The present lot is identical in composition to a mid-16th century marble that hangs in the Palazzo Grimani, Venice. The marble replicates a model from the Hellenistic period. Though the subject matter was often reproduced in antiquity, the Vatican Museum houses two examples dating from the second century AD of a similar composition; Ganymede outstretched, the eagle’s wings spread and his talons embracing Ganymede's torso.
The Grimani family were great benefactors and purveyors of Venetian art in the 15th and 16th century. Giovanni Grimani (1506-1593), a bishop, concerned with the future of his collection of Roman sculpture after his death, approached the Venetian Senate in 1587 and bestowed the collection to the state as a symbol of devotion to his fatherland. (Perry, The Statuario Publico of the Venetian Republic, 1972, p. 79) According to an inventory of the Grimani collection in 1659, the figure group of Ganymede and the eagle were always meant to hang from the ceiling, soaring above viewers below. (Perry, pp. 97-98) Presumably, this is the manner in which Anton Maria Zanetti viewed the work when he created the well preserved engraving, now in the Archaeological Museum of Venice. His etchings and engravings served as valuable tools for artists, including Andrea Fantoni (1659-1734), arguably the most industrious and prolific woodcarver in Northern Italy during the late-Baroque period. The present lot, characteristic of Fantoni's sculptural quality, could likely be created by a follower of Fantoni.