All works in the collection of Mr. and Mrs. J. Tomilson Hill

  • Bronze sculpture of a man holding a scraper above his head.

    Andrea Briosco, known as Riccio (Trent, Italy 1470–1532 Padua)
    Strigil Bearer
    Cast ca. 1515–20
    12 5/8 in. (32 cm)

    Riccio was celebrated in Padua as an ancient sculptor reborn. This athlete bearing a curved strigil (skin scraper) and oil vial used for grooming the body is Riccio’s interpretation of a bronze statue (known solely through ancient texts) by the Greek sculptor Lysippus.

    The Strigil Bearer’s torso is classically idealized, but his face possesses a mature introspective complexity that is Riccio’s novel contribution to the antique tradition. The recent cleaning of the statuette reveals minute, shallow hammer strokes that cause light to flicker over the bronze and animate the figure.

    All images by Maggie Nimkin Photography

  • Bronze sculpture of a man standing with a club.

    Attributed to Hermes Flavius de Bonis, called Lysippus (Padua ca. 1450/55–after 1526 Gazzuolo, Italy)
    Hercules Resting
    Cast early 1490s
    9 1/4 in. (23.5 cm)


    In the university town of Padua, the noble courts of Mantua and Rome, and Medici Florence, erudite collectors prized bronze statuettes for their evocation of the vanished grandeur of antiquity.

    Attributed to the scholar and portrait-medalist Hermes Flavius de Bonis, Hercules Resting is a recreation of a lost, monumental bronze statue by Lysippus that was known from classical copies. By assuming the nickname “Lysippus,” the medalist compared his artistry to that of Alexander the Great’s personal sculptor.

  • Bronze sculpture of two men wrestling.

    Attributed to Maso Finiguerra (Florence 1426–1464 Florence)
    Hercules and Antaeus
    Cast ca. 1460
    9 7/8 in. (25.2 cm)

    This miniature recreation of a monumental, fragmentary ancient Roman marble depicts the moment when Hercules defeats Antaeus by hoisting the giant off the ground and breaking his back in his arms. In a tour-de-force of bronze casting that rivals a Herculean feat, the sculptor has composed the figure group to balance on its own without support.

    The compositional daring and emotional power of this statuette is inversely proportional to its size. Its superlative detail indicates that its author, like many Renaissance masters of bronze, was trained as a goldsmith.

  • Bronze sculpture of a standing man without his skin.

    Unknown Italian artist
    Écorché or Artist’s Model for St. Bartholomew or St. Jerome
    First half of sixteenth century
    11 7/8 in. (30.3 cm)


    Intended as models for both fellow artists and physicians, écorchés (flayed figures) challenged Renaissance sculptors to articulate the body’s exposed muscles and delineate their interaction. This figure, who rests his foot upon a skull, may be the apostle Bartholomew who was martyred by flaying. His large, closed eyes—unusual for an écorché—and expression of longing transform an anatomical model into a compelling work of art.

  • Bronze sculpture of one man slaying another man, frontal view.

    Willem Danielsz. van Tetrode (Delft? ca. 1525–1580 Wedinghausen, Germany)
    Samson Slaying a Philistine
    Probably modeled in Florence in 1562
    14.5 inches (37.5 cm)
    Not in catalogue

    Wielding the jawbone of an ass, the biblical hero Samson slew thousands of Philistine warriors, and in Medici Florence, he symbolized princely power. This work was modeled by the Dutch marble carver Tetrode to demonstrate his skill. The interlocked nudes form a pyramid that rests on a four-square base, a stable composition suggesting that Tetrode may have intended this group for a monumental marble. If so, it would have rivalled Michelangelo’s uncompleted statue of the subject.

    Like many sculptors of his generation, Tetrode often transformed his models into statuettes. This recently discovered, unique bronze — the latest addition to the Hill collection — testifies to Tetrode’s mastery as he vied with his younger contemporary, Giambologna, for Medici patronage. The elegant kneeling figure in Giambologna’s nearby Rape of a Sabine rhetorically echoes the tragic struggle of Tetrode’s defeated Philistine.

