Vase in brecciated marble
Cup and base are a whole piece
Domenico Fortunato Maggesi (1801-1892)
Bust of gentleman
33 x 18 cm.
The bust is attributed to Domenico Fortunato Maggesi who was born in Carrara in 1801 and died in Bordeaux in 1892. The city of Carrara, famous since ancient times for its marble, which was famed for its quality and finesse by Italian and foreign sculptors, had from 1806 to 1814 a major boost thanks to the economic and productive cultural policy of Elisa Baiocchi Bonaparte, Napoleon’s sister, and her husband. She was made Princess of Lucca and Piombino (Massa and Carrara were part of the principality), Countess of Compignano and Grand Duchess of Tuscany by Napoleon. After she arrived in Tuscany, Elisa hoped to make Carrara the largest state Manufacture of service of the Empire, and created the so-called “Banca Elisiana,” which opened a large number of ateliers of sculpture, architecture and “ornato”. She, in fact, revolutionized the field of sculpture in marble with a simple principle: implanting the artistic production where the raw material was. In this way Carrara became within a few years the focus of an artistic production of highly specialized craftsmanship of sculpture of quality. This relaunched the Academy and establish awards and scholarships so to send their students to perfect their studies to Rome or Paris. Most of the artists from the “Banca” worked on copies of ancient statues and production of copies (of Canova or Chinard for example), of busts of the imperial family, to spread in all public places and buildings of the Empire. But it is also important, and this has definitely left the mark a ‘School’, to note the presence in Carrara of Lorenzo Bartolini, who was appointed director of the school of sculpture at the Academy in 1807. Bartolini mainly replaced an eminently neoclassical sensitivity, based on the Winckelmannian precepts of study of the statues, the orders, and the antique ornaments, with a new, revolutionary observation of true nature, according to the principles that he himself had formulated in recent years, and that found full application in his work and in his teaching at the Academy of Florence, starting the ’30s of the 19th century. Maggesi completed his apprenticeship in Carrara, in an artistic atmosphere in which the study of the ancient and the respect for the canons of classicism began to be joined with the observation of the real and of nature in its variety and even in its imperfections. After moving to Bordeaux in 1829, he became the official sculptor of the city for major public commissions, both religious and civil, and the favorite portraitist of the rich local bourgeoisie, for which he executed busts with the precious marble of his Carrara. Bordeaux, especially from the forties onwards, was an important colonial port and a trade post with Africa: a railway line was built, factories and industries were established, and the urban structure, with its large squares and boulevard, reflected the increasing wealth of the middle class and business entrepreneurs. With a very active business and his own widely followed school of sculpture, Maggesi, that in 1833 he was elected member of the Academy of Science, Literature and the Arts of Bordeaux, also participates in the artistic life of Paris, exposing the Salons of 1838, 1841, 1844, and 1847.
Especially in private portraits, Maggesi combines the formal care of academic form with a skillful attention given to the natural, that if it never becomes overly “characteristic”, denotes never the less a positive sensitivity and attention to the physical and unconventional reality of the faces portrayed, and in this he was probably remembering of the lessons of Bartolini.
In the bust in question, (note the thinness of the sternum) the torso is naked, therefore hinting to the classical style, and the figure is not dressed in contemporary clothes, almost to heroize the pose of the sitter: the wrinkles on his face and the bags under the eyes perfectly balance the pride of the posture; the slight deviation of three quarter chin amplify the intensity of the look and make the whole more alive and real . It is a certain style suited to the needs of wealthy clients eager to be “ennobled” through art, but it is also active and daring as that of the Bordeaux of the second half of the century.
(Prof. Anna Villari)