Harry Willis Fleming
 
 
Figure 1: The wax bust of the 'Caledonian' Flora on display at the Wildgoose Memorial Library (photo by Jane Wildgoose)
 
Figure 2: Lucas's own photograph of the 'Berlin' Flora, c.1860, clothed and with an apparently live human hand
Figure 3: The 'Berlin' Flora, photographed in 1909
Top banner image: David Cotton / Henry Moore Institute
 

 
Object of the month: a wax bust of Flora
In the R. C. Lucas Archive there is an antique wax half-length female figure [figure 1]. This sculpture has a relationship to the infamous wax bust of 'Flora' held at the Bode Museum in Berlin [Figures 2 & 3].
 
In 1909, a wax bust identified as the Roman goddess Flora was acquired from the London dealer Murray Marks for £8,000 by Wilhelm von Bode for the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum. The bust was attributed on stylistic grounds by Bode as an original work of Leonardo da Vinci; subsequently a letter in The Times 'revealed' the bust to have been made by the sculptor Richard Cockle Lucas, according to the testimony of Lucas's son Albert, and a 19th-century photograph of the bust made by Lucas [figure 2].
 
The ensuing controversy made Lucas's name famous posthumously, and later texts cast Lucas unfairly as a forger, suggesting the Flora had been created fraudulently for gain. For instance, Briefel in 2006 described the bust's 'spuriousness', labelling the bust 'a fake' and recounting how Albert Lucas had 'confessed' to helping his father make the Flora.
 

Bibliography

Aviva Briefel, The Deceivers: art forgery and identity in the Nineteenth Century (Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press, 2006).
 
Hans Ost, Edeltrödel: Neues zu der Leonardo da Vinci oder seinem Umkreis zugeschriebenen „Flora” des Bode-Museums in Berlin (Author, 2008).
 
Ulrike Wolff-Thomsen, Die Wachsbüste einer Flora in der Berliner Skulpturensammlung und das System Wilhelm Bode: Leonardo da Vinci oder Richard Cockle Lucas? (Kiel: Verlag Ludwig, 2006).

 
Copyright © 1997-2018 Harry Willis Fleming. All rights reserved.