Cast Bronze Inkwell
Cast Bronze Inkwell

Cast Bronze Inkwell

17th century Italy

Offered by Baggott Church Street Ltd


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After Niccolo Roccatagliata and in the Renaissance style, the inkwell with domed lid surmounted by the figure of an eagle with wings outstretched. The stand decorated with floral swags and supported on a tripod base, each leg being the cast figure of a mythical harpy with a bold, lion’s paw foot.
Italian, probably Venetian, 17th century
H.7” (18cm)
Stock No. 8221G
Mainly active in Venice, Niccolo Roccatagliata (fl 1593 – 1636) was born in Genoa and, in 1571, was taken on as a pupil of Agostino Groppo, a Genoese goldsmith, with whom he stayed for the following 9 years. According to Roccatagliata’s earliest biographer, Raggaello Soprani, he was also to be apprenticed to Groppo’s son, Cesare, before moving to Venice. Shortly after, he was to move to Venice where he made models for Tintoretto and learnt how to sculpt marble. Few of Roccatagliata’s documented works have survived, with those that have being bronzes and made either at the beginning or end of his career. They include twenty-eight sconces in the form of putti, two large candelabra and a highly emotive relief depicting an Allegory of the Redemption for the church of San Moisè in Venice.

The various forms of putti or, indeed, the harpy as in this instance, were often used on inkwells, candlesticks, etc that were created in Italy during the 16th and 17th century. Roccatagliata and other North Italian sculptors working in bronze at that time, such as Andrea di Alessandro Bresciano and Giuseppe de Levis, used similar motifs in their craft and, as such, make it often difficult to distinguish between sculptors and the original creator of specific designs.

In the second half of the 15th century, the interest in collecting small bronze statues grew, with the principal artistic influences of these works being from antiquity. Although they have always been called ‘bronzes’, i.e. made of copper and tin, many were actually alloys of copper and zinc (and often tin and lead) and were more ideally called brasses.

One of the Roman mythological creatures that was regularly represented on these bronzes was the Harpy, one of the winged spirits best known for constantly stealing all food from Phineas. The name comes from the Greek word ‘to snatch’. A harpy was the mother of the horses of Achilles sired by the West Wind Zephyros. The Greek poet, Hesiod called them ‘lovely-haired’ creatures, with pottery art depicting harpies as beautiful women with wings. Traditionally, they are known as three sisters and were later to be depicted as ugly bird-women. The aquila or eagle was a prominent symbol used in ancient Rome, especially as the standard of a Roman legion.
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Baggott Church Street Ltd

Baggott Church Street Ltd
Church Street
GL54 1BB

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