The Detroit Institute of Arts debuts an exhibit on early Italian Renaissance bronze sculptors

Hercules and Antaeus by Antonio del Pollaiuolo is one of four Italian Renaissance bronze statuettes on display at DIa through March 3, 2024 // Photo courtesy of DIA

The Detroit Institute of Arts debuts “Guests of Honor: Masterpieces of Early Italian Renaissance Bronze Statuettes,” a history-making exhibition that showcases four Italian Renaissance bronze statuettes from the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, marking the first time these four statues have been exhibited together as a quartet and on view in the United States.

This special presentation, on view through March 3, 2024, builds on a decade-long collaboration between the cities of Detroit and Florence, as well as the DIA and the Bargello Museum, a relationship that dates back more than 50 years.

“DIA is thrilled to continue our close relationship with the Bargello Museum and the city of Florence and deepen the display of our impressive Italian Renaissance collection by offering a one-of-a-kind viewing experience,” says Salvador Salort. Pons, director of the DIA.

“Providing exceptional experiences to the residents of Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties, as well as to all of our visitors, is a top priority at the museum. In addition, the opportunity to include educational materials as part of the exhibition ensures that our school and senior groups get a full and unique experience.”

The four Florentine and Mantuan bronzes, all from the 15th century, include The fighter by Andrea del Verrocchio; Hercules and Antaeus by Antonio del Pollaiuolo; Orpheus plays music by Bertoldo di Giovanni; and Eros draws a bow by Pier Jacopo Allari Bonacolsi (known as Antico).

The works illustrate the transformations that are hallmarks of the early Italian Renaissance. The figurines convey themes of love, death, heroism, beauty, strength and serenity.

The pieces are exhibited alongside the important DIA bronze statuette from the same period, Judith by Pollaiuolo, in a large pedestal box in the center of the museum’s Early Renaissance Tuscan Gallery, which allows close-up viewing in a circle.

Accompanying these five masterpieces are major works from the DIA’s own collection of Italian Renaissance sculpture, including works by Donatello, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Luca and Andrea della Robbia, Benedetto da Maiano, and others; Italian paintings by Fra Angelico, Sassetta, Benozzo Gozzoli, Neri di Bici and others, as well as early Italian Renaissance furniture in majolica and walnut marquetry.

“We are delighted to partner with the Detroit Institute of Arts as we foster a unique alliance that values ​​Italian Renaissance art,” said Dr. Paola D’Agostino, director of the Museo del Bargello. “The DIA’s impressive existing collection provides an ideal setting to share these extraordinary masterpieces with the American public, and we could think of no better institution for their US debut.”

This DIA “Guests of Honor” exhibition is part of a long-standing cultural relationship between Detroit and Florence that began nearly 60 years ago. After the disastrous 1966 flood of the Arno River, which damaged or destroyed thousands of rare books and masterpieces of art, Henry Ford II and Christine Ford of Detroit, along with many patrons of the DIA, raised money for critical disaster relief.

Over the decades, the DIA has collaborated with various museums and colleagues in the Italian city, resulting in several ground-breaking international exhibitions organized jointly by the DIA and the Florentine museums. They include: The Sunset of the Medici: Late Baroque Art in Florence, 1670–1743. (197374); Italian Renaissance sculpture at the time of Donatello (198586); and Magnificence! The Medici, Michelangelo, and the Art of Late Renaissance Florence (20023).

The present exhibition is organized by Alan P. Darr, Senior Curator of the Department of European Art and Walter B. Ford II Family Curator of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at the Detroit Institute of Arts, in collaboration with Dr. Benedetta Mattucci, Curator of Musei del Bargello and Orsanmichele.

About works on loan

The fighter (c. 1464-70), attributed to Andrea del Verrocchio, a prominent Florentine sculptor from the Medici court, was inspired by a famous ancient Roman marble group. The subsequent development of the art form is represented by the masterpiece of Antonio del Polaiolo Hercules and Antaeus (late 1460s – early 1470s); it is the first two-figure Renaissance bronze statuette intended to be seen in the round.

of Bertoldo di Giovanni Orpheus plays music (ca. 1471) is also among the first bronze compositions to use the dynamic spiral-figure form (serpentine figure), which encourages the viewer to admire the statuette in the circle.

While the first three artists were leading, influential Florentine sculptors active at the Medici court, a contemporary parallel for these pioneering bronzes is found in nearby Mantua with Eros draws a bow (1496) by Pier Jacopo Allari Bonacolsi (Antico). With their exquisitely finished and exquisitely gilded surfaces, Antico’s bronze sculptures were prized as incarnations of the ancients.

“The four early Italian Renaissance Bargello bronze statuettes on display with our masterful Pollaiuolo Judith are jewels of the early Italian Renaissance era, shining examples of how these artists mastered bronze sculpture,” said Alan P. Darr, Senior Curator of the Department of European art and Walter B. Ford II Family Curator of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

“I am honored that our close relationship with the Bargello Museum and the Friends of the Bargello, as well as other major Florence museums, has led to this wonderful, memorable presentation, allowing our audience to see the exceptional works and their nuanced and beautiful details up close and in a circle.”

For more information about the exhibition, visit here.

There is also a public lecture called The invention of the statuette in the Renaissance and why it matters”, which will be held in DIA on 27.01.2024 from 2-3 pm in the city hall.

Marvin and Betty Danto Lecture Hall.

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