Spotlight: London exhibition brings together captivating Italian terracotta sculptures from all centuries

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What do you want to know: Trinity Fine Art, one of London’s leading specialists in European sculpture, artwork, drawings and paintings from the 15th to 19th centuries, has teamed up with Milanese dealer Walter Padovani to curate a dynamic and compelling exhibition that examines the history of the Italian land. – terracotta sculpture. Entitled “sacred and profanethe exhibition features religious images of Christ and the Madonna, alongside works of contemporary portraits and depictions of ancient gods such as Bacchus. Across all sorts of subjects, terracotta proves to be a medium of incredible physicality and sensuality that artists have sought to master for generations.

The Master of Unruly Children, probably Sandro di Lorenzo di Smeraldo, Bacchus (first half of the 16th century). Courtesy of Trinity Fine Art.

Why we love it: The exhibition delves into the history of some fascinating, if lesser known, masters of the medium. Alessandro Algardi is an example; his sculptures were sought after in the 17th century, a time when the collection of terracotta was growing rapidly. The moving and expressive sculpture of Algardi The Risen Christ is presented in the exhibition; the half-length figure of Christ is depicted nude, with great sensitivity given the depiction of the risen body, and offers a wonderful example of how terracotta was used to simultaneously express physical and spiritual beauty. As for the “profane”, the exhibition includes a representation of Bacchus by the artist known as the Master of Unruly Children, active in Florence in the first half of the 16th century. Exceptionally, the artist specialized in small terracotta sculptures. Lorenzo Ghiberti had used the material in models for later iron castings, but it was rarely used for finished works. The material became associated with allegories of abundance and fertility, making them prized by Florentine nobles for domestic display. These statuettes of Bacchus and another example of the River God, also on display, bear allusions to the prosperity and wealth associated with earthy matter and underscored by the liquids that seem to spring from their vessels. Thus, the exhibition highlights the delicious and emblematic history of terracotta, today largely unknown to art lovers.

Alessandro Algardi, The Risen Christ (second half of the 17th century).  Courtesy of Trinity Fine Art.

Alessandro Algardi, The Risen Christ (second half of the 17th century). Courtesy of Trinity Fine Art.

According to the Gallery: “From the 15th century, terracotta became a fundamental means of artistic expression and creativity and remained so until the time of Antonio Canova at the end of the 18th century. The development of new technologies fueled the demand for clay sculpture and clay models played a central role, being essential to the process of creating sculpture at this time. For this exhibition, terracottas from the beginning of the 16th century to the end of the 18th century have been selected, which show the breadth, the creativity and the different ways in which this material was used, both for sacred and profane purposes.

See additional images from the exhibit below.

Giovanni Marchiori, Head of a Woman (18th century).  Courtesy of Trinity Fine Art.

Jean Marchiori, female head (18th century). Courtesy of Trinity Fine Art.

The Master of the Unruly Children, probably Sandro di Lorenzo di Smeraldo.  “River God” (first half of the 16th century).  Courtesy of Trinity Fine Art.

The Master of Unruly Children, probably Sandro di Lorenzo di Smeraldo, river god (first half of the 16th century). Courtesy of Trinity Fine Art.

Antonio Giorgetti, Head of an Angel (late 16th century).  Courtesy of Trinity Fine Art.

Antonio Giorgetti, Angel’s head (late 16th century). Courtesy of Trinity Fine Art.

Unknown Roman sculptor, Sibyl (first half of the 18th century).  Courtesy of Trinity Fine Art.

Unknown Roman sculptor, Sibyl (first half of the 18th century). Courtesy of Trinity Fine Art.

sacred and profane; Italian terracotta sculpture from the 16th to 18th centuries is on view at Trinity Fine Art, London, until September 16, 2022.

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