Axel Johann Salto - Design New York Tuesday, December 7, 2021 | Phillips
  • While Axel Salto’s work is often characterized as either budding, sprouting, or fluted, he also produced figural pieces such as the present lot. These striking objects display the artist’s masterful and characteristic use of ancient glazes—specifically, the Solfatara glaze and the Sung glaze, as seen in the mask on offer. 

  • This work references a scene within Greek mythology in which the hunter Actæon accidentally stumbles upon Diana bathing. Startled and violated, Diana tells Actæon that he must be silent or he will be turned into a stag. Actæon calls to his hunting dogs, hearing them in the distance, and, as forewarned, Diana turns him into a deer. The present lot – larger than life in scale – captures this moment of transformation, with horns sprouting from the mask’s head. This concept of capturing a spontaneous moment relates to Salto’s abstract organic forms which evoke moments of growth and change within the natural world. 

    "The sprouting style…expresses a movement, a growth…there is an inner urge in things which must come out…The vase is like a living organism; the body buds, the buds develop, and sprouting, even prickly, vases are a result of this life." —Axel Salto 

    Depictions of Actæon date back as far as the Renaissance. In the sixteenth century, Italian artists Antonio Tempesta and Giuseppe Cesari, for example, created etchings and paintings, respectively, of this scene. In the seventeenth century, French artisans working in or near the Manufacture Nationale des Gobelins created tapestries depicting Ovid’s Metamorphoses, including the story of Actæon. 


    Left: Antonio Tempesta, Plate 25: Acteon Changed into a Stag (Dianae aspectu Actaeon in ceruum), from Ovid's ‘Metamorphoses’, 1606. Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Middle: Workshop of Jean Jans the Younger, Diana and Actaeon from a set of Ovid's Metamorphoses (detail), late 17th-early 18th century. Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY. Right: Giuseppe Cesari, Diana Turning Actaeon into a Stag (detail), circa 1602. Image: © The Museum of Fine Arts Budapest/Scala / Art Resource, NY

    Salto expressed interest in the story of Actæon throughout his career, portraying his metamorphosis in a variety of media, from paintings and woodcut prints to other renditions in stoneware. Salto also created ceramic forms that show Actæon’s figure in full as well as after his transformation. His more abstract works also frequently reference moments of transformation within mythology, such as in his Dafne forvandles til et Træ which is an organic form that represents the moment in Greek mythology when Daphne transforms into a tree. These allusions not only evidence Salto’s early interest in mythology but also situate his work within a larger art historical trajectory. 


    Left: Axel Salto, Aktæon. Image courtesy: Royal Danish Library. Right: Axel Salto, Antelope head, 1930. Image: Royal Danish Library. Artwork: © 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VISDA
    • Provenance

      Private collection, Massachusetts

    • Literature

      Pierre Lübecker, Salto, Copenhagen, 1952, p. 22
      Det Braendende Nu - Axel Salto, exh. cat., Kunstindustrimuseet, Copenhagen, 1989, p. 39



designed circa 1932, executed 1949
Stoneware with Sung glaze.
16 3/4 x 14 1/4 x 9 in. (42.5 x 36.2 x 22.9 cm)
Produced by Royal Copenhagen, Denmark. Reverse incised SALTO and impressed ON and interior stamped ROYAL/COPENHAGEN/DENMARK and with painted blue wave mark under the glaze.

Full Cataloguing

$15,000 - 20,000 

Sold for $20,160

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New York Auction 7 December 2021