The leading sculptor of Baroque Italy, Gianlorenzo Bernini, reshaped the ancient city of Rome in a series of brilliant architectural and sculptural projects that affirmed its identity as the seat of the Roman Catholic Church. In 1667, Pope Clement IX appointed him to supervise the renovation of the Ponte Sant’Angelo, the ancient bridge linking the city of Rome to the Vatican. Bernini designed ten angels, each carrying an instrument of Christ’s Passion, to stand on the bridge’s balustrades and guide the pilgrim’s approach, physically and spiritually, toward Saint Peter’s. The execution of eight of the over-life-size angels was assigned to other sculptors, while the master himself made two: Angel with the Superscription and Angel with the Crown of Thorns. The pope deemed that the angels carved by Bernini with his own hand were too beautiful to be exposed to the elements, and copies were created for the bridge. The original pair of angels remained in Bernini’s studio and were eventually bequeathed to the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte.
The terracotta angels in the Kimbell collection, conceived as a complementary pair, are among the surviving bozzetti (sketches) that trace Bernini’s successive ideas for the compositions. Leaving the imprint of his fingertips and toolmarks in the clay, he modeled in a rough, expressive manner, pinching and smoothing the forms into place.
(Alexander von Frey, Europe and New York);
his widow, Erika von Frey [d. 1987], New York and Bremen, Germany, 1951;
purchased by (Rosenberg and Stiebel, New York), 1954;
purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Richard S. Davis, Wayzata, Minnesota, and London, 1954;
purchased by (Wildenstein and Co., Inc., New York);
purchased by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 1987.