Peace And War By Alessandro Vittoria – Venetian, 1525–-1608

These figures of Peace and War, or perhaps of Abundance and Athena, together with their rich bronze bases, formerly formed part of andirons similar to the complete pair, Nos. 55 and 56, on the opposite wall of this gallery. The Peace and War, however, show a more finished handling than the Mars and Venus and are as fine as any bronzes of the period. In the Bargello in Florence and in the collection of J. Pierpont Morgan are andirons ornamented with replicas of these figures but with different bases; and if the ascription of the second of the two pairs (shown in Figs. 28 and 29 of Vol. II of The Italian Bronze Statuettes of the Renaissance, by Wilhelm Bode) be correct, the Peace and War in the Altman Collection are also the work of Alessandro Vittoria, the closest pupil of Sansovino. For his master Vittoria did a large amount of architectural and decorative sculpture, and he is ranked as the best of the late Venetians who changed the High Renaissance into the Baroque. It is not easy to differentiate the fluid style of these later masters, but the superior merit of this pair of fire-dogs fully justifies their attribution to Vittoria himself, while it makes almost equally defensible the attribution to Sansovino, as whose work they have often been regarded. Vittoria was the sculptor of the terracotta portrait of Simone Contarini, typifying another phase of this artist’s manner, which was purchased by the Museum two years ago.

The earlier taste for allegory still survived at the end of the Cinquecento, but chiefly as an excuse for giving names to works of art which were otherwise without very definite characterization. The vague way in which the attributes of these two symbolical figures are assembled indicates how much more interested the sculptor was in making graceful statuettes than in expressing an idea, although he could not yet quite bring himself to disregard the traditional insistence on a title and a meaning for his work. The color of these two figures is typical of the patina and added charm which age and careful usage bring to the surface of bronze.