Florence – Uffizi Gallery – Bronzes And Sculpture

TWO rooms decorated with inlaid marbles, off the third corridor, are assigned to a small but interesting collection of antique bronzes, presented to the Museum by the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo. The magnificent horse’s head of bronze with gilt ornaments was discovered in 1585 at Cività Vecchia, and was sent to Florence. It was first used to adorn a fountain of the Palazzo Riccardi, but in the beginning of this century it was brought to the Gallery. The grandeur as well as animation of this head is not exceeded by the horses of Phidias from the Parthenon. A torso, or fragment of a statue in the Greek style, was found in the sea near Leghorn, as well as the tripod with veiled heads at the corners ; the statue is supposed to have represented a priestess of Apollo ; besides these, several fine busts, and a valuable inscription on a bronze tablet, constitute the treasures of the outer room.

In the room beyond, is a statue of a youth holding out his hand as if to receive offerings. It is called Mercury, and was at one time thought to represent Bacchus, but is more popularly known as the Idolino, Little Idol. This most beautiful statue resembles the same subject, rather differently treated, and called the Praying Boy, now in Berlin. It was found at Pesaro in 1530 ; the pedestal on which the statue is placed is a bronze of the fifteenth century, and is adorned with delicate foliage and other compositions in relief. Around this room are cabinets containing small bronzes. In the first are votive offerings, arms, legs, &c., also a splendid head of an eagle and another of a horse.

The next cabinet contains images of Saturn and Jupiter ; one of these last with the arm extended is peculiarly fine. Several of the figures hold the sacrificial cup with the hollow in the centre for the finger ; there is a beautiful little statuette of Mercury in the act of running ; another, of the same subject, shades his eyes with his caduceus. In the third cabinet are also various small images of Venus and Cupid, a warrior bearing the peculiar shield usually belonging to the Amazons, and an Etruscan figure of Mars, which was found at Volterra.

In the fourth cabinet is a very beautiful image of an Amazon, as well as several figures of Hercules ; Bacchus seated, with grapes in his hand, and another of the same god crowned with grapes, of which he holds bunches in both hands.

In the cabinet at the end of the room is a curious life-like figure of an actor in a mask, he raises his hand to his forehead, as if gesticulating; likewise several small portrait busts and images of animals—serpents, fish, leopards, lions, &c. ; two lamps are remarkable; one resting on the back of a flying eagle, the other on a lion. The remainder of the cabinets contain sacrificial instruments and vases. There are several bronzes of the period of Decadence in Art, and others which belong to the Christian era.

Returning to the corridor, near the entrance to the rooms of original drawings and the window over the roof of the Loggia de’ Lanzi, is a fine copy of the Laocoon of the Vatican, by Baccio Bandinelli. A child with wings reposing on a tomb and holding poppies, is an image of Sleep.

Near it is a beautiful little altar, hollow at the top to receive the sacrifice, and dedicated to the Lares or household gods of Augustus. In the centre of the principal relief stands an augur, holding the Litmus or crooked staff of divination ; a partridge is at his feet ; on one side a priest, on the other a priestess, has the cup for libations ; below is an inscription ; on one side of the altar is a female figure with a horn and the cup or patera, and another female crowned with a wreath and also holding a horn, as well as a basket of fruit, probably signifying – Abundance ; on the other side is a winged Victory and trophy; at the back of the altar are two olive trees, a patera and jug, and a wreath of oak leaves and acorns.

On either side of the corridor are antique statues of merit and busts of the Roman emperors and empresses facing one another, some of which have considerable excellence and beauty, as works of art. The name of each is inscribed below.

The Sala delle Iscrizioni, next the Room of Portraits, leads into the Sala dell’ Ennafrodito ; the first is lined with valuable tablets, and monuments with inscriptions, and has some beautiful statues by Greek and Roman artists, especially the Bacchus and Faun; a beautiful statue of Urania; and the Mercury opposite. The inner room may, however, be said to belong more to Florentine art, since the lovely little antique torso of a Ganymede has been restored by Benvenuto Cellini ; the head, arms, and feet, as well as the eagle, are his work, and evince the hand of the goldsmith rather than that of the sculptor.

