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Art in Eighteenth-Century Rome


Wilhelm Hopfgarten
Berlin 1781–1837 Rome

Cleopatra or Ariadne

chased bronze, Carrara marble base
H 12 3/4 x W 18 3/4 x D 6 1/4
H 32.5 x W 47.8 x D 16 cm



Prince Luigi Boncompagni Ludovisi (1767–1841), Rome, commissioned from the artist in 1830
Private Collection, Italy



Chiara Teolato, Hopfgarten and Jollage Rediscovered. Two Berlin Bronzists in Napoleonic and Restoration Rome, Rome, 2016, cat. 7, pl. nos. XVII-XIX.


Archival Sources

Inventory of the Possessions of Luigi Boncompagni Ludovisi, Prince of Piombino, 1841, vol. 582, no. 775, ‘La figura giacente di Cleopatra di bronzo fuso, alta pollici dodici contro dieciotto di accurate lavoro con sua controbase di marmo Scudi centro’, Archivio Boncompagni Ludovisi, Archivio Segreto Vaticano.
Registri di Mandati di S.E. Il Sig. Pnpe di Piombino D. Luigi Boncompagni Ludovisi, vol. 2402, no. 1808, 20 December 1830, ‘Datto a Luigi Jollage, e Guglielmo Hopfgarten Prussiani 102=quali son oche 100 per Prezzo di una Cleopatra in Bronzo, e 2 per alcune Lettere ee numeri in metallo p. uso della Libreria il tutto eseguito nel corte mese.’ Archivio Boncompagni Ludovisi, Archivio Segreto Vaticano.

In the second half of the 18th century, due to the increasing popularity of the Grand Tour and demand for ‘souvenirs’, various Roman sculptors dedicated themselves to crafting quality bronze reproductions, mainly copies of celebrated antique models. Luigi Valadier (see cat. 25) and Giacomo Zoffoli (1731–1785) were the most famous practitioners of this first generation of sculptors who pioneered and perfected the methods of producing reduced copies of famous works, such as the Capitoline Flora now at the National Trust, Saltram. When they died, they were succeeded respectively by the former’s son Giuseppe Valadier and the latter’s brother Giovanni Zoffoli, who carried on their innovative work. Wilhelm Hopfgarten and Benjamin Ludwig Jollage (1781–1837) came to Rome in 1805 and continued this tradition for over half a century, casting bronzes derived from ancient models and the most famous contemporary works, such as those of Antonio Canova and Bertel Thorvaldsen.

Canova was the first person of consequence to take notice of the great skill of these two bronze sculptors, and he commissioned them on the occasion of the casting of the colossal Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker, now at the Wellington Collection, London, to carry out the casting of the bust. The immediate and enduring success enjoyed by Hopfgarten and Jollage was due to their unexcelled skill in casting high quality sculptures to varied specifications.

Hopfgarten and Jollage had already begun working for Luigi Boncompagni Ludovisi, Prince of Piombino in 1815, since in February of the following year they received the sum of 330 scudi for ‘two candelabra and other items made by them for use in our house, during the year 1815 and in the current year of 1816’, as listed in the inventory. During the succeeding period the Prussians continued to supply the prince with bronze sculptures of various types and in 1830 payments are recorded for our Ariadne, at the time considered to be a Cleopatra, also commissioned by Ludovisi.

Detail of the present work

The Ariadne was recorded as being located in the ‘prima sala nobile’, a corner room facing both onto Vicolo Bonaccorsi, towards the palazzo of the same name, and onto Piazza Colonna, and was placed on an occasional table, in the center of the room. It is a reduction of the sculpture in the Belvedere Courtyard in the Vatican, a Roman copy of a lost Hellenistic original. It was mounted (as it is now) on a stepped base of bronze and white marble. All the sculptures in bronze produced by Hopfgarten and Jollage exhibited in this room and other areas of the palazzo were mounted on double, rotating white marble pedestals so that they could be turned and positioned according to the wishes of their owner.

The Boncampagni-Ludovisi family were from the Bolognese/Roman aristocracy. Prince Luigi, whose fortunes had suffered during the Napoleonic invasions, ended up being handsomely compensated for the loss of the principality of Piombino. His ancestor Alessandro Ludovisi had been elevated to the papacy as Pope Gregory XV in 1621 and the papal nephew, Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi, was a significant force in Rome, building the lavish Villa Ludovisi, where the Via Veneto now is, and a remarkable collection of art. Much of that was dispersed during the 18th century though the family’s fortunes were improved by the marriage of Prince Antonio Boncompagni Ludovisi to the young and fabulously rich Giacinta Orsini. The young Princess was portrayed in one of Batoni’s most memorable female portraits in 1757. The present family name derives from the marriage in 1681 of Gregorio II Boncompagni and Ippolita Ludovisi.

Acquired by Pope Julius II in 1512, the original marble of Ariadne is still in the Vatican. A celebrated work from the 2nd century A.D., the statue is catalogued as a replica of a Hellenistic original from the late Hadrianic or early Antonine era. Because of the serpent bracelet and the supine pose of the protagonist the subject was historically identified as Cleopatra. The marble is now at the terminus of the Galleria delle Statue, resting on a sarcophagus. ‘Cleopatra’ has impressed writers, artists, and connoisseurs for centuries: Isabella d’Este possessed a small replica which was prominently displayed in her apartments, while François Ier was presented with a bronze cast. These iterations served as the foundation for subsequent reproductions. In 1797, the statue was taken to Paris, where it was prominently exhibited in the Musée Central des Arts but was returned to Rome through the good offices of Canova in 1816.

Painters have frequently employed a reclining figure—derived from this statue—to depict a forsaken heroine. A notable example is its presence in Pompeo Batoni’s magnificent 1774 portrait of Thomas William Coke (Collection of the Earl of Leicester, Holkham Hall). That work was commissioned by the Countess of Albany who had recently been wed to the claimant of the English throne, the debauched and elderly ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’. The handsome young Viscount Coke is depicted standing nonchalantly in front of the statue that was said to symbolize his great admirer, the unhappily married countess. In the late-18th century, Ennio Quirino Visconti proposed that the ‘Cleopatra’ statue in fact depicted Ariadne as the archetypal languishing woman, an identification which continues to enjoy general support.❖

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