The most interesting sculpture that I discovered at the Chicago Art Institute was that of the Italian artist, Christoforo Stati called “Samson and the Lion”. It is made of marble and  was finished around the year 1607. Stati trained in Florence in the 1500’s and some books note him as a more Mannerist styled artist because he trained with artists like Giambologna and Bartolomeo, however I think he had a specific naturalism to his work that was undeniable.

The story is said to be that in 1601 the Duke of Lerma wanted to add a twin sculpture for Giambologna’s, “Samson and the Philistine” sculpture. Giambologna was unavailable to work and the task fell to Stati. The High Renaissance era was almost over and the Baroque way of doing things were on the rise. The statue is a huge sculpture that stands at least 6 feet high. The theme of the statue does agree with the more heroic side of European art like the “David” sculptures. Samson and the Lion is a bible story in which Samson is blessed by God with inhuman strength and powers. He is attacked by a lion and effortlessly rips the Lion’s jaw out. Samson is so amazed, he keeps this incident a secret and eventually conquers an entire People.

The sculpture is beautiful. The sculpture eludes naturalism, as it can be viewed from either direction, as if in complete action. The feet and legs of Samson are very strong and positioned so well, it looks like it could be easily duplicated by passersby. The way its arms are positioned perfectly while holding the lion is amazing. Stati may have had someone pose for this statue, or maybe not sense a Lion is not easily held by anyone!! Either way, Stati did a great job of replicating how Samson’s body and the Lion’s body could have looked during the actual fight. The chest of Samson is so realistic; that the dent in the chest, along with Samson’s neck and the way his mouth is carved, is classic Baroque style of kinetic energy being imposed upon the audience.

What is also noting to me is how Stati was still able to bring a classical element to this more theatrical work. Even though it is moving and “real”, it does have a sense of beauty in regards to the body muscles on Samson and also the Lion. This sculpture is a good sculpture to recognize as one of the artworks that linked the High Renaissance and the Baroque era.

Advertisements