Ormolu and ebony base.
Italy, late 16th - early 17th century.
Atlas is one the founding myth of Greek mythology titans. He is the son of two primordial deities as well as the brother of Prometheus and Epimetheus. After the defeat of the titans, led by Cronos, in the battle that opposed them to the Olympian gods, Atlas was condemned by Zeus to support the celestial sphere on his shoulders for eternity.
Representations of the titan dating from classical Greece are known and Renaissance depictions of him are inspired by the antiques models. Numerous drawings, paintings and sculptures depict him as a bearer: he assumes a decorative function of support as the "Atlant". The figuration of Atlas carrying the globe is mythologically incorrect but has spread because of its symbolism and clarity.
The figure of Atlas is often used as a support for a clock, a world map, or a cup, but our pair bears no trace of this use.
Our two statuettes thus represent this mythological being with a titanic strength bent by the weight of the world he carries on his shoulders. Their small size seems to contrast with the brute force represented here. They are the fruit of a true work of goldsmith by the fineness of the bronze casting and chasing.
A pair of the same model, but of less beautiful crafting, is preserved in Florence, at the Stibbert Museum under the number 00294852.