Attributed to Raffaello Romanelli
A Pair of Life Size Statuary Marble Dogs, On Pedestals
A Bullmastiff and Spanish Mastiff each on integral naturally carved base atop original solid bleu turquin marble pedestals. These rare and impressive...
DimensionsHeight: 173 cm (69 in)
Width: 90 cm (36 in)
Depth: 45 cm (18 in)
A Bullmastiff and Spanish Mastiff each on integral naturally carved base atop original solid bleu turquin marble pedestals.
These rare and impressive statuary marble dogs are remarkable lifelike portraits of two of the most fearsome breeds of guard dog. They are conceived to guard a staircase or doorway inside a house, or outside on a portico or either side of a gate or driveway. They fulfil a symbolic role of welcoming guests or guarding against harmful visitors. Their placement atop solid ‘bleu turquin’ or Dove grey marble plinths, a costly and rare Tuscan marble mined since antiquity, is indicative of their being especially prized.
The Bullmastiff was developed as a guard dog in the nineteenth century by cross breeding an English Mastiff with an Old English Bulldog. The Spanish Mastiff was bread as a guard dog and specialised in protecting livestock from wolves. Both breeds are famed for their strength, size, and speed and yet in spite of their fearsome reputations as guard dogs par excellence, the sculptor renders them most sympathetically and with much character. Each with loving gaze, as if looking to their master for approval.
Regarded since antiquity as the animal most loyal to man, the dog is an attribute of fidelity personified. The antecedent is ancient Roman, ‘The Jennings Dog’ or ‘The Dog of Alcibiades’ in the British Museum, of which a pair of similar mastiffs are in the Belvedere Court of the Vatican Museums.
In the nineteenth century so popular was the Dog of Alcibiades that any estate of note was incomplete without a marble or Coade stone reproduction, often as a pair, and ‘Dogs of Alcibiades’ today grace the grounds of many princely collections including Petworth House, West Sussex and Blickling Hall, Norfolk.
By the middle of the nineteenth century, the fashion for keeping dogs as domestic pets meant that on occasion wealthy owners commissioned portraits to commemorate “Man’s best friend”. Most famous is the marble statue of Queen Victoria’s collie ‘Noble’ sculpted by Joseph Edgar Boehm and dated 1884 (Osborn House, RCIN 41058).
Another pair of statuary marble dogs of this same model can be found on the terrace at Peles Castle in Romania.
A fairy-tale neo-Renaissance palace, Peles Castle in the Carpathian Mountains was built between 1875 and 1914 as a retreat by King Carol I of Romania (1839–1914).
The Florentine sculptor Raffaello Romanelli (1856–1928) is recorded to have executed much of the statuary Peles Castle and the attribution is made accordingly. Studio Galleria Romanelli in Florence have been consulted on the attribution, and although much of the Romanelli documentation was destroyed in World War II, have commented that these dogs exhibit Raffaello Romanelli’s style. The attribution is strengthened because Raffaello Romanelli produced much of the sculpture at Peles Castle.
Italy, Circa 1900.
Height 92 cm | 36 ¼ in
Width 90 cm | 35 ½ in
Depth 40 cm | 15 ¾ in
The Spanish Mastiff:
Height 87 cm | 34 ¼ in
Width 95 cm | 37 ½ in
Depth 44 cm | 17 ¼ in
Height 79.5 cm | 31 ¼ in
Width 90 cm | 35 ½ in
Depth 44.5 cm | 17 ½ in
Each dog weighs approximately 200 kg.
Each pedestal weights approximately 636 kg.
The pedestals dismantle into three pieces
Carrara Marble, Bleu Turquin Marble
Raffaello Romanelli (1856–1928) was the principal incumbent of a dynasty of Florentine sculptures who achieved considerable commercial success in the late nineteenth century. Raffaello developed the studio of his father Pasquale and ensured a legacy for his son Romano, in the Romanelli studio which continues to this day. Raffaello’s success stemmed from a natural brilliance in carving marble coupled with a business acumen which brought him international acclaim. His style favoured realism and he sought to portray great accuracy in his subject matter, something he honed in his early years working primarily as a portraitist.
