Discovery: The ‘Sleeping Beauty’ found hidden in a tower

Specialist William Russell recalls the ‘incredibly exciting’ discovery of a Renaissance marble missing for more than 200 years

‘It started off with very careful conversations,’ recalls specialist William Russell, discussing the events that led up to an extraordinary discovery in an unlikely location in upstate New York. ‘Andromeda was found hidden in a tower, wrapped up in dirty packing blankets. She had been there for 35 years — it was a real sleeping beauty moment.’

Pietro Paolo Olivieri (1551-1599), A marble figure of Andromeda, 1580s. 63 in. (160 cm.) high. This work was offered in the Exceptional Sale on 13 April 2016 at Christie’s in New York and sold for $665,000

Made for the Roman nobleman Ciriaco Mattei at the end of the 17th century, the sculpture was found perfectly preserved, having been untraceable for 264 years. ‘That’s what makes this moment so wonderful,’ Russell explains. ‘From the 1770s to 2014, we don’t know where she was.’

A signature traces the sculpture to the artist Olivieri, who made a number of works for the baroque gardens of the Villa Mattei — with Andromeda among the most celebrated. ‘After the 1770s, the Mattei family sold many of their sculptures — some ended up in the Vatican, some in the Louvre… even the Met here in New York,’ says Russell. ‘It’s incredibly exciting. This is a magnificent survival.’


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