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Andrea Riccio: Renaissance Master of Bronze

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Special Exhibition

Learn More About
Andrea Riccio

Introduction to the Exhibition


Exhibition Checklist

Andrea Riccio: Renaissance Master of Bronze
October 15, 2008 through January 18, 2009

Exhibition Checklist

  The Cadogan Lamp
c. 1507–10
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Cat. No. 13

The Cadogan Lamp takes the form of an ancient Roman ship. The wick pan for the lighted flame is on the prow. Tritons and nereids frolic in the waves along the hull. A now lost figure, perhaps a helmsman, may have been secured over the hole on the poop deck. This complex bronze may allude to the Ship of Fortune that can be guided by the virtuous light of reason. On the hull, one allegorical medallion (showing a nude woman) condemns the ignorant, another (showing a youth tethered to a tree) counsels deliberation. Like many of the works in this gallery, Riccio created this bronze as a unique cast. It probably was a centerpiece in a scholar’s study, admired both for its exquisite artistry and resonant meaning.

Oil Lamp   Oil Lamp
c. 1516–24
The Frick Collection, New York
Cat. No. 14

The Frick Oil Lamp is a bravura performance of the bronzemaker’s art. Its long heavy body is perfectly balanced on an improbably small foot. Riccio modeled each tiny figure and form directly in the wax, scoring their outlines with sharp tools. The swift movements of his hand are immaculately preserved in the bronze cast. Garlands, fantastic masks, and narratives of putti performing pagan rituals embellish every surface. Vinelike forms curl out from the lamp, recalling the twisting movement of its lighted flame. The Frick lamp and stylistically similar masterpieces, like The Shouting Horseman and Orpheus, illustrate how Riccio applied his inventive powers equally to the figurative and so-called decorative arts.

  Winged Putto
c. 1500–15
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Cat. No. 15

Riccio populated his bronzes with innumerable little putti — some solemn, some jubilant, and many music-making. This Putto’s original context is unknown, but it was surely part of a larger ensemble. Small figures like this one often crowned Riccio’s functional bronzes. A smaller version of the Putto may have sat atop an object, as did the lost putto that Licetus illustrated decorating the Frick Oil Lamp.

The Frick Oil Lamp, engraving from Licetus, De lucernis . . . ,


Carrand Vessel
after 1516 (?)
Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence
Cat. No. 16a

Cover of the Carrand Vessel
after 1516 (?)
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Cat. No. 16b

This Vessel and its Cover are reunited in the exhibition for the first time. The cover was designed to slide into the grooves along the vessel’s open back. What it contained has up to now been a mystery.

Like Riccio’s oil lamps, the covered Vessel is a luxury object intended for use and display in the scholar’s study. It is probably a bronze interpretation of the leather pouches used to hold quill tips. The Vessel’s stylized cornucopia shape and fruit-bearing crown allude to the copious wealth of words brought forth by those writing tools. On the Vessel, putti play music and one inscribes a tablet to celebrate the triumph of writing. This tiny bronze monument to the written word is an eloquent example of Riccio’s ability to transform the grand aspirations of his scholarly patrons into singular works of art.

  The Fortnum Lamp
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
Cat. No. 17

All but one of the five oil lamps commonly attributed to Riccio are assembled here. Oil lamps were among the most highly prized objects in the Renaissance scholar’s study. Their intricate designs and detailed narratives, realized in exquisitely small scale, were meant to be explored and contemplated over long, repeated viewings. The Fortnum Lamp shares some of the distinctive features of the other lamps — like figurative medallions and hooked feet — but in simpler form, and its shape closely depends on classical prototypes.

  In the manner of Riccio
Oil Lamp
Padua, mid-sixteenth century (?)
Musée du Louvre, Paris, Département des Objets d’Art
Cat. No. 29

Bronze oil lamps are a genre specifically associated with Riccio. The Louvre lamp’s traditional assignment to the master was based on the similarity of its burial scene to reliefs such as the Entombments exhibited here. This lamp, however, is most likely a derivative pastiche of Riccio’s work. The figures project uniformly, and they lack the sharp incised outlines made by Riccio’s stylus scoring into the wax model, as seen on the Cadogan and Frick lamps. This bronze also lacks the concave hammer strokes that Riccio laid over the other lamps’ metal surfaces. The top of the Louvre lamp may have been soldered onto the bowl at a much later date. Continue >>>

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