Desiré Maurice Ferrary, 1899 first exhibited

LL 205

About this object

Ferrary's sculpture illustrates a notoriously erotic passage in Gustave Flaubert's 1862 novel 'Salammbo', set in 3rd-century BC Carthage in north Africa. The heroine Salammbo undresses and entwines herself with the python, symbol of the moon goddess Tanith. She does so in order to gain enough courage to steal back from the enemy barbarians the sacred veil that protected Carthage from defeat. She is about to take the snake's jaws into her own mouth, giving her body the sexual ecstasy and passion typical of much French 'Salon' sculpture of the late 19th century, which also appealed to many Victorian male viewers. Originally the scales of the serpent were gilded and Salammbo's body was covered with a lightly tinted wax varnish.

Lever probably bought 'Salammbo' along with Ferrary's 'Leda and the Swan', also in the Lady Lever's collection (LL206), from the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1900. The French sculptor Ferrary won a gold medal for his work. Once Lever had imported it into England he kept it at his Wirral country house, Thornton Manor, in the village of Thornton Hough.

Object specifics

  • Artist(s)
    Desiré Maurice Ferrary (French, born:1852-08-08, died:1904-11-24)
  • Date
    1899 first exhibited
  • Materials
    White marble; Red granite; Bronze
  • Measurements
    object/sculpture: 272 cm
  • Physical description
    A nude woman carved in white marble is standing against a red granite column, her head leaning backwards. She entwines a large bronze snake around her back and is holding its head towards her face. On top of the column squats a bronze naked female figure. She is leaning against a crescent moon and is seated on top of four kneeling horses with the tail of the python entwined around her.
  • Related people
    Desiré Maurice Ferrary (Artist/maker, previous owner) ; William Hesketh Lever (Previous owner)
  • Other number(s)
    Out of Use Accession Number: TM401; Accession Number: LL 205
  • Credit line
    Purchased by William Hesketh Lever from the Paris Exhibition in 1900
  • Location
    Lady Lever Art Gallery, Room 02
  • Collection
    From the Lady Lever Art Gallery collections


Previous owners

  • William Hesketh Lever

    Owned from: 1900
    How acquired: Purchased
    Owned until: 1925-05-07
    Disposal method: Placed at the Lady Lever Art Gallery
  • Desiré Maurice Ferrary

    Owned from: 1899
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1900
    Disposal method: Unknown or unrecorded


Item inscriptions

  • Inscription text: L. Perzinka..fondeur. Versailles
    Inscription method:
    Inscription note: Leon Perzinka was active as a bronze caster and carver at 29 (later 11-13) rue de Montreuil, Versailles, 1896-1901
    Inscription location: On bronze
Object view = Fine Art
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