Early 17th century
Purchased through a gift from Jane and W. David Dance, Class of 1940; S.988.5
In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Italian sculptors began to produce statuettes, small-scale figurines representing primarily mythological subjects modeled after ancient examples. The fashion for collecting these decorative objects was stimulated by the excavation of Roman bronzes and emblematic of the interest in reviving classical forms and themes. By around 1600 several northern European artists working in Augsburg and Munich introduced these types of sculptures into Bavarian cities, where they were in turn disseminated to courts throughout the Hapsburg Empire.
The superb figure of Mars, the Roman god of war, may have been designed as the upper portion of a three-tiered bronze andiron, similar to other ornamental sculptures representing Olympian warrior deities or mythological heroes made in the Veneto region in the late Renaissance. Based on other surviving pairs from this period, the pendant most likely would have been surmounted by a female goddess, such as Venus or Minerva.
While there are a number of surviving statuettes of this kind, the elaborately detailed surface treatment of this work is of a very high quality. The swaggering contrapposto and other features correspond in many respects with a helmeted figure on the right in two bronze relief scenes depicting the Martyrdom of Saint Daniel of 1592-93 by Tiziano Aspetti (about 1559–1606) in the Cathedral in Padua (private correspondence, Charles Avery 1995). It also recalls a colossal marble statue of David of 1590-92 by Girolamo Campagna (1549-1625) that flanked an entrance to the Public Mint in Venice.
The name of Hans Krumper, who apprenticed with a Dutch sculptor active in Italy and who himself traveled there in the early 1590s, has been tentatively connected with this commission. Krumper eventually became a leading sculptor, decorator, and architect at the court of the Duke of Bavaria and worked on a number of small-scale bronzes for the palatial Residenz in Munich.
Last Updated: 1/18/10