Lombardi, Giovanni Battista (1823-88; Italian)
First Whisper of Love [also known as Young Woman with Cupid]
Marble, 173 x 48 cm
Presented by Mrs Francis, for her late husband the Hon.James Goodall Francis, 1884; de-accessioned and presented to Warrnambool, 1943
Warrnambool Art Gallery (176.1943)

This statue is listed in NGV 1894 and 1905 as “Young Woman with Cupid,” and ascribed to G.Lombardi – identifiable as G.B. Lombardi, rather than his younger brother, who specialized in animal sculptures: see Lombardi (Giovita). The SLV holds a stereoscopic photo by Boake (c.1905?), labelled “Cupid and Psyche,” and the work also appears to be visible second from left in the photo of the Public Library’s Vestibule published in the 1905 NGV catalogue: see now 1905 Vestibule.

It is a pleasure to report that this group (unlike many other pre-Felton sculptures later deemed surplus to requirements) survived its de-acquisition from the Melbourne collection, and is still in Warrnambool, where it was transferred in 1943. It is known there as First Whisper of Love, the title inscribed on its marble pedestal.

Another obviously related statue by G.B. Lombardi, known as Cupid and Psyche, or Love awakening, sold at Christie’s in London in 2011, for a substantial sum. The Christie’s catalogue entry notes that this second group was previously in a New York collection, and before that in South America, probably accounting for its inscribed title, La Revelacion de Amor. Christie’s add that this “is Lombardi’s second, more elaborate version of the universally pleasing subject-matter of Cupid and Psyche, the first version being somewhat smaller, lacking the intricately-carved flora found here, and showing Cupid to Psyche’s left side” (possibly referring to the work now in Warrnambool).

See also Summers (C.F.) & Lombardi (G.B.) Shunammite Woman {1884} Bendigo [SC].


AR 1884 (“Group” by G.Lombardi); NGV 1894, p.130 (VI.Rotunda, no.10: “Group – Young Woman with Cupid” by G.Lombardi); NGV 1905, p.106 (IV.Vestibule, no.7: “Young Woman with Cupid” by G.Lombardi); SB p.67 (Statues); as presented 19/4/84; also noting formal de-accession and presentation to Warrnambool, 15/2/43. I am particularly grateful to Murray Bowes, Curator Collections, Warrnambool Art Gallery, for forwarding the photograph and details shown here (email correspondence, March 2020)  

For the stereo photo by Boake (called “Cupid and Psyche”), see SLV catalogue (with a good reproduction); and for the general view of the Library’s Vestibule, see NGV 1905, p.104

For the statue sold at Christie’s in 2011, see http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/lot_details.aspx?intObjectID=5457274, with a good photo, noting that it sold for £61,250 on 14 July 2011 (lot 179): as 101.5 cm high (figure), on a pedestal 82.5 cm high, from the collection of Dr Tony Ryan, formerly owned by “a gentleman, Christie’s East, New York, 14 October 1999, lot 510 ($112,500),” and previously in South America