Offered by Desmet Galerie
Bust of Faustina the Younger
c. 1795, circle of Bartolomeo Cavaceppi (1715-1799)
White Marble, on white circular marble socle
After Roman original now at Capitolini Museum (inv. MC0449)
H 47 x W 28 x D 18 cm (18.5 x 11 x 7 in.)
The present bust is a portrait of the empress Anna Galeria Faustina Minor (c. 130 – 175), commonly referred to as Faustina the Younger, the daughter of the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius and wife to Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Most remarkable are Faustina’s intricate coiffure and the beautiful detailing of the drapery. The empress’s forelocks are dressed in flat strands that turn sideward to form several plaits gathered into a round bun at the back of her head tying her hair together. Her face is bland and full of elegance. Her features are smooth and soft like that of a young girl. Faustina is wearing a tunica, over which a pallium is draped as if to form a frame.
Contemporary literature on Faustina is scarce and unreliable. Most of the surviving sources are not kind to her and accuse her of ordering deaths by poisoning and execution. She was also accused of instigating the revolt of Avidius Cassius against her husband. Some sources represent her as a scurrilous personality recalling stories of her adulterous encounters with sailors and gladiators and go as far as to suggest that her son Commodus was the son of one such union.
The statue respresents the finest known example of a type of original statues comprising 4 variants that all portray the young empress in a similar manner. It is presumed these statues were created on the occasion of the bestowing of the honorific title of augusta on Faustina by the Senate in 147, after the birth of Faustina’s first child, Domitia Faustina.
The present group is a late 18th century reproduction of the original Roman bust by the studio of the renowned 18th century Italian sculptor and restorer Bartolomeo Cavaceppi (1716-1799). The original bust of Faustina the Younger was found in 1570 at the Villa Hadriana and eventually donated in 1748 by pope Benedict XIV to the Capitoline Museum in Rome, where it has resided ever since.
The marble group became an immediate success after it was discovered and was copied numerous times, especially during the second half of the eighteenth century to provide wealthy British aristocrats on the Grand Tour with sculptures to embellish their country houses. Apart from Cavaceppi’s studio, several other sculptors at the time were known to have made copies of the bust, among whom Francis Harwood (1726-1783). Moreover, the bust of Faustina is seen depicted in several paintings from this period, the painting of George Legge, Viscount Lewisham by Pompeo Batoni dating to 1778 (Museo del Prado, inv. P48) being a notable example. It was Cavaceppi who restored the original bust for pope Benedict XIV in the late 1740s and afterwards produced several copies of it, which are uncannily similar to the original in the Capitoline Museum. He duplicated the bust for the Adam brothers, as well as for several other important antiquarian agents and collectors and examples of these reproductions can still be found at, for example, the Walker Gallery in Liverpool and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Bartolomeo Cavaceppi was best known for his restorations and reproductions of antique sculpture, carrying on a centuries-old tradition. He lived and worked all his life in the artists’ quarter of Rome. He was apprenticed to the French sculptor Pierre-Etienne Monnot from c. 1729 to 1733, and by 1732 had become a prize-winning student at the Accademia di San Luca. From the early 1730s he was employed by Cardinal Alessandro Albani to work on his collections of antiquities, mostly renovating sculptures.
In 1733 Clement XII bought most of Albani’s earlier holdings of antique sculpture in order to prevent their sale and export. He housed them in the Museo Capitolino and appointed Cavaceppi as a principal restorer, a position the latter kept until the end of the papacy of Benedict XIV in 1750. By the middle of the century, Cavaceppi’s reputation even extended beyond Italy and with the aid of Albani he had become an independent sculpture dealer. He was in great demand among the major collectors and agents of central Europe and England—including Thomas William Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester; Charles Wyndham, 2nd Earl of Egremont; Matthew Brettingham; Gavin Hamilton; and Thomas Jenkins. His achievements in refining the tastes of the cultured classes, especially the English milords, should not be underestimated. Charging inflated prices for elaborately restored minor fragments, pastiches and outright fakes, as well as for copies, casts and reproductions in other media, Cavaceppi made a considerable fortune, which he largely reinvested in art works for his gallery–museum near the Via del Babuino. Virtually every major collector of antiquities of the next half-century among whom the celebrated Winckelmann and many royals such as Frederick William II of Prussia, Gustave III of Sweden and Catherine the Great of Russia, bought works from his studio. In 1770, Cavaceppi was at the forefront of antiquarian entrepreneurs who supplied and restored antiquities for the Vatican’s new museum, the Museo Clementino (now Museo Pio-Clementino).
Cavaceppi worked unceasingly. Visitors such as Maria Christina of Austria and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe came to admire and buy works from his abundant stores. Prince Marcantonio Borghese even awarded him a small pension (1787) for a score of paintings and antiquities installed at the Villa Borghese of which some were subsequently transported to the Louvre.
After his death, most of his sculptures were bought by the banker Prince Giovanni Torlonia, to ornament his palace at the Piazza Venezia. Being an avid collector himself Cavaceppi also left many thousands of artefacts, including sculptures, drawings, gems and paintings.
The style of his comparatively few original works ranges from extremes of High Baroque virtuosity, as in his marble portrait of Frederick II of Prussia (Potsdam, Schloss Sanssouci) and in designs for a marble statue of St Norbert, to the more staid classicism of his marble statues of Ceres (London, Syon House) and Diana (Rome, Villa Ruffo) as well as of antico bozzetti—terracotta sketches improvising upon ancient sculptures. His major work, the marble restorations, copies, casts and reproductions, produced in his studio, in an increasingly ‘correct’ manner, fed an insatiable market and profoundly influenced the style and vocation of his contemporaries until the reaction of the generation of Antonio Canova, who adapted Cavaceppi’s new, accurate, archaeological approach to create neo-classical sculptures, competing with those of antiquity.
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