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Art in Eighteenth-Century Rome


Antonio Giorgetti
Rome 1635­–1669 Rome

Head of an Angel

H 15 3/4 inches
H 40 cm



with Heim Gallery, London, 1983
Private Collection, United Kingdom



Rome, Palazzo Sacchetti, Fasto romano: dipinti, sculture, arredi dai Palazzi di Roma, 15 May–30 June 1991



Portrait & Figures in Paintings & Sculpture, 1570 – 1870, London, 1983, exh. cat., reproduced no. 26.
Sergej O. Androsov, Alle origini di Canova: le terrecotte della collezione Farsetti, Venice, 1991, exh. cat., p. 92, under no. 39.
Carlotta Melocchi, in Alvar González-Palacios, ed., Fasto Romano: dipinti, sculture, arredi dai Palazzi di Roma, Rome, 1991, exh. cat., pp. 105-06, reproduced no. 8.
Susanna Zanuso, in Andrea Bacchi, ed., Scultura del ‘600 a Roma, Milan, 1996, p. 808.
Mark S. Weil, ‘Bernini drawings and bozzetti for the Ponte Sant’Angelo: a new look’, in Harvard University Art Museums Bulletin, VI, 1999, p. 150, note 1.
Bruce Boucher, ed., Earth and Fire: Italian Terracotta Sculpture from Donatello to Canova, New Haven, 2001, exh. cat., p. 208.
Maria C. Basili, Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, Rome, 2001, vol. 5, p. 293.

This terracotta sculpture was presented to the public for the first time in 1983, at the Heim Gallery in London, as the work of a Roman sculptor of the third quarter of the 17th century. The attribution of the terracotta to Antonio Giorgetti was proposed by Marc Worsdale and later confirmed by Jennifer Montagu (Melocchi, loc. cit.). A second Head of an Angel also exists, which belonged to the well-known Venetian collection of Abbot Filippo Farsetti (1703–1774) and is now, like many other pieces from this collection, in the Hermitage in St Petersburg (H.CK-576; fig. 1). In the catalogue of Casa Farsetti, the aforementioned Head was ascribed to Gian Lorenzo Bernini, but its relationship with the Angel with the Sponge sculpted for Ponte Sant’Angelo by Antonio Giorgetti in 1668–69 (fig. 2), to a design by Bernini himself, was recognized in 1988. However, Mark Weil had already independently mentioned the Head under consideration here as a preparatory model for the statue on the bridge.

Fig. 1 Antonio Giorgetti, Head of an Angel, 1668, terracotta, H: 35 cm, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, H.CK-576
Fig. 2 Antonio Giorgetti, Angel with the Sponge, 1668-68, marble, Ponte Sant’Angelo, Rome

Yet the true model for this Head is a terracotta by Alessandro Algardi, with whom Giorgetti studied in the mid-to-late 1650s, now in the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg. It is a preparatory study for the marble version in Vallicella. This invention achieved enormous popularity, masterfully analyzed by Jennifer Montagu in 1977 (Jennifer Montagu, ‘Alessandro Algardi and the Statue of St. Philip Neri’ in Jarbuch der Hamburger Kunstsammlungen, XXII, 1977, p. 96). On the back of a drawing by the Bolognese painter Giovanni Francesco Grimaldi in the Teylers Museum in Haarlem, brought to the attention of scholars by Ann Sutherland Harris, there is a note to the effect that Giorgetti had borrowed ‘la testa de (l’) angelo d algardi’ (‘Algardi’s head of an angel’), to be identified as the Hamburg terracotta or another based on it, confirming the Roman sculptor’s fidelity to the model of his Bolognese master. It is precisely the popularity of Algardi’s Head of an Angel, among private collectors as well, that may explain the later popularity of this derivative work by Giorgetti: both the Hermitage terracotta and our sculpture may have been created not as preparatory models but as works destined for sale. During the second half of the 17th century, particularly during the papacy of Alexander VII, the phenomenon of terracotta collecting was expanding rapidly, and the most sought-after pieces were undoubtedly those by Algardi and as a result imitations of Algardi’s works like the piece discussed here.❖

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