Photo credit: John Rylands Research Institute and Library
Can we find out more about the sculptor? He was working in Naples in the late 19th Century.
This discussion is now closed. The artist was unknown until we received a submission suggesting the name of Salvatore Errico (1848–1934). This has now been confirmed and the bust dated to 1886. A biography of the artist has been produced for Art UK.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion. To anyone viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.
This is Sculpture Bust of Caesar Augustus
The artist was from Naples and exhibited in the metalwork section of the 'The Italian Exhibition' in London in 1888:
In 'Napoli: Il Centro Antico' (1994) the following is included:
"In the mid-nineteenth century Salvatore Errico, sculptor and antiquarian, had a foundry where valuable bronze works were carried out. At the behest of his will, on his death, the plaster casts were destroyed..."
The 1886 exhibition catalogue for the 'Oggetti Artistici di Metal...', specifically mentions the artist's "Bronze head: Dante Alighieri; imitation from the ancient." (See attached). This is possibly the same work as is in the John Rylands' collection (which is, unquestionably, a bust of Dante).
An advertisement (attached) for his workshop and foundry in Naples appeared in the 'Annuario d'Italia, Calendario Generale del Regno' of 1893.
1886 (if it is accepted that this is the same work as catalogued in the 'Oggetti Artistici di Metal...' mentioned above.)
A clearer version of that advertisement is attached.
Another version of the same bust is here:
The sculptor's vital dates are 1848-1934. See below:
Many versions of this bust exist; it was evidently a popular piece. The original was presumably a medieval or Renaissance bust, perhaps derived from Dante's death mask:
Another example, at Sudbury Hall, was produced by the Naples firm of Sabatino de Angelis:
That raises the question of where such an earlier original may be (or have been if no longer extant). Is it not more likely to be a 19th-century piece -whether by Errico as sculptor or not - multiplied as casts by him and others? If the de Angelis one at Sudbury is secondary I'm a bit surprised. It will certainly be there because the second son of the 5th Lord Vernon (the Hon. William John Borlase-Warren-Venables-Vernon, 1834-1919) was a great Dante scholar and much of his library is still in the house. I'd have thought it more likely he would have had a 'prime' version.
Pieter, the Sabatino de Angelis firm was apparently a purely reproductive business, largely though not exclusively focused on antiquities from the National Museum in Naples.
I expect this is the bronze bust of Dante shown by Errico at the 1886 exhibition and explicitly said to be after or derived from a much older original, and since a different Naples firm produced the same bust, it would not have been created by Errico (although the latter listed himself as both a sculptor of original works and a copyist of antiquities from the National Museum and various archaelogical excavations).
As best I can find, the bust is based on the supposed death mask in Florence, which may not be a death mask but a fragment from a now lost sepulchral effigy:
Here is a close up of the "mask" in Florence (note that the eyes are not closed):
Alfonso Panzetta, in the most comprehensive study of Italian 19th C. sculpture available (2003), provides little information about Errico. No certain dates. He describes him as having a foundry, and as the author of small animal bronzes and exhibitor of two works at the National Exhibition of Bologna in 1888. Probably the information given by the director of the current family website, mentioned by Jacinto Regalado, is the most up-to-date.
Errico exhibited in Bologna in 1888: Piccolo marinaio (a bronze head) and Dopo il pasto (bronze); in Florence in 1889, he exhibited four works: Vittorio (135 lire); Psiche (35 lire. Received an award at the Exhibition in Paris); Dante (35 lire); Battente pompeiano (a door from Pompei. 17 lire, likewise awarded a prize in Paris); another sculpture of the same title, probably a second copy of the foregoing.
I think Errico was more a craftsman than an artist. A lot of similar craftsmen were involved in a brisk trade of replicas of the antique made for the tourist trade, of which even Alma Tadema availed himself. In the Italian Exhibition of 1888, he is listed more as a manufacturer of "metal work" than as a sculptor in his own right. This head of Dante may be indeed be identified as the one exhibited in the 1886 exhibition (that depends on the documentation) but I think it could be just one copy of a series. Sculptors at Errico's level would often present a model at a public exhibition and then execute a number of bronze casts to satisfy commissions received.
