Leo Planiscig, Andrea Riccio, Vienna, 1927
Andrea Bacchi, Luciana Giacomelli, “Rinascimento di terra e di fuoco: figure all’antica e immagini devote nella scultura di Andrea Riccio”, in Andrea Bacchi, Luciana Giacomelli (dir.), Rinascimento e passione per l’antico. Andrea Riccio e il suo tempo, Trent, 2008, p. 17-57
Andrea Bacchi, Luciana Giacomelli (dir.), Rinascimento e passione per l’antico. Andrea Riccio e il suo tempo, Trent, 2008
Giuliana Ericani, “Giovanni de Fondulis. Un importante capitolo della scultura rinascimentale padana”, in Paola Venturelli (dir.), Rinascimento cremasco. Arti, mestieri e botteghe tra XV e XVI secolo, Skira, Milan, 2015,p. 69-81
Giancarlo Gentilini, “Un busto all’antica del Riccio e alcuni appunti sulla scultura in terracotta a Padova tra Quattro e Cinquecento”, Nuovi studi, no 1, 1996, p. 29-46
Vittorio Sgarbi (dir.), La scultura al tempo di Andrea Mantegna. Tra classicismo e naturalismo, Milan, 2006
A crown of vine leaves covers the head of the hirsute horseman who is travelling on a donkey while playing the lira da braccio. He is wearing a torn pelisse, leaving his muscular arms and legs uncovered, and wears sandals and breeches to mid-calf (we should point out here the sole obvious lacuna in this terracotta, the figure’s right foot). The donkey is escorted by four children wearing sleeveless tunics. They are divided into two pairs, and the two at the back are reading an album. This singular cortege is evocative of classical compositions, such as the thiasos escorting Dionysus in India. In this precise case, the procession of the divinity includes Silenus riding a donkey, surrounded by satyrs. The branch of vine that crowns our horseman seems indeed to refer to a bacchanalian context, but the hairiness of the face and the dry physique are of course irreconcilable with the figure of Silenus. These physical characteristics would be more appropriate for Hephaistos, who in Greek vase painting enters Olympus on a mule, but the musical instrument and the vine crown are not appropriate for the mythological blacksmith. The definition of the iconography and the identification of a precise literary source would require thorough research that it has not been possible to complete for this initial publication.
However, the style means it is possible to make suggestions concerning the date and the place of execution of this sculpture. The children’s lacerated clothing, the surprising realism with which the animal and its leather bit are described, the strong desire to emphasize purely anecdotal details, such as the gourd that hangs from the horseman’s side, refer to two terracotta sculptures from Padua, also about 30 centimetres high, but which depict an isolated figure, which swere probably modelled during the final decade of the 15th century: the supposed Peasant Resting in the Vienna Kunsthistorisches museum (Inv.-Nr. KK_7345) and the Spinario at the Bode Museum in Berlin (Inv.-Nr. 204). From Leo Planiscig’s studies (1927, p. 105-108), these two pieces have been recognized in the literature as early works by Andrea Riccio, the main figure of terracotta and toreutic sculpture in Padua during the first third of the 16th century: a hypothesis for attribution which has recently received credit from Giancarlo Gentilini (in Rinascimento 2008, p. 61, 65). After all, not only stylistic reasons, but also the unusual iconography of this little terracotta group, imbued with reminiscences of antiquity, fits well into the cultivated climate of this university city of the Veneto. However, unlike the statuettes in Vienna and Berlin, the work examined here does not fit into the context of reflections on precise Hellenistic prototypes, such as the Spinario or the Old Drunken Woman, now at the Musei Capitolini in Rome, nevertheless these three works have in common debts to Bartolomeo Bellano, the presumed master of Riccio and their association with the supposed Paduanische Naturalismus.
At the end of the 15th century, two paths leading to naturalism were opened to sculptors from Padua: on the one hand, the harsh and so to speak, barbarian language of Bellano “lessico aspro e per così dire barbarico” (Bacchi-Giacomelli 2008, p. 25); on the other there are the figures imbued with a vital energy “pervase da un’energia vitalissima” (Aldo Galli dans Rinascimento 2008, p. 254) of the artist from Crema, Giovanni de Fondulis, who, it is now known, was also indispensable for the young Riccio. The author of our terracotta seems, however to look more towards the first path, leading to Bellano. For example, the footwear, with the distant ancestry of Donatello, seems to be studied from the shield carrying putti of the Roccabonella monument at San Francesco Grande of Padua, Bellano’s last work, who died shortly after 1495; our figures’ bushy hair is also an indication of a relation with the two bronze spiritelli of the Franciscan church.
Terracotta sculpture of Renaissance Padua is however a field that is still largely magmatic. This is shown by the fact that the personality of Giovanni de Fondulis, which is essential for the evolution of three dimensional art in Padua, has only been reconstituted in the past decade, in other words when Giuliana Ericani (in La scultura 2006, p. 92-94) showed by means of documentary evidence that he was the author of the Baptism in the Museo Civico di Bassano del Grappa (inv. S192 C; see idem, Rinascimento 2015). Artists active around 1500 still remain surrounded by mystery, such as Antonio Antico, Fondulis’s son-in-law, to whom the Apostle in the Worcester Art Museum is attributed, or Domenico Boccalaro, who created the St. James and St. Philip on the altar of St. Nicolas of Tolentino in the church of the Eremitani of Padua (1495), while the attribution of other works remains uncertain, such as the later statues (in terracotta) on the adjacent altar to the Virgin, which are already of the second decade of the 16th century: attention was drawn to them by a major article by Giancarlo Gentilini (1996).
It is therefore probable that our terracotta was created at the beginning of the 16th century, as suggested by the dreamy air with which our horseman is playing the lyre. The large moustache and long wavy beard, in addition, make this singular figure the twin of the fantastical marine creature in the famous print by Jacopo de’ Barbari, Triton and Nereid which can in fact be dated in the early years of the 16th century (Giorgio Marini, in Rinascimento 2008, p. 368-369, cat. 61).
This sculpture shows a old man, nude, leaning on a jar from which water is flowing in powerful waves. His lewd position, emphasized by his long thin and supple limbs form a contrast with the age of his facial features, marked by a thick beard and hair. In his right hand, he holds an impressive cornucopia overflowing with fruits, its opening ending between his legs.
This exceptional terracotta that is modelled flexibly is an allegory of a River, as shown by the jar. Italian sculptors of this period had a very pronounced taste for this type of representation, such as Niccolò Tribolo (1500-1550) who used terracotta for creating modelli of larger compositions, in particular for the ornamentation of fountains, which required them to be seen from all angles. Our modello is a perfect example of this type of creation.
The group shows two figures standing, a man who is quite old with a beard, and a young woman whose limbs and the top of her head are turning into the trunk and branches of a tree. The woman’s right arm and the upper area of her left arm have been voluntarily cut off by the artist, who has created a cavity in which elements made in another material were probably inserted, symbolizing the metamorphosis of Myrrha. Her face, which is turned to the left, shows deep distress. She is entirely naked. The male figure is also naked, except for a drapery that covers is right shoulder and, falling behind, reappears between his legs. His expression is also one of great anguish. He has put his right arm around the woman’s neck, as if to hold her back, and presses his left hand against his own chest.
This dramatic composition doubtless refers to an episode narrated by Ovid in his Metamorphoses,
Book X, in a long and detailed chapter that seems not to have inspired many artists. Pygmalion, king of Cyprus, falls in love with the ivory statue that he had sculpted. Venus, taking pity on him, breathes life into this Galatea who afterwards becomes the mother of Paphos and Cinyras. The latter becomes the father of Myrrha, whom he plans to marry off. However, one of the Furies inspired devastating and exclusive love in the young girl for her father. Ovid tells how a perverse servant arranged a nocturnal encounter, blind and incestuous, unbeknownst to the father. From this forbidden union, Myrrha finds herself pregnant and flees from her father who meanwhile has been enlightened about this intimate drama. She wishes to die to punish herself for her infamous passion and, at the time her father join her, the gods take pity on her despair and transform her into a tree, which will be the myrrh tree.
The sculptor has translated this metamorphosis at its peak and is not afraid of showing the female figure as she begins to be transformed into a tree. Later, we know, Bernini would dare to do the same with his group of Apollo and Daphne, this time a drama of the amorous and impulsive desire of a god and not incest, but again it is Ovid’s Metamorphoses that provides the subject. Although the group of Myrrha has not been carried away by Bernini’s baroque ardour, its composition is no less dramatic. Should we be surprised in any case that two artists, who are not really contemporary, have sought to depict this delicate action of the transformation of a human body into a plant?
The initials on the work’s back suggest proposing the name of Pierre de Franqueville as the creator, a sculptor who has left a large number of works, but who occupies a position that has not been appreciated enough, although he was one of the important artists in the transition from mannerist sculpture to what would become the baroque. This unpublished group is without doubt a good illustration of this change. Franqueville is one of those artists who can be described as being European as they evolved on several projects on the continent. He was born in Cambrai, a Flemish city that had not yet become French, where sculpture was in the spotlight, in particular with Jacques Dubrœucq, Franqueville’s first master. The ambitious young man began his journey in Paris and continued, following recommendations that he was skilful in using, by Innsbruck in the Empire, where he worked in the workshops of Alexander Colyn, which was only a stop off on the way to Rome, the El Dorado of artists of that time. But it is in Florence that he settled for many years, becoming the assistant, and very quickly the most important one, of Jean de Bologne (Giambologna as names were Italianized in those days), who was in addition a compatriot. He became prominent, received many commissions, both religious and profane subjects; and was so famous and appreciated that the King of France, Henri IV called on him to make him his sculptor, with the queen, Maria de Medici acting as intermediary. It is in Paris, in particular with the king’s equestrian monument on the Pont Neuf begun by his master Giambologna that he ended a fruitful career full of honours, his work still reserving some surprises. This group should doubtless be added to it, with its rather unusual subject, and which it is hard to date due to a lack of documents. It was certainly a private commission, for which he supplied only the bozzetto and that was not translated into marble, a material in which he was a virtuoso.
Franqueville signed his own finished works with some pride. He seems to have been content here to engrave his initials, but this allows us to suggest adding this unfinished project to this sculptor’s oeuvre, who like many of his compatriots, travelled around Europe, a route that prefigured that of other artists, such as Gabriel de Grupello, another Fleming, a century later. He surely deserves, by his creations and prestigious commissions, a more attentive study that will confirm his place among the great artists in relief.
This female figure surrounded by three children in dynamic poses is the usual depiction of an allegory of Christian Charity. The scene is set in a landscape framed by two trees, one alive, the other dead, which refer, according to a common iconography, to the opposition between spiritual life in religion and the death of the soul outside it.
A marble relief of the Massacre of the Innocents with a similar composition is located in the roof labyrinth of the Milan Duomo. Published by Rossana Bossaglia in 1973 (Rossana Bossaglia, “Scultura”, in Il Duomo di Milano, II, Milan, 1973, p. 163, fig. 222) but not considered in studies since then, this relief shows a sitting figure surrounded by three children slain by Herod’s minions depicted in the same way in disorganized poses. In addition, the large cross that takes up the entire left part of the composition suggests that an allegory of Christian Faith is illustrated through the episode of the Massacre. This relief is in an area of the Duomo that cannot currently be visited; on the basis of the bad photograph available, it would seem to be by a different artist, but nevertheless gives an initial indication of the context in which the creator of the terracotta catalogued here should be placed. In addition, the idea of a close link between the two works as forming part of the same project executed by different artists seeking to depict the Theological Virtues (Faith, Hope, Charity) should remain a hypothesis.
