Stockholm’s Nationalmuseum Discovers a Clodion Terracotta

1/12/11 - Acquisition - Stockholm, Nationalmuseum - It was during an ordinary auction at the Stockholms Auktionsverk, with no catalogue listing [1], that the Swedish museum managed to acquire, thanks to the sharp eye of a curator, Magnus Olausson, an original terracotta by Clodion (ill. 1) on 22 March 2011.

1. Claude Michel, dit Clodion (1738-1814)
Nymph and Satyr Kissing, ca 1780-1790
Terracotta - H. 58 cm
Stockholm, Nationalmuseum
Photo : Nationalmuseum

2. Claude Michel, dit Clodion (1738-1814)
The Intoxication of Wine, ca 1780-1790
Terracotta - H. 58.4 cm
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo : Metropolitan Museum

This small signed statue, with a documented provenance (it was, notably, in the Jacques Doucet collection), had been sold, with a mistaken identification (the signature read incorrectly) at an auction in London in 1990. It was acquired because of the subject and ended up in a Swedish erotica collection(!). It was not presented in the Stockholm auction as an authentic Clodion [2] and was therefore purchased by the museum for a very low sum (72,050 SEK, that is about 7,205 € with charges !). What a fortunate country ! There, discoveries such as this are possible and the museum is in no danger of having to abandon its discovery. We should recall that here in France, in a similar situation, the Louvre had been scandalously deprived of a Nicolas Poussin found by Pierre Rosenberg.
The work, typical of the small terracotta groups which Clodion produced for clients, represents a nymph and a satyr kissing. It is the matching pair for The Intoxication of Wine at the Metropolitan Museum (ill. 2), also sold in 1912 with the Doucet collection and later bequeathed in 1913 by Benjamin Altman to the museum.

The Swedish museum has no acquisitions budget and thus depends on private donations. The purchase here was made possible by the Sophia Giescke Foundation. Along with the Nicolas Régnier we recently mentioned (see news item of 23/11/11), the Nationalmuseum has been enjoying a rewarding year.

Version française

Didier Rykner, vendredi 2 décembre 2011


[1] Addendum (3/12/11) : Contrary to our previous statement saying that this auction with no accompanying catalogue had taken place on the net, we would like to clarify that it was in fact held at the auction house.

[2] Addendum (3/12/11) : The Stockholm Museum explained to us that the sculpture was indeed presented as being by Clodion, as a cast. The actual material (terracotta) was determined during the exhibition preceding the auction. Given the final sale price, we doubt however that the Clodion attribution was defended with much conviction.

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