Giancarlo Gentilini, in “Antiqua Res secoli XIII-XVI”, catalogue edited by Francesca Gualandi, Bologna 2011, under n°11, pp. 38-43.
This magnificent pair of angels form part of a small group of works, all created with a similar technique combining papier mache (or coated canvas), polychrome and gilded wood, that Giancarlo Gentilini (see bibliography) attributes to an Umbrian sculptor who remains anonymous, but is close to Romano Alberti (1502-Sansepolcro-1568), from whom he is distinguished by greater simplicity of movement. It is probably an artist who trained in Alberti’s workshop. The sculptures of this group all depict children with curly hair and pink cheeks, and despite their profane appearance, probably had a liturgical function (candlestick, candelabra holder, or to hold the cords of a canopy). This type of object combining different materials was highly popular in Umbria, at least as early as the 15th century. Examples in Perugia are the double-sided banner created in 1453 by Battista di Baldassare Mattioli for Santa Maria di Monteluce comprising a relief in papier mache showing The Coronation of the Virgin, or the elegant St. Julian, made around 1465 in a very similar technique to our two angels for the church of Santa Maria dei Servi, now in the Museo del Capitolo di San Lorenzo.
Where Barthélémy Prieur, of peasant birth, received his initial training is not known, but he appears to have been in Rome in the 1550’es, with his fellow Ponce Jacquio (native from Rethel), a sculptor too. Nothing is known of his roman activities, but it is possible that he took part to the great stucco decorations of these years, under the direction of Giulio Mazzoni and Daniele da Volterra, for he later demonstrated great skill in the use of soft materials such as wax or argile for his bronze models. We do not know either where comes from his skill in bronze casting, but certainly from his Italian experience. In October 1564 he is documented in Torino as court sculptor to Duke Emmanuele-Filiberto until 1568/69, where he specializes in monumental works, all lost except the model and moulds of coat of arms for the Torino citadel. When he reaches Paris in 1571, he is already considered a specialist of bronze sculpture. As a protestant, he is obliged to leave Paris and settles in Sedan in July 1585. He will return to Paris with Henri IV in 1594, as court artist, with the mission to create the iconography and propaganda of the new dynasty. The post-mortem inventories of his first wife (1583), revealed a great number of bronze statuettes, mythological subjects, animals, but also, according to Calvin’s precepts, profane subjects: women at their toilet, men in contemporary dress as the two bronzes here presented. It is probably during his exile in Sedan that Prieur produced these small statuettes, both to ensure money for the family, and to respond to the taste of a mostly protestant society that could appreciate the representations of daily life, eventually with moral connotations.
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 representation of Death as a draped skeleton holding a scythe appears during the Middle Ages, after the Great Plague (1347-1348). It is a terrifying creature wandering through the streets killing with its scythe. The scythe alludes to harvest, but has also an egalitarian sense: rich or poor, good or evil, everybody dies. The sand glass it holds alludes to the brevity of earthly living.
If such a work seems gruesome, it is nonetheless very instructive to the viewer, inviting him to behave well to be sure to go to paradise. Not a morbid object, this statuette is a Memento mori, a real spiritual exercise.
Monika Butzek, « Die Modemmsammlung der Mazzuoli in Siena » Pantheon 46 (1988), pp. 75-102.
Desmas, Anne-Lise, Le Ciseau et la tiare les sculpteurs dans la Rome des papes, Rome, école Française de Rome, vol. 463, 2012.
Dickerson (al.), Bernini sculpting in clay, New-York, the Metropolitan museum, 2013, cat.34.
Pascoli Lione, Vite de' pittori, scultori, ed architetti moderni, volume 2, Rome, 1736, pp. 477-487.
Zeri Federico, The Pallavicini Palace and Gallery in Rome. 1. The Palace, in The Conoisseur, 1955.
This female figure, an image of the Virgin Mary, is clad in a large veil with subtle pleats. Demonstrating the artist’s skill, the veil is attached on the front by a large knot creating a solid base for the work. Under this mantle, the Virgin wears a light tunic with another, smaller, knot. Slightly turned to the right, the face is serene, the chin and mouth are extremely nicely realized, as are the eyes the pupils of which are finely incised. Least, the hair emerging from the veil is treated with great skill and in a very detailed and realistic way. Rather than a bozzetto preparing a marble, this small terracotta could rather be one of those modelli or ricordi that were kept in the workshop as inspiration for the artists. We suggest for it an attribution to Giuseppe Mazzuoli. Monika Butzek higlighted the fact that this artist was very fond of keeping, almost systematically, his own modelli but also those of his collaborators. An inventory of his workshop dated 1767 amounts at least 300 pieces. This real trove was proposed to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, intended to be used as study material for the first art school in Sienna.
It is by analogy with a bust of the Virgin and its comapanion bust of Christ in the roman Rospigliosi-Pallavicini palace that we suggest this attribution. These two works adorn the palatine chapel and would have been commissioned to Mazzuoli by the Pallavicini family (circa 1719). The relationship with the veil knot, on the front of the work, is evident, even if its translation in marble is diminished. The mouth, the chin, and the treatment of the eyes are formal elements that points to the same hand. Though loosing some precision, due to the translation in marble, the hair coming out of the veil show strong similarities as well as the headgear leaning on the left ear while outlining it. Another element of comparison in favour of Mazzuoli : the Madonna in the Siennese church of San Martino. The De Vecchi family, first patrons of the artist, commissionned this sculpture in 1678 to adorn its chapel. There again, on a marial figure too, appear some characteristics of the artist: same chin, and a mouth similar to that of the terracotta. Last characteristic detail; the Child’s eyes, almond-shaped, protruding and slightly drooping.
