A Greek Source for Antonio Pollaiuolo's Battle of the Nudes and Hercules and the Twelve Giants Author

(s): Michael Vickers Reviewed work(s): Source: The Art Bulletin, Vol. 59, No. 2 (Jun., 1977), pp. 182-187 Published by: College Art Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3049629 . Accessed: 26/12/2011 12:07
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the scene clearly shows not one man against the rest. 1) and the latter has rather more foliage in the background.In nearly every figurethe chest muscles are shown in the greatest detail.was formerlyin the center of a composition that has six figuresto the left of him.Four carry round shields. Behind him stand another bowmanand two swordsmen. Cambridge.A GreekSourceforAntonio Pollaiuolo's Battle of theNudes andtheTwelve andHercules Giants* Michael Vickers Recent discussionsof Antonio Pollaiuolo's Battleof the Nudes have assumed that its origins lie in Roman relief sculpture. or dismiss. Oberhuber. Battle of Naked Men. and two have Nearly all their heads are in a three-quarter their backsto us. for they do not account for the spear. Drawingsin the FoggMuseumof Art. view. Most of the heads are shown in profile. All four round shields are shown elliptically. The figuresare remarkablefor their lively poses. and several swords or daggers. 4 A. Again. S. including the 2 She did not know of the engravingof Hercules and the Battle."Art when it was still complete.C. Richards. The object of this article is to indicate that it may be possibleto go further than Shapley did and to establish that Pollaiuolo relied principallyon a workby a specificGreek artist. N. known to us as the Niobid Painter. and six to the right instead of the present three.. Mass. may have been copied from the original drawing * I am grateful to ProfessorGeorge Bauer. and the other with a largeboss decoratedwith tongues.1968. Fusco. Dietrich von Bothmer.A print by Alaart Claas (Fig.. and the striding movement throughout the whole composition suggests Greek pro- Bulletin. The third round shield appears to be black with a narrow light border. 168-69. but had she known of it she wouldundoubtedlyhave included it among her list of worksthat seem to depend on Greek models.' They have tended to overlook. whererowupon rowof small muscles are often visible.C. Washington. L. 63. "A Student of Ancient Ceramics. while four still fight on foot with bow. A.who flourishedin the decade immediately before the mid-fifth century B. diminution of size. von Bothmer). B. 2 E R. but not ones that could easily be joined to the right edge of the earlier print.155-67. The swordsresemblescimitarsin shape (though less so than those in the Hercules engraving).A fragmentof a cartoon in the FoggArt Museum. But whether the scene we have is complete or not. Despite the title added to the second state: QUOMODO HERCULES PERCUSSIT ET VICIT DUODECIM GIGANTES.. It may be that the figure wielding an axe.x The firststate second states of Hercules lacks any of the inscriptions that occur in the second state (Fig. L.6which includestwo extra figures the right. in J. Cf.or sword. 30. an extremely article in TheArt Bulletinfor 1919-1920 in which perspicacious Fern Rush Shapley suggested that the paintings on Greek vases inspired several of Pollaiuolo's works. suggests that the drawing was already cut at the point when the engraving was made. but two parties in combat. K. Anderson. two figures are on the ground attempting to protect themselves."Art Quarterly.. 1973. 11. Much is again made of the anatomicaldetails of the figures. No. "Copiesof Pollaiuolo's BattlingNudes. 1940. 3) are almost evenly disposed on either side of the picture. xxxI.Milan. it is possible to make certain generalizationsabout the figuresin it. L. especially about the ribcage." Bulletinof the ClevelandMuseumof Art.: A bibliographyof selected sourcesfollows the footnotes. "Copies. Iv.especiallytheir rib cages. II Pollaiuolo. 