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David Roentgen: Nemours Clock


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Sculptor close to Donatello (Italian, Florence ca. 1386–1466 Florence)

ca. 1432
Italian, Florence
Gilt bronze
Overall (confirmed): H. 24 1/4 x W. 8 1/8 x D. 11 3/4 in., 30 lb. (61.6 x 20.6 x 29.8 cm, 13.6079kg)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Mrs. Samuel Reed Gift, Rogers Fund, by exchange, and Louis V. Bell Fund, 1983
Accession Number:
  • Description

    With feathered heels and shoulders, this boy is a singular evocation of the god Mercury. The fleecy tail is a novel addition. The body is piped inside to allow the flow of water, which once splashed against a whirligig, causing the toy to rotate in the upraised hand. The figure is in all likelihood to be identified with the "little spirit" that was gilt in 1432 by a painter named Antonio and later inventoried in the garden of Palazzo Medici as a "bronze idol on a ball." The Medici family adopted Mercury, who included commerce among his realms of authority, as a tutelary genius (their coat of arms also incorporates balls). It is easy to imagine an orb, which could also imply the terrestrial globe, under our boy's cupped foot. In 1515 Gianfrancesco Rustici sculpted a bronze Mercury (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge) in the form of a teenager but otherwise faithfully followed the child's curvilinear pose, and that sculpture replaced ours in the Medici garden. When the Winged Boy appeared at auction with little advance notice, the Trustees responded generously at the chance to acquire a rarity so close in spirit and wealth of texture to the work of the great Donatello.

  • Provenance

    Sir John Ramsden (until 1930; sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, July 8, 1930, no. 35); Sir William Pennington-Ramsden , Muncaster Castle, Ravenglass, Cumbria (until 1983) ; his daughter, Mrs. Patrick Gordon-Duff-Pennington (in 1983; sale, Christie's, London, June 20, 1983, no. 109; sold to MMA)

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History