The genius of Sleep has also been converted by Benvenuto Cellini into a Cupid.

The torso of a faun at the farther end of this room is hardly less celebrated as a study for the artist than the famous torso of the Belvedere in the Vatican at Rome. There is a very lovely group of Cupid and Psyche in a corner to the left of the entrance. A head, called Alexander, is full of grandeur, but has an expression of anguish, which could hardly belong to the Macedonian hero, and successful conqueror. Over the door leading to the room of Genii is a colossal head of Jupiter Ammon. There are several beautiful reliefs high on the walls.

Returning to the corridor, at the farther end are two statues of Marsyas, facing one another. That to the left is antique, but part of the arms and the feet are supposed to have been restored by Donatello. Near it is a good bust of Crispina. The Marsyas opposite is also partly antique, but the head, arms, and shoulders were restored by Andrea Verocchio. A crouching Venus is a repetition of a statue in Rome ; the head, arms, and left leg are modern. Minerva, or Pallas Athene, a Greek statue nearly opposite, is believed to be a copy of the Trojan Palladium; the head, though antique, does not belong to the body, the right arm and part of the neck are modern.

A little altar, with three female figures in flat relief, is in very elegant sculpture, and below is a pedestal or candelabra dedicated to Mars.

The youth drawing a thorn from his foot is a good repetition of the celebrated bronze of the Capitol at Rome ; near it is a beautiful small bust of Annius Verus when a boy ; and beyond, is a large sarcophagus with the Fall of Phaeton in high relief. Phaeton is represented falling into the river Eridanus—the modern Po—and his sisters, the Heliades, are metamorphosed into poplars.

Near the door of the Tribune is a fine statue of Hercules, though in short proportions, thick, and muscular; it is a repetition of one in Rome ; there is also a good bust of the Emperor Trajan. A sarcophagus farther down this corridor has a relief, representing the history of Meleager, a favourite subject on early Etruscan tombs ; Meleager is represented killing the Calydonian boar, which had been wounded by Atalanta, to whom he resigned the skin when he married her. The hero having slain his mother’s brothers, she, in revenge, caused his death. A graceful statue follows of a Vestal Virgin ; her figure is half concealed by a veil, and the statue, except the left hand and the fingers of the right, which are restorations, is in a perfect state. Opposite is Ganymede, the cup-bearer of Jupiter, with the eagle ; a good statue, but unfortunately the marble has stains. The bust of the Emperor Titus, son of Vespasian, is a rare portrait. Near this is the Muse Urania; the drapery of this statue is remarkably well treated. Julia, the daughter of Titus, is a well-preserved and excellently-wrought bust. The bust of the Roman Emperor Otho was considered by Winckelman one of the best in existence, and the bust near it represents Nero, when a child beyond this is the portrait of Poppaea Sabina, the wife of Nero, celebrated for her beauty, and who instigated him to murder his mother and his first wife. A very good bust follows of Caligula young; the expression is characteristic of the man. There are several good statues of athletes and a Wingless Victory.

At the farthest end of this corridor is an interesting sarcophagus with a high relief, representing the life of a hero ; the sacrifice in the centre was probably studied by Raffaelle, for his cartoon of Paul and Barnabas at Lystra, unless both this Roman work and the design of Raffaelle were derived from a still nobler fragment of the same subject in Rome.

The vestibule at the head of the stairs leading to the Gallery contains several antique statues of merit—the celebrated Boar, which was copied in bronze by the Florentine Pietro Tacca for the fountain of the Mercato Nuovo; a Horse Rearing, supposed to have belonged to the Niobe group ; and two splendid dogs.

Outside this vestibule are busts of the Medici family from Cosimo, Pater Patrice, to Gian Gastone. Several statues of inferior merit are on the staircase.