GIAMBOLOGNA (DOUAI, 1529-1608, FLORENCE), CAST CIRCA 1566-1580 BY ZANOBI PORTIGIANI
GIAMBOLOGNA (DOUAI, 1529-1608, FLORENCE), CAST CIRCA 1566-1580 BY ZANOBI PORTIGIANI
GIAMBOLOGNA (DOUAI, 1529-1608, FLORENCE), CAST CIRCA 1566-1580 BY ZANOBI PORTIGIANI
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GIAMBOLOGNA (DOUAI, 1529-1608, FLORENCE), CAST CIRCA 1566-1580 BY ZANOBI PORTIGIANI
15 More
GIAMBOLOGNA (DOUAI, 1529-1608, FLORENCE), CAST BEFORE 1577, PROBABLY CIRCA 1566 BY ZANOBI PORTIGIANI

MARS

Details
GIAMBOLOGNA (DOUAI, 1529-1608, FLORENCE), CAST BEFORE 1577, PROBABLY CIRCA 1566 BY ZANOBI PORTIGIANI
MARS
bronze
15 5⁄8 in. (39.6 cm.) high, the bronze
Provenance
Sir William Henry Bennett (1852-1931), London.
His estate sale; American Art Association, New York, 30 April 1932, lot 160, as Mars Holding a Sword.
H. H. Pomeroy, acquired at the above sale.
Private Collection, USA.
with Patricia Wengraf, London (then trading as Alex Wengraf, Ltd.).
Acquired from the above, 1998.
Literature
M. Leithe-Jasper, Giambologna: gli dei, gli eroi. Genesi e fortuna di uno stile europeo nella scultura, exh. cat., Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence, 2006, pp. 209-213.
Exhibited
New York, The Frick Collection, European Bronzes from the Quentin Collection, 28 September 2004-2 January 2005, pp. 120-133, 311-312, 323, no. 10.
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Giambologna, Triumph des Körpers, 27 June-17 September 2006, pp. 106, 220-226, no. 12.
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2017-2021, on long-term loan, no. 2017.40.3.
Further Details
Please note a scanned copy of the full catalogue entry from the catalogue of the 2004 Quentin Collection exhibition at The Frick Collection, New York is available upon request.

Brought to you by

Will Russell
Will Russell Specialist Head of Department

Lot Essay

Mars, god of war, was the son of Jupiter and Juno, and one of the twelve Olympian gods. He is associated with the Greek god Ares, however the latter was considered to be a more destructive god, whereas Mars was honoured as a god whose military achievements could lead to lasting peace. The month of March is derived from his name as it was traditionally the beginning of the season of military campaigns, as well as farming, of which Mars was also considered to be a guardian.

The authorship of this iconic composition is firmly documented. It was created by Jean (de) Boulogne, a Flemish sculptor who was born in Douai in 1529 and whose name would later be Italicized to Giovanni da Bologna or Giambologna. Giambologna had his early training in the north under the tutelage of Jacques du Broeucq but moved - like many northern European artists - to Italy in 1550 in order to study classical antiquities. He would eventually be enticed to work for the Medici rulers of Florence, who recognized his talent and appreciated his business-like approach to commissions. As court sculptor to the Grand Dukes of Tuscany he created many monumental masterpieces in marble and bronze which still embellish public spaces and museums in Florence. These include his Abduction of a Sabine Woman, his Hercules and Centaur (both Loggia dei Lanzi), St. Luke (Orsanmichele), and the equestrian bronze of Cosimo I de’ Medici (Piazza della Signoria). Giambologna’s works were not only technically brilliant in terms of finish, they were equally admired for their compositional three-dimensionality, and the fact that they demanded to be observed from numerous viewpoints.

Perhaps more importantly for Giambologna’s legacy, he was also a master of the small scale bronze, a talent which endeared him to his Medicean patrons who recognised the diplomatic value of sending his jewel-like creations to fellow European rulers with whom they wished to curry favour. The appearance of these bronzes in numerous courts across the continent meant that Giambologna’s artistic influence was widespread and long-lasting.

Among the earliest and most popular of these bronzes is the figure of Mars. Striding forward purposefully, he is confident in the beauty of his mature, naked, muscular body. The forward motion indicated by the positioning of the legs and the intent gaze is made more complex by the torsion of the upper body and the proper right arm which reaches out commandingly. It has been suggested that Giambologna may have been influenced in his choice of stance by a drawing executed by Leonardo da Vinci, today in the Biblioteca Reale, Turin (inv. no. 15577, illustrated in Leithe-Jasper and Wengraf, op. cit., fig. 12, p. 131).

As noted in the entry on this bronze in the Frick exhibition catalogue (ibid., no. 10, pp. 120-133), there are thought to be five 16th century casts including the present example, and a number of 17th century casts, some of which are of high quality (ibid., p. 120). The earliest documented bronze is a cast sent by Giambologna by 1587 to Christian I, Elector of Saxony (purchased privately in 2018 from Bayer AG by the German state for the Staatliche Kunstsammlung, Dresden). The other three include a signed gilt example (private collection, Canada), an example in Berlin (Staatliche Museen, Skulturensammlung, inv. no. 4⁄65) and one formerly with Hall and Knight, New York.

The Dresden bronze post-dates the arrival of Giambologna’s most famous assistant, Antonio Susini, who joined the Florentine workshop in 1580. Susini is known for the high attention he paid to the filing and chiseling of a bronze, although some connoisseurs feel that the technical brilliance of this finish occasionally obscures the freshness of the original model. The Dresden bronze appears to be from Susini’s hand, and in the catalogue entry it is argued that both the Berlin and New York casts have a similar surface, thus dating them to the 1580s at the earliest.

The Quentin bronze, alternatively, retains all the freshness of the original wax model produced by Giambologna and must pre-date the arrival of Susini, thus dating it to the 1560s or 1570s when Giambologna was working more frequently with the bronze caster Zanobi Portigiani. Wengraf is grateful to Dimitri Zikos for noting that Zanobi Portigiani would be the likely founder at this time. Like the signed example in Canada, there is a greater freedom to the details, almost none of which required ‘cold’ work (that is, chiselling after the bronze had come out of the mold). The skill of the caster was such that even the finest details like the veins on the temples did not need to be emphasized or re-defined but were reproduced directly as they appeared in the original wax created by Giambologna himself. Despite the lack of early documentation, it would therefore seem that the Quentin bronze and the signed bronze in Canada are the earliest examples of this model, and the most faithful to Giambologna’s original conception. Certainly the Quentin bronze cast of Mars is a masterpiece of composition and technical brilliance. It is the ultimate trophy for collectors of Mannerist bronzes and of Giambologna in particular.

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