Completed Continental European after 1800, London: Artists and Subjects, Sculpture 41 Is this bust of Raphael by the Florentine-born sculptor Torello Ambucci (or Ambuchi)?

DUR_DBM_S_48-001
Topic: Artist

Image #4 shows the artist's monogram TA on the back of the bust. I believe this is by Torello Ambucci (also given as Ambuchi), a Florentine sculptor born c.1807 and active since at least 1833, who came to England in 1848 and was active in London until at least 1862. He exhibited at the Royal Academy (1851–1860), the British Institution and Suffolk Street (Society of British Artists). He is known to have exhibited a marble bust of Raphael in 1853 at the British Institution, and I think this is that bust. He also made a bust of Michelangelo. See below:

‘Ottocento Oltremanica’: https://bit.ly/3eXyEX3
‘Mapping Sculpture’: https://bit.ly/3bKqcbx

It would be helpful to establish that the monogram is definitely used by Torello Ambucci (or Ambuchi). He appears to sign more fully in other examples of his works found online.

Jacinto Regalado, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. The bust of Raphael has been attributed to Torello Ambuchi (c.1807/1808–c.1862) and dated to 1853. This is the only example of Ambuchi’s work in a UK public collection as far as we know.

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.

40 comments

Martin Hopkinson,

I have asked Paul Nicholls compiler of Ottocento Oltremanica for an opinion

Martin Hopkinson,

Was this part of Josephine Bowes' collection or was it a later acquisition? Josephine Bowes made most of her purchases in Paris. So it is possible that the sculptor was French

Martin Hopkinson,

Ambucci exhibited from London at the 1855 Paris Exposition Universelle , then living just round the corner from Lady Eastlake
The Walker Art Gallery owns a marble bust of Michelangelo [unattributed] of this period according to Timothy Stevens

Jacinto Regalado,

Ambucci's Michelangelo was shown at the same place and year as his Raphael bust (British Institution, 1853). I cannot find any bust of Michelangelo on Art UK, but the Walker may not have its sculptures in this database yet.

Martin Hopkinson,

Paul Nicholls is sending an image to Alfonso Panzetta, author of the most recent publication on Italian sculpture of this period

Kieran Owens,

As the attached extract shows, the Morning Chronicle, of Thursday 24th March 1853, was not kind in its review of Ambuchi's (sic) bust of Raffaelle (sic). Does it describe this bust?

From an exhibition at the British Institution, the Illustrated London News, of Saturday 12th March 1859, reported that, of the few sculptural works on display, "The two most striking objects, probably, are the marble bust 'Lyric Poetry' (581) and the small whole-length figure 'The Slave of Love' (582), by Torello Ambucci, which display very careful execution, in the style of small sentiment prevalent in the schools of modern Italy."

On the 9th March 1861, the same paper, reported on the Institution's exhibition, stating that "The 'Charity' of Torello Ambucci is a cold and formal group, of the modern Italian school, finished with great neatness."

The son of Bernardo Ambuchi, a Florentine shoemaker, on the 3rd August 1850, at St. Pancras Church, London, Torello Ambuchi (sic) married Maria Isaacson, the daughter of Frederick Isaacson, gentleman (see attached).

In May 1851 they had Torello Carlo John (Jean) Ambuchi, who died one month later and was buried in the parish of St. Marylebone on the 10th June. One year later, they had a second son, also named Charles, who was 9 in the 1861 UK census, and in 1856 had Eleanor 'Elena' Maria Umittà Ambuchi, their only daughter.

In London, on the 26th August 1875, Elena married John Snell Wood, the managing director and editor of the "Gentlewoman; the Illustrated Weekly Journal for Gentlewomen". She died at 29, Kensington Court, London, in February 1919. Queen Mary, the wife of George V, sent a message of condolence, expressing her "most heartfelt sympathy."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._S._Wood


Jacinto Regalado,

Methinks the critic of the Morning Chronicle was trying too hard, as they say in America, and the affected use of "Raffaelle" as opposed to Raphael, reminds me a bit of Jane Austen's Mrs. Elton and her "cara sposo." However, it is not out of the question that he was referring to our bust.

