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The Borghese Dancers
  • Henri Perlan (1597 - 1656) , Cast by
  • François Anguier (1604 - 1669), From a model by
  • The Borghese Dancers
  • France
  • Date: 1641/2 (model), 1642/3 (cast)
  • Object Type: Relief
  • Medium: Bronze
  • Height: 66.6 cm
  • Width: 200.8 cm
  • Weight: 143 kg
  • Weight: 169 kg, (with the mount)
  • Inv: S155
  • Location: Billiard Room
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Further Reading
  • This relief is a copy in bronze of a Roman marble relief, known as the Borghese Dancers, now in the Louvre but long one of the highlights of the Borghese collection in Rome. It depicts five young women engaged in a dance, set against an arcade formed by a sequence of pillars. They may represent Horae, nymphs who in ancient mythology symbolised the seasons and later, the Hours, attendants for Aurora, goddess of the Dawn and for Luna, goddess of the Moon.

    In 1640 orders were given, on behalf of king Louis XIII of France, for plaster casts to be made in Rome of ‘the most excellent examples of antiquity’, for decoration of the royal palaces, including the Grande Galerie of the Louvre Palace, work which was being supervised by the painter Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665). In 1642 bronze casts were ordered to be made from several of these plaster casts, including the Borghese Dancers and a companion relief, the Borghese Sacrificers.

    The casting was undertaken by the specialist founder Henri Perlan, using wax models prepared by the sculptor François Anguier. The sensuous neoclassical figures may be compared to those of Nicolas Poussin in his celebrated Dance to the Music of Time in the Wallace Collection (P108 in the Great Gallery). Poussin seems to have been closely involved with the project to cast the two Borghese reliefs and his spirit, if not his hand, can certainly be felt in these great bronze sculptures.

    The bronze Borghese Dancers seems never to have been installed in a royal palace and left the French royal collections at an unknown date. It may have been bought at an auction in Paris in 1807 by the future 3rd Marquess of Hertford, but is first certainly recorded at Hertford House in 1870.