Bertoldo di Giovanni (ca. 1440–1491)
Orpheus, ca. 1471
17 1/8 in. (43.5 cm)
Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence (349B)
Ministero per i beni e le attività culturali; photo Mauro Magliani
Bertoldo's largest statuette presumably depicts Orpheus, a mythological figure known for his mastery of the lyre. He plays his instrument as he dances and sings along to his own music, wearing only an animal skin around his shoulders, garland of leaves crowning his head, and half-boots. This statuette has also been identified as Apollo, and the iconography may be intentionally ambiguous, like Bertoldo's Shield Bearers or Battle relief (also included in the exhibition). The nonuniform appearance of the sculpture's surface reveals Bertoldo's working process. After the wax model was cast in metal, he refined Orpheus by hammering and chiseling the rough bronze. The face and legs were extensively tooled to achieve a smooth finish while the instrument, chest, and arms were left partially or completely unworked. Casting flaws — the long cracks on the figure's sides — may have prompted Bertoldo to abandon the unfinished statuette.