Workshop of Camillo Rusconi (Milano 1658 – Roma 1728) Head of a putto
Carrara Marble, cm 23 x 17 x 13
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The sculpture here examined, a delicate head of a putto, comes from a private collection and must be considered a fragment of a more copious composition, probably the decorative apparatus of a noble chapel. The face of the putto is slightly inclined and turned to the left and is framed by thick hair formed of little voluminous curls worked, which appear almost crushed on the forehead by the breeze. Some drill holes further punctuate and move the soft locks, creating delicate chiaroscuro effects. These elements, together with the attitude of the gaze turned upwards, suggest the pertinent location of the work, that of the head of festoon-holder, emblem or frame-holder, or with the function of a shelf to support a step altar. Two are the main factors that determine this destination: the clean cut of the marble volume in the occipital part, which indicates the presence of a back wall on which the putto head was positioned, and that slight irregular excrescence on the left cheek marked by a chisel stroke, possibly interpreted as the trace of a drapery that, wrapped around the left shoulder, touched at that point the anatomy of the infant. The the face, smoothly modelled, with the softly falling cheeks and the small chin, declare an eighteenth-century reinterpretation of the classicist models of François Du Quesnoy, elevated to figurative exempla in sculpture as in painting throughout the seventeenth century; these elements suggest a dating to the second decade of the eighteenth century, and the production of a Roman workshop in which such high quality artefacts were required by public and private patrons. The closest formal reference seems to us to the workshop of the Lombard-Ticinese Camillo Rusconi, the main sculptor active in Rome in the first quarter of the eighteenth century.
Last pupil of Ercole Ferrata and first master of the sculptor Pietro Bracci, the author of the Trevi Fountain, Camillo Rusconi was praised by his contemporaries for his refined quality in moulding clay. Some of his most famous terracotta sketches are preserved in the Farsetti collection at the Ca ‘d’Oro in Venice and at the National Museum of Palazzo di Venezia, like the delicate putto that tries to cover himself interpreted as an allegory of Winter, preparatory model for the Four Seasons group translated in marble for the Marquis Niccolò Maria Pallavicini (now Windsor Castle, Royal Collection). Especially in the early years of his Roman career, Rusconi made numerous cherubs with similar formal characteristics – see in this sense the plastic decoration of San Silvestro in Capite (1690) or the putti emblem-holder of the monument to Raffaele Fabretti in Santa Maria sopra Minerva (1700) -, thus creating some successful prototypes that were reproduced by his workshop, frequented by the greatest sculptors of the eighteenth century, such as Filippo della Valle and the aforementioned Pietro Bracci.