Jacinto's link says that the plaster on offer is from:
Museum: National Archaeological Museum, Naples
Time Period: Gothic
1911 Catalog ID # - 5166
which suggests it is a copy of a much earlier work currently in Naples that was itself based on the 'death mask'. I can't find any images of this, but the resemblance between that, the Errico ones and the de Angelis ones (here's another copy: https://bit.ly/3op4yAP) make it seem likely that these are high-end touristware, both then and today based on a medieval original in Naples.
Here is the V&A's version (maker unspecified), which is "a reproduction from the bronze original in the Museo Nazionale at Naples, said to have been made from a cast taken after death":
It makes sense that the copies made by Errico, Sabatino de Angelis and probably other producers in Naples were casts of a work in the Museo Nazionale there, which may have come from the Palazzo Farnese in Rome (see below):
As for Errico, I'm sure his chief business was selling copies of antiquities or famous sculptures, not original works, though he was apparently a sculptor. This Dante bust, however, is clearly a copy.
Dated to the 16th century, this could be the original, which is in the collection of the Museo di Capodimonte in Naples:
Dated to the 16th century and acknowledged as being from the Farnese collection, this could be the original, which is in the collection of the Museo di Capodimonte in Naples:
Yes, that all fits: Farnese provenance, Renaissance bust, Naples museum collection. It is obviously the same bust as ours, including the inscription in front. Perhaps at one point it was in the National Museum, which is really for antiquities, and may have been given or transferred to another local venue.
This might be an original work by Errico, possibly his Psyche (click on "View details" next to the small image for the full listing):
See attached, which adds a bit more on exhibition details: one could clearly chase more through catalogues but does this need to go any further?
Pieter, I would use "Dante's purported death mask," since it is not definitely established that it represents a death mask as opposed to a fragment from a funerary monument.
Also, in the first line of the second paragraph, it should be "he (not his) mainly appears..."
OK: thanks and apologies for the typo.
Pieter, thank you for the draft biography, Jacinto, for your comments. I'll be proofreading this too before it goes up, but I've made those changes now.
Forty-two new artist biographies obtained from Art Detective have been added to Art UK now. I'm gradually adding links to the discussions (six done so far, e.g. https://artuk.org/discover/artists/pinel-armand-felicien-182018921894)
Katharine Eustace has sent a summary with a view to closing this, but she'd prefer to see that Capodimonte image first.
Kieran, have you already tried contacting that collection, or shall I? Contact details for their editorial staff are on the website.
This appears to be the original bronze in the Capodimonte museum, reproduced twice last year in the local press in relation to Dante events there, with other items from the collection but no other information. There does not yet seem to be an 'object-search' web facility for Capodimonte, only 'collection highlights' pages.
Here is the bust of Dante from the Capodimonte Museum's collection, as it appears in the following article:
Although a side-on view, it is the same as our discussion's one.
Will Art UK be updating the artist's dates of 1848-1934, as posted by Jacinto on 13/05/2021?
Yes, we'll base our update on group leader Katharine Eustace's recommendation. She was hoping for an image of the Capodimonte bust before concluding her summary. Many thanks to both you and Pieter for finding that.
This one (although it has no image on Art UK) sounds like it could also be by Errico from the description and title: https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/dantes-248303
It might be but we know Sabatino de Angelis also cast a reproduction of which an identified copy is at Sudbury Hall, Derbys. (NT): others may also have done. The name 'Dantes' appears on all, as on the Capodimonte original.
Jeremy Warren, the specialist scholar in European bronzes, writes in response to my enquiry: 'I haven't seen the Naples bust, but can confirm that it is from the Farnese collection and is first recorded in the Palazzo Farnese in Rome in 1644, displayed alongside the famous bronzes by Guglielmo della Porta, now also in the Naples Museum. In the 1996 catalogue of the Farnese collections it was dated to the 16th century as a cast, although it has been suggested that the rather crude inscription on the front might have been added later, around 1800. The image is thought to be based on a lost portrait of Dante by the Florentine painter Taddeo Gaddi in Sta Croce in Florence. There was a great wave of interest in Dante's appearance when, in July 1840, the oldest surviving portrait of the poet was discovered in the Cappella della Maddalena in the Bargello. This was wrecked by restoration but a tracing was made from it before then, and circulated widely in the form of prints, including from the Arundel Society. It sparked a large number of depictions of Dante in the decades ahead and your bust can be seen as part of that fashion.'
In his two volume catalogue The Wallace Collection Catalogue of Italian Sculpture (London, 2016), Jeremy Warren's entry for another type of nineteenth century bronze Bust of Dante (cat 155, inv. no. S150) gives a full and fascinating account of the evolution of the representation of Dante's image.
