Property of a European Private Collector



Property of a European Private Collector




bronze, on later ebonized wood base

7 ½ by 17 ⅝ by 6 ⅞ in.; 19 by 44.8 by 17.6 cm.

Standard surface abrasions consistent with age. Remains of wax on back around her proper left shoulder. Original and stable casting crack on back of base. Some rubbing/flaking to dark brown lacquer revealing chocolatey brown patina.

In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.


Palazzo Altieri, Rome (listed in the 1913 inventory by Professor Federico Hermanin, no. 593);

Purchased from Frida Riberi Altieri in 1943;

By descent;

Sotheby's London 7 July, 2006, lot 80

Garzia L. Mellini, 'Per la Beata Ludovica Albertoni' (Studi berniniani), in Labyrinthos 29/32, Florence 1996/97, pp. 207-28; 

Sergei O. Androsov in Maurizio Fagiolo dell'Arco, Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Regista del Barocco, exhibition catalogue, Palazzo Venezia, Rome, 1999, p. 106 [entry for Hermitage terracotta inv. no. 614, mentioned in text];

Philippe Malgouyres, 'Apollo and Daphne, and Other Bronze Groups after Bernini', in Jeremy Warren (ed.), Renaissance and Baroque Bronzes in and around the Peter Marino Collection, London, 2013, p. 70, n. 6 [mentioned in footnote];

C. D. Dickerson III, Anthony Sigel and Ian Wardropper, Bernini Sculpting in Clay, exhibition catalogue, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, New Haven and Yale, 2013, no. 40, p. 207, n. 4 [entry for V&A terracotta inv. no. A. 93-1980, mentioned in footnote]

Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland (NGL 001.07), 2007-2016

Very few bronze reductions of Gianlorenzo Bernini’s models exist. The present bronze comes from the collection of the Altieri, the family who commissioned Bernini to sculpt his magisterial marble Blessed Ludovica Albertoni for their chapel at S. Franesco a Ripa in 1671 (fig.1). The quality of the casting indicates that it was made by one of the leading Roman foundries in the last decades of the 17th century. Its chased detailing is superb, and underscores the likelihood that the bronze was commissioned by the Altieri themselves for private devotional use. The bronze, which has been on long term loan to the National Galleries of Scotland, is one of the most important sculptures associated with Bernini to have come onto the market in recent years. Its provenance and quality is such that it can be connected with the workshop of Bernini himself.

Emilio Altieri's ascendancy to the Papacy as Clement X on 29 April 1670 precipitated the beatification of Ludovica Albertoni (1473-1533), a Franciscan nun of noble birth who had dedicated her life to the poor. The Blessed Ludovica was known to have experienced religious ecstasies and was said to have worked miracles. She garnered significant numbers of followers both during her lifetime and subsequently. Papal recognition of her cult followed Clement's adoption of Paluzzo Paluzzi Altieri degli Albertoni as Cardinal-Nephew (1623-1698). Paluzzo had engineered Clement’s rise, and the families of the two men had already been united through the marriage of their respective niece and nephew in 1669. Since Clement X had no heirs, this marriage permitted the Albertoni family to thenceforth adopt the name Altieri. The beatification of Ludovica Albertoni on 28 January 1671 thereby brought significant prestige upon both Pope and Cardinal-Nephew at the beginning of Clement's Pontificate.

Gianlorenzo Bernini was commissioned by the ambitious Cardinal-Nephew to carve a marble effigy of the newly beatified Saint in 1671 and the work is recorded as having been completed by 1674. The sculptor is said to have worked without payment in order to ingratiate himself with the Pope, since his brother Luigi was in disgrace. One of Bernini's last great works, the Blessed Ludovica Albertoni stands at the focal point of the Altieri Chapel in S. Franesco a Ripa in Trastevere. Lit by a concealed window (originally there were two light sources), the statue resembles a miraculous vision emerging from the darkness of the family chapel. Scholars have been divided as to whether Bernini's sculpture shows the Blessed Ludovica in a state of ecstasy (famously as in his earlier St Teresa in S. Maria della Vittoria, 1647-1652), or whether the viewer witnesses the Saint in the process of passing into death. Regardless of the intended narrative, the Blessed Ludovica is one of the masterpieces of Baroque sculpture and achieved considerable fame in the 17th century. It combines Bernini’s unique ability for dramatic expression with an entrancing arrangement of rippling folds of drapery.