Kieran Owens,

The Art Journal of the 1st March 1853 refers to the bust as being of 'Raffaelle Sanzio', in quotes that suggest a catalogue entry title.

During the 1830s and 1840s, Ambuchi lived and exhibited frequently in Paris. He arrived in Folkestone from France, with a passport from the Tuscan Government, on the 21st June 1848, aged 40. On the relevant certificate, and elsewhere, in many official French and British directories, art catalogues and the like, he spells his own name or is listed as Ambuchi and not as Ambucci.

Jacinto Regalado,

Benezit has him as Ambucci, and so does the 1905 RA Dictionary of Contributors.

Jacinto Regalado,

Regarding the "coarse" lower jaw in the Morning Chronicle review, image #7 shows what I suppose could be taken as such, as there is a suggestion of a proto-Art Deco simplification which may have seemed crude in 1853.

Jacinto Regalado,

It may be useful to compare this bust of Raphael to earlier ones:

By Thorvaldsen after a latter 17th century bust by Pietro Naldini:

https://66.media.tumblr.com/9f03878bde8df942a8e1080c65a7c0b3/tumblr_mge532W2uv1ql4m2so1_500.jpg

By Giuseppe Fabri (1833), this being a cast in the Royal Academy:

https://d1inegp6v2yuxm.cloudfront.net/royal-academy/image/upload/c_limit,cs_tinysrgb,dn_72,f_auto,fl_progressive.keep_iptc,w_1200/zphiowtsqrqtmdfsyjrs.jpeg

By comparison, our bust is rather less nuanced or less "sensitive," which may have struck the reviewer as crude or coarse.

Osmund Bullock,

In Italian a double 'c' followed by an 'i' (or an 'e') is pronounced as 'tch' - as in Gucci. It is unremarkable to find it in the C19th usually written in England as 'Ambuchi', the nearest phonetic equivalent. Most recorded information in the C19th, especially anything official, was not written down by the subject, but given verbally to a clerk, registrar, etc. One of the essential skills for any clerk was dictation (a skill now quite forgotten) - a knowledge of Italian spelling certainly wasn't, and most would just have written what they heard.

The 1911 Census was, famously, the first where the householder filled in the form him/herself - prior to that the enumerators walked from door to door asking questions, and filled in the details accordingly later. By 1911, though, most families of earlier immigrant stock had long since learned to spell their names the English way to avoid confusion - and in fact even at his marriage in 1850 Torello signs his surname as 'Ambuchi' in the register book...but he'd doubtless learned to do that in France already.

Jacinto Regalado,

Yes, Osmund, Ambucci is far more likely to be his real surname than Ambuchi, which both looks and sounds like pseudo-Italian.

Kieran Owens,

From as early as 1838 the artist's name was spelled Ambuchi in French catalogue and directory entries. This usage is by far the most prevalent, and it would be confusing for future researchers if it was ever to revert to Ambucci, even if that was how it appeared at the time of his birth or was as used by his father. We can be grateful that this bust wasn't sculpted by Пётр Ильи́ч Чайко́вский. Here are some versions of that great artist's name, as found in the Library of Congress catalog:

Ciaikovsky, Piotr Ilic
Tschaikowsky, Peter Iljitch
Tchaikowsky, Peter Iljitch
Ciaikovsky, Pjotr Iljc
Cajkovskij, Petr Il'ic
Tsjaikovsky, Peter Iljitsj
Czajkowski, Piotr
Chaikovsky, P. I.
Csajkovszkij, Pjotr Iljics
Tsjaïkovskiej, Pjotr Iljietsj
Tjajkovskij, Pjotr Ilitj
Čaikovskis, P.
Chaĭkovskiĭ, Petr Il'ich
Tchaikovski, Piotr
Tchaikovski, Piotr Ilyitch,
Chaĭkovskiĭ, Petr
Tchaikovsky, Peter
Tchaïkovsky, Piotr Ilitch
Tschaikowsky, Pjotr Iljitsch
Tschajkowskij, Pjotr Iljitsch
Tchaïkovski, P. I.
Ciaikovskij, Piotr
Ciaikovskji, Piotr Ilijich
Tschaikowski, Peter Illic
Tjajkovskij, Peter
Chaĭkovski, P'otr Ilich,
Tschaikousky
Tschaijkowskij, P. I.
Tschaikowsky, P. I.
Chaĭkovski, Piotr Ilich
Tchaikovsky, Pyotr Ilyich
Čajkovskij, Pëtr Ilič
Tschaikovsky, Peter Ilyich
Tchaikofsky, Peter Ilyitch
Tciaikowski, P.
Tchaïkovski, Petr Ilitch
Ciaikovski, Peter Ilic
Tschaikowski, Pjotr
Tchaikowsky, Pyotr
Tchaikovskij, Piotr Ilic

