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Statuette - Nessus and Deianira

Nessus and Deianira

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    1635-1645 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Fanelli, Francesco (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dr W.L. Hildburgh

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This popular theme from ancient Greek mythology is one of the tales recounted in Ovid's Metamorphoses. Having offered to carry Hercules and his wife Deianira across the river Euenos, the centaur Nessus took advantage of the situation to ravish Deianira. Hercules, observing the scene from the river bank, drew his bow and fired an arrow, which pierced the centaur's chest.
Here Nessus is about to gallop off with Deianira on his back, while she puts up a fierce struggle, forcing the centaur to use both arms to restrain her.
Little is known about Francesco Fanelli (b: about 1577 - d: soon after 1641). Fanelli, a Florentine by birth, was documented in Genoa in 1608, where, until about 1631, he produced religious works in marble, silver, ivory and bronze. By 1635, he was working at the English court. Although he described himself 'sculptor to the King of Great Britain', it is unclear whether this title was official. The V&A owns versions of several small bronzes by the artist, described as 'ffrancisco the one-eyed Italian' in an inventory of Whitehall Palace in 1639. George Vertue stated that Fanelli 'lv'd and dyd in England'; he is last documented in 1641 and believed to have died soon after.

Physical description

Nessus the centaur is galloping away, both his hooves above ground, holding the naked and outstretching Deianira around her hips. She puts up a fierce struggle, forcing the centaur to use both arms to restrain her.

Place of Origin

London (made)


1635-1645 (made)


Fanelli, Francesco (maker)

Materials and Techniques



Height: 24.3 cm, Length: 19.1 cm

Object history note

Given by Dr. W. L. Hildburgh, F. S. A., 1953.

Historical significance: This is probably a version of the Centaur with a Woman mentioned by the engraver and antiquary George Vertue (1684-1756).

Descriptive line

Statuette, bronze, by Francesco Fanelli, Anglo-Italian, c.1635-45

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

Pope-Hennessy, John. 'Some Bronze Statuettes by Francesco Fanelli', in: The Burlington Magazine, XCV, May 1953, reprinted in: Essays on Italian Sculpture, London and New York, 1968, pp. 166-171
Avery, Charles and Keeble, K. Coray, Florentine Baroque Bronzes and Other Objects of Art, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, exhibition catalogue, 1975, pp. 20-21
Radcliffe, A. and Thornton, P., 'John Evelyn's Cabinet', in: , CXCVII, April, 1978, pp. 254-262, n. 38
Binnebeke, Emile von. Bronze Sculpture: Sculpture from 1500-1800 in the Collection of the Boymans-van-Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam, 1994, pp. 86-89, cat. no. 20

Production Note





Bronze; Myths & Legends; Sculpture


Sculpture Collection

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