On first sight, our Charity has immediate equivalents in Lombard painting of the first decades of the 17th century: the agitation of the composition, with putti in acrobatic poses seems to come directly from paintings by Morazzone (1573-1626), Cerano (1573-1632) or a still young Daniele Crespi (1598-1630); the expressive physiognomy of the faces is especially reminiscent of those painted by Cerano, while for the way the hairstyle is conceived, decorated with ribbons and veils, the artist seems to have in mind the sophisticated language of Giulio Cesare Procaccini (1574-1625).
From the second decade of the 17th century, a new generation of sculptors that was particularly sensitive to the expressive elements depicted by contemporary painters asserted itself around the school of sculpture of the Milan Duomo. Also, painters were often indirectly involved in other aspects of the visual arts: from 1598, Camillo Procaccini (1546-1626) provided drawn models to sculptors and printmakers (for a summary of these activities, see Susanna Zanuso, “The ‘Crucifixion’ and the ‘Last Supper’: Two Bronzes by Francesco Brambilla for Milan Cathedral”, in The Burlington Magazine, vol. CLVII, no 1352, November 2015, p. 767 and note 20) and Giulio Cesare Procaccini, began his artistic career as a sculptor before moving definitively to painting (Giacomo Berra, L’attività scultorea di Giulio Cesare Procaccini : documenti e testimonianze, Milan, 1991). Cerano, who also created three dimensional works including the stucco decoration in one of the chapels of the church of Santa Maria presso San Celso in 1601-1603, at the end of his career, from 1629 , supervised all the sculptural work at the cathedral, creating among other things the magnificent cartoons for the reliefs of the doors of the facade. These were translated into marble by Andrea Biffi (c. 1580-1630), the last representative of his generation, and by the younger artists, Giovan Pietro Lasagna (who died in 1658) and Gaspare Vismara (who died after 1651) (see Rossana Bossaglia and Mia Cinotti, Tesoro e Museo del Duomo, II, Milan, 1978, p. 28, cat. 205-213; for Cerano as a sculptor: Marco Tanzi, “La ‘Madonna’ di San Celso e una proposta per Cerano scultore”, dans Prospettiva, no 78, 1995, p. 75-83; Paola Venturelli, “Aggiunte e puntualizzazioni per Giovann Battista Crespi detto il Cerano a Milano: disegno e arti della modellazione”, in Arte cristiana, vol. XCII, no 826, 2005, p. 57-67).
Among the sculptors of this particular contingent, the eccentric Giovanni Bellandi appears the best candidate to be the author of the Charity. In 1619, so during his lifetime, he was described by the connoisseur Girolamo Borsieri: “Giovanni Bellano [per Bellandi] haveva già nome tra gli scultori principali ed attendeva alla loro professione ma pare che voglia imitare Giulio Cesare Procaccino curando più tosto il pennello che lo scalpello” (Girolamo Borsieri, Il Supplemento della nobiltà di Milano, Milan, 1619, p. 66) [“Giovanni Bellano [for Bellandi] had already a name among the main sculptors and worked in this profession, but it appears that he wanted to imitate Giulio Cesare Procaccini, taking greater care with the brush than with the chisel”].
An artist about whom very little is known and for whom there is no recent monograph, only four marble sculptures have been attributed with certainty as being entirely by Bellandi, three at the Duomo and one at the charterhouse of Pavia, all of which are of such visionary quality and audacity of composition compared to those of his contemporaries that they draw our attention. Until now, however, no terracotta modello had been identified. Nothing is known about his training, and the earliest documents that mention his presence among the sculptors of the Duomo in 1608 seem to confirm his absence from there before this date (Archivio della Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo di Milano (AVFDMi), Ordinazioni Capitolari, 21, fol. 161v.).
He died in 1626, probably quite young as his oldest son was only 10 years old (AVFDMi, c.139/12, n.3), but had nevertheless succeeded in acquiring particular prestige among his contemporaries, despite the shortness of his career. In addition to his works, at least two events that have never been cited among the sporadic modern references to our artist tell us about his qualities: in September 1621, he was asked to value the bronze ornaments on the pedestal of the Equestrian Statue of Ranuccio Farnese by Francesco Mochi at Piacenza (M. De Luca Savelli, “Regesto”, in Francesco Mochi 1580-1654 in occasione delle mostre per il quarto centenario della nascita, Florence, 1981, p. 124) and in 1624-1625, he was the instigator, with the engineer Giovani Paolo Bisnati, of an enquiry into the actions of Fabio Mangone, who was at the time engineer for the Fabbrica del Duomo of Milan (Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, cod. S 123 sup.).
His best known works are reliefs for the belt course of the Duomo’s choir, including the Scenes from the Life of the Virgin, marble sculptures whose originality cannot be underestimated, as well as the striking harmony with the paintings of Cerano and his Lombard followers. The reliefs of The Deposition of Christ (1617-1619) and the Marriage Feast at Cana (1620-1623) are completely autograph. He is documented as being marginally involved in the Birth of Christ (1621-1623) which Marco Antonio Prestinari had left unfinished when he died in 1621, while in his turn Bellandi died before finishing the Raising of the Cross that was finished by Gaspare Vismara (AVFDMi, c.139/12; and AVFDMi, Mandati, ad annum). The critical destiny of the first work mentioned in documents is much more complicated: the large, surprising St. Michael and the Dragon, now in the chapel of San Giovanni Bono. Initially considered a sculpture by Bellandi in artistic literature, from the time of Girolamo Borsieri (1619), already cited, until the fundamental publication by Ugo Nebbia on the reliefs of the Duomo (Nebbia, La scultura nel Duomo di Milano, Milan, 1908, p. 220), the work with its “caratteri estremamente moderni” raised in 1973 “qualche perplessità”, for Rossana Bossaglia who opted in 1978 to attribute it to an artist of the late 18th century, while attributing another St. Michael and the Dragon kept in storage at the Museo del Duomo: an idea that was contrary to all the documentary proof, which however found considerable support until recently (Bossaglia 1973, op. cit., p. 160 note 66 and p. 163 note 96; Bossaglia-Cinotti, 1978, op. cit., p. 27, cat. 187, fig. 199). Recently indeed, the identification of Bellandi’s St. Michael with the sculpture on the altar of San Giovanni Bono, cited from 1611, was confirmed by Giulio Bora (Giulio Bora, “Giovanni Stefano Montalto e la grafica”, in Giovanni Stefano e Giuseppe Montalto, due pittori trevigliesi nella Lombardia barocca, conference papers, Treviglio, Auditorium del Centro Civico Culturale, 12 April 2014, edited by Odette D’Albo, Milan, 2015, p. 64-65), who also thinks Bellandi, a painter as well as a sculptor according to Borsieri’s text, should perhaps “verosimilmente” be identified with the “Maestro del San Sebastiano Monti”, a painter whose artistic personality has only recently been reconstituted (see Francesco Frangi, Daniele Crespi. La giovinezza ritrovata, Milan, 2012, p. 72-85, fig. 37-49). While waiting for the planned publication of the results of Giulio Bora’s research on the subject, we can only agree with the fact that Bellandi’s sculptures share with the paintings of the Meastro del San Sebastiano Monti “il sofisticato linguaggio di Giulio Cesare Procaccini insieme a evidenti tratti tipologici e espressivi ceraneschi, tutti intesi in un’accezione affatto personale” [“the sophisticated language of Giulio Cesare Procaccini and obvious typological and expressive characteristics of Cerano”].
While the identification of the statues of St. Cecilia and St. Theodore commissioned by the cathedral of 1610-1612 is uncertain, the last work by our sculptor of which we can be sure, besides the only one created outside the capital of the duchy, is the Assumption of the Virgin of 1616 at the Charterhouse of Pavia, which is so similar to the figures that appear in the reliefs in the belt course of the choir in Milan that there is no doubt about its attribution (Susanna Zanuso, “La scultura del Seicento negli altari del transetto”, dans AA.VV., La Certosa di Pavia, Parme, 2006, p. 188).
Having broadly reconstructed the points about which we can be sure in the artistic career of Giovanni Bellandi, the Charity should now be compared with his other works. The similarity is striking between her profile and that of the Duomo St. Michael: both are characterized by the connection of the nose to the forehead without any curve and the lower part of the face with reduced proportions, as well as the pointed chin with a very small mouth and a protruding upper lip. It is also possible to see how the circular swirl formed by the drapery on the Charity’s right side has a precise equivalent in the motif sculpted on St. Michael’s side; in this case, the coat opens out, an audacious and innovative solution in marble sculpture for this period, and also in this detail, the analogy is clear with the Charity’scloak that expands against the background of the relief. In both works, the same aim is evident, to reproduce the effects that were being tried out in contemporary painting, but the sculptor has more success with terracotta, a material which by its nature allows more flexible and harmonious rendering. Finally the uncovered roots of the tree on the right of the Charity also appear, created with greater delicacy, without the naturalistic base of the St. Michael.
Without underestimating the difficulty of attributing a new work to an artist who is still little known and for whom no other terracotta modello is known, the suggestion that the Charity could effectively be a work by Giovanni Bellandi is consolidated by observing the cherubs at the Virgin’s feet at the charterhouse of Pavia of 1616: close to the putti that Cerano modelled in stucco at Santa Maria presso San Celso, they have the same tousled vitality and the same zany and expressive physiognomy as those of the modello presented here.
Alessandro Algardi, who embodied Roman Classicism as opposed to the Baroque, and combined the ancient tradition with that of Raphael through serene eclecticism, was trained in Rome under the Carracci. A protégé of Cardinal Ludovisi when he arrived in Rome, he restored antiques and formed close ties with Domenichino, who had a lasting influence on his work. As his reputation grew, Algardi received three major commissions: in 1634, the tomb of Pope Leo XI for St. Peter’s in Rome, in 1635, the major marble group of the Beheading of St. Paul (Bologna church of San Paolo Maggiore) and finally the statue of St. Philip Neri for the Chiesa Nuova in Rome. His most famous work is the large marble relief showing the Meeting of Attila and St. Leo, commissioned in 1646 for St. Peter’s in Rome, which was installed after the artist’s death, in 1663. Algardi was a portraitist unlike any other, as confirmed by the cardinal Laudivio Zacchia (1626, Berlin, Bode Museum) and the various funerary busts where verismo and expressivity combine with great sensitivity (the statue of Pope Innocent X commissioned in 1645, Palazzo Campidoglio).
