Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Armorer's vise

Jacopo da Ferrara (Italian, active late 16th century)
Northern Italian
Height (.5a): 10 3/16 in. (25.9 cm);
Length (.5b): 5 1/8 in. (13 cm);
Length (.5c): 2 3/4 in. (7 cm)
Credit Line:
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1958
Accession Number:
Not on view
In sixteenth century Italy the technique of cold-chiseling sculpturesque subjects remained primarily the province of the armorer. Sculpturesque ornament extended even to the tools of the armorer’s craft. The jaws of this iron vise are decorated with a mermaid and a merman, while another merman adorns the back. The vise is inscribed with the date 1588 and the name of its maker, Jacopo da Ferrara, about whom nothing further is known, though his name suggests he had left Ferrara when this piece was made. Although the three creatures of chiseled iron are less finely finished than many of those of the sixteenth century Milanese armorers, who were world famous for the beauty and delicacy of their sculptured ornament, they are far more lively in conception. In the taut, powerful anatomies of the mermaid and merman braced against each jaw of the vise, Jacopo was able to express all the straining power of the mechanism they adorn.
Inscription: On one cartouche: AIACOBO / DE / FERRARI'S / QM / DESIDERIS; on other cartouche: AVCTO / ET / PERFECTO / ANNO / MDLxxxviii
possibly Séchan , Paris (until 1875; M. Séchan collection sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, February 22–27, 1875, p. 30, lot 135; to Carrand); Louis Carrand , Paris (from 1875) ; Frédéric Spitzer , Paris (until 1929; sale, Anderson Galleries, New York, January 9–12, 1929, lot 129; sold for $1,450); Samuel Yellin , Philadelphia ; [ Franz J. Mela , New York, until 1958; sold to MMA ]
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