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Bronze, Bells, Bust: The National Gallery of Art’s Charles V

Wendy Sepponen, Joseph F. McCrindle Fellow, department of sculpture and decorative arts, National Gallery of Art. Recent technical examinations have revealed that a bronze bust of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in the National Gallery of Art, formerly attributed to imperial sculptor Leone Leoni (Milanese, c. 1509–1590), was in fact most likely cast in an unidentified bell or canon foundry. In this lecture held on April 25, 2016, as part of the Works in Progress series at the Gallery, Wendy Sepponen argues that though we do not know who made the portrait, it nevertheless exemplifies the longstanding practice amongst Habsburg rulers to rely on foundries throughout their territories to satisfy their diverse needs for instruments of war and dynastic portraiture, thereby reinforcing the status of bronze as the ideal imperial material.