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Castor and Pollux

Joseph Nollekens, RA (London 1737 – London 1823)

Category

Art / Sculpture

Date

1767 - 1823

Materials

White marble

Measurements

985 x 530 mm

Place of origin

Rome

Order this image

Collection

Shugborough Estate, Staffordshire

NT 1271315

Caption

Nollekens was apprenticed to the sculptor Peter Scheemakers in London from 1750. In 1760 he went to Rome where he stayed for a decade. He established a reputation for portrait busts and figure groups and made important contacts among visiting aristocrats on the Grand Tour. He probably made his marble version (of which this is a replica and the prime version is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London) of the twin brothers, Castor and Pollux, for Thomas Anson (1695-1773) in 1767 from the plaster copy of the original antique statue group kept at the French Academy in Rome. The original marble was excavated and recorded in the Ludovisi Collection in 1623 and later in the collection of Queen Christina of Sweden in Rome before it was sold to Philip V of Spain in 1724 and is now in the Prado, Madrid. The identification of the group has been disputed but it is the name by which it has been commonly known. They were called the 'Dioscuri', warriors, who were the sons of Zeus and had hatched from eggs laid by Leda after he had seduced her in the form of a swan. They are also the heavenly twins of the zodiac Gemini.

Summary

White marble on rectangular cream painted simulated marble wooden pedestal, Castor and Pollux by Joseph Nollekens, RA (London 1737 – London 1823), 1767. A figure group of the twin brothers, Castor and Pollux, standing naked, holding flaming torches by the diminutive draped figure of Latonaon an altar behind them. The figure on the right holds in his right hand a torch reversed so that the flame touches a small altar in the foreground; in his left he holds another torch backwards over his shoulder. The second youth leans with his left arm round the shoulders of the torch bearer. In his right hand he holds a flat disc. Both figures wear laurel wreaths in their hair. The group is after an antique original that was acquired from the Ludovisi by Cardinal Massimi and after his death bought by Queen Christina of Sweden in Rome. It was bequeathed by her to Cardinal Azzolini who died soon after and his heir, Marchese Pompeo Azzolini, sold most of the collection's contents to Don Livio Odescalchi, nephew of Pope Innocent XI. His heir, Baldassare d' Erba sold Castor and Pollux with other antiquities to Philip V of Spain in 1724 and it was in the palace of San Ildefonso until 1839 when it was taken to the Prado, Madrid where it remains. This is a replica of the original copy, 1607 mm high, after the antique once in the Anson collection at Shugborough (sold in 1842) and now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The terracotta model was in the Nollekens sale, 5 July 1823, lot 50 but it present whereabouts is unknown.

Provenance

The prime version of which this is a replica was commissioned by Thomas Anson (1695 - 1773); included in the Shugborough Hall sale held by Mr George Robins on 1 August 1842 and the following thirteen days, the group was featured in the eighth day's sale, held on 9th August 1842, lot 90 and described as part of the large collection of antique and modern statuary at Shugborough Hall, located to "The area of the Bust Gallery', it was described as 'A truly magnificent specimen of modern sculpture, the life size group of Castor and Pollux, in pure statuary marble, copied from the antique by Nollekens, it is 5 feet 4 [inches] high, and may be ranked as on the finest efforts of this renowned English sculptor, also a stone pedestal, 2 feet 4 [inches] high. The group was sold for £320 3s 0d.;purchased by Mr Henry Soden (b. 1921), the father of the donor; bequeathed by Florence Nightingale Soden, Mrs H. B. Borradaile (1866 - 1935) and given by Brigadier-General H. Borradaile, DSO in accordance with the wishes of his late wife in 1940.

Credit line

Shugborough, The Anson Collection (National Trust)

Makers and roles

Joseph Nollekens, RA (London 1737 – London 1823), sculptor

References

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, 19 Walker 1994 S. Walker 'The Sculpture Gallery of Prince Livio Odescalchi.' Journal of the History of Collections. Vol. 6, no. 2, 1994, p. 196 and p. 195, fig. 12. Beaven 1999 L. Beaven 'Camillo Massimi as Patron of Sculptors: Francois Puquesnoy, Alessandro Algardi, Francesco Fontana and Cosimo Fancelli', Melbourne Art Journal. No. 3, 1999, fig. 8 on p. 31. Coltman 2004: Viccy Coltman, 'Thomas Anson's Sculpture Collection at Shugborough: ''Living good and pleasing'' or ''much taste a turn to Roman splendour'', Sculpture Journal, XII, 2004, pp. 35-56.

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