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Alessandro Algardi
 
 
 
Alessandro Algardi, (born July 31, 1595, Bologna, Papal States [Italy]—died June 10, 1654, Rome), one of the most important Roman sculptors of the 17th century working in the Baroque style.

Algardi, the son of a silk merchant from Bologna, was trained under Lodovico Carracci at the Accademia degli Incamminati, where he acquired the skills of a first-rate draftsman. After a short period of activity in Mantua (1622), he moved to Rome (1625), where he designed the stucco decorations in San Silvestro al Quirinale and gained some success as a restorer of classical sculptures. With the monument of Cardinal Millini (d. 1629) in Santa Maria del Popolo, the Frangipani monument in San Marcello al Corso, and the bust of Cardinal Laudivio Zacchia (Berlin), Algardi emerged as the principal rival of Gian Lorenzo Bernini in the field of portrait sculpture. Lacking Bernini’s dynamic vitality and penetrating characterization, Algardi’s portraits were appreciated for their sobriety and surface realism.

Algardi’s close association with Pietro da Cortona helped establish his reputation in Rome and also familiarized him with a classicizing style in sculpture that owed a great deal to Roman attitudes toward historical accuracy and the influence of Christian archaeology. Perhaps his most important commission in the 1630s was for the marble tomb of Pope Leo XI in St. Peter’s (1644; erected 1652). Leo XI reigned as pontiff a mere 27 days in April 1605 (the commission came from the pope’s great-nephew, Cardinal Roberto Ubaldini). Algardi emphasized Leo’s munificence with allegorical figures of liberality and magnanimity as well as the relief sculpture Cardinal de’ Medici’s Legation to France. Unlike Bernini’s tomb for Pope Alexander VII, which combined white and coloured marble with bronze, Algardi’s papal tomb was sculpted entirely from white marble.

After the election of Pope Innocent X (1644), Algardi superseded Bernini in papal favour. Between this date and his death in 1654, Algardi produced some of his most celebrated works, among them the seated statue of the pope now in the Palazzo dei Conservatori (1645) and a colossal marble relief of the Meeting of Attila and Pope Leo in St. Peter’s (1646–53), which influenced the development and popularization of illusionistic reliefs. Although he was generally less theatrical than Bernini, Algardi in this work effectively created a larger than life-size narrative whose principal events are dramatically conveyed. With his gesture of pushing away Attila, Leo points to the miraculously airborne Saints Peter and Paul, who have come to lend divine assistance. The deep shadows, emphatic gestures, and heavy drapery patterns work together to create an arresting and convincing sense of papal power. At this time Algardi also designed the Villa Doria Pamphili and a fountain in the Cortile di San Damaso of the Vatican.

Algardi’s style is less ebullient and pictorial than Bernini’s, and, even in such typically Baroque works as the tomb of Pope Leo XI in St. Peter’s (1634–52) and the high altar of San Paolo at Bologna (1641), the restraining influence of the antique is strongly evident.

Encyclopćdia Britannica

 
 
 
It is no less ironic that Cortona was the closest friend of the sculptor Alessandro Algardi (1596-1654), who is generally regarded as the leading classical sculptor of the Italian Baroque and the only serious rival to Bernini in ability. The Meeting of Pope Leo I and Attila represents Algardi's main contribution, for it inaugurates a new kind of high relief that soon became widely popular. It depicts the defeat of the Huns in 452, a fateful event in the early history of Christianity when its very survival was at stake. The subject revives one familiar to us from antiquity: the victory over barbarian forces, but now it is the church, not civilization, that triumphs.

The commission was given for a sculpture because the water condensation caused by the location in an old doorway in St. Peter's made a painting impossible. Never before had an Italian sculptor attempted such a large relief—it stands more than 28 feet high. The problems posed by translating a pictorial conception (it had been treated by Raphael in one of the Vatican Stanze) into a relief on this gigantic scale were formidable, and if Algardi has not succeeded in resolving every detail, his achievement is stupendous nonetheless. By varying the depth of the carving, he nearly convinces us that the scene takes place in the same space as ours. The foreground figures are in such high relief as to appear detached from the background. To accentuate the effect, the stage on which they are standing projects several feet beyond its surrounding niche. Thus Attila seems to rush out toward us in fear and astonishment as he flees the heavenly vision of the two apostles defending the faith. The result is surprisingly persuasive, both visually and expressively.

