Antico at the Frick Frick Collection Reveals Classic Skills in Sculptures by Antico (Photos)
A touring survey of Antico's statues at the Frick Collection in New York reveals the artist's bronzes as tremendously intimate things, never bigger than a foot or two high--which only concentrates their power, and forces our closest attention. The exhibit opens May 1.
Artistic Perfection, Up Close
By Blake Gopnik
"Couldn't a child of 6 have done that?"
"Whatever happened to skill?"
"Why can't anyone portray people anymore?"
"Does art always have to be ugly and tough?"
For anyone who has ever asked such questions (and modern art's force depends on all of us asking them, sometimes) there's guaranteed pleasure in the art of the Renaissance sculptor known as Antico. He made absolutely gorgeous bronzes that no child -- and only a genius adult – could ever match, that are the apotheosis of the craft of modeling and casting, and that capture human bodies and faces with a wonderful precision and a classical grace that, when Antico was working in about 1500, was the most avant-garde thing to be doing.
A touring survey of his statues opens at the Frick Collection in New York on May 1. It will present 36 of Antico's works, which is something like three-quarters of all that survives by his hand. Antico's bronzes are tremendously intimate things, never bigger than a foot or two high, and often much smaller than that. That only concentrates their power, and forces our closest attention. A proper look at this Web gallery should leave noseprints behind on the screen. Hercules
Made in about 1499, there's something lovely about this powerful hero being captured in an object that's just a foot high.
The Apollo Belvedere was unearthed in Rome in 1489, and soon became famous as the most beautiful object to come down from antiquity. Antico was the first Renaissance artist to make a version of it, in Mantua in about 1495.
Meleager was the great hero and huntsman of classical myth who died of a curse in his bed. Here, he's still absolutely alive, but missing the spear Antico would once have made sure he was holding.
Marcus Aurelius on Horseback
A giant equestrian bronze of the great philosopher-emperor had stood in Rome ever since antiquity. Antico's version gives intimacy to a monument without reducing its force.
A Seated Nymph
Antico didn't simply copy from classical artworks; he tried to bring new pieces to life in their spirit. The truth is, the attempt always led to objects that were distinctly and wonderfully of his own time.
Hercules and Antaeus
The Greek hero Hercules once came to grapple with the giant Antaeus, whose strength derived from the ground. (His mother was the earth goddess Gaia.) To win the fight, Hercules lifted Antaeus right in the air, then squeezed the life out of him. Illustrating this violent scene gave Renaissance artists the perfect excuse to demonstrate their knowledge of the naked male body, and to rejoice in it.
1996-2001 AccuSoft Co., All rights reserved Bust of A Young Man
Antico and his Renaissance colleagues realized, maybe better than we do, that ancient art was as much about exquisite realistic detail as bold idealization. Antico lavished tremendous care to make his bust's silvered eyes look alive.
The Egyptian queen now seems completely 16th-century in Antico's image of her, although his patrons might have seen her as the picture of classical beauty. The piece dates from about 1525, three years before Antico's death, yet evokes the art of his youth.
The most beautiful hero of the Trojan War seems almost too pretty for his own good, in Antico's version. (The gold dot in his hand is the apple he awarded in the famous beauty contest among the godesses of Olympus.)