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Firedog - Venus Pudica
  • Venus Pudica
    de Levis, Giuseppe, born 1552 - died 1611
  • Enlarge image

Venus Pudica

  • Object:

    Firedog

  • Place of origin:

    Verona (made)

  • Date:

    1570-1600 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    de Levis, Giuseppe, born 1552 - died 1611 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Bronze. Quarternary alloy, with antimony and possibly silver.

  • Museum number:

    3011:0 to 8-1857

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 62, The Foyle Foundation Gallery, case SCREEN1, shelf WE, box FS []

This firedog, made by Giuseppe de Levis, in Verona in the late 16th century consists of nine pieces: a base, two mid, a triangular and a vase shaped part, a nut, washer and rod and a statuette which is the mythological figure of Venus Pudica (formerly called Juno, the logical pair to Jupiter).

These zones of interlocking figures, animals, grotesques and quasi architectural forms create a pyramidal structure which conforms to the design that was standard in the Veneto in the late 16th century.

Firedogs or andirons were placed within the fireplace and would have been used to hold utensials which were required for tending the fire. Often, firedogs do not even appear on inventories which indicates their status as standard household objects, not necessarily worthy of particular note.

This firedog is one of a pair (the other is 3012-1857, and crowned with Jupiter).

The sculptor Guiseppe de Levis (1522-1611-14) was born and died in Verona. He came from a large family of sculptors and bronze foundry men although he was by far the most successful. His works have been identified from the signature that he frequently cast on to his works: IOSEPH DE LEVIS IN VERONA MI FECE.

De Levis specialised in ornamental artefacts such as bells, mortars, inkstands, door-knockers and firedogs. For smaller figurines he was skilled enough to work alone but for more challenging and significant figures he would often collaborate with the sculptor, Angelo de Rossi. When working together, the sculptors would both sign the works. The V&A firedogs are signed by Giuseppe de Levis alone however.

Physical description

The Firedog consists of nine pieces: a base, two mid, a triangular and a vase shaped part, a nut, washer and rod and a statuette which is the mythological figure of Venus Pudica (formerly called Juno, the logical pair to Jupiter). These zones of interlocking figures, animals, grotesques and quasi architectural forms create a pyramidal structure which conforms to the design that was standard in the Veneto in the late 16th century.

The base is of open work decoration with a coat of arms in the centre surrounded by interlocking figures. The figures, which are intricately modelled and decorated, depict classical monsters, grotesques and foliate ornaments which are converging by degrees towards the single standing figure of Venus.

Immediately below the classical statuettes which form the pinacle of the structures, female sphynx like figures with elaborate Mannerist headgear and belts high up their bosom surround the vase shaped central section.

Place of Origin

Verona (made)

Date

1570-1600 (made)

Artist/maker

de Levis, Giuseppe, born 1552 - died 1611 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Bronze. Quarternary alloy, with antimony and possibly silver.

Marks and inscriptions

'JOSEPHO DI LEVI IN VERONA MI FECE'
Inscribed on the back

Dimensions

Height: 107 cm, Width: 61.5 cm, Depth: 51.3 cm, Weight: 27,708 g

Object history note

This firedog is one of a pair (the other is 3012-1857, and crowned with Jupiter). Bought in 1857 for £151 (for the pair), vendor unknown.

Historical significance: Guiseppe de Levis was born and died in Verona. He came from a large family of sculptors and bronze foundry men although he was by far the most successful. His works have been identified from the signature that he frequently cast on to his works: IOSEPH DE LEVIS IN VERONA MI FECE. In addition to his signature, de Levis also often dated his works which has allowed around 30 works to be clearly attributed to him. There was speculation that he may have been Jewish on account the way he signed his name, Jospeh de Levis, but this has been discounted since Rognini discovered that his family came from the village of Levo. The Latinized form of his name was considered normal at the time by people who were keen to elevate their positions in society if they were not originally of noble birth.

De Levis specialised in ornamental artefacts such as bells, mortars, inkstands, door-knockers and firedogs. For smaller figurines etc he was skilled enough to work alone but for more challenging and significant figures he would often collaborate with the sculptor, Angelo de Rossi. When working together, the sculptors would both sign the works. The V&A firedogs are signed by Giuseppe de Levis alone however.

In many of his works, and indeed on these firedogs, Giuseppe de Levis used a number of motifs such as sphinx like forms and sea horses. It is often difficult to tell how personal motifs are. It could be perceived that since we see motifs such as sea horses frequently on works by Giuseppe de Levi, that they could signify his handicraft when they appear on unsigned utensils. In reality, it is likely that they were common property of all of the founderies of the day. In turn, it is probable that artists borrowed such devices from one another.

Historical context note

Firedogs or andirons were placed within the fireplace and would have been used to hold utensials which were required for tending the fire. Often, firedogs do not even appear on inventories which indicates their status as standard household objects, not necessarily worthy of particular note.

The Firedog consists of nine pieces: a base, two mid, a triangular and a vase shaped part, a nut, washer and rod and a statuette which is the mythological figure of Juno. These zones of interlocking figures, animals, grotesques and quasi architectural forms create a pyramidal structure which conforms to the design that was standard in the Veneto in the late 16th century.

Descriptive line

Firedog, bronze, one of a pair, with a figure of Venus Pudica, by Giuseppe de Levis, Italy (Verona), ca. 1570-1600

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Mann, V.B., Gardens and Ghettos, The Art of Jewish Life in Italy, (University of California Press 1989), p. 287
Inventory of Art Objects Acquired in the Year 1857. 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. 19
Avery, Charles. "Giuseppe de Levis of Verona", in: Connoisseur, Vol 185, No. 744, Fev. 1974, p. 123-129
Motture, Peta. "The Decoration of Italian Renaissance hand-bells." In: Cume, S. and Motture, P., eds. The Sculpted Object 1400-1700. Aldershot, 1997, pp. 101, 108, n. 10
pp. 276, 278, 279, 290, 295
Motture, Peta. “The Production of Firedogs in Renaissance Venice”, in: Motture, Peta (ed.), Large Bronzes in the Renaissance, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 2003, pp. 276-307
Motture, Peta. “The Production of Firedogs in Renaissance Venice”, in: Motture, Peta (ed.), Large Bronzes in the Renaissance, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 2003, pp. 276-307
Avery, Charles, Joseph De Levis & Company: Renaissance Bronze-founders in Verona, Philip Wilson, London, 2016, pp. 14 and 131, figs 13, 23, 94 and 96

Materials

Bronze

Subjects depicted

Mythology; Arabesques; Terminal figures

Categories

Metalwork; Household objects; Bronze

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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