Our large terracotta medallion shows the martyrdom of St. Paul, who was beheaded in 64 AD. the same day as St. Peter, during Nero’s persecutions. The obvious connection between this terracotta and the bronze medallion on the main altar of the church of San Paolo Maggiore in Bologna, which has the same diameter, and comparison with the other known examples, are unequivocal. Here the refinement and extraordinary quality of the modelling sets this relief apart from the other examples in terracotta known today (Florence, Bargello, 55 cm; Kansas City, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 44,5 cm; Rome, Palazzo Venezia, rectangular reduction of 38 x 35 cm), which all seem to be contemporary derivations of variable quality, but always quite inferior (see Jennifer Montagu, Alessandro Algardi, New Haven/London, Yale University Press, 1985, p. 372-376). Here the summary speed as well as the lightness and elegance with which the figures and background are defined recall the autograph reliefs in clay, but also Algardi’s very beautiful tapered drawings. The draped female figure in pain, on the far left, seems more to have been drawn in ink than modelled. Despite a few visible lacunae, the work’s remarkable quality and the characteristics of the relief suggest that this is a modello by Alessandro Algardi. As regards its provenance, some early inventories confirm the presence of a terracotta modello, considered to be original (mentioned at the Casa Avila in Rome in 1647 and among the Farsetti terracottas around 1800: see Montagu, op. cit.). Although it is obviously difficult to show that these references relate to our version that has come to light, it is nevertheless possible to assume it is the model that remained the property of a famous member of the family which commissioned the Bolognese work: Jennifer Montagu documented that in 1649, Virgilioi Spada paid for a round gilt frame for a “clay medallion of St. Paul”. The work is not mentioned in the Spada inventories, but it may have remained in the collections of the family until the mid-18th century (see Montagu, op. cit., p. 373), which thus kept the modello that was the closest to the bronze it had commissioned. The terracotta that is the subject of this study has all the characteristics that would allow it to be identified with this modello.
The son of a sculptor and a nephew of Antoine Coysevox his teacher, Coustou lived in Rome from 1683 to 1686, after winning the Grand Prix in 1782. He was admitted a member of the Académie royale with a relief of Apollo showing the bust of Louis XIV to France (Paris, musée du Louvre) and this marks the start of a long career of constant employment by the Bâtiments du Roi. He produced works for the Invalides Church (Saint Louis, marble, in situ) and especially for the park of the Château de Marly, which demonstrate every facet of his talent. Classical groups (Meleager killing a Deer, 1703-1706, in situ); an idealized physical type (Nymph with a Quiver, marble 1710, Paris, Musée du Louvre) or borrowed from the antique (Adonis Resting from the Hunt, marble, 1710, Paris, Musée du Louvre), sometimes influence by a dynamism borrowed from Bernini (Apollo Pursuing Daphne, marble, 1717, Paris, Musée du Louvre). His masterpiece is most assuredly the large Pieta (marble, 1725) in the choir of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, which combines great stylistic restraint with an expressive pathos typical of the Louis XIV era, easily making the transition from the Louis XIV style to one of greater flexibility and imagination.
Discovered in 1507 in the garden of a house at the Campo dei Fiori, the ancient sculpture of the Emperor Commodus as Hercules was placed in a niche of the Belvedere courtyard. It figured from then on as one of the most important ancient sculptures to be admired in Rome. Primaticcio made a plaster cast of it which he had cast in bronze for the king Francis I, after 1540. A century later, while he was a resident of the French Academy, Nicolas Coustou was in turn commissioned to make a marble copy of this statue for the King in the gardens of the Château of Versailles (now on the north side of the Latona fountain). Unlike other antique statues sculpted for the crown, Coustou made a number of obvious changes. Instead of featuring the young Hylas abducted by the hero after killing his father, he has chosen to depict another episode by placing the three golden apples from the Garden of the Hesperides in the palm of his hand, making the work more aesthetic while remaining faithful to the original. In his biography of Coustou, Cousin de Contamine praises the sculptor’s independence of mind: “Coustou who admired only true Beauty without prevention for time, country, nor for the names of the authors, always had his eyes on nature when carrying out this work. Far from slavishly copying as prejudiced minds do, he took the good, added to it what he saw was missing and made another Hercules Commodus.” If all the students of the French Academy were asked to copy an antique sculpture, this freedom of mind, and especially his flexibility, are exceptional for the time and form a contrast with the rigour of the Academy. Colbert insisted on “making the young sculptors copy exactly what is most beautiful in Rome.” These qualities also appear in our large terracotta. In addition to the brio of its execution, unusual ease is shown in the handling of the antique repertory and sufficient skill to create a new work, all qualities that apply to Nicolas Coustou. While the skin of the Nemean lion is usually tied on his shoulder covering the back and left shoulder, here Hercules holds the animal’s muzzle with an imperious gesture, with the rest of the hide falling elegantly behind the athlete. The artist has succeeded in glorifying his model through the hero’s musculature, giving his work nobility and greater liveliness, like the work at Versailles, which pays him such a fine posthumous tribute.
The young Massimiliano Soldani Benzi was sent by his father to Florence to study in 1675. He met Volterrano shortly afterwards, who introduced him to the drawing school at the Grand Ducal gallery. There, he was presented to the Grand Duke Cosimo III, who commissioned drawings for medals and portraits to be cast in bronze. At the beginning of 1678, he was in Rome, having been sent to the academy at the Palazzo Madama where he studied under the painter Ciro Ferri and the printmaker Giovanni Pietro Travani, from whom he learned how to work with steel. He stayed in Rome until 1681 when Cosimo III called him back to Florence. The many medals he sent to Florence date from this period, including those of his masters Ciro Ferri and Ercole Ferrata, as well as the ones made for Christina of Sweden whom he met in Rome through Giovan Battista Gaulli.
The first steel moulds for minting coins also date from the 1680s. With the aim of perfecting this technique, Soldani Benzi went to Paris for ten months to work with the medal maker Joseph Roëttiers; many letters sent to the Grand Duke date from this period. He made a medal of Louis XIV which he finished in Florence and it formed the basis for Florentine medals. Back in Florence, he reorganized the mint and made portraits of the members of the reigning family. In 1683 he was appointed professor at the Accademia del Disegno and received several commissions from Cosimo III for religious silverware.
The gran principe Ferdinando also appreciated Soldani’s work and asked him to make several groups and reliefs in bronze including a series of the Four Seasons, made between 1708 and 1711, to be given to the Elector Palatine. His reputation as a bronze sculptor earned him commissions from foreign connoisseurs, such as Queen Anne of England, the Duke of Marlborough and especially Prince Johann Adam Andreas I of Lichtenstein, probably one of his most important clients from 1694 on, from whom he made a series of busts of emperors after the antique and various reliefs of mythological or allegorical subjects such as Time Revealing Truth of 1695-7. He also worked at the end of his life on the tomb of Marcantonio Zondadari, the grandmaster of the Order of Malta at the cathedral of La Valetta (1722-1725), and also for that of his successor Manoel de Vilhena (1727-1729). After his death, the Marchese Carlo Ginori acquired many models and moulds from his heirs and had copies made of them in wax and porcelain.
We are grateful to Professor Tomaso Montanari for his attribution of our two reliefs to Massimiliano Soldani Benzi. In his opinion they are early works by him and can be compared easily to other reliefs by Soldani (although they are larger), such as The Agony in the Garden of the Metropolitan Museum of New York in terracotta, the Blessed Veronica Giuliani Receiving the Stigmata in Bronze at the Bargello, or the Death of St. Francis Xavier also in bronze and at the Bargello, these last two being dated around 1697. The same way of occupying the backgrounds either with clouds or rocks, like in our small plaques. Another comparable detail is the tufts of wild grass springing from cracks in the rocks. It is known that in 1743 or 1744 Ferdinando, the artist’s son, sold to the Doccia porcelain factory wax models taken from the works remaining in his father’s studio, but neither bronze nor porcelain plaques after these two models are known.
Austria’s leading Baroque architect, Fischer Von Erlach imported into Central Europe the architectonic language of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Francesco Borromini and Carlo Fontana that he had learned during a long period in Rome (1671-1683). Fischer worked in the Schor workshop, a famous family of architects, decorators, sculptors and painters originally from Southern Tyrol that was closely connected to the Bernini studio. From 1683 to 1687, he lived in Naples along with Filippo Schor, in the suite of the Viceroy, Haro y Guzmán, Marqués del Carpio. Appointed first architect of imperial Vienna in 1704, he built a large number of churches and palaces including Schönbrunn and the church of St. Charles Borromeo in Vienna. Also working as a sculptor, he produced a portrait of Emperor Leopold I for the Plague Column in Vienna, (now destroyed), of which he sketched the reliefs on the base (1687-1688), designs for vases, fountains and many medals, he directed decorative campaigns in stucco as well as a marble statue of the Assumption of the Virgin for the altar of the chapel of the Palazzo della Zecca in Naples (now destroyed). Von Erlach’s sculpted works were mainly known from documents.
A few months ago, a new sculpture by the artist came to light: a bust of Penthesilea, Queen of the Amazons. Identified by Leticia de Frutos during her research on the patronage of the Marqués del Carpio, she discovered a list of works of art that the viceroy sent from Naples to Madrid in 1687, in which another mythical queen of Antiquity, Semiramis appears as a pendant to the Penthesilea. The inventory describes this bust “con murion en la cabesa a modo de faja rep(resen)ta Semiramis Reina de Asia y Asorie, echa en Roma del d(ic)ho con su piedestalo ut supra”. This description allows us to identify this new terracotta bust as an autograph modello executed by Von Erlach for the marble now lost to us. The iconography of the work is well adapted to the depiction of Semiramis. According to legend, Semiramis was brought up by doves, and took the form of a dove when she died, which explains the key role played by the one perched on the figure’s right shoulder. It doubtless justifies the presence of the bird on Penthesilea’s helmet in order to maintain symmetry. The robe revealing her right breast is a clear allusion to her legendary lust, which earned her place in Dante’s Hell (V, 55-56). The del Carpio document also indicates that in the marble version, von Erlach emphasized the military nature of Semiramis by placing a helmet on her, to reinforce the visual parallels with the bust of Penthesilea. The strong stylistic and iconographic affinities with the marble bust permit the attribution of our work to von Erlach and also create a link with the Marqués del Carpio’s commission. The carving of the bust is identical, and the facial features are similar: the oval, the flattened nose, the sagging corners of the mouth, the line of the shoulders and the deeply incised drapery. The monstrous winged grotesque mask encircling Semiramis’ bosom evokes the military activities of this queen who was both sensual and a warrior. The similarity of dimensions, the symmetry in the inclination of the heads, the shoulders and the bared breasts, the recurring motif of the bird prove that our terracotta was created at the same time, with the aim of forming a pair with the marble at Aranjuez. Thus, coming in addition to the marble Penthesilea of Aranjuez, this Seminaris represents an unhoped-for opportunity for opening up a new era of research into this fascinating aspect of the great Austrian architect’s work.
This beautiful terracotta sculpture, created around 1720 does not appear to have been made as a modello to be transposed into marble or bronze, but instead as an autonomous work of art for the adornment of a connoisseur’s collection. This is due to the extreme finishing of the work, its specific iconography (an allegory of the art of sculpture rich in references to the classical tradition including the large female head and also to creations of baroque statuary: from the putto in the manner of Duquesnoy to the virtuoso insistence on the cock’s feathers) and also its style, which doubtless leads to the great period of Bolognese terracotta sculpture of the 18th century (see mainly Eugenio Riccomini, Ordine e vaghezza: scultura in Emilia nell’età barocca, Bologna, 1972, et Vaghezza e furore: la scultura del Settecento in Emilia, Bologna, 1977; Stefano Tumidei, “Terrecotte bolognesi di Sei e Settecento: collezionismo, produzione artistica, consumo devozionale”, in Renzo Grandi (dir.), Presepi e terrecotte nei Musei Civici di Bologna, Bologna, 1991, p. 21-51).
