Scipione Tadolini (1822-1892) Italian, Rome, 1860
- La Schiava Greca (The Greek Slave)
- signed: SCIP O TADOLINI I. F. ROM. 1860. and inscribed in Greek to the bracelet pisto tes and to the necklace elpis (hope)
- white Carrara marble, on a later rosso marble pedestal
- Scipione Tadolini (1822-1892) Italian, Rome, 1860
The Enigma Mansion, Cape Town, South Africa
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An idealised female youth stands in contrapposto, her right arm raised as she contemplates her bracelet. Tadolini's magisterial composition is a response to one of the most famous sculptures of the age, Hiram Powers' Greek Slave, which was exhibited for the first time at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, where it caused a sensation, both for its beauty and for its scandalous nudity (the marble is currently in the collection of Lord Barnard at Raby Castle, Durham). Like Powers' model, the theme of Tadolini's sculpture is taken from the Greek War of Independence of the 1820's. The young woman has been abducted by the Turks and is about to be sold in a slave market. Tadolini's Greek Slave is consequently a highly emotive and politically charged image, designed to appeal to a Western audience through portraying a Christian innocent enslaved within a Muslim culture. The Turkish context within which the Greek Slave finds herself is emphasised by Tadolini in the beautifully carved headress, which falls about her shoulders, and recalls Ingres' La Grande Odalisque (1814; musée du Louvre, Paris, inv. no. RF. 1158).
The present marble is one of two variants of the model created by Tadolini, the principal difference between them being the fact that, in the present composition, the young woman raises her right arm to the level of her chest, recalling the pose of the Venus de' Medici (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence). In contrast, in the second variant, the slave touches her chin with her right hand, in a gesture reminiscent of Canova's Danzatrice con dito al mento (Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, Turin). The present model is likely to be the earlier of the two variants. It would also appear to be the rarer, and, together with the present marble, is known from versions in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (dated 1859), and from a version sold in these rooms on 22 June 1990 (dated 1871). The second variant is known principally from the marble in the collection of the Glasgow Museums: Art Gallery and Museums, Kelvingrove, which is housed in the Kibble Palace of the Glasgow Botanic Gardens (dated 1873). There is also a marble version in the Museo de Bellas Artes, Seville (dated 1862), whilst another is recorded as having been in the collection of the Earls of Strafford at Wrotham Park, Hertfordshire (Hufschmidt, op. cit., p. 200). The Greek Slave was one of the most celebrated and original compositions created by Tadolini, as is illustrated by the fact that he was commissioned to produce several versions for wealthy patrons from around the world. Tadolini's sculpture was particularly popular with visiting British and American Grand Tourists, and it is likely that the present marble was acquired in Rome by an American collector, who then brought it to the United States.
The Tadolini family occupies a fascinating position in the history of Roman sculpture. Four generations of the family of stone carvers lived and worked in the same studio for some 150 years. The building still exists today, on the corner of the Via del Babuino overlooked by the Greek Church of S. Anastasia. It is now the Canova-Tadolini Museum.
Scipione Tadolini was trained in the studio of his father, Adamo Tadolini, who was Antonio Canova’s most trusted studio assistant, establishing an international reputation for himself as one of the last great Italian Neoclassical sculptors. Born in Bologna, Adamo trained at the city’s Accademia di Belle Arte, where he received a rigorous education in the classical principles of sculpture. In 1814, he moved to Rome, winning the prize Canova had instituted for talented young sculptors. Impressed by Tadolini’s pure classicism, the master took him on as an assistant. Tadolini became so expert a marble carver that the versions he produced of his master’s models were (and still are) often thought to be originals by Canova himself; including, for example, the Cupid Reviving Psyche in the Villa Carlotta, Lake Como. As a sign of their closeness, Canova helped Tadolini to set up his famous workshop in the Via dei Greci.
Scipione Tadolini was schooled in his father's neoclassical style and in the art of virtuoso marble carving. However, the elegant nude Ninfa Pescatrice, which launched his career, set him apart from his father's cool, idealised, aesthetic. Moving away from a strict classicism, Scipione imbues classical subject matter with the Romantic spirit. During his lifetime, he was overwhelmed with commissions, including a marble for the church of Gonfalone in Rome, a St. Michael for a wealthy Bostonian and the very important Bust of King Vittorio Emanuele I, which was the first sculpted portrait to be made of the new King. Visiting the Tadolini studio in 1869, Pope Pius IX declared him to be one of the finest sculptors of his generation.
The present marble exhibits superb carving, particularly in the beautifully undercut drapery, the idealised facial physiognomy, and the astonishing realism of the chain and handcuffs. This high quality of carving is characteristic of Tadolini's finest work, together with the signature beautifully polished surfaces, which are in excellent condition in the present marble. Until recently, the statue formed the centrepiece of the interior of one of South Africa's grandest residences, the Enigma Mansion, in Camps Bay, Cape Town.
T. F. Hufschmidt, Tadolini: Adamo, Scipione, Giulio, Enrico. Quattro generazioni di scultori a Roma nei secoli XIX e XX, Rome, 1996, pp. 200-201; http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T082984?q=tadolini&search=quick&pos=1&_start=1#firsthit accessed 2 June 2015