A “remarkable” set of late 17th Century carved marble figures which represent the four seasons are expected to sell for up to £180,000 when they go for sale at auction.
The life-size figures, which were created in France for the stately home La Granja Vella de Marti Codolar in Barcelona, Spain, are believed to have been inspired by sculptures from the gardens of the royal palace of Versailles.
The figures, which date back to the late 17th/early 18th Century, will now go on sale at Summers Place Auctions in Billingshurst, West Sussex, on March 22 and are expected to sell for between £120,000 and £180,000.
A spokesman for the auctioneers said: “The inspiration for this set almost certainly comes from those created for the gardens of Versailles. The figures of Spring and Winter bear similarities to those produced by the sculptor Jean Thierry (1669-1739), who was court sculptor to both Louis XIV at Versailles and Philip V of Spain for the Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso in Spain.
“Engravings of both sculptures titled Flore and l’Hiver were produced by Simon Thomassin (1655-1733), who was commissioned by Louis XIV to make engravings of all of the sculptures at Versailles published in 1694.
“It is with these celebrated works that this remarkable and hitherto unrecorded rare set of four marble seasons can be associated.
“Carved with a fluidity of movement and panache in marked contrast to the plethora of stilted and formulaic examples carved in the 19th Century, their inclusion in this sale represents a rare opportunity to acquire one of the very few sets of life-size marble seasons to have come on the market for a considerable time, which marks them out as a rare survival from the period.
“The representation of the four seasons in figural form has maintained a remarkable degree of continuity from late antiquity onwards.
“In Pompeian and Roman frescoes and mosaics, Spring is a young woman holding flowers, Summer has a sickle and ears or sheaves of corn, Autumn grapes and vine leaves and Winter thickly clad against the cold. With some minor variations, the same iconography has been used in this set of seasons.”
In 1798 the original Granja Vella house was sold to the Milà de la Roca family, from Barcelona, who transformed the old country house into a stately neoclassical house at the beginning of the 19th Century with gardens and a zoo later being added before the residence was turned into a home for retired Salesian monks.