10. The figuresare drawn at different levels and do not diminish in size as they recede towardsthe background. A spear thrust in from the top right corner indicates that one of the missing figureswas a spearsman. . Mongan and P Sachs. Shapley observed that one of the figuresruns with upraisedclub (in fact an ax) as do repeated examples on Greek vases. 7. the blazons of two of which are clearly visible. two swordsmenfight over a chain. spear. Ortolani. Prints exist in the British Museumof both the firstand the and the TwelveGiants. Levenson. s Anderson. A. and Martin Robertsonfor their help and advice in connection with this Professor article. the figures are arranged at different levels with very little. A. A rough drawingin the on Biblioteca Reale in Turin. 78-86 (kindly brought to my attention by Dr."fig. if any. with details indicated of the surface of the blade. and the details of their musculature. 1948. 84. and between the armpit and the stomach. as a copy after an original by TwelveGiants (generallyregarded Pollaiuolo).s usually attributed to Pollaiuolo himself. one with five spots and the other with an acanthus scroll. D. 1. 3 See L. the right side of which terminates in the same place as does the engraving. pl. The figures in the Battle of the Nudes (Fig. and whose scabbard is inscribed HERCULES. In discussing the Battle. "Hercules"stands near the center and wields an axe above his head. Early Italian Engravingsfrom the National Galleryof Art.Legs seen in profilegenerallyhave a pairof lines running fromknee to heel. In the middle. Antonio Pollajuolo. but the extant later versions after the complete composition only serve to cloud the issue. Dr. calf and thigh muscles are emphaticallyrendered. 78. fig. mistaking a drawing of a detail now in the Fogg Art Museum as part of a study for the Battle. two axes. Shapley."Antonio Pollaiuolo.g.1919-20. 6 Ibid. but the other figuresin the Turin drawingare of no help in recreatingthe original battle scene. 1968. S. In front of him. Two shields lie on the ground. while struggles occur to each side between standing or fallen figureswho have between them a bow. S. 2) in the British Museum4in which the scene is reverseddoes supply three extra figures. although there are some three-quarter views and some bodies are seen from behind. I E. one upsidedown with its interiorshowing. and J. Chastel. Sheehan.

British Giants.Hercules andtheTwelve Museum Giants.POLLAIUOLO'S SOURCES 183 1 AfterPollaiuolo. 2 AlaartClaas.British engraving. andtheTwelve Museum Hercules secondstate. Oxford. of theNudes. . Battle Ashmolean Museum 3 Pollaiuolo.engraving.London. London.engraving.

341 (ARV2. This was by no means the Niobid Painter'susual style. left). it has been plausiblysuggested that in some of his workshis sourcesaremore evident than his own style. which regularlyoccurs. Harrison. Ruhmer. 14 Ibid.. The Apollo aiming at an alreadywoundedNiobid on the Louvrecrater(Fig. The motif was to be copied in other 15th-century works." Art Bulletin. who flourished in the middle yearsof the fifth century B.15 the painted areasof which appearrather like tongues (e.25. 6)13 supplies a close parallel for Pollaiuolo's "Hercules" (Fig. 225-26. 604. 1966. especially over the rib cage. n. 4. the giant being attacked by Hecate on the back of his calyx-crater(Fig. on the shield of the warrior second fromthe left on LouvreG. resembles in more than a generalway some of the Niobid Painter's figuresin a similar situation. and recurin only two other examplesby the Niobid Painter.Shins are frequently indicated by means of vertical lines. Light. Warburg. . e. The porpax (handle) of the latter can be clearly seen as well as a star-like pattern that probablyderivesfromthe way that leather thongs are arrangedinside Greek shields (e. Gombrich in A. J. 601. andFerrara 602. 