Important Coupe Gordon Bennett Bronze by Carl Philipp, 1904
Price Code: SOLD
Carl Philipp (Vienna, 1872-1949)
Arguably the most important piece of Automobile Art that we have ever owned – an outstanding and highly important 1904 bronze sculpture depicting racing driver Baron Pierre de Caters (Belgian,1875-1944) aboard his 90 hp Mercédès racing car, at the start of the 1904 Coupe Gordon Bennett race. The bronze is set on a beautifully hand crafted, stepped hardwood display base, with ebonized trim and bun feet.
The Baron, much fancied to win the race, unfortunately stalled his Mercédès at the start, and attempts by his riding mechanic, René Cozic, to restart it using the crank handle cost him 15 valuable minutes, while the rest of the field raced away. He eventually got underway, finishing the 500 kilometre race in a creditable 4th place.
Length of Bronze: 16½ inches (42 cm)
Length overall: 23 inches (58½ cm)
Carl Philipp graduated from Vienna’s prestigious Academy of Fine Art in 1895 and accomplished several fine public installations in Vienna and Salzburg, notably monuments and fountains. Accepted as an official war artist in 1917, he was awarded the Knights Cross with war decoration.Returning to civilian life, he continued his career as a sculptor until his death in Vienna in 1949. Captivated in his youth by the speed and drama of powerful racing cars, like so many other sculptors and painters of the period, he created this magnificent bronze of his friend, Baron Pierre de Caters and his 90 hp Mercédès. Pierre de Caters was also of the generation of young men entranced by speed at the dawn of the 20th century, whether on land, on water or in the air. He briefly held the land speed record in 1904 (also on a Mercédès). He completed the Gordon Bennett race three times in 1903,1904 and 1905, as well as the Targa Florio in 1906 and the Circuit des Ardennes in 1907, as well as numerous motorboat racing events in his racing boat Sea-Sick! Following this period he turned his attention to aviation, gaining the first pilot’s license ever granted in his native Belgium, and completed a number of air races. He turned to aircraft manufacture, and successfully flew one his own machines to Bombay in 1910!
The importance of this exquisite bronze cannot be overstated. Along with the actual Gordon Bennett trophy (held by the Automobile Club de France) it is one of the first automotive sculptures recorded and demonstrates Carl Philipp’s prowess to great effect. The way de Caters’ motoring coat is shown flowing onto the passenger’s seat, for example, as he sits impassively at the wheel as his riding mechanic cranks the engine, is pure artistry. The whole composition is reminiscent of traditional 19th century sculpture – the young nobleman astride his steed as his groom tends his mount being a popular subject at the time – brought up to date with the inclusion of the 90hp Mercédès, the most powerful machine of its day.
Only one other example of this bronze is recorded, awarded as a trophy in the 1920s. The example offered here has been in the same ownership since 1960, when it was purchased in Paris (together with a Grand Prix Bugatti!) by the father of the gentleman from whom we purchased it.
An unrepeatable opportunity.
Illustrated: ‘Baron de Caters (1875-1944) ou la Folie des Volants’, Guy de Caters, 2010, pages 69, 259
‘The Motor Car in Art’, John J Zolomij, 1990, page 107
All images and text copyright © Pullman Gallery Ltd. 2022