  • Bronze sculpture of a standing woman, leaning on a post, front view.

    Giambologna (Douai, France ca. 1529–1608 Florence)
    Cast early 1570s
    15 1/4 in. (38.8 cm)


    Given as gifts by Florentine Medici princes to rulers across Europe, Giambologna’s statuettes influenced a generation of sculptors. This personification of Astronomy stands in a hipshot pose, leaning on a plinth and resting her foot above a celestial globe. Her sinuous rotation invites viewers to admire her in the round.

    Giambologna invented this groundbreaking type of composition, called a figura serpentinata, in which figures “twist like flames” and are equally beautiful from every vantage point. The bold rendering of Astronomy’s body, features, hair, and drapery preserves the freshness of Giambologna’s original wax model.


  • Bronze sculpture of a bull.

    Giambologna (Douai, France ca. 1529–1608 Florence)
    Cast 1573, by Girolamo di Zanobi Portigiani
    Bronze, with original oval base
    8 1/2 x 10 1/4 in. (21.7 x 26 cm)

    Surviving ancient small bronzes of sacrificial bulls are not uncommon, and this statuette may have been created in emulation of them. The bull’s majestic proportions and noble bearing may also reflect its use as an emblem by Cosimo I, the founder of the grand ducal Medici dynasty. This is a pristine bronze cast — its details were not sharpened in the metal with engraving tools. The hair on the bull’s head, his fleshy dewlap, swishing tail, and quizzical gaze capture the vitality of Giambologna’s original wax model.

  • Bronze sculpture of a pacing horse.

    Giambologna (Douai, France ca. 1529–1608 Florence)
    Pacing Horse
    Cast ca. 1573–77, by Girolamo di Zanobi Portigiani
    9 7/8 x 11 1/4 in. (25.1 x 28.7 cm)


    This Renaissance warhorse is powerful in proportion, disciplined in stride, and immaculately groomed from clipped mane to bound tail. By depicting a riderless steed, Giambologna celebrates the innate nobility of horses, affording his subject the same status as classically idealized nudes. Like the Bull, this cast captures the vibrant syncopation of contour and form that is characteristic of Giambologna’s early bronzes.

    The statuette derives from Giambologna’s small preparatory models for the monumental bronze equestrian portrait of Cosimo I (Piazza della Signoria, Florence) that was commissioned by his son, Francesco I de’ Medici.


  • Bronze sculpture of a man attacking a centaur.

    Antonio Susini (Florence 1558–1624 Florence)
    Hercules Slaying a Centaur
    After a model by Giambologna, cast ca. 1600–1610
    15 3/4 in. (40.2 cm)


    Rotating his body like a fulcrum, Hercules pins down the centaur while swinging his club. The centaur’s forelegs collapse as he struggles against the killing blow. Dramatic force builds when the sculpture is viewed in the round, culminating in the contrast between the hero’s concentration and the centaur’s scream.

    Giambologna created this model for a large-scale marble sculpture (Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence) commissioned by Grand Duke Francesco I de’ Medici. A silver version (now lost), of similar size to this statuette, was displayed in the ducal state offices. Giambologna’s principal assistant, the goldsmith Antonio Susini, popularized the composition in bronze casts.

  • Bronze sculpture of a male figure, abducting a female figure, with a male figure at his feet.

    Antonio Susini (Florence 1558–1624 Florence)
    Rape of a Sabine
    After Giambologna’s marble group of 1583, cast ca. 1585
    23 1/4 in. (59 cm)


    Giambologna’s monumental marble Rape of a Sabine (Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence) features three intertwined figures that allow no single dominant viewpoint. He claimed that he had created it solely to “demonstrate the excellence of his art,” and it was, in fact, immediately celebrated as his crowning achievement. Bronze reductions, such as this early example from the master’s workshop, spread the statue’s fame. Giambologna invented this unprecedented figure group by fashioning small wax and clay models that he rotated on his work stand to judge the composition from every angle.

  • Bronze sculpture of Jesus Christ being crucified.

