Allegory of Envy (Invidia)

Florence, second half of the 17th century

Provenance: John Postle Heseltine, London; Alfred Spero, London 1922; Emil Delmár, Budapest; Ernő Wittmann, Budapest, before 1927, from September 1938 transferred with the entire collection to England on loan to Bristol Art Museum; Michael Jaffé, Cambridge; heirs of Michael Jaffé. On loan to Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge 1999–2016 (Inv. AAL.12-1999: “Anonymous, first half of 17th century”).

Bronze, h. 29 cm


Wilhelm Bode: Die italienischen Bronzestatuetten der Renaissance, Berlin 1907, I, p 22, pl. XXIII [Bartolomeo Bellano]; Wilhelm Bode, The Italian Bronze Statuettes of the Renaissance, London-Berlin 1907, I, p. 22, pl. XXIII [Bartolomeo Bellano]; Adolfo Venturi Storia dell’arte italiana, VI la scultura del Quattrocento, Milan 1908, p. 494 note [attribution to Bellano rejected]; Paul Schubring, Die Italienische Plastik des Quattrocento, Berlin 1919, p. 212 [Bartolomeo Bellano]; Leo Planiscig, Venezianische Bildhauer der Renaissance, Vienna 1921, p. 94 and fig. 90 [Andrea Riccio]; Frida Schotmüller, Bronze statuetten und geräte, Berlin 1921, p. 108 [Bartolomeo Bellano]; Wilhelm Bode, Die italienischen Bronzestatuetten der Renaissance, Berlin 1922, p. 26, pl. 16 [Bartolomeo Bellano]; William G. Constable, The Heseltine Collection of Bronzes and Majolica, in «The Burlington Magazine», XLI, November 1922, pp. 251-252 [Italian XVII century?]: Louise Gordon-Stables, A Famous Array of Bronzes, in «International Studio», LXXXVI, March 1923, pp. 492- 494, illustrated [attributed to Bellano]; Leo Planiscig, Andrea Riccio, Vienna 1927, p. 92 figs. 86-87 [Italian XVI Century]; Ernst Kris, Zum Werke des Pierino da Vinci, in «Pantheon», III, 1929, p. 96 [Pierino da Vinci]; Leo Planiscig, Piccoli bronzi italiani del Rinascimento, Milano 1930, p. 43 [Pierino da Vinci]; Martin Weinberger, review of: L. Planiscig Piccoli bronzi italiani del Rinascimento 1930 in «Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst; Kunstchronik und Kunstliteratur», 3, 1931, p. 54 [XVII century]; Simon Meller, Dr. Wittmann Ernő kisplasztikai gyűjteménye, in «Magyar Művészet», 1934. 8. 235–242. [Pierino da Vinci]; Ragna Enking, Andrea Riccio und Seine Quellen, in «Jahrbuch der Preußischen Kunstsammlungen», 62, 1941, pp. 80-82, fig.6 [Andrea Riccio]; Manfred Leithe-Jasper, Beiträge zum Werk des Agostino Zoppo, in «Jahrbuch des Stiftes Klosterneuburg», 24, 1975, 9, pp. 125-126 [Florentine late-Mannerist, probably Orazio Mochi. Verbal opinion by Michael Jaffe and Anthony Radcliffe]; James D. Draper in Wilhelm Bode, The Italian Bronze Statuettes of the Renaissance, revised edition, New York, 1980, p. 90, pl. XXIII [Invidia (?) Probably Central Italian, about 1630]; Emile von Binnebeke, entry in Bronssculptuur/Bronze Sculpture. Beeldhouwkunst 1500 - 1800 in de collectie van het Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam 1994, p. 135; Sándor Juhász, Adalék Wittmann Ernő és gyűjteménye történetéhez, in «Ars Hungarica», 41, 2015, p. 18.

