Pope Alexander VII thumbnail 1
Pope Alexander VII thumbnail 2
+3
images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Europe 1600-1815, Room 7, The Sheikha Amna Bint Mohammed Al Thani Gallery

Pope Alexander VII

Model
ca. 1669-1670 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This is a preliminary sketch model for the marble figure of Pope Alexander VII, designed for his tomb in St Peter's in Rome. Alexander VII originally commissioned the monument from the leading baroque sculptor, Gianlorenzo Bernini, for St Peter's, but the succeeding Pope, Clement IX, wanted to place it in Sta Maria Maggiore, opposite his own. However, Clement IX's successor, Clement X, reverted to the original plan.

The present model - which depicts the Pope kneeling on a cushion, his hands clasped in prayer, with his papal tiara under the flowing cope - is an autograph work by Bernini. It conforms relatively closely to the finished monument, and relates also to one of the drawings for the tomb now in the Royal Collection at Windsor, which was apparently made for an earlier proposed monument in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore. The full-scale wood model with clay figures was completed in 1672, when Bernini received his final payment, but the actual monument was not finished until May 1678, when the Pope's body was transferred to it. Bernini delegated all marble carving for the tomb to assistants, who carried out this work from 1672-8. The terracotta is therefore exceptionally important as a preparatory work by the master himself.

This summary sketch reveals much about Bernini's working methods. He modelled the head separately, so that he could experiment with its angle before positioning it on the body. As with the only other surviving terracotta model for the tomb (a figure of Charity, now in the Istituto delle Belle Arti in Siena) tool marks are evident, and there are suggestions of thumb and finger prints. The hands are now missing, and there are some significant surface cracks, but the model is comparatively intact. It is a remarkable testament to Bernini's handling of clay on a small scale in preparation for what was to be a magnificent monumental Papal tomb.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Terracotta
Brief Description
Sketch-model of Pope Alexander VII in terracotta, for the monument at Saint Peter's at Rome Bernini, Italy (Rome), 1669-70
Physical Description
Sketch-model of Pope Alexander VII in terracotta, showing ghe Pope kneeling on a cushion with his head turned slightly to his left and his hands clasped in prayer. The cope, which falls heavily from the shoulders, is open at the front to reveal the stole, the ends of which fall over the cushion beneath. On the ground to the right, beneath the folds of the cope is the tiara. The back of the figure is hollowed out.
Dimensions
  • Height: 30.3cm (Note: From Object Card)
  • Height: 305mm
  • Width: 270mm
  • Depth: 180mm (Note: Measured by Conservation for Europe 1600-1800)
Gallery Label
MODEL FOR THE MONUMENT TO POPE ALEXANDER VII Italian (Rome); about 1669-1670 Terracotta By Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) This freely-modelled sketch is a study for the kneeling figure of Pope Alexander VII (1599-1667, Pope from 1655) on the monument by Bernini in St Peter’s in Rome. The monument is placed above a doorway in a prominent position clearly visible from a distance. Bernini cleverly designed a pall (or funeral cloth), held up by death, to support the figure of the praying Pope.(1993 - 2011)
Object history
Purchased from Miss M.E. Elwes in London for £5, 1932; probably in Miss Elwes's family since about 1860-70; according to family tradition, acquired in Spain
Subjects depicted
Summary
This is a preliminary sketch model for the marble figure of Pope Alexander VII, designed for his tomb in St Peter's in Rome. Alexander VII originally commissioned the monument from the leading baroque sculptor, Gianlorenzo Bernini, for St Peter's, but the succeeding Pope, Clement IX, wanted to place it in Sta Maria Maggiore, opposite his own. However, Clement IX's successor, Clement X, reverted to the original plan.



The present model - which depicts the Pope kneeling on a cushion, his hands clasped in prayer, with his papal tiara under the flowing cope - is an autograph work by Bernini. It conforms relatively closely to the finished monument, and relates also to one of the drawings for the tomb now in the Royal Collection at Windsor, which was apparently made for an earlier proposed monument in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore. The full-scale wood model with clay figures was completed in 1672, when Bernini received his final payment, but the actual monument was not finished until May 1678, when the Pope's body was transferred to it. Bernini delegated all marble carving for the tomb to assistants, who carried out this work from 1672-8. The terracotta is therefore exceptionally important as a preparatory work by the master himself.



This summary sketch reveals much about Bernini's working methods. He modelled the head separately, so that he could experiment with its angle before positioning it on the body. As with the only other surviving terracotta model for the tomb (a figure of Charity, now in the Istituto delle Belle Arti in Siena) tool marks are evident, and there are suggestions of thumb and finger prints. The hands are now missing, and there are some significant surface cracks, but the model is comparatively intact. It is a remarkable testament to Bernini's handling of clay on a small scale in preparation for what was to be a magnificent monumental Papal tomb.
Bibliographic References
  • Maclagan, Eric and Longhurst, Margaret, Catalogue of Italian Sculpture (London, 1932) p.159
  • Pope-Hennessy, John, assisted by Lightbown, Ronald, Catalogue of the Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum (London: HMSO, 1964) vol. 2, pp. 606-7, no.639; vol. 3, fig.633
  • Montagu, Jennifer, Roman Baroque Sculpture. The Industry of Art (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1989) pp.111-4, fig.136
  • Avery, Charles, Bernini. The Genius of the Baroque (London, 1997) pp. 133, 254, fig. 368
  • Kollikofer, Kaspar. Berninis Grabmal für Alexander VII. Fiktion und Repräsentation. Worms. 1994, illus. pl. 17
  • Bacchi, Andrea and Zanuso, Susanna, Scultura del '600 a Roma, Milan, 1996, p. 783.
  • Bernstock, J. 'Bernini: Tomb of Alexander VII' in Saggia e Memorie di storia dell'arte, 16, 1988, pp. 43
  • Hubbard, Charlotte and Motture, Peta, 'The Making of Terracotta Sculpture: Techniques and Observations' in Boucher, Bruce, ed., Earth and Fire. Italian Terracotta Sculpture from Donatello to Canova, (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2001), pp. 83-95
  • Montagu, Jennifer, 'Disegni, Bozzetti, Legnetti and Modelli in Roman Seicento Sculpture' in Entwurf und Ausführung in der europäischen Barockplastik Munich. 1986. pp. 11-12, fig. 14-16.
  • Snodin, Michael and Llewellyn, Nigel (eds) assisted by Norman, Joanna, Baroque 1620-1800. Style in the Age of Magnificence. [exh. cat. V&A, London], (London: V&A Publishing), 2009, pp. 00-00
Other Number
Collection
Accession Number
A.17-1932

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record createdFebruary 24, 2004
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