(b. ca. 1458, d. 1516, Ferrara)

Contest between Minerva and Neptune

c. 1508
Marble, 83 x 107 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

Antonio Lombardo was the younger brother of Tullio. His works are not as well documented as those of his father and brother. He was intensely involved with the antique. He entered the service of Alfonso I d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, in 1506. In 1508 he carved a sequence of marble bas-reliefs probably intended for the "camerino d'alabastro" in the ducal palace. Two mythological reliefs reveal his type of Classicism in style and content, one of them represents the contest between Minerva and Neptune for Attica and the other Vulcan's Forge.

The Contest between Minerva and Neptune contrasts a chiseled background of architecture and scrollwork pilasters with three figures in strong relief standing out from a scenic wall like statuettes. A frontal view of a calm, slender, nude Neptune shows a wholly classical musculature; Minerva escapes from the bounds of traditional representations and the sculptor chose to create a peaceful image of the young goddess, fully draped in a garment with small serried folds. They offer their gifts to Attica to assure their domination over her. Neptune's horse is inspired by one of the horses of St Mark's, whereas the goddess's simply stylised olive tree blends with the background.