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Lot 10

Attributed to John Cheere: A pair of lead figures of Scaramouche and Pantalone

circa 1755
lead, on modern painted wood bases
figures 97cm and 99cm high; bases 60cm by 50cm by 50cm

Condition: Almost certainly re-patinated at some stage but now nicely rubbed in places and overall in good condition
Estimate: £15,000 - £25,000
Hammer price: £15,000
Bidding ended. Lot has been sold.


Private Collection, the Netherlands, 19th century  
Private Collection, Italy  
with Gertrude Rudigier, Munich, 1980  
Private Collection, Germany  
Christies London, 2nd December 2014, lots 97 & 98  
with Daniel Katz, London, (total £90,000) 

These amusing figures of Scaramouche  and Pantalone  from the  Commedia dell'Arte  can be firmly attributed to John Cheere, who was the leading lead caster in 18th-century England. Statues by Cheere can be found in the gardens of many of England's greatest country houses, including Castle Howard, Hampton Court Palace, Syon House, Chiswick House and Keddleston Hall to name but a few. His statues were a feature of any fashionable 18th-century garden until the arrival of Capability Brown and his Arcadian landscapes.   

Cheere’s reputation as a master of his art is confirmed by a probable reference to his work by the satirist Richard Cumberland in his visit to Sir Theodore and Lady Thimble. Describing the approach to Sir Theodore’s estate he remarks upon having  caught the glimpse of a well-dressed gentleman, standing in a very becoming attitude, who, I concluded, must be the master of the mansion, waiting our approach; and as I perceived, he had his hat under his arm, expecting us with great politeness and civility, I instantly took mine from my head … but, how was I surprised to find, in place of Sir Theodore, a leaden statue on a pair of scates, painted in a blue and gold coat, with a red waistcoat, whose person, upon closer examination, I recollected to have been acquainted with some years ago, amongst the elegant group, which a certain celebrated artist exhibits to the amusement of stage-coaches and country wagons, upon their entrance into town at Hyde-Park Corner.    

This reference is, of course, somewhat tongue-in-cheek and is from a fictional account. However, it gives us a sense of the high esteem in which Cheere was held during his lifetime. The sculptor produced numerous lead and plaster sculptures for many of the greatest country houses in Britain. He produced two large lead figures of the Borghese Gladiator and the Dancing Faun  for Castle Howard, numerous leads for the gardens at Stourhead, and statues for Burton Agnes Hall, Hampton Court Palace, Syon Park and Blenheim Palace. These commissions give us a sense of the scale of Cheere’s reputation, and the widespread taste for his sculptures.   

In the late 1750’s, he received his most important commission of garden statuary, for more than ninety lead statues and groups for the Royal Palace at Queluz in Portugal for King Pedro III. The commission, which reflects the close diplomatic ties between Britain and Portugal throughout the 18th century, was probably instigated by Dean Joseph Wilcocks, who had been Chaplain of the British Factory in Lisbon. No other British sculptor could have completed such an order, which was dispatched in three shipments between 1755 and 1757. Whilst the leads represent the high point of Cheere’s oeuvre, he was also a prolific caster of plaster busts and statues. Examples of his work include the monumental plaster Apollo Belvedere at Syon, and the twenty-four busts of scholars in the Codrington Library, Oxford. One of the earliest commissions Cheere received from his most loyal patron, the 2nd Duke of Atholl, was, in fact, for seventeen plaster busts for Blair Castle. The sculptor went on to produce numerous plasters and lead casts the Duke, which remain in situ  to this day.    

By the 1750’s Cheere’s reputation as a maker of garden statuary par excellence had reached its height, as is clear from the Portuguese Royal commission towards the end of the decade, which adds an international dimension to his oeuvre.   

The present figures are rare and evidence the variety of Cheere's repertoire, which ranged from classical figures after the antique to Punch and Judy characters. Although not signed the quality is absolutely consistent with Cheere's output, and the figures both have the very distinctive crosshatching decoration on their ankles which is so typical of Cheere's work.  It is known that he produced statues of such characters, as has been outlined by J.T. Smith in Streets of London, a contemporary account written in the mid 18th century gives the following description of John Cheere's yard:  "The figures were cast in lead as large as life and frequently painted with an intention to resemble nature. They consisted of Punch, Harlequin, Columbine and other pantomimical characters"     


Pantalone and Scaramouche are, of course, figures from the Commedia dell'Arte, but they would have been well known to English customers at the time since they often appeared in Punch and Judy shows. Pantalone was the greedy Venetian merchant with a cat on his shoulder, and Scaramouche, a coward who was frequently beaten by Harlequin.   

In the early 18th Century, puppet theatres, with the English interpretation of Commedia dell'Arte characters such as Punch and Judy as well as Scaramouche and Pantalone were very popular. Perhaps the most well known was Martin Powell's, attracting sizeable crowds to his puppet theatre at Covent Garden. Given the close proximity to Hyde Park Corner it is more than likely that it was here that John Cheere would have encountered the characters of Scaramouche and Pantalone   


T. Friedman, The man at Hyde Park Corner. Sculpture by John Cheere 1709-1787, exh. cat. Temple Newsam Leeds, 1974; J. P. S. Davis, Antique Garden Ornament: 300 years of creativity: Artists, manufacturers and materials, Woodbridge, 1991, p. 31 

Garden Statuary

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