Juno and the peacock

After a model by Alessandro Vittoria (Alessandro Vittoria di Vigilio della Volpa) Italian

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 608

The female figure, dressed in drapery that covers her torso and most of her legs but finishes below the breasts, stands in a relaxed contrapposto and leans slightly backward. Her head is turned gracefully to the side, while in her right hand she holds her left breast as if she were about to compress milk out of it. The left arm reaches toward a peacock, positioned next to the woman’s left leg so that she can delicately grip the tiny head of the trusting bird with two fingers. Her hair is parted in the middle and gathered in a loose chignon at the back of her head from where two curled strands fall down onto her shoulders. The presence of the peacock identifies the figure as Juno, Jupiter’s wife and the goddess of marriage, which explains her almost fully dressed state, the motherly rather than flirtatious manner of touching her breast, and her demure expression.

The model of this Juno was cast frequently.[1] Among the many replicas, ours is certainly one of the best, although technically all known casts display imperfections.[2] The model was repeatedly combined with a Jupiter, placed atop firedogs; however, since our Juno is provided with an unusually large round base, it was probably made for another purpose. The different casts feature slight variations in the treatment of the peacock’s feathers and in the way the goddess touches the bird, depending on whether or not its head is crested.

The model was attributed to Vittoria in 1914 when a cast appeared at auction in Berlin.[3] This attribution was repeated in 1916 by Leo Planiscig for The Met Juno when it was still in the Zatzka collection in Vienna.[4] Since then, the model was either called a work by Vittoria himself or by his workshop,[5] and indeed there can be no doubt that the composition was invented by that artist. The execution of the known casts was, however, done by one or more of the commercial foundries in Venice, a common practice for functional bronzes such as andirons, for which most of the Juno statuettes undoubtedly were made. There exists a marked difference between models that Vittoria had had lovingly cast by experts like Bresciano, as in the case of his Saint Sebastian (cat. 58), and models he apparently provided—in which way, we do not know—for marketable products.

The small head and elongated proportions of the figure, with the emphasis on the prominent stomach, and the eloquent twist of the pose, with the inclined head and the elegant hand on the chest, are typical features of Vittoria’s sculptures, as is the heavy drapery with small, sharp folds and large flat areas that cling to the body so that, for instance, the navel is clearly visible. Planiscig observed that the treatment of Juno’s drapery is reminiscent of Vittoria’s Saint Daniel on the altar of the Merciai in San Giuliano, Venice (ca. 1583–84), which features the characteristic diagonal sweep of the cloth that cleverly follows the twist of the figure’s movement. Also the allegorical statue of Eloquence in the Sala delle Quattro Porte, Palazzo Ducale, Venice (ca. 1580), or the female caryatids framing the Monument for Henry III of France (1575) in the same palace are close sisters of our Juno, all of them stemming ultimately in their elongated proportions from Parmigianino, Vittoria’s favorite painter. The model for the Juno was probably created in the 1580s or 1590s,[6] but the casts were produced at least until the mid-seventeenth century.

(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. Replicas, given in order of their first publication: Museo Civici, Padua (Moschetti 1938, p. 223; see also Davide Banzato in Bacchi et al. 1999, p. 354, cat. 79); Stift Klosterneuburg, KG 15 (Planiscig 1942, pp. 11–12, no. 15); Capodimonte (Molajoli 1957, no. 10642; see also Ambrosio and Capobianco 1995, p. 36 [head of peacock missing]); formerly Charles C. Dent collection (Allentown 1967, cat. 83, paired with Jupiter and mounted on andirons—very probably modern); Palazzo Schifanoia, Ferrara (Varese 1975, p. 115, cat. 95); V&A, A.19-1961 (Burns et al. 1975, p. 60, cat. 110; see also Motture 2003, p. 297, no. 6); Hermitage, H.CK-82 (Androsov 1978, pp. 53–54, cat. 37); Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, 62-8. For a cast featuring a crown on Juno’s head in a U.S. private collection, see Motture 2003, p. 297, no. 7. For another Juno in a private collection that seems to be of later manufacture, see Banzato 2008a, p. 183. Casts of the Juno appear now and then on the art market: Dorotheum, Vienna, May 13–15, 1929, lot 23; Christie’s, London, November 20, 1967, lot 166; Christie’s, New York, July 10–11, 2002, lot 1099; Sotheby’s, London, October 31, 2003, no. 101; Sotheby’s, Paris, October 16, 2007, lot 6.
2. The metal is a quaternary alloy of copper, tin, zinc, and lead, with minor and trace elements. R. Stone/TR, July 24, 2009.
3. Lepke’s Kunst-Auctions-Haus, Berlin, March 11, 1914, Kunstsammlung Schacky, lot 272.
4. The only exception is the cast in the Dent collection that was erroneously described as by Tiziano Aspetti (Allentown 1967, cat. 83). On the art market there has also been an equally mistaken attribution of casts of lesser quality to Nicolò Roccatagliata.
5. Compare Motture 2003, p. 297 and Banzato in Bacchi et al. 1999, p. 354.

Juno and the peacock, After a model by Alessandro Vittoria (Alessandro Vittoria di Vigilio della Volpa) (Italian, 1525–1608), Bronze, Italian, Venice

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