Ground-breaking male form sale at Bonhams

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Ground-breaking male form sale at Bonhams
By the Water’s Edge by Henry Scott Tuke. Estimate: £6,000-9,000. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- Bonhams is to hold the first-ever sale by an international auction house dedicated exclusively to a celebration of the male form in art. It will span centuries and genres, from Antiquities and Old Master Painting to Sculpture and Decorative Arts, from Contemporary Art to Photography. The sale will take place at Bonhams New Bond Street saleroom in London on Wednesday 16 June.

The sale is being curated by Bonhams Greek Art Specialist Anastasia Orfanidou and Bonhams Head of Books and Manuscripts, Matthew Haley, who said: “This exciting new concept challenges a market that has traditionally been centered around the western concept of the male gaze. It will explore how women look at men and how men look at other men, introducing a fresh context and platform that will spark new discussions on an historically unspoken market.”

Highlights include:

• A Roman marble figure of Eros dating from the 2nd century A.D. According to the literary tradition, Eros was the son of Aphrodite and either Zeus, Ares or Hermes and was known for being the god of passionate love and fertility. In the 5th-4th Centuries B.C. he was typically portrayed as a beautiful adolescent. Statues of young men, like Eros were modelled after what was considered desirable to men. This depiction of the god as an adolescent of idealised desirability evokes the pederastic relationships encouraged in Classical Greece between an older (usually in his late 20s) and younger (not usually older than 18) man, a relationship which was both sexual and educational in nature, designed to mentor the youth to be a model citizen. High-class Roman citizens in the 2nd Century A.D. considered their Greek predecessors to be the epitome of culture and learning, and commissioned copies of famous Classical artworks to adorn their villas to indicate their own sophistication.

• The Pride Cups. Unveiled in July 2019, the eight Pride Cups represent more than a year’s work by the silversmith Hal Messel who has reimagined, in a contemporary setting, explicit scenes of homosexual lovemaking from the Warren Cup. The original Roman cup is more than 2,000 years old and has been on public display at the British Museum since 1999. Using a unique model of the Warren Cup commissioned by a previous owner, Messel selected two scenes which he faithfully rendered on each of the eight differently coloured Pride Cups; the colours represent those of the Rainbow Flag. Just as the Warren Cup offers unprecedented insight into the sexual mores of the Ancient world, so Messel’s Pride Cup speak to the importance of diversity today. Estimate: £180,000-220,000.

• Il Gruppo del Laocoonte a very rare and large Naples, Real Fabbrica Ferdinandea, biscuit porcelain model of Laocoon and his sons, circa 1785. The piece was modelled by Filippo Tagliolini after the statue of Laocoön and His Sons excavated in Rome in 1506 and placed in the Vatican. Representing the Trojan priest Laocöon and his two sons being attacked at an altar by two large serpents, it is one of the finest expressions of the full Hellenistic baroque. When Domenico Venuti became director of the Real Fabbrica Ferdinandea factory in Naples in 1779, he whole-heartedly embraced the new neo-classical style heavily influenced by the archaeological finds and the large number of antiquities in the collection of King Ferdinando IV. The Gruppo Laocoonte is among the largest and most impressive of the faithful copies of classical sculpture in biscuit porcelain produced by the factory. Estimate: £40,000-60,000.

• By the Water’s Edge by Henry Scott Tuke (British 1858-1929). Estimate: £6,000-9,000.

• Atlas Beach by Patrick Hennessy (Irish, 1915-1980). The painting depicts the terrace of the well-known gay bar The Charles Atlas Beach Bar, which overlooks Tangier City Beach, Morocco. The model featured to the right of the composition was also painted by Hennessy in Kassim by the Sea (1978). Estimate: £5,000-7,000.

• Portrait of a handsome man (Fred) by Horst P. Horst (German/American, 1906-1999). Estimate: £4,000-6,000.

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