    Antonio Susini (Florence 1558–1624 Florence)
    Cristo Morto (The Dead Christ on the Cross)
    After a model by Giambologna of ca. 1588, cast ca. 1590–1615
    Gilt bronze
    12 1/4 in. (31 cm)


    Giambologna modeled this figure of the dead Christ as a lithe, beautiful nude whose crucified body retains a sense of vibrant animation. His principal assistant, the goldsmith Antonio Susini, cast the model in bronze and tooled the metal’s surface with delicate precision. Brilliant gilding in precious gold honors the divine character of Christ’s sacrificial death.

    The sculpture’s preciosity and quiet contemplative mood reflect Italian Renaissance traditions of religious devotion. The gilt-bronze Christ is compared with Giovanni di Paolo’s exquisite panel of almost two centuries earlier, which depicts the dead Savior framed within a celestial field of gold. As the Man of Sorrows, Christ displays his mortal wounds to symbolize the perpetual nature of his living sacrifice.


  • Bronze sculpture of standing man.

    Antonio Susini (Florence 1558–1624 Florence)
    After a model by Giambologna of ca. 1565–70, cast ca. 1600–1608
    15 5/8 in. (39.5 cm)

    Sighting the enemy, Mars halts his stride and swings his sword arm backward to attack. This statuette of the god of war symbolized princely power.

    As sculptor to the Medici grand dukes of Florence, Giambologna established the benchmark for the late Renaissance bronze statuette. Mars is a superb example of the many that were cast from Giambologna’s model by his principal assistant, Antonio Susini. The figure’s polished craftsmanship and details, such as the refined engraving of Mars’s eyes and furrowed brow, evidence Susini’s skill.


    A video created by the Victoria and Albert Museum illustrates the method used to cast the Mars.

    Lost Wax Bronze Casting
    Duration: 5 minutes
    © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

  • Bronze sculpture of sleeping female nude on a bed.

    Antonio Susini (Florence 1558–1624 Florence)
    Sleeping Venus
    After a model by Giambologna of ca. 1584, cast ca. 1600–1615
    8 1/4 x 12 1/4 in. (21 x 31 cm)

    A classical Roman marble known as the Sleeping Ariadne inspired the pose of this Venus. Her slumbering, outflung abandon is Giambologna’s invention. The smooth precision of the figure, the angular drapery, and the detailed engraving of the eyes, fingernails, and embroidery are hallmarks of the bronzes that were cast and tooled by Giambologna’s principal assistant, the goldsmith Antonio Susini. Susini conveys the sensuous effects of flesh pressed against pillows and drapery folded by the motions of sleep. Emblazoned on Venus’s couch is a winged skull — a reminder that death is the companion of sleep and that sensual life is fleeting.

  • Bronze sculpture of a male figure attacking a monster.

    Antonio Susini (Florence 1558–1624 Florence) and
    Gianfrancesco Susini (Florence 1585–1653 Florence)
    Hercules and the Hydra
    After a model by Giambologna of before 1582, cast ca. 1614–24
    15 3/8 in. (39 cm)

    In the Renaissance, Hercules’s exemplary feats — the Twelve Labors — symbolized princely virtue. This composition was modeled by Giambologna for a series of silver statuettes (now lost) for the state offices of the Medici grand dukes in Florence.

    Hercules grasps the hydra’s tail and twists around to take aim at its snapping heads. The battle’s spiraling tension will explode with the downward smash of Hercules’s club. The composition’s taut contours and tiny details, like the veins on Hercules’s hands, suggest that the bronze was cast by Giambologna’s principal assistant, Antonio Susini. The matte punching on the hydra’s heads, probably executed by Antonio’s nephew, Gianfrancesco, creates the illusion of delicate scales.

  • Bronze sculpture of a man wrestling another man.

    Gianfrancesco Susini (Florence 1585–1653 Florence)
    Hercules and Antaeus
    After a model by Giambologna, cast ca. 1625-1650
    16 1/8 in. (41 cm)

    This bronze derives from Giambologna's models for a series of silver statuettes depicting the Twelve Labors of Hercules (now lost). Giambologna's principal assistant, Antonio Susini, and Antonio's nephew, Gianfrancesco, inherited the master's molds, reworked the models, and cast them in bronze well into the seventeenth century.

