The Jupiter and Juno were part of a celebrated royal commission for a set of four bronze firedogs symbolizing the elements, for King Philip IV of Spain. Their subject matter, symbolic of regal omnipotence, is entirely fitting for a royal client. The commission was awarded in around 1649/50 to Alessandro Algardi, towards the end of the sculptor’s life, through the agency of the painter Diego Velázquez, who had been sent to Italy on a mission to buy works of art for the King, and with the close involvement of the king’s agent in Rome, Don Giovanni de Cordova. Although no documentary evidence for the commission itself has yet been found, it is described in some detail by Algardi’s early biographers Giovan Pietro Bellori and Giovanni Battista Passeri (Bellori 1672, p. 399; Passeri 1934, pp. 209-10; see also Montagu 1985, no. 129; Warren 2016, nos. 129-30). Algardi completed models for the Jupiter and Juno and was able to supervise the casting of the first examples before his death. However, for the other two bronzes in the sequence, Neptune and Scylla and Cybele, the full-size models had to be subsequently completed by his assistants, as we learn from a recently discovered contract (Cueto 2011).
The original commission was for two casts of each model to be made for Spain. The first casts of the Jupiter and Juno were put on a ship to be sent to Spain in March 1654 but were delayed by storms outside Civitavecchia. Further contemporary reports implied that they were subsequently believed to have been lost in a shipwreck near Genoa. Four casts (two each) of Algardi's Neptune and Scylla and Cybele however definitely arrived in Cartagena and Alicante in November 1655 (Redin Michaus 2017, p. 194). Whatever may have happened to the first consignment, two casts each of the Jupiter and Juno unquestionably did reach Spain at an early date, since seven of these sculptures, two of each model and a single Jupiter, were placed on the so-called Fountain of Neptune in the gardens of Aranjuez, probably in 1662. Only one Jupiter was ever installed on the fountain, as may be seen from a drawing by John Werden in the diary of Edward Montagu, 1st Earl of Sandwich, who visited the gardens in Aranjuez a few years later, in 1668. An engraving made in 1707 shows the seven sculptural groups, a Neptune set high on a central pillar, and six others, whilst Antonio Ponz’s detailed description, from later in the eighteenth century, confirmed that there were still at this date seven sculptures, two examples of each group, with the exception of Jupiter.
Four of the sculptures from the Fountain of Neptune have since been lost. Today only a single example of the Neptune and Scylla and both the versions of the Cybele survive (Herrero Sanz 2008, nos 18-19; Redin Michaus 2017, nos 23-24). These have been recently removed from the fountain and are due to be replaced by copies. One Juno disappeared sometime between 1804 and 1931. The surviving examples of the Jupiter and Juno disappeared in around 1939, presumably stolen, but were fortunately photographed beforehand.
The second Jupiter in the Spanish royal collections appears to have had an independent history from the beginning. It is first recorded in 1666 in the Alcázar palace in Madrid, when it is described in an inventory as ‘Una estatua de Júpiter de bronze, con sus figuras desnudas que sirven de peana’ (‘a statue of Jupiter in bronze, with nude figures serving as a support’). The sculpture is subsequently again recorded in inventories of the Alcázar in 1681 and in 1686. It survived the fire that destroyed the Alcázar in 1734 and was again recorded by Antonio Ponz, around 1770, as in the Buen Retiro palace in Madrid. This is the last reference to the second Jupiter firedog.
The new version of the Jupiter firedog constitutes a highly important discovery. It is the finest example of this model to have emerged, with fresh and vivid modelling in areas such as the eagle, the celestial globe and the rocks with their vegetation. In these areas it is superior to the early documented version in the Wallace Collection, which might nevertheless also be a Roman cast made in the workshops of Algardi’s successors, but perhaps one of the casts made to meet subsequent demand, especially from France. It provides the closest link known to the commission as it was conceived in the early 1650s, when Alessandro Algardi was working on the Jupiter and Juno firedogs during the last months of his life.
The complete essay written by Jeremy Warren, DLitt, M.A., F.S.A. is available upon request
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