The first known mention of the work dates to 1907 when it was published by Wilhelm Bode, specifying that it belonged to the London businessman, painter and collector John Postle Heseltine (1843-1929), celebrated for his collection of drawings and bronzes. It is not known where Heseltine acquired the sculpture but we know that by 1879 he already possessed a notable quantity of bronzes and medals. In 1922, Heseltine ceded his entire collection of small bronzes, amounting to over sixty works, to the celebrated dealer Alfred Spero who organised an exhibition-sale in his gallery at 35, King Street, an exhibition that was to achieve renown in the press (the Illustrated London News dedicated an antire page to illustrating works from the collection).
By 1927, when it was published by Leo Planiscig, the bronze was certainly in the collection of Ernö Wittman in Budapest (1881-1963), but Ernst Kris noted that earlier and evidently for a brief period it had been in the collection of Emil Delmár, again in Budapest. The Delmár and Wittman collections were the most prominent in pre-war Hungary and both shared the same fate of emigrating in 1938. In that year, Wittman moved his collection from Hungary to Bristol, on loan to the local museum.
The bronze subsequently reappeared in the collection of Michael Jaffé (1923-1997), for many years director of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and an eminent Rubens scholar. Following his death, in 1999 his heirs loaned the bronze to the Fitzwilliam Museum, where it was to remain until 2016.

