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Pietro Pacilli
1720–1773

San Camillo de Lellis

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Medium
Bozzetto in terracotta 
Size
19 ¼ × inches · 490 × mm
Notes
Sculpted in 1751-3

This remarkably fluid terracotta bozetto was made in preparation for Pietro Pacilli’s most important public commission, a large-scale marble statue of San Camillo de Lellis for the nave of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Expressively modelled, this terracotta sculpture is a rare and significant work made by a major Roman sculptor at a transformative moment of European sculpture. Pacilli began his working life on the great Baroque decorative projects initiated in the seventeenth century, but he found success as a restorer of ancient sculpture working to finish antiquities for a tourist market, becoming an important figure in the emergence of an archaeologically minded Neoclassicism. Pacilli trained Vincenzo Pacetti and provided important decorative work for the Museo Pio-Clementino, at the same time he is recorded restoring some of the most celebrated antiquities excavated and exported during the period.

Pacilli was born into a family of Roman craftsmen, his father Carlo was a wood carver, and Pacilli is recorded working with him on the Corsini Chapel in San Giovanni Laternao as early as 1735.[1] In 1738 his terracotta model of Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife won the first prize in the second class of the sculpture concorso at the Accademia di San Luca, this is particularly notable as Bartolomeo Cavaceppi came third. He worked as a carver and stuccoist completing works for the churches of San Marco and SS. Trinita dei Domeniciani Spagnoli. Pacilli operated as a sculptor and restorer of antiquities from his studio at the top of the Spanish Steps, close to Santa Trinita dei Monti, where he is listed as a potential vendor to the Museo Pio-Clementino in 1770.[2] In 1763 Pacilli completed a silver figure of San Venanzio for the treasury of San Venanzio. He is recorded as Pacetti’s first master and it was evidently through Pacilli that he began to acquire his facility as a restorer of ancient sculpture. Pacilli, at his studio ‘poco prima dell’Arco della Regina alla Trinita dei Monti,’ exercised, what the nineteenth-century scholar, Adolf Michaelis called  ‘rejuvenating arts’ on several important pieces of classical sculpture, including in 1760 the group of a Satyr with a Flute for the natural brother of George III, General Wallmoden, Hanovarian minister at Vienna.[3] In 1765, Dallaway and Michaelis record that Pacilli was responsible for the restorations, including the addition of a new head, to the Barberini Venus which he had acquired from Gavin Hamilton.[4] The Venus was then sold to Thomas Jenkins, who in turn passed it on to William Weddell at Newby Hall. In 1767 Pacilli exported a series of ancient busts ‘al naturale’ including portraits of Antinous, Julius Ceaser and Marus Aurelius, also a statue of a Muse and a Venus.[5] As early as 1756 Pacilli seems to have been operating as an antiquarian, helping to disperse the collection of the Villa Borrioni. Pacilli supplied sculpture to notable British collectors, including Charles Townley, who on his first trip to Italy purchased the Palazzo Giustiniani statue of Hecate from Pacilli. Pacilli was involved with the Museo Pio Clementino from its conception, supplying busts of Julius Ceaser and a Roman Woman as well as completing stucco putti surmounting the arms of Pope Bendedict XIV to signal the entrance to the new Museo Critiano.[6]

In 1750 Il Diario Ordinario del Chracas announced that Pacilli had begun work on a sculpture of San Camillo de Lellis for St Peter’s.[7] Camillo de Lellis founded his congregation, the Camillians, with their distinctive red felt crosses stitched on black habits in 1591. Having served as a soldier in the Venetian army, Camillo de Lellis became a novitiate of the Capuchin friars, he moved to Rome and established a religious community for the purpose of caring for the sick. In 1586 Pope Sixtus V formerly recognised the Camillians and assigned them to the Church of Santa Maria Maddalena in Rome. Camillo de Lellis died in 1614 and was entombed at Santa Maria Maddalena, he was canonised by Benedict XIV on June 26, 1746. It was an occasion that prompted the Camillians to make a number of significant artistic commissions, including two canvases by Pierre Subleyras showing episodes from San Camillo’s life which they presented to Benedict XIV.[8] In 1750 Pacilli was commissioned to fill one of the large niches on the north wall of the nave with a sculpture of San Camillo.

