Tuesday 18 September 2018

Francesco Fanelli - Portrait busts and other works (Part 2).

Francesco Fanelli. 

The Portrait Busts and other works (Part 2).

Some further notes and Illustrations.

This blog post continues on from my previous post.

For a quick overview see Sculpture at the Court of Charles I in Sculpture in Britain 1530 - 1830, Margaret Whinney, Revised by John Physic, pub Pelican, 1988.

The Infant Hercules Wrestling with Two Serpents.

The attribution of the model to Francesco Fanelli was first proposed by Charles Avery and Anthony Radcliffe for the cast formerly in the collection of Baron Hatvany. This attribution is supported by a “Design for a Fountain with the Infant Hercules” in Fanelli’s Varie Architetture (Antwerp, n.d.), related to the sculptor’s involvement in the Italianate gardens for Queen Henrietta-Maria’s new palace at Wimbledon, begun in 1639.

The bronze can moreover be compared with a Sleeping Cupid, ca. 1635-40, signed by Fanelli in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (inv. no. A.2&2-1981) (see entry below).

see -

E. van Binnebeke, Bronze sculpture: Sculpture from 1500-1800 in the Collection of the Bojmans-van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam, 1994, pp, 132-33, no. 38.

V. Avery, J. Dillon, Renaissance and Baroque Bronzes from the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, London, 2002, pp. 168-71 and 271-73.

The Infant Hercules Wrestling with Two Serpents
Francesco Fanelli
27 cms.
Sotheby's London Lot 104 - 6 July 2007

The modelling of this dramatic composition shows that it was intended to be appreciated from a number of different viewpoints. It depicts the Infant Hercules wresting violently with the two serpents sent to kill him in his sleep by the vengeful Hera. Hercules' agonised expression recalls the faces on the Laocoon group in the Vatican and the Infant Hercules killing a snake in the Tribuna of the Uffizi and captures the innate strength of the mythical hero even as a young child.

The model is known in a number of different casts of varying quality and detail. Examples are in the Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Vienna, the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge and the Boymans-van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam, the latter being a particularly fine cast.

Until the early 1980's the model was successively believed to be Italian, 16th century (Bode), Venetian, 16th century (Planiscig), Florentine, 16th century (Leithe-Jasper) and Netherlandish, 17th century (Draper).

The viability of an attributuion to Fanelli was first raised by Avery and Radcliffe in 1980 which was expanded upon by Emil van Binnebeke in 1994 when he catalogued the version in Rotterdam as by Fanelli, the Florence-trained, Genoa-based sculptor who worked for King Charles I in London during the 1630's and early 1640's.

The basis for Binnebeke's attribution, which is undoubtedly correct, rests on its close similarity to one of the fountain designs (illustrated by Avery op.cit.) that is included in Fanelli's book of engravings, the Varie Architeture. (see below) The designs are plausibly believed to relate to his involvement in the ambitious Italianate garden complex for Queen Henrietta-Maria's new palace at Wimbledon, begun in 1639.


Related Literature

E. van Binnebeke, Bronze sculptrue. Sculpture 1500-1800 in the collection of the Boymans-van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam, 1994, pp.132-33, no.38;

V. Avery and J. Dillon, Renaissance and Baroque Bronzes from the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, 2002, no.223, pp.168-171 and 271-273

Text and photographs courtesy Sotheby's.



Francesco Fanelli

collection of the Boymans-van Beuningen Museum.


Hercules and the Serpents
Height 20.5 cms
Bequeathed Percy Moore Turner, 1951.

Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge



Francesco Fanelli 
Height 21 cms.

with London Sculpure dealer Benjamin Proust September 2018.




Infant Hercules Wrestling Two Serpents
Francesco Fanelli
Height 34 cms.

Image courtesy KunstHistorische Museum Vienna.



The Infant Hercules Wrestling Two Serpents
Francesco Fanelli
Height 21.6 cms

1968, Ildebrando Bossi, Genoa; 1968, sold by Bossi to the MFA. (Accession Date: September 11, 1968)

The John Goelet Decorative Arts Special Fund

Museum of Fine Art Boston.



Infant Hercules wrestling two Serpents
Attrib. Fanelli
Height 21 cms
Lawrence's Fine Art
Lot 2493 - 20 January 2017


Sleeping Cupid
Francesco Fanelli
Width 12 cms.

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.


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


© Victoria and Albert Museum, London.



Chiswick Auctions, London - Lot 232 - 21 June 2016.

leaning on a rocky outcrop draped with a cloak, looking over her right shoulder,
12cm high x 17cm wide


Charles Avery is a specialist in European sculpture, particularly Italian, French, English, Flemish and Dutch. A graduate in Classics at Cambridge University, he obtained a Diploma in the History of Art at the Courtauld Institute and a doctorate for published work from Cambridge.

Having been Deputy Keeper of Sculpture at the Victoria and Albert Museum for twelve years (1966-79), and a Director of Christies for ten years, since 1990 he has been a highly respected, independent historian, consultant, writer and lecturer.

His books include ‘Florentine Renaissance Sculpture’, 1970, ‘Giambologna the Complete Sculpture’, Phaidon, 1987, ‘Donatello: An Introduction’, John Murray, 1994; ‘Bernini, Genius of the Baroque’, Thames and Hudson, 1997 (paperback, 2006),  and ‘The Triumph of Motion: Francesco Bertos’, 2008.

Purchased by Dr Avery from the Adams Collection, Bonhams, 23 May 1996, lot 55.

This unusual, portrait like statuette was previously thought to have been associated with the work of Guglielmo della Porta. A red wax relief by Della Porta and Manno Sbarri (Florence, 1494-1553) depicting the Infant Hercules includes a similar nude female figure in kneeling position over a draped raised surface (see Trinity Fine Art exhibition, New York, 2009, no. 5). However the coiffure modelled in the present statuette is consistent with the 1630's and the casting recalls the technique of Fanelli.

Text and photographs above from saleroom.com


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