Object Record

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Catalog number 61.5
Artist Riccio, Andrea
Artist 2 Severo Calzetta da Ravenna
Title Atlas Supporting an Oil Lamp
Date 1500
Object Name Figurine
Description Formerly attributed to the workshop of the Italian sculptor Severo Calzetta da Ravenna, "Atlas Supporting an Oil Lamp" is a product of a bronze-casting technique that enabled the artist and his assistants to create more than one statuette from a given model. Set upon a square base, the titan is weighed down by an oil lamp, shaped like the globe of the heavens, resting upon his right shoulder. He supports himself with his left hand and turns his head towards the lamp, the hemispheric lid of which is lost. Most likely, a spout and a wick emerged through the missing cover. Atlas' upward-turned head conveys either anguish or anger, since he was condemned to the labor of bearing the heavens on his head and hands. Legend has it that Zeus chose this punishment for him, as Atlas disputed his political authority and led the Titans in a rebellion against him.

The many versions in which our figure exists suggest its popularity among humanistic elite who looked for sophisticated collectibles. Severo da Ravenna was one of the protagonists of the Paduan School and his clients were Paduan and Venetian intellectuals who revered mythological subjects. The figure of Atlas must have been of particular interest to them, since, according to Greek mythology, he instructed mankind in the art of astronomy, a tool which was used by sailors in navigation and farmers in measuring the seasons. These roles were often combined, and Atlas became the god who turned the heavens on their axis, causing the stars to revolve. Humanists deeply involved in the sciences and empirical observation of the natural world and the universe must have been especially fond of a figure replete with astronomical references. Furthermore, oil lamps were treasured as symbols of transcendental illumination by humanists, a concept dating back to Aristotle.

Modern research has proved that Riccio created the majority of his bronze statuettes while he was working at the Santo Chapel in the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua between 1507 and 1516. Riccio's circle continued to replicate his bronzes for as long as they satisfied clients' taste.
Chrysoula Politou, in "SCHOLARS, EXPLORERS, PRIESTS, How the Renaissance Gave Us the Modern World," ex. cat. G -T M, Queens College, CUNY, February 2 - March 27, 2010, 38.
Medium/Material Cast bronze
Dimensions H-5.315 W-3.74 D-2.874 inches
Search Terms Renaissance
Sexuality
Mythological
Figure
Figurine
16th century AD
Lamp
Europe
Italy
Atlas
Diety
Metalwork, bronze
Exhibition and Publication History *"Queens College Art Collection," First Supplement, 1961, p. 4, #355.
* "A Selection From the Queens College Art Collection" , Klapper, 1979, #35
* "Italian Art, 15th to 18th Century: Selections from the Permanent Col.," G-TM, 1986, p. 43, # 30, ill. Suzanna Simor
" *"Discover! Selections from the G-TM of Queens College," Citicorp, L.I.C., 10/15-12/7/90, no catalogue.
* Student paper in accession file
* Exhibited"Director's Choice, Part II," G-TM, 10/10-12/20/02. A. Winter, Curator.
* "SCHOLARS, EXPLORERS, PRIESTS, How the Renaissance Gave Us the Modern World," Curated by James M. Saslow, G -T M, Queens College, CUNY, February 2 - March 27, 2010, # 38, ill.
Culture Italian