Andiron with figure of Venus (one of a pair)
After a model by Girolamo Campagna Italian
Not on view
These firedogs are surmounted by figures of Venus and Vulcan. She grasps the tail of a dolphin with her left hand and covers her breast with her right; Vulcan swings a hammer (now missing). Each statuette is placed on a multitiered three-sided base. The lowest tier is composed of two seated lions looking over their shoulders with tails entwined. One paw of each lion is raised and rests on an escutcheon that was designed to enclose a coat of arms (now missing, but a plughole is still visible). On each side of the second tier, a ram’s head is flanked by drapery swags linking the scrolled corners of a triangular element that rests on the lions’ backs. On each triangle, a punched panel is ornamented with a winged female terminal figure. Above each lion, a seated putto teasingly holds a crown away from the animal. The third tier is composed of a round, punched urnlike element with grotesque masks and harpies curving around its form. The fourth tier consists of another punched urn, smaller and squatter than the one below, gadrooned and channeled around the neck and decorated with grotesque winged masks linked by floral and drapery swags. Each andiron was cast in six separate sections. According to Richard Stone and Claudia Kryza-Gersch, the parts might have been prefabricated components not made specifically for these firedogs but subsequently assembled together.
The Vulcan is one of many replicas of a model that Leo Planiscig attributed to Tiziano Aspetti or his circle. The Venus is similar to another statuette in The Met’s collection (cat. 75), and both derive from Girolamo Campagna’s stone statue of Venus Marina on the upper balustrade of the Libreria Marciana, Venice (p. 00, fig. 75a). This related bronze is signed “IC” on the base, and Planisicig linked the initials to Girolamo (Latin: Ieronimus) Campagna. Thus, the present andirons have also been connected to Campagna or his workshop, after having been unconvincingly ascribed to Jacopo Sansovino and then Aspetti. Doubts about the owner of the “IC” initials have been expressed by Andrea Bacchi. As an alternative, Peta Motture proposed the caster Giacomo Calderari, who produced firedogs on a large scale. In the postmortem inventory of his workshop, among the andirons are listed “two figures of Vulcan and Venus.”
The identification of the “IC” master remains a conundrum. The Venus of the present firedogs is, however, a coarse approximation of the The Met’s much more beautiful and finished Venus Marina. As Motture and Victoria Avery have shown, utilitarian objects based on prototypes such as Campagna’s statues were mass-produced in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Venetian foundries like Calderari’s, and professional casters continued to manufacture them for a long time. It is therefore reasonable to assume that our firedogs date to the early seventeenth century, or even later.
(For key to shortened references see bibliography in Allen, Italian Renaissance and Baroque Bronzes in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. NY: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2022.)
1. R. Stone/TR, August 2001 and October 18, 2012; Kryza-Gersch, October 2001, ESDA/OF.
2. See Claudia Kryza-Gersch in Bacchi et al. 1999, cat. 95.
3. Planiscig 1921, pp. 542–43.
4. Altman 1928, pp. 129–30, nos. 62, 63. Previously, they were attributed to Sansovino, as stated in a typed booklet kept in ESDA/OF.
5. Bacchi et al. 1999, pp. 410–11.
6. Motture 2003, p. 284.
7. See V. Avery 2013.
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