    Gianfrancesco depicts Hercules wrestling the giant Antaeus with a robust naturalism that differs from the refined elegance of his uncle's earlier Hercules and the Hydra. The difference between these works marks the transition from the late Renaissance to the Baroque style in Florence. Only two rods beneath Hercules's feet support the hero as he crushes the howling giant within his arms.

  • Bronze sculpture of male and female figures holding shoulders.

    Ferdinando Tacca (Florence 1619–1686 Florence)
    Ceres and Bacchus
    Cast probably ca. 1635–40
    17 3/4 in. (45.3 cm)

    The smiling goddess of the harvest and the lord of the vine stride forward, heralding the promise of abundance, revelry, and love. Tacca’s statuette, like those by Piamontini in this gallery, exemplifies the novel subjects and immaculate craftsmanship that are characteristic of the finest Florentine Baroque bronzes. Ceres and Bacchus are united by their gaze and affectionate embrace and by the formal repetition of their graceful linear contours.

    In Cy Twombly’s untitled “Chalkboard” painting, lines drawn in continuously curving loops create a syncopated effect that harmonizes with the elegant rhythm of Tacca’s figures. The subdued palette of this and the other two canvases displayed here also draws attention to the often overlooked beauty of the varied colors of bronze sculptures.

  • Bronze sculpture of a man on a rearing horse.

    Giuseppe Piamontini (Florence 1664–1742 Florence)
    Prince Ferdinando di Cosimo III on Horseback
    Cast by 1717
    24 5/8 in. (62.5 cm)


    Ferdinando, Grand Prince of Tuscany, is wigged and armored in the French style to associate his rule with the divine right of kings. He wields the baton of command as casually as he controls the fierce steed, underscoring his power. Piamontini’s virtuoso statuette of a ruler on a rearing horse was unprecedented in Florence. The daring design and flawless execution of this bronze reflect his artistic mastery, as well as the sitter’s sovereignty.

    In the same gallery, Ed Ruscha’s expansive 1988 canvas Seventeenth Century  rhetorically combines word and image to capture the tenor of a world dominated by the absolutist rule celebrated in Piamontini’s portrait.

  • Bronze sculpture of seated male figure with a club.

    Giuseppe Piamontini (Florence 1664–1742 Florence)
    Seated Hercules and Cerberus
    Cast ca. 1715–25
    20 7/8 x 13 3/8 x 11 in. (53 x 34 x 28 cm)


    Hercules has subdued Cerebus, the three-headed guardian of Hades, who howls in anger and bites the hero’s club. The pyramidal massing of figures makes Hercules appear as if he is a muscular mountain of bronze. The statuette’s sheer bulk contrasts with its precise tooling. Matte punches were used to differentiate textures and chisels to establish vibrating linear rhythms.

    Piamontini’s formal exploitation of the weightiness of bronze and his elegant working of its surface resonate with the 1959 painting displayed nearby, in which Cy Twombly plays the heavy roughness of thickly applied paint against delicately drawn calligraphic inscriptions.

  • Bronze sculpture of two men attacking a monster.

    Giuseppe Piamontini (Florence 1664–1742 Florence)
    Hercules and Iolaus Slaying the Hydra
    After a model by Alessandro Algardi of ca. 1630, cast ca. 1700–1720
    12 3/4 x 9 1/8 in. (32.5 x 23 cm)

    Hercules vanquished the hydra by lopping off its magically regenerating heads while his nephew Iolaus sealed the stumps with flames. Here, the figures circle around the twisting monster as Iolaus gazes in terror, not knowing if the battle can be won. Piamontini adapted this composition from a large-scale sculpture by Alessandro Algardi. He finished the bronze in a manner reminiscent of that admired Baroque master, contrasting the smooth, flowing rhythms of the nudes’ musculature with the finely textured chiseling on the rocky base, the figures’ hair, and the torch’s flame.