Such illusionism is, of course, quintessentially Baroque. Baroque, too, is the intense drama, worthy of Bernini himself, which is heightened by the twisting poses and theatrical gestures of the protagonists. Algardi was obviously touched by Bernini's towering genius. Only in his observance of the three traditional levels of relief carving (low, middle, and high, instead of continuously variable depth), his preference for frontal poses wherever possible, and his degree of restraint in dealing with the violent action can he be called a classicist, and then purely in a relative sense. Clearly, then, we must not insist on drawing the distinction between the High Baroque and Baroque classicism too sharply in sculpture any more than in painting.

 
 



Alessandro Algardi. The Meeting of Pope Leo I and Attila. 1646. Marble, 8.5 x 4.9 m.
St. Peter's, Vatican





Alessandro Algardi. The Meeting of Pope Leo I and Attila (detail)





Alessandro Algardi. The Meeting of Pope Leo I and Attila (detail)








Alessandro Algardi. Pope Liberius Baptizing Neophytes
c. 1648






Alessandro Algardi. Monument of Pope Leo XI
1634-44
Marble
Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican





Alessandro Algardi. Monument of Pope Leo XI
1634-44
Marble
Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican







Alessandro Algardi. Monument of Pope Leo XI (detail)
1634-44
Marble
Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican





Alessandro Algardi. Monument of Pope Leo XI (detail)
1634-44
Marble
Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican





Alessandro Algardi. Pope Innocentius X. Bronze, between 1645–1649.





Alessandro Algardi. San Michele arcangelo abbatte il demonio




Alessandro Algardi. San Michele arcangelo abbatte il demonio

 
 
 
 



Alessandro Algardi. Bust of Bishop Ulpiano Volpi
1640s
Bronze, height 58 cm
Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan







Alessandro Algardi. Beheading of St Paul
c. 1650
Marble, height: 286 cm
San Paolo Maggiore, Bologna







Alessandro Algardi. Bust of Monsignor Antonio Cerri
c. 1637
Marble, height 85,5 cm
City Art Gallery, Manchester






Alessandro Algardi. Heracles and the Hydra
Bronze, height: 32 cm
Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest







Alessandro Algardi. Bust of Pope Innocent X
Marble
Galleria Doria-Pamphili, Rome





Alessandro Algardi. St Mary Magdalene
1640-50
Bronze, height: 65 cm
Chiesa di SS. Vittore e Carlo, Genoa







Alessandro Algardi. St John the Evangelist
1640-50
Bronze, height: 70 cm
Chiesa di SS. Vittore e Carlo, Genoa






Alessandro Algardi. St John the Evangelist
1629
Stucco, over life-size
San Silvestro al Quirinale, Rome


 




Alessandro Algardi. St Mary Magdalene
1629
Stucco, over life-size
San Silvestro al Quirinale, Rome







Alessandro Algardi. Bust of Cardinal Giovanni Garzia Mellini
1637-38
Marble, life-size
Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome



 



Alessandro Algardi. St Philip Neri
1636-38
Marble, height c. 300 cm
Santa Maria Vallicella, Rome







Alessandro Algardi. Vision of St Nicholas
1651-55
Marble
San Nicola da Tolentino, Rome



 



Alessandro Algardi. Bust of Donna Olimpia Maidalchini
1646-47
Marble, height 70 cm
Galleria Doria-Pamphili, Rome







Alessandro Algardi. Sleep
c. 1635
Black marble, 48 x 90 cm
Galleria Borghese, Rome


 




Alessandro Algardi. Laudivio Zacchia
1626
Marble
Staatliche Museen, Berlin








Alessandro Algardi. Buste de Donna Felice Zacchia Rondanini






Alessandro Algardi. Cardinale Paolo Emilio Zacchia, 1650

 
 
 

 
 
 
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