The Fitzwilliam Museum's collection of Renaissance and Baroque bronzes is one of the finest in Great Britain. Beginning February 15, The Frick Collection presented thirty-six of the Fitzwilliam's bronzes, many of which have never before been seen in America. Dating from the turn of the sixteenth century to the early years of the eighteenth century — the period that saw the flowering of the bronze statuette as an independent art form — the sculptures are remarkable for their beauty and refinement.
Many of the bronzes in the exhibition were among the fifty-five works bequeathed to the Fitzwilliam Museum in 1979 by the sister of Lieutenant Colonel Mildmay Thomas Boscawen, an explorer, naturalist, and botanist who owned several sisal plantations in East Africa. The collection included masterpieces by renowned Italian Renaissance and Baroque sculptors such as Vincenzo Grandi and Alessandro Algardi, as well as outstanding works by Netherlandish, German, and French masters, which are rare among the Frick's predominantly Italian holdings. The Fitzwilliam exhibition, seen in conjunction with the Frick's permanent collection, provided visitors with a unique opportunity to explore the depth and range of European bronze sculpture.
Along with statuettes and devotional reliefs, the exhibition included exquisite examples of functional bronzes produced by the uncle-nephew team of Vincenzo and Gian Girolamo Grandi, who worked in sixteenth-century Renaissance Padua and Trent. Two of their greatest works, the Fitzwilliam's Perfume Burner and The Frick Collection's magnificent Hand Bell, were reunited during the exhibition. Both pieces are characterized by the extraordinary sharpness of their casting and represent pinnacles of luxurious artistry in bronze, helping to explain why these small sculptures enjoyed such enormous popularity among the most rarefied European clientele.
The exhibition was accompanied by a catalogue written by Victoria Avery, of the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies. The catalogue also contains an essay on bronze casting technique and technical reports on each of the bronzes by Jo Dillon, Conservator of Objects at the Fitzwilliam Museum.