Alessandro Algardi : biography
Alessandro Algardi (31 July 1598 – 10 June 1654) was an Italian high-Baroque sculptor active almost exclusively in Rome, where for the latter decades of his life, he was, along with Francesco Borromini and Pietro da Cortona, one of the major rivals of Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
The Fuga d’Attila relief
Algardi’s large dramatic marble high-relief panel of Pope Leo and Attila(1646–53) for St Peter’s Basilica, and reinvigorated the use of such marble reliefs. There had been large marble reliefs used previously in Roman churches,For example, Gian Lorenzo’s father, Pietro Bernini’s crowded Assumption of the Virgin for Santa Maria Maggiore(1606) but for most patrons, sculpted marble altarpieces were far too costly. In this relief, the two principal figures, the stern and courageous pope and the dismayed and frightened Attila, surge forward from the center into three dimensions. Only they two see the descending angelic warriors rallying to the pope’s defense, while all others in the background reliefs, persist in performing their respective earthly duties.
The subject was apt for a papal state seeking clout, since it depicts the historical legend when the greatest of the popes Leo, with supernatural aid, deterred the Huns from looting Rome. From a baroque standpoint it is a moment of divine intervention in the affairs of man. No doubt part of his patron’s message would be that all viewers would be sternly reminded of the papal capacity to invoke divine retribution against enemies.
Algardi died in Rome within a year of completing his famous relief, which was admired by contemporaries.
In his later years Algardi controlled a large studio and amassed a great fortune. Algardi’s classicizing manner was carried on by pupils (including Ercole Ferrata and Domenico Guidi). Antonio Raggi initially trained with him. The latter two completed his design for an altarpiece of the Vision of Saint Nicholas (San Nicola da Tolentino, Rome) using two separate marble pieces linked together in one event and place, yet successfully separating the divine and earthly spheres. Other lesser known assistants from his studio include Francesco Barrata, Girolamo Lucenti, and Giuseppe Peroni.
Papal favour under Innocent X and Spanish commissions
Pope Innocent X, Capitoline Museums.
With the death of the Barberini Pope Urban VIII in 1644 and the accession of the Pamphilj Pope Innocent X, the Barberini family and their favorite artist, Bernini, fell into disrepute. Algardi, on the other hand, was embraced by the new popeAlgardi’s official 1645 portrait statue of Innocent X is preserved in the Palazzo dei Conservatori on the Campidoglio. and the pope’s nephew, Camillo Pamphilj.His portrait bust of Camillo Pamphili, 1647, is at The Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg . Algardi’s portraits were highly prized, and their formal severity contrasts with Bernini’s more vivacious expression. A large hieratic bronze of Innocent X by Algardi is now to be found in the Capitoline Museums.
Algardi was not renowned for his architectural abilities. Although he was in charge of the project for the papal villa, the Villa Pamphili, now Villa Doria Pamphili, outside the Porta San Pancrazio in Rome, he may have had professional guidance on the design of the casino from the architect/engineer Girolamo Rainaldi and help with supervising its construction from his assistant Giovanni Francesco Grimaldi.Montagu, Jennifer. Alessandro Algardi, Vol. 1, Yale, 1985, pp. 94–6, The casino was a showcase for the Pamphili collection of sculpture, ancient and contemporary, on which Algardi was well able to advise. In the villa grounds, Algardi and his studio executed sculpture-encrusted fountains and other garden features, where some of his free-standing sculpture and bas-reliefs remain.
In 1650 Algardi met Diego Velázquez, who obtained commissions for his work from Spain. As a consequence there are four chimney-pieces by Algardi in the Royal Palace of Aranjuez, and in the gardens, the figures on the fountain of Neptune are also by him. The Augustinian monastery at Salamanca contains the tomb of the Count and Countess de Monterey, another work by Algardi.