Melchior Barthel

(Dresda 1625-1672)

Bust of a Philosopher

Carrara Marble

58,7 x 30,7 x 22 cm

The beautiful bust of Carrara marble, depicting the ideal portrait of an ancient philosopher - a very common subject in the Venetian collections of the seventeenth century, due to its particular stylistic connotation, can be confidently assigned to the Saxon sculptor Melchior Barthel, one of the main protagonists of the Baroque Venetian sculpture of the second half of the seventeenth century.

The comparisons with the documented works of the artist, such as the Saint John the Baptist and the Prophets of the Venetian church of Scalzi or the San Pietro of the church of San Pietro di Castello, reveal in fact a same sensitivity, aimed at a theatricality of attitudes, in conceiving the figures, distinguished, as we observe in our bust, from a full bodied and exuberant plastic sense of the sculptural forms. In particular, in the Philosopher as in the other works mentioned by Barthel we find, alongside the common expressive charge and the re-proposition in the faces of similar physiognomic types (see for example the definition of the ocular globes or the eyebrow arch), an identical working of the thick beards and hairstyles, arranged in ruffled locks, real skeins of hair, soft and leavening, defined at the tip of the chisel.
The comparison with the Saint Peter allows to notice also the same treatment of the drapery, from the curled surfaces.

After having stayed for three years in Rome where - according to his biographers (see Curiosa Saxonica 1748, Sandrart 1675) - he worked as a sculptor and architect, Barthel arrived in Venice just over the middle of the seventeenth century, with an already acquired experience behind him both in the field of monumental statues in marble and in the intaglio of ivory, so as to immediately become one of the most famous and sought-after artists on the Venetian scene.

For the language updated in Baroque, no less than for the importance and quality of the works itself, the presence of the artist of Dresden in the panorama of Venetian sculpture of the time was certainly very significant, contributing decisively, together with the example of Justus Court, arrived in the lagoon in the same period of time, to radically renew a now weary sculptural tradition.
Among the contemporaries, there is the painter Sebastiano Mazzoni, who dedicates to his friend "Melchior Bartel Scultor celeberrimo Tedesco" some encomiastic verses ("From your opre to amaze me I learn (...) / That others with the Iron of others death, / And you with Iron you can give life to the Marbles ") in a sonnet contained in the collection Il Tempo perduto (Venice 1661). Sandrart (1675), for his part, a few years after the artist's death, recalls him as a "sculptor without comparison and pride of his Saxon homeland".

Among the early Venetian works of Barthel we should mention the sculptures made, probably in the late fifties and the beginning of the following decade, for the chapel of the Mora family, in the Scalzi church: the San Giovanni Battista, signed, in the center of the the altar, the couple of Prophets resting on the tympanum, and the two Putti placed on the side walls, one regent the coat of arms of the family and the other the dedicatory inscription. A little later he executed the marble statues representing Saint Peter and Saint Mark for the high altar in the church of San Pietro di Castello, built on a project by Baldassarre Longhena, works in relation to which some payments dating back to the end of 1663 are documented. San Marco, in particular, very effectively reveals a 'Venetian' Baroque style, expressed in ways that go well with the emphasis of Le Court, author of the figure with St. Paul in the same altar, and nourished by that same cultural climate that gives life at the contemporary painting of the so-called 'tenebrous'.

In 1669 he took part in the realization of the impressive sculptural apparatus of the funerary monument to the Doge Giovanni Pesaro in the Basilica dei Frari, the most important and imposing baroque monument of this kind, built on the project of the same Longhena. They are in fact in Barthel - as Cristoforo Ivanovich recalls in his encomiastic text entitled L'Istoria ne 'Marmi (1683), dedicated to Pesaro - the two pairs of allegorical statues depicting Religion and Constance and Truth and Justice, placed at the sides of the figure of the doge in order to celebrate its virtues. Finally, the marble statues representing the Faith and Prudence of the monument to Lorenzo Dolfin in the Venetian church of San Lazzaro dei Mendicanti, which began in 1666 and dated 1668, are almost contemporary.

Among the works kept in Venetian churches, the most famous is perhaps the funeral memory of Melchiorre Lanza in the Basilica of Saints John and Paul, with the effigy carved in the marble of the deceased and "stand a statue of a seductive woman" - which is intent staring at a mirror reflecting the image of a human skull - "representing the thought of death".

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Francesco Cozza

Stilo 1605- Roma 1682

Saint Joseph with the Child and the Angel

Oil on canvas

95 x 72,5 cm

The canvas is an important addition to the pictorial maturity of Francesco Cozza, as certified by the signature and the date: "F. COZZA 1667 ".

 

Leaving his native Stilo very young, Cozza arrived in Rome around 1631 to attend the Domenichino school; he followed the maestro to Frascati and to Naples, where he was in dialogue with Pacecco de Rosa, and then continued his career in Rome and its surroundings. 

Following his admission to the Virtuosi del Pantheon (1647) and the Accademia di San Luca (1650), he obtained prestigious commissions, such as those from the Pamphilj family. For Don Camillo he frescoed the Sala del Fuoco of the Palazzo di Valmontone (1658-1661) and for his heirs the vault of the library of the Collegio Innocenziano (1667-1673).

The harmonious and elegant composition sees in the center the figure of St. Joseph with his head bowed and expression absorbed: both the gaze of the Child placed on his knees with the goldfinch in his hands and the angel that surrounds his shoulders holding out flowers are turned towards his magniloquent figure, wrapped in the blue of the robe and in the yellow of the mantle.

In the simplicity and affection of religious sentiment, the image conveys a sense of quiet and serenity, enhanced by the precious naturalistic concession of the bouquet of flowers that rhymes, in the antique pink color, with the angel's dress.

The pose of God the Father with the left hand open and the right holding the Child is reminiscent of that used by Cozza for the Virgin painted in the Madonna of the Redemption welded in 1661 by the Trinitarian Fathers of Santa Francesca Roman, now preserved in the Pontifical College Nepomuceno. In addition, the typological and stylistic analogies with the Pietà of the Galleria Corsini in Rome are stringent, in which the right hand of the Virgin is similarly almost superimposable to that of our Saint Joseph. At this chronological height Cozza has revised the original Domenichino classicism in the light of more modern experiences, looking at Lanfranco but also at the younger Giacinto Brandi for the soft and thick taste of drapery and contrasting light and chiaroscuro games.

 

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Francesco Ignazio Marabitti

Palermo 1719 - Palermo 1797

Saint Rosalie

Gilt terracotta

15 x 48 x 18 cm

The present gilt terracotta is the modellofor a marble statue executed by Francesco Ignazio Marabitti (1719-1797), the most renowned Sicilian sculptor of the eighteenth century. The statue, which represents Saint Rosalie, patron of Palermo, is located at the foot of the main altar of the Church of Saint Rosalie in Monreale, south-west of the Sicilian capital (fig. 1). Incised on the right hand-side of its base are the artist’s signature and the date: “IGNATIUS MARABITTI / PA[NORMITANUS]. SCULP[TOR]. AN[NO]. MDCCLVIII” (“Ignazio Marabitti sculptor from Palermo in the year 1758”; see Malignaggi, 1973 [1974], p. 34). Comparison between the marble in Monreale and our terracotta (fig. 2) indicates that the latter was conceived as the former’s preparatory modello, which Marabitti, in all likelihood, submitted to his patrons to obtain their final approval before carving the Saint Rosaliein marble. 

