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146
Francesco Tanadei (1770-1828)
Italian, Turin, early 19th century
PAIR OF "MICROSCULTURA" RELIEFS WITH CHRIST THE REDEEMER AND POPE PIUS VII (1742-1823), AND THE OTHER WITH KING CHARLES FELIX OF SARDINIA (1765-1831)
SALTAR AL LOTE
146
Francesco Tanadei (1770-1828)
Italian, Turin, early 19th century
PAIR OF "MICROSCULTURA" RELIEFS WITH CHRIST THE REDEEMER AND POPE PIUS VII (1742-1823), AND THE OTHER WITH KING CHARLES FELIX OF SARDINIA (1765-1831)
SALTAR AL LOTE

Details & Cataloguing

Old Master Sculpture and Works of Art

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Francesco Tanadei (1770-1828)
Italian, Turin, early 19th century
PAIR OF "MICROSCULTURA" RELIEFS WITH CHRIST THE REDEEMER AND POPE PIUS VII (1742-1823), AND THE OTHER WITH KING CHARLES FELIX OF SARDINIA (1765-1831)
the relief with Christ inscribed on the front: SIMON PETRE, DILIGIS ME PASCE OVES MEAS.; and the relief with King Charles Felix inscribed on the front: CAROLUS FELIX REX SARDINIAE and: DIU SOSPES VIVAT FELICITER REGNET; both entitled and inscribed on the reverse
ivory and tortoiseshell, set on stained boxwood, within glazed partially giltwood frames
each measuring: 24 by 16cm., 9½ by 6¼in. 
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Expuesto

Turin, The Royal University of Turin, 1820 (relief with Christ the Redeemer and Pope Pius VII)

Documentación

Notizia delle opere di pittura e di scultura eposte nel palazzo della Regia Università, Turin, 1820, p. 68, no. 89 (relief with Christ the Redeemer and Pope Pius VII);
A. Baudi di Vesme, Schede Vesme. L'arte in Piemonte dal XVI al XVIII secolo, 1963-1982, vol. III (1968), p. 1023 (relief with Christ the Redeemer and Pope Pius VII);
V. Sgarbi, ‘Tanadei, microintagli come temple greci, Corriere della Sera, 22 November 2013, p. 30

Nota del catálogo

These masterful Neoclassical ivory and wood panels representing Jesus Christ, Pope Pius VII and Charles Felix, King of Sardinia, are two important works by Francesco Tanadei. They were created using the microcarving technique, for which Tanadei was one of the most celebrated early 19th-century practitioners, being appointed royal sculptor to the Piedmontese court in 1816. The virtuosity of their execution is only rivalled by the complex web of allegorical meanings conveyed by the various symbols surrounding the portrait reliefs.

Tanadei was born in Locarno and trained under Giuseppe Maria Bonzanigo (1745-1820). Bonzanigo became one of the most prominent craftsmen working in Piedmont at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, introducing a greater emphasis on carving into Piedmontese furniture and interior design. It was Bonzanigo who first developed the concept of portrait plaques composed of elaborate microcarvings, examples of which can be found in the Musée du Louvre (inv. no. MR 364). Tanadei was Bonzanigo’s most talented disciple, with his virtuoso ivory carvings mesmerising both the public and patrons alike. In 1805, he exhibited no less than 34 microcarvings at an exhibition of Piedmontese art attended by the Emperor Napoleon and the Empress Josephine. With the restoration of the monarchy, King Victor Emmanuel I (1759-1824) appointed Tanadei regio nostre scultore in legno ed avorio, ‘our royal sculptor in wood and ivory’ (Schede vesme, op. cit., p. 1023).

The present plaques currently appear as pendants. However, they may have been made at different dates and subsequently paired, with King Charles Felix of Sardinia joining the first after 1821 when Charles Felix ascended to the throne. In the first we see Jesus Christ, surrounded by garlands of minutely carved flowers and surmounting the symbols of the Passion. Beneath Him we see Pope Pius VII flanked by the papal tiara, the crossed keys of St Peter, and the dove, representing the Peace of the Resurrection. Facing them, in his own pendant panel, is Charles Felix, King of Sardinia, and ruler of Piedmont. What at first glance appears to be a group of ornamental motifs surrounding him is, in fact, a complex group of symbols woven into the overall decorative scheme. A contemporary note in ink on the reverse of the panel explains the meanings of the various motifs. Charles Felix’s portrait sits atop an eagle with wings spread, representing majesty and power, and is surmounted with a star, signifying his soul. Flanking him is the caduceus, symbolising mercurial success, and the mirror entwined with a serpent, denoting Prudence. Further symbols include the Janus head, conveying the message that Charles Felix is able to look forward, with one eye on the past, and a bird killing a snake, representing moderation over indulgence and vice.

Tanadei’s ability to carve even the smallest details, such as the orders pinned to the King’s chest, is extraordinary. All of this superb near-microscopic carving is offset beautifully with a black stained wood ground, allowing the viewer to appreciate the workmanship to the fullest extent.

The present microcarvings will both be included in the forthcoming monographic exhibition on Francesco Tanadei being organised by the Palazzo Madama, Turin.

RELATED LITERATURE
Schede vesme. L’arte in Piemonte dal XVI al XVIII secolo, vol. ii, Turin, 1968, pp. 1022-1023; P. Malgouyres and P. Ickowicz, Ivoires du musée du Louvre, Paris, 2005, pp. 154-155, no. 53

Old Master Sculpture and Works of Art

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