Andrea Doria and Giannettino Doria
- Place of origin:
Leoni, Leone (artist)
- Materials and Techniques:
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 64, The Wolfson Gallery, case 12
In 1540, the quarrelsome Leone Leoni was sentenced to the papal galleys following a brawl. He was later released from slavery by Andrea Doria, who was a famous admiral of Charles V's imperial fleet, the ruler of Genoa, and a distinguished art patron. Leoni remained in his service until 1542 when he moved to Milan to work for the imperial mint.
One of the greatest men of war of his time, Andrea Doria's naval prowess fostered comparisons to the god of the sea Neptune (comparisons which Doria himself encouraged, notably in the works of art he commissioned). His adopted son and chosen successor Giannettino followed the same glorious tracks, as he captured the Ottoman Turkish corsair Dragut in June 1540. This is probably the event commemorated in this plaquette. Leoni represented both father and son poised in sea-chariots. Brandishing tridents, the attribute of Neptune, they control the stormy seas swarming with fantastical creatures
To the right, the profile of the triton blowing the trumpet resembles that of Leoni himself. In portraying himself with the Doria, Leoni would not only make a statement regarding his status as artist; it also suggests his gratitude towards his benefactor and patron. In the same years, Leoni had expressed his thankfulness in medal portraits of Andrea Doria, on the reverse of which he evoked his liberation from the galleys.
Bronze plaquette depicting the admiral Andrea Doria as Neptune guiding his son Giannettino Doria on a stormy sea swarming with fantastical creatures. At the top left corner, the inscription: ANDR.PATRIS.AVSPITIIS.ET / PROPRIO.LABORE.
Place of Origin
Leoni, Leone (artist)
Materials and Techniques
Marks and inscriptions
ANDR.PATRIS.AVSPITIIS.ET / PROPRIO.LABORE
Under the auspices of his father Andrea and by his own efforts
inscribed in relief on top left side
Height: 8.85 cm, Width: 7.65 cm, Depth: 0.65 cm, Weight: 0.16 kg
Object history note
Historical significance: This piece was created at a turning point of Leoni's career, after his papal disgrace and before becoming Charles V's favourite sculptor. Leoni became an influential sculptor whose works were sought across Europe. To the right of the plaquette, the profile of the triton blowing the trumpet ahead of the chariot resembles that of Leoni himself, which suggests the artist's gratitude towards his benefactor and patron. In the same years, Leoni had expressed his thankfulness in several portrait medals of Andrea Doria, on the reverse of which he evoked his liberation from the galleys (see Attwood, 2003, cat. 5-9).
Leoni skilfully conjured up in small scale the tumultuous waves of a stormy sea. His early formation as a goldsmith is evident in the attention to detail, particularly visible in the minute rendering of the waves, the sea-horses' manes and the supple anatomy of both Andrea and Giannettino. Their authority is evoked by their confidently poised attitudes amid spirited sea-horses and creatures swarming in the water, and the deft grading of the planes which lends further dynamism to the scene. The comparable attitudes of the figures, turned towards each other, and both framed by flowing draperies, underlines subtly their family link. Giannettino's strength and determination are further suggested by his profile aggressively thrust upward, his powerful jaw and confident posture. This iconography implies that the overall message is not only the celebration of the Doria but affirms Giannettino's status as successor of his adoptive father as ruler of Genoa.
The composition shows the influence Leoni’s contemporary Perino del Vaga. Cannata (1987, 67) links this plaquette to the (now lost) fresco The Shipwreck of Aeneas which adorned the walls of the Villa Doria in Genoa, as well as a drawing in the Ashmolean Museum, Neptune triumphant over the Waves (inv. no. WA1950.19).
This plaquette was cast in several copies (see Thornton, 2006, note 7), and could have been used to propagate the image of the two Doria as living gods of the sea.
It has been suggested that together, the set of three plaquettes may originally have been cast in precious metal or even engraved into precious or hard stones, designed to decorate a casket (Hill, 1929, 500), or perhaps an inkstand or a collector's cabinet (Thornton, 2006, 832).
Historical context note
In 1540, the quarrelsome Leone Leoni was sentenced to the galleys following a brawl during which he mutilated the papal jeweller Pellegrino di Leuti. After about a year as a galley slave, Leoni was released by Andrea Doria, famous admiral of Charles V's imperial fleet, and dictator of the Genoese republic. He remained in the service of Andrea Doria and his adopted son, heir and lieutenenant Giannettino Doria, until 1542 when he moved to Milan to work for the imperial mint, where his career flourished.
