Berlin, Skulpturensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Von allen Seiten schön: Bronzen der Renaissance und des Barock, V. Krahn, ed., 31 October, 1995 - 28 January 1996, no. 98, pp. 324 - 327.
While versions of this bronze have, bewilderingly, been attributed to Giambologna, Cellini, Ammanati, Vittoria and Prieur, this elegant and unusual composition has now been most convincingly linked to Johann van der Schardt (V. Krahn, loc. cit).
Van der Schardt was born in Nijmegen, in the Netherlands, and probably began his training as a sculptor in his native country. In the 1560s he travelled to Italy to study masterpieces from Antiquity and the Renaissance, and by 1569 he was in the employ of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II in Vienna. Van der Schardt also travelled to Denmark to work for the Danish King, Frederick II.
The present composition is possibly based on an engraving by Dürer of a similarly positioned and proportioned naked woman, her head wrapped in a turban and with a towel in her left hand and a mirror in her right (V. Krahn, loc. cit.). As Ursel Berger has also noted, the Bronze Negress is also extremely close to roughly contemporary painting of Minerva as Bellona, by Jacques de Backer.
A nearly identical bronze, also after van der Schardt, is in the Kunstkammer of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (inv. no. 5533) and originally formed part of Grand Duke Leopold Wilhelm's celebrated collection and was listed in the 1659 inventory. Interestingly, however, the present bronze compares most favorably to the Vienna version. Many of the details are far more sophisticated and expressive and the entire bronze is infused with a sense of liveliness not apparent in the Vienna bronze. In the present version, the curled hair is more finely delineated and complex, the eyes have pupils and are more engaging and the lips are more full and rounded. The surface of the present bronze is also finished with repeated circular polishing, rather than the more linear finish of the Vienna bronze.