Bernini made this dramatic image of a triton (a minor sea-deity of Greek mythology) grappling with a fish atop a gigantic shell as a presentation model for Pope Innocent X Pamphili, who in 1651 commissioned the artist to design a new centerpiece for the fountain at the southern end of the Piazza Navona in Rome. A few years earlier, Bernini had designed the spectacular Fountain of the Four Rivers as the focal point of the refurbished piazza. This second fountain, located opposite the Pamphili palace, would further beautify the site and glorify the Pamphili family. Modeled with the virtuosity and brio that characterize the work of the greatest sculptor of the Roman Baroque, the Kimbell model surpasses all other Bernini terracottas in scale, degree of finish, and quality. The twisting stance of the figure was designed to engage the visitor from every vantage point. The windswept hair and beard and exaggerated facial features place the triton in the realm of the elemental forces of nature. Bernini’s fluid mastery of the human form is apparent in the well-muscled body, derived from life study and antique sculpture. The surface of the model is animated by the skillfully varied finishing of the clay—using a comb, stick, and brush to differentiate areas of flesh, hair, shell, and rock. The carving of the full-scale marble Triton Fountain was assigned to Gian Antonio Mari, working in Bernini’s studio under the master’s supervision.
Adult: Modello for the Moor
Adult: Modello for the Moor, Terracotta and Bernini's Technique
Private collection, Europe;
(sale, Sotheby’s, London, 9 July 2002, no. 54);
purchased by (Salander-O’Reilly Galleries, New York);
purchased by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 2003.