Based on the popular romance novel by Jacques-Henri Bernadin de Saint-Pierre, Professor Guiseppe Lazzerini's sculpture Paul and Virginia tells the story of the idyllic childhoods of the title characters and the fate of a child of nature corrupted by the artificial sentimentality of the French upper classes in the late eighteenth century. This beautifully formed sculpture was a highlight in our May 2022 Five Centuries auction.
Guiseppe Lazzerini descended from a family of sculptors in Carrara and in 1848 entered the Carrara Accademia di Belle Arti under the direction of Ferdinando Pelliccia. While there he won the Rome scholarship which sent him to work in the studio of Pietro Tenerani, where he completed a statue of St. Sebastien followed by Hagar and Ishmael.
Lazzerini returned to Carrara to work in, and eventually supervise, the family studio where he produced a wide range of his own works as well as works of other sculptors. His sculpture demonstrated the strong influence of Tenerani, which he in turned passed on to students of the Carrara Academy for which he was the director from 1889-1893.
Lazzerini's sculpture Paul and Virginia is based on the popular romance novel by Jacques-Henri Bernadin de Saint-Pierre, first published in 1788. Set in the years before the French Revolution, it tells the story of the idyllic childhoods of the title characters and the fate of a child of nature corrupted by the artificial sentimentality of the French upper classes in the late eighteenth century. Born and raised on the island of Mauritius, John and Virginia are childhood sweethearts who are separated when Virginia is sent to Paris at the behest of a wealthy aunt, with the promise of an inheritance and education.
While there she is miserably treated and unhappy, and is pressured to marry a nobleman but refuses, vowing to return to Paul and her simpler, more authentic life. On her return journey the ship enters a hurricane within sight of the island and is wrecked just off the coast. Paul tries in vain to swim out and rescue her, but fails, and Virginia is drowned.
Lazzerini chose as his subject the moment in the story when the two young lovers lose their way in a remote part of the island and are confronted by a river which Paul helps Virginia to cross.
The Works of Art department sells a wide variety of antique items covering nearly 400 years of European and British design. Sold as part of our Five Centuries: Furniture, Paintings & Works of Art sale series, items offered at auction range from the esoteric to those of popular appeal and include sculpture, mechanical items, textiles, decorative objects and artworks. Primarily focused on works produced during the 18th and 19th centuries, our team of specialists and consultants are able to value and advise on the current market.