Release Date: September 9, 2002
Renaissance Bronzes from the Robert H. Smith Collection on View at the National Gallery of Art, September 29, 2002, Through February 17, 2003
Washington, DC—An installation of more than 50 small European bronze sculptures mostly dating from the mid-16th to the mid-17th century and lent by Robert H. Smith, president, National Gallery of Art, will be on view in the West Building of the National Gallery of Art from September 29, 2002, through February 17, 2003. One of the most important collections of bronze sculpture in private hands, the Robert H. Smith Collection comprises exceptionally fine examples of works by major contemporaries and successors of Michelangelo. These bronzes have been integrated with works from the National Gallery as part of the opening of a new suite of ground floor sculpture galleries.
“We are pleased to present this installation in our new sculpture galleries—an ideal setting for this rich collection of small European bronze sculpture,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. “Thanks to his generous loan, visitors to the Gallery can enjoy what Mr. Smith has described as the ‘quiet reflection amidst powerful expression’ that these works offer to their viewers.”
The principal theme of the works in this installation is the human figure, in fierce struggle or at graceful rest. Also included are spirited horses and animal combat groups that combine the influence of ancient sculpture with Renaissance approaches to the power of nature.
The core of the collection consists of bronzes from the Florentine studio of the brilliant Flemish-born master Giovanni Bologna, whose workshop attracted the patronage of the Medici grand dukes. His gifted assistant Antonio Susini, chosen heir Pietro Tacca, and their successors Giovanni Francesco Susini and Ferdinando Tacca show the fluent invention and superb craftsmanship that made Giovanni Bologna the leading sculptor in Florence after Michelangelo. Works by Susini include Nessus and Deianeira, his vividly modeled Lion Attacking a Stallion, and Farnese Hercules, the only cast from its model known to date.
Other significant Italian works in the installation include Baccio Bandinelli’s Neptune,
cast from his competition model for the fountain in Piazza della Signoria in Florence; the majestic mythological figures by northern Italian masters Alessandro Vittoria, Francesco Segala, and Tiziano Aspetti; and a pair of women forming Nicolò Roccatagliata’s vivacious, freshly cast Allegory of Astronomy.
Northern Europe is represented by the ethereal nude goddess Minerva by Johan Gregor van der Schardt, a favorite of the Hapsburg emperors, and Willem Danielsz van Tetrode’s tragically expressive Hercules and Nessus.
Bronzes by King Henry IV’s official court sculptor Barthélemy Prieur, including a unique Young Hercules, are fine examples from the principal sculptural shop in late 16th century France. The warm qualities of Roman baroque sculpture are illustrated in Venus and Adonis, a group by Alessandro Algardi, who with Gian Lorenzo Bernini, dominated sculptural production in Rome in the middle of the 17th century.
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