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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

IL PORCELLINO, 0.95 x 1.51 m


IL PORCELLINO (0.95 x 1.51 m) was recorded in the cortile of the palazzo of Paolo Ponti by Aldobrandi in his account of the ancient statuary of Rome published with Fauno's guide of 1556.

However, it is not recorded in the account published with Mauro's guide of the same year, 1556.

To later editions of Mauro's guide, however, THE PORCELLINO was added.

By 1598 THE PORCELLINO was in Florence, in the Palazzo Pitti, and by 1591 in the Uffizi.

It was damaged by the fire in the Uffizi in 1762 but was quickly restored.

Early accounts differ as to how THE PORCELLINO came from Rome to Florence.

Early accounts also differ as to how and where and when exatly it came to light in Rome.

But all early accounts agree that PAOLO PONTI found it and agree in thinking of it as the Calydonian Boar killed by MELEAGRO, an idea repeated by Gori in the eighteenth century.

According to LIGORIO THE PORCELLINO was excavated together with other figures which formed a hunting scene, and when THE PORCELLINO was displayed in the Uffizi in the late sixteenth century two dogs were placed near it, and it was confronted by the statue of a man who appeared to be attacking it.

This 'peasant' or 'soldier' -- one of the Medici statues destroyed by the fire of 1762 -- was also identified as MELEAGRO and had it seems been copied by ANTICO in the early sixteenth century.

The idea of grouping THE PORCELLINO with MELEAGRO is also found in the version which Nicolas Coustou made for Marly (and which is still to be seen there), but most copies show THE PORCELLINO alone, or accompanying another animal (at Chatsworth in Derbyshire the companion is a similarly seated wolf), and eighteenth-century cataloguers and travellers described THE PORCELLINO separately and tended to interpret it not as at bay with a hunter facing it but just alerted from indolence to the coming danger, 'as if in his den, angry, roused, half rising, and showing his formidable tusks.'

Thus was described by the exacting anatomist John Bell, who continued: 'His hair is stubby and clotted, his paws broad, coarse, and heavey, the whole finely expressing the growling ire kindling in an irritated animal.'

THE PORCELLINO is considered in Aldrovandi's day as one of the most statues in Rome -- PAOLO PONTI was said to have refused an offer of five hundred gold scudi for it -- and the praise of travellers for its naturalism was consistent throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

As well as being elaborated by Coustou, it was copied by FOGGINI for Luigi SIV.

This copy, now in the Tuileries Gardens) may be the one that Lalande described as tired when compared with the original.

But copies were, according to Northall's editor in 1766, 'in most collections of famous pieces of statuary'.

Some of these full-scale (as in the private eighteenth-century garden at Grimston Park in Yorkshire or in the nineteenth-century public arboretum in Derby), others were small -- in bronze, in ceramic, and in plaster.

A statuette, doubtless in the latter material, can be seen in the studio of Subleyras (in a painting of the 'Studio of the Artist in the Akademia der Bildenden Kuenst in Vienna).

THE PORCELLINO was far less attractive after the fire of 1792 (significantly it was not to be selected for removal to Palermo when the plunder of the French was feared), and it was probably by then already less familiar (as today it is far less familiar) to most visitors to Florence than the copy of it by Pietro Tacca which adorns a fountain in the Mercato Nuovo.

The bronze version was the subject of a short story by Hans Christian Andersen ostensibly inspired by a painting of a beautiful urchin lit by the lamp of a shrine of the Madonna as he slept by the animal's side.

Tacca's copy was commissioned by the Grand Duke Cosimo II (who died in 1621, but it was in fact only made shortly before 1634).

Its striking verisimilitude was said by Tacca's biographer Baldinucci to have been due partly to this checking a recently killed boar against the marble; and the sculptor's ingenuity in making a secret cast of the mouth was much admired.

The copy was set on a base covered with plants and animals, the worn-out original of which is preserved in the Lapidario of the Museo di S. Marco, having been replaced by the present base in 1857.

The nose of this bronze boar is, like the Spinario's foot, shiny with incessant handling, showing that few can resist the temptation (mentioned by Smollett of the orginal in the eighteenth century) to stroke the bristles.

THE PORCELLINO has been catalogued by Mansuelli as a copy of a Lysippic bronze.

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