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Antonio Susini (fl. 1580-1624 Florence), after a model by Giambologna, circa 1600-1620, Peasant Resting on His Staff. Bronze. 5 in (12.9 cm) high; 8 in (20.4 cm) high, overall. Estimate

The 5-inch-high bargain ‘brass ornament’ that turned out to be a Susini masterpiece

365体育首页Christie’s specialist Milo Dickinson reveals the extraordinary tale of a lost Renaissance bronze found in a $15 box of bric-à-brac in South Africa — offered online until 30 July

‘It is rare that something of this quality appears from out of nowhere,’ says Christie’s Old Masters specialist Milo Dickinson. ‘That it was found in a box of odds and ends in South Africa is a lesson to us all that there are still many great works hidden away, ready to be discovered.’

Dickinson is referring to a 5-inch-high bronze cast of a peasant resting on a staff, bought for just R260 (around £12 or $15) by a couple in South Africa. Described as a ‘brass ornament’ (see below), the sculpture was offered as part of a box lot, containing other miscellanea including an aeroplane-shaped shelf and a pair of Gouda vases. 

Lot 53, including an ‘aeroplane shelf’, ‘playing cards’ and a ‘brass ornament’, was sold for R260 — about £12

Lot 53, including an ‘aeroplane shelf’, ‘playing cards’ and a ‘brass ornament’, was sold for R260 — about £12

In retirement the couple have attended local auctions ‘as a hobby and to keep busy’. Once home, the couple began to research the bronze cast online, but to no avail. After further investigation, they made startling headway. They contacted Gillian Scott-Berning, a Christie’s consultant in South Africa, who in turn reached out to Dickinson in London.

365体育首页The specialist in Old Master paintings and sculpture instantly recognised it to be a lost work by (1558-1624), a Florentine sculptor widely considered today to be the finest bronze caster of the Renaissance.

The box of odds and ends in which Susini’s Peasant Resting on His Staff was included also contained vases and a decanter 

The box of odds and ends in which Susini’s Peasant Resting on His Staff 365体育首页was included also contained vases and a decanter 

Susini came to prominence in the early 1580s as the principal assistant to   (1524-1608), one of Italy’s most important Mannerist sculptors. In Giambologna’s workshop, Susini specialised in preparing the moulds of his master’s models for casting, and finishing these statuettes when cast. Their collaboration continued even after Susini set up his own workshop in 1600.

A bronze figure of Venus drying herself, from a model by Giambologna (1529-1608), the cast attributed to Antonio Susini (1558-1624), circa 1585-1600. 9¾ in (24.8 cm) high; 14  in (35.5  cm) high, overall. Sold for £1,058,500 on 10 July 2014 at Christie’s in London
A bronze figure of Venus drying herself, from a model by Giambologna (1529-1608), the cast attributed to Antonio Susini (1558-1624), circa 1585-1600. 9¾ in (24.8 cm) high; 14 in (35.5 cm) high, overall. Sold for £1,058,500 on 10 July 2014 at Christie’s in London

365体育首页Today bronzes by Susini can be found in , and the in London, and are highly sought after by collectors at auction.

In 2019, a late 16th-century bronze of the rape of a Sabine, attributed to Susini and cast from a model by Giambologna, fetched a staggering €4,493,200, setting a new world record for the artist at auction. Five years previously, in 2014, Christie’s sold a smaller bronze figure of Venus drying herself, attributed to Susini, and cast from a model by Giambologna, for £1,058,500. 

‘He was famous for casting bronzes with very fine, sharp, angular edges with an added patina that reflects light in a brilliant way’

365体育首页‘Susini was famous for casting bronzes with very fine, sharp, angular edges with an added patina that reflects light in a brilliant way,’ says Dickinson.

‘He made bronzes to sit on a gentleman’s desk, such as that of Ferdinando de Medici, that could also be handled and admired. Our bronze has all the qualities that made Susini famous across Europe.’

Offered online until 30 July, Peasant Resting on His Staff  is thought to have been cast from a silver statuette loaned to Susini from the Galleria of the Uffizi in 1601, presumably so that he could make copies in bronze.

Antonio Susini (fl. 1580-1624 Florence), after a model by Giambologna, circa 1600-1620, Peasant Resting on His Staff. Bronze. 5 in (12.9 cm) high; 8 in (20.4 cm) high, overall. Estimate £25,000-35,000. Offered in Old Masters Paintings & Sculpture, 9-30 July 2020, Online
. Bronze. 5 in (12.9 cm) high; 8 in (20.4 cm) high, overall. Estimate: £25,000-35,000. Offered in , 9-30 July 2020, Online

365体育首页Surviving archival documentation supports the theory that the model for the Uffizi statuette was probably made by Giambologna in the late 1570s, when he was asked to create the decorations for the gardens and grounds of Francesco de’ Medici’s villa at Pratolino.


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It is not known exactly how many bronze casts Susini made from the silver statuette, or exactly how the present work made its way to South Africa. What is clear, however, is that its discovery is nothing short of miraculous. 

365体育首页‘It was a time-consuming and exacting process finishing works to this standard,’ Dickinson says. ‘I would be surprised if Susini made more than five or ten examples of this cast, many of which will now have been lost.’

Peasant Resting on His Staff  is offered online in the , until 30 July.