More precisely, some comparisons lead to the attribution of our Allegory of Sculpture to Giuseppe Maria Mazza. The figure’s profile (from the Greek nose to the hair gathered behind), can be superimposed for example onto that of the beautiful early Madonna exhibited among the collections of the Museo Davia Bargellini in Bologna. In the same collection, figures of Bacchus and Ceres also provide appropriate parallels, whether for the rendering of the nude’s drapery or for the figure’s posture.
It is furthermore possible to find a close link between our sculpture and an Allegory of Painting (of identical material and dimensions) presented for sale by Heim in London in 1981 and acquired by the Mead Art Museum in Amherst in the USA. The two figures were conceived as a pair, not just due to the obvious complementarity of the subject, but also because of their respective positions, gestures, relations with the putti that accompany them, as well as the attribution of distinctive identical signs (like the medallions that hang from their neck). This Allegory of Painting has been credibly attributed (since its appearance with Heim: Art as Decoration, Heim Gallery, summer exhibition, 1981, no 30) to Angelo Gabriello Pio (1690-Bologna-1770). We must therefore consider that the two sculptors (master and pupil) received commissions from an amateur who wanted to see them compete and to compare them (according to a practice that is known from other examples see Tumidei, op. cit., note 47), naturally reserving the allegory of their dear Sculpture for the master.
The characters of style of these sculptures (which it would be lovely to see again side by side) suggest dating this episode to Pio’s return to Bologna, in other words shortly after 1719. Giuseppe Maria Mazza’s Allegory of Sculpture therefore appears as the perfect summary of baroque sculpture, and especially a sort of rare artistic autobiography; as another great native of Bologna, Annibale Carracci said, artists must “parlare con le mani”.
It is by comparison with a bust at the Musée de Cognac signed and dated 1722, depicting the theatrical author, that Professor Souchal, to whom we are grateful for his assistance, suggests attributing ours to Sébastien Slodtz, an artist from Flanders, but founder of a dynasty of artists representative of the Louis XV style.
The son of a carpenter from Antwerp, Sébastien Slodtz settled in Paris before 1685, entering Girardon’s studio. Two of his sons would become sculptors, two others, painters. After moving several times, he was allocated lodgings at the Louvre in 1799, where he lived until his death, receiving an annual pension from 1709. A member (and even rector) of the Académie de Saint-Luc, he never joined the Académie Royale.
As a collaborator of Girardon, Slodtz worked essentially at Versailles for the alleys and groves in the park, but also at Marly and the Trianon, sculpting capitals, monumental vases and groups (Hannibal, Proteus and Aristaeus). He was also involved in the decor of the Royal Chapel at Versailles, as well as the dome of the Invalides. He created in addition, ephemeral decors for the funeral services of Louis XIV and of various members of the royal family.
Portraits are rare in Slodtz’s work since, in addition to ours, only the bust of Cognac is known (and the autograph replica at the museum of Chaalis) and the bust of Titon du Tillet, Commissaire des Guerres, signed and dated 1725 (in marble), now in the Wildenstein collection (see The Arts of France from François Ier to Napoléon Ier, New York, Wildenstein & Co, 2005, no 54). Our bust may depict the same figure as the bust of Cognac, with which it shows true similarities.
The identification of the sitter of the bust of Cognac is due to François Moureau, in his monographic study in Dufresny, auteur dramatique (1657-1724) (Paris, Klincksieck, 1979), who considers that comparison with the portrait painted in 1724 by Charles Coypel, which has disappeared but is known from a print, is positive for this reason. Charles Dufresnoy, Sieur de la Rivière, a descendant of Henri IV, was quite a fashionable author and the main supplier to the Comédie-Italienne of 1692 to 1697, while starting at the same time at the Comédie-Française, where he made his career until his death, directing the Mercure Galant from 1710 to 1714. Comparison of the two busts and the engraved portrait shows that ours is earlier, as the model appears younger here. With his hair falling nonchalantly on his shoulder, the open collar, Slodtz shows us here the canonical model of a portrait of an “intellectual”.
An almost square relief, this terracotta dating to 1699-1700 is in perfect condition. It shows the culmination of the myth of Medusa narrated by Ovid, among others, in Book IV of his Metamorphoses. Perseus avoids the petrifying gaze of Medusa by looking at her only in the image reflected in his bronze shield (in our relief, the shield still bears the imprinted monstrous image) and in this way manages to cut off her head: in this instant, Pegasus, the winged horse, is magically born from drops of blood.
The quality of the work is excellent and clearly shows the hand of a French sculptor of the very end of the 17th century. On the basis of style, it is possible to make a more precise attribution, to the sculptor René Chauveau.
A pupil of François Girardon and brother-in-law of Sébastien Slodtz, René Chauveau began his career with major prestigious commissions, working at the end of the 1680s at the Grand Trianon at Versailles and then on the cupola of the Invalides in Paris. Despite the perspective of sure success, Chauveau accepted an invitation from the famous architect Nicodemus Tessin the Younger who, having returned from his travels in Europe, was directing the artistic and architectural policies of the king Charles XII, in the manner of a Swedish Vasari. Chauveau lived in Stockholm from 1693 to 1700, leaving major works at the royal palace, the Tessin palace and in churches.
Our relief in fact appears very close to the almost rococo elegance of the final phase of Chauveau’s time in Sweden. Indeed, Medusa, stretched out in the foreground, has close parallels in the figures of the Four Seasons that appear reclining in a similar manner in other reliefs in gesso placed above the doors of the vestibule of the Tessin palace in Stockholm (photographs in François Souchal, French Sculptors of the 17th and 18th Centuries. The Reign of Louis XIV, vol. I, Oxford, 1977, p. 98, nos 18/1-18/4). The figure of Spring (idem, photograph no 18/1) is especially close to Medusa in the arrangement of the drapery; the coat seems to be suspended between the full breasts, and its folds fall in broad identical planes. Perseus, on the other hand echoes other works from the same area, such as the two large statues in gesso of Apollo and Minerva (photographs p. 97 nos 17/1 and 17/2), which are in two niches of the same vestibule of the Tessin palace as the Season reliefs. These two gods and our Perseus have the same long and tapering corpulence, and the same attitude evocative of an ethereal and light dance that is already magnificently 18th century in the way of dematerializing bodies and refining forms. In addition, the profile of Minerva’s helmeted head can be perfectly superimposed on Perseus’s. Even more convincing parallels, in the form of a historical connection with the large series of reliefs for the monumental staircase and the State Room of the Royal Palace of Stockholm (photographs p. 99). They are fifteen rectangular reliefs depicting the same number of mythological scenes, all taken from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The construction and composition of the scenes, the types of the bodies, the forms of the draperies, the manner of depicting trees and vegetation: all seem to come from the same mind and the same hands as those which modelled our relief. Our work appears especially closely related to the relief that in this series depicts Perseus and Medusa (photograph no 20/i). Medusa’s body, her clothing and the dancing figure of Perseus are so close to those of our terracotta that variations can be imagined during the same artistic development. In other words, we must consider that our terracotta documents an initial creative phase of the Swedish series, a phase in which the reliefs were planned in a format closer to a square (as is still the case for the relief of Jupiter Chasing the Giants from Olympus).
After making our terracotta, Chauveau must have decided to reverse the composition of the scene, putting Perseus in the foreground with Medusa further back, choosing in this way the moment of the myth that is shown, by opting for the immediately preceding one: when Perseus looks at the reflection on his shield and prepares to strike. But, despite the changed composition and narrative, the figures are still very similar, almost twins: Medusa lies with the same soft and sensual elegance, enveloped by the same rich drapery, and Perseus seems to be flitting about more like a refined dancer than a bloodthirsty hero.
To conclude, it is not just a successful attribution to a sculptor of great quality and success in his lifetime, but also the possibility of learning more about a significant moment that until now has not been documented, of the genesis of a prestigious sculpted series for a royal destination.
References on the artist
Jules Guiffrey, Les Caffieri, sculpteurs et fondeurs ciseleurs, étude sur la statuaire et sur l’art du bronze au XVIIe et au XVIIIe siècle, Paris, D. Morgand et C. Fatout, 1877; republished in a facsimile edition in 1993
Cécile Navarra-Le Bihan, Jean-Jacques Caffieri (1725-1792), sculpteur du roi, PhD dissertation, Université Michel-de-Montaigne-Bordeaux III, 2006
Jean-Jacques Caffieri’s first teacher was his father, a sculptor, founder and chaser. The Caffieri family was one of the many dynasties of sculptors that existed under the Ancien Régime and Jean-Jacques, the most famous in the family, enjoyed the greatest fortune: the French Academy in Rome, the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture where he became a professor, and official commissions. His destiny brought him to the French Revolution, from which he suffered little as he died in 1792. He was buried at Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet next to Charles Le Brun, to whom he was related. Caffieri’s career and work were highly successful, even though he probably does not occupy the rank he deserves, doubtless due to the glory of Jean-Antoine Houdon who overshadowed him. He was a pupil of Jean-Baptiste II Lemoyne and a worthy disciple of this great portrait sculptor of the 18th century. In his gallery of busts, we find the same presence, vivacity and psychological truth, and in this field, he does not seem to have engaged with the Neoclassicism that was in fashion in the second half of the 18th century. Caffieri, whose personality was original (jealous, an upstart and generally a bad character) was passionately interested in theatre and curiously, he was happy to sculpt the portraits of people from the stage in exchange for free seats-all his life! Another of his specialities was the evocation of men of letters and scholars, and retrospective portraits. One work, of which many replicas have been recorded, is the bust of the sculptor of Louis XIV’s reign, Cornelius van Cleve, made with surprising ardour. The astronomer and geographer to the king, Chanoine Pingré, a sly figure to the sharp eye, was exhibited by Caffieri at the Salon of 1789 at the dawn of the Revolution, which is one of many paradoxes. It shows that he had not lost any of his perspicacity or his virtuosity. Indeed, Caffieri almost only executed male busts. Rather than men of the court, he preferred to portray men of culture and intellectuals, especially writers such as Rotrou, Piron, J.-B. Rousseau, Helvetius, playwrights such as the two Corneilles, Racine, scholars such as Cassini and composers such as Lully and Rameau.
So to which category does the figure presented here belong? It is tempting to recognize Caffieri’s chisel, his almost feverish way of modelling clay, of creating grooves in the curls of a wig, of stylising the lace edges of the shirt. Unfortunately there are no accessories to suggest an identification. The wig could evoke a retrospective portrait, and the crumpled drapery may suggest an artist or a man of letters. He is not smiling, there is even a certain hardness in his gaze. The sensitive modelling of the face, the accuracy of the severe expression are worthy of Caffieri’s recognized talent, who deserves to be considered a great portrait sculptor of the second half of the 18th century, as much as Houdon. It is possible to hope that the discovery of a print (or a drawing) might someday allow a name to given to the portrait of this person with such an imperious attitude that honours the great French tradition of the art of the sculpted portrait of the 17th and 18th centuries.