If it walks like a duck, and it sounds like a duck.........

Kieran Owens,

or, for that matter, by William Shakespeare / Shakespeare / Shakespeare / Shakespeare / Shaxspere / Shaxper / Shakespeare / Shakespeare / Shackspere / Shakespeare.....etc. etc

Kieran Owens,

....Shakspere / Shakespeare / Shakespeare / Shakespeare / Shakespeare / Shakspeyr / Shakspayr / Shackspyer / Shaxpyere / Shakysper / Shaxpere / Shaxpeare / Shacksper / Shackspeare / Shackespere / Sackspere / Shakspear / Shagspere / Shaxper / Shaxpere / Shakspere / Shakespere / Shackespere.........(all of which have been used at one time or another)

Jacinto Regalado,

I think, Kieran, both forms should be given, as in the Mapping Sculpture database. If the real surname was Ambucci, it should not be replaced by a phonetic approximation. I am somewhat familiar with this sort of problem, having been taken for things like "Juanita" and even "hacienda." My actual name, however, remains Jacinto.

Osmund Bullock,

I'm afraid your troublesome spell-correcter has been working overtime there, Kieran - you've written 'Shakespeare' [sic] eleven times!

The C16th/17th is a very different situation to our one here: the vast majority of spelling was phonetic then, and people would constantly change how they wrote even their own names (and as every schoolboy once knew, the spelling we use today was the only one the bard never used himself). By the mid-C19th English spelling had largely been standardised, but foreign languages were still a challenge. The only issue here is one of original Italian versus a long-standing French / English version used by the artist himself. I am with Jacinto on this, we need both - though one might still argue about which version should have precedence.

Kieran Owens,

In a search for the words Ambuchi + Scultore + Firenze on various Italian sites and in several books, references appear to the family of Ambuchi, including (amusingly) the artist Giacinto Ambuchi. He exhibited one work, a "Bassorilievo in gesso", in the 'Esposizione delle belle arti di Firenze' in September 1852, and was elected as an Honorary Academician to the Academy of Art and Design in Florence on the 28th August 1870. He was also mentioned in the 'Proceedings of the College of Professors of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Florence (Atti del collegio dei professori della R. Accademia di belle arti di Firenze)' in 1889.

There is also a reference to Angiolo Ambuchi, "scultore", of Firenze (1820 - 1892), as well as Antonio Ambuchi, a studio co-worker of the sculptor Lorenzo Bartolini:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lorenzo_Bartolini

As recorded in Caterina Del Vivo's "Hiram Powers a Firenze...." (L.S. Olschki, 2007), Antonio Ambuchi, "master carver and specialist in portrait busts", also worked in the studio in Florence of the American neo-classical sculptor:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiram_Powers

The only solid reference to the artist's name being Ambucci comes from Bénézit's "Dictionnaire des peintres, sculpteurs, dessinateurs et gravers". Apart from that reference, I have not found any listing for any sculptor or artist in any Italian reference work when the search name is changed to Ambucci.

It should also be noted that with the artist's name is referred to as Ambucci on the 'Ottocento Oltremanica' lis provided at the start of this discussion, his name as printed in the relevant annual Royal Academy catalogues is spelled as Ambuchi.