    Piamontini was one of the last great masters of the Florentine Baroque statuette. Four of his bronzes are exhibited together in the same gallery.


  • Bronze sculpture of man, bound to a tree.

    Giuseppe Piamontini (Florence 1664–1742 Florence)
    Milo of Croton
    Cast ca. 1725–30
    17 1/4 in. (43.6 cm)

    The ancient Roman author Valerius Maximus tells of how Milo of Croton tested his strength against that of a riven oak only to be pinned within it and perish. Piamontini portrays Milo’s anguish as he struggles against the tree, his feet sliding beneath him, and discovers his power useless. Piamontini’s masterful rendering of a helplessly suspended heroic figure emphasizes the tale’s moral on the downfall of pride. His refined tooling of the metal’s surface sets the glowing polish of Milo’s flesh against the dark tree’s rough bark, creating textural frictions that evoke a sense of pain.

  • Bronze sculpture of standing man.

    Hans Reichle (Schongau, Germany 1570–1642 Brixen, Italy)
    Christ at the Column
    Cast ca. 1610
    8 3/8 in. (21.4 cm)

    Reichle studied in Florence with Giambologna and in his native Germany created statuettes following the practices of his teacher. Here, Reichle adapts the Italian devotional subject of Christ standing alone at the column to suit his German audience, which favored emotional depictions.

    Christ’s left hand is bound to the column (now lost) behind him, his angular gestures and agitated movements revealing his torment at the Flagellation. His large features, unbalanced pose, and over-sized hands depart from Giambologna’s calm, idealized figures, as seen, for example, in the gilded crucified Cristo Morto.

  • Bronze sculpture of Jesus Christ being crucified.

    Alessandro Algardi (Bologna 1598–1654 Rome)
    Cristo Vivo (The Living Christ on the Cross)
    Model dated ca. 1646; a life-time cast
    33 in. (83.7 cm)

    Algardi depicts Christ sacrificing himself on the cross to redeem mankind. Twisted, billowing draperies echo the pain contained within the Savior’s idealized, outstretched body. Christ directs his gaze toward God, his calm features expressing submission rather than agony. Algardi’s compelling depiction was modeled as a gift for Pope Innocent X. Bronze casts like this superlative example, which reflect the fervent tenor of Catholic devotion, became the most popular crucifixes in Baroque Rome.

    Algardi’s Cristo Vivo is juxtaposed with a terracotta of the 1950s titled Crocifisso, by Lucio Fontana. Joining jagged, twisting shards into a cruciform body, Fontana composes a religious image whose spiritual intensity invokes its figurative precedents.

  • Bronze statue of man striding forward.

    Willem Danielsz. van Tetrode (Delft? ca. 1525–1580 Wedinghausen, Germany)
    Mars Gradivus 
    Cast probably late 1560s
    15 5/8 in. (39.5 cm)

    The lure of classical antiquity and the promise of patronage drew northern artists such as Tetrode and his contemporary Giambologna to Italy. The pose of Tetrode’s Mars Gradivus derives from an ancient sculpture, but the heavy musculature, flowing hair, and moustache reflect contemporary northern ideals.

    Tetrode probably composed this statuette in Florence around the same time as Giambologna created his version of Mars. Both depict Mars striding forward, leading troops into battle. Tetrode emphasizes the war god’s unleashed physical power; Giambologna, his eloquent gesture of command.

  • Bronze sculpture of a man wearing a mask.

    Adriaen de Vries (The Hague ca. 1545–1626 Prague)
    Bacchic Man Wearing a Grotesque Mask
    Cast ca. 1578–80, probably by Giovanni Andrea Pellizzone (Milan ca. 1538–after 1610 Milan)
    35 1/4 in. (89.5 cm)

    This ferocious nude hidden behind a grotesque mask personifies Bacchus, the god of wine and theater. Surmounting a fountain, he presided over a Milanese academy dedicated to the pursuit of artistic freedom during the repressive years of the Catholic Reformation. The depiction of Bacchus as a frightening, muscular figure who crushes grapes like a workman was unprecedented. Attributed to the youthful Adriaen de Vries, this extraordinary bronze was made to shock and to inspire creativity.

