Jean-Antoine Houdon sculpture valued at $1.2m in old masters auction

The second day of Sotheby's Old Master Paintings and Sculpture auction in New York will see a magnificent Jean-Antoine Houdon bust lead its sculpture lots.

Houdon Comte de Guibert Bust Sotheby's
Guibert was admired by George Washington and Napoleon

The sale will take place on February 1, as New York's Old Masters week gets into full swing. The bust depicts one of France's most prominent military tacticians, Jacques-Antoine Hippolyte, the Comte de Guibert (1743-1790), and is expected to sell for $800,000-1.2m.

An influential military writer, Guibert's Essai general de tactique's impact was felt across Europe upon its release and is said to have been admired by George Washington and the young Napoleon Bonaparte. A leading figure, he was known to be friends with many of the Enlightenment's greatest minds.

The bust was commissioned by Guibert's widow, following his death at the outset of the French Revolution. Houdon was, at the time, the top portrait sculptor in France, having also created busts of Benjamin Franklin, Voltaire and George Washington among others. It is wonderfully carved from French marble, with Guibert shown in an informal, romantic pose.

Francesco di Simone Ferrucci frieze
Works by the Tuscan sculptors of the Renaissance are highly prized by collectors

Holding the second highest valuation among the sculptural works on offer is an Italian frieze with the arms of the noble Guidi di Bagno family, which is expected to sell for $500,000-700,000.

Created around 1460-1470 by Francesco di Simone Ferrrucci - a gifted follower of Verrocchio (who also trained Leonardo da Vinci) - the piece is believed to have decorated the lintel of the fireplace in the Florentine family's palazzo. Much of Ferrucci's remaining work is currently housed in institutional collections, including the Pierpoint Morgan Library in New York, making this a scarce opportunity for bidders.

You can find more articles on the top lots in New York's Old Masters Week in our art & photography news section. Sign up to our free weekly newsletter for the results, as well as exclusive investment advice.

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