Jan-Baptiste van Helderberghe
(Antwerp, 1651 - 1734, Ghent)
Bronze statuette after Giambologna's model of 1587 for the monument to Cosimo I de'Medici in the Piazza della Signoria, Florence.
Height: 9½ in - 24 cm (excluding socle)
The identification of this model with van Helderberghe is based upon his signed small gilt-bronze group of St Martin and the Beggar depicting the identical type of horse. (1)
The composition is a reduction of the life-size horse designed by Giambologna for the monument to Cosimo I de’ Medici (1587-1594) in the Piazza della Signoria, Florence (2). One hundred years later, van Helderberghe used the same Pacing Horse for his gilt-bronze group of St Martin and the beggar, the only difference being that the animal is presented in mirror image (3). The scale of the present bronze, (4) and details of its modelling and facture, such as the attachment of the tail, the flattened soles of the hooves and the coppery ‘spots’ in the bronze, all indicate that the present bronze was also cast by van Helderberghe, who, like Giambologna, was of Flemish origin.
Biographical Note (5):
Although the place and date of Van Helderberghe’s birth are unknown, they may be deduced from the fact that his father was a native of Antwerp and that he was eighty three when he died in July 1734. Jan-Baptiste married Petronille Verschaffelt on 25 July 1681 and three years later was admitted to the bourgeoisie of Ghent. He engaged his brother-in-law Stephan Fredrick Verschaffelt as a burnisher and goldsmith in 1684. The statue of Neptune above the entrance to the fish market in Ghent (designed by Artus Quellinus, circa 1689) and the works he produced for St. Michael’s in the 1690s have all been destroyed. Only the marble groups on the tomb of bishop Philip Erard van der Noot in St. Bavo’s, Ghent, survive. Van Helderberghe also made bronzes and two of these, both gilt, are signed by him in monogram, An angel guarding a child against evil and St. Martin and the beggar.
1. P. Wengraf, 'Jan-Baptist van Helderberghe as a maker of bronzes', Burlington Magazine, December 1988, pp. 913-915, disproving Yvonne Hackenbroch's earlier identification of the monogram 'JB v H' on the base of the St Martin group with Adriaen de Vries (Y. Hackenbroch, 'Horse and Rider. Bronzes in the Collection of Mr. Leon Bagrit', Connoisseur, vol. 140, 1957, pp. 6-10).
2. C. Avery, Giambologna. The Complete Sculpture, Oxford, 1987, pp. 161-164 & p. 257, no. 38; Giambologna 1529-1608. Sculptor to the Medici, exh. cat. by C. Avery & A. Radcliffe, Edinburgh, Royal Scottish Museum, and London, Victoria & Albert Museum, August - November 1978, no. 131. Giambologna began work on the monument in 1587, and it is signed and dated 1594. His earliest small-scale horse ('cavallino'), not necessarily of the same composition, is documented between 1574 and 1579 in the Salviati archives (Avery 1987, p. 161).
3. Old Master Drawings and European Works of Art, exh. cat., Trinity Fine Art, New York, May 1995, p. 173, no. 94, formerly in the collection of Sir Leon Bagrit.
4. The stated height of 32.8 cm for van Helderberghe's gilt-bronze group of St Martin and the Beggar includes the figure of the rider mounted on the horse, and the rectangular base on which it stands. The known Florentine casts all measure around 24 cm (Von allen Seiten schön. Bronzen der Renaissance und des Barock, exh. cat. by V. Krahn, Berlin, Altes Museum, October 1995 - January 1996, p. 384, no. 121).
5. Wengraf 1988, pp. 913-915.