 

Lying on bare rocks, in a moment of rest during her pilgrimage across the lands that surround Palermo, the young Rosalie is portrayed asleep, with a cross in her left hand and a skull by her right hand. On the ground are a book and a whip, which the saint is described as using repeatedly in The Life and Miracles of Saint Rosalie virgin from Palermo(Palermo, 1693), one of the many hagiographies that were dedicated to her starting in the seventeenth century (on the iconography of the saint see Cuccia, 1991 and Di Natale, 1991). In this period, the cult of the Santuzza, as she was locally known in Sicilian dialect, gained particular strength, primarily as a result of the claim that in 1624 her mortal remains were discovered in a cave on Monte Pellegrino, outside Palermo, and of the miraculous end of a plague epidemic the following year. Specifically, it was said that after 9 June 1625, when the precious urn containing Saint Rosalie’s relics was paraded in a procession through the streets of Palermo, the pestilence that had been ravaging the city for many months started to regress, and soon vanished completely. Following this episode, devotion to Saint Rosalie was officially added to the Catholic liturgy and calendar by pope Urban VIII, who in 1630 designated July 15 as the feast day for the discovery of her remains and September 4 as that for the commemoration of her death. 

 

Confirmation that our terracotta represents Saint Rosalie can be found in the history of the church where the marble statue is preserved to this day. The main source of information on this subject is a volume by Gaetano Millunzi (1859-1920) entitled The city of Monreale and the virgin Saint Rosalie, published in 1892. The author records that construction of the church was encouraged by Alberto Greco Carlino, a cleric highly devoted to the saint, following the end of an earthquake that devastated Monreale in the mid-eighteenth century. Expressing vows to the Santuzza, in 1751 everycitizen of Monreale carried a stone to a hill that was dedicated to her, thus laying the foundations for the future church, where many illustrious artists would come to work. The main altar was erected between 1757 and 1758, and under its mensa was located the beautiful marble statue of Saint Rosalie commissioned from Marabitti.

 

Born in Palermo in 1719, Marabitti first trained in the workshop of Gioacchino Vitagliano (1669-1739), brother in law of the great Giacomo Serpotta, and subsequently had the opportunity to refine and renovate his sculptural language in Rome, where he resided from 1740 to 1745 (for a more detailed biographical account, see Russo 2007). In the papal city, Marabitti came into contact with the Florentine sculptor Filippo della Valle (1698-1768) - whose modellofor the Saint Theresa of Avilain St Peter’s Basilica he owned (see Malignaggi, 1973 [1974], p. 8) - and had the chance to observe closely the work of the great protagonists of the Roman Baroque, first and foremost Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

 

Upon his return to Palermo, Marabitti received “a multitude of commissions, which called him from one end of Sicily to the other”, thus becoming the most sought after master in the region and, in the words of Rudolf Wittkower, “the last great sculptor of the Baroque era” (1993, p. 397). Some of his early works, executed before 1757, are in Siracusa, such as the Immaculate Virgin Mary(fig. 3) and the saints Lucy(fig. 4), MarcianPeter(fig. 5) and Paul, all visible on the façade and to the sides of the steps of the Duomo. It is in Palermo that Marabitti then executed his most remarkable works, such as the statues installed in 1767 in the gardens of Villa Giulia, but executed a few years earlier for the Jesuits (these include Religionand The Triumph of Religion over Heresy, which were subsequently converted into personifications of Abundanceand Glory, figs. 6-7); the Fountain of Oreto(fig. 8) for the Benedictine Abbey of San Martino delle Scale; and various other monuments in the city’s churches, commissioned by members of the local aristocracy and clergy. Towards the end of 1778, Marabitti’s composition entitled The Genie of Palermowas ceremoniously unveiled in the centre of the gardens of Villa Giulia: this monument consecrated our artist’s reputation as the foremost sculptor in the region, as confirmed by the words of the contemporary Marquis of Villabianca. In his diaries, the nobleman describes how “said statue [boasts] having been created by the virtuous hands of Ignazio Marabitti, renowned sculptor of our times and fellow citizen [of Palermo], who is universally considered, on account of his mastery, the new Antonio Gagini” (manuscript recorded in Russo, 2007). 

 

From the point of view of composition, the present terracotta displays only minimal variations from the final marble statue, differences that further confirm its authenticity and authorship. On one hand, in the clay, the inclination of the head is more accentuated, so that it appears to lean entirely on the right shoulder and her angelic features face entirely towards the viewer. On the other hand, in the marble, the saint is represented wearing sandals, a detail that is absent in the modello, and that the sculptor must have decided upon at a later stage. 

 

Highly finished, our terracotta is also notable for the elevated quality of its modelling. Rosalie’s robe, with its closely-arranged folds, is magisterially rendered through the creation of chiaroscuro gradations, which heightens both the polished quality of her face and the soft feel of her hands, and the fact that she’s lying on bare rocks (incised here and there with parallel lines).

 

To enrich his modello, and for the purposes of conservation, Marabitti decided to gild its surface. The aesthetic value of the terracotta was thus enhanced, bringing it closer to gilt bronze than “simple” clay. Many of Marabitti’s terracottas in Palazzo Abatellis in Palermo (figs. 9-14) and in the Museo Diocesano in Monreale (figs. 15-18) present the same type of treatment of the surface. These works were rediscovered and reattributed to our artist by Teodoro Fittipaldi, in an article published in 1976 in Napoli Nobilissima. Having catalogued each work, the scholar proceeded to note how “Marabitti, following the taste of the period, chose to endow his sculptural compositions with a markedly pictorial quality, to the point of gilding surfaces, thus obtaining an exceptional level of intensity” (p. 73). 

 

Art historians have often observed how the figure of Saint Rosalie in Monreale is indebted, on a compositional level, to the Blessed Ludovica Albertoni(fig. 19) by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, a marble group executed in the mid-1670s. This connection, first pointed out by Diana Malignaggi in her seminal 1973 article on Marabitti, was further examined and illustrated by Gaetano Bongiovanni in his essay ‘Bernini and Sicily’, which appeared in the catalogue of the exhibition The Salvator Mundiby Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The Roman Baroque encounters the Sicilian Baroque(p. 8). Another important source of inspiration for Marabitti, this time from a Sicilian context, can be found in the figure of Saint Lucy lying down (fig. 20), executed by Gregorio Tedeschi in 1634 in Siracusa. 

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Peter Scheemakers The Younger

Antwerp 1691 – Antwerp 1781

Venus reclining on a mattress

Terracotta

37 x 64 x 24 cm

Whether this terracotta, so highly finished with a slib that accentuates every vibration of Venus’s skin, was meant to function as a model for a bronze or a marble with remain speculative, unless such a version were discovered. The terracotta’s finish is such that it becomes beautiful in itself, not even having to refer to a more noble material like bronze. After all, the fashion amongst a small circle in Paris of aficionados of terracotta sketches may well have existed in London in the 1730s.

As Dézallier d’Argenville put it, “Drawings are the first ideas of a painter, the first fire of his imagination, his style, his spirit, his way of thinking [...] Drawings demonstrate the fecundity and sharpness of the artist’s genius, the nobility and elevation of his feelings, and the ease with which he expresses them.”

These examples show why and how drawings – or in this case three-dimensional “drawings” in clay – are generally seen as the first formulation of ideas in the mind of the artist, either allowing a glimpse into the first stages of his creative process, or one into the refinement of the master’s finishing touches on a sensitive material, unfired clay.

The attribution of this Venus to Peter Scheemakers the Younger (1691-1781) proposed here rests on the observations made above about the Flemish tradition in which he was trained, the intimate knowledge of Classical Antiquity that he displays in the sensitive and imaginative reworking of classical themes and shapes, a knowledge acquired both before and during a long sojourn in Italy, but also on stylistic comparison.

