Inkpot

Tiziano Aspetti

Padova, 1559 – Pisa, 1606

Material: Bronze

Size: 25 cm high

review by gherardo turchi

A rare and precious bronze inkpot, made by master sculptor Tiziano Aspetti,in the first years of the seventeenth century.

He was born in Padua in 1559, son of Francesco and Ginevra de Vedutis, and received the first technical rudiments to work bronze in the family workshop.

He came from a family of distinguished artistic traditions: his grandfather Guido Minio, known as Lizzaro, was a specialist in bronze casting and his uncle Tiziano Minio was a plasterer and sculptor.

Tiziano Aspetti moved to Venice in 1577 where, thanks also to some family contacts, he had the opportunity to move to the service of Giovanni Grimani, patriarch of Aquileia, and a famous patron of the artists of that time. Tiziano worked under the patriarch’s protection for 16 years, therefore, unlike his contemporary Venetian colleagues, he spent most of his career as a court artist.

The rich collection of ancient and precious works of art, belonging to the Grimani family, was at the time an irresistible pole of attraction for any traveler visiting the Serenissima.(name with which Venice was called). The privilege of having spent his youth, and having worked not only as an artist but also as a restorer in such a flourishing and elegant environment, had a considerable influence on his work and on his extraordinary works of adulthood, in which it is possible to notice the reflections of such splendor.

Thanks to Grimani’s commissions, the echo of the sculptor’s fame quickly reached Padua too: two bas-reliefs depicting, respectively, St. Daniel dragged by a horse and the Martyrdom of St. Daniel, are from the early nineties, realized for the cathedral in Padua. Aspetti showed remarkable pictorial attitudes, and a strong vocation for the sculpture of bas-reliefs. Like his uncle, he was one of the few sculptors from Veneto interested in the Florentine technique of bas-relief sculpture, characterized by figures sculpted from very slight relief up to almost full relief.

He became well-known also in the city of Padua, and was called back to Venice then, to make various sculptural works. After 1604, he definitively moved to Pisa at the retinue of Antonio IV Grimani, nephew of Giovanni and bishop of Torcello, who was appointed Papal nuncio in Tuscany. The last years of Aspetti’s life, spent at the house of Count Camillo Berzighelli, were particularly productive. He created many bronze sculptures for various Tuscan commissioners, closely related to the Berzighelli family.

Some of these works, which unfortunately have been lost, can be traced through discovered documents describing them.  Although in the Veneto period the artist devoted himself mainly to bas-reliefs, and never to the creation of large three-dimensional sculptures, his Tuscan production of full-relief sculptures found only rivals in Giovanni Battista Caccini and in his contemporary Giambologna. This inkpot belongs to his Tuscan production.

Characterized by a particular three-sided pyramidal structure, the work starts from a large grooved triangular base, placed at the corners on three masks, and supported on the sides by leaves on which three putti are sitting and playing a trumpet, a transverse flute, and two small harmonic plates. Three male figures, seated at the three corners and above the masks, support the circular inkpot, adorned with vegetable festoons and three winged puttos , placed symmetrically above them.

The sculpture is completed on the top by a lid also sculpted in bronze, and depicting a standing child resting on the shoulders / supported by two other children and intent on making a dove flight, while a fourth child is sitting and watching the other three /the group from below. A further evidence that this inkpot is an Aspetti’s work, is because it is identical in comparison to both a pair of firedogs, found on the antique market in April 2017 and to another pair found on the international antique market in 2019. The first one is ascribed to the sculptor and has a pyramidal structure with some puttos on its base and a similar refined realization.

The objective comparisons with the works from the master’s workshop are irrefutable, so we place the inkpot in the catalog of unpublished works created by the artist himself; we only know two other inkpots made by him, respectively preserved at present in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and the Palazzo Venice in Rome, the latter one attributed to his workshop.  This work is in a perfect state of conservation and does not need restorations or additions.

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