BC/AD Sculpture Ancient to Modern

BC/AD Sculpture Ancient to Modern

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 154. ODOARDO TABACCHI | ELEONORA FONSECA PIMENTEL.


Lot Closed

July 9, 03:31 PM GMT


30,000 - 50,000 GBP

Lot Details




1836 - 1905


signed and dated: Tabacchi Fe. 1867, and entitled: ELEONORA FONSECA PIMENTEL

white marble

94cm., 37in.

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This rare, mid-size marble by the Varese sculptor Odoardo Tabacchi epitomises his superb technique and preferred subject matter. In this historic portrait of the Italian poet and revolutionary, Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel (1752-1799), Tabacchi has been able to exploit his virtuosity in carving marble in the detail of her voluminous costume.

Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel, described by Voltaire as the ‘nightingale of beautiful Italy’, was a key protagonist in the fleeting Neapolitan Republic in the late 1790s. Tabacchi shows

Eleonora as a stoic heroine, who having suffered a deeply unhappy arranged marriage found expression and salvation in her poetry before becoming a victim of Parthenopean Republic. In addition to her poetry, Eleonora became momentarily, and paradoxically, royal librarian to Maria Carolina, Queen of Naples, whilst she went on, from 1799, to be editor-in-chief of the republican newspaper: Il Monitore Napoletano. Having initially supported the expulsion of King Ferdinand IV, and welcoming the French army in the overthrow of the Bourbon monarchy, she soon supported warnings against the French, yet with the Bourbon restoration, Eleonora was executed in 1799.

Tabacchi depicts Eleonora on the day of her execution on 20th August 1799. She was the last of nine republicans to be hung that day; kept until the end to increase her suffering, having been denied her request to be beheaded as her aristocratic birth provided. Tabacchi conveys the nobility of both her birth and spirit in her upright posture and fixed stare. She nobly holds the heavy chains of her captivity at her side, whilst advancing calmly and purposefully. Since Eleonora was executed in Naples on 20th August 1799 it does not seem historically likely that she would have worn such heavy, ample clothes, so Tabacchi must have depicted her this way to emphasise her stature and demeanour, whilst showcasing his dexterity at carving marble.

Tabacchi trained at the Brera Academy in Milan. Lorenzo Bartolini was an early influence and from the summer of 1861 he worked briefly with the great Milanese sculptor, Pietro Magni and Giovanni Strazza. In 1866, the year prior to his model of Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel, Tabacchi produced his first historical portrait of the literary hero of the Risorgimento, Ugo Foscolo after the Treaty of Campoformio, which prefigures the intense subject matter of his Eleonora. 

From 1868, Tabacchi lived and worked in Turin, where he remained for the rest of his life. Over the next 40 years Tabacchi received a host of commissions for public monuments in his adopted city. However, he continued to produce smaller scale models, the most famous of which represents a woman in a bathing costume on the point of making a dive, called, La Tuffolina; a more discordant model with his Eleonora would be difficult to imagine. A more characteristic full-size marble of Hypatia of Alexandria, the tragic classical mathematician and philosopher stoned to death by a Christian mob, was sold in these rooms 13 December 2017, lot 19 for £100,000.