Description & Technical information

Other known cast: Dresden, Grünes Gewölbe (inv. no. IX 79), h. 24 cm.

Other known versions: Dresden, Grünes Gewölbe (inv. no. IX 46), h. 23.2 cm; Munich, Residenz, Schatzkammer, h. 23 cm (3); Kassel, Hessische Landesmuseum (4); New York, Abbott Guggenheim Collection, h. 23.5 cm (5).

The present cast is directly comparable with another cast acquired in Paris in 1699 by Baron Leplat for Augustus the Strong, which is now in the Grünes Gewölbe, Dresden (Inv. IX 79).

The Vestal relates directly to a drawing of a female figure holding an oil vessel, now in the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, attributed to Claude Bertin. This is endorsed by a note by Daniel Cronström to the effect that in the summer of 1697 he saw a half life-size marble statue of such a figure in Bertin’s studio at Versailles, the whereabouts of which is now not known. Mentioning figures of a Vestal, Flora, Apollo and Bacchus, he wrote to Nicodème Tessin: "j’ay esté à Versailles voir les statues du Sr Bertin que M. Aubry vous a indiqué. C’est un excellent ouvrier et qui termine parfaitement ses ouvrages".  Stylistically, the model compares closely to Bertin’s marble figure of Minerva as a Child at Versailles (1704-1705). In both sculptures the modelling of the draperies fall with similar, flowing lines and are creased in contrary directions. Both figures hold relaxed, elegant poses that give their bodies smooth, unbroken outlines. They also have similarly idealised classical faces with straight noses.

Observing that the model is French rather than Italian, as it had been treated previously, Laura Camins associated the Vestal and the drawing by Bertin in Stockholm with an antique marble statue of a Vestal in the gardens at Versailles, known from an image in Reinach’s Répertoire. Although Reinach’s drawing of the Versailles marble (whereabouts now unknown) depicts the Vestal without neither a cowl of drapery drawn over her head, nor an oil vessel, the pose and drapery of the model is otherwise directly comparable to our Vestal and to Bertin’s drawing. Bertin was familiar with the marbles at Versailles, as he was paid a regular fee for "maintaining and cleaning the statues and vases" there. 

There are two, very similar yet distinct models of the Vestal that relate to the drawing in Stockholm. The present model has the softer, more realistic folds of the drapery and a deeper base, the top surface of which is decorated with vegetation. The only other cast known of this model is Inv. IX 79 in Dresden, which was purchased by Baron Leplat in Paris for Augustus the Strong in 1699. The other model, of which several casts are known, has a shallower, slightly arched plain base and more angular drapery, the fringe of which is detailed below her right hand. Her hair on the right side of her face falls in ringlets. Similarly, there are two distinct models of the Prophet, which the other known casts of the Vestal have as a pendant. The model seems to be loosely based on two herm figures: of Diogenes by Matthieu Lespagnandelle (1616-1689), and of Hippocrates, known from an engraving by Thomassin, which, as they were at Versailles, would also have been familiar to Bertin. 

Of the eight Vestals described in the Dresden inventories of 1699 and 1715, two are paired with a male figure. The inventory of 1699 describes them as:

‘Un senateur romain et une Vestale romaine…100 Rtlr.
Une Vestale et un docteur romain……………..100 Rtlr.’ 

These bronzes can be identified as the two versions of the present models of the Vestal at Dresden, Inv. IX 79 and IX 46, which were bought by Leplat in Paris only two years after Cronström saw the marble Vestal in Bertin’s studio at Versailles. Two of the other six Vestals, are recorded without pendant male figures, in the Grünes Gewölbe inventory of 1699 and four Vestals (together with a satyr) are noted in the inventory of 1715. (15) All of these Vestals and the two pendant male figures are still at Dresden. (16)

Biographical Note:
Bertin was brother and teacher of the painter Nicolas (1668-1736) and the son of a sculptor. He was awarded the title Sculpteur Ordinaire du Roi, and kept a workshop at Versailles, where he was employed principally to restore statues from the royal collections. These included Desjardins’s statue of the standing Louis XIV (Versailles, Orangerie) and an antique figure of Isis (reserve collection, Versailles).  His marble statues of Aristaeus (commissioned along with a Eurydice for Marly in 1694) and Minerva as a Child are at also Versailles, but, like the present model, most of his figurative work in marble is now known only though his drawings. Between 1687 and 1705 he executed 18 vases for Versailles, and others for Marly and Meudon. His busts of Cleopatra and Zenobia have recently come to light and, having been identified with his drawings, were acquired by the Louvre and the Philadelphia Museum of Art  respectively.

