A WEDGWOOD AND BENTLEY BLACK BASALT LIBRARY BUST OF CATO

A WEDGWOOD AND BENTLEY BLACK BASALT LIBRARY BUST OF CATO

Circa 1774-80
48.7 cm high
Impressed ‘CATO’ and ‘Wedgwood & Bentley’ mark on the reverse and socle

Marcus Portius Cato, Cato the Younger, (95 BC- 46 BC), was a military commander and conservative Roman senator.  He was a follower of Stoic philosophy and consistently stood against Julius Caesar. Cato committed suicide rather than submit to Caesar when he was about to invade Utica, where Cato was in power. He was admired in Rome and in 18th century England as paragon of civic virtue.

Josiah Wedgwood obtained a plaster bust of Cato for £1.1.0, along with twenty-two others, from the firm of Hoskins and Grant of London for which he was invoiced on 21st March 1774.  It was refined by chief modeler William Hackwood and first listed in the Wedgwood and Bentley trade catalogue of 1774.

The model is taken from a bust which the renowned Roman sculptor, dealer and restorer Bartolomeo Cavaceppi (circa 1716-1799) sold to Prince Johann Georg of Anhalt Desau (1748-1811), who was himself a great patron of Josiah Wedgwood, in 1766.

Head of a man, known as “Cato”, 1st century B.C. – 1st century A.D. Tomasso

Cavaceppi described the bust as Cato and published it in his Raccolta d’antiche statue (vol. 2, pl.15) as Catone. The true identity of the subject is not known and, as with many of Cavaceppi’s works there was doubt as to its authenticity, but subsequent studies have established that it is indeed ancient (Pfeiffer 2006, pp. 57-58). It was restituted to the heirs of the Anhalt-Dessau family in 2007 and sold by Tomasso.

For the example from the Rathbone collection see Grant 1910, pl. XXXIV, no. 2.

Condition:
Minute chip to rim of socle and shoulder

Provenance:
Mr. & Mrs. Z. Brodkiewitz Collection
Brown Collection, no. 171 (label)
Lindsay Grigsby Antiques, Chadds Ford, PA 2007 (labels)
Jeffrey Milkins Collection, no. 462

Exhibitions:
Mint Museum, Charlotte, North Carolina, ‘Classic Black: The Basalt Sculpture of Wedgwood and his Contemporaries’, 9 February 2020-3January 2021, no. 61 

Literature:
Brian D Gallagher, Classic Black: The Basalt Sculpture of Wedgwood and His Contemporaries, exhibition catalogue (Mint Museum of Art, 2020), p.179, no. 61

References:
Colonel Maurice H. Grant, Makers of Black Basaltes, first published 1910

Bartolomeo Cavaceppi, Raccolta d’antiche statue busti bassirilievi ed altre sculture restaurate da Bartolomeo Cavaceppi scultore romano. (Roma 1768). Vol.

https://www.tomasso.art/artworkdetail/850418/19408/roman-c-50-b-c-c-50-a-d-head-of-a-man

I. Pfeifer, “Bartolomeo Cavaceppis Cato – Original oder Fälschung”, Zwischen Original und Fälschung, Stendal, 2006, pp. 57-58 (“[…] steht nun zweifelsfrei fest, dass es sich bei der Büste tatsächlich um eine antike Porträtbüste handelt, […]”)

Price: £14,000