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Italian Sculpture : 17th century

Italian Sculpture : 17th century

Italian Sculpture
17th century

The phenomenal range and popularity of the statuettes of Giambologna provided his followers with a ready source of income and an incentive to continue the tradition. Pietro Tacca's contribution is unclear, but he may have been responsible for alternative compositions of the Labours of Hercules (e.g. Chicago, IL, A. Inst.), on a larger scale than his master's original series; Tacca's son Ferdinando Tacca branched away from Giambologna's style, making a series of groups with two figures to be seen primarily from the front, rather than in the round. Likewise, Antonio Susini was succeeded by his nephew Francesco Susini, who, apart from reusing the old piece-moulds to supply the continuing demand for Giambologna's subjects, invented several important new compositions, notably a pair depicting Venus and Cupid (Paris, Louvre; Vaduz, Samml. Liechtenstein) and in 1626 his dramatic masterpiece, the Rape of Helen (versions, Dresden, Skulpsamml.; Malibu, CA, Getty Mus.).

The advent of the Baroque in the persons of Bernini and Algardi gave rise to a new source of statuettes, the original working models of a sculptor, for these might be preserved by casting into bronze, thus disseminating knowledge of their monumental commissions and providing a subsidiary source of income. Bernini's monument for Countess Matilda (Rome, St Peter's) and Algardi's Virgin and Child (New York, A. Gregory priv. col.) were so reproduced, alongside their designs for crucifixes and saints. The surfaces of such statuettes deliberately tended to retain the look of spontaneous modelling and were not chased as highly as Florentine examples. While nearly all of the Italian Baroque sculptors of the 17th century made some statuettes, none became a specialist, and it seems that collectors' tastes may have been altering.