The Sculpture Museum - Catalog - Page 47
for figures above, but patches for holes. These may have been rectangular in the
first instance, having been formed in the wax casting model by iron rods passing
through by way of armatures to centre and secure the whole heavy casting when
invested with its core material and plaster cope.
The lower edges of the mound are pleasingly uneven and vary in thickness. At
the rear right corner an extra area of thickness is caused by a repair made with a
second run of metal. The model is probably taken from the same set of cleverly
designed piece moulds that were made by Antonio Susini when he executed the
several casts that he signed and dated 1613. The design here is virtually identical,
save for a few insignificant details.
Another variation, perhaps introduced to simplify the laborious process of
manually chasing every square centimetre of the surface, is the fact that the rope
with which the men are restraining the bull, by winding it round its horns, is here
rendered by a continuous length of spiral wire, whereas in the cast signed by
Antonio the length bound round and strung between the horns is cast on to the
curly crown of hair on the bull’s head. The bony ridge of the beast’s eyebrows and
the sharp breaks in the folds of the cloaks slung round the necks of Amphion and
Zethus, as well as the dress of the female in attendance, have been smoothed over,
again for ease of production. This sort of minor alteration indicates a later date
within the span of activity of the firm of the Susini, and points to the activity of
Gianfrancesco. Admittedly, the smoother, rounder feel of the piece may also be a
reflection of a change of taste in the early Baroque period, away from the stylized,
staccato, visual effect of Giambologna’s and – more pronouncedly – Antonio
Susini’s idiosyncratic technical handling.
Antonio Susini’s cast in the Galleria Borghese (no. CCXLIX) is inscribed: ANT.
II SVSINII FLOR.I OPVS/A.D.MDCXIII (on the base, between the feet of the man
with a rope) and it was noted in the Borghese collection as early as 1625 by Crulli
(Grandezze di Roma, 1625, p. 50v). Subsequent references in the eighteenth century
mention that the bronze was placed on a pedestal of ebony ornamented with
hard stones, which has since been lost. This and the virtually identical cast in the
Hermitage, St Petersburg (inv. no. 1210) are scrupulously careful reductions of
the monumental marble group and the reliefs round its base; the hypercritical
and perfectionist German critic Winckelmann (Monumenti antichi,  1830, V,
p. 23) noted on the Borghese statuette only a few discrepancies from the original.
Every tiny detail, each fingernail, for instance, is meticulously executed, while
extraordinary variety is achieved in the drapery patterns and rendering of texture.
The small work is a tour de force technically and offers a vocabulary of Susini’s
bronze finishing methods, which were highly praised by his contemporaries.