Admission is always free Directions

Open today: 10:00 to 5:00

Overview

Severo worked nearly his entire career in Padua, a university city where patrons' appreciation for the classical past fueled demand for small-scale works like this one. It was probably loosely inspired by the Greek myth of Perseus, who rescued the beautiful Andromeda from the rock where she had been chained by a sea monster. Here, it is the god of the sea who has vanquished the sea monster, a few links of the chain by which he had tethered the beast still surviving in his left hand. The reworking of classical themes was a specialty of Severo's, who had probably the largest bronze workshop in Padua. In Neptune on a Sea Monster, some elements, including the monster's gaping mouth, seem to have been adapted from an engraving by another, earlier, northern Italian artist deeply inspired by antiquity, Andrea Mantegna.

Neptune's carefully modeled, youthful body reveals the sculptor's command of anatomy and celebrates the god's eternal youth. His face, meanwhile, with deeply curling hair and beard, is that of an older man, who is more aware of the burdens of the world; this is a more common representation of the sea god. The head shows Severo's meticulous craftsmanship to advantage, as does the body of the sea monster, whose scales contrast with Neptune's smooth skin, and whose doggish ears and flippered paws show Severo's imaginative fantasy.

Provenance

Bucquet collection; (Jacques Seligmann, Paris); William Salomon [1852-1919], New York; (his estate sale, American Art Galleries, New York, 4-7 April 1923, 2nd day, no. 420, as by Bartolommeo Bellano); (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London and New York); inheritance from Estate of Peter A.B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, after purchase by funds of the Estate; gift 1942 to NGA.

Exhibition History
1937
Master Bronzes Selected from Museums and Collections in America, Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, Albright Art Gallery, no. 128, repro.
1978
Antiquity in the Renaissance, Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts, April-June 1978, no. 9.
1978
Severo Calzeta, called Severo da Ravenna, The Frick Collection, New York, June-October 1978, no. 13.
1985
Natur und Antike in der Renaissance, Städtische Galerie Liebieghaus, Frankfurt am Main, Federal Republic of Germany, 1985-1986, no. 138, repro.
1991
Circa 1492: Art in the Age of Exploration, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1991-1992, not in cat.
2008
Rinascimento e Passione per L'Antico. Andrea Riccio e il suo tempo, Museo Castello del Buonconsiglio, Trento, 2008, no. 62, repro.
Bibliography
1942
Works of Art from the Widener Collection. Foreword by David Finley and John Walker. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 7, as Neptune and a Sea Monster.
1948
Paintings and Sculpture from the Widener Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1948 (reprinted 1959): 144, repro.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 171.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 151, repro.
1983
Wilson, Carolyn C. Renaissance Small Bronze Sculpture and Associated Decorative Arts at the National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1983: 69.
1994
Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1994: 217, repro.
2001
Augusti, Adriana, et al, eds. Donatello e il suo tempo: il bronzetto a Padova nel Quattrocento e nel Cinquecento. Exh. cat. Musei Civici, Padua, 2001: 154, 156.
2002
Darr, Alan, Peter Barnet, and Antonia Boström. Catalogue of Italian Sculptures in the Detroit Institute of Arts. 2 vols. London, 2002: 1:246.
2010
Luchs, Alison. The Mermaids of Venice: Fantastic Sea Creatures in Venetian Renaissance Art. Turnhout, Belgium, 2010: 158-159, 158 fig. 205, 220 n. 13.
2013
Dylan Smith, “Reconstructing the Casting Technique of Severo da Ravenna’s Neptune.” Facture : conservation, science, art history 1 (2013): 167-181.