CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Aus Vulkans Werkstatt: Meisterbronzen aus dem Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

From Vulcan's forge: master bronzes from the Rijksmuseum Exhibition: 7 April - 3 July 2006


Netherlandish (Arent van Bolten?)
Imaginary animal, ca. 1620
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum

From the museum website

Since classical times, precious marble and bronze have been considered to be the ideal materials for sculpture. In the sculpture and plastic art of the late Middle Ages, particularly in funerary monuments, they were regarded as materials of equal value. The rediscovery of the classical world and its sculpture in Rome during the 15th and 16th centuries opened up a completely new dimension to sculpture in the Renaissance. The finding of the Belvedere Torso and the Laocoon Group on the Colle Oppio and the Belvedere Apollo in Grottaferrata at the beginning of the 16th century, all three of which were displayed in the Vatican Belvedere, after which they were named, triggered a new wave of enthusiasm for the art of the ancient world in artists, art lovers and collectors alike. Works of art that were partly already known from descriptions in the works of classical authors could now be viewed at first hand, drawn and measured. Before long, engravings and copies of these works were made, ensuring that knowledge of them was rapidly disseminated. The most important works, including the three mentioned above, were acquired for the papal collections, where Pope Julius II had them put on display.

The collection of bronzes at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

The exhibition of bronze masterpieces assembled by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam surveys the development of bronze sculpture from the beginning of the 15th to the end of the 18th century. The earliest exhibits, which derive from Italy, are two bronze lions from Venice dating to around 1400. The origins of bronze casting in the Netherlands are illustrated by ten “weepers” or grieving figures from the tomb of Isabella of Bourbon by Jean Delemer from the middle of the 15th century. This collection, today one of the most important in the world, has been assembled over generations. Its origins lie in major private collections, many of which were acquired after their dispersal by the Rijksmuseum. That it has been possible to exhibit the extensive core holdings of this collection of bronzes in Vienna is due to the fact that the Rijksmuseum is currently undergoing a fundamental programme of restructuring which will not be completed until 2009 and which has necessitated the closing of major parts of its collections.

The encounter between north and south

The names of the master artists represented in the exhibition – from Andrea del Verrocchio, Antico, Giambologna, Antonio Susini, Pietro Tacca and Luigi Valadier, all of whom emerged from Italian centres of art, to Caspar Gras, Adrian de Fries, Willem van Tetrode, Johann Gregor van der Schardt, Hubert Gerhard, François Duquesnoy, Hendrick de Kayser or Gabriel Grupello, who came from northern Europe, convey the scope and field of tension reflected in the bronzes in this exhibition. Together with the bronzes that make up part of the permanent exhibition at the LIECHTENSTEIN MUSEUM, from Mantegna’s Marsyas, Adrian de Fries’ masterpiece Christ in Distress and his equally monumental St Sebastian to the recently-acquired busts by Pierre Puget, this exhibition affords the visitor a unique perspective on the world of the bronze sculpture of northern and southern Europe.

State of the art research and analysis

A series of bronzes from the Rijksmuseum was recently subjected to neutron radiography and neutron tomography, a non-destructive research method never before used on Renaissance bronzes. The results of this analysis will be shown at the exhibition in a documentary in English.

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