The representation of half-length saints is probably inherited from the production of Gothic reliquary busts , the wooden core of which was plated with silver or gilt-copper leaves. In Naples, during the 17th century, the bust became an autonomous genre released from its original function. Anne and Joseph's half-length composition was part of this Neapolitan tradition of silver busts of saints, of which the most important ensemble is in the chapel of San Gennaro. On January 13, 1527, a contract was signed between January, the patron saint of Naples, who died a martyr a millennium before, and the Neapolitans. In exchange for his protection, they commited to constitute a treasure and to build a chapel dedicated to the saint. Thus, the greatest sculptors and goldsmiths from the 1660s to the mid-19th century were commissioned to produce about fifteen colossal silver busts to complete the 14th century reliquary bust containing a few drops of Saint January's blood. Influential artists and craftsmen collaborated on this ambitious project, such as the sculptor Cosimo Fanzago with the goldsmith Aniello Treglia (Bust of Saint Euphebius, 1672) and Domenico Antonio Vaccaro with an anonymous silversmith (Saint Sebastian, 1697-1709). Other busts were the work of a single goldsmith, or a family of goldsmiths, such as Saint Irene by Carlo Schisano (1733) and Saint Theresa by Andrea and Domenico De Blasio (1715).
Made by the De Blasio family, one should mention two groups which are comparable yet later than the present lot – exhibited in Maastricht by Gallo Fine Art for the 2018 TEFAF, and presenting Saint Joseph and Child and Saint Vincent Ferrier, by Baldassarre de Blasio, after models by Giuseppe Picano, circa 1750.
Although little is known about Nicola Cangiani, he is from another well-known Neapolitan goldsmith dynasty and was elected "Console dell'Arte" (assay-master) in Naples in 1703. The remarkable quality of the two present groups, probably intended for private devotion, is a proof of Cangiani's skill. The goldsmith has perfectly achieved to transcribe the modelling of the bodies, the texture of the hair and the richness of the clothes. He was also able to capture the realistic details of the characters, such as the wrinkled and smiling face of Saint Anne. Finally, the magnificent engraving, notably on the clothes adorned with floral patterns on matted ground highlighted with gold, underlines the preciousness of these two groups.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.