This marble copy of an ancient bust in the Musei Capitolini usually identified as Faustina the Younger (MC0449), the daughter of Antoninus Pius and future wife of Marcus Aurelius, was made in Florence by Francis Harwood in 1764. Harwood was one of the most prolific suppliers of decorative marbles for the Grand Tour market and this finely worked example demonstrates the quality of luxury goods available to travelers to Italy.
In 1752 Harwood is documented living in Rome in the Palazzo Zuccari with Joshua Reynolds and the Irish sculptor Simon Vierpyl. He had certainly settled permanently in Florence by the following year, when he is recorded working with Joseph Wilton. He was admitted to the Florentine Academy on 12 January 1755 (as ‘pittore Inglese’, although he was described as ‘scultore’ in the matriculation account). After Wilson returned to England in 1755 Harwood appears to have worked in a studio near SS. Annunziata with Giovanni Battista Piamontini who had made life-size copies of The Wrestlers (National Gallery of Ireland, NGI.8211) and The Listening Slave for Joseph Leeson in 1754 (see cat. 39).
By 1760 Harwood was on the brink of his most productive period as a sculptor, producing copies of celebrated antiquities for the ever-increasing audience of Grand Tour travelers and for the domestic market in London. In 1761 Harwood met the young architect James Adam who was in Italy specifically to make contact with suppliers for Robert Adam’s burgeoning practice back in Britain. The Adams offered a remarkably cohesive design package to their clients, encompassing not just architecture, but fixtures, fittings and furniture as well. Harwood was able to supply the brothers with marbles for their new interiors.
Harwood seems to have also specialized in producing sets of library busts. In 1758 Charles Compton, 7th Earl of Northampton, commissioned a set of busts which remain in situ at Castle Ashby in Northamptonshire. It is perhaps no coincidence that the Adam brothers were producing designs for new interiors at Castle Ashby at this date. Another Adam patron, Thomas Dundas, was in Florence in 1762 and commissioned busts of Marcus Aurelius, Faustina the Younger, Seneca and a Vestal paying 50 zecchini each for the busts in 1767. The present, beautifully modeled and exceptionally well-preserved example was almost certainly commissioned by a British traveler, it belongs to a very small number of Harwood’s busts which are both signed and dated.
Busts of Faustina the Younger were remarkably popular in the mid-18th century. The Roman bust had been discovered at Tivoli in 1748 and presented by Benedict XIV to the Capitoline Museum. It had been restored by Bartolomeo Cavaceppi, who went on to produce a series of marble copies, including a version for James Adam in 1762 which he sold to the Duke of Northumberland, and which is now at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (1978-70-130). That sculpture was also owned by Anthony Clark.
Accounting for its popularity is less easy. Faustina the Younger was not a major historical figure, her biography was not sufficiently engaging to justify her presence in so many distinguished sculptural collections. The answer may well lie in the bust’s appearance; the oval shape of the face, its mild expression, bisque texture and linearity were all characteristics of Hadrianic sculpture much admired by such leading tastemakers as Cardinal Alessandro Albani and Johann Joachim Winckelmann. These were also characteristics common to nascent Neoclassicism.❖