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    Jean Baptiste Clésinger (1814-1883), Cléopâtre mourante (The Dying Cleopatra), 1861, white marble (£100,000-150,000)

    A wide range of sculptures from the Middle Ages to the early 19th century will come up at Sotheby’s in London in July. The Old Masters evening sale on July 5 will include  a sculpture – a portrait terracotta bust by Pietro Tacca, Giambologna’s pupil, of Grand Duke Ferdinando II de’ Medici (1610-1670) estimated at £1-2 million.

    Auguste Clésinger’s Cléopâtre which comes up at a sale on July 12 is an important rediscovery.  Clésigner executed the marble in Rome and exhibited the model at the Paris Salon of 1861. In order to give this unambiguous nude enough of a veneer of respectability for it to be passed by the Salon jury, the sculptor’s friends urged him to include a snake, twisted around the ankle, in a possible reference to a classical subject, such as Cleopatra. The sculpture was so life-like that the sculptor was accused, with some justification, of using plaster casts of the live model in its creation. With this work Clésinger became famous as a sculptor of the female form. At auction for the first time since 1892 it is estimated at £100,000-200,000.

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