Lot 4698

Michel de Tarnowsky (1870 - 1946) – bronze sculpture "The Spirit of Humanity" of the Battle of Cambrai, 1917

International Orders and Military Collectibles | A80m | Live auction | 1049 Lots


Signed and dated "M. de Tarnowsky Paris 1920", numbered "3/20", foundry mark "Montaguielli Paris - Cire Perdue". Black-green patinated bronze. In the centre a mighty British Mark IV tank in a muddy battlefield surrounded and followed by British and French soldiers, among them a Seaforth Highlander bagpiper, cavalrymen, machine gunners, field guns, flag bearers, and a trumpet player or a rescue dog. The battle scene is surmounted by a winged male figure symbolising progress, holding in his arm the female figure of "humanity". Dimensions of the bronze ca. 60 x 63 x 51. On custom wood base. Overall height ca. 75 cm.Michel de Tarnowsky, born in 1870 as a son of a Russian immigrant and an American artist in Nice. He drops out of medical school after a severe illness and visits the École des arts décoratifs de Nice, later working in Paris in the art studio of Jules Dalou and Alexandre Falguière. Between 1894 and 1902 he regularly displays his works in the Salon des artistes français, where he receives the Médaille vermeille in 1899. In 1900 he receives an honourable mention at the World Fair in Paris. At the beginning of the 20th century he works as professor for sculpture at the New York University Institute of Fine Arts and stages an exhibition at the Madison Square Garden with several portrait busts. In 1910 he returns to Nice as an artist. At the onset of the First World War he serves as an interpreter for the British army in France and receives the Military Cross and the Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur. After the war he designs several monuments and war cenotaphs, until he suddenly turns blind in 1939.Montaguielli in Paris, one of the leading bronze foundries in France.The Battle of Cambrai in November 1917 is considered to be the first big tank offensive in history. The British hopes to finally soften the front lines by breaking through the German positions and to push back and defeat the German army were however not met. In the morning of 20 November 1917, accompanied by bagpipers of the Seaforth Highlanders, the British army attacked the German front with more than 200 tanks and were able to breach the defences 16 kilometres wide and 9 kilometres deep, but were however unable to capture the strategically important hill near Bourion. In the evening they had lost 49 tanks, 40 tanks were disabled due to damaged tracks, and others were severely damaged.
The attacks on the following days led to minor British victories, but the advance was stopped. In this battle a total of 476 Mark IV tanks of the 1,220 produced tanks of this type were used.This sculpture "The Spirit of Humanity" was originally planned as a 16 meter tall memorial for the First World War to commemorate the Battle of Cambrai and the cooperation of French and British troops and was supposed to be erected in the centre of London. To finance this project, 20 copies of the present version were to be produced and sold for 100 guineas a piece (about 105 British pounds). The sculpture was presented at an exhibition in November 1920 in the Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall, London.It remains to be questionable if all 20 copies were realised, especially due to the expensive manufacture by means of lost-wax casting. As far as we know there are only three copies existent worldwide, one is housed in the National Army Museum in London and another one in the Tank Museum in Bovington, Dorset.Condition:I - II Questions about the lot?

General Information

Day 1 of our live auction "International Orders and Military Collectibles" includes 1061 lots. The auction starts on Monday, November 18, 2019 at 10:00 am with Orders and Decorations (lot no. 3851 - 3987) and continue afterwards with Military Collectibles (lot no. 3991 - 4916). The pre-sale viewing will take place from Wednesday, 6.11. until Sunday, 10.11., and on Sunday, 17.11.2019 from 2 to 6 pm (CET).