Andrea Doria's art patronage privileged the exaltation of his family. His commissions attracted the likes of Baccio Bandinelli, Sebastiano del Pimbo, Agnolo Bronzino and Perino del Vaga.
This object is one of three known plaquettes by Leoni celebrating the fame of the Doria. Its two companion pieces represent Giannettino Doria sacrificing and Andrea Doria between Peace and Fame (British Museum; see Thornton, 2006, figs 24 and 25). One of the greatest men of war of his time, Andrea Doria established his fleet as the dominant power over the Western Mediterranean and his naval prowess fostered comparisons to the god of the sea Neptune (comparisons which Doria himself encouraged, notably in the works of art he commissioned).
Andrea's chosen successor, Giannettino, certainly followed the same glorious tracks, as he captured the Ottoman Turkish corsair Dragut under his father's directions in June 1540. Hill (1929, p. 500) has established that this is probably the event commemorated in this plaquette, as both father and son are represented controlling the seas.
Giannettino, to the left of the plaquette, is identified by the Latin inscription 'ANDR. PATRIS.AVSPITIIS.ET / PROPRIO.LABORE' : under the auspices of his father Andrea and by his own efforts. This inscription has also been interpreted as identifying Andrea Doria as Neptune's son (see Molinier, 1886, pp. 19-20; Maclagan, 1924, p. 71; Pope-Hennessy, 1965, p. 27), but the clean shaven face of the foreground figure substantiates an identification to the son, since Andrea Doria had a long beard, as seen in the background figure. Clad in an antique armour and brandishing a trident, Giannettino is seated in a chariot drawn by sea-horses and surrounded by fantastical creatures. This figure is echoed in the background by that of his father, similarly poised on a chariot and wielding a trident. His nudity as well as the trident, attribute of Neptune, confirms that Andrea Doria is represented as a personification of the god of the sea. Likewise, Bronzino famously portrayed the admiral as Neptune in a painting now in the Pinacoteca Brera in Milan.(see Thornton 2006 for interpretation of the plaquette.)
Plaquette depicting Giannettino Doria guided by his father the Admiral Andrea Doria in the guise of Neptune, bronze, by Leone Leoni, Italy, 1541-42.
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
Inventory of Art Objects Acquired in the Year 1864, in Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, Arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition, vol I. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 56
Molinier, Emile, Les Bronzes de la Renaissance. Les plaquettes. Catalogue raisonné, vol. II, Paris: Rouam; London: Gilbert Wood, 1886, no. 352, pp. 19-20
Maclagan, Eric. Catalogue of Italian Plaquettes. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1924, p. 71
Hill, G.F., 'Andrea and Giannetino Doria', Pantheon 4 (1929), pp. 500-501
Pope-Hennessy, John, Renaissance Bronzes from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. Reliefs, plaquettes, utensils and mortars, London: 1965 p. 27, no. 75
Parker, K.T., Catalogue of the Collection of Drawings in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford: 1972, II, p. 31, no 731, pl. CLXIII
Cannata, Pietro (ed.), Rilievi e placchette dal XV al XVIII secolo, exh. cat., Rome: Palazzo Venezia, 1982, p. 67, no 60
Middeldorf, Ulrich, and Stiebral Dagmar, Renaissance Medals and Plaquettes. Catalogue. Studio Per Edizioni Scelte: 1983, LIII and LIV
Scher, S.K. (ed.), The Currency of Fame: Portrait Medals of the Renaissance, exh. cat. National Gallery, Washington and Frick Collection, New York, 1994, cat. 50, pp. 152-154
Toderi, Giuseppe and Toderi, Fiorenza Vannel , Placchete secoli XV-XVIII nel Museo Nazionale del Bargello. Florence: 1996, cat. 110 p. 68
Attwood, Philip, Italian Medals c.1530-1600 in British Public Collections, 2 vols. London: The British Museum Press, 2003, I pp.86-7 and nos 5-9 pp. 94-96, II, pl. I and 2
Thornton, Dora. 'A Plaquette by Leone Leoni acquired by the British Museum', The Burlington Magazine, Dec 2006, CXLV III, pp. 828-832, especially p. 828, n. 7, and fig 26, p. 829
Cuirass; Sea-horse; Trident; Chariot; Nereid
Metalwork; Sculpture; Plaques & Plaquettes