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Statuette - Egyptian figure

Egyptian figure

  • Object:

    Statuette

  • Place of origin:

    Italy (probably, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1800 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Rosso antico marble

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by the 7th Duke of Wellington through Art Fund (then The National Arts-Collection Fund)

  • Museum number:

    A.4-1974

  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 1, case CA7

This statuette, showing an Egyptian figure striding forward and proffering an incised tablet, is ultimately based on Egyptian statues and reliefs from the Ptolemaic period (330-305 BC). Similar figures were reproduced in Rome in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, catering for the popular taste for Egyptian style. It is one of a number of objects which formed part of a bequest to the Museum from the 7th Duke of Wellington, who had apparently acquired it in the 1930s with a provenance from Deepdene, the former country house of Thomas Hope.

Hope was an Anglo-Dutch refugee banker who used his fortune to furnish and decorate his homes at Duchess Street in London and subsequently Deepdene. As a young man he went on the Grand Tour and was known to have travelled to Egypt. Hope collected ancient artefacts, placing them alongside his own designs to create his interiors.

This statuette was probably designed by Hope originally for his Egyptian Room in Duchess Street (open to the public from 1804 onwards), as a closely related figure appears in one of his designs. The contents of his London home were later moved to Deepdene.

Physical description

A standing figure in Egyptian dress, his left foot forward, and holding in his hands a plaque incised with a design. The statuette stands on a shallow plinth against a short integral column. The close-fitting, square-necked tunic has a band underneath the chest; a long belt rests on the hips and hangs down the front of the tunic. The headdress is decorated with hanging beads at the front. The statuette appears to have been made in two parts, joined at the belt.

Place of Origin

Italy (probably, made)

Date

ca. 1800 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Rosso antico marble

Dimensions

Height: 50.1 cm, Width: 13.5 cm Across the shoulders, Depth: 16.5 cm, Width: 8.3 cm Base, Depth: 12.5 cm Base

Object history note

The statuette is one of three similar Egyptian rosso antico marble figures (see also A.5 and A.6-1974) bequeathed by Gerald Wellesley, the 7th Duke of Wellington (1885-1972), through The Art Fund (then The National Art-Collections Fund).

In 1972, the figures were viewed at the Duke's home at Stratfield Saye by the Director of the V&A, John Pope-Hennessy, who was also an eminent scholar of sculpture. In a letter of 23 November that year to Sir Anthony Hornby, Chairman of the National Art-Collections Fund (now the Art Fund), Pope-Hennessy suggested that the statuettes were made for the merchant banker, writer, philosopher and art collector, Thomas Hope (1769-1831) (Museum file: RP 74/185). In the Museum's Nominal File for the Duke of Wellington, three 'Egyptian figures' of rosso antico marble from Deepdene, formerly Thomas Hope's country seat, near Dorking in Surrey, are mentioned in a list of 'Ornamental Objects Predominately of Marble or other Hard Stones' said to have been bought in London in about 1930.

It is unclear how the three statuettes came into the possession of the 7th Duke of Wellington, although he was well known for his interest in Regency interior decoration, and acquired other objects from the Thomas Hope collection. All three statuettes appear on a mantelpiece in a photograph of a back drawing room in an article in Country Life in 1931, which featured the interior of the home at 11 Titchfield Terrace, London, N.W.8, belonging to the Duke. They are described in the article as coming from Deepene. In his 1968 publication on Hope, David Watkin also mentioned a statuette, which he described as from the centre of the chimneypiece in Hope's Egyptian Room at his house in Duchess Street (which was open to the public from 1804), as still being in the collection of the 7th Duke.

This statuette closely resembles the one shown in that position in Thomas Hope's designs for the Egyptian Room in his book on interior design (Hope, 1807, pls 8 and 46), and is most probably the same sculpture. The two smaller statuettes that were acquired with it do not appear to be illustrated in that book. The figure has been referred to as Antinous (c.111-130), the Emperor Hadrian's beautiful young favourite, because of its resemblance to other figures of the period so titled, but it may not in fact have been intended to represent him, and could simply be a generic Egyptian figure.

Hope's entire collection was relocated from Duchess Street, including objects from the Egyptian room, when he moved to Deepdene. The contents of Deepdene were later sold by Christie's in July 1917. One handwritten catalogue entry refers to "Three Ditto of red marble" (alluding to the previous lot, which comprised a pair of Egyptian black marble figures illustrated in Plate 8 of Hope's 'Household Director'). The three figures sold for 11 guineas to a dealer with whom the 7th Duke is understood to have had links. This means that the Duke could well have bought them from the dealer after the sale.

Descriptive line

Statuette, Egyptian figure, marble (rosso antico), probably Italy, about 1800

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

Poulet, A and Scherf, G., Clodion (exh. cat.), Musée du Louvre, Paris, 1992, pp. 316-8, cat. no. 66.
Watkin, David Thomas Hope and the Neo-classical Idea, (London: John Murray, 1968), pp.116-8
cf. Hope, Thomas, Household Furniture and Interior Decoration, Executed from Designs, (London: Hurst, Rees and Orme, 1807), pls 8 and 46
Husseu, Christopher, 'Four Regency Houses', Country Life, 11 April 1931, pp.450-456 and fig. 2.

Labels and date

Label for 'American and European Art and Design 1800-1900', Gallery 101, de-canted March 2017:

'7
Two Egyptian Figures
About 1800

These apparently Egyptian figures are adaptations of a Roman marble of Antinous, the Emperor Hadrian's favourite, in Egyptian dress. The marble had been excavated at Hadrian's Villa. Although Johann Wincklemann, the leading theorist and writer on antique sculpture, had recognised the statue as Roman, most people thought it was Egyptian. It was much reproduced from the 1790s in many different materials.

Italy, probably Rome
Marble ('rosso antico')

Museum nos. A.4,5-1974
Bequeated by the 7th Duke of Wellington through the Art Fund' [09.06.2017]
Egyptian figure
About 1800

This sculpture is based on Egyptian art of the Ptolemaic period (330–305 BC). It was probably made for the Egyptian room in the London house of Thomas Hope, a wealthy banker from Amsterdam. Hope travelled to Egypt as a young man in the 1790s and collected Egyptian antiquities. He decorated his houses with ancient artefacts and pieces made to his own designs.

Probably Italy
Probably designed by Thomas Hope
Marble
Bequeathed by Gerald Wellesley, 7th Duke of Wellington through the Art Fund
[09/12/2015]

Materials

Marble

Techniques

Carved

Subjects depicted

Tablets

Categories

Sculpture

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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