A North Italian, probably Venetian, polychrome painted terracotta model of Balthazar, 18th century, the turbaned King portrayed standing in elaborate costume and drapery, holding a box of myrrh, flanked by an attendant carrying an urn, on a naturalistically modelled rockwork base, 32cm high, 22cm wide
The subject's princely costume and attributes of a casket and urn suggest this statuette represents St Balthazar, one of the three magi, who is often depicted as a black king.
The medium of terracotta, both for artists' models and independent works, rose to popularity among sculptors and connoisseurs during the 18th century. The tactile, pliable quality of the material was by some considered to convey the artist's 'fire' and talent in a more direct way than marble could.
The medium proved particularly popular for small-scale portrait and genre sculpture, as is the case with the present lot.
Statuettes of this kind with elaborate costume and vibrant polychromy were often produced in Venice, note for example the 18th century models of characters from the Commedia dell'Arte in the collection of the the Museo della Scala in Milan.
Further literature: in relation to the development of small-scale terracotta sculpture, see J. Draper and G. Scherf, Playing with Fire: European Terracotta Models, 1740-1840 , Metropolitan Museum, 2003
For a similar single figure model of King Balthazar also portrayed carrying a box of myrrh, see Sotheby's Paris, 17 June 2015, lot 191 (EUR 3000).
The model bears the usual minor marks, knocks and scuffs overall consistent with age, and some wear to the polychromy.
Some minor chips and losses, including to the tip of the attendant's sword as well as the top of his head and his nose, and the back of the taller figure. Possible repainting to the boots.
There is a circular aperture to the rear of the taller figure.
The base is a naturally irregular shape and does not sit entirely flush when placed on a flat surface, though it is entirely stable.
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