This bronze statuette has been attributed to Marochetti , since it answers so strongly to the description given by William Michael Rossetti of the piece called Sappho, which the sculptor exhibited in the Royal Academy in 1850, though that was clearly in marble. A marble version of this design does exist in the Russell Cotes Museum, Bournemouth, but is so poorly executed that one wonders whether it can possibly be the one which Marochetti exhibited. As a classical subject, this is a rarity in the work of Marochetti. In general, he resisted such endeavours and was scornful of those who were involved in them. The sculptor Charles Francis Fuller, wrote in 1861 to Sir Henry Layard, providing him with the gist of a conversation with Marochetti which had lasted he said for several hours, on the viability of ideal sculpture in the present age. "Why, said he, do you waste your time on Lady Godivas, Rhodopes etc., all ideal subjects? The time is gone for such things, you will work your brain till you are either in a madhouse or hospital. This is the day of Brunels and Stephensons (alluding to the 2 statues ordered to him) for the public begins to understand that it is more difficult a style than the ideal".(Layard Papers, British Library, Add. Ms 38987)
Marochetti's approach here appears inspired by Tanagra figurines, though the sculptor would certainly have been aware of the two different treatments of the subject by the recently deceased Franco-Swiss sculptor, James Pradier.
William Michael Rossetti's description, which appeared in The Critic of Books, Engraving, Music and Decorative Art, vol.9, No.224, 1st August 1850, reads as follows;
"The name of Baron Marochetti, well known, we believe in Italian art, is here represented by a small statue of Sappho (No.1297), of exquisite though peculiar character. The first impression of excentricity will not be favourable: but manage to look beyond this, and there is a grace and charm in the work which will arrest not the eye merely, but the mind. Sappho sits in abject langour, her feet hanging over the rock, her hands left in her lap, where her harp has sunk; its strings have made music assuredly for the last time. The poetry of the figure is like a pang of life in the stone: the sea is in her ears, and that desolate look in her eyes is upon the sea; and her countenance has fallen. The style of the work is of an equally high class with its sentiment - pure and chaste, yet individualized. This is especially noticeable in the drapery, which is no unmeaning sheet tossed anyhow for effect, but a real piece of antique costume, full of beauty and character. We may venture to suggest, however, that the extreme tension of the skirt across the knees gives a certain appearance of formality to the lower portion of the figure."
This cast was owned by the dealer Ted Few in 2008 and 2009. He put it up for auction at Sotheby's on 23 Nov. 2010 (Lot 25).