A mid-19th century model of the Uffizi Boar, called 'Il Porcellino', by Austin & Seeley, the seated figure of the boar on an integral square plinth.
This cast stone model of the Uffizi Boar takes its name from a 17th-century bronze fountain by sculptor Pietro Tacca, made for Cosimo II de' Medici and originally placed in the Loggia at the Mercato Nuovo in Florence. This civic space was also known as the Loggia del Porcellino, named after the boar as rubbing the statue's nose is said to bring great wealth.
Made in the 1630s, it was modelled after an earlier marble version (Italian, 2nd-1st century BC) discovered in Rome in 1556 on the slopes of the Esquiline Hill, itself thought to be based on a lost Greek Hellenistic bronze version. After restoration, the marble statue was brought to Florence in 1568 as a gift from Pope Pius IV to Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici, initially placed in the Pitti Palace. Both this marble and the 17th-century bronze versions are now housed in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. It remained an immensely popular subject for Grand Tourists, who collected their own versions. It is a testament to the commercial prowess of Austin and Seeley to produce such an iconic model for their wealthiest clients.
A design for a model of the Uffizi Boar is illustrated in Austin and Seeley's catalogue the 'Specimen Book of Austin & Seeley's Artificial Stone Manufactory, London', 1844, p. 9. Austin & Seeley were known as suppliers of fine garden statuary to the largest country houses in England and similar stone examples can be found at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, Castle Howard in Yorkshire, and Chatsworth House in Derbyshire.
Felix Austin entered into business making artificial stone in 1828, having purchased moulds from a firm that had gone out of business. He established his works in New Road, London, describing himself variously as an architect, statuary mason and sculptor as well as artificial stone maker. His material was not the same as the ceramic body used by Mrs. Coade, but made from Portland cement, broken stone, pounded marble and course sand (The Builder, 1868). However, like Mrs. Coade, he encouraged leading architects and designers to work for him. Around 1840 he entered into partnership with John Seeley; Seeley had trained at the Royal Academy Schools and also made an artificial stone, which he called 'artificial limestone'. In 1841 they published their first catalogue Collection of Ornaments at Austin & Seeley's Artificial Stone Works for Gardens, Parks and Pleasure Grounds, etc. from their address in New Road. The preface to this catalogue begins 'Austin's Artificial Stone is of a light tone, requires no painting or colouring, will not sustain injury from the severest winter, and, being impervious to wet, is particularly applicable to all kinds of water-works. Its superiority is now so thoroughly established, that the most eminent Architects and scientific Gentlemen have expressed, in the highest terms, their approbation of its durability, and close resemblance to real stone.'
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