The highlight of the sale held by Barry Hawkins (18% buyer’s premium) in Downham Market, Norfolk on January 18 was a cast of the Jean-Jacques Feuchere (1807-52) sculpture Mephistopheles or Satan.
Titled Satan when first exhibited in plaster at the Salon of 1834 and cast in bronze the following year, it proved an influential work for its Romantic portrayal of Mephistopheles as a melancholic rather than a monstrous creature.
One commentator wrote: “Among all the angels and demons, there is one figure that incontestably merits particular attention because of the original character it has been imprinted with, because of the novelty of its composition and the conscientious craftsmanship with which it is rendered, it is the Satan of M Feuchère, a personification, with plenty of verve and ardour, of the evil genius at odds with being powerless.”
The subject’s pose is inspired by the famous engraving of Melancholy by Dürer (Feuchere is known to have owned a copy) and in turn is thought to have influenced Rodin’s Thinker.
A number of reductions were cast in bronze measuring 13½in (34cm) and 10½in (21cm) as here.
Signed and dated Feuchere 1833, it was estimated at £800-1200 but sold at £4800.
Christie’s sold a bronze cast of Mephistopheles in November 2017 for £15,000, while Sworders sold a 15in (38cm) high plaster model signed J Feuchère 1838 at £6800 as part of an Out of the Ordinary sale in February 2021.
Boehm rides high
A Victorian bronze of an equestrienne by Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm (1834-90) led the sale at Mellors & Kirk (24% buyer’s premium) on January 17.
Although somewhat overlooked by modern scholarship, Boehm was among the most illustrious and most active British sculptors of his generation.
Queen Victoria, in particular, highly approved of his work and he was to receive over 40 royal commissions and countless more from aristocratic and distinguished patrons throughout the 1870s-80s.
Bronzes of thoroughbred horses were his forte.
Boehm had only recently settled in London from Austria when he produced this 20in (49cm) high model in 1865. The identity of the elegant young horsewoman remains unknown although it fits the description of a work titled Mrs Henry Webster; Equestrian Portrait in Bronze that was shown at The Royal Academy in 1866.
In the absence of other surviving examples, it may be the very same cast.
It came for sale in Nottingham as part of the collection of CW Briggs (1906-71). More than 400 eclectic lots from this family collection were offered.
A fine cast in fine original condition with an even rich patina, it was guided at £3000-5000 but took £10,000.