Images of cats from the British Museum collection, £9.99
Diameter: 8.500 cm
Bequeathed by Richard Payne Knight (1827)
Room 46: Europe 1400-1800
Bronze tripod with three nude female figures by Pierino da Vinci (about 1531-54)
Florence, Italy, about AD 1540-50
Recreating the classical nude
Richard Payne Knight (1751-1824) once owned this tripod, the function of which is unknown. Payne Knight believed that it came from ancient Rome and so it had a natural place in his important collection of ancient bronze sculpture. The collection was bequeathed to the British Museum in 1824, but it was not until the end of the nineteenth century that scholars realized that it was made in sixteenth-century Italy as an exercise in the classical style.
Pierino da Vinci, a nephew of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), attained great fame during his short lifetime for his artistic invention and skill. He was greatly influenced by ancient monumental sculpture, which he studied in Rome, and by the work of his contemporary, Michelangelo. Here he has created a sophisticated, highly original piece of table sculpture, to be admired in the round when held in the hand. The beautifully modelled, sensuous nudes appear to dance around the tripod beneath the projecting scrolls. His pen and ink design for this bronze survives in the British Museum. The finished object follows the design very closely.
Charles Avery, Studies in Italian Sculpture (London, Pindar Press, 2001)
J. Warren, Renaissance master bronzes fro (London, 1999)
J. Fenton, Leonardos Nephew: Essays on Ar (London, Viking, 1998)