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Sleeping nymph

Avidly commissioned and collected from the mid-fifteenth century onwards, bronze statuettes (small-scale, free-standing sculptures of humans and animals, often inspired by antique prototypes or subject matter) were indicators of wealth, erudition and refined taste. They were usually displayed on shelves, desks and tables in the study or bedchamber, where they could be easily admired, scrutinized and handled. The warm tonality and sensual reflective surfaces of polished bronze made it ideal for nude figures – especially when they were sexually explicit, as with this sleeping nymph whose genitalia have been carefully delineated.
Much of the original black patina has been worn away through repeated handling, especially around the thighs, waist and breasts. The nymph’s raised right arm and buttocks were originally supported by a separately cast tree stump and low mound. Despite the loss of this element and the resulting anomalous pose, the exquisitely wrought nymph was clearly valued too highly to discard.