Angel with the Superscription
- Object belonging
- One's own
- Terracotta sculpture
- Museo Nazionale del Palazzo di Venezia
- Specific location
- Room 21
- PV 01195
- Material and technique
- Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680)
- 36 x 20 x 18 cm.
- Cavaceppi Collection (1800); Ferroni (1909)
- Image copyright
- SSPSAE e per il Polo Museale della città di Roma
The model depicting the Angel with the Superscription represents a preliminary study modelled by Bernini for the marble sculpture in the Roman church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, together with the corresponding Angel with the Crown of Thorns, both originally intended to decorate the Ponte Sant’Angelo. The spontaneity of the lines and signs of superficial marks left by different instruments indicate the terracotta was executed at the intial stages of design, which can be dated between the end of 1667 and the beginning of the following year. For this angel Bernini conceived a position that played on the idea of contrapposto, where the weight of the body rests entirely on the left leg while the right, which is uncovered, gracefully bends forward. The same effect occurs again in the head, which leans left in contrast to the scroll which is unfurled from the opposite side. The study of the pose, inspired by classical sculpture and by Praxitelean modelling, was finalised in a well-known drawing at the Istituto Nazionale per la Grafica (inv. FC 127500) where the silhouette of the angel is repeated twice. In the first sketch Bernini draws a nude body and focuses exclusively on the posture of the torso and legs, not even depicting the arms and head; in the second he depicts the whole figure, hinting at the study of the drapery and adds some iconographic touches, such as the wings and the scroll. Even in terracotta Bernini establishes the general direction of the composition, without though going into too much deatil: if the voluminous curls of the hair already hint at the development of the marble in Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, the expression of the angel is barely outlined and does not betray the intense and painful sentiment of the sculpture. The movement of the clothes too is only suggested and is greatly simplified compared to the abundant volumes of the finished work. Many fingerprints can be clearly identified on a good deal of the surface, indicating retouching carried out on material that was still fresh and its being carried and moved in the workshop, while on the reverse the large block of clay, which acts as a support for the statue, extending from the base to the top, is left visible and roughly smoothed over. To date six models for the Angel with the Superscription have been identified: as well as the Palazzo Venezia version, one is held by the Kimbell Art Museum in Forth Worth (Inv. 1987.02.A), two by the Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge (MA), one with no head (Inv. 1937.69) and the other more complete, even in the drapery (Inv. 1937.67), and the final two are held at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg (Inv. 629, 630). Whilst recognising that they are all preparatory studies, historians have proposed a chronological order, based mainly on technical and stylistic evidence. Mark Weil (1999) believes that Bernini began the development of the figure with the Palazzo Venezia terracotta, then proceeded with the fragmented version of the Fogg, at the same time as the Kimbell Art Museum model, coming to a more definitive solution in the second and more detailed example of the Fogg. Rejecting this hypothesis, Charles Avery (1997) maintains that the Kimbell terracotta forms the starting point for Bernini’s studies, since the treatment of the musculature is still too weak. Then comes the headless Fogg Art Museum version, and then the model presented here, and finally the second Fogg Angel, highlighted for its gracefulness as one of the most attractive in Bernini’s entire oeuvre. Both writers believe that the Hermitage examples can be considered, though, as almost definitive models: the statuette without arms is related to the marble in Sant’Andrea delle Fratte and the other to the version of the sculpture realised by Bernini and Cartari and now on the bridge, with which it shares a different solution to the drapery, gathered behind the right leg of the figure.
Notizie. Musei e gallerie, in "Bolletino d'Arte", 1929, p. 279; V. Mariani, Bozzetti Berniniani, in "Bolletino d'Arte", 23, 1929-1930, pp. 57-69; G. Incisa della Rocchetta (ed.), Roma seicentesca, exh. cat., Roma 1930, n. 795; A. Riccoboni, Roma nell'arte. La scultura dell'evo moderno dal Quattrocento ad oggi, Roma 1942, p. 164; L. Grassi, Disegni inediti del Bernini e la decorazione di Ponte Sant'Angelo, in "Arti Figurative", 3-4, 1946, pp. 186-199; F. Hermanin, Il Palazzo di Venezia, Roma 1948, p. 278; A. Santangelo (ed.), Museo di Palazzo Venezia. Catalogo delle sculture, Roma 1954, p. 78; V. Martinelli, Angelo con il titolo della Croce, in L. Salerno e A. Marbottini (ed.), Il Seicento Europeo, exh. cat., Roma 1956, pp. 256-257, no. 337; L. Grassi, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Roma 1962, p. 133; R. Wittkower, Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The Sculptor of the Roman Baroque, London 1955, p. 250; M. Fagiolo dell'Arco, Bernini. Una introduzione al gran teatro del Barocco, Roma 1969, p. 220; M. Weil, The Angels of the Ponte Sant'Angelo. A Comparison of Bernini's Sculpture of the Work of Two Collaborators, in "The Art Journal", 3, 1971, pp. 252-259; M. Weil, The History and Decoration of the Ponte S. Angelo, University Park and London 1974, p. 48; M. P. Mezzatesta, The Art of Gianlorenzo Bernini. Selected Sculptures, exh. cat., Forth Worth 1982, nos. 8-9; J. Pope Hennessy, An Introduction to Italian Sculpture: Italian High Renaissance and Baroque Sculpture, Oxford 1986, p. 489; L. Cardilli Aloisi and M. G. Tolomeo Speranza, La via degli angeli. Il restauro della decorazione scultorea di Ponte Sant'Angelo, Roma 1988, p. 70; H. Tratz, Werkstatt und Arbeitsweise Berninis, in "Römische Jahrbuch für Kunstgeschichte", 23-24, 1988, p. 448; M. G. Barberini (ed.), Sculture in terracotta del Barocco Romano. Bozzetti e modelli del Museo Nazionale del Palazzo di Venezia, exh. cat., Roma 1991, pp. 47-48; M. G. Barberini and C. Gasparri (ed.), Bartolomeo Cavaceppi: scultore romano, exh. cat., Roma 1994, pp. 119-125; M. G. Barberini, Angel with the Superscription, in S. E. Zuraw, M. G. Barberini, P. Cannata and M. L. Casanova (eds.), Masterpieces of Renaissance and Baroque Sculpture from the Palazzo Venezia, exh. cat., Athens 1996, pp. 68-69; A. Bacchi, Scultura del Seicento a Roma, Milano 1996, p. 783; C. Avery, Bernini. Genius of the Baroque, London 1997, p. 168 fig. 225; O. Ferrari and S. Papaldo, Le sculture del Seicento a Roma, Roma 1999, pp. 26-27; M. Ulivi, Angelo con cartiglio, in M. G. Bernardini and M. Fagiolo dell'Arco (eds.), Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Regista del Barocco, exh. cat., Milano 1999, p. 371, no. 102; M. Weil, Bernini Drawings and Bozzetti for the Ponte Sant'Angelo: A New Look, in I. Gaskell and H. Lie, Sketches in Clay for Projects by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Theoretical, Technical, and Caser Studies, Harvard University Art Museum 1999, pp. 144-150; B. Boucher, Bernini's Models for the Angels of the Ponte Sant'Angelo in Rome, in Id. (ed.), Earth and Fire. Italian Terracottas Sculpture from Donatello to Canova, catalogo della mostra, New Haven and London 2001, pp. 61-66; Id., Angel with the Superscription, in Id. (a cura di), Earth and Fire. Italian Terracottas Sculpture from Donatello to Canova, exh. cat., New Haven and London 2001, pp. 198-199, no. 45