The artist who inspired these bronzes as well as the two similar statuettes Nos. 64 and 65, and who was the author of the terracotta, No. 60, is one of the outstanding figures of the Late Renaissance, ranking with equal distinction as sculptor and architect. He was the contemporary, rival, and foe of Michelangelo, to whom, nevertheless, Sansovino owed many borrowed traits of style. Born in Florence, he worked chiefly in Venice where, as architect, he rebuilt much of the city, and as sculptor carried out a large number of statues in marble, bronze, and terracotta, many of which still survive in the architectural settings he designed for his work.
Besides the larger operations on which he was en-gaged, he evidently found time to create the considerable number of small decorative sculptures which modern investigators confidently assign to him, or at least to influence directly a school of modelers who worked from his designs. Chief among the products of this school are many small bronzes intended for semi-useful purposes, of which the two pairs of monumental andirons in the Altman Collection are typical examples, evidencing the desire of the period for splendor and artistic quality even in the more prosaic details of household equipment. The pair surmounted by statuettes of Mars and Venus are perhaps less finished than works generally accepted as by Sansovino himself, but that artist’s inspiration is obvious both in the type of the figures and in the sumptuous variety of motives which are assembled to form the bases.