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S. Meller, 'Dr. Wittmann Ernö Kizplaszikai gyüjtemenye', Magyar Müveszet, X, 1934, p. 240.
E. Dhanens, Jean Boulogne, Giovanni Bologna Fiammingo, Bruxelles, 1956, XXXVI, pp. 198-99.
Edimbourg, Londres et Vienne, Royal Scottish Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum et Kunsthistorisches Museum, Giambologna (1529-1608) - Sculptor to the Medici, C. Avery and A. Radcliffe eds., 1978, pp. 93-98, nos. 42-46.
J. Montagu, 'The Giambologna Exhibition', en Burlington Magazine, CXX, 1978, pp. 690-93.
C. Avery, Giambologna - The Complete Sculpture, Oxford, 1987, pp. 28, 137, 261, no. 69, pl. II, 137, 303.
Post Lot Text
A BRONZE FIGURE OF AN EXECUTIONER
AFTER GIAMBOLOGNA (1529-1608), ITALIAN, SECOND HALF 17TH CENTURY
Depicted striding forward and holding the head of a man in his left hand; on a later square ebonised wood base; medium brown patina with lighter high points; the sword lacking
The statuette depicts a nude mature male figure striding forward with his right foot and holding a sword at the ready in his hand while the left arm is held forward at an angle. In its hand, the fingers are enmeshed in the hair of a severed head. In this respect this example differs from Giambologna's figure that is normally called Mars or a Gladiator, for that has the hand empty and with its fingers artificially distended, as though in a spasm of anxiety. The bearded head is sharply turned to his left, while his muscular body is shown in a diagonally upward rising movement. The figure stands in a carefully calculated complex posture, a figura serpentina, as prescribed in late Renaissance art theory. Through the turning of the upper body, the movement of the arms and the striding motion the figure is designed to be seen from all round, and psychologically to dominate the surrounding space.
For his composition of Mars, Giambologna seems to have been inspired by a lost bronze statuette by Antonio Pollaiuolo from the second half of the 15th century, which is documented by a couple of drawings, showing a similar figure partially from different angles. In posture, stride and movement of the arms that statuette was similar to Giambologna's work. However, the exemplary fusion of strength and elegance in the present figure could only be achieved by a late Renaissance artist like Giambologna. He may also have known some vibrant pen sketches by Leonardo da Vinci of a muscular - almost a flayed - nude warrior-executioner, made perhaps in connection with a painting of the Massacre of the Innocents.
The Mars is one of Giambologna's most frequently reproduced models but, strangely enough, is mentioned neither in the list of Marcus Zeh (1611) nor in the register of Baldinucci (1688). In the prime example, initialled .I.B. (standing for the Latin version of Giambologna's name Iohannes Bologna, now in a private collection, Canada), even the smallest details were painstakingly modelled with a stylus in the wax casting model. They have a fully sculptural quality which, in other examples, seemingly produced by Antonio Susini, is lessened by the overly zealous chasing.
Furthermore, the best - possibly therefore autograph - statuettes show the god striding with a springy step, and with his left heel raised off the ground, which gives an impression of latent energy. This feature was also subsequently modified by Antonio Susini to permit easier serial production.