608. P.AlbrechtDiirer.C. The two heads shown in three-quarter view in the Heraclesengraving are no more than we should expect in a work by the Niobid Painter.g. Marco Zoppo. 12).24. 599. the nearer one lying face-down.. We do not have an axe-wielder on the Louvrecrater. 5.. both shown elliptically.8 Such a piece is his name-vase. 24. of Greek 10 See Barron. No. for example. 98). was an artist who applied to vase-painting some of the techniques and mannerisms of contemporary monumental painters such as Polygnotusor Mikon. Bologna 269 (ARV2. LIV. Boston 33. as we have alreadyseen. fig.2nded. which shows on one side (A) the slayingof the children of Niobe (Fig. 1283(ARV2. though three other instances of it are known on 10 fragments.g. or that Pollaiuolo used the motif rather freely. Webster. 2). 22). Ibid. Cambridge. ' 8 12 13 Ibid. (henceforth idem. 1970. H. E Saxl. 4) is the obvious counterpartof Pollaiuolo's archers. fiir Kunstwissenschaft. Oxford. Neither of them can be clearly paralleled in the Niobid Painter'swork. If.Heraclesdraws a bow like the Apollo on the Niobid Painter'scalyx-crater T. a glimpse of the underside of the foot." "Preparations Niobid Painterand Herodotus. of Hellenic xcII. 3). either singly or in pairs. Munich 2324 (ARV2. A History Robertson. 1971. 42.12 The wounded. although the latter recalls both the snake blazon. Palermo !1 Theyoccuron Louvre T. 599. . Louvre G 416). 341 (B) (Fig. 1975.E. An IntellectualBiography.9. and figureswith a great deal of anatomical detail. as will be arguedbelow.313. 602.Barron. Four-spokedwheels occur on. 1948. Beazley.9 In this case the sourceson which the Niobid Painter relied were wall paintings in which the artist (or artists) indicated receding planes by painting the figuresprogressively higher up in the field.1922. and sarcophagi" is noted by E.but a fragmentof a volute-craterby the Niobid Painter (Fig. who crouches in fear. 341 (ARV2. parts of which had probablyonly recently come to light in Rome when Pollaiuolo 84." The Murals Studies. B. fleeing Niobid (Fig.395. 20-45. Another curious sourcefor side A of the Louvre practiceof the Niobid Painter's crater is the representation of the underside of a foot in view: there is one example in the fleeing Niobid three-quarter on the right (Fig. 181 and pl. and on the other (B) various persons in the presence of Heracles and Athena (Fig. M. l'Antichita.g. The other shield in the Battle is convex. Pollaiuoloemploysthe same featurethree times: on the left foot of the archeron the left of the Hercules engraving(Fig.I"but the eight such heads in the Battle imply either that the hypothetical prototype was quite exceptional. 928.1972. 29 (a red-figure by Hermonax from Nola. 313 (ARV2.184 THE ART BULLETIN totypes. Pollaiuolodependedon a missing work of the Niobid Painter. 22).. that work would have been a fourth instance of his use of a variedground-linein light of the way the figures are disposed in the two Pollaiuolos under discussion. The "persistentuse" of the motif "on Greek vases . Panofsky. 24. 16 E.253-58.g. another feature that recurs in Pollaiuolo.. Diirer's 3rd ed. 2). "New T.9. G. D. right) Ferrara provides a close parallel for Pollaiuolo'sfiguresseen in back view. 14 The weapons and armorthat we see in the engravingscan nearly all be paralleled in the Niobid Painter's works. He possessesnearlyall the elements of the swordsman to the right of center of the Battle: the sinewy back. Leipzig. Oxford.7 This is true as far as it goes. Fig. 49). The Niobid Painter. The variety of pose and activity that occurs in Pollaiuolo's engravingscan be paralleled either on the Louvre crater or on other worksby the Niobid Painter and his circle.22 9 J.B.. Death of Orpheus(E. 95... 