Pair of Firedog Bases

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Italian School
Italy, ca. 1530s
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1904.

These sphinxlike female figures appear to be the work of an Italian sculptor active in Venice or Padua during the 1520s-30s. It is unlikely that the figures were originally intended to function as andirons; the addition of the lower support, with projecting volutes, and a bar extending behind the figures, were probably added later. It has been proposed that such figures are similar to those that are found on tombs from the period.
The figures were attributed at one point to Verrocchio before Wilhelm Bode assigned them to Jacopo Sansovino. In 1946, Hans Swarzenski described them as Venetian or Paduan from the early 16th century.
Stylistically, these are related to the early work of Andrea Briosco, called Riccio (d. 1532) and Tullio Lombardo. Formerly attributed to Andrea del Verrochio (Florence 1435-1488 Venice) and to Jacopo Sansovino (Florence 1486-1570 Venice).

Léopold Goldschmidt (1830-1904), Paris; Durlacher Brothers, London; from whom purchased by J. Pierpont Morgan in 1904 (as Sansovino).

Fire dogs surmounted by limbless female torsos whose shoulders and bodies terminate in acanthus foliage. A shield, from which the arms have been effaced is suspended from a ribbon around the neck of each. Each one sits on marble base. The base has a hole where the back of the object fits in.