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Juggling Man

Adriaen de Vriesabout 1615

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum

At a crucial moment in an acrobatic juggling trick, this male figure holds one plate perched precariously on the fingertips of his right hand while another plate, held by centrifugal force, seems suspended. Further complicating the pose, the man looks at the ground and steps on a bellows. Dutch artist Adriaen de Vries based the composition of this bronze statue on a famous Hellenistic marble of a dancing faun, which Michelangelo was believed to have restored while it was in the collection of the Medici in Florence. Although de Vries borrowed the original statue's composition, he replaced the faun's foot organ with a bellows and substituted plates for the faun's cymbals. This work of artistic virtuosity combines vitality and movement with balance. The strong S-curve on the figure's back demonstrates the complexity of his balancing act. The artist may also have had in mind the German word kunststückemachen, which means both to juggle and, more literally, to make a work of art. The use of a verbal conceit such as this one and the exploration of a figure moving in space are characteristic of the Baroque style.

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