Heading

The Borghese Gladiator

The Borghese Gladiator

 

Being offered in our approaching Fine Sale this Sunday 3rd October, is an artwork of particular interest titled, ‘The Borghese Gladiator’ (Lot 393)  that comes with a rich history and artistic adaption alluding to Hellenistic antiquity. The sculpture is an impressive 19th century Italian bronze figure based on the original marble sculpture also titled ‘The Borghese Gladiator’. The masculinity of the subject, a warrior in fighting pose plunging forwards with the remnants of a shield on his forearm, is captured with an elegance that was translated from the original marble into a smooth, more refined curvature of the bronze, providing a harmony in subject and form. Unlike the original marble sculpture, the warrior wears a fig leaf. lt is sculpted with defined and tense muscular anatomy, with clear and natural patination shown on the bronze.

Discovered in Italy amongst the ruins of a Roman Villa during excavations carried out by the Cardinal Scipione Borghese, the original sculpture that inspired this 19th century bronze was created in Ephesus in approximately 100BC by the artist Agasias of Ephesus. Despite its title, the Hellenistic life size marble sculpture depicted a warrior rather than a Gladiator, which is evident through the shield strap on his forearm.  The sculpture was thence added to the extensive Borghese Collection in Rome and was one of the most valuable pieces in the collection of Cardinal Scipione Borghese, from which the sculpture took its name. Later, Camillo Borghese, member of the notorious Borghese family and brother in law of Napoleon Bonaparte, sold the sculpture to Napoleon himself in 1807. From this historical transaction, the sculpture was taken to Paris when the Borghese Collection was eventually acquired by the Louvre.

The original ‘Borghese Gladiator’ was regarded as a truly significant piece of antiquity that was both admired and copied into various different styles throughout later centuries, such as our bronze sculpture. A number of contemporary sculptors created various versions of the canonical work. Notably, the sculpture was reproduced as a bronze cast for Charles I which now resides at Windsor Castle, and another version was created by the notorious French sculptor Hubert Le Sueur, which became a centrepiece of the famous French landscape architect Isaac de Caus’ gardens at Wilton House in Wiltshire. Le Sueur's version was so popular, that it was gifted to Sir Robert Walpole, now residing at Houghton Hall in Norfolk. Such was the admiration and desire to personally own the piece, that the sculpture was transformed into beautifully rendered bronze versions that were bought as Grand Tour souvenirs during the 18th century when wealthy young men travelled throughout Europe as a rite of passage into adulthood. Other similar copies are at Petworth House, Chatsworth and Chiswick House among other locations.

This particular Italian bronze is impressive due to its rich history, retaining the original Hellenistic features whilst carrying a legacy of contemporary sculpture and elegance through the handling of the bronze, which brings the piece across various time periods. Our ‘Borghese Gladiator’ represents the strength and resistance to the changing times and a persistence of beauty over the course of history.

 

More Articles

James Bond

James Bond

Posted 15 October 2021

By James in General

Christopher Farrel

Christopher Farrel

Posted 29 September 2021

By Joshua in Pre Sale

Featured Lots -  3rd October 2021

Featured Lots - 3rd October 2021

Posted 28 September 2021

By Joshua in Pre Sale

'The L Shaped Road'

'The L Shaped Road'

Posted 16 September 2021

By Joshua in General

Heading

HAVE ANY QUESTIONS?GET IN TOUCH

product

 

 

view details