In his first years in Italy, Duquesnoy embarked on an intensive study of ancient sculpture. It is certainly this knowledge that drew Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), after his arrival in Rome in 1624, to the Fleming. The two began to collaborate closely, studying not only antiquities, but also Titian’s Ludovisi Bacchanals. Duquesnoy’s well known sculptures of putti belong to the period around mid-1620s and reflect the sculptor’s intense study of Titian’s work
It was apparently Filippo Colonna who introduced the sculptor's work to Pope Urban VIII (1623-1644). Duquesnoy is recorded among the artists employed in the making of models for Bernini’s Baldacchino, a project on which he continued to work for several years. His contributions led to the prestigious commission of the colossal St. Andrew at St. Peter’s, which established his international reputation.
This fine bronze statuette is a reduction of a 76cm high marble statue by Duquesnoy carved in Italy about 1625 and now in the Staatliche Museum, Berlin. It appears to be inspired by an etching (inv 2012.136.75.3) from Odoardo Fialetti's Scherzi d' Amore, showing Cupid carving a new bow to replace the one confiscated and later broken by his mother, Venus. Joachim von Sandrart, the sculptor's friend, negotiated the sale of the marble to the wealthy Flemish art collector, Lucas Van Uffel, who was living in Venice at that time. Van Uffel brought the marble statue back to Holland, and after his death in 1637 it was purchased by the city of Amsterdam and presented as a gift to Princess Amalia of Orange. The Princess took the statue to The Hague, and after her death in 1689 it entered the collection of King Frederick of Prussia and was highly appreciated by contemporaries.
Cupid's head, presumably taken from a terracotta model for the figure, is known in several versions. The best of these, widely given to the sculptor's hand, is in Brunswick (Berger, Krahn, op.cit., no. 105). We know little of Duquesnoy's activity with regards bronze, though Bellori records his small scale models of putti which were made to be reproduced in copper and silver. Bellori also records a bronze Mercury and Cupid made for Vincenzo Giustiniani, and a figure of Apollo; the finest versions of the Mercury and the Apollo, generally accepted as being by Duquesnoy himself, are in the Liechtenstein Collection (see Krahn, op.cit., pp. 502-505, nos. 181, 182). Another fine cast of this bronze was sold in these rooms on 26-27 January 2006, lot 481 for $144,000.
U. Berger, V. Krahn, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum Braunshweig, Bronzen der Renaissance und des Barock, Brunswick, 1994, pp. 143-146, nos. 104, 105;
V. Krahn (ed.), "Von Allen Seiten Schön", Bronzen der Renaissance und des Barock, exh. cat., Berlin, 1995-1996, p. 126. no. E31, p. 498, no. 179;
A. Bacchi (ed.), Scultura del '600 a Roma, Milan, 1996, plate 323, pp. 796-799;
Marion-Boudon-Machuel, Francois du Quesnoy, 1597-1643, Paris, 2005.
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