A Late 19th Century Bust of Clytie


A late 19th century plaster cast and resin neoclassical bust of Clytie.

A late 19th century plaster cast and resin neoclassical bust of Clytie, after the original mid 1st century marble bust bought by Charles Townley and now in the British Museum, modelled as a quarter length portrait of a young woman with hair tied back in the Grecian manner, draped with a tunic buttoned over her right shoulder and with sunflower petals underneath her, on a circular capstan foot. English, circa 1900.

Condition: Overall very good, the piece is complete with no damage, and with a surface which shows some very minor colouring commensurate with its age.

In Greek mythology, Clytie was a water nymph and the daughter of Titans Oceanus and Thetys. She fell in love with the sun god Helios (in vain), who ignored her for princess Leucothoe, daughter of Orchamus, influenced by Aphrodite, goddess of love. Clytie revealed the pair’s love affair to the princess’s father, who buried Clytie alive, leaving her to stare lovingly at him from the ground. She eventually turned into a heliotrope, a plant whose flowers follow the sun from east to west during the day.
This bust of Clytie is often – and erroneously – described as being presented on sunflower petals, because sunflowers also follow the sun. However, Clytie is only associated with the heliotrope.

Charles Townley (1737-1805) was an antiquary and collector who travelled on three Grand Tours to Italy, buying antique sculpture, Old Master paintings, drawings, manuscripts and vases. The scion of the wealthy Catholic Townley family, educated in France and an avid collector, he purchased a number of antiquities which would form the Townley Collection in the British Museum, which purchased his collection from his family after his death in 1805, paying £20,000 for it, a fraction of the original purchase price. This sculpture is the subject of Zoffany’s painting ‘Charles Townley and Friends in the Park Street Gallery’ of 1782, a major conversation piece now in The Towneley Hall Art Gallery and Museums in Burnley, Lancashire. There is speculation about whether the sculpture may in fact be Antonia the Younger, daughter of Mark Anthony and mother of Emperor Claudius. Townley originally believed it to be Agrippina, and although he later referred to it as Isis in a lotus flower, it is now accepted as Clytie.

Height = 36 cm (14″)