Relatively rare, even in Baroque painting (see Anton Pigler, Barockthemen, Berlin-Budapest 1956,
vol. II, p. 292-294), this subject seems highly unusual for a sculptor and could suggest a modello executed for a competition with a theme or for admittance to the Académie rather than a monumental project. Moreover it should be recalled that two busts in the form of herms representing Ulysses and Circe, works by Laurent and Philippe Magnier, were placed at Versailles around 1685 and that the mythological episode had been highly fashionable in Paris since 1673-1675, when Thomas Corneille and Marc-Antoine Charpentier brought it to the theatre and the opera.
The iconography and composition seem to have been studied especially carefully: Ulysses is shown at the moment he enters the palace of Circe on the Tyrrhenian coast of Italy (now Promontorio del Circeo), to save his companions who had just been transformed into swine. Two are visible on the extreme right, one completely changed into a boar, the other still a man except for his head.
Circe is offering a cup of the potion kept by the servant in a carafe, which she is holding as well as the magic wand; but Ulysses, warned by Mercury, has an herb that serves as an antidote to the magic philtre. Circe is sitting on a sort of intermediary between a throne (where an arm in the form of a harpy with a sinister smile emerges from drapery, a solution that recalls the leg of the table in the foreground of the relief by Le Gros at the Monte di Pieta in Rome) and a bed: having understood that she could not slay the hero, she invites him to lie down with her on her “beautiful bed” (Homer) to become his mistress. Ulysses’ hand uncovering the magician’s right breast and the little Cupid who has just launched his arrow towards the Greek soldier allude to this erotic development of the mythological episode.
The work thus illustrates precisely what Homer narrates in Book X of the Odyssey v. 310-345 and Ovid in the Metamorphoses, Book XIV, v. 290-298.
This is a work of remarkable quality both in terms of the quality of invention and in the execution and it can be placed with certainty within the milieu of French sculpture between the second and fourth decades of the 18th century.
A taste that is already rococo, obvious in the details such as Ulysses’ helmet and Cupid’s smiling, impish face, are accompanied by full and heavy drapery and a very baroque way of rendering the various materials of the spaces (the attention paid in reproducing the appearance of the fabric that covers the cushion under Cupid’s foot and the boar’s hairy coat should be noted).
It is possible, with great caution, to suggest a comparison with the work of Jean Thierry, a sculptor from Lyon active mainly in Spain in the service of Philip V.
In my opinion, the heavy draperies that are characteristic of our terracotta – closer to wool than silk cloth – are similar to those that cover the mythological figures of the New Waterfall at La Granja, while Ulysses’ helmet closely recalls that of Minerva in the fountain of Apollo and the Serpent Python, also in the gardens of the royal palace of La Granja. In the same way, the faces of the nymphs and those of the putti that inhabit the Spanish fountains are not far from those of Circe, the servant and Cupid.
A pupil of Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Augustin Pajou won the First Prize for sculpture in 1748 before continuing his education at the École Royale des Élèves Protégés for three years and then with the traditional period in Rome at the French Academy, from 1752 to 1756. Admitted as an agréé to the Academy in 1759 and then as a full member with his Pluto and Cerberus (marble, 1760, Paris, Musée du Louvre), he became assistant professor in 1762 and professor in 1766 and was appointed Garde des Collections de Sculpture du Roi in 1777, then treasurer of the Académie in 1781 and finally Rector in 1792. During the Revolution he fled to Montpellier and became a member of the conservatoire du Muséum and of the Institut National when it was created in 1795, with Jean-Antoine Houdon. The mastery of his art, his flexible and amiable character allied to the support of the Directeurs des Bâtiments du Roi enabled him to benefit from a highly successful career. He excelled in statuary, as evidenced by his large St. François de Sales (1767, Paris, Église Saint-Roch) and his monumental statues Bossuet (marble, 1778, Paris, Institut de France) and Pascal (marble, 1781, Paris, Musée du Louvre). He was equally talented with architectural decoration (Hôtel de Voyer d’Argenson, Palais Royal, Opéra de Versailles) and also in drawing, collector’s objects and decorative arts.
With his complete training, Pajou was especially skilful in the decorative arts, combining figures in to a mastered iconographical language in his compositions. This is shown in the bronze and gilt bronze clocks representing the genius of Denmark, protector of Agriculture, of Commerce and the Arts, a composition commissioned by Frederick V (1765, Copenhagen, Danish royal collections), and those showing Time with a Child and Cupid, executed for the Duchesse de Mazarin (c. 1775, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art). Attentive to the wishes of his private clients, open to fashions such as that of scènes galantes, Pajou has here abandoned scholarly iconography and approached the spirit of Clodion, whose fame at the end of the third quarter of the 18th century imposed pleasant subjects. There is no doubt that Pajou was influenced by him in this group, made up of three female figures treated in the Antique style, an allusion to the Three Graces of Classical mythology. Its composition also echoes Clodion’s terracotta featuring Three Leaning Female Figures Carrying Marble Basins on their Heads. Pajou’s first biographer also mentions a lead fountain with three women carrying a shell, made for the Fermier Général, Lemonnier (Jean-Baptiste Chaussard, Le Pausanias Français, 1806, p. 473, whereabouts unknown). The artist has elegantly succeeded in combining an accomplished work favouring a frontal viewpoint – it was doubtless intended to be placed in a niche or on a mantelpiece – with the free modelling found in the sketches so prized by art lovers. The overall balance and grace of the group is equalled by the care taken to individualise each figure through varied poses and faces turning in opposite directions. The treatment of the light, fluid draperies veiling the nudity of these allegories recalls his Ceres (c. 1765, marble, Paris, Musée du Louvre) and the Grecian style that was fashionable during the 1760s, while Pajou gives vibrancy to the material through his play with angles and chisel work, showing a particular care that reached the remarkable refinement of small-scale statuary designed for the private rooms of demanding art lovers.
Dominique Allard (dir.), Terres cuites de XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles. La collection Van Herck, Brussels, Fondation Roi Baudouin, s.d., p. 96-107
Born in the Netherlands, Walter Pompe was trained by Michel van der Voort the Elder and in 1730 became a master of the Antwerp Guild of St. Luke. He excelled in the creation of small terracotta sculptures, making religious subjects as much as Cupids and putti, or mythological subjects. Works by Walter Pompe can be found in many collections including that of the Musée du Louvre.
This group completed around 1750, inspired by Roman mythology, shows Cupid, god of Desire, with the features of a young naked child, chubby and with a mischievous air. Armed with his bow and a quiver, he is riding a dog with skill.
The subject of “children playing” may derive from the art of François Duquesnoy, whose reputation in the 18th century was almost exclusively based on figures of children. These profane works were intended for collectors.
This delicate terracotta with its elongated proportions recalls the style of the Franco-Piedmontese sculptor Francesco Ladatte who lived in Paris as part of the suite of the Prince de Carignan. He won the Prix de Rome in 1726 and then studied at the French Academy in Rome. He was back in Paris from 1734 to 1744, and was admitted to the Academy as an agréé in 1736. He became a full member in 1741, presenting a marble group of Judith (Musée du Louvre, the terracotta study is in the Musée de Chambéry) as his reception piece. Its sinuosity is closely comparable to our statuette. He was appointed an associate professor and exhibited regularly at the Salon and worked for Versailles, but the best known project from his French period consists of the two plaster sculptures adorning the altars of the transepts of the church of Saint-Louis-en-l’Île in Paris, dated 1741. In 1744, he settled definitively in Turin where he was appointed sculptor to the court, while continuing his production of ornamental bronzes, collaborating, amongst others, with the famous cabinetmaker Pietro Piffetti on the queen’s Toilette Cabinet in the royal palace of Turin. Our figure’s face is very close to that of the main figure of the terracotta group of the Triumph of Virtue signed and dated 1744 (Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs), and also to that of military glory in the gilt bronze group that forms the clock Time and Military Glory (Turin, Royal Palace). Our group should therefore be dated to the artist’s second Italian period.
St. Jerome sits on a raised rocky spur: his naked body, his thighs covered with a fold of fabric. Emaciated and weakened by his penitence, he has surrendered himself to the arms of the angel who supports him on his right. According to the usual depiction of the anchorite saint, he is holding a skull and the lion who kept him company in the desert of Calchis is at his feet. This animal, which had recognized the saint’s healing actions, is shown licking one of his feet, a detail that Gian Lorenzo Bernini had previously shown at the feet of the St. Daniel of the Chigi chapel at Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome. On the left, leaning on the rocks, the open book refers to St. Jerome’s writings (including the Vulgate, the first Latin translation of the Bible), while the object that can be glimpsed under the book is a whip, which combined with the presence of the angel, refers to another episode of the penitence told by later hagiography, which is the flagellation by angels inflicted by Christ because he read profane books. The terracotta has been conceived as a sculpture in the round, and the body of the lion and the full length figure of the angel are modelled at the back: dressed in a tunic cinched at the waist, it wears the folds of a rich cloak on a shoulder and arm, which on the front covers the saint’s sides. Nothing is visible of this simple arrangement of drapery from the front: the richness of the fabric that expands and gathers in soft folds is therefore unexpected, and for this reason also, constitutes an especially successful invention.
The author of this refined terracotta seems to be identified as Giuseppe Perego, a sculptor who, for the little known about him, was active in Milan, almost exclusively for the Fabbrica del Duomo. The work for which Perego is now best known is the very famous Madonnina, located on the highest steeple of the cathedral and which has with time become the symbol of the city. In 1768, the sculptor provided the terracotta modello for the gigantic statue (4.16 m) that was executed in plates of gilt copper and placed on the large steeple in 1774. Given this prestigious commission, very few works have been identified as by Perego to date. Information on his life is just as rare: the little that is known was the subject of a monograph published in 1969, to which the few subsequent publications have added anything substantial (Gabriella Ferri Piccaluga, “Notizie, opere e documenti inediti sull'attività dell scultore Giuseppe Perego alla Fabbrica del Duomo”, in Maria Luisa Gatti Perer (dir.), Il Duomo di Milano. Congresso Internazionale, t. I, Milan, 1969, p. 287-296; Marilisa Di Giovanni Madruzza, “La scultura a Milano, a Pavia e nel Lodigiano”, in Rossana Bossaglia and Valerio Terraroli (dir.), Settecento lombardo, Milan, 1991, p. 345-347; Patrizia Malfatti, “Perego, Giuseppe”, in Giulia Benati and Anna Maria Roda (dir.), Il Duomo di Milano. Dizionario storico, artistico e religioso, Milan, 2001, p. 435-436).
