Fanelli is principally remembered today for his equestrian bronze statuettes. George Vertue wrote that he ‘had a particular genius for these works and was much esteemd in K Charles I time - and afterwards’. Evidence of their wider popularity is inferred by his statement that Fanelli sold them ‘to persons that were Curious to sett [them] on Tables cupboards shelves by way of Ornament'. They were instrumental in establishing the vogue for baroque sculpture in England.
Abraham van der Doort's inventory of the king's collection in 1639 listed three of his statuettes in the Cabinet Room at Whitehall, of which item 28 is listed as 'a little S George on horseback with a dragon by'. It was displayed in the same room as Raphael's famous painting of the same subject (now Washington N.G.), although Raphael's painting was not Fanelli's source. A more likely inspiration is Ludovico Ciamberlano's 1601 engraving of St. Cresence Killing a Dragon.
Fanelli modelled two basic variants of the St. George & the Dragon. In the first version, as the present group records, he adapted his model of the Leaping Horse, identified by its extended hind legs and more pronounced twist of the head, and added the figure of St.George who holds the lance in both hands. Examples of this first, more spirited version, are in the V&A, Welbeck Abbey and the Royal Collection. In the other version of St. George, Fanelli uses a different basic model known as the Rearing Horse, with contracted hind legs and the rider shown holding the lance in one hand and the reins in the other. Examples of this second variant are in the Holburne Museum, Bath and formerly Sylvia Adams Collection (Bonhams 23 May 1996, lot 63).
The typical naturalised base with flat rim is the same as that found on the version in the V&A (A.5-1953) and with Michael Hall, NY (no.B60).
Vertue, p.110; The Illustrated Bartsch, vol.44, no.71; Pope-Hennessy (1968), pp.166-171
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