Flemish school, ca. 1700

A Modello for a Relief, depicting a Putto riding a Lion

Although it has not yet proved possible to definitively establish the authorship of the present charming piece of sculpture, based on stylistic analysis there can be no doubt that it was made in Antwerp, around the turn of the seventeenth century. While the city was at that time no longer at the forefront of artistic production as far as painting was concerned, this was not the case for sculpture. Many extremely talented sculptors were trained in Antwerp throughout the second half of the seventeenth and even the eighteenth century. Many of these artists went to work in Holland, France or Germany, as there was more demand for their skills at the royal and imperial courts there, but their style – even though it was sometimes influenced by the local tastes and styles – readily betrayed their Flemish origins and training.

The present work bears some resemblance to the terracotta reliefs realized by Artus Quellinus the Elder as models (bozzetti) for the decorations for the Amsterdam town hall, although it is probably slightly later. There can be little doubt however that the present work, too, was intended as a modello for a decorative relief. The topos of a putto riding a lion is not unknown in Flemish sculpture; take, for example, the Cupid on a Lion by Mattheus van Beveren, which also can be dated to the last quarter of the seventeenth century (now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). The image of the putto subduing a ferocious lion embodies the notion that “love conquers all,” drawn from the Roman authors Ovid and Virgil (“amor vincit omnia”).

Artist: Flemish, probably Antwerp, ca. 1700
Medium: terracotta
Dimensions: height 27 cm