In 1921 Leo Planiscig attributed a group of Venetian helmeted warriors to Tiziano Aspetti on the basis of similarities in style with the documented bronze reliefs for the altar in the crypt of the cathedral at Padua (ca.1592).(1) More recently a number of his designations have been rightly questioned in light of the complex massproduction of bronzetti in Venice about 1600. Most of the pieces are now considered replicas of late cinquecento models of various sculptors. Kryza-Gersch accepted only one of the warriors from Planiscig’s group as a work by Aspetti — a nude helmeted figure in the Frick Collection, New York.(2) As a result, a small number of related statuettes of musketeers in all’antica dress, including the Lehman Mars, are no longer associated directly with Aspetti, despite their close facial resemblances to the Padua reliefs and Frick warrior. According to Kryza-Gersch they “do not fit Aspetti’s artistic profile,” because of their attention to decorative detail and their overly grand poses that do not match the martial character of the subject.(3) It should be noted, however, that these decorative qualities also could have been the result of a more idealized, domestic, and peaceful approach to the subject, meeting an increasing demand for ornateness in the home. Mars is no longer shown as a warrior but has become the ideal, “civilized” soldier. As such he has much in common with the elegant military types that were promoted by the print series of soldiers and officers by Hendrik Goltzius(4) or the illustrations in Jacques de Gheyn’s Wapenhandelinghe of 1608 that evoked a sense of “military sprezzatura” (fig. 23.1).(5) Whether these effects reflect new decorative tendencies in Venetian sculpture for household use, possibly inspired by Florentine bronzes,(6) or the individual artistic development of Aspetti in his later years is not yet clear. The high artistic and technical aspects of the Lehman Mars and of some closely related figures, as well as their facial affinity to the Frick and Padua warriors, suggest that they are products of a first-class Venetian or Paduan foundry and that they are likely based on Aspetti prototypes.(7) At least six variants of the Mars exist: a bronze in different dress and with an extraordinarily elaborate surface in the Metropolitan Museum (fig. 23.2);(8) a similar one in Budapest;(9) one in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna;(10) a fourth version in the Vok collection;(11) a fifth wearing a different cuirass, formerly in the collection of William Salomon;(12) and a sixth version, without the gun, that was in the London art market together with its accompanying Minerva.(13) Another work, also lacking his musket, from the Carlo de Carlo collection, recently has also been ascribed to Aspetti.(14) On the underside of the base, near the front foot, are two incised lines, most probably a location mark suggesting that the figure originally was mounted on a firedog (see detail ill.). The free hanging end of the musketeer’s sash is connected to the back of his body by a small strut (max. diam. 7.8 cm), a remnant of the casting system. A similar but smaller strut is visible between the tip of his sword and his skirt. Mars was coupled with a statuette of Minerva (1975.1.1388a), and at a later date both were mounted on a pair of Venetian firedogs from the workshop of Roccatagliata (1975.1.1387b, 1975.1.1388b). The top of the stick that Mars uses to fill his musket is missing — the threaded hole remains.
The andiron (1975.1.1387b), with its open base of volutes and backward-leaning putti is stylistically reminiscent of the work of Roccatagliata. A pair of andirons in Munich, attributed to this Venetian sculptor, provides a variant of this type of base and has an almost identical mask adorning the baluster above.(15) Until about 1995 this andiron was surmounted by a statuette of Mars (1975.1.1387a).
Catalogue entry from: Frits Scholten. The Robert Lehman Collection. European Sculpture and Metalwork, Vol. XII. Frits Scholten, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Princeton University Press, 2011, pp. 52-55.
1. Planiscig, Leo. Venezianische Bildhauer der Renaissance. Vienna, 1921, pp. 566 – 72.
2. Kryza-Gersch, Claudia. "Original Ideas and Their Reproduction in Venetian Foundries: Tiziano Aspetti’s Mars in the Frick Collection. A Case Study." In Small Bronzes in the Renaissance, edited by Debra Pincus, pp. 143 – 57. Studies in the History of Art (National Gallery of Art) 62. Washington, D.C., 2001, p. 144.
4. Dawn of the Golden Age: Northern Netherlandish Art, 1580 – 1620. Exhibition, Rijksmuseum, 11 December 1993 – 6 March 1994. Catalogue edited by Ger Luijten et al. Amsterdam and Zwolle, 1993, no. 16.
5. Walker, Suzanne J. "Arms and the Man: Constructing the Soldier in Jacques de Gheyn’s Wapenhandelinghe." Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 58, 2007-8, pp. 139 – 61. Issue titled Lichaam en lichamelijkheid in de Nederlandse kunst / Body and Embodiment in Netherlandish Art, edited by Anne-Sophie Lehmann and Herman Roodenburg, pp. 149 – 59.
6. Bronzi del Rinascimento: Collezione Vok. Exhibition, Museo Civico, 20 November 2004 – 6 February 2005. Catalogue by Davide Banzato. N.p. [Italy], 2004, p. 84.
7. See ibid.
8. Metropolitan Museum, 1970.314.
9. Planiscig, fig. 620.
10. Ibid., fig. 618; Italienische Kleinplastiken, Zeichnungen und Musik der Renaissance: Waffen des 16. und 17. Jahrhunderts. Exhibition, Schloss Schallaburg, 1 May – 2 November 1976. Catalogue. Vienna, 1976, no. 101; Kryza-Gersch, fig. 16.
11. Bronzi del Rinascimento: Collezione Vok. Exhibition, Museo Civico, 20 November 2004 – 6 February 2005. Catalogue by Davide Banzato. N.p. [Italy], 2004, no. 28.
12. Sale, American Art Association, New York, 6 April 1923, lot 425.
13. Sale, Christie’s, London, 6 July 1999, lot 83.
14. Blumka Gallery, New York, in 2007.
15. Weihrauch, Hans R. Europäische Bronzestatuetten, 15. – 18. Jahrhundert. Braunschweig, 1967, fig. 202.