Kieran Owens,

That last paragraph should have read;

"It should also be noted that while the artist's name is referred to as Ambucci, on the 'Ottocento Oltremanica' list provided at the start of this discussion, his name as printed in the relevant annual Royal Academy catalogues is spelled as Ambuchi.

Jacinto Regalado,

Unfortunately, there is nothing under either surname on Art UK. Perhaps there will be once all collections get their sculpture pieces in the database (preferably with images).

Osmund Bullock,

That is interesting, Kieran. In modern Italian '-uchi' is pronounced '-uki' - but could it be that in the early C19th the rules were different, especially in the Florentine dialect (before Italian political union began the process of language unification)? The question then becomes, how was his name pronounced - '-utchi' or '-uki'? If the former (which I suspect is right), then 'Ambucci' is just a rendition into more modern Italian spelling so people pronounce it right - but it should certainly be in brackets *after* Ambuchi.

Jacinto Regalado,

I tried searching in the website for the Walker in Liverpool, but could not find a bust of Michelangelo there (the Walker's sculptures are not on Art UK).

Kieran Owens,

Osmund, my darling wife, who is fluent in Italian, confirms your statement that the ending -chi is a hard pronunciation (the middle letter being remembered by students as H for Hard), as in the English word key (as in key to the door), whereas the -cci ending is a soft pronunciation, as in cheese, or as in the above-mentioned Gucci fashion brand.

If it is concluded that this bust of Raphael is by Jacinto's proposed artist, I would support the idea that his name be primarily spelled as Ambuchi. However, rather than adding the bracketed alternative to his ArtUK database name, I would suggest that a note be placed on his biographical profile mentioning that it has, very occasionally, appeared as Ambucci. Otherwise, the names of other Italian artists - such as Bartolomeo Passarotti (also know as Passerotti and Passarotto), and Fra Bartolomeo (also known as Fra Bartolommeo, Bartolommeo OP, Bartolommeo di Pagholo, Bartolommeo di S. Marco, Bartolomeo della Porta and Baccio della Porta) - should have to have their alternatives added to their database names:

https://artuk.org/discover/artists/passarotti-bartolomeo-15291592

https://artuk.org/discover/artists/bartolommeo-fra-14721517

Etc., etc, for Italian and non-Italian artists where there are differing recorded versions.

Having to add a panoply of alternatives to the more widely and currently accepted name of an artist might open a Pandora's box of problems for ArtUK's hard-working data processors.

Jacinto Regalado,

Kieran, you shouldn't startle people with opening statements like "Osmund, my darling wife" (not that anything is supposed to startle anyone any longer for any reason). Just a thought.

Kieran Owens,

I will restrict my posts to the purely art-factual and non-personalised in the future.

Jacinto Regalado,

I suppose it's possible that the monogram may be AT instead of TA, or that even if TA, it may belong to a different sculptor. Ideally, we would locate the Michelangelo bust and compare its signature to that on this bust, but that may not be possible any time soon, if at all.

Thorvaldsen (whose first name was Albert) used an AT monogram, but it is not the same as ours, and his known Raphael bust is not this one.

Thank you to Martin Hopkinson for forwarding this message from Paul Nicholls:

'Alfonso Panzetta has kindly replied saying that despite the small amount of material he has on the artist it looks right and compatible with what he knows of his work:

"A proposito del busto, è verosimile che sia suo...l'ho confrontato con le poche opere di Ambucci che ho in archivio, torna la medesima maniera di trattare il marmo. Non è certo un autore di primissimo piano, ma il busto è gradevole e ben condotto."'

Jacinto Regalado,

It's very good to have expert opinion. I suppose it's a case of "se non è vero, è ben trovato." However, it seems many Italian sculptors of this period are similarly obscure or under-documented.

Alfonso Panzetta's assessment is that it is probable or likely ('verosimile') that the bust is the work of Ambucci/Ambuchi (and the word 'sia', subjunctive version of 'is', inherently conveys something short of absolute certainty).