In the background of a portrait of him, we discover his statue of Shakespeare at Westminster Abbey, designed by William Kent and executed by him in a naturalistic style to great critical acclaim,. This sculpture definitively established his reputation as a leading sculptor in London.

Stylistic similarity of our Venus to his autograph works is scant, as few documented works of this kind have survived. From the 1728 auction catalogue of Delvaux and Scheemakers, lot 92, we know that Scheemakers had modelled “Venus Sleeping” in clay, amongst many other all’antica statues and statuettes.38 From a list drawn up by George Vertue in his notebooks, we learn that Scheemakers produced a whole series of sculptures after antique models while in Rome, including a version of the Borghese Hermaphrodite, according to the letter quoted above.

Works which have survived are often associated with sculpture galleries such as at Chiswick or Chatsworth, but also garden complexes of which the most famous one was no doubt that at Stowe for Richard Temple, 1st Viscount Cobham, whom Scheemakers also portrayed.

Reclining figures of Venus in marble have been attributed by Andrew Moore to Scheemakers, in particular a work akin to the bronze statuette produced by Thibault Poissant illustrated above: Venus on her back lying on a sheet and a mattress similar to the Borghese Hermaphrodite. It came from Narford Hall, Norfolk, where it was inventoried as by Laurent Delvaux in 1753 and sold in 1999.

In format comparable works include a figure of Cleopatra, fully signed, in the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, that represents her lying down and asleep half naked and on a rocky underground.

This figure had an Ariadneby Laurent Delvaux as a pendant, also at Yale today.

All of these works are characterised by all’antica themes and compositions, a particularly supple carving of the marble or modelling in terracotta with great attention to surface rendering, heightening mimetic effects, despite the small scale of the works. They could theoretically be taken in the hand by the collector to create even more proximity than with the eye alone.

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Agostino Tassi

(Rome 1578 – 1644)

Architectonical Scene with the meeting between Solomon and the Queen of Sheba

Oil on canvas

98 x 133,5 cm

The painting occupies an important place in the catalogue of Agostino Tassi’s later works, a painter who has a monograph written by Teresa Pugliatti (1977) (1) and a monographic exhibition in Palazzo Venezia in Rome in 2008 curated by Patrizia Cavazzini (2).
Tassi was in great demand among the most important buyers in Rome (the Borghese, the Ludovisi, the Barberini, the Patrizi and the Peretti Montalto families), above all to decorate and fresco the walls of their palaces; he was extremely clever at increasing or decreasing the size of a room through architectural illusions, creating formulas and models which were fundamental for XVII century landscape painting.

From his earliest works, dating back to the first few years of the century, Tassi shows his interest in all the different kinds of landscape painting, from the topographical views of cities to architectural whims, very often imaginative, whose theme, studied thoroughly above all around the 1630s, cohabits with the most common subjects of “Marine”, and Tassi became extremely popular for these. In the “Negazione di San Pietro” (1613, Rome, private collection), realised around 1613, we already find, for example, a double arcade – a monumental architectural feature that dominates the scene – derived from the Treatise on perspective by Jans Vredeman de Vries, but also from buildings which the painter knew already from the period he spent in Tuscany (the Vasari Loggias in Arezzo, or the Peschiera Loggia in Livorno, the double arcade of Banchi di Pisa).

The scene which unfolds before our eyes in this canvas is set in the shade of a huge, antiqued entrance-hall whose architecture in inspired by the Basilicas of Ancient Rome and can be compared to his earlier works such as the “Galleria” in the Civic Museum in Prato and the oldest version of the “Festa di Calendimaggio in Campidoglio” (Florence, private collection). The antique objects that enrich the closed space which descends gradually in the background, includes a typically Roman statue enclosed in a niche and a few decorations which are visible in the opening of a side wing.

Elegant Greek-like elements such as columns and capitals are placed within an enormous orchestration, typically Roman, which renders the wall, and no longer the column, the important element, and the barrel vault becomes the roof. The perspective is not exactly focal: the idea of a viewer at the edge of the canvas who is introduced into the scene following a path which is slightly diagonal is often present in Tassi’s work. The figures in the foreground that are placed as if in a kind of frieze according to a syntactic juxtaposition are actually the creations of the painter in the 1630s and are repeated, for example, in paintings such as “Cleopatra a Tarso” and “L’Ingresso di Taddeo Barberini dalla Porta del Popolo”, the latter dated 1632, in which long-limbed figures that crowd the scene and take on sinuous, contrived poses like those of dancers and musicians who move elegantly, almost on tiptoes, on the cornice of the raised pedestal of the column on the left, return to establish strict stylistic analogies with our painting.

The detailed description and attention to reality, characteristics which were present in Tassi’s earlier works, are obviously fruit of a mental elaboration which followed the example of Flemish painting, the master of calligraphism.
Concerning the subject represented here that Patrizia Cavazzini suggested be identified with the departure of a king from his daughter who has been promised in matrimony to a foreign prince, appears difficult to codify, which confirms the fact that when faced with Tassi’s works it is often necessary to assume dubitative interpretations.

It is, however, possible to recognise in this episode the meeting between Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, a subject which was used at the same time by Claude Lorrain and which reveals, with regard to Tassi, his interest in the Queen of Sheba’s vicissitudes, since he painted about them more than once, for example in the “Arrivo della regina di Saba nel regno di Salomone” (England, Burghley House, dated around 1613), or in the “Imbarco della regina di Saba” (Rome, private collection).

After a more careful analysis the most evident feature of this canvas is the declination “alla Poussin” of the composition that takes over during the last phase of Tassi’s career. Scholars have more than once asked themselves, with regard to this, if Poussin, whose first years in Rome were known to be very difficult, may have turned to Tassi’s studio. If we look deeper at the French influence that Agostino felt in the course of his career we can see that in 1629 the scholarly Cassiano dal Pozzo, when praising the paintings of “these curiosities of Rome” by Jean Lemaire, likened them to those by Tassi.

It is well-known, in fact, that already at the beginning of the 1620s Agostino mixed with various French painters; in 1625 two of them stayed at his house and Claude Lorrain worked in his studio during the same period. Moreover, again around 1625-26, the painter stayed in the parish of Santa Maria in Via, not far from that of San Nicola in Arcione where the same Lemaire lived, and he, without doubt, transmitted to him his preference for side-scene views and his taste for the antique. No less important for his stylistic maturity was the afore-mentioned famous Master Nicolas Poussin; in the figures painted during Tassi’s later period his influence was particularly evident: Poussin acts above all in carefully-gauged, seemingly classical paginations of the groups of figures, as, we must not forget, does Angelo Caroselli, a Master with whom Tassi was in contact as far back as 1631.

Fluid, relaxed brush-strokes, like those that make up canvases such as “Incendio notturno in una città” (già Galleria Canesso, Paris) to be dated around 1636-37, and ”Fuga di Loth da Sodoma” (già Galleria Rosa, Monte-Carlo), are typical of Agostino Tassi’s later period, to which, evidently the exemplar in question here also belongs.

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Giovanni Bonazza

(Venice, 1654 - Padua, 1736)

Winter, circa 1710

Terracotta

32 cm

In 1978, in the magazine "Arte Veneta", Camillo Semenzato published an article entitled The statues of the Botanical Garden of Padua. In those pages, the great scholar made known some new sculptures by the Venetian Giovanni Bonazza (1654-1736): the artist who more than others loved him and to whom he had dedicated a fundamental monographic contribution on "Essays and memories of art history" which is still crucial today for the critical reading offered by the language of this fascinating master.

