La Preghiera (The Prayer)

Depicting a young female, half-draped in a robe, kneeling in prayer.

Bartolini, after studying in Florence and then apprenticing in workshops in Carrara and Voltera, moved to France in 1799 as an enlisted soldier. There, due to the intervention of Elisa Baciocchi, Napoleon's sister, Bartolini's fortunes rose considerably as he joined the studio of David and became friendly with Ingres (see A. Panzetta, Dizionario degli scultori Italiani dell'Ottocento, Turin, 1989, pp. 22-23). He was able to return to Italy in 1807 with a celebrated reputation and an international network of friends and patrons.

Commissions from some of Europe's grandest families —counting both powerful politicians and influential patrons of the arts — soon followed. He provided both portaits and memorial sculpture to clients such as the Duke of Devonshire and the Marquess of Londonderry in England, Count Portalès and the Prince of Beauvau in France and to the very grandest of the Grand Tourists in Italy such as the Polish Princess Sofia Zamoyska Czartoryski and the Russian Prince Nicholas Demidoff.

Despite his success and society clientele, many of Bartolini's works still retain a powerful simplicity and deep reliance on religious themes. But Bartolini was, however, clearly not immune to representing these religious images in the form of beautiful, young and naked women. And no work reflects this more than what is, perhaps, his most famous sculpture, the Fiducia in Dio (see Lorenzo Bartolini, exhibition catalogue, Palazzo Pretorio, Prato, 1978, no. 14, pp. 50-51). It depicts an entirely nude woman kneeling, her arms folded in her lap, and was commissioned by Countess Rosa Trivulzio Poldi in 1834 as a memorial for her husband and is now in the Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan. Two years later, in 1836, Bartolini slightly revised the composition of Fiducia in Dio for a new commission for the monument to Count Pietro Recchi destined for the Cimitero della Certosa in Ferrara (see S. Beresford, Italian Memorial Sculpture, London, 2004, pl. 50, p. 45 and M. Tinti, Lorenzo Bartolini, Rome, 1936, vol. II. pl. LXI, p. 62). Commissioned by Recchi's brother, Gaetano Recchi, the relief was only delivered in January 1838 as the first version was rejected due to flaws in the marble. The present lot is the original version which had, apparently, remained in the collection of Bartolini's descendants until recently. The second, final, version remains in Ferrara and the plaster model is in the Gipsoteca Bartolini of the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence.

L. Scardino, 'Recenti ritrovamenti fra Ferrara e la Toscana', in Libero: Ricerche sulla scultura del primo novecento, Florence, no. 27/28, Spring/Autumn 2006, pp. 31-38.

Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 6 July, 2007, lot 150.

About Lorenzo Bartolini

Italian, 1777-1850, Florence, Italy, based in Florence, Italy