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Sculpture - Sleeping Cupid

Sleeping Cupid

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    1635-1640 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Fanelli, Francesco (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Cast bronze

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 56, The Djanogly Gallery, case 10 []

Object Type
The bronze is signed underneath with a single F, while another version in a private collection in England is marked FFF, representing the sculptor's name and city of origin (Florence). The monogram was added in the wax before casting. This signed Cupid is rare and of high quality, but Fanelli's bronzes were reproduced in some numbers, of varying quality, even after his death.

Fanelli was born in Florence. He worked in Genoa, using marble, ivory and silver, as well as bronze, before coming to England in the early 1630s. Although he was said to have 'livd and dyd in England', it has sometimes been assumed that he left the country at the outbreak of the Civil War. The recent discovery of his baptismal records, revealing his birth date of 1577, make it more likely that he died around 1641, when he was last documented.

In the late 16th century, the sculptor Giovanni Bologna (1529-1608, active in Florence), and his followers were responsible for a significant output of sophisticated and high quality statuettes. These were dispersed throughout Europe and Charles I inherited a group from his elder brother, Henry, who died in 1612. They doubtless influenced both the King's taste and Francesco Fanelli's production.

Materials & Making
Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin, though its exact content can vary. Fanelli's 'bronzes' actually appear to be brass, which is a copper-zinc alloy, with a dark lacquer applied to the surface.

The lost wax method of casting is a complicated procedure that creates a bronze sculpture using a wax model taken from the original design. In Fanelli's workshop, waxes were cast in moulds taken from individual elements of the original, which could have been made of clay or wax. By assembling the wax sections slightly differently, Fanelli was able to produce variations of the same composition.

Physical description

The sleeping cupid lies on a lion, his right hand under his head, which rests against his left arm.

Place of Origin

London (made)


1635-1640 (made)


Fanelli, Francesco (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Cast bronze

Marks and inscriptions

Signed under the base


Height: 11.1 cm, Width: 12 cm, Depth: 24.7 cm

Object history note

Made in London by Francesco Fanelli (born in Florence, Italy, 1577, last documented 1641).

Based on a marble ascribed to the ancient Greek sculptor Praxiteles, acquired by Charles I.

Bought at Christies's, 8 King Street, 9 December 1980, Lot 200, for £3,568.

Descriptive line

Statuette, bronze, Sleeping Cupid, by Francesco Fanelli, Anglo-Italian (London), ca. 1635-40

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

Pope-Hennessy, John. 'Some Bronze Statuettes by Francesco Fanelli', in: The Burlington Magazine, XCV, May 1953, pp. 157-62
Van Binnebeke, Emile. Bronze Sculpture: Sculpture from 1500-1800 in the collection of the Boymans-van Beuningen Museum. Rotterdam, 1994, pp. 132-133, cat. No. 38
Howarth, D. 'Charles I, Sculpture and Sculptor's'. In: A. MacGregor (ed.), The Late King's Goods, Oxford University Press, London & Oxford, no. 3, p. 93, fig 45
no. 279
Chambers, David and Martineau, Jane (eds.), Splendours of the Gonzaga : Catalogue, London : Victoria and Albert Museum, 1981

Labels and date

British Galleries:

Records show that small bronzes like these stood on the windowsills of important rooms in Whitehall Palace. Charles I admired Italian statuettes, having inherited an important group from his elder brother, Prince Henry (1594-1612). He went on to buy the famous Gonzaga collection of antique sculpture for £10,000. [27/03/2003]


Sculpture; Myths & Legends


Sculpture Collection

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