Next to the monumental statues of Theophrastus and Solomon (signed "J [oannes] Bonazza F [ecit]), Semenzato also illustrated the marble busts of the Four Seasons placed at the sides of the biblical figure in the space of the Garden called" Fontana delle Four Seasons »[fig. 1]. Describing them, the scholar stressed that "the sculptor, though very prolific, did not like to repeat himself in his representation" and here, "condescended [...] to a theme of a more humanistic nature, but without addressing this pedantic exhibition, he treated the theme with that dose of fantasy and immediacy that makes it unmistakable "(Semenzato 1978, pp. 394-395). And it is in fact supported by this "industrious" fantasy that Bonazza gave life to the singular depictions of Spring [fig. 2], of the Estate [fig. 3], Autumn and Winter [fig. 4]. Works of overflowing eccentricity, unusual, magnetic, and that fascinate both sensuality and grace, and - if you look above all at Autumn and Winter - for the ironic character and that je ne sais quoi of naturalistic that undoubtedly connive.
It seems therefore a find of undoubted value that here is presented: that is the preparatory study in terracotta [figs. 5-6] modeled by the Venetian sculptor for the marble version of the Winter of the Botanical Garden of Padua.

Covered in large part by a fur-lined mantle - only the chest area is left bare to underline, along with the thick bipartite beard and the wrinkles that furrow the forehead, the advanced age -, our Winter comes with the head facing the right, the wary gaze pointed with peremptoryness in the same direction, and with the half-open mouth almost ready to speak or sigh before the naive frivolity of the younger and more fertile seasons: Spring and Summer. The head is bordered on the sides by the typical fruits and vegetables of this season: one can find here and there a pear, a pomegranate, a small round pumpkin. The bust, moreover, seems illusionistically resting on a fancyly adorned pediment in the front. The back, instead, is emptied almost completely in the area of the bust, while at the bottom, that is to say in the back side of the pedestrian, you can see the crack in which there was the support around which gradually the figure was built.

Comparing it with the marble of the Botanical Garden there are actually many coincidences that confirm that our Winter [fig. 7] is the preparatory model of the Paduan sculpture [fig. 8]. Alongside this, however, we must also underline the small differences that further certify the genuineness of the terracotta, testifying also how the sculptor has reworked his invention to the last. Evident, for example, is the decision taken by Bonazza to discover the entire chest of Winter, thus highlighting even more the falling breasts of the elderly man; one of the most naturalistic details of the whole composition is still linked in some way to the Venice world of the late seventeenth century and its greatest representative in sculpture: Giusto Le Court. Finally, the change occurred in the yield of the mantle should also be noted: if in the model this was intended to be entirely covered with fur (made by Bonazza with a virtuous game of signs made in speed with the tip of the splint), in marble instead the artist has slightly reduced the surface, balancing it with the smooth part of the fabric.

Next to the wise use of the tools designed to work the clay - as well as on the mantle are also traced in the darting furrows that fracture beard, mustache and eyebrows - on the terracotta we find the sculptor's fingers, fingers that have gradually added material, that have touched it, smoothed, ennobled.

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Giovanni della Robbia

(Florence, Italy 1469 – 1529/1530)

Molded Frame, decorated with a garland of fruit, vegetables and flowers with little animals.

Polychromatic glazed terracotta - Circa 1520/1525

Diameter 150 cm

This festive and attractive unpublished glazed frame, on which there is a luxuriant garland of fruit and flowers with little animals, very naturalistically modelled, and brightened by strong polychromy, is representative and beautiful - for its elegant, component liveliness, the quality of its workmanship, the different shades of its ceramic palette – of the widespread ornamental work that in the Renaissance was typical of the Della Robbia family’s art. In fact, similar garlands used to frame heraldic medals, “antiqued” effigies, and Virgin Mary reliefs linked to family or civic prosperity or to the great profusion of divine grace, together with festoons, briars and greenery that adorn altar posts, lunettes and tabernacles, are present from the middle of the XV century and for more than a century later in the works of the Della Robbia family, diversely interpreted by Luca, his nephew Andrea and his five children who inherit the famous, important workshop (Gentilini 1992; Quinterio 1998).

Their extraordinary capacity to reproduce nature’s gifts in majolica, the fleeting fragrance of fruit, vegetables, greenery and the fragile beauty of flowers, with an illusionistic virtuosity capable of emulating the legendary creations of the Greek chloroplast Posside which were praised by Varrone and Plinio, was one of the most distinctive and appreciated features – as we can read in “Vite” by Vasari (1550, 1568) – of the prolific and polyhedral activity of this famous family (Gentilini, Mozzati 2009). It is actually the flourishing garlands which are the works destined to remain in people’s imaginations as the unmistakable mark of Della Robbia art, to such an extent that in America the popular Christmas wreaths with pine-cones, apples and other fruit are called “Della Robbia wreaths” (Gentilini 2016).

The work in question here is made up of a wide ‘fascia’ frame profiled inside with ‘ovoli e dardi’ molding, glazed in white to imitate marble, on which lies a flourishing garland composed of a huge variety of fruit (apples, bunches of grapes, pomegranates, pine-cones, plums, almonds, etc.) citrus fruits (lemons, oranges and citrons) and vegetables (cucumbers, peas, cloves of garlic) with their leaves, interspersed with white, pale blue and yellow wildflowers (little roses, campanulas, parnassias, gentians, etc.). In the damp vegetation there are some little animals, probably forged using moulds of real animals according to a practice already described by Cennini (c.1400) and well documented in Renaissance terracotta and bronze sculpture (Gramaccini 1985) as well as in the majolica of Bernary Palissy (Klier 2004): three small silhouetted frogs, a sinuous lizard, a snail and a crab busy clasping a piece of fruit.
The flourishing profusion of greenery is cleverly contained by a careful mathematic-geometric arrangement, according to the Alberti principle of “varietas” disciplined by “compositio”. In fact, the larger more recognisable fruits and vegetables decorating the garland are grouped in eight bunches, each of which is composed of five fruits of the same botanical species (the only exception is the bunches of grapes alternating with lemons), placed in the symmetric way – two pairs followed by a single fruit in the centre, with the larger ones on the outside of the group -, and they are mainly coupled with vegetables and fruit which are smaller and secondary, like the cloves of garlic, the peas, the plums, and the wildflowers that intersperse the bunches.

The bunches follow each other with regular spaces and counterclockwise, each one modelled over one of the eight pieces into which the frame has been divided in order to help the drying, firing and transport of the work. It is not easy to establish the original sequence of the pieces (some of which, moreover, show externally, near the joining points, some conventional marks carved into the fresh clay and numbers written in black, intended for a correct mounting “in situ”), since in Della Robbia works there was no fixed rule that established the order of the various varieties of vegetables portrayed in the segments of the frames. However, it is probable that the garland foresaw a chromatic alternation of the bunches with a prevalence of yellow fruit (apples, lemons, oranges, citrons) over vegetables and green fruit (pomegranates, cucumber) and reddish fruit (bunches of grapes, plums) thus determining a balanced display of the six animals too.