1963.16 and the decoration of the Ara Pacis. The convexity is admittedly smaller than regularlyoccurs on Greek shields but the tongue decorationon it is recognizableas derivedfromone of the Niobid Painter's favorite shield blazons: the eightspoked wheel. which occur but seldom in Greek art of this time. DerNiobidenmaler. G. 6: Manner of the Niobid Painter). fig. L.. and in many cases their models were to be found in contemporarywall-painting. 7). AtticRed-Figure Vase-Painters. Other characteristicsof mid-fifth-century mural painting preserved for us on the Niobid Painter's name-vase are foreshortened figureswith overlappinglimbs. fragmentsformerlyin Rome (ARV2. the Barron." Repertorium 15 E. citedasARV2). the tight buttocks. They occur twice on the A side and three times on the B. but between the Battle and the Hercules we have enough diagnosticfeaturesto be able to say with a fair degree of certainty which Greek artist Pollaiuolo was imitating.. and even. Vicenza. 599. stamnos London. 1) and on the two feet immediatelyto the right of the center of the Battle (Fig. 5).g. 24). Other featuresof the Louvrecalyx-craterthat are sourcesarethe thought to be derivedfromthe Niobid Painter's faces seen in three-quarterview. "Hercules"' intended victim.Paralipomena. He frequentlyemploys or copies from models that have elliptical views of shields seen from both inside and out. 5). the calyx-crater from Orvieto. 5). 8). Louvre G. and Zoppo'sDeath of Pentheus (E. Cf. Princeton.56 (ARV2. 602. Art. 1) both in stance and musculature. of the Theseion.. 601. 390-402. "Rinascimento delXLIII.. 4).. one decoratedwith fivedots and another with an acanthus scroll. Circularshields seen elliptically appear in the Hercules engravingtoo. Indeed. This detail takes the form of a compact series of intercostal muscles drawn beneath the armpit in a manner very similarto Pollaiuolo's figures. e.599. 600. Journal Lighton OldWalls. Compare. 55). Shapley. PalermoG 1283 (ARV2.1972. See also "New forMarathon. In Pollaiuolo's Battle there are two shields lying on the ground.g. 4). those on Fig. 601. 1935.

POLLAIUOLO'S SOURCES 185 G 341 fromOrvieto. calyx-crater 6 NiobidPainter.SidesA andB. volute-crater T. . 4-5 NiobidPainter. 313.2403 7 NiobidPainter.Ferrara. Paris. volute-crater Berlin. fragment. Staatliche Museen. fromSpina(detail).Louvre.

London. but they differ in certain other respects. 1961. the "barbaric"shields carried by two of the combatants in the same scene are another.186 THE ART BULLETIN 8 Painter fromSpina. Both Pollaiuolo'sswords and those common in Greek art have a pair of grooves along their blades. Paul Getty Museum.Ferrara T. M. probably derived from the curved weapons for which the Persiansand other Orientals were famous. 20 Cf.22 The two figureswielding daggersin the Hercules.. Milan. exh.740.he seems to have applied knowledgederived from personal observation of archers for instead of keeping their elbows level he lifts them up in a distinctive and more realistic manner. swordthat suddenlybecomes common in Greek battle scenes of the late sixth and earlier fifth centuries B. 1967. 18ARV2. 5.Pollaiuolohas made his swordsresemble and has fitted the handles of most of contemporaryscimitars20 his weapons-both swordsand daggers-with a roundfinial in the 15th-centuryItalian manner. London. A. Boccia. 1975... which is black with a light border. 61. 579 279. of Bologna T. 1920. "Mantegna and the Ara Pacis.g. 1346. No. 9 Pollaiuolo. 7) have swordsof this type." are derivedfromspearsmen(comparethe one second fromthe left in Fig.21 And there areother details that show that Pollaiuolo did not slavishly imitate his Greek model. 1). These shields regularlyoccur on tropaiain Roman reliefs and on coins as booty won by the Romans from their Armourand Arms Through Seven Centuries.the figureon the far right on the engraving and the figurein front of "Hercules.near Florence.Arcetri. 