To pick up and support Kieran's proposal about the presentation of this sculptor's name, there are several precedents we can follow concerning non-native artists who forged successful careers in Britain:

Pieter Lelye, for example, we know as Peter Lely both on ArtUK and more generally.
Angelika Kaufmann we know as Angelica Kauffmann on ArtUK, though both Tate and the RA record her as Angelica Kauffman.

Jacinto Regalado,

I am now inclined to go with Ambuchi. That Infant Bacchus from 1833 was probably signed that way and thus listed under T. Ambuchi (note his full first name is not used, presumably because only the signature and the date on the work were known). I expect the Ambucci arose from people (like me, formerly) assuming Ambuchi was a phonetic corruption of Ambucci, which seems more "genuinely" Italian (at least to non-Italians).

Jacinto Regalado,

Assuming Katharine Eustace is the relevant Group Leader, and given the expert opinion of Alfonso Panzetta, does she think it appropriate to conclude this discussion with an attribution to Torello Ambuchi?

From the moment we knew that a Torello Ambuchi (c.1807/8–c.1862) had exhibited a bust of Raphael at the British Institution in 1853, we were very close to home, but that it was signed with a monogram remained, and remains, an issue. Given the disparate spellings of the sculptor’s surname, some discussion was given to the phonetics [-cci = bacci as in Italian for kisses, -chi as in ’backy, old slang for tobacco] and transliteration of foreign and émigré names: Kieran Owens supplying us with a staggering variety for both Tchaikovsky and Shakespeare as but two examples of this common problem. Newspapers in the main plumped for Ambucci, but parish registers, passports and other official sources, including the annual Royal Academy catalogues, provide a more authoritative use of Ambuchi. Jacinto Regalado’s sale references suggest that he usually signed himself ‘T. Ambuchi’. Keiran Owens has discovered three sculptors in Florence contemporaneously working under the same name. Perhaps as was often the case, Torello was a member of a dynasty of sculptors, or, not being a member of a dynasty, but with the same name, who, finding competition too steep, set out for Paris and ultimately London. We are grateful for Alfonso Panzetta’s view that ‘è verosimile che *sia* suo …’, the emphasis is mine, taking into account Richard Green’s point. It seems the consensus is for Art UK to use Ambuchi, and for the text to note that this was sometimes contemporaneously incorrectly given as Ambucci.

It is perhaps worth remarking on the nineteenth-century fascination with the iconography of Raphael, itself an interesting subject. Jacinto Regalado provides a number of examples of other historicising busts. The master drawing thought to be a self portrait by Raphael in the Ashmolean shows the sitter as a mere boy and under a hat, but the long hair, simple undershirt and gilet are there already. This was a very familiar image. It had been in Sir Thomas Lawrence’s collection, where it was well known to artists, and was bought by public subscription for display in the Old Ashmolean in 1846. It had been a source for a plaster figure commissioned by Lawrence from John Flaxman and exhibited with its pair, Michelangelo, at the Royal Academy in 1826. Replicated several times, they may well have influenced Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse (1824–1887) in the bronze pair exhibited on his return to Paris from England in 1855 (the Michelangelo is now in the Staatliche Museen, Berlin). The sculptor John Thomas provided a relief of Raphael among other Worthies for a chimneypiece at Somerleyton Hall, Suffolk in the mid-1850s.

The pairing of these two towering Renaissance artists was not unusual, and perhaps if there is indeed a Michelangelo in the collections of the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, it may be found to have a similar monogram for signature, and a similar attribution can be then made for it.

Martin Hopkinson,

The Walker's bust is nothing like this and is not by Ambuchi
no 4149 is catalogued on p.321 of Edward Morris and Martin Hopkinson, Walker Art Gallery Liverpool Foreign Catalogue 1977 and illustrated on p. 483 of the plates volume
It was presented by John Neale Lomax in 1877 who also presented an unrelated copy of a self portrait by Canova .No 4101 p. 291 pl. p.424
It is unlikely that their sculptors will ever be identified

Jacinto Regalado,

Ambuchi did, of course, make a bust of Michelangelo which was exhibited with his Raphael bust in 1853 at the British Institution, but it may be lost or more likely untraced.