MASTER OF THE UNRULY CHILDREN
These two terracottas represent a River God and a Bacchus and were conceived as a pair: the River God is shown reclining with his right leg extended and his left bent back whereas in the Bacchus this pose is symmetrically reversed. The treatment of the clay is animated, with deep incisions. Although the rear of the figures is modelled, they were made to be viewed from the front. The absence of air holes, their weight (6,4 kg [River God]; 5,9 kg [Bacchus]), and the inspection of their bases prove the figures to be solid and not hollowed out.
In the River God, the opportunity to examine its appearance before the application of the later layer of colour, enables us more easily to appreciate the sculptor’s extraordinary technique, evident in the marks left by his tools and his fingertips. The virtuoso, twisted, and serpentine composition is emphasized by the position of the right arm, resting on its elbow, recumbent on a rock with cascading water. This clearly identifies the sculpture as a River God, as does the vase pouring water and the powerful, shaggy appearance of the old man, who appears to be just emerging from the earth. He is distinguished by a thick beard with each hair modelled individually and resembling the roots of plants. It is an atavistic image of a sylvan deity that appears to spring to life from the earthen material from which it is made. The stalactite-like hair, the torrents of water pouring from the vase, the sharp edges of the rocks, and the painstaking definition of the most minute details attest to the artist’s great skill in modelling clay.
Provenance: Heirs of the Zalum family, Florence (probably Villa Gamberaia)