Andrea Briosco, called Riccio, Oil Lamp, ca. 1515-1525,
bronze, 9 5/8 x 8 13/16 x 2 5/8 in.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has acquired an Andrea Riccio (1470-1532) bronze oil lamp that is on display in the Italian Renaissance Bronze Gallery. This is the only surviving Riccio lamp that still has both its lid and legs.
(For more on Riccio, see my blog post on Wednesday, November 26, 2008, “Andrea Riccio at the Frick Collection”.)
The Museum’s new lamp is in the shape of an unrigged sailing vessel. Across its body, cavorting infants form the main frieze which is framed by delicate shells. The lamp rests on slender curving legs whose shapes are echoed by the lid’s handles. On either side of the cover, a playful child sits holding on to the tail of a dolphin-like sea creature. Classical details animate the work as the eye moves from one design element to another. There is movement and rhythm in all manner of decoration. The technique is of the highest quality. This new acquisition joins the other Metropolitan’s Riccio holdings that include the artist’s work, those attributed to his “followers”, “in the manner of” or “workshop of”.
There is a lot more to see in this Italian Renaissance gallery whose objects may be modest in scale but offer much to enjoy. Here are depictions of mythological, secular and religious figures – Venus images as well as saints – inkwells and plaques. The bronzes are small enough to fit nicely on a studio shelf or study desk. Their compact size allows for intimate viewing, examination and comparisons with nearby objects.
Bartolomeo Bellano, David with the Head of Goliath, ca. 1470-80, bronze
Nearby the Riccio display is a case containing a gilt-bronze statuette of David with the Head of Goliath by Bartholomeo Bellano who was a student of Donatello and Riccio’s teacher.
A bronze Spinario statuette from North Italy dated 1500-1520 can be contrasted with the approximate life-size bronze Spinario attributed to Antonello Gagni, Italy (Sicily) 1507-09, on view in the adjoining Vélez Blanco Patio.
Attrib. to Antonello Gagini, Spinario, 1507-09, bronze
The Spinario, a depiction of a boy removing a thorn from his foot, was based on a Greek original and copied by the Romans. Very few Roman bronzes survive but a 1st century Roman bronze Spinario did and was one of the first antique sculptures to be coped by Italian Renaissance artists. I like to find representations of the Spinario motif and think about how the artist individualized the theme. Some, following the Roman antique example, show the youth’s left foot crossed over his right thigh; some depict the opposite. Some are lithe elegant youths; some are solid unpretentious boys. You may find your own favorite image to follow.
Go see the new Riccio and spend time with the Italian Renaissance bronzes. The viewing will reward the eye as well as the mind – just what an artist like Riccio intended.