Bacchanalia of Putti

Bacchanalia of Putti is an artwork by Giovanni Campi after Francois Duquesnoy, located in the Borghese Gallery in Rome. It is the touchstone on a ground of lapis lazuli (frame) and glided metal (dragons and eagle) with 100 x 80 dimensions. The artwork is located in Room VI.

History

Duquesnoy arrived from Brussels in Rome in 1618 and was feted by the critics of the day who saw him as the winner of classical standards. He became close friends with Nicolas Poussin, who affected his early work, as seen in his relief executed for Villa Pamphilj. However, the subject of this artwork may be inferred from Duquesnoy’s admiration of Titian’s depiction of the theme.

According to early biographers, when Duquesnoy arrived in Rome in 1618, he examined antique sculpture in detail, climbing over the equestrian Marcus Aurelius to determine how it was cast or making a journey to the shrine of Diana at Lake Nemi. Then, in 1624, Nicolas Poussin, who shared his classicly styled, emotionally segregated manner of depiction, arrived in Rome, and the two foreign artists lodged together.

Both moved within the circle of patronage of Cassiano dal Pozzo. They created a canon of perfect expressive figures, counter to the theatrical baroque of Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Modern critics, like Giovanni Bellori, in Lives of the Modern Painters, Sculptors, and Architects from 1672, hailed Duquesnoy’s art as reestablishing modern design to the quality of antique Roman sculpture. Bellori said that with his Santa Susanna, Duquesnoy “had left modern sculptors the example for statues of clothed figures, making him more than the equal of the best ancient sculptors…”.

Among Duquesnoy’s early works are bas-relief putti for Villa Doria Pamphili. Despite the difference seen by contemporaries in their stylistic approaches, Duquesnoy collaborated with Bernini on the design, among others, of the angels offering garlands of the Baldacchino for Saint Peter’s (in prepare 1624–1633). The four angels are completely Duquesnoy’s work, and this work earned him future commissions.

Analysis

This bas-relief in touchstone is treated as in case it were a pictorial work, not only due to bichrome (the dark figures on a blue ground) but also because a gilded frame surrounds the scene.

The eagle surmounting it and the dragons serving as platforms apparently allude to the Borghese emblems.

Patronage

Giovan Pietro Bellori notices a composition in the biographical layout of “Francesco Fiammingo” included in his Vite de’ pittori, scultori e architetti moderni (1672) depicting a Bacchanalia of Putti made by the artist in clay and hence executed in marble by Tommaso Fedele. Presently lost, the work shows to have been given as a gift to Philip IV of Spain by Francesco Barberini. According to Giovan Battista Passeri (1680), the Flemish artist who moved to Rome in 1618 and worked with Berini and Nicolas Poussin, produced several bas-reliefs depicting putti at play after having carefully examined Titian’s painting The Worship of Venus (Prado, Madrid).

After 1598 the famous canvas had been in the Aldobrandini Collection, in Rome, before being obtained by Philip IV in 1639.

Whether it be a copy or a variant of the original by Francois Duquesnoy, the present bas-relief was executed, as archive documents demonstrate, by Giovanni Campi, who received payment from the Borghese from 1649 to 1651. During the 18th century, this work was, like the Black Hunters, moved from the Stanza del Gladiatore to the Stanza di Apollo e Dafne (room III) and vice versa.

Borghese Gallery in Rome,
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Author: Francois Duquesnoy

Francois Duquesnoy

Francois Duquesnoy was a Flemish sculptor, active mainly in Rome, where he established himself, along with Alessandro Algardi (1598-1654), as one of the leading Baroque sculptors, after the incomparable Bernini (1598-1680). His style of Baroque sculpture was less emotional than Bernini's and more in line with the quietly dramatic style of Algardi. Duquesnoy's most famous works of Baroque art include his statue of St Andrew (1629-33, Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican) and St Susanna (1630-33, Santa Maria di Loreto, Rome).

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