Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Mathilde Aubry, Head of a Medieval Virgin

All I have been able to find out about Mathilde Aubry is that she lived in the 19th century. This is the only image of her art Google can find. Mysterious.

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

Dug around a bit, tried an alternate spelling of Aubry ("Aubrey"), no luck.

Literally everything I find seems to be simply copied and pasted from a 2017 Sotheby's auction of the piece, devoid of useful information (as usual, sadly).

Looking closer at the carving itself, I noticed it is in fact signed "Aubry", so that makes me wonder why Sotheby's seems to be unsure of whether it was made by our mysterious Mathilde Aubry in particular. Do they lack other works and signatures to compare against?

This suggests to me that the sculptor may be almost entirely obscure, and that the appraisers simply took the unknown signature and compared it to paper records of sculptors from that time period, and found a name on a list which happened to have the same surname. If that's the case, this could have come from almost anywhere, made by a local nobody for a church or something.

The one remaining avenue of inquiry that seems available digitally (without resorting to actually talking to somebody at Sotheby's) is the potential metadata available from the other items paired with the carving in the auction lot. I have yet to go through all of them, and my interest may not survive long enough to do so, but looking at a handful of other pieces, one might be able to surmise a few things.

Taking a sample of the 5 auction items listed immediately before this, and the 5 listed immediately after, only 1 of those 10 is of unknown provenance. The other 9 come from a collection of 7 different male artists - all but one of which I can quickly find a wikipedia article for, and that one I can at least find a slew of images of his works.

It's a limited set to base off of, but it would suggest the majority of items in the auction were of notable provenance... which leave me at a loss as to why Mathilde Aubry should be so undocumented.

Expanding the sample size by another set of 5 pieces above and below this one brings about more of the same - overwhelmingly scuptors with wikipedia articles (although not always in English), all male, all with images of other works available. (And one was even a Russian prince!)

I'm beginning to suspect and to dread the possibility that perhaps the problem here is we're looking for information on a female sculptor working at a time when men overwhelmingly dominated the art world, and consequently she passed into (or perhaps never escaped) relative obscurity in the past, while her male contemporaries all gained enough prominence to eventually wind up with at least a modicum of information about them available on-line.