The Prince of Liechtenstein’s bronzes exhibited at the Kugel Gallery


1. Massiliano Soldani-Benzi (1656-1740)
Venus Plucking the Wings of Cupid,
c. 1718-1719
Bronze -
41.5 x 29.5 x 22 cm
Wien, Liechtenstein Museum
Photo : Liechtenstein Museum

14/9/08 — Exhibition — Paris, Galerie J. Kugel — In 2004 the Liechtenstein Museum opened its doors in Vienna. Over the last few years the Prince of Lichtenstein had become more active in his acquisitions policy, making him one of the most important European buyers of classical art.
The bronzes are one of the museum’s strong points, as the collection was first started under the reign of Prince Karl I von Liechtenstein (1569-1627) who had acquired two life-size pieces by Adrian de Vries, a Christ of Sorrows and a Saint Sebastian (not exhibited). Recently, the following entered the collections (see news item of 28/10/07) : a Bust of Pope Alexander VII by Domenico Guidi and a Marsyas after Pierre Legros (not exhibited) ; more recently still, a Venus Plucking the Wings of Cupid (ill. 1) which we had not talked about yet. The bronze is by Massimiliano Soldani-Benzi, a late 17th and early 18th century Florentine sculptor who specialized in this technique and was particularly appreciated by the Princes of Lichtenstein. Visitors to the Galerie Kugel will also see a large number of works by this sculptor with very original red-gold patinas which are characteristic of his art. Prince Johann Adam Andreas Ist commissioned several of the bronzes exhibited here directly from him, including one, Young Bacchus Clipping Cupid’s Wings, which was sold at the end of the 19th century but reentered the Lichtenstein collections again in 1978.

2. Bertoldo di Giovanni (vers 1440-1492)
The Peltaste, Shield Bearer,
c. 1470-1475
Bronze with remains of fire-gilding - H. 23 cm
Wien, Liechtenstein Museum
Photo : Galerie Kugel

3. Giovanni Francesco Susini (1585-vers 1653)
David with the Head of Goliath, c. 1625-1630
Bronze with matt brown varnish on red-gold patina - H. 30 cm
Wien, Liechtenstein Museum
Photo : Galerie Kugel


The oldest bronze (its companion piece is in the Frick collection) is by Bertoldo di Giovanni (ill. 2) who was Michelangelo’s master, but one of the best-known works is Saint Sebastian, perhaps a Marsyas originally, which some specialists ascribe to Mantegna himself. Here it is cautiously attributed to the artist’s circle. This masterpiece was acquired in 2001.
Among the most important bronzes, there is a Saint John the Baptist by Jacopo Sansovino (acquired in 2001), an Equestrian Statue of the Great Duke Ferdinand II de Medicis by Pietro Tacca with the head of Czar Peter the Great added later (acquired in 2005) and also David with the Head of Goliath by Giovanni Francesco Susini (ill. 3) of which another replica is held in the Robert H. Smith collection which was recently donated to the National Gallery in Washington as a promised gift (see news item of 4/6/08).

We would like to finish by pointing out the excellent staging of the exhibition and the very interesting catalogue which, even if the notices are brief, contains beautiful reproductions and is the only work existing in French devoted to this collection.

Version française


Didier Rykner, dimanche 14 septembre 2008



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