This compositional strictness is reflected too in the constructional aspects, since the size of the pieces (c. cm. 58 x 35) corresponds to the unit of measurement of time, the ‘braccio fiorentino’ (cm. 58,36). Moreover the technique of the modelling which can be appreciated by looking at the back of the frame, shows a magisterial conformity to the consolidated rules of the best works by the Della Robbia family (Vaccari 1998; 2009). The pieces, carefully cleared, present a box-like structure of the same thickness with holes corresponding to the larger fruit which was modelled by moving the clay over the surface of the frame “a fascia”, and they show other contrivances (deep-set partitions with holes) useful for the joining of the various elements and the anchorage of the work onto a wall.
The sides and partitions are at present chiselled in an irregular way which suggests that the frame was walled-in on the wall of a building; therefore, especially taking into consideration its size, we may imagine that it originally framed heraldic arms, like the numerous Della Robbia coats-of-arms that still today decorate residential palaces in and around Florence (Marquand 1919; Dionigi 2014). However, as we have already mentioned and as we shall see, garlands of this kind were also used to frame the Virgin Mary with Child and other holy images made both for domestic life and the church; they were often placed outside buildings where the glazing guaranteed that the bright polychromy would be protected from the weather: above all concerning Giovanni della Robbia’s works, to whom this piece can be easily attributed.

The particularly thick, varied composition of the garland, the turgid modelling of the fruit accompanied by fleshy leaves and thick-petaled flowers, the intense, thick shades of colour of the varnishes, the presence of numerous little animals and the classic “ovoli e dardi” molding, find a large number of comparisons in Giovanni della Robbia’s works: the most prolific and independent of Andrea della Robbia’s children who shared, until the death of their father in 1525, the busy workshop in Via Guelfa (Marquand 1920; Gentilini 1992, pages 279-238). Giovanni’s signed works - the only member of the family to sometimes sign their work – are, in fact, characterised by a stronger decorative vein which brings him to emphasize the archeological and naturalistic decorations, inserting even in his first documented works, like the “Lavabo” in the Sacristy of Santa Maria Novella (1498), thick festoons and garlands, full of every kind of vegetable.

On the other hand, the garlands produced by his father, Andrea (Marquand 1922; Gentilini 1992, pages 169-271), appear sparser, less exuberant, rarefied, often with bunches alternating with ribbons; in those of his brothers Luca the young and Girolamo (Marquand 1928, pages 65-130; Gentilini 1992, pages 329-371) pale shades of colour are prevalent and we find a modelling style which is sharp and incisive; while the over-abundance that certainly characterises the vegetable decorations of the brothers Marco and Ambrogio (Marquand 1928, pages 1-63; Gentilini 1992, pages 372-389) appear bundled up, commonplace and messy.

Among the more important signed works by Giovanni della Robbia which offer us particularly precise comparisons, in order to attest the name of the artist who made our garland, we can indicate the festoons that frame the monumental “Natività” that used to be in San Girolamo delle Poverine in Florence and is now in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, signed and dated 1521 - these festoons are also similar in the composition of the bunches with five fruits in each - and the imaginative “Tabernacolo delle Fonticine” in Via Nazionale, made in 1522, where we find again the presence of numerous little animals, such as some crabs which, absent until then in the Della Robbia garlands, induces us to date the work in question here around 1520.

A last, even more important, comparison for the attribution proposed here and for a date during the early 1520s, are the three medallions of the Virgin Mary and the four heraldic medallions made by Giovanni della Robbia for the porch of the Ospedale del Ceppo in Pistoia (Capecchi, Masdea, Tesi, Tucci 2015, pages 117-125), commissioned in 1525 by Leonardo Buonafede, one of the most important religious buyers of the time, which present a similar organisation and variety of vegetables, the same “ovoli e dardi” molding, and the same colourful, busy little animals: in particular the medallion portraying “l’Assunzione di Maria” where, as well as little frogs, lizards and snails, there is an identical crab and he too is clutching a leaf between his large claws.

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Lorenzo Sarti

(Active in Emilia and in the Veneto from 1722 to 1747)

The Holy Trinity with Guardian Angel, and the Saints Philip Benizi, Francis of Paola, Philip Neri and Charles Borromeo

Terracotta

98 x 163,5 cm

We know neither the provenance nor the collecting history of these two important terracotta reliefs. They have both undergone very recent restoration work and have regained their warm clay depth of colour highlighting the intensity of the terracotta. Formal analysis would collocate them within the school of sculpture that had sprung up within the walls of the city of Bologna in the first half of the 18th century, under the aegis first of Giuseppe Maria Mazza and later of the latter’s first pupil, Angelo Gabriello Piò.
The two reliefs, rectangular in shape, were most probably conceived as a pair. They are both of a similar size and have the same layout entailing a pyramid-like structure with, at the top, a Holy group and, at the bottom, in an ordered and tripartite, symmetrical pattern, multitudes of Saints, didactically devotional in appearance.

In the first terracotta work, in a central position beneath the group of the Holy Trinity (within a crown of clouds from which winged heads emerge) an Angel having just leapt up in flight with its large wings unfurled and its robes blowing in the wind, is protecting a little boy in warm embrace. Around the Guardian Angel, inside a piece of classical architecture which dissolves from a high relief into a more subtle stiacciato low relief (laterally circumscribing the area) there are figures of those saints who played primary roles or who were the founders of the main religious orders and congregations or who indeed were committed to reforming the Church and the clergy. These saints were placed on clouds that formed the background to the relief and were positioned with the utmost equilibrium. On the right, St. Philip Benizi, the general and legislator of the Servite Order with the tiara placed on the ground as a symbol of his renouncing the Papacy, is accompanied by the miracle worker and founder of the Order of Minims, Saint Francis da Paola, as usual dressed in a sackcloth with a small hood and with a little angel in flight bearing a scroll which, here empty, contains the motto Charitas or the abbreviated formula CHA. On the opposite side, St. Charles Borromeo, in profile and kneeling upon a risen threshold upon which his galero (a tassled hat) is placed, is clasping both his hands to his chest in religious discourse. Beside him, Saint Philip Neri, who founded the Congregation of the Oratory, wears according to tradition a tunic with a cherub at his feet that offers him a lily.

The heavenly parade continues in the second relief where, although the composition is practically identical in terms of layout and number of characters, the setting actually differs. From an unusual setting full of clouds we now witness an open space as indicated both by the tree that encloses the scene on the left and by the unevenness of the ground upon which the figures stand, except for the Virgin Mary with Christ Carrying the Cross and Saint Catherine of Alexandria, hovering upon cumulus clouds. In the lower part of the relief, on the right, Saint Augustine, as Bishop of Hippo with a mitre held above his head by an angel in flight and, as a Doctor, holding a book in his hand, appears to be talking to Saint Dominic, the founder of the Order of Preachers, denoted by the dog curled up on the ground with a torch in his mouth according to hagiographic legend. In the middle sits an angel – in profile - playing music and turning towards St. Thomas d’Aquino, seated upon a raised area to the far left. Doctor Angelicus, with the sun on his chest as the symbol of his holy erudition displays an open book, perhaps the Summa Theologica that had been written by him. The young angel with his cord at his side and cherubs in flight offering a lily and a candleholder before him allude to the chastity and purity of the Dominican priest.

The classic style of the layout, the figures and the skill of the execution combined with the perfection of style and the wealth of detail would qualify the two works as being autonomous works and not therefore destined to be translated into another material. The works reveal the hand of an artist who had learnt from the teachings of Giuseppe Maria Mazza who dedicated most of his professional career to the modelling of reliefs that were sublimely elegant and of a pronounced formal nobility of style. The ordered composition and the familiarity with the material (free and stylised in the depiction of the beards and hairstyles, so soft and mellow with lively strokes that highlight the plumage of the wings and clouds in the background) would suggest a certain proximity, in terms of the relationship between the maestro and the pupil, to the two great high reliefs in the Manzoli Chapel in San Giacomo Maggiore in Bologna (1681), which were the first acclaimed public work by Mazza, and expecially to the probably most famous work by the Bolognese sculptor, the monumental bronzes illustrating episodes in the life of Saint Dominic at Saint John and Paul in Venice (1716-1730).