    Cy Twombly’s and Ed Ruscha’s canvases in this exhibition similarly upset traditional artistic conventions to challenge expectations and inspire new ways of seeing.

  • Bronze statue of nude standing man.

    Hubert Gerhard (’s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands? 1540/50–ca. 1621 Munich?)
    Cast probably before 1581
    10 1/4 in. (26 cm)

    Orion’s lion skin and the sword and club he originally carried identify him as the mythical star-crossed lover who was transformed into a constellation by Jupiter. The detailed modeling of the figure’s rippling musculature reflects Gerhard’s knowledge of anatomy. Orion’s tilted head, arched torso, and angled arms accentuate the bodily play of sinews and muscles. This revealing pose was common to anatomical models such as the Écorché. Gerhard most likely studied such models in preparation for this delicately executed statuette.

  • Bronze stature of a standing man.

    Hans Reichle (Schongau, Germany 1570–1642 Brixen, Italy)
    Christ at the Column
    Cast ca. 1610
    11 7/8 in. (30.2 cm)

    Reichle studied in Florence with Giambologna and in his native Germany created statuettes following the practices of his teacher. Here, Reichle adapts the Italian devotional subject of Christ standing alone at the column to suit his German audience, which favored emotional depictions.

    Christ’s left hand is bound to the column (now lost) behind him, his angular gestures and agitated movements revealing his torment at the Flagellation. His large features, unbalanced pose, and over-sized hands depart from Giambologna’s calm, idealized figures, as seen, for example, in the gilded crucified Cristo Morto.

  • Bronze sculpture of a roaring lion.

    Caspar Gras (Bad Mergentheim, Germany 1585–1674 Schwaz, Austria)
    Roaring Lion, Pouncing
    Model dated ca. 1630s, cast before 1674
    8 1/2 x 9 1/4 in. (21.6 x 23.7 cm)

    One of only four known casts, this bronze was once one of a pair that included a Kicking Horse (J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles). It is a rare example of the invention and technical daring that German masters like Gras contributed to the Italian tradition of animal statuettes. Gras boldly depicts the king of beasts poised in mid-leap, attacking the horse from below. In Italy, as well as at the Habsburg court in Innsbruck, where this work was made, the subject of battling animals celebrated the ruler’s exercise of power.


  • Bronze sculpture of a standing woman.

    Circle of Ponce Jacquiot (Rethel, France before 1536–1570 Paris)
    Model created after 1556, cast before 1585
    13 3/4 in. (34.8 cm)


    Diana, virgin goddess of the hunt, runs while turning to grasp an arrow to notch into her bow (now lost). The heavy folds of her leather tunic swirl in counterpoint to her balletic movements. This exquisitely detailed statuette is a free interpretation of an ancient Roman marble statue of Diana (Musée du Louvre, Paris) that Pope Paul IV gave to King Henry II in 1556. The bronze goddess’s nubile proportions, bejeweled hair, and entrancing gaze reflect the ideal of female beauty at the French royal court.

  • Bronze sculpture of a lion devouring a doe.

    Barthélemy Prieur (Berzieux, France 1536?–1611 Paris)
    Lion Devouring a Doe
    Cast probably before 1583
    6 1/4 x 13 3/8 in. (16 x 34.1 cm)


    In his youth, Prieur may have traveled to Rome for his artistic studies. Upon his return to Paris, he became one of the foremost sculptors of his generation. His elegant statuettes responded to the desire, then new in France, to collect bronzes in the “Italian manner.” The Lion Devouring a Doe is Prieur’s interpretation of famous statuettes by Giambologna and his followers that depict a lion attacking a stallion. By substituting the fighting horse with a fragile doe, Prieur transforms a violent battle into a tragic scene that elicits the viewer’s empathy for the victim.

  • Bronze sculpture of a rearing horse.

