Lady Charlotte Bury (née Campbell), youngest daughter of the 5th Duke of Argyll, probably commissioned this exquisite marble carving of the two youngest of her six daughters, Emma and Julia, from the fashionable Florentine sculptor Lorenzo Bartolini in about 1820.

Notes made in Bartolini's studio show that the price paid was 1,200 florins or about £500. Born the son of a blacksmith, Bartolini trained in Florence and Paris, where he worked in the studio of Jacques-Louis David and was twice painted by Ingres. In 1807 he returned to Florence where he set up a studio and became professor of sculpture at the city's academy. Following the death of Canova in 1822, he became the leading Italian sculptor of his day. The life-size likeness of the Campbell sisters is the most important work by Bartolini to have been commissioned by a British patron. Its naturalism (most notable in the fluid movement of the dance pose), charm and technical virtuosity also make it exceptional within the broader context of 19th-century European sculpture. Also of interest is the dedication inscribed on the tree stump to the British sculptor John Flaxman, the Neoclassicist whom Bartolini may have met in Paris in 1802. The group was delivered to Edinburgh from Bartolini's studio and was probably sent directly to the Duke of Argyll's seat at Inveraray Castle. It is recorded as being in the dining room there, and was later moved to the garden, where it was rediscovered in the mid-1970s. The carving has been on long-term loan to the National Gallery of Scotland since 1991, and has now been saved from the threat of export. As a piece jointly owned by the V&A, the group will alternate with Canova's Three Graces – also jointly owned – which moves between London and Edinburgh every seven years.

This work was acquired with assistance from the Wolfson Foundation.


Commissioned by Lady Charlotte Bury; sent to Edinburgh and thence to Inveraray Castle, Argyllshire; thence by descent to Torquhil, 13th Duke of Argyll; sale, Sotheby's, 2014, where acquired by a current vendor.

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