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  • Place of origin:

    Rome (probably, made)

  • Date:

    1660-1680 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Ferrata, Ercole, born 1610 - died 1686 (sculptor)

  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Credit Line:

    Given by Count Andrew S. Ciechanowiecki, PhD, FSA

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 7, The Sheikha Amna Bint Mohammed Al Thani Gallery, case CA2

This terracotta model for an altarpiece was probably made in Rome by a sculptor working in the circle of Ercole Ferrata (1610-86). The angel on the right bears similarities to one in the same position in the high altar of the church of Santa Maria in Campitelli, Rome, executed by Ferrata around 1667. The space in the centre, which has been altered and may originally have been oval, would probably have been designed to contain a painting or other devotional object.

It is not known whether a finished version of the design was ever made, but if it was it would probably have been made out of stucco - a hard aggregate traditionally made from lime, sand and water. Such designs, with their twisting and apparently airborne figures of angels and putti supported on clouds, were typical of the Baroque. Drawing on traditional imagery, the theme was made popular by Gianlorenzo Bernini, the leading sculptor of his day, in his magnificent housing for the Cathedra Petri (the Chair of St Peter) in the apse of St Peter's Basilica in Rome of 1647-53.

Physical description

The model shows two angels and nine putti ranged around a rectangular hole, supported on clouds and surrounded by rays.

Place of Origin

Rome (probably, made)


1660-1680 (made)


Ferrata, Ercole, born 1610 - died 1686 (sculptor)

Materials and Techniques



Height: 96.5 cm, Width: 58.5 cm, Depth: 17 cm

Object history note

This terracotta model (or modello) for an altarpiece features the motif of the Gloria or host of angels. Drawing upon a tradition of imagery, the themes was popularised by Bernini through his magnificent Cathedra Petri for the apse of St. Peter's in Rome (1647-53). In this example, the angel at the lower right bears similarities with one in the same position in the elaborately arranged Gloria on the high altar in the church of Santa Maria in Campitelli, Rome, executed by Melchiorre Cafà, Ercole Ferrata, and Giovanni Paolo Schor (Johann Paul Schor) around 1667 (Oreste Ferrari and Serenita Papaldo, Le Sculture del Seicento a Roma, Rome, 1999, pp. 222 and 341). Altarpieces of the type for which this is a model were executed at the end of the 1600s and throughout the 1700s, with a notably example by the Tuscan sculptor, Giovanni Baratta (1670-1747) in S. Frediano at Lucca (about 1700-1710). Similar version are also seen in the work of Giuseppe Mazza (1653-1741) in the original design for the high altar of the church of the Madonna dei Poveri in Bologna, 1692 (E. Riccomini, Ordine e Vaghezza Scultura in Emilia nell'età Barocca, Bologna, 1972, pp. 39 and 1010, cat. 119; pl. 225 shows the altarpiece as remodelled in 1834), and the Oratorio dell Concezione, Cevalcore (ibid., pp. 109-110, cat. 148, p.259).

The model had been on loan from Dr Andrew Ciechanowiecki, from whom it was gifted in 2007. At that time, it was attributed to Tommaso Amantini, based on stylistic similarities with Amantini's signed Ecstacy of St Theresa (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna; see A. E. Brinckmann, Barock-bozzetti. Italienische Bildhauer, Frankfurt am Main 1923, Vol. I, cat. 126, pl.54 and fig. 35; a second version of the Ecstacy was sold by Sotheby's, New York, 26 January 2000, lot 82). However, while the composition is close, the details of the modelling in the hair and features appear to be of a different hand. This model was probably made by another sculptor working in Ercole Ferrata's circle. An assistant to both Gianlorenzo Bernini and Alessandro Algardi, Ferrata collaborated on the decoration of St Peter's. He later ran an important studio where he trained a number of sculptors, including Amantini, Cafà, Giovanni Battista Foggini, Carlo Andrea Marcellini and Camillo Rusconi. In 1667, Ferrata, Cafà and Schor received payments for work on the high altar in Santa Maria in Campitelli and it is possible that this model was linked ot the project (see Ferrari and Papaldo 1999, pp.222 and 341).

Angels, putti and cherubim gather among clouds crowned by a radiant burst, symbolic of a divine presence. The lively modelling and energetic manner are characteristically Baroque. They surround an opening intended to house a paintign or other devotional object. This central area has been altered from its original design and may have been oval, similar to that seen in a model now in the Bode-Museum in Berlin (Skulturensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Preussischer Kulturbesitz; see Bruce Boucher (ed.), Earth and Fire. Italian Terracotta Sculpture from Donatello to Canova. [exh. cat., The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; V&A, London], New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002, pp.230-1, cat. no. 61).

Evidence of wire marks along the top right of the space indicate that the clay was cut when wwet, and notable loss to the two lower figures suggest a later enlargement of the hole. Although a proposed sketch, the refined state of the modelling suggests it was an advanced phase in the creative process, and possibly intended to be presented to the patron for approval, perhaps inserted within a wooden structure as evidenced by six pairs of holes, now filled (a suggestion made verbally by Keith Sciberras). The finished sculpture would probably have been made out of stucco, a hard aggregate traditionally made from lime, sand and water (cf, for example, the later Glory of Angels by Vincenzo Pacetti (1746-1820), 1791, stucco, San Salvatore in Lauro, Rome; Hugh Honour, 'The Rome of Vincenzo Pacetti: Leaves from a sculptor's diary' in Apollo, LXXVIII, no. 21, November 1963, pp.368-376, pl.3.) However, it is not known whether this design was ever realized.

Historical context note

Descriptive line

Model, terracotta, for an altarpiece, from the circle of Ercole Ferrata, Rome. 1660-1680 Rome

Production Note

This model was probably made in Rome by a sculptor working in the circle of Ercole Ferrata (1610-1686). The angel on the right bears similarities with the one in the same position in the 'Gloria' on the high altar in the church of Santa Maria in Campitelli, Rome, executed by Ercole Ferrata around 1667.



Subjects depicted

Clouds; Putti; Rays; Angels


Sculpture; Christianity; Designs; Religion


Sculpture Collection

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