Sunday, June 24, 2012

Telemachus for Sale

Luigi Bienaimé (1795-1878) carved Telemachus Arming in 1835.The glamor photograph above is supplied by Sotheby's, auctioning the statue in London on July 3rd. In Homer, Telemachus was the son of Odysseus and Penelope, left behind when his father sailed off for the Trojan War. Grown up, Telemachus was one of the first to recognize Odysseus when he finally returned to Ithaca. The son then proceeded to assist the father in the mass murder of Penelope's suitors. Bienaimé carved another Telemachus Arming (below), now in the Hermitage.

The Hermitage possesses many examples of  Bienaimé's work. Apparently, somebody in the Imperial Family of the mid-19th century was a serious fan, with agents buying directly from the sculptor's studio in Italy and shipping the life-sized marbles straight to Russia. Bienaimé belonged to the generation of Neoclassical artists who succeeded Canova. Unfortunately, a style that came alive under Canova's hands refused to breathe when imitated by his successors.  

(I am curious about that square admonitory plastic sign at the base of Bienaimé's Dancing Bacchante immediately above. It looks to me as if it means, "do not stub out your cigarette on this pedestal")