Beauty and Power: The Peter Marino Collection, Wallace Collection, London

This tiny exhibition may lack the Renaissance A-listers, but it spans the short, unsteady step to the Baroque with convincing panache

So focused is the Wallace Collection's small new show of late Renaissance and Baroque bronzes that I can point to the exact place in it where you should start your visit, perhaps four inches square and notably empty.

This is the space framed by the interlocked arms of the protagonists of Samson and the Philistine, carved in wax and cast in bronze, probably by a Florentine sculptor called Baccio Bandinelli in the 1550s.

Bandinelli is in many ways a sad figure, doomed to posterity by his ungrateful ex-pupil, Vasari, as a Michelangelo wannabe. Thwarted in his ambition, Baccio is held responsible for destroying Michelangelo's cartoon for the Battle of Cascina, sneaking into the Palazzo Vecchio during yet another Medici restoration to hack it to bits. He is otherwise best known for the lumpish statue of Hercules and Cacus that still stands outside the Palazzo, a desperate and failed attempt to rival the greatness of his nemesis. (Benvenuto Cellini, eyeing the pumped-up musculature of this work, compared it to a sack of melons.) Still, Bandinelli's small-scale sculpture is his best, and the foot-and-a-half-high bronze we're looking at in the Wallace has the kind of tension and dynamism lacking in his colossi.

By far its most striking feature, oddly, is not the ass's jawbone in Samson's right hand, about to smite the rash Philistine who has mocked a Biblical strongman. It is the gap at the centre of the composition that draws the eye, a pretty well perfect rhombus. By the 1550s, the High Renaissance was over and Mannerism was in full swing. Poise and restraint were out, drama and distortion were in. The space in Bandinelli's little bronze mimes the shifting fortunes of sculpture's central story, the tension between solid and void. But Samson and the Philistine has other battles to fight as well.

Hercules was one of several figures from Classical mythology with whom the Medicis, ever modest, liked to identify themselves. (Thus the preponderance of stone biceps in Florentine piazze.) Samson, though, is not a Classical figure but a Biblical one, pointing to another of the paradoxes of the Renaissance in Bandinelli's mini-colossus: the tension between a pagan past and a Christian present, sacred and profane.

Perhaps the most important battle being fought in Samson and the Philistine, though, is that between history and modernity. In its stolid take on Greek contrapposto, that moment of idealised balance beloved of Renaissance sculptors, Hercules and Cacus sucked up to tradition. Samson and the Philistine, made maybe a decade later, couldn't care less about balance; it rejects it, in fact, for instability. From here, it is a short stagger to the Baroque, the name you might usefully apply to most of the other two dozen or so works in this show – the hunting bronzes of Tacca and Cappelli, and then over the French border to Ceres by Michel Anguier and Robert Le Lorrain's Andromeda.

Which is to say that the Wallace's exhibition punches above its tiny weight. Both the show and the works in it are small, and the latter are mostly not by A-listers, but they evoke a strain in the histories of art and taste even so. All but a handful of the bronzes we see here belong to Peter Marino, an American architect whose first client was Andy Warhol. There is a photograph of Marino in the catalogue wearing trademark black leather biker gear, a costume that could encourage speculation as to the nature of his interest. That, though, is hardly the point. Small bronze sculptures were made to be decorative, to be clever and to be collected. In placing them in his New York flat, as he apparently does, alongside abstract paintings by Willem de Kooning and Robert Ryman, Marino is a thoroughly modern Medici.

To 25 Jul (020-7563 9500)

Next Week:

Charles Darwent sees Another Country at the Estorick Collection

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future