A Bull - Giovan Francesco Susini (Florence, 1585–1653)
A Bull - Giovan Francesco Susini (Florence, 1585–1653)
A Bull - Giovan Francesco Susini (Florence, 1585–1653)

A Bull - Giovan Francesco Susini (Florence, 1585–1653)

1650 Florence

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A Bull
Cast after a model by Giambologna (1529-1608)

Bronze

22 cm (8 ¾ in.) high

Circa 1650
Sotheby’s, London, 15th December 1977, lot 160
Private collection, Oxford, from 1997 to 2012
On loan to the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 2000-2008
Liechtenstein, The Princely Collections, Metropolitan Museum of Art, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1986, cat. 47
Catalogo della Galleria Colonna in Roma, Sculture, Rome, 1990, p. 301, entry by H. Keutner

The treatment of details on this remarkable bronze points towards Giovan Francesco Susini, the nephew and heir of Antonio Susini who assisted Giambologna with the making of small bronzes before becoming an independent master after Giambologna’s death.

The first datable appearance of the model is in a painting by Willem van Haecht the Younger, The Art Gallery of Cornelis van der Geest dated 1628 (Antwerp, Rubenshuis). This painting shows the collection of Cornelis van der Geest (1575-1638) which included the statuette of a bull. Another example of the bull is a bronze (Galleria Colonna, Rome) which was made for Duke Jacopo di Lorenzo Salviati (1607-1672) by Giovanfrancesco Susini in 1628.

In the catalogue of the Galleria Colonna, Keutner (see lit.) has suggested that the model for the 1628 Salviati bronze was invented by Antonio Susini as a variant of an older model by Giambologna. There is indeed a bronze of different type, stronger and heavier, that is first documented in the posthumous inventory of the collection of Grand Duke Francesco de Medici in 1588 (Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence). However, Keutner’s attribution of the present, slender model to Susini lacks any evidence. It is equally possible that it was also invented by Giambologna some years later, around 1600.

A bull similar to the present one and paired with a horse is today in the Princely Collections of Liechtenstein. It is first documented in 1696 in letters by the Antwerp dealer who offered a “little horse” and a “little bull” by Giambologna to Prince Johann Adam Andreas I. Tietze-Conrat suggested already in 1918 that this bull had been cast in the workshop of Giovan Francesco Susini based on stylistic evidence .

The detail of the hair on the animal’s forehead as well as on the hoofs and the tail has clear affinities with other works by Giovan Francesco Susini. Moreover, the bronze displays the rich red lacquer typical of 17th century Florentine bronzes and in particular of works by Susini.

As with his uncle Antonio, most information on Giovan Francesco’s life and work is based on Baldinucci’s chronicles. Also a goldsmith by training, he spent an undisclosed number of years in Rome before returning to Florence. After Antonio’s death he took over the workshop in the Via dei Pilastri and continued to cast bronzes from his uncle’s models. Giovan Francesco Susini can nevertheless be credited with a number of models of his own invention that established him as one of the first exponents of the Baroque in Florence. Most of his casts betray a goldsmith’s propensity for minute detail and exquisite finish.

We thank Dr. Dimitrios Zikos for his assistance in the preparation of this text.
Dimensions
Height 22.00 cm (8.66 inches)
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