Classical World, Etruria, ca. 500 to 450 BCE. An incredibly rare, tall, bronze candelabrum with impeccable provenance. It is composed of a tripod base formed of three lion paws, with incised palmettes at the juncture of the legs, a rosette flange at the join to the fluted shaft, and a tongued flange at the upper end. All of that surmounted by a spool from which project four branches, each terminating in a lotus blossom. The finial standing atop the center of the spool is a nude, athletic young man, shown standing in contrapposto with his weight on his left leg, his arms held out at his sides. He holds an object in each hand - perhaps weights. He has short, cap-like hair and his body is muscular and well-defined. Size: 9.75" W x 38.75" H (24.8 cm x 98.4 cm)
This candelabrum was likely made at Vulci, one of the most important and wealthy cities in ancient Etruria. Tall wax candles similar to ones we use today would have been stuck onto the four prongs. Similar examples have inscriptions to the gods below their finials. The Etruscans were famous for their small-scale bronze figures, and looking at this lifelike and well-modeled fellow, it is easy to see why. Athletes were common subjects for Etruscan artists, and finials like this one represent some of the limited evidence we have about Etruscan athletics, which seems to have differed from that of their Greek contemporaries - but, lacking written sources, we can only reconstruct it from limited artwork. Interestingly, the lotus flowers are also a common Etruscan motif, and are a testimony to Egyptian and Phoenician connections - as well as to the Etruscan knowledge of the Odyssey and the famous story (in the Classical world as today) of the lotus-eaters.
See a similar example at the Thorvaldsen Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark: https://www.thorvaldsensmuseum.dk/en/collections/work/H2306; a candelabrum of similar style but with a different finial at the Metropolitan Museum of Art: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/255099; and a finial athlete at the British Museum: http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=399792&partId=1
Provenance: private Houston, Texas, USA collection; ex-Christie's December 13, 2013 New York Antiquities Auction, lot 123; ex-Sotheby's June 23, 1989 Antiquities and Islamic Art Auction, New York, lot 108; ex-Sotheby's December 9, 1974 Antiquities Auction, London, lot 136
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