The Wallace Collection

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Juno controlling the Winds: 'Air'
  • Alessandro Algardi (1602 - 1654) , (model)
  • Juno controlling the Winds: 'Air'
  • France
  • c. 1655 - 1680 (cast)
  • Firedog
  • Quaternary brass copper alloy. Cast in sections, the parts socketed, then pinned, screwed or soldered together. Marble pedestal.
  • Fire-dog and marble pedestal, Height: 227 cm
    Firedog, Depth: 56.3 cm
    Firedog, Width: 59.1 cm
    Pedestal, Height: 100.3 cm
  • Inscription: ·Nº·298·
  • S162
  • Billiard Room
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Together with its pair, S161, these firedogs are reproductions of models originally designed in 1649-50 by Alessandro Algardi for a set of firedogs for Philip IV of Spain (1605–1665).

    Born in Bologna, where he trained under Lodovico Carracci, Algardi moved to Rome in 1625, where he rapidly established himself as the principal rival of Gian Lorenzo Bernini as a portrait artist. From the 1640s, Algardi began working for the Pope and after the election of Pope Innocent X (1644), he replaced Bernini in papal favour. His style, tempering the realism of the High Baroque with a strongly classicising vein was particularly popular in France.

    The Goddess is here represented seated on her symbolic animal, the peacock, and on a sphere representing the inchoate world, in turn supported on rocks resting on the shoulders of the Winds. In some creation myths, the Winds had conspired with the Titans, defeated by Jupiter in the other group (S161), against the Olympian gods.

    The general inspiration for the main figures can be found in universally acclaimed classical representations of the two gods, the Giustiniani Jupiter and the Cesi Juno, both then in Roman collections.

    According to Algardi’s biographer, Alessandro Bellori (1613-1696), it was the painter Diego Velàzquez (1599-1660) during his sojourn in Rome who commissioned the firedogs. A second commission followed, left unfinished by the master and completed by two of his assistants, for a second pair of groups representing Neptune and Cybele. The four groups where then adapted to serve as fountain decorations representing the Elements (Jupiter: Fire, Juno: Air; Neptune: Water and Cybele: Earth), and sent to the royal residence at Aranjuez, near Madrid. There they remained until the end of the Second World War when they were stolen and disappeared.

    The circumstances of the commission and the fact that the second set was not completed by Algardi himself might explain why only the first set, with Jupiter and Juno, was replicated outside of Spain.

    The groups were particularly popular in France, where Algardi enjoyed great fame throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and where silver versions were documented in the posthumous inventory of Cardinal Mazarin already in 1661. These casts are now lost, but it was probably through Mazarin’s versions that the model became popular in France.

    Today, only four sets survive, and ours is generally considered to be the finest. The groups can be traced back at least to 1689 when they were recorded in the inventory of the Grand Dauphin. After the death of the Grand Dauphin in 1711, the sculptures entered the royal collection, as the royal inventory numbers ‘297’ and ‘298’ inscribed on the back of their bases still demonstrate.

    In 1785 Queen Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) ordered them to be brought from the Château de Meudon to her apartments at the Trianon and it was probably here that the sculptor Houdon (1741-1828) repatinated them and repaired the broken arm of Jupiter.

    After the Revolution, the firedogs were used in 1796 as a payment to the citizen de Chapeaurouge (1744-1805) and thus entered the art market. They were probably purchased by 4th Marquess by 1870.