The Mellon Venus and Bacchus and a Faun: Tracing the Origins
National Gallery conservator Shelley Sturman and curator Alison Luchs discuss the fascinating links between the National Gallery in Washington and this sumptuous villa near Milan, a connection discovered during a search for the origins of the two grand bronzes of Venus and Bacchus and a Faun. These sculptures were part of the original collection donated by Andrew W. Mellon to the National Gallery in 1937. As time passed, their attribution to the Florentine-Venetian sculptor Jacopo Sansovino (1486–1570) came increasingly into question. Scientific examination of the bronzes, including gamma and x-radiography and metal analysis, led to new revelations about the techniques of their production. Art-historical research by Italian colleagues Giancarlo Gentilini, Alessandro Morandotti, and the late Anthony Radcliffe traced the bronzes to a 1658 inventory of the Villa Lainate (Villa Visconti Borromeo Litta), recently restored to near original glory. The amazing story of the Villa, and the place of the National Gallery sculptures therein, inspired Francesco Vitali’s film. In this accompanying video, Alison Luchs, Shelley Sturman, and Francesco Vitali discuss their roles and the relationships between the sculptures and the villa.