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

Jupiter

  • 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. Quaternary alloy, with antimony and possibly silver.

  • Museum number:

    3012:1 to 9-1857

  • Gallery location:

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

Pairs of firedogs or andirons, such as this and its partner surmounted by Vulcan, were used to support logs for the fire. These highly decorated examples were popular in the Veneto from at least the sixteenth century, and continued to be made as long as the open fireplaces were in regular use. Some were clearly designed to complement the carved decoration on the stone or marble fire surrounds that they sat within. The crowing figures were usually paired male and female gods. Vulcan, being the god of fire, was particularly common, and he would normally be paired with his partner, Juno, accompanied by her attribute, the peacock. The crowning figure here was, therefore, until recently identified as Juno, but not only is the peacock absent, but she modestly holds her clothes to cover her femininity in the manner of Venus Pudica. This pairing, though unusual, is known in other settings.

Giuseppe de Levis was by far the most successful member of a family of bronze founders in sixteenth-century Verona. Several of his works have been identified from the signature that he frequently cast into them, in this case, IOSEPHO DI LEVI IN VERONA MI FECE. This manner of signing - Joseph di Levi - led to speculation that he may have been Jewish, but this has been discounted since Luciano Rognini discovered that his family came from the village of Levo. In addition to signing, Giuseppe often dated his works which has allowed around 30 to be firmly identified.

The de Levis foundry specialised in ornamental artefacts such as bells, mortars, inkstands, door-knockers and firedogs. Like other foundrymen, notably those working in nearby Venice, where there was an active bronze industry, Giuseppe was skilled enough to design and produce these decorative utensils, including the crowning figures, but for more challenging and significant sculptural works he often collaborated with the sculptor, Angelo de' Rossi, and some objects carry both their signatures. Giuseppe's style was clearly inspired by the work of Angelo and other contemporary sculptors active in the Veneto.

A number of motifs seen on these firedogs, such as the sphinx-like forms and sea horses, were typical of the de Levis foundry. They are often used to identify unsigned works as by Giuseppe or the de Levis foundry. When taken with other factors, it is quite likely to be the case, but such popular motifs would have been used by several foundries, particularly in the Veneto, and it is, therefore, not always possible to securely attribute utensils to a specific maker. From the 19th century onward, crowning figures were often separated from their firedogs so as to appear like statuettes, as this increased their appeal to collectors, and possibly, therefore, their value. Versions of Venus Pudica from this firedog, and its pair, Vulcan, were sold at Christie's, Paris, in June 2015, mounted on imitation marble socles.

Physical description

Firedog, created in sections and ornamented with arabeques and terminal figures. Surmounted by statuette of Jupiter. Cast-in signature at the back. "Joseph di Levi in Verona mi fece"

Place of Origin

Verona (made)

Date

1570-1600 (made)

Artist/maker

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

Materials and Techniques

Bronze. Quaternary 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 cm, Weight: 27,450 g

Object history note

This firedog is one of a pair (the other is 3011-1857, and crowned with Venus Pudica). Bought in 1857 for £151 (for the pair), vendor unknown.

Giuseppe de Levis was by far the most successful member of a family of bronze founders in sixteenth-century Verona. Several of his works have been identified from the signature that he frequently cast into them, in this case, IOSEPHO DI LEVI IN VERONA MI FECE. This manner of signing - Joseph di Levi, led to speculation that he may have been Jewish, but this has been discounted since Luciano Rognini discovered that his family came from the village of Levo. In addition to signing, Giuseppe often dated his works which has allowed around 30 to be firmly identified.

The de Levis foundry specialised in ornamental artefacts such as bells, mortars, inkstands, door-knockers and firedogs. Like other foundrymen, notably those working in nearby Venice, where there was an active bronze industry (see Victoria Avery, ...), Giuseppe was skilled enough to design and produce these decorative utensils, including the crowning figures, but for more challenging and significant sculptural works he often collaborated with the sculptor, Angelo de Rossi, and some objects carry both their signatures.

A number of motifs seen on these firedogs, such as the sphinx-like forms and sea horses, were typical of the de Levis foundry. They are often used to identify unsigned works as by Giuseppe or the de Levis foundry. When taken with other factors, it is quite likely to be the case, but such popular motifs would have been used by several foundries, particularly in the Veneto, and it is, therefore, not always possible to securely attribute utensils to a specific maker. From the 19th century onward, crowning figures were often separated from their firedogs so as to appear like statuettes, as this increased their appeal to collectors, and possibly, therefore, their value. Versions of Venus Pudica from this firedog, and its pair, Vulcan, were sold at Christie's, Paris, in June 2015, mounted on imitation marble socles.

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.

Descriptive line

Firedog, bronze, Jupiter, 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", 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. 278, 279, 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, 22, 94 and 95

Materials

Bronze

Subjects depicted

Arabesques; Terminal figures

Categories

Sculpture; Household objects; Bronze; Myths & Legends

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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