97-98. cat. We have already noticed one intrusive element derivedfromRoman sculpture:the acanthusscroll on a shield in the Hercules engraving. volute-crater fresco. the Herculesengraving. 50. Armi antiche. Fig. on Ferrara T.is very close in its scheme to a shield device on the Niobid Painter's volute-crater. but nearly always for a cut and thrust. 19 Cf. pl. 10.19 The falling giants on the calyx-crater(e. Iv. Florence. The way in which some of the short pointed swordsor daggerson both engravingsarebeing wielded is un-Greek..Ferrara. 21 Compare. 22 E. L. VilladellaGallina two figuresstrugglingon the groundin the lowerleft corner of the Battleare holding their weaponsas though for a downward stab. When he came to the bowmen in both engravings. 559. 1500 in the Museo Civico Marzoli in Brescia: F Rossi and N. 136.A Recordof . This suggests that Pollaiuolo did not copy his Greek models in exact detail. Short dagger-likeswords do occur.The 1' M." in La caccia e le arti..C. presentedby Henry II of Franceto his court jester:G. E Laking. 936 (ARV2.is In general scheme and the swords approximatethe single-edged curved proportions. 18). but changed them about and altered them somewhat.g. Vickers. which is very rarein Greek art. 109-120. G. 5. II. the finialon the handle of the Ferrarese swordof ca. Florence. "Le armi.dancingfigures. pl.e. Snodgrass. the ornate 16th-century scimitar in the Bargello Museum. European fig.g. 279. 17 A thirdroundshield in engravedthe originalof the Hercules. Arms and Armour of the Greeks. 1969. di Carpegna." Journalof the J. 601.

whether it was a complete vase or one in fragments. To connect the Arcetri fresco (of the middle 1460's)27 and the engravings would contradict the recently expressed and cogently arguedview that at least the Battlewas a product of the first half of the 1470's. 28 Fusco. D. M. 1959/1. volentieri ve lo manderebbecon due altri vasetti purdi terra. Chastel. where it is suggested Warburg that a 13th-century derived a palmettemotiffroma Greekvase. II Pollaiuolo. Chastel. Domattina farofare la cassetta.and calyx-craters are Italian. though. E R. et manderollocon diligentia.Milan. any vase entering the Medici Collection would probably have been preserved long enough to have been known to modern scholarship..Cook. and doubtless more examplescould be found.. 287. 1976. 234-36. Pottery. A. Credo non ne habbiate uno si bello in eo genere.. L.fig.Washington. E. 31 Twenty-eight out of thirty-three with known findspotscame from Italy or Sicily. by art historians.. Attic Red-Figure Vase-Painters.the Battleof the Nudes. 24 Ibid. but they are frequently employed in Renaissanceart as though they were in fact Roman.Greek Painted 2nded. Nevertheless. and they have an additional feature that may be relevant to Pollaiuolo.J. Paris-London.1973. and the Arcetri fresco. 23 Ibid. S. Pollaiuolo seems to have used Greek vases in other contexts. thinks that these figuresmay have been 612. one "3 spans high and 4 wide" (i. Italian the National D. Sheehan. 1948. 7. But these intrusive. Oxford. the export market-for "Italian grandees"of a much earlier generation than Lorenzo's. "NewLight on Old Walls. that the vases fromGreece included our lost vase by the Niobid Painter. 79. Gombrich. P. Thus. had generallyno interest in ancient painted pottery"and that this was due to "somestylistic repugnance. painter 30 The informationis contained in a letter to Lorenzowritten from Venice by Poliziano. It has even been arguedrecently that "writersand collectors. and J. than those of any other artist. H. M. "I' 'Etruscan Revival' du XVe siecle.but one that incorporatedso many of the characteristicsof the greatestGreek muralpaintersof the fifth century B. 26 ARV2. . Oberhuber. we might comparethe jerkypose of one of the satyrsby a follower of the Niobid Painter. 