Bellerophon Taming Pegasus

Bronze statuette depicting a man taming the winged horse Pegasus. The mythical animal is rearing on its hind legs, and the man is holding its jaw in one hand. In the other hand, the man holds a club, which he is about to use to strike the winged horse.

Designed by Bertoldo di Giovanni (ca. 1440–1491), executed by Adriano Fiorentino (ca. 1450/60–1499)
Bellerophon Taming Pegasus, ca. 1480–82
12 3/4 in. (32.5 cm)
Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, Kunstkammer (KK 5596)

The struggle of the hero Bellerophon to tame the winged horse Pegasus was a common subject of ancient texts and artworks, but Bertoldo's depiction was the first since antiquity. Following a classical ode, the sculptor captured the moment at which Bellerophon bends Pegasus to his will using an enchanted bridle. While the bridle is slung over the hero's left shoulder, the sculptor departed from the poem, in which Bellerophon subdues Pegasus by gently placing the charmed reins on the horse, instead transforming the episode into a violent contest between man and beast.

Bellerophon Taming Pegasus is the only statuette signed by Bertoldo. The surface under the base is inscribed, EXPRESSIT ME BERThOLDVS * CONFLAVIT HADRIANVS [Bertoldo modeled me; Adriano cast me]. Bertoldo created the wax original, then entrusted the bronze casting to his collaborator, Adriano Fiorentino. The Pazzi Conspiracy medal (also included in the exhibition) was similarly designed by Bertoldo but cast by another hand, indicating that this was standard practice for the sculptor.

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