    Barthélemy Prieur (Berzieux, France 1536?–1611 Paris)
    Rearing Horse
    Cast before 1611
    8 1/4 x 8 3/4 in. (21 x 22.2 cm)

    A gifted animal sculptor, Prieur introduced the Italian art of the statuette to his native France. His inventories of 1583 and 1611 list models of dogs, goats, stags, cows, bulls, lions, and horses. The composition of the Rearing Horse presented a daunting challenge because it required the sculpture’s weight to be balanced on the two points of the horse’s back hooves. The subject was so difficult that during the late Renaissance it came to symbolize the art of sculpture. This example from Prieur’s workshop exhibits the formal stylization typical of the master.

  • Bronze sculpture of standing nude woman.

    Hubert Le Sueur (Paris ca. 1580–1660 Paris)
    Cast ca. 1641–60
    17 7/8 in. (45.4 cm)


    Le Sueur was sought after by the kings of France and England for his ability to cast monumental bronze sculpture, and he probably created statuettes while working on these commissions. The Venus  is loosely based on large-scale ancient statues depicting the nude goddess shielding herself (Venus pudica). The statuette’s hesitant pose and inward expression heighten the effect of modesty. Viewed from the back, the goddess’s posture emphasizes her ample, sensual grace. King Louis XIV displayed this bronze in his Medals Cabinet. It bears an engraved French royal inventory number above the left ankle.

  • Bronze relief sculpture depicting a biblical scene.

    Unknown French artist
    The Assumption of the Virgin
    Second half of seventeenth century, after a 1647 engraving of a 1644 painting by Simon Vouet, cast ca. 1650–1700
    18 3/4 x 12 1/4 in. (47.4 x 31.2 cm)


    Lifted by cherubim, the Virgin rises from her tomb while the apostles look up in astonishment. The sculptor based his composition on an engraving, and he expertly employed his repertoire of tools to achieve the bronze relief’s pictorial effects. He sharpened the figures’ flaring robes with chisels, creating a sparkling contrast of light and shadow that offsets the polished backdrop of pilasters, steps, and tomb. Meticulous matte punching conveys the cloudburst’s radiance.

    This French bronze is paired with an oil sketch by Rubens of the same subject and size. The bold three-dimensionality of Rubens’s figures and the pictorial illusionism of the relief underscore the fluid interplay between painting and sculpture during the Baroque period.

  • Bronze sculpture on wooden base of a sleeping nude figure.

    Probably commissioned by François Girardon (Troyes, France 1628–1715 Paris)
    Sleeping Hermaphrodite
    Bronze cast after a terracotta model attributed to François Duquesnoy (1597–1643)
    Original carved gilt-wood base attributed to Gilles-Marie Oppenord (1672–1742)
    8 1/4 x 9 1/8 x 17 1/8 in. (21 x 23.2 x 43.5 cm)


    Girardon was sculptor to King Louis XIV, as well as a renowned collector. This bronze and its companion, Reclining Venus, were cast from terracotta models in his collection. Duquesnoy’s terracotta Hermaphrodite was a reduction of a famous Roman marble antiquity. The Venus was modeled by a student of Nicholas Poussin. Girardon had these figures made as a bronze pair to celebrate the achievement of the founders of French classicism. He updated the ensemble’s design by commissioning fantastic golden couches that were fashioned in the most exuberant contemporary style.

  • Bronze sculpture of a reclining female nude on a bed.

    Probably commissioned by François Girardon (Troyes 1628–1715 Paris)
    Reclining Venus
    Bronze cast after a terracotta model attributed to Thibault Poissant (1605–1668)
    Original carved gilt-wood base attributed to Gilles-Marie Oppenord (1672–1742)
    9 3/8 x 9 1/4 x 16 3/4 in. (24 x 23.5 x 42.5 cm)


    Reclining on their original gilt-wood couches, the Reclining Venus and Sleeping Hermaphrodite are intact examples that preserve the sumptuous character of statuettes made during the reign of Louis XIV. The figures were displayed as a pair. When viewed from the back, each appears female. When viewed from the front, the hermaphrodite’s dual male and female nature is revealed. The languorous beauty of the dreaming figures seduces and deceives. Grinning masks at the feet of their golden beds are emblems of duplicity.

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