At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Pietro Bracci - sculptor

Artist best known for Oceanus statue at Trevi Fountain


Pietro Bracci's statue, Oceanus, is the  centrepiece of the Trevi Fountain in Rome
Pietro Bracci's statue, Oceanus, is the
centrepiece of the Trevi Fountain in Rome
The sculptor Pietro Bracci, who left his mark on the architectural landscape of Rome with the colossal six-metre high statue Oceanus that towers over the Trevi Fountain, was born on this day in 1700 in Rome.

The monumental figure is shown standing on a chariot, in the form of a shell, pulled by two winged horses flanked by two tritons. Bracci worked from sketches by Giovanni Battista Maini, who died before he could execute the project.

He also completed work on the fountain itself, built in front of Luigi Vanvitelli’s Palazzo Poli. This was started by Bracci’s close friend Nicola Salvi, who had been commissioned by Pope Clement XII to realize plans drawn up by Gian Lorenzo Bernini that had been shelved in the previous century. Salvi died in 1751, before he could complete the work. Giuseppe Pannini was also involved for a while before Bracci took over in 1761.

The work confirmed Bracci as a major talent of his time in the field of sculpture, one of the greatest of the late Baroque period, continuing in the tradition established by Bernini in the previous century that gave the city of Rome so many wonderful monuments.

Bracci’s most significant works in addition to the Trevi are considered to be four monumental tombstones, two of which are in St Peter’s Basilica.

The monumental tomb of Maria Clementina Sobieski in St Peter's Basilica
The monumental tomb of Maria Clementina
Sobieski in St Peter's Basilica
The most beautiful, and arguably the one that provides the fullest expression of Bracci’s talent, is the one that commemorates Maria Clementina Sobieski (1742), descendant from the Polish king, who was the wife of the "Old Pretender", James Stuart, one of the Catholic Stuart claimants to the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland. The sculpture is in polychrome with an image of Maria Clementina in mosaic held aloft by Charity.

Bracci also sculpted the figures for the tomb of Benedict XIII (1734) in Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome, which was designed by the architect Carlo Marchionni, and for the tomb of Benedict XIV (1763–1770) in St Peter’s Basilica, completed with the help of his pupil Gaspare Sibilia, as well as the polychromatic tomb of Cardinal Giuseppe Renato Imperiali (1741) in Sant'Agostino in Rome.

The son of a wood sculptor, Bracci was an apprentice in the workshop of the sculptor Camillo Rusconi for six years. He became a member of L’Accademia dell’Arcadia in Rome and of L’Accademia di San Luca and opened his own workshop in the Piazza Trinità dei Monti in 1725.

He married Faustina Mancini, the daughter of the painter Francesco Mancini. They had a son, Virginio, who grew up to be a sculptor and architect, who was heavily involved with the construction of the town of Servigliano in the Marche, and gave much help and advice to the young Antonio Canova.

Bracci died in Rome in Rome in 1773 and was buried in the Pantheon, where his son had commissioned a bust of his father by Vincenzo Pacetti. 

The Trevi Fountain stands in front of the Palazzo Poli. It is  one of Rome's most visited tourist sites.
The Trevi Fountain stands in front of the Palazzo Poli. It is
one of Rome's most visited tourist sites.
Travel tip:

The Trevi Fountain takes its name from its location in the Trevi district of Rome. An earlier fountain on the site was demolished in the 17th century. Nicola Salvi’s design was chosen after entries were invited to a competition. The idea of incorporating the fountain as part of the front of the Palazzo Poli came from a project by Pietro da Cortona, but the central triumphal arch with its mythological and allegorical figures, natural rock formations, and gushing water was Salvi’s idea. The immense fountain stands some 85 ft (26m) high and is approximately 160 ft (49m) wide. Its water, from the ancient aqueduct called Acqua Vergine, was long considered Rome’s softest and best tasting. The water today is not considered fit for drinking. The coins that are thrown into the fountain are collected daily and donated to charity.

The Piazza di Spagna and the Via Condotti seen from the Piazza Trinità dei Monti, above the Spanish Steps
The Piazza di Spagna and the Via Condotti seen from the
Piazza Trinità dei Monti, above the Spanish Steps
Travel tip:

The Piazza Trinità dei Monti, where Bracci opened his first workshop, is a square in central Rome adjoining the Renaissance church of the Santissima Trinità dei Monti, at the top of the Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti, better known as the Spanish Steps. During Springtime, just before the anniversary of the foundation of Rome, April 21, part of the steps are covered by pots of azaleas. Recently, the Spanish Steps have included a small cut-flower market. The steps are not a place for eating lunch, being forbidden by Roman urban regulations, but they are usually crowded with people.

More reading:

How Nicola Salvi's designs were chosen for the Trevi Fountain

Gian Lorenzo Bernini - the architect, more than any, who conceived the look of Rome

The consecration of St Peter's Basilica

Also on this day:

1942: The birth of 15-times world motorcycling champion Giacomo Agostini

2008: The death of Mario Rigoni Stern, war hero who became bestselling novelist

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