Delft or Cologne
between 1567 and 1575
Height 79 and 80.5 cm
These two marble reliefs show two carefully executed putti holding cloths in front of a background that is only sketchily indicated. Their large heads with curly hair have small faces with snub noses, softly curving mouths, full cheeks and big almond-shaped eyes beneath high foreheads. They are pot-bellied, with fat thighs, disproportionately short and chubby lower legs, and feet and wings that are too small in relation to their limbs. The modelling has produced bodies that possess a monumental quality and seem to be bursting with energy.
These putti are attributed to the Netherlandish artist Willem Danielsz van Tetrode. Born in Delft, the latter travelled to Italy in 1545 and in the early 1560s came to Florence, where he entered the service of Cosimo I de’ Medici. There he will certainly have met his compatriot Giovanni Bologna (1529–1608). However, Tetrode left Florence in 1567 – before Bologna had executed the pioneering works that were to have a decisive influence on European Mannerism. Tetrode displays a different kind of Mannerism: unlike Bologna’s long-limbed, spirally twisting figures, the bodies he sculpted have solid, stocky builds with limbs that seem more inflated than alive.
After his return to the Netherlands, Tetrode initiated the new genre of bronzes statuettes made for collectors. As a result of iconoclasm during the Reformation, nearly all of his large-scale works, of which the majority were executed in marble, have been lost, a circumstance rendering the Frankfurt putti all the more important.