A sculpture of an ostrich from the workshop of celebrated Renaissance sculptor, Giambologna, will go under the hammer at Cheffins Fine Sale in Cambridge on 21st April. Having been held in a private collection for over 180 years, and originally purchased from the Horace Walpole collection at Strawberry Hill House, the sculpture is set to sell for between £80,000 -£120,000.

Having previously been held in Horace Walpole’s esteemed collection at Strawberry Hill House, the sculpture was detailed in A Description of the Villa of Horace Walpole in 1774. The sculpture is believed to have been bought by Walpole between 1765 and 1766, having been created by Giambologna and his studio in the late 16th century and early 17th century. It was then sold at the ‘Great Sale’ of Strawberry Hill in 1842, 45 years after Walpole’s death, to John Dunn-Gardner of Suffolk, who at the time styled himself as the Earl of Leicester, for fifty pounds and eight shillings, and it has remained in the family’s collection ever since. 

The soon-to-be-auctioned work is one of only three known examples of the model, with the other two currently held by The Louvre and the Fitzwilliam Museum. The similar model which is held by the Louvre was first documented in 1689 and had previously been part of the French Royal Collection, before it was donated to the Museum in 1881 by Adolphe Thiers, the President of France. Another model was sold for £260 at the E.L Paget sale at Sotheby’s, London, in 1949 where it was purchased by Lieutenant Colonel the Honourable Mildmay Thomas Boscawen who went on to leave the sculpture to the Fitzwilliam Museum following his death in 1958. By contrast, the sculpture offered by Cheffins has not been seen in public for over a century having been retained in a private family collection in Suffolk. 

The sculpture first came to Cheffins’ attention when a series of paintings by the current owner were offered at the firm’s Autumn Sale in October.

Jonathan Law, Director, Cheffins says: “The family always knew that they were in possession of an important Renaissance sculpture, and following extensive research at Cheffins, we were able to find the other two examples known to exist and trace its history beyond the family’s ownership to the Horace Walpole Collection at Strawberry Hill. Traditionally recognised as Giambologna’s work, recent research points towards the possibility that this is the result of the amalgamation of his work with Pietro Tacca, the heir to his workshop. With its connection to Walpole’s Collection, which is widely regarded as one of foremost of the 18th century, this is an incredibly important piece and is illustrative of the skill of Giambologna and his workshop in creating exceptional works in bronze.”

The catalogue for the Fine Sale can be viewed at: https://www.cheffins.co.uk/fine-art/catalogue-view,the-fine-sale_186.htm