Rediscovered Canova masterpiece once situated outside Boty’s Kensington flat to be auctioned by Christie’s

Antonio Canova (1757-1822), Maddalena Giacente (Recumbent Magdalene), 1819-22. © Christie’s Images Ltd 2022

Antonio Canova’s Maddalena Giacente (Recumbent Magdalene), regarded as his lost masterpiece and completed shortly before his death, will be a star lot in the Old Masters Evening Sale on 7 July 2022 at Christie’s in London

At one stage the sculpture was located outside the front of the house in Addison Road owned by antique dealer Jon Manasseh which Boty shared with Celia Birtwell. Derek Boshier also rented a room as a studio there whilst Peter Blake stored his paintings. The sculpture even makes a brief appearance in Ken Russell’s 1962 documentary Pop Goes the Easel with an aerial shot of Blake seated on it whilst he, Boshier and Peter Phillips wait for Boty to respond to their ringing the bell to be let in.

Boty on the steps outside Addison Road [unknown photographer]

From the Christie’s website:

Having accidentally become an art world ‘sleeping beauty’ over the last 100 years – her authorship gradually forgotten and whereabouts unknown – this outstanding sculpture of Mary Magdalene in a state of ecstasy was commissioned by the Prime Minister of the day, Lord Liverpool (1812-1827). Recumbent Magdalene will be a star lot during Christie’s Summer edition of Classic Week in London.

Dr. Mario Guderzo, leading Canova scholar, former Director of the Museo Gypsotheca Antonio Canova and Museo Biblioteca Archivio di Bassano del Grappa commented: “It is a miracle that Antonio Canova’s exceptional, long lost masterpiece the Recumbent Magdalene has been found, 200 years after its completion. This work has been searched for by scholars for decades, so the discovery is of fundamental importance for the history of collecting and the history of art. It testifies to the intensive thought process of the work of the Italian sculptor who was a fundamental witness of his time: faithful to Pope Pius VII, sought after by Napoleon, beloved by the English sovereign George IV, esteemed by the world of European collecting and of critical importance for the restitution of works of art seized under Napoleon. The re-discovery of the Recumbent Magdalene brings to a conclusion a very particular story worthy of a novel, of a marble of significant historical value and great aesthetic beauty produced by Canova in the final years of his artistic activity.”

Details of work
Antonio Canova (Possagno 1757–1822 Venice)
Maddalena Giacente (Recumbent Magdalene), Marble, 1819–1822
75 x 176 x 84.5 cm (291⁄2 x 691⁄4 x 331⁄4 in.)
Estimate: GBP 5,000,000–8,000,000

Further information on the work and sale, including a short film with Christie’s European Sculpture specialist Donald Johnston and art critic Alastair Sooke on its remarkable rediscovery, is available here: [link]

Early Boty study for stained glass sold at Christie’s

Earlier this month the gouache on card work, created by Boty when a student at the Royal College of Art, sold for double its high estimate. The following image and details are all courtesy of Christie’s:

Pauline Boty (1938-1966). Designs for stained glass window. Price realised GBP 20,000. Estimate GBP 7,000 – GBP 10,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2021

Produced in the first year of her studies at the RCA, this design already demonstrates Boty’s breadth of interests and talent for creative juxtapositions. The proportions and diptych arrangement seem made for church windows, but the content is far from ecclesiastical. Instead, the design features a dreamlike mix of architectural elements and a large letter ‘L’ framing figural elements including heads (painted frontally and in profile), and two lovers locked in an embrace. The assembly of disparate elements into a cohesive whole foreshadows Boty’s later Pop Art paintings and collages. It also reflects the influence of Charles Carey, who first taught Boty stained glass design at the Wimbledon Art School, and who encouraged students to use collage during the design process as a means of adding contemporary elements to an ancient artform.

Pauline Boty was a polymath who entered the Royal College of Art in 1958 to study stained glass design but became a leading light in the nascent Pop Art scene alongside contemporaries including Peter Blake and Derek Boshier. In this guise she produced paintings and collages which blended abstract elements with a profusion of imagery poached from pop culture, with surreal and often satirical results. She was also heavily involved with film and literature societies and agitated against some of the more egregious examples of contemporary architecture in London as a key organiser for the ‘Anti Uglies’.

Provenance
The artist’s family.
Private collection, London.
Purchased by the present owner at the 2016 exhibition

PAULINE BOTY (1938-1966)
Designs for stained glass window
gouache on card
9 ¼ x 3 in. (23.5 x 7.6 cm.) each
Executed circa 1958

Literature
Exhibition catalogue, Pop Art Heroes Britain, London, Whitford Fine Art, 2016, pp. 26–27, no. 13, illustrated

Exhibited
London, Whitford Fine Art, Pop Art Heroes Britain, May – July 2016, no. 13