four nude children in a landscape

Four Frolicking Putti, 1506

This puzzling early work, precisely dated September 18, 1506, on the pedestal carried by one of the putti, takes inspiration from a variety of sources both ancient and contemporary. The figures are closely related to ones found on Roman sarcophagi (stone coffins). If Marcantonio saw the example now in the Princeton University Art Museum, then he took the figures struggling with a herm and recast them using the physique of the putti seen in other parts of the frieze. Some of the trees are lifted straight from a Dürer woodcut.

The winged anchor held by the central putto likely refers to the ancient Latin adage Festina Lente (make haste slowly), a motto adopted by Aldus Manutius, the prolific Renaissance publisher of classical texts.

Four Frolicking Putti
Artist Life
c. 1475/1480–c.1534
Accession Number
Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680), Lugt 2092, London. Earl of Pembroke, cf. Lugt 2636b (until 1917; his sale, Sotheby's, London, July 5-10, 1917, no. 194). John E. Andrus III, Wayzata, Minn.; by descent to his daughters, Elizabeth, Katie, and Julie; gave to MIA, 2015. Earlier provenances have been gathered, but further research will increase our knowledge of their histories.
Catalogue Raisonne
Bartsch 320 (vol. 14, p. 240); Passavant 168 (vol. 4, p. 28); Shoemaker 10; Delaborde supp. 42 (p. 290) as a doubtful work
Curator Approved

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four nude children in a landscape