Bowler sculpture

An early 19th century white marble model of a bowler, $30,000 (£23,700) at Andrew Jones.

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The finely carved and modelled figure of an idealised youth standing contrapposto may be among the earliest known three-dimensional depictions of a cricketer.

Long before today ’s professional game, cricket was a pastime for gentlemen with roots back to the 16th century. This 3ft 1in (94cm) high figure, probably carved in England or perhaps in Italy on the Grand Tour, shows a player holding a distinctive single-seam leather ball in his right hand.

He wears a high-collared shirt, breeches and a sash – the clothing and demeanour of a player from the late 18th century. Figures are similarly depicted in a page from the sketchbook of the artist and amateur cricketer George Shepheard (1770-1842) that today forms part of the Marylebone Cricket Club collection. Showing a dozen drawings of cricketers at a match at the first Lord’s Cricket Ground in Marylebone, it is dated c.1790.

Bowler sculpture

A detail of the early 19th century white marble model of a cricket bowler offered at Andrew Jones.

By then the original form of bowling (rolling underarm) had been superseded by the pitched or flighted delivery with variations in line, length and pace. In response, the bat had also changed from the curved ‘hockey stick’ to the straighter bat used into the present day.

While numerous cricketing paintings and prints dating between 1750-1850 survive, relatively few sculptures are known from this formative period.

Bowler sculpture

A detail of the ball in the early 19th century white marble model of a cricket bowler at Andrew Jones.

This white marble piece probably predates the best-known series of 19th century cricketing sculptures – Joseph Durham’s quintet of models exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1864 – by more than half a century.

Californian provenance

It came for sale on November 29 as part of the collection of the Los Angeles interior designer and antique collector Craig Wright with a previous provenance to the remarkable Stone House on the Palos Verdes estate in California. The auction house pointed to some small imperfections including some pitting, losses to the collar and an area of fluorescence around back of left leg and the post that possibly indicated a repair. The estimate had been a modest $1500-2000. It sold to a London buyer.

Heather Lomas, collections officer at the MCC Museum in London, told ATG it did not have anything comparable in its collection, with most cricketing figures dating from the second half of the 19th century.

Also see Previews for a very early cricket picture on offer at a UK auction.