Born probably around 1710-1715, Perego was in his youth a pupil of Giovan Battista Dominione, a sculptor active for the Fabbrica del Duomo from 1687. Around the end of 1731 “vedendo di non potersi avanzare più che tanto nello studio” [“seeing that he could no longer make progress”], he asked to move to the studio of Carlo Francesco Mellone, the most interesting personality in Milan at the beginning of the 18th century, the creator of lively and gracious marble sculptures that embody the spirit of the late Baroque in Lombardy, who was also the only local sculptor who could claim major commitments in Rome alongside Camillo Rusconi (Robert Enggass, Early Eighteenth Century Sculpture in Rome, Pennsylvania State University Press, 1976, p. 155; an initial study of Mellone in Susanna Zanuso, “Schede di scultura barocca in San Nazaro a Milano”, in Nuovi Studi, 1996, p. 167-174 and lastly, Susanna Zanuso, A Pair of Putti from Palazzo Annoni and Bronze Sculpture of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries in Lombardy, Milan, 2013). Perego remained with Mellone until the end of 1753, before obtaining a studio of his own the following year, among those made available to the sculptors working permanently for the Fabbrica. On 1 October, 1775, he was elected “protostatuario”, the top position for which he was eligible in the context of the works, a responsibility that had been given to Elia Vincenzo Buzzi and before him, Carlo Francesco Mellone.
In the modello of the Penitent St. Jerome¸ the connection between Giuseppe Perego, who was born and raised artistically in the cathedral’s sculpture school, and his masters is reflected. In particular, the typology of the saint’s bearded face, like the verticality of the composition developed with the high rocky mass, are all elements that can be found in the works of Elia Vincenzo Buzzi. To mention only a few of the most important ones, it is sufficient to think of the faces of the Prophets commissioned by the Duomo from Buzzi in 1755, or of the San Giovanni Bono (1756-1760) located in the chapel of the same name. Identical pedestals of stratified rocks also appear in the Guardian Angel (c. 1756), also in the San Giovanni Buono chapel, but also the Telamons (c. 1756) of the Palazzo Litta in Milan (the identification of Buzzi’s Prophets referred to in the documents, about which it is not possible to go into further detail here, have been discussed by numerous historians, including Gabriella Ferri Piccaluga, “Elia Vincenzo Buzzi”, Commentari, 1967, p. 207-223; Rossana Bossaglia and Mia Cinotti, Tesoro e Museo del Duomo, II, Milan, 1978, p. 32, cat. 282, 283, 285; Laura Caprio, “Aggiornamenti sull'attività di Elia Vincenzo Buzzi”, in Arte Lombarda, no 119, 1997, p. 91-100; Susanna Zanuso, “I Ligari e la scultura”, in Simonetta Coppa and Eugenia Bianchi (dir.), I Ligari. Pittori del Settecento lombardo, Milan, 2008, p. 83-93; for the altar of San Giovanni Bono, lastly: Francesca Bianchi Janetti, “La cappella di San Giovanni Bono nel Duomo di Milano”, in Proporzioni, nos IX-X, 2008-2009, p. 112-124; for the Palazzo Litta Télamons, Susanna Zanuso, “Elia Vincenzo Buzzi a Canzo”, dans Nuovi Studi, no 4, 1997, p. 193-201).
The relationship with Buzzi must obviously have been very close given that in 1749, Perego sculpted under his supervision the four oval reliefs in marble of the Miracles of St. Francis of Paula for the Milanese church of the same name where, in all likelihood, he also sculpted the oval relief in the facade showing the saint in half-length. These works, the first documented ones by the artist, already show the stylistic characteristics that are recurrent in his work and are also recognizable in the Penitent St. Jerome. Comparison with this sculpture also applies for the physiognomy of the figures, not only that of St. Francis but also that of the young man with a bared shoulder and pointed profile sculpted in the foreground of the Miracle of the Water which is very similar to that of the angel supporting St. Jerome, and both are reminiscent of the gracious figures sculpted by Carlo Francesco Mellone. It is therefore possible to observe how the exuberant description of the draperies at the back of the St. Jerome has an antecedent in the way St. Francis’s frock is spread at the rear of the figure in broad complex draperies in the oval with the miracle of the lamb.
The modelli conserved at the Museo del Duomo (Bossaglia and Cinotti, op. cit., p. 32-33, cat. 292, 295, 298, 300, 301; the other suggested attributions are less convincing) show Giuseppe Perego’s great talent with terracotta. Two of the most beautiful of the entire collection are particularly suitable to be compared with St. Jerome: Hercules and the Lion, presented in 1754 for his admission among the permanent sculptors of the Fabbrica, and the first modello of the Madonnina (1768), which was however refused by the chapter of the cathedral (Federico Pecchenini, “’Opportuno e convenevole’. Considerazioni in merito ai modelli in terracotta di Giuseppe Perego per la statua dell’Assunta sulla guglia maggiore del Duomo di Milano”, in Le arti nella Lombardia asburgica durante il Settecento. Novità e aperture, conference papers, Università Cattolica del sacro Cuore, 5-6 June 2014, forthcoming).
In the first of these two, where Hercules is perched on a pile of rocks, a comparison is almost too easy between the two lions, which are very similar despite the different way the surfaces are executed; the manner in which Perego has sculpted the lion’s skin frayed on the edges and which, rolled around the hero’s arm, continues while spreading at the back of the figure, is equally revelatory.
In the modello of the Assumption of the Virgin, where the influence of Genoese inventions by Pierre Puget and Filippo Parodi is also visible, it is above all the angel on his right who forms a dialogue with the one supporting the anchorite: also in this cases, where the Duomo modello is more highly finished in its details and is painted in a bright colour that alleviates the roughness, our terracotta shows all the freshness of the bozzetto in which it is still possible to see the traces of the work with the spatula. In the modello of the Assumption of the Virgin, Perego again offers the concept of the sculpted group conceived to be appreciated with equal attention irrespective of the point of view, staging inventions developed, even at the figure’s back: a characteristic that appears to be one of the more personal, recurrent characteristics of his works, which, as we have seen, is also typical of the St. Jerome.
On the eve of Neoclassicism, the completely Baroque dynamism and grace of this first modello of the Madonnina, in which the teachings of Mellone and Buzzi converge and are interpreted, did not appeal to the Fabbrica, which judged it “non opportuno e convenevole”. The new modello presented by Perego under the direction of the painter Antonio de Giorgi, was the one chosen and is still conserved, without its head, at the Museo del Duomo (Bossaglia et Cinotti, op. cit., p. 32, cat. 298): there are no longer any angels at the feet, and a new heaviness in the pose and pleats of the drapery, which almost seems to be an interpretation of the Assumption of the Virgin of Santa Maria presso San Celso, Annibale Fontana’s masterpiece from 1583-1586, and shows an attempt by the sculptor to adapt to the new spirit of the time through the return to Lombard classicism of the end of the 16th century. In the St. Jerome this same tension is anticipated between Baroque education and shy Neoclassical aspirations that constitute the key to understanding this sculptor’s entire oeuvre.
On the banner on the figure’s right, an inscription that can be deciphered partially: “Jean Charles Ledesme baron de St Elix de l’ordre royal militaire de St Louis, aide major général baillis [sic] du valois/ F.Lucas 1762.”
François Lucas is probably the best known sculptor of Toulouse in the 18th century. First a pupil of his father Pierre, he then studied at the Toulouse Académie Royale des Arts, where he won the first prize in sculpture in 1761. He entered the Académie in 1763 and was appointed assistant Professor the following year. All his life, he exercised his educational skills by teaching drawing, sculpting in the round and the live model. In 1796 he taught the young Ingres, but also one of the founders of the museum that opened on 17 August in the former Augustinian convent in Toulouse. He worked in all genres, religious and mythological subjects, portraits, monumental ephemeral decoration and decorative statues.
Our sculpture shows one of his first and most loyal patrons, Jean-Charles Ledesmé de Saint-Élix (1721-1802), who in 1760 inherited the domain of Saint-Élix and employed Lucas there from 1762 to 1798, both for the sculptures in the park and for the interior decoration of the chateau. In the catalogue of the exhibition of François Lucas’s work in and around Toulouse, which was organized at the Musée des Augustins in 1958, Paul Mesplé listed the works Lucas created at Saint-Élix: on the exterior, two terracotta sphinxes on the entrance pillars (which seem to still be in situ), two dogs on the interior pillars of the bridge of the entrance court (inscription on the collar: “j’appartiens à M. le baron de St Elix, au Palais Royal à Paris” [I belong to M. le baron de St Elix, at the Palais Royal in Paris]) a cat and a dog in terracotta, four terracotta sculptures on a brick base at the corners of the South Parterre, in the Orangery a full length statue of Ledesmé “in marble”; for the interior, in the dining room, a marble and stucco fountain, stucco decorative panels, on the upper floor, in the Stag Gallery, six stag heads in terracotta with real antlers, on the third floor in the chapel, an altar with adoring angels. An old photograph (before 1925) shows the statue in a niche of the Orangery (on the left of the entrance to the chateau) on a high base that has been re-engraved with the inscription visible on the cippus at the foot of our terracotta.
Other portraits of the Baron de Saint-Élix are known, one by Pierre Delorme, Peintre Ordinaire to the Duc d’Orléans, showing him in December 1757 in his apartment at the Palais Royal in Paris, and one by Carmontelle dated 1763 (painted wearing the same uniform as in Lucas’s sculpture, one year earlier), now at Chantilly, which is a reminder that the Baron was the Premier Gentilhomme of the house of the Duc d’Orléans. Madame de Genlis has described the couple: “[Madame de Saint-Élix] had been connected to the late Duchesse d’Orléans; she was a lady of the rarest merit, by her virtue and the perfection of her character and her conduct. Her husband had the same virtues. They lived in a very withdrawn manner, and rarely came to dinner with the Princess.” The Service de Documentation du Département des Sculptures du Louvre has an old photograph of a terracotta bust by Lucas showing the Baron as an old man, its location is unknown. Lastly, in 1801, Lucas drew a portrait of his patron that was engraved the following year by Jacques-Bernard Mercadier with the title Jean Charles Ledesmé/Cultivateur à S. Elix, which is a reminder that the statue in the niche of the orangery was generally called “the gardener”. The description of this sculpture that is given in the abovementioned catalogue “in marble” raises a question: could our terracotta be a large scale modello for a work created in marble (marble sculptures by Lucas are known, such as the fountain in the chateau’s dining room), or was it covered with a white coating that misled Paul Mesplé? In addition, the old photograph of the sculpture in situ seems to indicate a different colour for the sword’s blade: is it the effect of polychrome or the use of a different material (a real blade)? Due to its size, our sculpture was made in several sections: the upper area of the bust and head, the abdomen, the legs. On 15 floréal year 6 of the Republic (4 May 1798), Lucas wrote to the “Citizen Ledesmé” about new sculptures of animals in terracotta and restorations of sculptures that existed already: the Revolution had not saved this domain and its owner worked on restoring it during the final years of his life.
Stanislas Lami, Dictionnaire des sculpteurs de l’École française au XVIIIe siècle, t. I, Honoré Champion, Paris, 1910, p. 408-436
H. H. Arnason, Jean-Antoine Houdon, le plus grand sculpteur français du XVIIIe siècle, Edita Denoël, Lausanne, 1976
Guilhem Scherf, Portraits publics, portraits privés, 1770-1830, RMN, Paris, 2006, no 20, p. 106
Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas de Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet, who was born in 1743, was a dominant philosopher and economist of the Age of Enlightenment. Famous for his actions both before and after the French Revolution, he was elected to the Académie des Sciences in 1782, supported by d’Alembert whose pupil he had been. He was condemned by Robespierre in 1794.
