A Venus by John Nost the Elder, Acquired by the V&A

John Nost l’Ancien (active around 1680–1714)
Venus Crouching, 1702
Marble - 122 cm (without the base)
London, Victoria and Albert Museum
Photo : Thomas Coulborn & Sons

10/7/12 - Acquisition - London, Victoria & Albert Museum - The V&A recently acquired a sculpture by John Nost the Elder : a Venus Crouching (ill.), in marble, signed and dated 1702, inspired by the famous antique of Aphrodite Bathing of which several versions are known, notably at the Louvre, also at the Uffizi and at the Museo Nazionale in Rome ; but the artist was probably looking at the one in the Royal Collection, today held at the British Museum : the goddess is crouching with her arms crossed over her breasts and has her head turned to the right ; she is wearing an arm band and displays a strap wreath around her brow with her hair swept up in a bun. The original plinth is similar to that of the statue of William III drawn by Nost in 1690 (also at the V&A).
The work, whose export bar had been extended by the British Ministry of Culture until 3 January 2012, then again until 3 May 2012, in order to raise the needed funds, was purchased by the Thomas Colborn & Sons Gallery. This is a very early example for that period in Great Britain of a monumental sculpture representing a mythological subject directly influenced by Antique sculpture, some years before the Grand Tour became fashionable.

The exact circumstances of the commission for this sculpture are not really well known, but it seems likely that it was ordered by Andrew Archer, lawyer and statesman (1659-1741), intended to decorate the entrance to his residence, Umberslade Hall (Warwickshire) where it remained throughout the 18th century. It perhaps had a companion piece, probably a version of the Apollo Belvedere, today lost. The estate was then sold in 1858 to the Muntz family who still owned the sculpture until recently.
A native of Mechelen, then in Flanders, John Nost the Elder (active between 1680-1714) arrived in England at the end of the 17th century and started at Windsor castle under the supervision of Hugh May then went to London to work alongside Arnold Quellin (1653-1686) in the 1680’s. When Quellin died, he married his widow and inherited his workshop. Combining the tradition of 17th century Dutch sculpture with the influence of Roman Antiquity, he became famous in England, first known for his garden statues, in lead, such as the figures executed for Melbourne Hall (Derbyshire) ; some pieces pop up occasionally on the art market, such as this god Pan, attributed to the artist and sold at Christie’s. The V&A also holds two terracotta sculptures, one of Queen Mary II and the other of William III, whose stiffness is in sharp contrast to the graceful curves of the Venus. In marble, Nost produced full-rounds for Hampton Court, reliefs for the Duke of Devonshire and funerary monuments such as the one for the Duke and Duchess of Queensberry in Durisdeer. Two members of his family, also named John Nost, worked as sculptors in Great Britain and in Ireland during the 18th century - the V&A holds notably a bust of George III by one of them - but John Nost the Elder is generally considered the most important of the three.

Version française

Bénédicte Bonnet Saint-Georges, mardi 17 juillet 2012

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