Past Exhibition: Andrea Riccio

Andrea Riccio: Renaissance Master of Bronze

October 15, 2008 to January 19, 2009

The Frick Collection presented the first monographic exhibition dedicated to Andrea Riccio (1470–1532), one of the most creative sculptors of the Renaissance. On view were thirty-one autograph works representing every phase of Riccio's career, three bronzes believed to be derived from the artist's lost compositions, and two life-size terracotta sculptures. Andrea Riccio: Renaissance Master of Bronze was shown exclusively at The Frick Collection.

Although celebrated during the sixteenth century as a "sovereign over bronze," Riccio today is not widely known nor are his works generally understood. Representing both classical and religious subjects, they range from figurative statuettes to narrative reliefs to functional objects. His small-scale statuettes — such as the inimitable Shouting Horseman, from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London — embrace the themes of monumental Renaissance sculpture and painting while his narrative reliefs — including his tour de force Saint Martin and the Beggar from the Ca’ d’Oro, Venice — demonstrate his remarkable ability to re-envision Christian themes in his own original classical idiom. Functional bronzes — like the Frick's superb Oil Lamp — evoke, in miniature scale, the artistry and symbolic complexity of Riccio's great masterpiece, the Paschal Candelabrum, which remains in situ in the Basilica of Saint Anthony, Padua. 

Riccio was born Andrea Briosco and gained his nickname because of his curly hair. He worked in Padua at a time when it was internationally renowned: the Basilica of Saint Anthony, or il Santo, was a locus of pilgrimage and its university was the greatest center of Aristotelian studies in Europe. The city attracted students and eminent scholars from across the continent, some of whom became Riccio's patrons and friends. Riccio began his career there as a goldsmith but a chronic affliction forced him to specialize in bronze, a less strenuous art form. In this new field, he could model in soft materials such as wax or clay and exercise his talent as an inventor of compositions in relief and in the round.

Riccio was first employed by Bartolomeo Bellano, one of Donatello's pupils. Both Bellano and Donatello created some of their greatest monuments in bronze for the Santo's choir. Riccio's training and experience thus located him within the illustrious tradition of bronze sculpture in Padua, where he would become its greatest sixteenth-century master.

Andrea Riccio: Renaissance Master of Bronze was organized by Denise Allen, Curator at The Frick Collection, and Peta Motture, Senior Curator of Sculpture at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. 

The exhibition was accompanied by a catalogue published by The Frick Collection in association with Philip Wilson Publishers, London. The catalogue was made possible by the generous support of the Robert Lehman Foundation, Inc. and the Thaw Charitable Trust.

Major funding was provided by The Christian Humann Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Howard Phipps Jr., and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. Additional support was generously provided by Mr. and Mrs. Walter A. Eberstadt, Mr. and Mrs. J. Tomilson Hill, Peter P. Marino, The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, Hester Diamond, and The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation. The project was also supported, in part, by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts and by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Andrea Briosco Riccio (1470-1532), Lamp, 15th century. H. 16.83 cm. The Frick Collection; photo Michael Bodycomb

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