Bronzes
Two 17th century bronzes from the court of the Sun King Louis XIV of France. Image: Christie's.

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The works will go on view at Christie’s New York this month before travelling to Hong Kong in May and London by June 30. The bronzes will then be offered at Christie’s Exceptional Sale in London on July 5 during its Classic Week.

One of the sculptures is by François Girardon, who was Louis XIV’s royal sculptor. Louis XIV on Horseback, Paris, c.1690-99, is believed to be the lost sculpture from the artist’s own collection depicted in the famous engraving of the Galerie de Girardon. It carries an estimate £7m-10m. This work is a reduction of the original monument, with the king’s hand raised, holding a baton. It is the only example in private hands, with the three other surviving reductions having entered the British Royal Collection.

Florentine artist Ferdinando Tacca (1619-86) sculpted the other bronze in the sale, Hercules Overcoming Acheloüs, in c.1640-50. This work represents a high point of Florentine 17th century bronze casting. The only example in private hands, Hercules is depicted in a ferocious battle against the god Acheloüs, who is transformed into a bull.

"Extraordinary calibre"

According to Christie’s, it was a gift from Louis XIV to his son, the Grand Dauphin, in 1681, remaining in the royal collection until the revolution. The only other known cast of Hercules Overcoming Acheloüs is in the Wallace Collection in London. Scholar Jeremy Warren has noted that the present cast is a technical advancement on the Wallace cast; the finishing is of a higher quality and the composition is more harmonious. The auction house said it will issue an estimate on request but it is in the region of £5m.

Donald Johnston, international head of European sculpture at Christie’s, said: “Not since the record-breaking sale of the bronze figure by Adriaen de Vries have works of this extraordinary calibre and rarity come to the market.”