[These reliefs were the first public work by Mazza, although the most famous work by the Bolognese sculptor was most probably the monumental bronzes illustrating episodes in the life of Saint Dominic at Saint John and Paul in Venice (1716-1730)].
Among his smaller works, an ideal comparison for these two works could be with the Saint Anthony of Padua in Adoration of the Madonna and Child at the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Bologna, kept in the Sala delle Colonne in Palazzo Pepoli Campogrande. It was first attributed to Giuseppe Maria Mazza by Eugenio Riccòmini who dated it to “within the first decade of the 18th century”. However, the date can be brought forward to the end of the ninth decade of the previous century on account of its stylistic similarities to the reliefs that decorate the Campagna Chapel at the Corpus Domini (1688), and also on account of the facial resemblance of the putti in flight to the facial features of the cherubs supporting the medallions with the images of the Evangelists in the nearby Chapel of Saint Catherine de Vigri in the very same church in Bologna (1687). Although the whole layout of the two reliefs under examination – the design of the drapes and the idea of the angels bearing the iconographical attributes of the saint - resembles the terracotta in the Pinacoteca, the latter is only one of the models upon which the author of these two reliefs worked. This is evident from the ease of the moulding/shaping [technique], the greater refinement in the composition as a whole and from the lively yet harmonious orchestration of the scene that derives from the natural, mellow and self-assured attitude [appearances] of the main characters. Furthermore, in these two reliefs currently under examination several stylistic characteristics would seem to be in unison, on a similar plane, with the work then being carried out by Angelo Gabriello Piò (1690-1770) who was becoming ever more important on the artistic scene in Bologna from the second decade of the 18th century onwards. In the angel that stands out in the centre of the first relief, in its posture and sharp, graceful facial features we may recognise an echo of the Fama supporting the medallion with the portrait of Luigi Ferdinando Marsili in the monument in the Church of Saint Dominic, completed in 1733. This work marked the culmination of the artist’s early period of activity. Several very evident, expressive elements/accents [features] – further highlighted here – especially in the terracotta with the Trinity in the upper part and the insistent “realism” of the physiognomic features (almost caricature-like, as showed by the frowning, severe face of the Holy Father and by the saints with deep wrinkles, marked features and bulging eyes) bring to mind the artist’s minor production [early work], such as the Contadini in the Palazzo Davia Bargellini signed and dated 1721 (later inspiring Filippo Scandellari).

In the first few decades of the 18th century, those years during which Angelo Gabriello Piò underwent his artistic training, first as the pupil of Andrea Ferreri, then as the pupil of Mazza before passing onto the School of Camillo Rusconi in Rome where he stayed for approximately a year (1718), there were many sculptors who embarked upon a career in the art of sculpture under the guidance of Giuseppe Maria Mazza. Despite the statement by Marcello Oretti, according to whom “few did he require”( “pochi ne volle”) in terms of pupils - and also on account of his important commissions at the Accademia Clementina (first as teacher then as Deputy Principal (1714) and Principal (1726)- Mazza played a primary role in the creation and development of the School that had been founded on the basis of the artistic direction that was most prevalent at the time at the prestigious Bolognese institute and that sought to retrieve old traditions and adhere more closely to classical criteria.

The artistic profiles of the sculptors who were working during that time seemed for the most part to be active participants in the language of Mazza. They were therefore recognisable as the main candidates – although somewhat elusive - for the attribution of the two reliefs under examination here with the exception of the more famous Andrea Ferreri (Milan 1673 – Ferrara 1744). Let us also mention, apart from Giovan Battista Bolognini (1698-1760), whose artistic skills have often been mistaken for those of Giuseppe Maria, Paolo Reggiani who, having moved early to Rome – the sculptor of the now lost twelve Virtues in the Dominican Convent – now only appears (“worthy of absolute praise”) in the papers of the always so well informed Marcello Oretti. According to the latter, he much “imitated the manner of Mazza and took on the grandest of characters and fine skills in depicting folds, spirit and grace”. Deserving of mention is also the still little-known Gaetano Lollini (?- Bologna, 1769) who “in the smallest of figures brought honour upon himself, as well as in beautiful larger models” . The latter’s most faithful follower, Lorenzo Sarti, whose habit of working so closely with the maestro earnt him the nickname of Lorenzin del Mazza is also worthy of mention here. Although it is not possible to distinguish clearly between these figures, on account of the scarcity of works that have survived and in particular of non-monumental terracottas, some considerations however may suggest comparisons between the works presented here and the repertoire of Lorenzo Sarti. The sculptor’s date of birth is unknown but it was probably during the first few years of the century as would bear testimony a hitherto unknown Pietà in polychrome terracotta upon which there is an inscription bearing the artist’s signature and the year 1722. From what the sources tell us we learn that he was active in his homeland throughout his career where he worked with his maestro – in the palazzo of Achille Maria Grassi who “sculpted four little life-sized putti two each door in competition with Mazza […] who sculpted the rest” – sometimes even repeating the latter’s work. Indeed, Marcello Oretti remembered that in the “house of the Counts Fava dalla Madonna di Galliera he made in clay the Madonna with Child upon the stairway, and copied it from Mazza’s original that is in the Galleria”. Apart from Bologna, he also worked for the Duke of Este and for the Count of Sora in Modena, for the Senator Pepoli in Trecenta in the family palazzo and in Ferrara where in 1745 he modelled Saint Yves in stucco in a niche on the side of the altar of Saint George in the city Cathedral . Furthermore, in Cento, in the collegiate church of Saint Blaise, as part of a renovation project of the presbyteral area funded by the Bolognese pontiff, Benedict XIV, Lorenzo Sarti undertook in 1742 the sculptural decoration of the main altarpiece.

The God the Father standing out so majestically at the top of the altar, accompanied by angels seated upon spiral volutes, displays obvious links to the same figure modelled in relief in one of the two terracottas under examination. The posture would appear to be almost identical, with the head lowered, the left arm rising in its familiar act of blessing, the right arm resting on the globe, the left leg bent whilst the right leg strides forth. Even more convincing is the comparison between the drapery and the folds of cloth: the two figures appear to be wrapped in a cloak that is folded at the waist thus creating a very similar turn-up rising up to the left shoulder and fully opening out in both cases into stiff and geometric folds. If we look at the scant Bolognese work undertaken by the sculptor there are also certain stylistic similarities in the angels that crown the patronage altar of the Lambertini family in the church of the Dominicans where Sarti worked in 1732. The face of the angelic figure on the right with elegant features and encapsulated within a full head of hair with soft and flowing locks brings to mind the Guardian Angel at the centre of the first relief. Furthermore, in Bologna, Lorenzo Sarti was one of the artists commissioned to renovate the Cathedral of Saint Peter’s on behalf yet again of Prospero Lambertini. In 1734, the sculptor undertook the realisation of the monumental statues in stucco of the Evangelists placed in niches in the columns giving access to the presbytery. A few years later, when the new façade of the church was built in 1747, Sarti modelled the Allegorical Figures in the counter-facade to crown the main entrance, further the four statues of the Doctors of the Church and completed the sculptural decoration with a frieze made of cherubs in high relief alternating with vegetable motifs running above the dedicatory plaque to Benedict XIV. The cherubs are a repetition in their facial features, in the stiffness and hardness of their postures, the very same figures that crowd our terracottas.

