From the outset of the 1590s, Tiziano Aspetti, a pupil of Girolamo Campagna and pioneer of Venetian mannerist art, conceived a series of bronzes that, in various combinations, depicted a male and a female god or saint surmounting an andiron. The earliest combinations depicted the figures of Vulcan and Venus, but by changing their attributes and costume the pair could also have been a combination of Mars, Neptune and Mercury with either Venus, Minerva or Vigilance (Planiscig, loc. cit.). What remained consistent with each of these figures, however, was the overall form, which was of an exaggerated pose often in contrapposto and, depending on the subject matter, either clothed or naked and carrying an attribute. This is very much the case with the present lot, in which the figures of Venus and Apollo are depicted in characteristic contrapposto and with their respective attributes of the dolphin and lyre.
Technically, these bronzes are also consistent with many of Aspetti's variants in the sense that they display the same roughly worked surface and thick patination. This was partly due to their function as elements surmounting an andiron; in being placed close to a fire, they were not intended to be viewed at close quarters as would a desk top bronze. The emphasis here is on the Venetian artists' interest in composition, form and expression as opposed to minute detailing of the surface after having come out of the mould.