Shield Bearer

Bronze statuette of a man holding a shield and a club.

Bertoldo di Giovanni (ca. 1440–1491)
Shield Bearer, ca. 1470–80
8 7/8 in. (22.5 cm)
Liechtenstein: The Princely Collections, Vaduz-Vienna (258)
© Liechtenstein. The Princely Collections, Vaduz-Vienna

See related Shield Bearer

Displayed together for the first time in modern history, Bertoldo's Shield Bearers seem to be mirror images. Both are nude — save for the vines encircling their bodies and the leaves crowning their heads — brandish shields, and wield clubs. They are, however, markedly distinct. The Frick Shield Bearer is younger and suppler, with small horns curling into the tousled locks above his forehead, as well as a swishing tail and set of panpipes that are revealed when the statuette is viewed from behind. The Liechtenstein figure is older and more muscular, with a full beard and none of his companion's fantastical appendages. Designed to engage viewers as they examined the statuettes, the figures present multivalent identities, combining the iconography of wild men (legendary forest dwellers who were covered in hair and unnaturally strong), fauns (half-goat, half-human woodland creatures), and Hercules (the hero of Greek myth).

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