Francesco Fanelli's equestrian bronzes were highly celebrated in seventeenth-century England. George Vertue wrote that 'he had a particular genius for these works and was much esteemd in K Charles I time – and afterwards.' Fanelli's bronzes were instrumental in establishing the vogue for baroque sculpture in England. According to Abraham van der Doort's 1639 inventory of the Royal Collection, Charles I owned five statuettes by Fanelli, including 'a little S George on horseback with a dragon by.' The present bronzes, with their ornate 17th
-century English bases, provide excellent illustrations of the superb decorative qualities for which Fanelli's statuettes were so appreciated.
The rarer of the two bronzes is the Lion attacking a horse
. It is the only known example of this composition without the Turkish rider. The lion pelt on the back of the rearing horse suggests the horse from another one of Fanelli's equestrian groups, Cupid astride a horse
, was employed to create this variant. Saint George and the Dragon
exists in two principal compositions. The present bronze is taken from the first, in which Fanelli adapted his model of the Leaping Horse
, a work which can be indentified by its extended hind legs and pronounced twist of the head. St George leans backwards and is represented with both hands gripping the lance. Examples of this first type are in the V&A (inv. no. A.5-1953) and at Welbeck Abbey, with slight variations (op.cit.
Pope-Hennessy, p. 169, fig. 195). In his second variant of the subject of St George, Fanelli used his model of the Rearing Horse
, where the Saint leans forward, grasping the reigns of the horse with one hand, while lancing the dragon with the other. A cast of this model is in the Holburne Museum, Bath (op.cit.
Pope-Hennessy, p. 169, n. 23, fig. 193).
J. Pope-Hennessy, 'Some Bronzes by Francesco Fanelli', Essays on Italian Sculpture, London, 1968, pp. 166-71; P. Wengraf, 'Francesco Fanelli & Sons in Italy and London, on a Grander scale', European Bronzes from the Quentin Collection, exh. cat. The Frick Collection, New York, 2004, pp. 30-53; S. Stock, 'Fanelli, Francesco (b. 1577),' in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, 2004, online edn, Jan 2008; B. Van Beneden and N. de Poorter, Royalist Refugees. William and Margaret Cavendish in the Rubens House 1648-1660, exh. cat. Rubenshuis, Antwerp, 2006, pp. 198-199, no. 59