This small bust is treated with great precision. With his head turned towards the right, the man seems to be staring at something. His very lively eyes, with their deeply incised pupils and precisely carved irises, are emphasized by the crow’s feet wrinkles. His face with its slightly pockmarked skin is marked by the smallpox which he seems to have caught in 1775.
Our portrait bust is reminiscent of the style of Jean-Antoine Houdon: the especially expressive gaze, the strongly marked features of the face, the curls of his wig and closed lips; these details combine to give life to the sculpture and transmit not only many physical characteristics but also the sitter’s haughty expression, without being supercilious.
A virtuoso portrait artist, Houdon worked mainly for the most important men of letters and scientists, artists and politicians of his time. The supplement to his inventory refers to a “Bust of Condorcet” in 1784 without specifying the material.
Born in Versailles in 1741, Jean-Antoine Houdon showed a disposition for modelling from a very young age. He quickly entered the old school of the academy of Paris where he studied under Michel-Ange Slodtz. He was also advised by Jean-Baptiste Pigalle and Jean-Baptiste II Lemoyne. In 1761, he won the first prize in sculpture and entered the École Royale des Elèves Protégés. He received his certificate of resident at the French Academy in Rome in 1764. After his return to Paris in 1768, he applied to the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture and was admitted as an agréé in 1769. In 1771, he exhibited for the first time at the Salon du Louvre and travelled to Saxony for a short period. He returned there in 1773. In 1777, he became a full member of the Académie and was appointed associate professor in 1792. In 1785, he travelled to the United States and returned to Paris the following year. In 1795, he was appointed a member of the Institut by the Directoire and received the cross of the Legion of Honour in 1804. He exhibited for the last time in 1814. He also stopped producing from then, being content to teach at the École des Beaux-Arts where he had been appointed professor in 1805. He finally retired in 1823 and died five years later.
Stanislas Lami, Dictionnaire des sculpteurs de l’École française au XVIIIe siècle, t. II, Honoré Champion, Paris, 1911
Jules Bellandey, “Leriche”, Bulletin de la Société de l’histoire de l’art, Goupil, Paris, 1924
La Manufacture des Lumières. La sculpture à Sèvres de Louis XV à la Révolution, Cité de la Céramique, Sèvres, 2015
A woman sitting on a stool raised by a cushion has her legs crossed in a serene attitude, her gaze lost in reverie. At her feet, a dog, symbol of fidelity and also of faith, looks at its mistress with confidence and fondness, apparently wanting to question her by leaning delicately on her clothing. She is wearing an ample robe with flounces; her hair is gathered by a high, voluminous headdress. Her hands hold work that could be a meticulous project such as embroidery or weaving, most likely an ordinary daily activity at the time. Her formal outfit as well as her pose doubtless indicate her membership of a bourgeoisie that is probably provincial.
This charming terracotta group is certainly a study for a biscuit sculpture. Very close to this type of production, both in its iconography and its dimensions, the work integrates well into the tradition of scenes from contemporary life created by all the porcelain factories from the 1770s. At this time, Josse-François Leriche was especially attentive to public taste, all the more so that this was a particularly fertile period for him.
A pupil of Étienne Maurice Falconet, Josse-François Leriche who was from Mons in Belgium was trained at the Sèvres factory, which he had joined in 1757. First modeller and head of the workshop from 1780 to 1801, he became one of the masters of biscuit sculpture, collaborating with Louis-Simon Boizot and creating models imbued with delicacy in line with his master’s tradition.
In his book, Le Biscuit de Sèvres au XVIIIe siècle, Émile Bourgeois describes Josse-François Leriche as “one of the best workers in biscuit”; and he calls him “excellently the artist expert in gracious figurines”.
Anne Poulet and Guilhem Scherf (dir.), Clodion 1738-1814, Paris, RMN, 1992
Aequa Potestas. Le arti in gara a Roma nel Settecento, Rome, De Luca, 2000
Cent ans de sculpture (1750-1850). La collection du musée des Augustins, Toulouse, Musée des Beaux-Arts, 2002
James David Draper and Guilhem Scherf (dir.), L’Esprit créateur, de Pigalle à Canova, Paris, RMN, 2003
This sad young woman in full drapery, created around 1780, is mourning, leaning against a funerary urn placed on an ancient altar that she covers with her drapery.
The funerary urn may indicate that it is Agrippina with the ashes of Germanicus, but no trace of an inverted torch is suggested. Everything leads to the interpretation of this figure as the funerary allegory of Pain and that it is a private monument. At the centre of the altar, there is a serpent in the form of a medallion, an emblem of eternity.
Present in Antiquity among the Greeks and Romans, the theme of the mourning figure is associated with Christian funerary art without showing any religious symbols for as much – the mourners of the tomb of the Dukes of Burgundy is an example.
This funerary art personified by a female figure would spread in France starting in the second third of the 18th century, first with the sculptor Edme Bouchardon (1698-1762) and his Tomb of the Duchesse de Lauraguais for the church of Saint-Sulpice, destroyed, but described in the red chalk Meditation on Death, c. 1736-1738, now in the Département des Arts Graphiques of the Musée du Louvre ; then with Claude Michel, called Clodion (1738-1814) and his terracotta mourners, with their discretely religious symbols, at the Louvre, each bearing an attribute, the hourglass for passing time or an overturned torch for the extinction of life.
Many less well known sculptors at the time who were also extremely skilled in the art of sculpting and drapery would immortalize this subject, such as Étienne d’Antoine, by whom a terracotta mourner is close to our sculpture.
Originally from Carpentras, Étienne d’Antoine was a pupil at the Académie de Peinture et de Sculpture of Marseille. During a period in Rome from 1766 to 1768, which coincided with that of Clodion, Étienne d’Antoine won the first prize of the Académie de Saint-Luc and probably drew inspiration from works seen and studied in Italy.
Catherine Gendre (dir.), Louis-Simon Boizot, 1743-1809. Sculpteur du roi et directeur de l’atelier de sculpture à la manufacture de Sèvres, Somogy, Paris, 2001
Standing, her right leg bent slightly, this Vestal is dressed according to the ancient tradition. From the feet, a long robe rises in rich pleats on the hips; her hair held under a veil falls delicately on her shoulders. The figure raises her two arms, now missing, above her head, where the clock face was probably held. The whole effect, describing an uninterrupted vertical movement, rests on a circular base decorated with pearls.
The vigour of execution, the elegance and purity of line allow this Vestal made around 1780 to be attributed to Louis-Simon Boizot. An extremely complex creator, he is known for his artistic direction of the Sèvres royal porcelain factory from 1774 to 1785 as well as for his close collaboration with the great bronze founders of his time (Gouthière, Thomire) and from 1776 with the gilder François Rémond, whose production abounds. Over twenty models of clocks bearing figures would leave these workshops.
After leaving Rome in 1770, Boizot directed his career towards the decorative arts. Gifted in the technical domain, in the treatment and organization of draperies marked by deep pleats, he enjoyed using naturalism in the contrasts of lines and rich details of the clothing and hair. From 1780 on, his development towards neoclassicism is very clearly noticeable, and we can see it in our statuette.
A pupil of Michel-Ange Slodtz, Simon-Louis Boizot won the First Prize in sculpture in 1762. He was then a resident of the French Academy in Rome from 1765 to 1770. On his return to Paris he joined the Académie as an agréé in 1771 and as a full member in 1778 with the sculpture of Meleager now in the Louvre. He exhibited regularly at the Salon, worked on the Palais Bourbon and the Château de Fontainebleau as well as for the Parisian churches of Saint-Sulpice and Sainte-Geneviève. From 1774 to 1785, he directed the workshops of the Sèvres factory.
Falconet à Sèvres 1757-1766 ou l’art de plaire, Musée national de céramique, Sèvres, RMN, 2001
Typical of the erotic taste, this allegorical group in terracotta, impressive for its size and highly finished execution, depicts Venus chastising Cupid. She is symbolised by a young woman with bared breasts and her arms partly uncovered, her oval face ending with a receding chin, her hair styled towards the back.
Sitting on a rock, she is holding Cupid on her knees, shown as a naked child with wings, preparing to inflict a severe punishment on him. His attributes, the quiver full of arrows and flowers, adorn the sculpture’s base.
The light iconography of our group forms part of a corpus of works produced by French sculptors during the 18th century when Venus became a pretext for the depiction of the ideal female nude. They were intended for a private clientele that wanted to be surrounded by amiable and graceful subjects. The uncontested master and leader of this art, Étienne Maurice Falconet, former director of the Sèvres factory and who produced many works, shows its general influence over workshops producing these very specific works.
Among these workshops are those of Jean Antoine Tassaert and the Broche brothers, who circulated objects in the Falconet’s style. A marble group, Venus Chastising Cupid, attributed to Ignace Broche is at the Wallace Collection in London.
Our group belongs to the circle of sculptor workshops at the end of the 18th century that depicted this subject on many occasions, making some of these groups in life size.
Salomon de La Chapelle, La Revue du Lyonnais, 1897, p. 149
Charles Sellier, Prosper Dorbec, Guide explicatif du musée Carnavalet, Paris, 1903, p. 154, no 409
Paul Vitry, Exposition d’œuvres du sculpteur Chinard de Lyon (1756-1813), pavillon de Marsan (palais du Louvre), Paris, 1909
Stanislas Lami, Dictionnaire des sculpteurs de l’École française au xviiie siècle, t. I, Honoré Champion, Paris, 1910, p. 194-218
Fonds Madeleine Rocher-Jauneau, musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, service de la documentation, currently being inventoried
Joseph Chinard entered the Lyon École Royale de Dessin in 1770. In 1784, he left for Rome where he won the first prize in Sculpture at the Accademia di San Luca two years later. From 1787 to 1792, he travelled constantly between Lyon and Rome before arriving in Paris around 1795, where he joined the Institut des Beaux-Arts. Official recognition reached its peak when he was given the title of “official portraitist” to the Bonaparte family. During the first decade of the 19th century, Chinard continued to travel between Lyon, Rome and Paris. In 1807, he was appointed Professor of Sculpture at the Lyon École Spéciale des Arts du Dessin.
Shown in profile to the right, our medallion dated 1793-1794 shows Chinard’s unequalled flair in the art of portraiture. The precision of modelling and fineness of detail allow the figure’s features to be distinguished: the lively gaze, the perfectly described mouth, the straight hair falling on the face and gathered at the back in the form of a rat tail. He is wearing the uniform of the officers of the Republican army, a cocked hat adorned with the tricolour cord mounted with a feather. In his search for naturalism the artist has succeeded in expressing perfectly his model’s personality.
