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Bust - La Gorgone (The Gorgon)
  • La Gorgone (The Gorgon)
    Marcello, born 1836 - died 1879
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La Gorgone (The Gorgon)

  • Object:

    Bust

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1865 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Marcello, born 1836 - died 1879 (sculptor)
    Barbedienne, Ferdinand, born 1810 - died 1892 (founder)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Bronze, cast

  • Museum number:

    239-1866

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The sculptor of this head, Adèle d'Affry, was born in Fribourg, Switzerland, but married in Rome to Carlo Colonna, Duke of Castiglione and was generally referred to by contemporaries as the Duchesse Colonna. She adopted the male name Marcello to demonstrate her seriousness and to distinguish her works from those of women amateurs. She was largely self-taught. She worked in Paris, Rome and Fribourg and was a friend of the French sculptors Carpeaux and Clésinger.

This bust is one of a number of subjects depicting powerful women. While the fearsome head of the Gorgon, or Medusa, had long been a sculptural motif - the V&A for instance has an important small bronze head of Medusa by Cellini - it is here translated into an unprecedently monumental form. While this composition was developed into a full size figure used in 1870 to decorate the Paris Opera, its reception in England was mixed. A South Kensington curator of the 1870s described it as a 'theatrical rendering of an ill-conceived ideal'. A reviewer in the 'Art Journal' of 1st June 1866 described it, after seeing it exhibited in the Royal Academy that year, as ...'a work admirable for spirit, power and firm execution [but] it is to be regretted that a coarsely voluptuous bust taints this noble conception with vulgarity'.

Physical description

Monumental bronze bust of The Gorgon's head.

Place of Origin

Paris (made)

Date

ca. 1865 (made)

Artist/maker

Marcello, born 1836 - died 1879 (sculptor)
Barbedienne, Ferdinand, born 1810 - died 1892 (founder)

Materials and Techniques

Bronze, cast

Dimensions

Height: 106 cm, Width: 61 cm, Depth: 46 cm

Object history note

This bust is one of a number of powerful women depicted by Marcello. While the fearsome gorgon's head had long been a sculptural motif, it is here translated into an unprecedently monumental form. Although this composition was developed into a full size figure used in 1870 to decorate the Paris Opera, a South Kensington curator of the 1870s described it as a 'theatrical rendering of an ill-conceived ideal'.
Bought in 1866.

Historical context note

A friend of Carpeaux, 'Marcello' adopted her male name to demonstrate her seriousness and to distinguish her works from those of women amateurs.

Descriptive line

Bust, bronze, of a gorgon's head, by Marcello (Duchessa Castiglione Colonna), Paris, ca. 1865

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Inventory of Art Objects acquired in the Year 1866. Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol. 1. London : Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 4
Graves, Algernon. The Royal Academy of Arts: a Complete Dictionary of Contributors and Their Work. London, 1905, II. p. 118
Reports on the Paris Universal Exhibition, 1867. London, 1868, II. p. 507.
Bessis, Henriette. Marcello, or la Duchesse Colonna. Bulletin de la Societe de l'Historie de l'Art Français. Paris, 1967, pp. 153-159
Avery, Charles. From David d'Angers to Rodin in Connoisseur. 179, 1972, pp. 231-239
Review of Royal Academy Exhibition 1866. Art Journal. 1 June, 1866, V. pp. 171-172

Labels and date

'American and European Art and Design 1800-1900'

A friend of Carpeaux, 'Marcello' adopted her male name to demonstrate her seriousness and to distinguish her works from those of women amateurs. This bust is one of a number of subjects depicting powerful women. While the fearsome gorgon's head had long been a sculptural motif, it is here translated into an unprecedently monumental form. Although this composition was developed into a full size figure used in 1870 to decorate the Paris Opera, a South Kensington curator of the 1870s described it as a 'theatrical rendering of an ill-conceived ideal'. [1987-2006]

Materials

Bronze

Techniques

Casting

Categories

Myths & Legends; Portraits

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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