The present terracotta bozetto presumably had two important functions, to enable Pacilli to work out his ideas for the finished sculpture and at the same time to show his design to the various commissioning bodies. In this case it would have been Cardinal Alessandro Albani and Monsignor Giovan Francesco Olivieri, the ‘economo’ or treasurer of the fabric of St Peter’s.[9] Previously unrecorded, this terracotta relates to a smaller, less finished model which has recently been identified as being Pacilli’s first idea for his statue of San Camillo. Preserved in Palazzo Venezia, in Rome, the terracotta shows San Camillo with his left hand clutching his vestments to his breast; the pose and action more deliberate and contained than the finished sculpture.[10] In producing the present terracotta Pacilli has expanded and energised the figure. San Camillo is shown with his left hand extended, his head turned to the right, apparently in an attempt to look east down the nave of St Peter’s. The model shows Pacilli experimenting with San Camillo’s costume; prominently on his breast is the red cross of his order, whilst a sense of animation is injected into the figure through the billowing cloak which is pulled across the saint’s projecting right leg. The power of the restrained, axial contrapposto of bent right leg and outstretched left arm, is diminished in the final sculpture where a baroque fussiness is introduced to the drapery. What Pacilli’s terracotta demonstrates, is that he conceived the figure of San Camillo very much in line with the immediate tradition of depicting single figures in St Peter’s; the rhetorical gesture of dynamic saint, arm outstretched, book in hand, head pointed upwards was perhaps borrowed from Camillo Rusconi’s 1733 sculpture of St. Ignatius Loyola, which was to the immediate left of the niche allotted to Pacilli. Rusconi’s example may also have prompted Pacilli’s addition in his model of a seated putto on the base of the sculpture clutching a crucifix, acting, as it does, as a visual balance to Rusconi’s sculpture which depicts Loyola trampling on a personification of heresy.

Elisa Debenedetti has proposed that a third model, painted white and installed in the church of Santa Maria Maddalena in Rome represents a development of the composition, but given how close it is in composition to the finished marble, it is more likely to be a model made after the project was completed.[11] This makes the reappearance of the present sculpture particularly significant. We know from the correspondence of the sculptor Domenico Scaramucci, that Pacilli had initially been commissioned to complete a second sculpture for St Peter’s, that of San Gerolamo Emiliani, but he never completed the sculpture.[12] Pacilli’s terracotta is exquisitely modelled, from the carefully accurate facial features, to the details of costume; whilst the back has been only roughly finished, consistent with a sketch not designed to be widely viewed. It survives in excellent condition with some modern restorations making good a few old and minor damages. Such bozetti became hugely desirable towards the end of the eighteenth century and were avidly collected by connoisseurs and artists, the present large, boldly modelled and beautifully finished figure is not only one of Pacilli’s masterpieces, but a particularly impressive terracotta made for the most important space in Rome. 

References

  1. Elisa Debenedetti, ‘Lambert Sigisbert Adam e Pietro Pacilli due protagonisiti della distensione del Barocco,’ in ed. Elisa Debenedetti, Scultore Romane del Settecento, v. II, p.59. 
  2. See: Seymour Howard, ‘An Antiquarian Handlist and the beginnings of the Pio-Clementino’, in Antiquity Restored, Essays on the Afterlife of the Antique, Vienna, 1990, p. 145. 
  3. Michaelis was referring to Pacilli’s rival Cavaceppi, see Adolf Michaelis, Ancient Marbles in Great Britain, Cambridge, 1882, p.62. For the Wallmoden sculptures see: ed. C. Boehringen, ‘Die Skulpturen der Sammlung Wallmoden: austellung zum Gedenken an Christian Gottlob Heyne 1729-1812’, Gottinga, 1979, pp.39-41. 
  4. Adolf Michaelis, Ancient Marbles in Great Britain, Cambridge, 1882, Newby, no.20. Michaelis gives two accounts of the restoration of the ‘Jenkins Venus’ one citing Pacilli and the other Cavaceppi as the restorer, the sculpture has subsequently been exhibited as Cavaceppi’s work, see: Carlos Picon, Bartolomeo Cavaceppi; Eighteenth-century Restorations of Ancient Marble Sculptures from English Private Collections, exh. cat., London (Clarendon Gallery), 1983, pp.48-51.
  5. See Elisa Debenedetti, ‘Lambert Sigisbert Adam e Pietro Pacilli due protagonisiti della distensione del Barocco,’ in ed. Elisa Debenedetti, Scultore Romane del Settecento, v. II, 2002, p.63. 
  6. See: Carlo Pietrangeli, The Vatican Museums, Rome, 1993, p.45.
  7. Chracas, Diario Ordinario, 14 august 1751, p.10. 
  8. Eds. Edgar Peters Bowron and Joseph J. Rishel, Art in Rome in the Eighteenth Century, exh. cat., Philadelphia (Philadelphia Museum of Art) 2000, cat. no.287, pp.438-439. 
  9. See Elisa Debenedetti, ‘Lambert Sigisbert Adam e Pietro Pacilli due protagonisiti della distensione del Barocco,’ in ed. Elisa Debenedetti, Scultore Romane del Settecento, v. II, 2002, pp.71-72, n.60. 
  10. Cristiano Giometti, Sculture in Terracotta: Museo Nazionale del Palazzo di Venezia, 2011, cat. no. 100, pp.99-100. 
  11. Elisa Debenedetti, ‘Lambert Sigisbert Adam e Pietro Pacilli due protagonisiti della distensione del Barocco,’ in ed. Elisa Debenedetti, Scultore Romane del Settecento, v. II, 2002, p.64 and 71, n.59. 
  12. See Elisa Debenedetti, ‘Lambert Sigisbert Adam e Pietro Pacilli due protagonisiti della distensione del Barocco,’ in ed. Elisa Debenedetti, Scultore Romane del Settecento, v. II, 2002, pp.71-72, n.60.