BERTOS, Francesco
(active 1693-1733)

Allegorical Groups Representing the Four Continents: America

1710-25
Bronze, height 68 cm
Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

Francesco Bertos created a considerable number of complicated pyramidal groups in a very distinctive, ingenious style that mirrors the lightness and airiness of contemporary Rococo painting in France. Four groups in the Walters Art Museum are allegories of the four continents, of which the world was then thought to consist. All have their names engraved.

In the allegory of America, the fierce and primitive nature of the New World is represented by the semi-nude female Native American warrior wearing feathers, who has shot an opponent with an arrow. She supports a man who stands on an alligator that looks strangely like a lizard. The gruesome detail of the little boy lifting a decapitated head on a spear refers to European assumptions about the practice of cannibalism in America.