The present bronze is significant because it is recorded as having come from the collection of the Altieri family in Rome. It is therefore directly connected with Bernini's monument through its provenance. The bronze is listed in the 1913 inventory of Palazzo Altieri, which was drawn up by Professor Federico Hermanin (no. 593) and is accompanied with a copy of the receipt from when it was sold in 1943 by Frida Riberi Altieri to the father of the previous owner.

Although no specific reference to the bronze earlier than 1913 has yet come to light, it may be indirectly referred to in contemporary documents. A papal breve dated 15 February 1674 and cited by Schiavo (op. cit., p. 175) granted Cardinal Paluzzo Paluzzi Albertoni's brother Angelo (father of Gaspare Albertoni, who, as mentioned above, had married Pope Clement X Altieri's niece in 1669, and through whom the main branch of the family descends) the right to have the 'effigy of the Blessed' for his private chapels. Whilst the term 'effigy' does not necessarily denote a sculptural representation, the context of the breve, dating to the year in which Bernini completed his monument, could indicate that it refers to reductions of the sculpture. In this respect it recalls comparable prestige artifacts conceived for private devotional use, notably Melchiorre Cafà's gilt and silvered bronze St. Rose of Lima (sold in these rooms 31 January 2019, lot 229). This bronze is a reduction of a model for Cafà's highly emotive marble of 1665. Post-dating the completion of the marble, Cafà's bronze is believed to have been made for one of the great papal families. Clement X, who canonized Rose of Lima in 1671, is proposed as a candidate.

A further example of a family commissioning a reduction for private devotional use is found in the bronze St Bernard of Siena after Antonio Raggi (1624-1686), one of Bernini's principal students, which was offered at Sotheby's London on 10 July 2014, lot 112. This bronze is identical to Raggi's marble in the Chigi Chapel at S. Maria della Pace, and likewise heralds from the collection of the family who commissioned the original monument. Indeed, the similarity between the quality of the casting of the Chigi bronze and the present Blessed Ludovica Albertoni begs the question of whether they could even have been cast by the same foundry. Given the scale of the present bronze, it is a plausible argument that it too was conceived for private devotional use and that the Altieri are obvious candidates to have been the patrons who commissioned it, given the fact that they had been awarded the right to have effigies of the Blessed Ludovica Albertoni in their private chapels.

A number of terracotta modelli or copies exist of the Blessed Ludovica Albertoni. These are discussed comprehensively by Malgouyres (2002, op. cit.). They include a modello in the Victoria and Albert Museum (inv. no. A. 93-1980). This terracotta is believed to be autograph primarily because the reverse is cursorily modelled (Bernini would never have devoted time to the back of a sculpture designed to be set against a wall) and because the quality of the modelling is very high. There are also numerous compositional differences with the monument which strengthen the argument that it was conceived prior to the execution of the marble, though Dickerson contends that it probably served as a presentation model and is not a bozzetto (op. cit., p. 211).

In addition, there is a possible modello in the State Hermitage Museum which has previously been ascribed to Bernini but has subsequently been given to an unknown assistant, or possibly a copyist. There is also a second, much more cursory, terracotta in the Hermitage (inv. no. Н.ск-613) which is compositionally close to the present bronze but lacks many of the details and the depth of modelling. Finally, there are a number of other terracotta versions which are likely copies: in the musée du Louvre, Paris (inv. no. RF 2454); a private collection, Rome; Besançon; and in the Musée Magnin in Dijon (for a discussion of each, refer to Malgouyres 2002, op. cit.). A gilt terracotta was sold at Sotheby’s London 8 July 2011, lot 76. Aside from the terracotta versions, a marble reduction is mentioned by Wittkower as being in the Giocondi collection in Rome (current whereabouts unknown). Another bronze version was sold at Bonhams London 1 September 1987, lot 92. A simplified, later, cast was sold at Sotheby’s Paris 21 June 2018, lot 18.

