- Place of origin:
Anguier, Michel, born 1612 - died 1686 (artist)
- Materials and Techniques:
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
Europe 1600-1815, Room 5, The Friends of the V&A Gallery, case CA9 
This vibrant statuette of Neptune derives from a model that formed part of a set of six images of gods and goddesses commissioned from Michel Anguier in 1652. In 1690, they were described by Guillet de Saint-Georges, the first historian of the French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, with the evocative titles of ‘a thundering Jupiter, a jealous Juno, an agitated Neptune, a tranquil Amphitrite, a melancholy Pluto, … and a weeping Ceres’. They were created as pairs to represent the elements of air (Jupiter and Juno), water (Neptune and Amphritite) and earth (Pluto and Ceres, for which see inv. no. 85-1865), with the fourth element of fire lacking. A Mars also mentioned by Saint-Georges did not form part of the group.
Michel Anguier (1612/14-1686) was apprenticed to his father, Honoré, a woodworker in the French town of Eu, before moving to Paris to join the workshop of Simon Guillain in around 1629-33. He was one of a number of artists who moved to Rome, where he spent ten years from 1641, assisting the leading sculptors of the day, Gianlorenzo Bernini and Alessandro Algardi. The god of the sea is shown striding forward, and, like Bernini’s Neptune and Triton (also in the V&A, inv, no. A.18-1950), which must have been its inspiration, appears to represent the so-called ‘Quos Ego’ [‘Whom I’] from Virgil’s Aeneid. During the war between the Trojans and Greeks, the goddess Juno used the god of the winds to stir up a storm to kill the retreating Trojans. Neptune, angered by this intervention, calmed the waves by brandishing his trident and issuing the unfinished threat ‘Winds, do you dare, without my intent, to mix earth with sky, and cause such trouble, now? You whom I – ! ... But it’s better to calm the running waves:
you’ll answer to me later for this misfortune, with a different punishment.’ Neptune’s chariot was drawn by hippocamps or sea-horses, one of which writhes between his legs.
The early versions of these bronzes, possibly cast in the 1660s or 70s, incorporated hexagonal bases, and Neptune’s genitals were covered with flowing drapery, closer to Bernini’s marble. This version, with the square base and exposed genitals, suggests that it is a subsequent cast of around 1670-90 or possibly later, when the model had been adjusted. The surface was probably repatinated in the 19th century.
Anguier received the commission for this series of gods and goddesses after returning to Paris in 1651. In his later years, he lectured at the Académie Royale on a variety of subjects, notably including different expressions of anger (1675) and depicting gods through their temperaments (1676). He was not known as a bronze maker, and it is possible that he turned to a specialist founder to assist with reproducing his models as his large-scale commissions declined.
The figure of Neptune is striding over the waves, his head is turned to the right and is looking over his shoulder. The right arm holds a fold of drapery. Between his legs a seahorse rises from the rectangular base, which is modelled as the waves.
Place of Origin
Anguier, Michel, born 1612 - died 1686 (artist)
Materials and Techniques
Height: 51.5 cm, Weight: 17 kg, Width: 24 cm, Depth: 21 cm, Width: 21 cm Base, Depth: 16.5 cm base
Object history note
See Wardropper 2008/2009 for latest history of the group to which this bronze belongs.
Statuette, bronze, 'Agitated Neptune', after Michel Anguier, France, about 1670-90
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
Raggio, Olga, 'Sculpture in the Grand Manner: through groups by Auguier and Monnot' in Apollo, Nov. 1977, p. 368, fig. 12.
Charageat, Marguerite, 'La Statue d'Amphitrite et la suite des dieux et des déesses de Michel Anguier' in Société de l'histoire de l'art francais, Archives de l'art français, Nouvelle periode, XXIII, 1968.
Ian Wardropper, 'Michel Anguier. Les Bronzes' in Geneviève Bresc-Bautier and Guilhem Scherf (eds), Bronzes français de la Renaissance au Siècle des lumières, exh. cat. Musée du Louvre, Paris; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2008-9, Paris, 2008, pp.204-5, with earlier literature, and for the catalogue entry for another version (Washington, National Gallery of Art), pp.210-11, no. 57 (Ian Wardropper).
Ian Wardropper, 'Michel Anguier. The Bronzes' in Geneviève Bresc-Bautier and Guilhem Scherf with James David Draper (eds), Cast in Bronze. French Sculpture from Renaissance to Revolution, exh. cat. Musée du Louvre, Paris; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2008-9, Paris, 2009, pp.204-5, with earlier literature, and for the catalogue entry for another version (Washington, National Gallery of Art), pp.210-11, no. 57 (Ian Wardropper).
Warren, Jeremy, Beauty & Power: Renaissance and Baroque Bronzes from the Peter Marino Collection, London, The Wallace Collection, 2010, exh. cat. p.141, fig. 1
Atterbury, Paul, Heavenly Bodies: Sculptural Responses to the Human Form, Burghley House, Stamford, 2006