1. We are most grateful to Dr Ulrike Weinhold, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Grünes Gewölbe, for an image of this cast and data on the other Dresden casts.

2. H. R. Weihrauch, Die Bildwerke in Bronze und in anderen Metallen (Bayerisches Nationalmuseum München, Kataloge Band XIII, 5), Munich, 1956, no. 278, p. 221, citing a further cast (inv. no. 560) in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, which is not recorded in the inventory made of bronzes in the Bargello by Andrea Ciarari in 2000. We are most grateful to Dr.ssa Paolozzi Strozzi for this information.

3. Inv. no. 1077. Severely damaged in the fire of 1944. Weihrauch 1956, no. 278, p. 221, described them as Florentine, first half of the 17th century. Another cast (inv. no. 1078) was destroyed.

4. Weihrauch 1956, p. 221.

5. Renaissance and Baroque Bronzes from the Abbott Guggenheim Collection, exh. cat. by L. Camins, The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, March-September 1988, pp. 138-9, no. 48. The provenance of this bronze, not stated therein, is: New York, Sotheby's, 21-22 May 1982, lot 222, formerly New York, Matthias Komor.

6. F. Souchal, French Sculptors of the 17th and 18th Centuries: The Reign of Louis XIV, vol. I, 1977, p. 43, no. 12. Stockholm, Nationalmuseum (inv. no. THC 3827). Drawings from the same series have been cited as evidence of Bertin’s authorship of the bust of Cleopatra in the Louvre, Paris (inv. no. R.F. 3717). See G. Besc-Bautier in Musée du Louvre. Nouvelles acquisitions du Départment des Sculptures (1984-1987), Paris, 1988, no. 17, p. 64-65.

7. Souchal 1977, p. 43, no. 12.

8. R.-A. Weigert et C. Hernmarck, Les relations artistiques entre la France et la Suède (1693-1718). Extraits d’une correspondance entre l’architecte N. Tessin le Jeune et D. Cronström, Stockholm, 1964, p. 176, cited in Nouvelles Acquisitions 1988, no. 17, p. 64-65.

9. Souchal 1977, no. 30, p. 46.

10. San Francisco 1988, p. 138, citing the earlier literature and references. The statue is illustrated in S. Reinach, Répertoire de la Statuaire Grecque et Romaine, Paris, 1897, vol. I, p.456, no. 1920A, described as a ‘Vestale’, in ‘Versailles, (Parc de)’, height 1.73 m.

11. Quoted in Souchal 1977, p. 38.

12. Dresden, Grünes Gewölbe IX 13 has soft folds in its drapery and vegetation on its base like the present model of the Vestal. The other model of the Prophet bears fringes on the cloaks and a plain base which correspond to the other Vestals.

13. San Francisco 1988, p. 138.

14. W. Holzhausen, “Die Bronzen Augusts des Starken in Dresden”, Jahrbuch der Preuszischen Kunstsamm-lungen, Band LX, 1939, pp. 157-186, inv. IX 13 (h. 24.1cm), & IX 111 (h. 23.2cm). Like the Vestals, the two are similar yet distinct models of the Prophets.

15. Holzhausen 1939, p. 184.

16. Our sincerest thanks to Dr Ulrike Weinhold for clarification of this matter.

17. For other restorations by Bertin see Souchal vol. IV (1993), p. 6.

18. Souchal 1977, vol. IV (1993), no. 10, p. 7 for Aristaeus and vol. I, no. 30, p. 46 for Minerva as a Child.

19. Souchal 1977, pp. 42-47.

20. Souchal 1977, no. 5, pp. 40-42, and Souchal vol. IV (1993), no. 5, pp. 6-7.

21. Inv. no. R.F. 3717. Nouvelles Acquisitions 1988, no. 17, pp. 64-5.

22. Inv. no. 1991-9-2. Souchal 1977, vol. IV (1993), no. 25, p. 8.

Period:  1600-1750, 17th century
Origin:  France
Medium: Bronze
Dimensions: 24 cm (9¹/₂ inches)
Provenance: Private Collection, Germany

Categories: Sculpture