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Mercury abducts Psyche

Key data

Melchior Barthel(?), Ulm(?), ca. 1650/51(?)

Ivory, height 28 cm (with plinth 58cm)

Inv. 1894.421.


Towards the end of the C16, partly as a result of increasing trade with the East Indies, ivory came into fashion as a favourite material for small sculpture in the flourishing lathe turning workshops. Collectors valued representations in the nude of mythological figures, such as this abduction of a woman from the collection of Remigius Faesch (died 1667). Mercury carrying Psyche off to Mount Olympus was a popular subject at the court of Rudolf II: the most outstanding interpretation was probably the over life size bronze that Adriaen de Vries made for the Emperor in Prague in 1592. The Basle group shows the same concern with its appearance from all angles: in this it reflects Florentine prototypes from the circle of Giambologna. It is attributed to the Dresden artist Melchior Barthel (1625-1672), who trained in Ulm with David Heschler the Elder ca. 1647-50, and worked as an ivory carver in Venice for 17 years. Consequently this group may play a key role in relating the sculpture of Ulm to Italy, northern and middle Germany. There are comparable objects in Dresden, Florence and New York.

Selection of similar objects


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