Errico biography update attached.
Pieter, in the penultimate paragraph, first sentence, it should read "statues *of* two dancing fauns"
Pieter, thank you for the updated biography. Jacinto, thank you too.
Salvatore Errico (1848–1934)
Dante Alighieri ‘after the antique’
Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) is to Italian literature what Milton is to English. Both dwelt on the Alpha and the Omega of human existence, and both like Shakespeare in their notoriety, spawned an iconography of historicising and narrative representational paintings and portrait busts. In the case of Dante, to this day such busts are being made in Milan and elsewhere. This creation of an icon was recently surveyed in an exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, entitled Dante: The Invention of Celebrity (2021).
There is some controversy over what constitutes the earliest likeness of Dante, but the iconographically accepted pronounced nose and hooded cap would seem to have appeared barely thirty years after the poet’s death, in miniature in the illuminations to one of the earliest copies of the Divine Comedy (dated to the 1350s), now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (acc. no. MS. Holkham misc. 48; https://visit.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/event/the-divine-comedy-from-manuscript-to-manga). A likeness and its attributes, the nose, chin, cap and hood, usually laureated became fixed in posthumous portraits in the mid-fifteenth century.
It has been suggested that there was once a monument on the site of the poet’s grave in Ravenna. However, the history of Dante’s repeated burials at Ravenna refer only to a Roman sarcophagus in which his bones were originally buried, and later reburied. Professor Gervase Rosser in the catalogue to the afore mentioned exhibition, considers that none of the references to a death mask or monument have ‘any basis in historical fact’. http://blogs.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/taylorian/tag/dante-alighieri, or https://www.torch.ox.ac.uk/article/the-image-of-dante-the-divine-comedy-and-the-visual-arts-part-i. In 1842 Charles Lyell published The Poems of the Vita Nuova and Convito. In it he reproduced an engraving of a demi-figure of Dante, then in the Palazzo Torrigiani del Nero, Florence, with an authentication by the then Marchese Torrigiani, that stated it was a terracotta taken from a death mask made at Ravenna in 1321. This had descended through the family of Torrigiani sister’s in-laws. It is now in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence. Charles Lyell himself owned a version of a so-called death mask which he illustrated in The Poems (Bodleian Library LP 797).
The Bodleian Library holds three after-casts, all said to be ‘from a death mask’, and period photographs of two very similar casts. Catalogued by Dana Josephson these can be found at https://digital.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/collections/portraits/dante-alighieri. Two of these have provenances to the early nineteenth century Florentine sculptors, Lorenzo Bartolini (now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; acc. no. WA.OA1767), and Stefano Ricci. The latter was responsible for the Dante cenotaph in Santa Croce of 1829. Most of the memorabilia in the Bodleian have a provenance, through Paget Jackson Toynbee gift in 1917, to Seymour Stocker Kirkup, the nineteenth century Dante enthusiast who founded the University of Oxford’s Dante Society in 1876. He owned both the casts that had belonged to Bartolini and Ricci. Significantly, he too had owned the plaster cast now in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, which for source material has been considered the original. None of these plasters, however, appear to be what is properly understood as a death mask, and, as the flash-lines vary, it appears that they are not all of the same date or from the same source.
The Bodleian also has a version of the bronze cast (acc. no. LP 804) which carries the Fonderia Sommer Napoli stamp, of the version now in the Museo di Capodimonte, Naples (no. 10516). Jeremy Warren has confirmed for us that the version in the Capodimonte was first recorded in 1644 in the Farnese Collection. It is likely to be sixteenth-century Florentine bronze work, and the earliest bronze on which all the much later Neapolitan bronzes, including the type under discussion here, were based.
On the day this discussion was first posted (13.05.21), Kieran Owens gave us an entry in the 1886 Exhibition in Bologna: ‘[No.] 16 Testa di bronzo – Dante Alighieri; imitazione dall’antico. Salvatore Errico, Napoli’. In conclusion we should give Salvatore Errico the credibility he deserves, while acknowledging that what was thought to be ‘antique’ at the time, may not have been quite so.
Minor corrections/updates to bio attached.
Re: the Bodley version; Giorgio Sommer (b.1834 Frankfurt - d. 1914 Naples) is well recorded as a photographer but with little obvious link-up to his apparent sideline in running a prolific repro. foundry, though presumably not doing casting work himself.