The profile presented here forms part of a group of models of famous figures the artist portrayed, especially his compatriots from Lyon. A similar medallion, identified as an Officer of the Army of the Republic, called “Portrait of General Doppet” has been identified in the collections of the Musée Carnavalet (S.22), signed and dated under the shoulder: “Chinard libre com.af. le I. jerminal.”. On the verso, an ink inscription: “Doppet François-Amédée / Général en chef des armées des Alpes et / des Pyrénées né à Chambéry mars 1753 /… /mort à Aix en Savoie en 1800 / littérateur député à l’assemblée nationale en 1792 au Conseil des Cinq Cents en 1797.[Doppet François-Amédée / Chief General of the Armies of the Alps and/ the Pyrenees born in Chambéry March 1753/…/died at Aix in Savoy in 1800/ ”writer deputy at the national assembly in 1792 and the Council of the five Hundred in 1797.]” A fragmentary inscription can be read on glued paper, in old writing: “… des All… envoyèrent… demander la union… Françe… Elève de… Brigade dans… recommandée par Carteaux… il obtint… commandement en chef de l’armée et dirige le siège de Lyon en 1793… Entrée dans malheureuse ville, il fit tous ses efforts pour empêcher le pillage et l’effusion de sang il fut chargé Toulon.[…Ger…sent…requesting the union…France…Pupil of…Brigade in … recommended by Carteaux….he obtained… commander in chief of the army and directed the siege of Lyon in 1793… Entered the unhappy city, he did all he could to prevent pillaging and bloodshed he was charged Toulon.]”
Two other versions of this figure in a terracotta medallion have been recorded to date, one of which is signed “Chinard de Lyon” and was in the Michon collection, around 1909-1910, and the second signed “Chinard libre. Commune Affranchie [Chinard free. Liberated Commune]” from the Grièges collection, around 1897, which has still not been located.
The medallion that was in the Michon collection was presented as no 100 in the exhibition of works by the sculptor Chinard that was held at the Pavillon Marsan in 1909-1919 with the title: “Autre général Doppet [Other General Doppet]”, terracotta 22 cm, signed “Chinard de Lyon”. It is reasonable to think that this is our portrait of the revolutionary officer, the quality of which is emphasized by the black wood frame set with a gold thread.
Stanislas Lami, Dictionnaire des sculpteurs de l’École française au XVIIIe siècle, t. I, Honoré Champion, Paris, 1910, p. 194-218
This charming little bust made around 1805-1810 portrays Dominique-Jean Larrey, a French minitary doctor and surgeon, the father of emergency medicine, who was born in Beaudéan in the Pyrénées-Orientales. Created a Baron of the Empire, he was the chief surgeon of the Grande Armée and followed Napoleon I in all his military campaigns.
Larrey is shown dressed in a frock coat and wearing a very simple scarf knotted around his neck. The eyes in the ancient manner are typical of Joseph Chinard, and the same treatment by him is visible in the bust of a young woman now in the collections of the National Gallery of Washington.
Joseph Chinard entered the Lyon École Royale de Dessin in 1770. In 1784, he left for Rome where he won the first prize in Sculpture at the Accademia di San Luca two years later. From 1787 to 1792, he travelled constantly between Lyon and Rome before arriving in Paris around 1795, where he joined the Institut des Beaux-Arts. Official recognition reached its peak when he was given the title of “official portraitist” to the Bonaparte family. During the first decade of the 19th century, Chinard continued to travel between Lyon, Rome and Paris. In 1807, he was appointed Professor of Sculpture at the Lyon École Spéciale des Arts du Dessin.
Nobody depicted these figures realistically better than Chinard in his day. He was as talented in rendering their attitudes as their features. Due to this, Chinard is a very important historian, iconographer and physiologist to consult.
Paris, Hôtel Drouot, Étude A.T.T., 16 June 1983, no 51
Paris, Hôtel Drouot, Étude A.P.T., 28 March 1984, no 4
Paris, Hôtel Drouot, Étude Nicolay, 12 December 1984, no 100
Paris, Hôtel Drouot, Étude A.P.T., 16 December 1986, no 100
Paris, Hôtel Drouot, Étude Million & Associés, 16 December 1998, no 176
Paris, private collection
Stanislas Lami, Dictionnaire des sculpteurs de l’École française au XVIIIe siècle, t. II, Honoré Champion, Paris, 1911, p. 108-112
Maurice Quinquenet, Un élève de Clodion. Joseph-Charles Marin (1759-1834), Paris, Renée Lacoste, 1948
Joseph-Charles Marin 1759-1834, Galerie Patrice Bellanger, 1992
Gérard Hubert, “À propos d’un ‘am’ de Clodion: Marin en Italie”, in Guilhem Scherf (dir.), Clodion et la Sculpture française de la fin du XVIIIe siècle, Paris, La Documentation française, 1993, p. 85-118
This startling and very delicate project for a funerary monument, which has been attributed for several decades to Joseph-Charles Marin, belongs to a precious corpus of similar works that show a female mourner embracing a funerary urn that, from Edme Bouchardon, Louis Claude Vassé, Laurent Guiard, Clodion, and Michel Louis Pioche, to Antonio Canova (funerary monument in relief for Giambattista Mellerio, 1812-1814), regenerated the art of funerary sculpture by providing a successful iconographical combination between the allegorical figure of Pain depicted as a mourner and that of the classical funerary spirit with an overturned torch.
But if this work perfectly matches the European neoclassical aesthetic that was fashionable in the years 1795-1805, its composition in the antique manner assembling certain typical classical accessories such as the chiton and the peplos worn by the female figure, the antiquarian funerary urn and even the cypress branch seem to hug and cling to the monument, the female figure, with its touching attitude of truth, seems to embody in the strict meaning of the term, an undeniable hint of realism that confers unusual originality on this statuette.
The noble and dignified style of our group allows it to be placed in the second phase of Marin’s career when, from the end of the 1790s, he partly abandoned his amiable subjects in the spirit of Clodion to develop creations with more severe and austere subjects, but without departing from a certain sensuality, found here in the mourner’s almost bared breast.
Marin was in fact the creator of several funerary monuments, whether in the form of projects (see the little terracotta gropu of Canadian Indians on their Child’s Tomb, fig. 1, 1795, La Rochelle, Muséedu Nouveau Monde) or completed, like the three monuments commissioned in 1807 by Lucien Bonaparte, including the one of the very young Lucien-Joseph Bonaparte with its very Canova-like severity that is quite close to our group and the one for Christine Boyer (fig. 2), his first wife, decorated by a striking figure of Melancholy depositing a cypress wreath on a funerary urn (Canino, parish church).
Joseph-Charles Marin became a pupil of Clodion at the Académie Royale de Peinture et Sculpture. He entered the competition for the Prix de Rome from 1782 to 1787, but never won it; however he exhibited regularly at the Salon from 1791. In 1797, he was in Rome to inventory objects worthy of being included among French collections during the spoliation of the papal collections. After his return to Paris, Marin at last won the first Grand Prize in sculpture in 1801. He returned to Rome for six years as a resident of the French Academy. He extended this period until 1810, sending works from Italy for presentation at the Salon. In 1813, he was appointed professor at the school of the Lyon Académie des Beaux-Arts, replacing Joseph Chinard, and continued to exhibit at the Salon until his death.
Was our model of a funerary monument made for a specific patron to whom it was submitted, or did it remain at the stage of an ideal project? Nobody knows yet.
Stanislas Lami, Dictionnaire des sculpteurs de l’École française au XVIIIe siècle, t. II, Honoré Champion, Paris, 1911, p. 108-112
Maurice Quinquenet, Un élève de Clodion. Joseph-Charles Marin (1759-1834), Paris, Renée Lacoste, 1948
Joseph-Charles Marin 1759-1834, Galerie Patrice Bellanger, 1992
Joseph-Charles Marin became a pupil of Clodion at the Académie Royale de Peinture et Sculpture. He entered the Prix de Rome competition from 1782 to 1787 but did not win; nevertheless, he exhibited regularly at the Salon from 1791. In 1797, he was in Rome to inventory works worthy of being included in French collections during the spoliation of the Papal collections. After his return to Paris, Marin at last won the first grand prize in sculpture in 1801 with Caïus Gracchus, a plaster bas-relief now at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts (no 4443). This prize allowed him to return to Rome where he lived for about a decade, sending his works to Paris where they were exhibited at the Salon. A resident of the French Academy in Rome fro 1802 to 1807, and overladen with private commissions, Marin extended his time until 1810. In 1813 supported by the scuptor Lemot, who was from Lyon, he was appointed professor at the school of the Lyon Académie des Beaux-Arts to replace Joseph Chinard. He continued to exhibit up to his death.
This charming little terracotta bust ending at the shoulders depicts a woman staring towards the right. Her features are clearly sketched, her straight nose and lips slightly open. The oval of her face is haloed by thick abundant hair held at the back of her head by netting. She is wearing a shirt, covered at the shoulders by a finely sculpted shawl. The great attention paid to the treatment of the hair, using the tool in a manner close to a goldsmith, is characteristic of Marin’s portraits.
Throughout his career, Marin created multiple little figures, Bacchanalian figures, busts of expression, young women, some with abundant untidy hair, others showing a calmer air. Nicknamed the “Correggio of sculpture”, Marin succeeded with ease and success in seducing and stirring emotion. Our bust, which was probably made around 1810 during his second Roman period that was especially productive, should be compared for the characteristics of the facial features and hair, to a print by Bartolomeo Pinelli dated 1810, Trasteverina Dancing the Saltarello.
Frédéric Chappey, Histoire de l’enseignement de la sculpture à l’École des beaux-arts au XIXe siècle: les concours de composition et de figures modelées (1816-1863), Phd Dissertation supervised by Bruno Foucart, Université Paris-IV, 1992
Illustrating a passage in the Bible, this subject tells of the ordeal of the lions’ den suffered by Daniel, one of the greatest prophets, who was the victim of a conspiracy during the reign of Darius over the city of Babylon. He narrates this event in his prophecy in Chapter 6 of the Old Testament.
Daniel, whose goodness and wisdom was appreciated by the king, was surprised by the elite of the kingdom of Babylon, praying to God. They asked Darius to introduce a law forbidding the worship of any god other than the king himself. Daniel’s enemies gathered together and reported him to the king who, pained, ordered him to be thrown into the loins’ den.
Tormented, the king went the following morning to the den and a dear and familiar voice said to him: “King, live eternally. My God has sent His angels and closed the lion’s jaws, which have not hurt me at all, because I was found innocent before Him and before you too, oh, king, I have not done anything wrong.” Darius’s joy was great; since as if in a sort of resurrection, God had returned him. He ordered all the conspirators to be arrested and to be thrown into the lions’ den.
Our terracotta shows Daniel, sitting, calling on God and not at all frightened by the peaceful lioness reclining on his left. There is a contrast between the sketch of a “wild” animal and the humility and calm of the figure. The composition of this sculpture in the round shows the very subtle academic characteristics taught in certain studios and during the classes held at the École Royale des Beaux-Arts.
In 1816, the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts, the institution responsible for the École Royale des Beaux-Arts decided to create a new scholarly competition to take control of the education of pupils who at the time were judged not to conform enough to the neoclassical ideals that were advocated: the competition for modelled studies of compositions. These competitions took place every six months and were given alternately for bas-relief and sculpture in the round. They were judged on themes that were to be executed in a few hours, taken only from history, ancient mythology or the bible. Rapidly sketched, these works were intended to show the capacity of the best students to execute an intelligible and comprehensible composition that responded to academic teaching.
These competitions judged on studies in clay that were then moulded in plaster continued until 1968.