Andrea Bolgi

Andrea Bolgi
Born 1605
Died 1656 (aged 5051)
Education Florence
Known for Sculpture
Notable work St Helena, St. Peter's Basilica
Movement Baroque
Patron(s) Pope Urban VIII
Pope Innocent X
Giovan Camillo Cacace
The classically balanced Saint Helena in the crossing of St. Peter's Basilica, Rome

Andrea Bolgi (22 June 16051656)[1] was an Italian sculptor responsible for several statues in St. Peter's Basilica, Rome. Towards the end of his life he moved to Naples, where he sculpted portrait busts. He died in Naples during a plague epidemic.[2]

Early life

Bolgi was born in the marble-working city of Carrara.[3] His training was in Florence, which was a conservative center in the seventeenth century.

In 1626, along with Francesco Baratta, he was sent to Rome, where he joined the studio of sculptors who employed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini[4] and were influenced by Bernini's Baroque style. From 1626, before the expansion of Bernini's atélier, Bolgi supplanted Giuliano Finelli (1601–1653) as the "only man of consequence" in Bernini's studio, Rudolph Wittkower observed, in attributing to Bolgi the Bust of Thomas Baker begun by Bernini, now at the Victoria and Albert Museum.[5]

St. Peter's

Bolgi created his Saint Helena (1629–1639) for one of the niches at the crossing of St. Peter's Basilica, one of the choice commissions of his generation, for which he had doubtless been promoted by Bernini in preference to Finelli.[6] Bolgi laboured for a decade on the figure that epitomised his career and, in some degree, his detraction: Wittkower remarked on its "classicizing coolness, its boring precision",[7] and its position directly across from Bernini's masterful Saint Longinus invited unflattering comparisons.[8]

Between 1647 and 1650 all the spandrel spaces above the arches of the nave of St. Peters were filled with stucco figures. Their execution was divided among sculptors with connections with Bernini, who seems to have exercised loose control over the compositions. In the first bay on the left, the spandrel figures of The Church and Divine Justice were given to Bolgi, who was paid for them in September 1647 and in March 1648. Pope Innocent X was dissatisfied with Bolgi's figures, which were taken down, adjusted to everyone's satisfaction, and reinstalled [9]


After 1650 Bolgi moved to Naples, where he was noted for his portrait busts.[10] He was called to Naples by Giovan Camillo Cacace, a lawyer and member of the Accademia degli Oziosi. For this client Bolgi created two sculptures in the Cacace Family chapel in San Lorenzo Maggiore. The kneeling figures are Giuseppe and Vittoria De Caro. Iconographically they derive from the scheme of the Fabrizio Pignatelli statue by Michelangelo Naccherino. The movement and whirling of the cloths is a clear step forward in the development of the baroque language, until then not known to the Neapolitan public. Beneath the sculptures are busts of Francesco De Caro and Giovan Camillo Cacace. The latter is renowned for its vivid portrayal of the client.

Main works


  1. Tiraboschi, Girolamo (1786). Notizie de' pittori, scultori, incisori, e architetti natii degli stati del Serenissimo Signor Duca di Modena. Presso la Societa' Tipografica, Modena; Digitized by Googlebooks. p. 124.
  2. G. Tiraboschi.
  3. His early biography is in Lione Pascoli, Vite de' pittori, scultori ed architetti... (1736) vol. ii, 436-39, and in G.-B. Passeri, Vite de' pittori, scultori ed architetti... (1772), Jacob Hess, ed. (1934).
  4. Rudolph Wittkower, Bernini, passim.
  5. R. Wittkower, "Bernini Studies - II: The 'Bust of Mr Baker'", The Burlington Magazine 95 No. 598 (January 1953:18-22).
  6. Wittkower 1953:21.
  7. Wittkower, Art and Architecture... (1973:306)
  8. Robert Enggass, "New Attributions in St. Peter's: The Spandrel Figures in the Nave" The Art Bulletin 60.1 (March 1978:96-108) p. 100, quotes Roberto Cicognara's negative assessment in 1824.
  9. Enggass 1978:96-108) pp 99-101.
  10. Martinelli, Valentino (1959). "Andrea Bolgi a Roma e a Napoli". Commentari. 10: 137–58.; Nava Cellini, Antonia (1962). "Ritratti di Andrea Bolgi". Paragone. 13: 24–40.

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