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Artist:Alberghetti Foundry , Venice
Date:1551–80, (model), (possibly cast in France, first half of the 19th century)
Medium:Copper alloy with a high content of tin, some lead, and no trace of zinc; the usual trace elements of iron, nickel, silver, and antimony are present, confirming that this is an alloy of fire-refined copper, certainly dating before about 1880; dark brown patina.
Dimensions:H. 21.3 cm, diam. 24.5 cm (rim).
Credit Line:Robert Lehman Collection, 1975
This footed, conical-shaped mortar has an upper section of the outer surface divided into two bands. The decoration is closely related to signed products from the Alberghetti foundry in Venice.(1) The motifs of the cornucopias, the stag, and the suspended bucrania are found on a mortar in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence,(2) signed by Giulio Alberghetti, director of the foundry between 1551 and 1572,(3) and on a number of related bronze utensils convincingly attributed to the Alberghetti family by Motture.(4) The Lehman mortar appears to be one of five identical works with only minor differences. The other versions are at the Louvre, Paris,(5) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York,(6) the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection,(7) and Sotheby’s, London, 9 July 1987, lot 71.(8) Owing to their close relationship in dimensions, style, and facture, Radcliffe considered these as modern aftercasts “from a single mould taken from a hitherto unidentified original.”(9) He subsequently accepted an earlier dating of the Louvre mortar,(10) which thus could be the original. In view of the conical profile of the five identical mortars and the bell shape of the Bargello version, Radcliffe proposed that the conical type could represent a somewhat earlier phase in the production of the Alberghetti foundry. If the four aftercasts, including the Lehman mortar, were produced in France in the first half of the nineteenth century, as Radcliffe suggested,(11) it is remarkable that there is no consistency in alloy composition between the Lehman piece and the similar one in the Metropolitan Museum. Whereas the present work has a high tin content and a low level of lead, the Metropolitan’s version has been cast in brass, a copper alloy with major levels of zinc, and only incidental amounts of tin.(12)
Catalogue entry from: Frits Scholten. The Robert Lehman Collection. European Sculpture and Metalwork, Vol. XII. Frits Scholten, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Princeton University Press, 2011, pp. 194-195.
Notes: 1. Motture, Peta. Bells and Mortars and Related Utensils: Catalogue of Italian Bronzes in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London, 2001, no. 17, and pp. 96 – 98, figs. 13 – 15. 2. Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence, no. 715. 3. Radcliffe, Anthony, Malcolm Baker, and Michael Maek-Gérard. Renaissance and Later Sculpture, with Works of Art in Bronze. The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. London, 1992, p. 225, fig. 2. 4. Motture, nos. 23, 24. 5. Migeon, Gaston. Catalogue des bronzes & cuivres du Moyen Âge, de la Renaissance et des temps modernes. Musée du Louvre. Paris, 1904, no. 38. 6. Metropolitan Museum, 1982.60.111 (ex coll. Jack and Belle Linsky; The Jack and Belle Linsky Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1984, no. 64). 7. Radcliffe, Baker, and Maek-Gérard, no. 37. 8. Ibid., p. 222; Motture, p. 116. 9. Radcliffe in Radcliffe, Baker, and Maek-Gérard, p. 223. 10. See Motture, p. 115. 11. Radcliffe in Radcliffe, Baker, and Maek-Gérard, p. 225. 12. This information is based on a semi-quantitative X-ray fluorescence analysis provided by Richard E. Stone, March 2009.
[Goldschmidt Galleries, New York]. Acquired by Philip Lehman through Goldschmidt Galleries in July 1930.
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Bartolomeo Vivarini (Italian, active Venice 1450–91)
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