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  - The Medici Lion

PIETRO SIMONI DA BARGA (documented 1571–89)

The Medici Lion

Bronze, verdigris patina all’antica
19.7 cm high, 33. 4 cm long, base, 4.5 cm high
 
Pietro da Barga is well documented copying ancient statues on a small scale in bronze and all of his extant recorded bronzes have an all’antica patina to resemble classical bronzes. Between the years 1574 and 1588 the Medici inventory for Rome lists bronzes by Barga after antique models which were unavailable to Cardinal Ferdinando and also after contemporary models, notably Michelangelo. Amongst those listed are the Laocoön and the Farnese Hercules. These examples, after two of the greatest antiquities then known, bear the distinctive green surface all’antica which at this specific time should be considered a hallmark exclusive to Barga.
On these and other grounds a firm attribution to Barga of the present work can be assured. Between 1570 and 1590 Flaminio Vacca (1538–1605) is known to have carved, as a pendant to an antique lion owned by the Medici, a second lion which was highly praised on its completion and subsequently placed in the Villa Medici in Rome, where it remained for two hundred years. Within the years 1574 and 1588 Barga was also working for Ferdinando, and must have known and associated with Vacca. The present Lion has a quality in facture identical with his fully documented bronzes that can be found in the Bargello.
One particular point to be noted is the similarity between the bottom of the plinth on which the Laocoön is set and the plinth which supports the present lion: in both cases we can see the workings of the original tools in the terracotta.

 
Provenance:
Possibly made for Cardinal Ferdinando de’ Medici, later Ferdinando I, Grand
Duke of Tuscany, for the Villa Medici on the Pincio Hill, Rome, c. 1575
 
Literature:
M. Hochmann, Villa Medici, il sogno di un Cardinale – Collezioni e artisti di Ferdinando de’ Medici, De Luca, 1999, p. 208–11, nos. 37–40, illus. pp. 209–11
 
Exhibitions:
SCULTURA - 15 OCTOBER - 1 NOVEMBER 2008, Catalogue no. 8. Williams Moretti & Irving Gallery, 24 East 80th Street, New York, 10075.