Renaissance bronze plaquette of the Christian legend of Augustus and the Tiburtine Sybil

Image of Renaissance bronze plaquette of the Christian legend of Augustus and the Tiburtine Sybil

Ambit of Caradosso (Cristoforo Foppa)
Probably Milan, Italy; ca. 1500

Approximate size: 7 x 6.3 cm

The present plaquette represents the Christian legend foreshadowing the coming of Christ, in which Emperor Augustus consults the Tiburtine Sybil before accepting his deification as the new Emperor. Upon inquiring, the Sybil informs him that a child greater than any of the Roman gods is to come and a vision of the Virgin and Child appear in the sky above.

The art historian and collector, Charles Fortnum first suggested this relief shared a stylistic homogeny with the work of the Milanese goldsmith Cristoforo Foppa (called Caradosso) and various other scholars subsequently followed the notion of a Milanese origin for the relief. However, Eric Maclagan and Seymour de’ Ricci alternatively noted similarities with the Paduan work of Andrea Briosco (called Riccio) and Manfred Leithe-Jasper suggested affinities closer to the Roman Donato Bramante. The most recent consensus is that this relief is probably of Milanese origin, maintaining an astute awareness of Caradosso, Bramante and Mantegna.

The present relief, known by a quantity of casts in various museum collections, features a wide range of fidelity in their casting quality. The present cast is perhaps old, although the model appears to have been reworked with some vigor, probably in an attempt to clarify the scene from a formerly weak cast. Nonetheless, the desire to preserve and refresh the relief is perhaps further indication of a connection with Caradosso as the various plaquette casts which preserve his silver originals are often lacking in quality but were yet widely celebrated contemporaneously and thereafter.

Provenance available upon request.