Malgouyres has suggested that bronze versions of the Santa Bibiana and Blessed Ludovica Albertoni relate to the terracotta versions of the respective models and cannot be connected with Bernini (2013, op. cit., p. 70). However, in the case of the present bronze, there is no terracotta which is identical to the bronze. The wider question of whether bronze statuettes have a place within Bernini's oeuvre has been discussed by Malgouyres (2013, op. cit.) and was also raised in the catalogue for the 2012-2013 exhibition Bernini: Sculpting in Clay. In his early career Bernini had significant involvement in creating the models for his portraits which were to be cast in bronze, note, for example, the bust of Paolo Giordano II Orsini, Duke of Bracciano (the sculptor’s working process is discussed by Dickerson, op. cit., p. 13). There is also evidence that terracotta models may have been cast indirectly in bronze during his lifetime. This evidence comes in the form of a small number of bronze casts of the Countess Matilda of Tuscany which exhibit the characteristic toothed tool marks of autograph terracottas and are thought to have been cast shortly after the unveiling of the Matilda tomb in 1642 (see the example in the Harvard Art Museums/ Fogg Museum, Cambridge, inv. no. 1998.1, discussed by Dickerson, op. cit., no. 5).

However, there is no evidence of Bernini having been directly involved in the casting of bronze statuettes after his models. The nearest example is when the French government sourced a series of silver casts after Bernini models from the Abbate Elpidio Benedetti between 1661-1664. In correspondence, Benedetti claims, ‘I showed him the David, finished, which did not please him any less than had the Daphne; you may expect the same for the Rape of the Proserpina and the Neptune which are being made (as quoted in Malgouyres 2002, op. cit., p. 71). Despite all of this, Bernini had limited involvement in the casting of bronzes in general in his late career. In the present case, in which there is a provenance link to the sculptor’s original marble, we must assume that the bronze must have been cast by a leading foundry (this is evident on quality terms alone) within the orbit of the master. Given the provenance, it can be hypothesized that the Altieri may have asked Bernini for a bronze reduction. However, if this is the case, then the involvement of the sculptor would probably have been limited to directing the work to assistants or the foundry.

It can be asserted with confidence that the present bronze was likely cast in Rome in the last quarter of the 17th century. The rich reddish brown patina places the bronze in accordance with other late 17th-century Roman bronzes. As has been discussed, the sculpture is recorded as having come from the collection of the family who commissioned Bernini's masterpiece, and so it is plausible that it may have been ordered by the Altieri for private devotional use around the time that the monument was completed or shortly thereafter. The quality of the casting certainly underscores the probability that it was commissioned by a patron of the highest social rank. The chased surface is exceptional, with beautiful punch-work and superb detailing of the arabesques on the cushion. The presence of details such as the tassels on the cushion mark the bronze out as an important object conceived for use in a private chapel. There is not another bronze version of the subject of comparable quality. A dating to the late 17th century is thus justified and, given the high quality of the bronze, it may have been cast by a leading Roman foundry associated with Bernini himself.


Armando Schiavo, La donna nelle sculture del Bernini, Milan, Milan, 1942;

Armando Schiavo, Palazzo Altieri, Rome 1963, p.175;

Rudolf Wittkower, Gianlorenzo Bernini, London, 1966, pp.257-59, no.76;

Rudolf Wittkower, 'Two Bronzes by Bernini in the National Gallery', Art Bulletin of Victoria, The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1970-71, pp.11-18;

Sergei O. Androsov, Alle origini di Canova: le terrecotte della collezione Farsetti, exhibition catalogue, Palazzo Ruspoli and Ca' d'Oro, Venice, 1991, pp.72-72, no.24;

Giandomenico Spinola, Le sculture nel Palazzo Albertoni Spinola a Roma el le collezioni Paluzzi ed Altieri, Rome 1995;

Bruce Boucher (ed.), Earth and Fire: Italian Terracotta Sculpture from Donatello to Canova, exhibition catalogue, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2001;

C. D. Dickerson III, Anthony Sigel and Ian Wardropper, Bernini: Sculpting in Clay, exhibition catalogue, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, New Haven and Yale, 2012, nos. 5, 20, 21, pp. 132-135, 206-215;

Philippe Malgouyres, 'Apollo and Daphne, and Other Bronze Groups after Bernini, in Jeremy Warren (ed.), Renaissance and Baroque Bronzes in and around the Peter Marino Collections, London, 2013, pp. 68-83;

Andrea Bacchi and Anna Coliva, Bernini, exhibition catalogue, Galleria Borghese, Rome, 2017