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Art in Eighteenth-Century Rome


Francesco Natale Juvarra
Messina 1653–1759 Rome

A Gilt-Bronze and Silver Pair of Mirrors

gilt-bronze and silver mirror
H 18 5/8 x W 12 3/8 inches
H 47.5 x W 31.5 cm



Giuseppe Dardanello, ‘Filippo e Francesco Juvarra: Disegni per Argenti e Oreficerie Romane’ Ricche minere, Rovereto, 2019, vol. VI, no. 12, p. 85, reproduced fig. 18.

These two superb gilt-bronze and silver mirrors reflect the degree to which artists and craftsmen of the highest order came to work in Rome during the 18th century. Decorated with a border of exquisitely wrought silver seashells mounted on a gilt-bronze frame and topped with cartouches in which are a female head in silver over which falls a wreath of laurel, these are intended as luxury objects. Even the tiny screws which attach the hand-chiseled gilded backplate to the back of the mirror are carefully shaped, as eight-pointed stars. The mix of gilt bronze and silver is characteristic of the Roman High Baroque, and these mirrors are typical of the production of silversmiths in Rome between Giovanni Giardini (1646-1722) and Luigi Valadier (see cat. 25).

The mirrors exhibit the combined talents of Francesco Giardoni, a Roman bronze caster and goldsmith, and Messina-born Francesco Natale Juvarra, nicknamed ‘the Sicilian Cellini’. Both artists worked for members of the highest echelons of Roman society, including Prince Camillo Pamphili and Pope Clement XII Corsini. Francesco was the brother of the architect Filippo Juvarra (1678 – 1736), and like him received commissions from Vittorio Amedeo di Savoia II, King of Sicily and Duke of Savoy. Described by Giuseppe Dardanello (op. cit. p.85) as ‘two spectacular products of Roman goldwork’ these mirrors have been connected to a Plaque with the Madonna Immacolata in the Metropolitan Museum(1992.339) and a Plaque with the Immaculate Conception in the J. Paul Getty Museum (85.SE.127), both of which share the same woman’s head in the cartouche on top of a gilt bronze frame which is similarly decorated with silver seashells. Juvarra is documented as having produced ‘images in silver bass relief representing the Immaculate Conception, another Saint John the Baptist, another Glory with Putti and another the Flight into Egypt’. This documentary reference describes known works in the Getty Museum, The Metropolitan Museum, Anglesey Abbey (NT 516398) and in the Savoy Collections which can now be securely attributed to Francesco Juvarra and dating from around 1730.❖

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