Giambologna (Netherlandish, 15291608)
Made in Florence, Italy
Bronze; H. 36 in. (91.4 cm)
Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913 (14.40.689)
The Triton, seated on a circular base formed of three dolphins with tails interlaced and heads resting on three inverted scallop shells, originally served as a fountain figure. Like most of the sculptor's compositions, this work was meant to be viewed from all sides. With its supple modeling and vigorous chasing, the present bronze is the earliest example of this composition to survive and should be dated to the artist's early maturity, in the 1560s, shortly after he arrived in Florence from his native Flanders. Giambologna was renowned for his skill in casting bronze, the medium in which most of his work (ranging in scale from minute to monumental) was executed. The nature of the casting process lent itself to the multiplication of original models under the sculptor's supervision. One of Giambologna's own casts of the Triton, presumably fairly large like this example, was sent to France along with a cast of his celebrated Mercury. Known reductions of the Triton composition show the streamlined simplifications that mark the majority of later bronzes after Giambologna's models, which became increasingly popular during the seventeenth century.