Mazza's early training as a painter appears to be reflected in his three-dimensional work. Giuseppe’s sculptures have a pictorial quality; they are balanced and self-contained. This quality is enhanced by the artist’s pyramidal arrangement of figures and drapery seen in many of his groups and reliefs. Like Algardi’s work, his sculptures exhibit a classical restraint with periodic flourishes within a sea of drapery folds, producing dynamic compositions. Compare Mazza's polychrome terracotta group of The Holy Family in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna (Riccòmini 1966, op. cit., no. 41) (fig. 1) and his gilt terracotta of the Madonna fainting in the arms of the Magdalene in S. Maria della Carità, Bologna (Riccòmini 1966, op. cit., no. 13, p. 59). Mazza’s use of delicate, diminutive facial features seen on several of his figures are visible in the figure of David as well as in works such as the draped Female Figure in the Museo d' arte industrial e Galleria Davia-Bargellini, Bologna (Riccòmini 1966, op. cit., p. 63, nos. 25 and 26).
Giuseppe's design of David and Goliath seems to have inspired the great Florentine Baroque sculptor, Giovanni Battista Foggini in his well-known group of the same subject now in the Cleveland Museum (Detroit, op. cit. no. 11).
Giuseppe Maria Mazza was born in Bologna and studied under his father, the sculptor Camillo Mazza (1602–72), who apprenticed with the Baroque master Alessandro Algardi in Rome. Mazza's fully finished terracotta statuettes were displayed in the homes of wealthy patrons, the most important of whom was the connoisseur Prince Johann Adam Andreas of Liechtenstein. While the majority of Mazza's work had religious themes, he also depicted mythological or secular subjects, particularly for the Prince, including six marble busts and twelve terracotta groups. In 1722, he also produced five large bronze reliefs depicting the miracles of Saint Domenic for the Chapel of San Domenico in the church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Venice. Much of his career was spent, however, in his native Bologna where Giuseppe executed terracotta and stucco sculpture for various churches.
The story of David and Goliath is described in the Book of Saul. King Saul was chosen to lead the Israelites against their enemies, the Philistines but when faced with the Philistine giant Goliath, he refused to fight. David volunteered, rejected the use of Saul’s armour, and defeated the giant. The Philistines eventually fled the field. The implicit purpose of the story of Goliath was to demonstrate that David, not Saul, was fit to be king.
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