This unusual subject, a "one-off" in European sculpture as far as we know, has provoked much discussion also regarding its identification. Bode was the first to suggest that it represented a "Witch" (Hexe), followed by Schubring (1919), Schottmüller (1921), Planiscig (1921), Meller (1934). Subsequently, in 1927, Planiscig himself proposed that it was an "allegory of hunger", followed in 1929 by Ernst Kris who saw it as the figure of an old woman seizing a bone from the dog beside her.
The subject should in fact be identified as Envy (Invidia) often represented as an old woman with sagging breasts and accompanied by a dog. A consolidated iconography from Cesare Ripa´s Iconologia describes her as "an old woman, badly dressed... with a lean dog beside her". A sophisticated detail, that escaped the attention of those studying the bronze, hidden on the rocky base, is a footprint, a reference to Apollo defeating Envy as described by Callimachus in his Hymn to Apollo, or in the variant, which does not appear to have classical origins, in which Apollo charges Hercules with driving Envy from the Temple of the Muses, as seen for example in the painting by Rubens on the ceiling of the Banqueting House in Whitehall, or in the engraving by the Meastro de Dado, taken from Baldassare Peruzzi.
Rarely has a bronze in a private collection generated such a vast bibliography, which includes the most prominent experts in the field of the early 20th century, and just as rare are such a broad array of proposed attributions and disagreements surrounding the dating of the work, proposals that nevertheless singled out some of the most celebrated sculptors working in bronze.
Wilhelm Bode, the first to publish the bronze in 1907, proposed an attribution to the Paduan sculptor Bartolomeo Bellano, advanced again in 1922 and accepted by Paul Schubring (1917) and Frida Schottmüller (1921). Bode himself, while noting that the bronze might appear to belong to the Baroque era, reiterated its connection with Hecate in the Berlin museum assigned by Bode to Bellano. The first dissent was expressed in 1908 by Adolfo Venturi who, in a note in his Storia dell´arte italiana (VI, 1908, p. 494), described as "questionable" some of Bode´s attributions to Bellano, including that of the Heseltine bronze. It was Leo Planiscig who put forward the name of Andrea Riccio in his Venezianische Bildhauer of 1921, again for its purported affinity with the Hecate which he attributed to the sculptor, an attribution reiterated in 1941 by Ragna Enking.
On the occasion of the exhibition in Alfred Spero´s gallery in 1922, a review by William Constable noted that the bronze "by Bode definitely given to Bellano" was given "by others to the seventeenth century".
In 1929, a new attribution was proposed by Ernst Kris, the first to suggest the authorship of Pierino da Vinci. In this case, the comparison was with the bronze representing Envy in the von Auspitz Collection (now, Rotterdam, Museum Boymans van Beuningen, recently attributed to the Vicentine sculptor Lorenzo Mattielli, working in Dresden in the first half of the Settecento). Leo Planiscig, who in his monograph on Riccio of 1927 had revised the bronze to "Italian XVI century", accepted Kris´ proposal in Piccoli bronzi italiani del Rinascimento of 1930. In a highly critical review of the book, Martin Weinberger rejected the attribution of both bronzes, dating them to the seventeenth century. The attribution to Pierino was still upheld in an article of 1934 by Simon Meller on the Wittman Collection.
In 1975, Manfred Leithe-Jasper proposed assigning the bronze to a Florentine late-Mannerist, perhaps Orazio Mochi according to a notification by Michael Jaffé and Anthony Radcliffe, while in a revised edition of The Italian Bronze Statuettes of the Renaissance, published in 1980, James D. Draper considered it "Probably Central Italian, about 1630".
The theme of Envy in Florence and a possible attribution
The difficulty on the part of critics in reaching a correct attribution for the present bronze is in part due to the uniqueness of the subject, although recently a dating prior to the seventeenth century has been excluded. In fact, we can attempt to locate its origin more specifically in Florence, both for stylistic reasons and for the subject itself, which enjoyed a certain popularity there.
By the 1620s, the artist from Lorraine, Jacques Callot, had produced in Florence a series of engravings devoted to the Seven Deadly Sins, which according to Félibien derived from the work of the Florentine painter Bernardino Poccetti. Later, in 1656, Salvator Rosa introduced the figure of Envy into the frontispiece executed for a series of engravings dedicated to his friend Carlo de´ Rossi. It was evidently a reference to his satire Envy, written between 1652 and 1654 and published posthumously in 1695 with other Satire by the painter, which were however in circulation during Rosa´s lifetime, and indeed resulted in controversy and slander. They must have been especially well-known in Florence where Rosa, on his return from Rome, maintained close correspondences, particularly with his friend Giovanni Battista Ricciardi. In 1770, the poet and scholar Anton Maria Salvini (Florence 1653-1729) published an edition he had also annotated of the Satire, but the theme of envy is recurrent in Salvini´s work. In his funeral oration for Agostino Coltellini (1693), Salvini named envy as the most damaging of the passions that afflict man and dedicated to it no fewer than nine sonnets that were published in 1728. It should also be recalled that Salvini translated Callamachus´ Hymns, which included the Hymn to Apollo already mentioned in which the god defeats Envy. The close relationship between Salvini and the Florentine sculptor Antonio Montauti (1683-1746), confirmed by a series of letters written by the scholar to his friend between 1707 and 1718, have given rise to the hypothesis that the present bronze might be attributed to him, and a comparison with the marble bust portraying Antonio Magliabechi executed by the sculptor in 1725 (Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale), with its exaggerated realism taken to extremes shows certain affinities with the figure of Envy in the present bronze. An engraving showing Magliabechi, taken from Antonio Montauti, appears as the frontispiece to the first edition of Salvini´s funeral oration for Magliabechi, published in 1715.
Partial research in the archives of Montauti´s patrons have yet to confirm this proposed attribution; it should be pointed out that to date, Montauti remains one of the least studied Florentine sculptors, partly due to the serious lacuna caused by the sinking in 1734 of the ship that was carrying the chests filled with the sculptor´s furniture, tools, and models from Livorno to Rome.
Thus leaving this hypothesis to be verified, we can conclude by mentioning evidence of the presence in Florence of sculptures depicting themes similar to our own.
Thanks to a letter written around 1727 to Teresa Guasconti, prioress of the Minime Ancille del Conservatorio della Quiete by the secretary of the Electress Palatine Anna Maria Luisa de´ Medici, who in 1724 had commissioned from Antonio Montauti a bronze group representing the Prodigal Son, (Detroit, The Detroit Institute of Art), we learn that she had two terracottas depicting a vice and a virtue placed in her bedchamber.