1625-1701 | Italian
Bust of Pope Innocent XI Odescalchi
This monumental bust is a museum-quality example of Roman Baroque sculpture. Crafted by the legendary Domenico Guidi and carved from Carrara marble, the impressive portrait captures the visage of Pope Innocent XI, Benedetto Odescalchi (1611-1689). It presents a larger-than-life example of Guidi’s remarkable skill as a sculptor, which ultimately made his workshop one of the most important in Rome during his age. Today, his works are rarely found on the market, particularly his extraordinary works in marble.
Pope Innocent XI was born Benedetto Odescalchi into an Italian noble family of prominent bankers. Spending his early years in banking, he eventually turned to the law, earning his doctorate in 1639. His background would serve him well in his service to the papacy, and he became known as a frugal and devout member of the Church. In 1676, he was unanimously elected Pope after the death of Clement X. During his nearly 13-year reign, he instilled his own personal ideals of austerity and frugality onto the Church, with a deep commitment to reform and piety.
He is captured here by Guidi in his traditional Pope’s mozzetta and camauro cap. A wide stole is draped over his shoulders, ornamented by acanthus leaves and the coat of arms of the Odescalchi family. It displays Guidi’s mastery over the chiaroscuro effect, particularly in the high level of contrast in his cheeks and his eyes, which Guidi achieved through various methods of high polish.
A very similar portrait sculpture of Pope Innocent XI by Guidi can be found in the collection of the Royal Castle in Warsaw. The Warsaw bust belongs to a series of portraits of popes which the Odescalchi family commissioned from Domenico Guidi in the 1690s. Compared to that example, the present bust is far more dramatic, with deeper cut lines and a more precise expression. It is likely that the present piece was seen by the Odescalchi family, who ordered a similar one to be made. The piece was almost certainly intended to be displayed in a niche, given its dramatic cutting and its roughly carved back.
Others of Guidi’s busts can be found in important collections throughout Italy, England and the United States, though many of these are lesser bronze repetitions. A bronze bust of the Pope Alexander VIII by Guidi is currently in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum (London), while a terracotta version of the same is in the Los Angeles County Museum. A bronze of Pope Alexander VIII can be found in the Princely Collection of Lichtenstein, and his impressive marble papal bust of Clement IX graces the pope’s tomb in Santa Maria Maggiore. The present bust of Pope Innocent XI stands among these impressive examples as a truly museum-quality work by this Baroque master. That ours is also a marble original makes it all the more exceptional.
Domenico Guidi was the nephew of the prominent sculptor Giuliano Finella, and in 1639, he joined his uncle in Naples in order to learn the family business. His first task was a monumental one – he assisted Finella on thirteen statues of saints for the Cathedral in Naples. It was well known that his uncle had an ongoing feud with the great Baroque sculptor Bernini, and thus Guidi never entered his workshop. Instead, he went to Rome to work for Bernini’s main rival Alessandro Algardi in 1648 and, after the master’s death in 1654, began his own independent career. His workshop quickly became one of the most popular in Rome, particularly following the death of Bernini, and he also enjoyed remarkable success in France. Today, his sculptures stand as remarkable examples of the Roman Baroque style.
46” high x 35” wide x 17” deep