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Sir Edgar Bertram Mackennal Record Breaking Result

The hammer fell at £80,000 on this bronze statue by Sir Edgar Bertram Mackennal in our last Fine Sale, making it the best selling lot in the history of our auctions.

The artist was particularly drawn to mythical characters connected by a symbolist aura, Circe being a favourite one.

The life-size version of this statue, now kept at the Art Gallery of South Australia, was exhibited in 1892 at the Paris Salon, and gained him an honourable mention, and didn’t fail to provoke sensation two years later at the Royal Academy summer exhibition, where the pedestal swarming with voluptuous bodies and snakes was hidden out of sight.

Traditionally perceived as a manipulative and vindictive deity, Circe’s persona has recently been inspected under a redemptive light in Madeleine Miller’s 2018 book, in which she emerges under an unprecedented perspective as a woman in complete power of her destiny and imbued with self-awareness – as exemplified in this passage: “Little by little I began to listen better: to the sap moving in the plants, to the blood in my veins. I learned to understand my own intention, to prune and to add, to feel where the power gathered and speak the right words to draw it to its height. That was the moment I lived for, when it all came clear at last and the spell could sing with its pure note, for me and me alone.”

Born in Australia in 1863 to a Scottish architectural sculptor, Bertram Mackennal learned the ropes of the craft from his father, and later enrolled at the Melbourne School of Art. In 1882 he moved to London, where he entered the Royal Academy - and it was in England that he played a pivotal role in the development of the English New Sculpture movement.

One of the few artists that George V liked, Mackennal was the first Australian artist to be knighted in England, after designing the Coronation Medal for King, and sculpting the equestrian statue of King Edward VII for London, Melbourne, Calcutta and Adelaide, and other such royal commissions.

It was fitting that, after strong bidding over the phones, the bronze was eventually sold to an Australian buyer.

Lot 392
Bronze Sculpture. By Sir Edgar Bertram Mackennal (1863-1931), 'Circe' the Sorceress signed and inscribed with foundry Mark R. Hohwiller Paris, bears Kip-kh initialled plaque to front, early 20th-century bronze cast on marble base, 62cm H.

Estimate £3000 - £5000

Hammer Price £80000

Daniela Guardiani

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