81-83. They always have an extra zone of decoration around the neck. et tandem saravostro." Repertorium fiir Kunstwissenschaft. with the exception of Shapley. We can only speculate as to the precise natureof the model that Pollaiuoloused. 189.. in J. 8)26 with one of the dancers in the Villa della Gallina in Arcetri (Fig. "BonaventuraBerlinghieri'sPalmettes. on the volute-craters Bologna 26823 and Palermo G. 1972. Weiss. Cf. implying that there was already a collection of vases in existence. R."29 But as early as 1491 we hear of Lorenzo de' Medici being offered three pottery vases.24 above scenes taken from the Trojancycle and an Amazonomachy. t pressoche 3 spanne alto e 4 largo"(E. Les Collections des Medicisau XVe siecle. nearly all the known findspots of the Niobid Painter'svolute.2.Oxford. K.32Moreover.. Antonio Pollajuolo. Ashmolean Museum. I hope to show elsewhere that Piero della Francesca used black. 167ff. it is remarkablethat it was not just any Greek vase that Pollaiuoloemployed. 203. 1283. 57. They do not detract from the overall impression that Pollaiuolo relied closely on a workof the Niobid Painter. 1969. L.. A. now E. a large columncrater) recently imported to Venice from Greece. the Painter of Bologna 279 (Fig." Revue archeologique. and a centauromachy on the other. 4-5).341 (Figs.are Heracles and Pholos on one side of the neck. Miintz.31 implying that they were made for. n.30 It is unlikely. from Engravings Gallery ofArt. at least until the middle of the 17th century.or a calyx-crater. 25."Art Bulletin.C. For example. 32 The expressionis that of Barron. xxxix. Shapley observed that the dancing figureson the frescoes in the Villa della Gallina at Arcetri near Florence derived from satyrs on Greek vases. Saxl.. 2nd ed.e. and secondly. Arcetri dancers with a Hellenistic bronze in the Cabinet des Medailles. it was certainly a big vessel: probablya volute. el quale nuovamente di Grecia gli e stato mandato: et mi disse chle sel credessi vi piacessi. Early Ortolani. as Shapleyhas arguedin general terms.1888. if not better. a referencefirstobservedby Shapley."Journalof the and CourtauldInstitutes. un-Greek elements are merely details. 1922. 29R. his would fit this case as well. Io dissi che mi parevapropriocosa da V.C. Fusco. of Hellenic Barron. or ended up on. 9). "A Student of Ancient Ceramics.Volute-craters are occasionally decorated with figuresstanding on different groundlinesafter the fashion of LouvreG.POLLAIUOLO'S SOURCES 187 barbarian adversaries.But whichever it may have been. S. even if these workswere done at differenttimes. The fact that Greek vases were appreciatedin Renaissance Italy has been largely overlooked by both Classical archaeologists and. n.and red-figuresherds as models for parts of the Legend of the True Cross in Arezzo. 598. 1919-20.6 27 Ortolani. compares oneof the frescoes..1972.28Nevertheless the argument would be economical if a single vase by the Niobid Painter inspiredthe Hercules. xcil. dated 20 June 1491: "Un bellissimo vaso di terra antiquissimo mi monstro [sic] stamattina detto messer Zaccheria [Barbero]. Shapley.J. First.1. 1. The Renaissance Discovery of Classical Antiquity.25 Although she did not adduce any satyrsby the Niobid Painter..Andsee London. The writer adds that he is surethat Lorenzodoes not possessa vase as fine. 25 derived from Etruscan andSaxl. for example. 2. XLIII. 1963.222. (cited as ARV2). the subject-matter of which is often apparentlyquite unrelated to the action on the main field of the vase. Oxford of Frequently CitedWorks Bibliography Studies. 599. 73-75. II.. Levenson.but they do show that neither engraving was copied directly from a vase. 5)." Journal Beazley. "Rinascimento dell'Antichita.The Muralsof the Theseion. Shapley.

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