Thursday 15 February 2024

From the Studio of the Michelangelo of Australia

Lot 2.  
A 19th century quarter length marble bust of a lady, wearing a headdress and cross, resting upon a circular socle, signed Studio of Charles Summers, Roma, bears date 1877, H 75cm, W 50cm
Estimate £1,000-£1,500
For Auction 21st February 2024

Charles Summers (1825-1878) was an English born sculptor who started his working life at the tender age of 8 working in mason' yards and showed ability in carving fancy stone work.  At 19 after working in London for Henry Weekes RA and Musgrave Watson he studied at the Royal Academy schools winning a silver medal in 1854 for best model from life and a gold medal for the set subject 'Mercy interceding for the Vanquished'.

In 1852 he was advised to take a sea voyage to Australia as a cure for the Tuberculosis he was suffering from.  He tried his hand at gold panning on the Victorian gold fields before resuming his career as a sculptor in Melbourne. He was commissioned to supervise the stone carvings for Victoria's Parliament House and he designed the medal for the 1866 Intercolonial Exhibition. His bronze and stone memorial to the explorers, Burke and Wills, that stands in the centre of Melbourne at 5.49m in height, remains the largest bronze ever completed by a sculptor working in Australia. It is considered one of the best examples of his work and established his reputation as one of the most celebrated Australian sculptors of his time. He returned to London in 1867 and after a tour of the Continent, established a studio at Via Margutta, Rome. 

He exhibited at The Great Australian Art Exhibition and his works are held in the National Museum of Victoria, the New South Wales and Victorian Houses of Parliament, the Mitchell Library and State Library in New South Wales, as well as the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Charles Francis Summers (1857-1945) was his son, born in Richmond, Melbourne who followed in his father's footsteps travelling with him to Rome when he was eleven.

At its peak the studio established by his father was one of the finest in Rome employing twenty men.  Charles Francis learned the trade alongside his father and was influenced by professors Benzoni, Seitz and Chelli.  

During his long career he took commissions in America, Russia, Finland and elsewhere in Europe.  The largest collection of his works can be found at the Rotorua Museum and Art Gallery in New Zealand.

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