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This artwork, Cockerel Battling with Two Serpents attributed to Francesco Antonio Franzoni by Francesco Antonio Franzoni, is currently for sale at Carlton Hobbs LLC.
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Francesco Antonio Franzoni, Cockerel Battling with Two Serpents attributed to Francesco Antonio Franzoni
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TITLE:  Cockerel Battling with Two Serpents attributed to Francesco Antonio Franzoni
ARTIST:  Francesco Antonio Franzoni (Italian, 1734–1818)
WORK DATE:  circa 1804 - 1813
CATEGORY:  Sculptures
SIZE:  h: 15.2 x w: 20 x d: 11 in / h: 38.6 x w: 50.8 x d: 27.9 cm
PRICE*:  Contact Gallery for Price
GALLERY:  Carlton Hobbs LLC  +1-212-423-9000  Send Email
DESCRIPTION:  ConditionThe object is whole and in excellent condition excepting the beak of the bird and part of one of the snakes where there are traces of old damage which has been restored. Along the edges of the giallo antico marble pedestal there are some minor scratches and a more visible scratch on the upper border.

The composition takes its inspiration from the late Baroque period and is closely related to the oeuvre of the sculptor, Francesco Antonio Franzoni (Carrara 1734-Rome 1818), whose work is characterized by his profound understanding of archaeology, the striking naturalism of the animals he created, and his painstaking attention to detail and ornament. In fact, he was considered the undisputed master of the animal genre. In a portrait by Domenico De Angelis (Ponzano 1735-Roma 1804) Franzoni is depicted working on a sculpture of an eagle (figure 1) (Fine Arts Academy, Carrara), while Oreste Raggi recalled that his animals “were wrought with much artful labor and expressiveness,” an observation that tallies perfectly with the present work.

The exact circumstances of how the present sculpture was made are unknown, but according to documents relating to the activities of Franzoni and his closest collaborator Vincenzo Pacetti, there were obvious French sympathies and frequent contacts with Imperial figures linked to the Napoleonic circle. For example, Pacetti had a regular and long-standing rapport with Lucien Bonaparte, for whom he acquired antiquities for the residence at Canino and who, in 1809, visited the studio of his friend. Franzoni, meanwhile, was fêted by Antonio Canova, who on the day of Napoleon’s coronation in 1804, chose three vases from Franzoni’s studio to be sent to the Emperor, as well as other works as gifts for the Pope. Among the eminent figures for whom Franzoni procured antiquities was Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother-in-law, Gioacchino Napoleone Murat (1767-1815), the eccentric King of Naples and a lover of luxury and antiquities, with whom Franzoni had formed a strong friendship. We know from a passage in a letter written by Francesco Righetti in 1813 to an official of the government of Naples, that Franzoni intended to move to Naples in order to found a school for the art of making marble inlay and animal sculptures. The project was later suspended because of the onset of Napoleonic events in Italy, but is nonetheless proof of the reciprocal admiration and friendship that existed between Franzoni and the royal couple of Naples, Murat and Caroline Bonaparte (Ajaccio 1782—Firenze 1839), Napoleon’s youngest sister.

The symbol of the cockerel, traditionally associated with announcing a new day, is one of the oldest features on coats of arms in heraldry and represents boldness, majesty, victory, strength, generosity, and vigilance. In early coats of arms it is most often depicted with one foot raised, alluding to its courage and aggression in battle.

On the present sculpture, the detail of the bee on the crest of the cockerel seems anything but casual. In fact, it is a sign of a return to heraldry, and indicates that the piece is not only a virtuoso exercise made by an expert hand, probably Francesco Franzoni, but also a perfect synthesis of symbols, which, though difficult to fathom for a modern viewer must have seemed obvious at the time it was made. The combined use of the proud cocq gaulois and the presence of a bee, one of Napoleon’s favorite emblems regularly adopted by him from the time of his coronation, suggests an allusion to the French Empire and either to the figure of the Emperor Napoleon, or to a member of the imperial family.

The snakes play a key role in the symbolic meaning of the present sculpture. This animal typically embodies shrewdness or eternity, when shown biting its own tail, however, when it is trodden on or being devoured by another animal, it represents an enemy, who has been overcome. In this context, the cockerel is holding one of the snakes effortlessly in its beak, while the other lies motionless as if dead: both are enemies defeated.

PROVENANCE:  Daniel Katz Gallery, London, 1994
ONLINE CATALOGUE(S):  Carlton Hobbs LLC Inventory Catalogue
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