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The Capitoline Flora

workshop of Matthew Brettingham the younger (1725-1803)

Category

Art / Sculpture

Date

circa 1758

Materials

Painted plaster

Measurements

1660 mm (Height)

Place of origin

London

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Collection

Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire (Accredited Museum)

NT 108993

Summary

Painted plaster, the Capitoline Flora, possibly cast by Bartolomeo Mattevali on behalf of Matthew Brettingham (1724-1803), cast c. 1758. A full-length plaster cast painted white of the Capitoline Flora, after the Hadrianic marble in the Musei Capitolini, Rome (inv. no. Scu 743). A young woman, traditionally thought to represent Flora, the Roman goddess of Spring, stands in contrapposto, wearing a chiton and mantle which drapes over her body. She wears a floral wreath and holds a posy of flowers in her proper left hand, extending her proper right with the palm of her hand outstretched. The statue is mounted on a cylindrical base and pedestal.

Full description

Nathaniel Curzon (1726-1804) acquired this cast of the Capitoline Flora from Matthew Brettingham (1725-1803), an architect who primarily dealt in antiquities and casts for the British aristocracy. The cast is listed as 'Flora' in Curzon's manuscript 'List of Statues that I have' (c.1760) and again in a list inscribed on the verso, under 'Saloon Statues' (MS, Kedleston Archive). The statue was initially installed in the Saloon (see 'Catalogue of the pictures, statues, &c. at Kedleston', 1758, Saloon, p. 9), but by c. 1788-89, when the Saloon was converted into a ballroom, it had been moved to the Great Staircase, where it stands today (see 'Catalogue' of 1769, Great Staircase, p.22, in annotated copy in the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, annotations date to c. 1788-9). 'Flora of the Capitol' is listed in Brettingham's receipted bill to Curzon, dated 23 January 1758 (MS, Kedleston Archive). The bill also states that the cast was to be modified from its antique dimensions: 'enlarged from the old original after a mould is taken from it'. Curzon was charged £20 for his bespoke Flora, just over £2000 in today's money. During his seven-year stint in Rome (1747-54) Brettingham not only dealt in casts and antiquities - furnishing the Earl of Leicester, for example, with casts and marble statues for Holkham - but also commissioned actual moulds to be taken from famous Roman statues. The idea was that casts could then be made to order when he returned to London. The Capitoline Flora was one of twelve moulds of antique statues Brettingham commissioned, at considerable trouble and expense, presumably owed to its enormous popularity (Kenworthy-Browne 1983: pp. 100, 108-12 Appendix 2). Within months of its 'discovery' in 1744, the Flora had been praised as 'undeniably one of the most beautiful draped figures in Rome', and that owed to its drapery alone, 'some famous master' must have been behind it (Haskell and Penny 1981, pp. 215-7). In Brettingham's Rome Account Book, his ledger of statues dealt, casts made, bought and sold when he was in Italy, the records for April 1754 show that a gesso cast of the Flora was sent to England and, more importantly, that a 'Mould of ye Flora's head' and three other pieces of 'Mould of ye Flora Campidolgio' were acquired. (Kenworthy-Browne 1983, pp. 86-7). The Account Book also shows that on 5 April of that year Brettingham paid two craftsmen for six weeks' work to make the moulds (ibid, p. 97). Unfortunately the moulds were not the success Brettingham hoped. Despite bringing back to London an Italian craftsman, Bartolomeo Mattevali, specifically for the job of casting from them, few actually sold. There are only three surviving casts of the Capitoline Flora, for example, one of which is at Kedleston, the others having been sold to the Earl of Leicester and the Duke of Richmond (for £20). Alice Rylance-Watson March 2019

Provenance

Purchased by Nathaniel Curzon, 1st Baron Scarsdale (1726-1804), from Matthew Brettingham the Younger (1725-1803); see receipted bill dated 23 January 1758 for 'Flora of the Capitol (to be enlarged for the old original after a mould is taken from it)' at the cost of £20-0-0' (MS, Kedleston Archive); identifiable in the 'Catalogue of the pictures, statues, &c. at Kedleston' of 1758 (Saloon, p. 9); and in the c. 1788-89 annotations of a 1769 Catalogue (Great Staircase, p. 22) see annotated copy in the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles; and in the 1861 Catalogue (Great Staircase p. 25); purchased with part of the contents of Kedleston with the aid of the National Heritage Memorial Fund in 1987 when the house and park were given to the National Trust by Francis Curzon, 3rd Viscount Scarsdale (1924-2000).

Credit line

Kedleston Hall, The Scarsdale Collection (acquired with the help of the National Heritage Memorial Fund and transferred to The National Trust in 1987)

Makers and roles

workshop of Matthew Brettingham the younger (1725-1803), dealer possibly Bartolomeo Mattevali, caster

References

Kenworthy-Browne 1983: John Kenworthy-Browne, 'Matthew Brettingham's Rome Account Book 1747-1754', The Volume of the Walpole Society, vol.49 (1983), pp.37-132, pp. 86, 87, 97, 100 Haskell and Penny 1981: Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny, Taste and the Antique, The Lure of Classical Sculpture 1500 - 1900, New Haven and London, 1981, pp. 215-7, no. 40, fig. 112 Kenworthy-Browne 1993: John Kenworthy-Browne, ‘Designing around the statues. Matthew Brettingham’s casts at Kedleston’, Apollo, April 1993, pp.248-252, pp. 250-51

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