Louis Richard Garbe, 1926
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Perhaps the most ambitious sculpture undertaken by Louis Richard Garbe (1876-1957), “Primavera” is carved entirely from ivory. It’s a masterful work which shows off Garbe’s skills expertly, featuring a combination of techniques: relief, piercing, architectural carving and free-standing full figures.
This representation of Spring depicts Flora with her attribute of a bouquet of flowers. She’s flanked by columns surmounted by more diminutive figures. One is a man with a lute, the other is a singing female figure. The Sun is represented at the top, merging through the clouds, and just above a frieze of nudes with flowers. The figure of Flora is being overtaken by a relief of the west wind of Spring, Zephyr and a bas relief of a shepherd who gives audience to Pan who is perched in a tree. Pierced adornment of animals and foliage becomes obvious when studying the gilt background.
Garbe created this piece at a time when ivory carving was not in favor. The fashion for ivory had diminished considerably toward the start of the 20th Century, and, by 1926, when Garbe made “Primavera,” “The Studio,” Magazine had already declared twenty years earlier that the only suitable use for the medium was for 'billiard balls, false teeth and cutlery.”
Yet Garbe persevered and is considered as a pioneer in reviving the art of ivory carving. His ivory pieces, starting in 1924, were displayed regularly at the Royal Academy.