Friday, 2 September 2011

Venus in a hammock: sculpture by Antonio Frilli

Scarlett Knight has commented that she was not aware of composer, Andre Lloyd-Webber's art collecting habit.  Here, as an example of his taste, which centres very much around the nineteenth century, is Antonio Frilli's magnificent Nude Reclining in a Hammock which Lloyd-Webber bought at Sotheby's, New York in 1994.

Not much is known about Frilli, other than the fact he was based in Florence where a studio he established still produces high quality copies of classical and renaissance sculpture.  His work was first recorded at the Esposizione Nazionale in Rome in 1883 and he also exhibited in Glasgow in 1888, Paris in 1889 and the St Louis International Exhibition in 1904, the setting, of course, for the musical Meet me in St Louis (1944)starring Judy Garland.  It was at the St Louis exhibition that this sculpture was bought by William Goldman, ironically, a theatrical entrepreneur. 

The Mastbaum Theater in Philadelphia which was build in 1929 and demolished in 1958

Goldman kept it in his garden until he moved it to join the numerous other works of art adorning the palatial Jules Mastbaum Theatre in Philadelphia in 1932.  This huge 4,717 seat cinema was named after Stanley cinema chain owner Jules Mastbaum (1872-1926) who was also a collector of sculpture. Mastbaum owned the largest collection of works by Rodin outside France, which he donated to the city of Philadelphia where they are still on exhibition in a building he commissioned (Agent Triple P went to see it a couple of years ago and we will feature it in due course).

Diana with a Deer (c.1900)

Frilli produced a number of copies of works by other sculptors and like other Italian sculptors of his generation was more influenced by 17th century style than the previous generation's reverence for neo-classical sculptures like Canova.  He produced a number of sculptures in what is known as Stile Liberty in Italy (Art Nouveau) such as these mixed marble and bronze pieces Diana with a Deer and Girl with Peacocks.

Girl with Peacocks

Frilli's workshop in Florence also produced a number of attractive decorative marble busts in bronze, marble and alabaster, such as the two examples below.

Nude reclining in a Hammock is his masterpiece, however, and it is believed that he worked on it from 1883 until 1904 when it was first exhibited.  At least two versions, both in white marble, were produced.  The second (below) was sold at Sotheby's New York as well in 1999 for $100,000.

The feeling of suspension Frilli achieves in this sculpture is really quite marvellous and you quite forget that the apparently flimsy draperies are what are holding the whole thing up.  The girls arm looks like it is idly dangling when, of course, it too, is part of the structure supporting the weight.

There is nothing classical about this wonderful, life-sized sculpture; she is a naked, modern girl beautifully captured in a sensuously indolent moment.

Utterly brilliant!

More girls in hammocks another time...

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