Pegasus reaches the heights

On 25 June 2019, by Etienne Rey

Pegasus and his companion Bellerophon reached the heights at this auction, shattering a very low initial estimate but leaving doubt as to when the work was made.

Ancient or 16th-century Italian bas-relief, carved marble depicting Pegasus, Bellerophon at his feet, 42 x 56 x 3.8 cm.
Result: €305,040

Initially announced as a 16th-century Italian sculpture and estimated at between €5,000 and €8,000, a Paris gallery eventually carried off this bas-relief for €305,040 after a fierce bidding war. That result strengthens the hypothesis of an ancient origin. Many unknowns remain regarding this magnificent work, which stands out by the beauty of the anatomical modelling and refined details, especially of the horse's wings. Simply described by the entry as "Pegasus, Bellerophon at his feet", there is no mention of any particular iconographic episode. However, the relief could depict Bellerophon taming the winged horse, which is suggested by the container that fell to the ground, probably symbolising the famous Pirene fountain from which Pegasus loved to drink, or Zeus causing Bellerophon’s fall as he was trying to reach Olympus. The hero ends his days in solitude and sadness, which is illustrated by the bent-over man under the flank of the protective Pegasus. Didn't Aristotle classify Bellerophon as a melancholic in his treatise The Man of Genius and Melancholy?

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