Neither critical literature nor historical and artistic sources from Bologna mention these two high reliefs. This would lead us to surmise that they were destined to decorate a private chapel, probably a place for domestic prayer belonging to a religious person as would indeed suggest the exceptionally high quality of the saints featured. As has so far been said, the professional career of Lorenzo Sarti was strongly connected to the circle surrounding Cardinal Prospero Lambertini (Bologna 1675 - Rome 1758), the future Pope Benedict XIV (1740-1758) from whom the sculptor received countless commissions. Designated as the Archbishop of Ancona and elevated to the position of Cardinal in 1728, three years later, in 1731, Lambertini received the archdiocese of Bologna, keeping the position until 1754, notwithstanding the fact that in the meantime he had become Pope. To support any attribution to the latter as a potential client for the aforementioned works by Sarti, apart from his familiarity with the latter, it must also be mentioned that Lambertini held a position at the Sacred Congregation of Rites, where for two decades from 1708 to 1728, he was Promoter of the Faith and wrote his monumental work – and most famous - the De servorum Dei beatificatione et beatorum canonizatione, published in Bologna between 1734 and 1738. The Ubi Primum promulgated on December 3rd 1740 would appear to capture more than a repercussion in these two reliefs with regard to the importance of the doctrines of beatification and sanctification as well as the will to reform theological and pastoral procedures and to apply the Tridentine Decrees with the utmost severity as laid down in his first Encyclical. On the subject of the time he spent on the re-founding of the academic institutions of his city and his constant presence within and promotion of the arts, critical claim has spent much time and has also highlighted his orientation towards “classically-grounded aesthetics” within which the author of these works under examination also moved. Here, although in a yet undecided fashion, we suggest therefore an attribution to Sarti, who “was one of Mazza’s finest pupils”.

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Lorenzo Sarti

(Active in Emilia and in the Veneto from 1722 to 1747)

The Blessed Virgin Mary between the Saints Catherine of Alexandria and Christ Carrying the Cross, with the Saints Augustine, Dominic and Thomas d’Aquino

Terracotta

98 x 163,5 cm

We know neither the provenance nor the collecting history of these two important terracotta reliefs. They have both undergone very recent restoration work and have regained their warm clay depth of colour highlighting the intensity of the terracotta. Formal analysis would collocate them within the school of sculpture that had sprung up within the walls of the city of Bologna in the first half of the 18th century, under the aegis first of Giuseppe Maria Mazza and later of the latter’s first pupil, Angelo Gabriello Piò.
The two reliefs, rectangular in shape, were most probably conceived as a pair. They are both of a similar size and have the same layout entailing a pyramid-like structure with, at the top, a Holy group and, at the bottom, in an ordered and tripartite, symmetrical pattern, multitudes of Saints, didactically devotional in appearance.

In the first terracotta work, in a central position beneath the group of the Holy Trinity (within a crown of clouds from which winged heads emerge) an Angel having just leapt up in flight with its large wings unfurled and its robes blowing in the wind, is protecting a little boy in warm embrace. Around the Guardian Angel, inside a piece of classical architecture which dissolves from a high relief into a more subtle stiacciato low relief (laterally circumscribing the area) there are figures of those saints who played primary roles or who were the founders of the main religious orders and congregations or who indeed were committed to reforming the Church and the clergy. These saints were placed on clouds that formed the background to the relief and were positioned with the utmost equilibrium. On the right, St. Philip Benizi, the general and legislator of the Servite Order with the tiara placed on the ground as a symbol of his renouncing the Papacy, is accompanied by the miracle worker and founder of the Order of Minims, Saint Francis da Paola, as usual dressed in a sackcloth with a small hood and with a little angel in flight bearing a scroll which, here empty, contains the motto Charitas or the abbreviated formula CHA. On the opposite side, St. Charles Borromeo, in profile and kneeling upon a risen threshold upon which his galero (a tassled hat) is placed, is clasping both his hands to his chest in religious discourse. Beside him, Saint Philip Neri, who founded the Congregation of the Oratory, wears according to tradition a tunic with a cherub at his feet that offers him a lily.

The heavenly parade continues in the second relief where, although the composition is practically identical in terms of layout and number of characters, the setting actually differs. From an unusual setting full of clouds we now witness an open space as indicated both by the tree that encloses the scene on the left and by the unevenness of the ground upon which the figures stand, except for the Virgin Mary with Christ Carrying the Cross and Saint Catherine of Alexandria, hovering upon cumulus clouds. In the lower part of the relief, on the right, Saint Augustine, as Bishop of Hippo with a mitre held above his head by an angel in flight and, as a Doctor, holding a book in his hand, appears to be talking to Saint Dominic, the founder of the Order of Preachers, denoted by the dog curled up on the ground with a torch in his mouth according to hagiographic legend. In the middle sits an angel – in profile - playing music and turning towards St. Thomas d’Aquino, seated upon a raised area to the far left. Doctor Angelicus, with the sun on his chest as the symbol of his holy erudition displays an open book, perhaps the Summa Theologica that had been written by him. The young angel with his cord at his side and cherubs in flight offering a lily and a candleholder before him allude to the chastity and purity of the Dominican priest.

The classic style of the layout, the figures and the skill of the execution combined with the perfection of style and the wealth of detail would qualify the two works as being autonomous works and not therefore destined to be translated into another material. The works reveal the hand of an artist who had learnt from the teachings of Giuseppe Maria Mazza who dedicated most of his professional career to the modelling of reliefs that were sublimely elegant and of a pronounced formal nobility of style. The ordered composition and the familiarity with the material (free and stylised in the depiction of the beards and hairstyles, so soft and mellow with lively strokes that highlight the plumage of the wings and clouds in the background) would suggest a certain proximity, in terms of the relationship between the maestro and the pupil, to the two great high reliefs in the Manzoli Chapel in San Giacomo Maggiore in Bologna (1681), which were the first acclaimed public work by Mazza, and expecially to the probably most famous work by the Bolognese sculptor, the monumental bronzes illustrating episodes in the life of Saint Dominic at Saint John and Paul in Venice (1716-1730).

[These reliefs were the first public work by Mazza, although the most famous work by the Bolognese sculptor was most probably the monumental bronzes illustrating episodes in the life of Saint Dominic at Saint John and Paul in Venice (1716-1730)].
Among his smaller works, an ideal comparison for these two works could be with the Saint Anthony of Padua in Adoration of the Madonna and Child at the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Bologna, kept in the Sala delle Colonne in Palazzo Pepoli Campogrande. It was first attributed to Giuseppe Maria Mazza by Eugenio Riccòmini who dated it to “within the first decade of the 18th century”. However, the date can be brought forward to the end of the ninth decade of the previous century on account of its stylistic similarities to the reliefs that decorate the Campagna Chapel at the Corpus Domini (1688), and also on account of the facial resemblance of the putti in flight to the facial features of the cherubs supporting the medallions with the images of the Evangelists in the nearby Chapel of Saint Catherine de Vigri in the very same church in Bologna (1687). Although the whole layout of the two reliefs under examination – the design of the drapes and the idea of the angels bearing the iconographical attributes of the saint - resembles the terracotta in the Pinacoteca, the latter is only one of the models upon which the author of these two reliefs worked. This is evident from the ease of the moulding/shaping [technique], the greater refinement in the composition as a whole and from the lively yet harmonious orchestration of the scene that derives from the natural, mellow and self-assured attitude [appearances] of the main characters. Furthermore, in these two reliefs currently under examination several stylistic characteristics would seem to be in unison, on a similar plane, with the work then being carried out by Angelo Gabriello Piò (1690-1770) who was becoming ever more important on the artistic scene in Bologna from the second decade of the 18th century onwards. In the angel that stands out in the centre of the first relief, in its posture and sharp, graceful facial features we may recognise an echo of the Fama supporting the medallion with the portrait of Luigi Ferdinando Marsili in the monument in the Church of Saint Dominic, completed in 1733. This work marked the culmination of the artist’s early period of activity. Several very evident, expressive elements/accents [features] – further highlighted here – especially in the terracotta with the Trinity in the upper part and the insistent “realism” of the physiognomic features (almost caricature-like, as showed by the frowning, severe face of the Holy Father and by the saints with deep wrinkles, marked features and bulging eyes) bring to mind the artist’s minor production [early work], such as the Contadini in the Palazzo Davia Bargellini signed and dated 1721 (later inspiring Filippo Scandellari).

