Righetti was trained in Rome, in the studio of Luigi Valadier's (1726-1785). His bronze casts were so refined that Catherine the Great and Popes Pius VI and VII were among his patrons. In 1805, he took over from Valadier as head of the Vatican foundry. During the French Empire, some of Rome's most illustrious figures commissioned works from him, including Camillo Borghese and his wife Pauline Bonaparte, Napoleon's sister. As well as specialising in bronze statuettes, he was renowned for casting monumental sculptures such as the Napoleon I commissioned from Antonio Canova by Eugène de Beauharnais (Palazzo Brera, Milan).
The perfect translation into bronze of the Gladiator's anatomical perfection supports an attribution to Righetti. The high quality casting even captures the expression of terror on his face, as in the original model. The polychrome marble and gilt bronze base is also characteristic of Righetti's works. One of his centrepieces features three bronze reductions of classical Atlases, the base of which is applied with a candelabra between two griffins in gilt bronze, identical to the one on our base (Naples, Museo di Capodimonte; fig. 1).
Juan Truyols Rovira was a descendant of the Grand Master of the Order of Malta, Ramón Despuig I Martinez de Marcilla (1610-1741), and of Cardinal Antoni Despuig Dameto (1745-1813). He lived in Predio Morell, which had belonged to his family since the end of the 15th century. This Gladiator comes from his collection and was probably bought by his ancestor Cardinal Antonio Despuig Dameto. Despuig founded the Palma de Majorca school of art. He was a member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando, rector of the University of Majorca and a keen patron of the arts.
From 1796 to 1797, Despuig was in Rome with Cardinal Francisco Antonio de Lorenzana y Burton, the King of Spain's emissary to Pius VI, who made him a cardinal. He later became Vicar General of His Holiness and was present when Pius VII was taken prisoner by Napoleon's troops on July 6th 1809. Despuig was placed under house arrest in Rome then exiled to Paris. When his health deteriorated, he was granted permission to return to Italy and settled in Lucca without ever seeing Majorca again. He was passionate about Antiquity and took advantage of his time in Rome to assemble a stunning collection of marbles and bronzes, which he kept in his palace in Raixa in Majorca, where he built a veritable museum. One part of his collection was bought in 1898 by the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen. Another part was sold in Paris by M. Paul Chevallier on 11th July 1900. The remaining part still belongs to the family.
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