View full screen - View 1 of Lot 167. Christ and Saint John the Evangelist.

Antonio Trentanove (1739/40 – 1812)

Christ and Saint John the Evangelist

Lot Closed

October 19, 04:46 PM GMT


15,000 - 20,000 GBP

Lot Details


Antonio Trentanove (1739/40 – 1812)

Italian, Bologna, last quarter 18th century

Christ and Saint John the Evangelist


72 cm., 28¼in.

Christie's London, 13th December, 2001, lot 575;
Private collection, France;
Sotheby's Paris, 21 June 2018, lot 90 

This important and beautifully modelled terracotta group with Christ and St John has been attributed by Dr Andrea Bacchi to Antonio Trentanove. Dr Bacchi's essay on the group is reproduced below.

This terracotta, previously attributed to Gaetano Gandolfi (Ssn Matteo della Decima 1734 –Bologna 1802), is in reality closer the manner of Gaetano’s older brother, Ubaldo (Ssn Matteo della Decima 1728 – Bologna 1781), particularly for those almost sharp-edged physiognomic traits, which especially characterize Christ’s face [1]. It is indeed a product from the Bolognese artistic environment of the last quarter of the XVIII century, and recalls the moment of turning point around the 1780, when a series of important personalities are documented: Luigi Aquisti, Petronio Tadolini, but also Giacomo Rossi, Antonio Trentanove, in addition to the Gandolfi brothers (and later Mauro as well, Gaetano’s son, 1764-1834). The key construction site, in which a few protagonists of that generation had the chance of highlighting themselves, was pointed out by Eugenio Riccòmini: the Bolognese church of Sait Giulien, rebuilt and rapidly decorated after the heartquake of 1779 and where Ubaldo Gandolfi, Giovanni Prinetti, Petronio Tadolini, and Giacomo Rossi worked together on a stucco cycle [2]. Luigi Acquisti, on his account, realized the stucco cycle of the four Sybils for the church of Santa Maria della Vita, with which he gave new splendor and monumental grandiosity to the Bolognese plaster production, rarely acknowledged up to that moment [3]. Stefano Tumidei attributed to Aquisti also a group of allegorical terracottas, now at the Davia Barellini museum of Bologna (40 cm ca.), and that testify the artist’s activity aimed at the private collectors as well [4]. This group of artworks, in its totality, and even without marking a radical turning point with respect to the XVII century tradition, clearly indicates how the general taste was moving toward an incipient neoclassicism, which perhaps finds a better correspondence in the graphic production of the mentioned Giacomo Rossi [5]. The bond with the predecessors of that generation, however, can be recognized in this group too, of which seems to exist a similarity with a stucco tondo in the church of the Arcipretale of San Giovanni in Persiceto, first work of Angelo Piò (dated 1712), and where Christ is supported by Saint John Evangelist, and not by the Madonna [6].

The language used for the realization of this Pietà surely presents the closest affinity with Antonio Trentanove’s hand. At this point, it is important to mention the great Baptism of Christ made out of stucco in the Duomo of Urbino, and documented during the last months of the 1794, and in which we can find the same sharp physiognomies together with a calm and solemn eloquence of execution, in which almost every last bit of baroque emphasis is lost [7]. The comparison between the draperies results enlightening, yet it is meaningful to also juxtapose the present work with the Sant’Antonio Abate (1778-80 ca. – Bologna’s Town Council Art Collections), referred to Trentanove in 1992 by Tumidei, who identified that piece as an indisputable work of the artist [8]. In the same way of the Pietà, the Sant’Antonio is a much refined terracotta, measuring 78 cm in height: both works must not be regarded as preparatoy models, but rather as fully completed inventions. The same reasoning is valid for the bassorilievo representing the Trapasso di San Girolamo, at the Oratorio of San Giovannino, Rimini, and already referred to Trentanove in the Confratenita of San Gerolamo’s documents, which date it before 1771 – a gift by the artist in sign of gratitude for the received economical aid during his studies in Bologna [9]. The mentioned bassorilievo is another example of a perfectly completed terracotta, both in the nude anatomies and draperies of classicist ascendance, which was typical of Trentanove. The here examined group could have been conceived as a piece for private devotion, maybe to be placed on the altar of a family’s chapel. The really extraordinary quality of the modeled stands out in a few passages like, for example, in the Christ’s abandoned legs and left arm, where Trentanove enhanced his full virtuosity, or in the exquisite expression of the Saint John’s hand holding Christ’s hand, and more in detail, the precise and delicate creation of every single finger.

Andrea Bacchi

1 Cfr. a questo proposito Claudia Fiocchetti, Addenda alla produzione plastica di Gaetano Gandolfi: il bozzetto interracotta di Palazzo Venezia “Madonna con Bambino e Sant’Enrico”, in “Studi Romani”, LV, 2007, p. 177 (con bibliografia precedente sulla produzione plastica del grande pittore-scultore).

2 Eugenio Riccòmini, Vaghezza e furore: la scultura del Settecento in Emilia, Bologna 1977, pp. 149. Cfr. anche Stefano Tumidei, Contributo a Giacomo Rossi scultore e disegnatore, in “Arte a Bologna”, II, 1992, p. 125.

3 Giorgio Galeazzi, La grande cupola di Santa Maria della Vita, in “Il Carrobbio”, XXXIII, 2007, pp. 102-106 e Giorgio Galeazzi, Luigi Acquisti (Forlì 1747 – Bologna 1823) protagonista nella decorazione neoclassica – il periodo bolognese – (parte seconda), in “Strenna storica bolognese”, LIX, 2009, pp. 279-283.

4 Stefano Tumidei, Terrecotte bolognesi di Sei e Settecento: collezionismo, produzione artistica, consumo devozionale, in Presepi e terrecotte nei musei civici di Bologna, catalogo della mostra (Bologna, Museo Civico Medievale), Bologna 1991; Galezzi, art. cit. 2009, p. 303.

5 Stefano Tumidei, Disegni di scultori bolognesi nella collezione Certani. Nuovi materiali per Giacomo Rossi, in “Saggi e memorie”, 27, 2003, pp. 400-406.

6 Riccòmini, op. cit., p. 50, fig. 8.

7 Silvia Massari, Ritornando a Trentanove tra Toscana, Umbria, Marche e Romagna, in Antonio Trentanove cfr. Stefano Tumidei, Antonio Trentanove e la scultura del Settecento in Romagna, a cura di Andrea Bacchi, Silvia Massari, Bologna 2016, pp. 25-29. Da non confondere con Antonio è Raimondo Trentanove, sul quale cfr. Silvia Massari, Una nota su Raimondo Trentanove: "the Monument to the Margrave of Anspach [not] by Canova", in Studi in onore di Stefano Tumidei, a cura di Andrea Bacchi, Luca Massimo Barbero, Venezia 2016, pp. 493-503.

8 La scheda del 1992 di Tumidei relativa a quest’opera è stata ripubblicata in Tumidei, Antonio Trentanove cit., pp. 188-189, cat. 4.

9 Tumidei, Antonio Trentanove cit., p. 308, cat. 30.