Raffaello Romanelli was the son of Florentine sculptor Pasquale Romanelli who had worked under Lorenzo Bartolini and took over his studio in Borgo San Frediano. The first commission for the young Raffaello was to sculpt in marble the hand of Lorenzo Bartolini, which was gifted to the Russian Princess Orloff.
Sating early ambitions for a life at sea with a secondment in the Merchant Navy, the young Raffaello returned home and enrolled at the Florence Academy, studying under such masters as Professor Augusto Rivalta and Emilio Zocchi and winning the annual prize for sculpture at the academy in 1876. Thereafter Raffaello was given room at his father Pasquale’s studio on the Borgo San Frediano inside a deconsecrated church, where the high ceilings accommodated the sculpting of equestrian monuments which were a mainstay of Romanelli’s production.
In 1880 Raffaello’s statue of the Roman hero, Gaius Mucius Scaevola, won him a scholarship to study for a year at the Rome Academy of Arts. The piece was later exhibited in the National Gallery of Fine arts in Florence. During these formative years Raffaello was recognised for his exceptional talent as a portraitist, and in 1884 he modelled the face of a San Frediano boy, ‘Me ne Impipo’ which is today still preserved in terracotta at the Galleria Romanelli, Florence. After the death of his father in 1887, Raffaello took over direction of the studio in Borgo San Frediano.
From the 1890s Raffaello’s fame found momentum with a multitude of commissions such as the monument to Giuseppe Garibaldi and a statue of Donatello for the Basillica of San Lorenzo, Florence. Another important Florentine figure immortalised by Raffaello’s hands was Benvenuto Cellini, whose bronze bust stands in the middle of the Eastern side of Florence’s Ponte Vecchio. In December 1888 Raffello was made a Accademico Corrispondente at the Florence Academy of Fine Arts and in 1862 a Professor of the Academy. Raffaello achieved international acclaim by winning a competition to make the monument to Tsar Alexander II of Russia and worked profusely for the royal court of Romania, becoming friends with King Carol I and Queen Elisabeth of Wied, producing a bust of King Carol himself and of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter Princess Maria of Edinburgh, who had become the wife of King Carol I’s nephew, the future King Ferdinand I of Romania. At the turn of the century Raffaello oversaw delivery of garden statuary, fountains and sculpture to Peles Castle, the Romanian royal palace in the Carpathian Mountains. Romanelli exhibited in Florence, Milan, Turin and Paris but with the outbreak of the First World War turned his attention to the United States, participating in the 1915 Panama—Pacific International Exhibition in San Francisco.
Raffaello Romanelli worked up until his death in April 1928, bequeathing the studio to his son Romano Romanelli.
Exhibitions (during his lifetime)
1887, National Exhibition of Belle Arti, Torino, busts Ciociara and Falconiere
1888, Paris Exhibition, spring/summer, busts Giacobbe e Rachele
1889, Universal Exhibition, Paris ( aged only 30, Raffaello was elected to be the Italian juryman in the art section of the Paris exhibition. It was the most important world fair of the century.)
1900, Grand Palais, plaster copy of the Carlo Alberto monument, bronze portraits of the sixteenth-century architect Jean Aicard and M. Reinach, Christ looking to the sky
1897, March, Mostra di Arte e Fiori, Fine Arts Society.
1904, Expo of Saint Louis, Missouri, Christ and the blindman, Iris Fontana.
1905, first tuscan art exhibition organised by Domenico Trentascoste, Eduardo Gelli (Galleria Romanelli), Francesco Colzi and Signora Spagnuola.
1906, International Exhibition, Milan, Cristo che ridona la vista al cieco, Pittore Gelli.
1907, Venice Biennale, Iris Florentina
1915, Panama Pacific International Exhibition, San Francisco, Christianity emerging from paganism. ( “The Statue is the work of Raffaello Romanelli, who is to Italy what Rodin is to France. It is the largest piece of marble at the Exposition” San Francisco Chronicle, July 4, 1915)
1926, Primaverile Florentine