The Wallace Collection

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Cupid on a Dolphin
  • Attributed to Francesco Fanelli (1577 - c.1661)
  • Cupid on a Dolphin
  • London, England
  • c. 1635 - 1641
  • Statuette
  • Copper alloy (brass); hollow cast
  • Height: 12.6 cm
    Length: 8.6 cm, (base)
    Width: 5.8 cm, (base)
  • S85
  • Sixteenth Century Gallery
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • This diminutive yet very dynamic bronze statuette, where a blindfold Cupid precariously balances himself on the tail of a dolphin a mere moment before shooting his arrow, is considered the work of a Florentine artist, Francesco Fanelli, but was probably made in London in the mid-seventeenth century. Representations of a young boy (often a Cupid) on a dolphin were common in the Antiquity and were very popular during the Renaissance in Italy. However, the idea of a blindfold Cupid only dates from the Middle Ages and is linked to a negative interpretation of the dangerous nature of carnal love as well as to the identification of Cupid with Fortune.

    Born in Florence in 1577, Fanelli was in England from 1632 until c.1643 working for Charles I and private patrons. Numerous small-scale bronze sculptures, many of which involved an equine element, such as a Cupid on Horseback and a St George and the dragon, were mentioned in an inventory of the cabinet of King Charles I drawn in 1639 and attributed to “ffrancisco the one eyed Italian”. Fanelli’s models were very popular also with private collectors and probably had a pivotal role in the diffusion of a taste for small-scale bronzes in the country.

    The Cupid on a Dolphin, however, does not appear in the inventories of Charles I and the first mention of this model dates to the late eighteenth century, although a variant with the Cupid sitting on the dolphin appeared in 1685 on an English clock now in the V&A. Numerous versions of this model and the seated Cupid variant survive today in public and private collections. The documented models and S85 all share the same dynamism in the modelling and almost black lacquer and there are strong affinities in the anatomy of the Cupid figures.