Grand Tour Grotesque Italian Giltwood Carved Dolphins


Artist: Unknown Craftsman, Rome
Subject: Dolphin or Mythical Fish
Medium: Carved Giltwood
Date: c1700

A finely carved pair of giltwood dolphins, likely made in Rome during the 1st half of the 18th century.

Carved in softwood in the grotesque style, the dolphins have retained much of their period water gilding.

Such a style became popular in the late 15th century, following the rediscovery of Nero’s Domus Aurea in Rome, when a local boy was said to have fallen through the Esquiline Hillside to find a cave decorated with strange creatures. The grotto (hence ‘grottesche’) soon became a popular destination with the city’s artists and craftsman, exerting a profound influence on the aesthetic character of the High Renaissance.

Similar carvings in marble were sold in Rome during the Grand Tour period. Other examples were taken from large fountains.

The condition of each carvings is good, though small sections of the tail and fins are missing. There are also some drill holes, where the dolphins would have been mounted previously.

Size (approx.): 27 x 14 x 7cm
Weight: 646g