Italian Baroque Sculptures Acquired by the LACMA

1. Melchiore Caffà (1636-1667)
Fragment of a bozetto for The Martyrdom of Saint Eustachius
Terracotta - 27 x 25 x 8 cm
Los Angeles, County Museum of Art
Photo : Galerie Tarantino

10/3/12 - Acquisitions - Los Angeles, County Museum of Art - The LACMA is developing a strong acquisitions policy for Italian Baroque sculptures as it recently purchased several important works in a field where quality is not always readily found. We had already pointed out the acquisition of two large terracottas by Giovanni Baratta (see news item of 7/12/11) and we now round out this information with three other sculptures in this same material acquired in 2011.

Two were purchased in Paris from the Antoine Tarantino Gallery.
The first is a fragment of a bozetto (ill. 1) for a marble relief by Melchiore Caffà in the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone in Roma [1]. This church, commissioned by Pope Innocent X Pamphili with a facade by Borromini in the Piazza Navona, holds a large number of sculptures. The relief of the main altar is by Domenico Guidi, while those on the four side altars in marble were produced, respectively, by Giovanni Francesco Rossi, Ercole Ferrata (finished by Leonardo Retti) and Antonio Raggi. Caffà made the model for The Martyrdom of Saint Eustachius but only partly completed it before dying, and the work was finished by Ferrata and Rossi (ill. 2).
The story of Saint Eustachius is recounted by Jacques de Voragine in his Légende Dorée. This Roman soldier who converted to Christianity with his wife and two sons, was sentenced to death along with his family and thrown to the beasts, but "the lion lay down at the feet of the Christians and left without hurting them". This is the episode represented by Melchiore Caffà, before they were enclosed in a white-hot bronze bull where they finally died.

2. Melchiore Caffà (1636-1667),
Giovanni Francesco De Rossi (?-after 1680)
and Ercole Ferrata (1610-1686)
The Martyrdom of Saint Eustachius
Roma, chiesa Sant’Agnese in Agone
Photo : Didier Rykner

The elaboration process of this relief is well documented by several preparatory works : a small model of the whole work, but rather different from the final work can be found at the Museo Nazionale of Palazzo Venezia. Other fragments of bozetti reside in Pittsburgh, Frankfurt, and in Rome (Museo di Castel Sant’Angelo and Museo di Roma). The terracotta acquired by Los Angeles represents the lower right-hand part of the relief. It shows a lion and one of Saint Eustachius’ two sons in prayer [2].

3. Pietro Papaleo (1642-1718)
Saint Pius V Ghislieri, 1712
Terracotta - 53.5 x 26 x 27 cm
Los Angeles, County Museum of Art
Photo : LACMA

4. Pietro Papaleo (1642-1718)
Saint Pius V Ghislieri, 1712
Back View
Terracotta - 53.5 x 26 x 27 cm
Los Angeles, County Museum of Art
Photo : LACMA

The second work acquired by the LACMA from Antoine Tarantino is a seated figure of Pius V (ill. 3 and 4), which can be dated 1712, the year of this pope’s canonization by Clement XI.
The attribution of this work to Pietro Papaleo, a sculptor from Palermo and a student of Ercole Ferrata in Rome, was based on a stylistic analysis which points out notably the extreme virtuosity of the artist in rendering the rich fabrics and the details of the embroidery. It can be compared, according to Alessandro Agresti [3], to the statue of Saint Fabian for the altar of the Ottoboni family chapel in the basilica of San Sebastiano fuori le mura (Outside the Walls) in Rome.

5. Giuseppe Sanmartino (ca. 1720-1793)
Bust of a Saint, maybe a model for a reliquary
Terracotta - 22.23 x 17.78 x 13.08 cm
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Photo : LACMA

The last Italian Baroque terracotta we would like to present in this article was acquired in London from Trinity Fine Art. This is a Neapolitan sculpture, the bust of a saint, probably Saint Longinus, by Giuseppo Sanmartino (ill. 5), an artist known for his masterpiece, the famous Veiled Christ of the Sansevero chapel.
This theoretical identification as Saint Longinus probably stems from the position of the hands which looks as if the figure was holding a spear. The work is sculpted in such a monumental manner that when seen in a photograph, it looks life-size but it actually only measures 22 cm. high. In fact, it is a model for a reliquary which perhaps held a supposed piece of the weapon with which the Roman soldier pierced Christ’s side, before his conversion.

Version française

Didier Rykner, lundi 12 mars 2012


[1] We had already reproduced this work when reviewing the exhibition at the Tarantino Gallery where this terracotta was presented along with the one by Pietro Papaleo (see article).

[2] A complete study of this work by Jennifer Montagu can be found in the catalogue Rome 1660. L’explosion baroque published by the Tarantino Gallery.

[3] The author of the entry for this work in the catalogue quoted above.

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