Art, J. Paul Getty Museum, Sculpture and Decorative Arts

Cellini Gets a Rival

Double Head / Francesco Primaticcio

Double Head, Francesco Primaticcio (Italian, 1504–1570), about 1543–56. Bronze, 15 13/16 in. high. The J. Paul Getty Museum

A beautiful bronze Double Head, attributed to the Italian sculptor Francesco Primaticcio, has just joined the Museum’s collection. Though made by an Italian, it was commissioned by a Frenchman: Francis I, the king of France, for his palace at Fontainebleau outside Paris.

Why does the sculpture have two heads? It was probably meant to be displayed atop a column, and at one time was installed above a gate leading into a garden at Fontainebleau, where it could be admired from either side. At the Getty Center the Double Head is likewise displayed on a column—indoors, of course, harmonizing with late-Renaissance paintings by Titian, Dossi, and other Italian artists in Gallery N205.

Just downstairs, however, another Italian may be less happy with the new acquisition. In Gallery N102 is a bronze figure by Primaticcio’s great rival, Benvenuto Cellini, the suitably outraged-looking Satyr. This is  the preparatory model for one of the two full-scale figures Cellini designed to flank the monumental entrance to Fontainebleau’s Porte Dorée (Golden Door).

Satyr after a model by Benvenuto Cellini

Satyr after a model by Benvenuto Cellini (Italian, 1500–1571). Bronze, 22 3/8 in. high. The J. Paul Getty Museum, 85.SB.69

Both Primaticcio and Cellini excelled at sculpting after ancient monuments in Rome, and both were chosen by Francis I for his campaign to introduce a new classicizing style into France. But they often competed for commissions and for the favor of the king and his mistress, the Duchesse d’Etampes. (The ancient Roman prototype for this Double Head, the so-called Cesi Juno, may have served as the inspiration for the beautiful stucco decoration of female figures in the duchess’s private apartments at Fontainebleau.)

The rivals fought openly, and the notoriously hot-headed Cellini ranted against Primaticcio in the entertaining memoirs he composed while sentenced to prison.

Centuries later, though, we can put their rivalry aside and admire two intriguing, though dramatically different, examples of a watershed moment in French art.

Double Head (detail of face) / Francesco Primaticcio

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      Olympian Census #3: Poseidon

      Get the stats on your favorite (and not-so-favorite) gods and goddesses on view at the Getty Center.

      Roman name: Neptune

      Employment: God of the Sea

      Place of residence: A fancy palace somewhere in the Aegean Sea

      Parents: Cronus and Rhea

      Marital status: Married to Amphitrite, a sea goddess, but had many affairs just like his brother Zeus

      Offspring: Had many children including Triton, Theseus, Orion, Polyphemos and Arion

      Symbol: Trident, horse, and dolphin

      Special talent: Starting earthquakes & Shapeshifting into a horse to pursue women

      Highlights reel:

      • When Goddess Demeter turned into a mare to escape Poseidon’s pursuit, Poseidon also turned into a horse and mated with her, creating a talking horse baby, Arion.
      • Athena became the patron goddess of Athens over Poseidon by giving the city an olive tree, which produced wood, oil, and food. Poseidon had given them a salt-water spring. Nice going, Poseidon.
      • Poseidon cursed Olysseus to wander the seas for 10 years after the Trojan War in revenge for Olysseus blinding his son, the cyclops Poplyphemos.

      Olympian Census is a 12-part series profiling gods in art at the Getty Center.


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