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Unknown Artist - Earth, Fire, Air and Water

Unknown artist
Earth, Fire, Air and Water
BRONZE 12 1/2 x 10 1/2 inches
Gift of Horace Fairbanks.

These are four allegorical medallions in the Athenaeum's collection depicting the elements of nature: Earth, Fire, Air, and Water. Earth is represented by bounty, as three winged boys, known as putti, collect a harvest of grapes. Putti have been used as symbolic figures in Western art since antiquity. Fire is represented by conflict, as three winged putti struggle with one another and fight with bows and arrows. Air is represented by flight, as the three putti hold two small birds. Water is represented by the sea, as one of the three winged putti blows a conch shell while the others struggle with one of two large sea creatures.