Collecting Masterpieces
Photo of a-caesars-head-xviiith-cent-ex-lord-spencer-collection

 

Ancient Greece And Rome
GRAND HEAD OF CAESAR

Ex Edward John Spencer Collection, acquired in Italy in 1746.

 

Object :
Nº 1161
Medium :
Stone
Dimensions :
Height: 37 cm (14,5’’) - Mounted on a custom made stand not included in the measurements
Bibliography :
Published in “Collecting Masterpieces” part one by Beryl Cavallini pg. 94 - 95

Idealised head of Caesar in very fine grain white marble. Mixing Julius Caesar's characteristic physical traits with the more specific hairstyle of Octavien and the Julio-Claudians. Head slightly turned to the right, wide and strong neck, the eyes scrutinizing the horizon marked with pupils in the shape of commas, fine and straight nose, narrow mouth and prominent chin. The lachrymal caruncles created by a simple hole made with a drill bit. Thick hair worked in very fine strands.

This handsome, idealised head of Caesar was bought in Italy by one of the ancestors of the late Princess Diana. John Spencer, the 3rd Earl Spencer died in 1746, leaving what was at the time the largest known inheritance in English history. The principal element was his property Althorp, which was built in 1522 with red bricks in the Tudor style. Measuring over 60 km2, it is composed of innumerable buildings. In 1880, it had its own private railway station. Among its artworks are numerous Van Dyck and a series of twelve heads, one of which is shown here. These are listed in the inventory as having decorated the Billiard Room, formerly called the Rubens Room, and later the library, containing books stacked over 60 metres horizontally and more than 6 metres vertically. This statue was almost certainly bought by the Hon. John Spencer during the Grand Tour that he conducted in Italy just before his death in order to furnish his properties in the neoclassical style of the age. In fact, Althorp House was famous for being decorated in the exquisite Italian style, with extremely valuable marbles and a collection of paintings of inestimable value. Following the discovery of America, Europeans developed a taste for knowledge of ancient cultures and began to be interested in archaeology. From the 15th century onwards this led to a return to the tastes of Antiquity as a source of inspiration in art and architecture. It even became an obligatory reference for any creative effort, regardless of whether it improved it or turned it into a travesty. During the 17th century, the Baroque style left the reproduction of Antiquity in the hands of sculptors like Bernini, who were primarily restorers. It would be necessary to wait until the Neo-Classical period to see pieces as beautiful as this one in a style that marks a return to the purity of form once celebrated in Ancient Rome. This idealised head, showing an Emperor represented as a very handsome man, is carved in white marble with a very fine grain. Here we see the characteristic physical traits of Julius Caesar combined with the hairstyle more specific to Octavian and the Julio-Claudians. The head is turned towards the right, while the gaze is searching the horizon with the determination of a great general. The fine, straight nose, the narrow mouth and the firm chin are complimented by commashaped pupils and tear ducts formed of a simple hole made with a drill. This impressive and highly decorative head was bought by Galerie Golconda in a sale intended to finance the roofing of Althorp, a project with a budget of no less than 10 million pounds.