Artist of Siennese origin, Giuseppe Mazzuoli leaves to Rome under the protection of the De Vecchi around 1655 and achieves his apprenticeship with the Maltese sculptor Melchiorre Caffà (1636-1667). Quickly, and thanks to the protection of cardinal Flavio Chigi (1631-1693), he obtains important Roman commissions: Saint Philip for the Saint-Jean-de-Latran basilica (1670), the dead Christ, low-relief for Santa Maria della Scala in Rome (1671). From 1672 to 1678 he collaborates extensively with Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) to the tomb of Pope Alexander VII where Bernini asks him to carve the Charity which adorns this tomb. These commissions bring him other from Roman princely families, such as the tombs of Rospigliosi-Pallavicini family in San Francesco a Ripa (1713-1719) or part of the sculptures in the chapel of the Monte di Pietà (1723), one of his last works that he proudly signs: « Joseph. Maz. Età 79. »demonstrating his artistic longevity. This bust of the Virgin Mary dating from his last years of activity is, in its way, a testimony of his long, with lasting characteristic, career.
Already well-known (Avery, 2008, p. 185, cat. 54), this representation of America is one of the singular "machine allegoriche" produced by the highly original, enigmatic creative mind of the Venetian sculptor Francesco Bertos.
With its typical pyramidal structure, the marble consists of a round base on which the scene is laid out around a kind of tree trunk. While not violent, this is a decidedly curious scene, to say the least. On one side, we see a half-reclining nude young man, right arm raised, dagger in hand, sitting on a "lucerta" ("lizard": the way Cesare Ripa in his Iconologia defines what critics generally call an "alligator", meaning the canonical attribute of this continent), which he has just given a mortal blow – we imagine to avenge the death of the child lying out beside him. On the other side, another, naked child stands brandishing stones, which, in a primitive impulse, he is preparing to throw at the female figure (whose left hand holds what was probably once a pointed stake, the right being placed on the visible part of a bow), perched on the shoulders of a sturdy bearded man. The latter has one foot on the dead child and the other on the leg of the young man with the dagger, and holds up a kind of stick in his left hand, while the right hand, emerging from the folds of a falling drape, supports the back of the woman. Facing him, another full-length male figure, whose tensed left leg rests on the ground, while the right is slightly raised, is shown pulling on part of the drapery with his left hand, while the right hand, the arm slightly bent, also seems to be holding a slightly sharpened stone.
Probably one of a series of allegories of continents – of which only the representation of Africa still exists, as far as we know (Avery, 2008, p. 185, cat. 53) – the sculpture presented here should be compared in terms of both stylistic affinity and composition with the group of the same subject now in the Palazzo Reale in Turin, along with many others (idem, p. 183, cat. 50). Even if there are obvious differences between the two versions of the Allegory of America, the similarities are considerable – for example, between the figure of the reclining young man with the dagger in the Piedmontese work and the one here: the pose is the same, as is the depiction of the facial features (the aquiline nose, the ears, the delineation of the lips, etc.) and the modelling of the muscles. Another point in common is the figure with the raised right leg, holding in his left hand the drapery of the female figure at the top of the pyramid. This figure is important in the composition, because it is the only one looking towards the viewer.
As we know, works like these and others produced in bronze, made Francesco Bertos an "uomo celebre... solo nell’arte di simil genere" ("a famous man... singular in this kind of art") (Alice Binion, La Galleria scomparsa del Maresciallo Von der Schulenburg, Milan, 1990, p. 127-128). The importance of these words and this precise definition lies in the fact that they come from the editors of the catalogues for the collection of Marshal von der Schulenburg, one of the greatest collectors of Venetian art in the 18th century. His collection, famous throughout Europe, contained at least twelve works by Bertos, making him the sculptor most represented.
Charles Avery, The Triumph of Motion: Francesco Bertos (1678-1741) and the Art of Sculpture, Turin, 2008.
Born into a dynasty of artists, Jean-Baptiste II Lemoyne carried out his apprenticeship in the studio of his father, then that of Robert Le Lorrain. After winning the First Prize for Sculpture in 1725, the artist led an academic career. As the official portraitist to Louis XV and the royal family, Lemoyne put his talents to serving the monarchy with the equestrian statue of the king for the royal palace of Bordeaux (1744) and the monument commemorating the king’s convalescence for the City Hall in Rennes, inaugurated in 1754. Lemoyne produced a large number of official busts in marble, but also showed considerable skill in his portraits of all the key society figures of his time, with more intimate busts marked by a keen ability to convey the spirit of his models. A good example is the bust presented here; the head slightly turned in a three-quarters direction, and the wide-open eyes and expressive gaze turned aside, away from the viewer, according to a process often used by the sculptor that leaves us to guess this woman’s high position in society. It is a fine instance of his taste for working with terracotta. With skilful chisel and paring work that gives great vibrancy to the surface of the clay, the artist brilliantly conveys the appearance of the flesh and the model’s liveliness, accentuating certain details, like the eyes with their well-marked eyebrow arches, the finely retouched mouth, the well-defined line of the ears and the hairstyle typical of the period, with a rolled curl falling negligently down the neck onto the left shoulder.