NEW YORK CITY – The Frick Collection has announced the gift of a magnificent pair of bronze animal groups attributed to the sculptor Giovanni Francesco Susini, circa 1575-1653, from Walter A. and Vera Eberstadt. “Lion Attacking a Horse” and “Leopard Attacking a Bull” are the first late Renaissance bronzes from the Giambologna school to enter the collection and they will be on public view in the Living Hall of the mansion.
These beautiful sculptures, which exhibit the dynamism and technical refinement characteristic of Susini’s best works, are a remarkable addition to a collection known for the outstanding character of its Renaissance bronzes.
The Susinis will be displayed on the Frick’s pair of late Seventeenth Century marquetry pedestals from the workshop of Charles Andre Boulle. This new installation will highlight the importance of the Eberstadt’s gift and underscores the harmonious relationship between sculpture and decorative arts at The Frick Collection.
The works show predatory cats locking jaws on their prey and bringing them down. The pendant groups echo each other in elegant contrapuntal rhythm: the lion casts the horse onto its side, as the horse arches its neck backward, grappling the empty air with its hooves. The leopard, in contrast, thrusts the bull downward onto its front knees and it lowers it weighty head toward the ground. Such formal harmonies evoke deeper meaning, as one victim violently struggles against its fate while the other passively accepts it.
Probably executed in Florence between 1630 and 1640, these bronzes are final refinements to the paradigmatic compositions showing lions attacking horses and bulls that had been invented about 40 years before by Giambologna and the principal bronze caster in his shop, Antonio Susini. After inheriting Giambologna’s models, Antonio cast many examples of these extremely popular groups in bronze, a practice his nephew Giovanni Francesco continued. Although the Eberstadt “Lion Attacking a Horse” derives from these earlier models, the “Leopard Attacking a Bull” is believed to be Giovanni’s own invention.