed to determine if this bust was in ultimately in the collection of the Duc de Mazarin, Duc de Nevers, or was sold out of the Cardinal’s estate after 1661. But knowledge of the Duc de Mazarin’s predilections make it entirely possible that the marble nose was not lost in the Sack of Rome in the first millennium, but was intentionally broken off in the late 17th century.

(Source: “A Handbook of the Collections.” Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, 2019, 35.)

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