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Rider Killing a Bull Damiano Capelli Francesco Fanelli (previous attribution)


Damiano Capelli documented, Florence between 1662 and 1688

Francesco Fanelli (previous attribution) Firenze, 1585 körül – 1661

Culture Italian
Date ca. 1675
Object type sculpture
Medium, technique bronze

28 × 27 × 23.5 cm
with base: 39 × 40 × 26 cm

Inventory number 59.4
Collection Sculpture
On view Museum of Fine Arts, Second Floor, European Sculpture 1350-1800, Gallery 2

The undiminished fame of the sculptor Giambologna during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was due mainly to the small bronzes made after his works. For generations, his pupils and followers kept the master’s models, from time to time casting them in bronze. Damiano Capelli was one of those who began his career in Giambologna’s former workshop in the third generation after the master’s death. Little is known of his life. Filippo Baldinucci, a biographer of Italian Baroque artists, records him as an able bronze caster. Before opening his own establishment Capelli worked under Ferdinando Tacca, who followed his father Pietro in Giambologna’s Borgo Pinti workshop. Only five signed works by Capelli have survived, all of them small bronzes finished to an extremely high standard; four depict hunting scenes (Alain Moatti Collection, Paris), and two of them are variants of the small bronzes in Budapest. (see also inv. no. 59.3)

Certain details of Capelli’s hunting bronzes, such as the rearing and galloping horses, the boar and the stag, appear in a similar form in works by Giambologna, and later by Pietro and Ferdinando Tacca, and the idea of representing hunting scenes may have been stimulated by the hunts of which the Medici family and their circle were so fond. One of Capelli’s contemporaries, the draughtsman and etcher Stefano della Bella, was commissioned by the Medici to make a unique series of prints on this theme. Yet the small bronzes reflect not only the hunts, but also the animal fights similarly popular in Florence – an indispensable part of every important public spectacle there. In these events, frightened animals, which were usually far from aggressive, were set upon by horsemen armed with spears or swords, in an attempt to provoke them to fight. The men would sometimes don oriental-style costume to lend greater colour to these barbaric spectacles.

Text: © Miriam Szőcs

Catalogue entry

The Flemish sculptor, Giambologna (1529–1608), was popular throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, owing primarily to the small bronze reductions of his sculptures. His pupils and his fellow sculptors preserved the working models of the master for generations. After minor or major alterations, they were cast in bronze again and again. Damiano Capelli was one of the artists who began their careers in the Florentine workshop of Giambologna, which was still thriving three generations after the death of the master. Little is known of Capelli’s life. Filippo Baldinucci (1625‒1697), the biographer of Italian baroque artists, noted that Capelli had been a skilled bronze-caster. Prior to opening his own workshop in 1662, he had worked with Ferdinando Tacca (1619–1686), who had followed his father, Pietro Tacca (1577–1640), in Giambologna’s workshop in the Borgo Pinti district of Florence. Only five signed works by Capelli have survived, each of them being a very high-quality bronze statuette. Four of these statuettes portray a hunting scene (in private collection, New York). From these four compositions – depicting the hunting of a lion, a stag, and a wild boar, as well as a bull fight – variants of the latter two are to be found in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest. Some details visible on these bronze statuettes depicting hunting scenes, such as the rearing and galloping horses, the wild boar, and the stag can be seen in similar form in the works of Giambologna, Pietro and Ferdinando Tacca, but the hunting scenes may also have been inspired by the popularity of the hunt among members of the Medici family. A contemporary of Capelli, Stefano della Bella (1610–1664), devoted a whole series of etchings to this theme, having been commissioned by the Medici. But hunting was not the only inspiration for the bronze statuettes. Animal fights, similarly popular in Florence, were a further impulse. Such events formed an indispensable part of any major festival in the Tuscan towns. The mostly frightened animals were lured into a fight by men on horseback armed with darts, spears, or swords. To enhance the effect of the barbaric spectacle, the men sometimes wore clothing that imitated oriental styles – as it is visible on the bronze statuettes in Budapest. Depicting an extremely vivid scene, the Bull Fight is considered one of the most beautiful baroque bronze statuettes of the period. For a long time, this bronze and the other hunting scenes were considered to be works by Capelli’s master, Ferdinando Tacca. Today, however, it is regarded as almost certain that the complex compositions were Capelli’s own invention. Miriam Szőcs


Balogh, Jolán, Katalog der ausländischen Bildwerke des Museums der bildenden Künste in Budapest, IV – XVIII. Jahrhundert: 1. Textband Bd. 1, Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 1975, p. 180., no. 243.

This record is subject to revision due to ongoing research.

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