Sotheby's Paris, 23th September 2020, lot 147 Coll. Catherine and Alain Bernard (Paris) Sotheby's London, 10th December 1981, lot 74
Attributed to Willem van den Broecke, Sleeping Nymphe, alabaster, Antwerp (or Italy?), c. 1555-1560, Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, BK-1979-7
-Lequio, M ; Sismann, G, Collection - Fine Arts/La Biennale Novembre 2023, Galerie Sismann, 2023, pp. 58-65
Full entry available upon request
The female nude has certainly been one of the most popular artistic subjects for painters and sculptors over the centuries. In the course of the 16th century, it became a genre in its own right, steeped in references to Antiquity. It lends itself to the exploration of the representation of sleep and dreams and, playing on the sensual springs of eroticism and voyeurism, its form easily stimulates the viewer's reflection, imagination and desire.
This sculpture is a very rare marble equivalent of one of the greatest masterpieces of the genre: the Sleeping Nymph in alabaster by Willem van den Broecke (1530-1580), now in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
Her exaggeratedly long legs and broad, masculine torso, with its hypertrophied musculature, represent the Mannerist canon of feminine beauty par excellence, brought to glory by the greatest Italian masters of the 16th century, such as Michelangelo. The grimacing mask adorning the richly ornamented scrolled bed on which the young woman is reclining is in fact very similar to the one that accompanies the Allegory of the Night, created a few years earlier by the Florentine genius for the tomb of Giuliano de' Medici in the church of San Lorenzo. References to Michelangelo's masterpiece abound in Broecke's work, notably in the turban-like hairstyle of the sleeping beauty and the poppy seed she holds in her hand.
Secret, sensual and bewitching, the work of Williem van den Broecke quickly fascinated artists, who did not hesitate to quote its silhouette in certain pictorial compositions, or even to reproduce it.
Today, our work is the only sculptural evidence available on the art market of the coveted marble replicas made in Italy in the 17th century of Willem van den Broecke's Sleeping Nymph, probably one of the most beautiful reclining female nudes in the history of art.