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Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo’s marble Capricorns

Culture

Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo’s marble Capricorns

A pair of important historical marble Capricorns commissioned by Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo 1790-1798 – later Emperor Leopold II – is one of the most exciting finds of the art Italian curator, interior designer and private collector, Count Manfredi della Gherardesca whose collection is up for auction next week.

The Capricorns are believed to have been created for the restoration of the famous Boboli Gardens at the Palazzo Pitti in Florence. The commission was given to the Roman sculptor Innocenzo Spinazzi (1726-1798) and is documented between 1775-1777. He was required to recreate the previous existing pair of 16th century capricorns produced by the circle of Bartolomeo Ammannati (1511-1592), which had adorned the monumental gate posts for many years.

Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo arrived in Florence from Austria where he was born and educated, on the early death of his older brother in the 1700s. As the only surviving heir, he succeeded his father and accepted the Grand Duke title. This province had been selected by his family as a secundogeniture (a territory and title given to the second born son) and Leopold set about restoring areas of the territory. Aside from improving the infostructure, he implemented several reforms, such as abolishing the death penalty, an act that has been commemorated since 2000 by a regional custom known as the ‘Feast of Tuscany’, held in Italy every 30th November.

Leopold chose the sculptor Innocenzo Spinazzi (1726-1798), as he had successfully carried out several previous commissions in Florence, such as the restoration of the famous Niobe statues and the Apollino and in 1773 he had worked on 42 sculptures from the Pratolino Park. His work on the renovation and restorations in the Boboli Gardens therefore were a natural progression from these commissions.

Celebrated art collector, curator and interior designer Count Manfredi della Gherardesca (1961-2022) was described as one of the most colourful, culturally erudite and well-loved figures in the international art and design scene.

Manfredi found the present Capricorns in an antique shop in Italy and was thrilled to learn of their background. They are amongst other rare finds and historical pieces in his extensive collection, which totals 400 lots, with estimates ranging from £80 to £100,000. The sale which is expected to realise £600,000 is titled Alchemy of Design: The Collection of Count Manfredi della Gherardesca. It will take place at Dreweatts auction house on April 24, 2024.

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