This pax is decorated with the seated Virgin and Child and young Saint John in an architectural setting with a ruined arch and two churches. The plaquette is set in its original elaborate scrollwork frame with cherubs and garlands, and with a handle for using it as a pax. At least twelve versions are known, with minor differences in the rendering of the background.(1) Molinier attributed the plaquette to Venice (“school of Sansovino”), and more recently Rossi proposed the Venetian sculptor Tommaso da Lugano (active 1537 – ca. 1561) as maker of the model.(2) This designation has not met with much support, however. Identical frames are known with similar or stylistically related plaquettes,(3) suggesting that both elements originated in the same workshop that specialized in the manufacture of bronze paxes or reliefs for private devotion. This proposition is underscored by the existence of a closely related type of plaquette with the Pietà, which occasionally is also combined with this frame.(4) As the Pietà plaquette certainly has a Roman origin, given its compositional connection to a Michelangelo drawing, both plaquettes could well have been products of a common, Roman workshop. Although the frame is usually considered Northern Italian — it is of the so-called Sansovino type, which was developed and popularized in Venice since the middle of the sixteenth century(5) — certain elements could also point to a central Italian origin of about 1550 – 60.(6) If a similar origin for both frame and plaquette is assumed, a Roman workshop seems a more likely place of manufacture for this pax and for the Pietà than Venice, and the style suggests a date for the model in the third quarter of the sixteenth century. An example of the plaquette in the Louvre, Paris, bearing the inscribed date 1607 demonstrates its ongoing popularity into the seventeenth century. The Lehman piece has a repaired old crack in the upper left corner.
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. 174-75.
1. Renaissance Bronzes from Ohio Collections. Exhibition, Cleveland Museum of Art, 24 September - 16 November 1975, no. 103. Catalogue by William D. Wixom. Cleveland.
2. Molinier, Émile. Les bronzes de la Renaissance. Les plaquettes: Catalogue raisonné. 2 vols. Paris, 1886, vol. 2, no. 431; Rossi, Francesco. Ed. Placchette, secoli XV-XIX: Catologo. Musei Civici di Brescia. Cataloghi I. Vicenza, 1974, p. 98.
3. See National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1942.9.224 (ex coll. Widener); Princeton University Art Museum (Tolnay, Charles de. "Michelangelo's Pietà Composition for Vittoria Colonna." Record of the Art Museum, Princeton University 12, 1953, fig. 17 and cover ill.); Musei Civici, Padua (Banzato, Davide and Franca Pellegrini. Bronzi e placchette dei Musei Civici di Padova. Padua, 1989, no. 56); sale, Stefano Bardini collection, Christie’s, London, 27 May 1902, lot 266, pl. 10; sale, John R. Gaines collection, Morton & Eden, London, 8 December 2005, lot 61.
4. Sale, John R. Gaines collection, Morton & Eden, London, 8 December 2005, lot 61.
5. See Davis, Charles. "Jacopo Sansovino and the Italian Plaquette." In Italian Plaquettes, edited by Alison Luchs, pp. 283 – 84. Studies in the History of Art (National Gallery of Art) 22. Washington, D.C., 1989.
6. Italian Renaissance Frames. Exhibition, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 5 June - 2 September 1990. Catalogue by Timothy J. Newbery, George Bisacca, and Laurence B. Kanter. New York, 1990, no. 49.