Nude Women Wrestling

After a composition by Leonhard Kern German

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 542

An ivory of this composition, in Vienna, has been convincingly assigned to the prolific Leonhard Kern.[1] The ivory is smaller (17.2 cm) and its self-base naturalistically carved with shells and a dog. Among other bronzes of this composition, equivalent in quality to ours, are those in the Wallace Collection, London, and in the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm. They are conventionally called Italo-Flemish, and are dated to the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century, because of their supposed resemblance to bronzes of the type of nos. 88 and 89.[2]

It is generally assumed that one of the bronzes was the model for the ivory, but the case is more likely to have been the reverse. While omitting the elaborate base of the ivory, the maker of the bronzes retained some, if not all, of the simple volumetric masses that typify Kern’s carving style. This maker may best be defined as either a workshop associate or an early imitator.

The iconography remains unexplained. Diana discovering the pregnancy of Callisto and scene from Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberate (XV, 18) have been proposed as subjects.[3]

[James D. Draper, 1984]

[1] E. Grünenwald, Leonhard Kern: ein Bildhauer des Barock, Schwäbisch-Hall, 1969, no. 121, dated ca. 1635.

[2] H. R. Wihrauch, Europäische Bronzestatuetten, 15.–18. Jahrhundert, Brunswick, 1967, p. 366, links them with his “Meister der Genrefiguren.”

[3] J. G. Mann, Wallace Collection Catalogues. Sculpture, 2nd ed. With supplement, London, 1981, no. 130.

Nude Women Wrestling, After a composition by Leonhard Kern (German, Forchtenberg, Hohenlohe 1588–1662 Schwäbisch Hall), Bronze, with medium brown natural patina and traces of dark lacquer, German

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