In the first few decades of the 18th century, those years during which Angelo Gabriello Piò underwent his artistic training, first as the pupil of Andrea Ferreri, then as the pupil of Mazza before passing onto the School of Camillo Rusconi in Rome where he stayed for approximately a year (1718), there were many sculptors who embarked upon a career in the art of sculpture under the guidance of Giuseppe Maria Mazza. Despite the statement by Marcello Oretti, according to whom “few did he require”( “pochi ne volle”) in terms of pupils - and also on account of his important commissions at the Accademia Clementina (first as teacher then as Deputy Principal (1714) and Principal (1726)- Mazza played a primary role in the creation and development of the School that had been founded on the basis of the artistic direction that was most prevalent at the time at the prestigious Bolognese institute and that sought to retrieve old traditions and adhere more closely to classical criteria.

The artistic profiles of the sculptors who were working during that time seemed for the most part to be active participants in the language of Mazza. They were therefore recognisable as the main candidates – although somewhat elusive - for the attribution of the two reliefs under examination here with the exception of the more famous Andrea Ferreri (Milan 1673 – Ferrara 1744). Let us also mention, apart from Giovan Battista Bolognini (1698-1760), whose artistic skills have often been mistaken for those of Giuseppe Maria, Paolo Reggiani who, having moved early to Rome – the sculptor of the now lost twelve Virtues in the Dominican Convent – now only appears (“worthy of absolute praise”) in the papers of the always so well informed Marcello Oretti. According to the latter, he much “imitated the manner of Mazza and took on the grandest of characters and fine skills in depicting folds, spirit and grace”. Deserving of mention is also the still little-known Gaetano Lollini (?- Bologna, 1769) who “in the smallest of figures brought honour upon himself, as well as in beautiful larger models” . The latter’s most faithful follower, Lorenzo Sarti, whose habit of working so closely with the maestro earnt him the nickname of Lorenzin del Mazza is also worthy of mention here. Although it is not possible to distinguish clearly between these figures, on account of the scarcity of works that have survived and in particular of non-monumental terracottas, some considerations however may suggest comparisons between the works presented here and the repertoire of Lorenzo Sarti.

The sculptor’s date of birth is unknown but it was probably during the first few years of the century as would bear testimony a hitherto unknown Pietà in polychrome terracotta upon which there is an inscription bearing the artist’s signature and the year 1722. From what the sources tell us we learn that he was active in his homeland throughout his career where he worked with his maestro – in the palazzo of Achille Maria Grassi who “sculpted four little life-sized putti two each door in competition with Mazza […] who sculpted the rest” – sometimes even repeating the latter’s work. Indeed, Marcello Oretti remembered that in the “house of the Counts Fava dalla Madonna di Galliera he made in clay the Madonna with Child upon the stairway, and copied it from Mazza’s original that is in the Galleria”. Apart from Bologna, he also worked for the Duke of Este and for the Count of Sora in Modena, for the Senator Pepoli in Trecenta in the family palazzo and in Ferrara where in 1745 he modelled Saint Yves in stucco in a niche on the side of the altar of Saint George in the city Cathedral . Furthermore, in Cento, in the collegiate church of Saint Blaise, as part of a renovation project of the presbyteral area funded by the Bolognese pontiff, Benedict XIV, Lorenzo Sarti undertook in 1742 the sculptural decoration of the main altarpiece. The God the Father standing out so majestically at the top of the altar, accompanied by angels seated upon spiral volutes, displays obvious links to the same figure modelled in relief in one of the two terracottas under examination. The posture would appear to be almost identical, with the head lowered, the left arm rising in its familiar act of blessing, the right arm resting on the globe, the left leg bent whilst the right leg strides forth. Even more convincing is the comparison between the drapery and the folds of cloth: the two figures appear to be wrapped in a cloak that is folded at the waist thus creating a very similar turn-up rising up to the left shoulder and fully opening out in both cases into stiff and geometric folds. If we look at the scant Bolognese work undertaken by the sculptor there are also certain stylistic similarities in the angels that crown the patronage altar of the Lambertini family in the church of the Dominicans where Sarti worked in 1732. The face of the angelic figure on the right with elegant features and encapsulated within a full head of hair with soft and flowing locks brings to mind the Guardian Angel at the centre of the first relief. Furthermore, in Bologna, Lorenzo Sarti was one of the artists commissioned to renovate the Cathedral of Saint Peter’s on behalf yet again of Prospero Lambertini. In 1734, the sculptor undertook the realisation of the monumental statues in stucco of the Evangelists placed in niches in the columns giving access to the presbytery. A few years later, when the new façade of the church was built in 1747, Sarti modelled the Allegorical Figures in the counter-facade to crown the main entrance, further the four statues of the Doctors of the Church and completed the sculptural decoration with a frieze made of cherubs in high relief alternating with vegetable motifs running above the dedicatory plaque to Benedict XIV. The cherubs are a repetition in their facial features, in the stiffness and hardness of their postures, the very same figures that crowd our terracottas.

Neither critical literature nor historical and artistic sources from Bologna mention these two high reliefs. This would lead us to surmise that they were destined to decorate a private chapel, probably a place for domestic prayer belonging to a religious person as would indeed suggest the exceptionally high quality of the saints featured. As has so far been said, the professional career of Lorenzo Sarti was strongly connected to the circle surrounding Cardinal Prospero Lambertini (Bologna 1675 - Rome 1758), the future Pope Benedict XIV (1740-1758) from whom the sculptor received countless commissions. Designated as the Archbishop of Ancona and elevated to the position of Cardinal in 1728, three years later, in 1731, Lambertini received the archdiocese of Bologna, keeping the position until 1754, notwithstanding the fact that in the meantime he had become Pope. To support any attribution to the latter as a potential client for the aforementioned works by Sarti, apart from his familiarity with the latter, it must also be mentioned that Lambertini held a position at the Sacred Congregation of Rites, where for two decades from 1708 to 1728, he was Promoter of the Faith and wrote his monumental work – and most famous - the De servorum Dei beatificatione et beatorum canonizatione, published in Bologna between 1734 and 1738. The Ubi Primum promulgated on December 3rd 1740 would appear to capture more than a repercussion in these two reliefs with regard to the importance of the doctrines of beatification and sanctification as well as the will to reform theological and pastoral procedures and to apply the Tridentine Decrees with the utmost severity as laid down in his first Encyclical. On the subject of the time he spent on the re-founding of the academic institutions of his city and his constant presence within and promotion of the arts, critical claim has spent much time and has also highlighted his orientation towards “classically-grounded aesthetics” within which the author of these works under examination also moved. Here, although in a yet undecided fashion, we suggest therefore an attribution to Sarti, who “was one of Mazza’s finest pupils”.

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