Lot 139: Francesco Cabianca (1665-1737) Italian, first quarter 18th century , a terracotta bozetto of Saturn
European Sculpture and Works of Art
July 9, 2008
London, United Kingdom
Description: Saturn biting the child held in his arms, part of an old label at his feet
The majority of Francesco Cabianca's works were created for his native city of Venice. However, he also worked in Ragusa, modern-day Dubrovnik, after he moved to the Dalmatian coast in a bid to improve his poor health in a warmer climate. He created the sculptural altars for both Santa Chiara and San Trifone in the new city. Although the sculptor won many prestigious commissions back in Venice his life was dogged by illness and misfortune and he died in extreme poverty.
Cabianca's Saturn, commissioned by Peter the Great of Russia, was a lasting triumph. It formed part of the series of a hundred allegorical marbles, made to line the walks of the Tsar's Summer Garden, St Petersburg. In the August of 1716 Peter the Great's agent Count Savva Raguzinskij arrived in Venice with a mandate from the Tsar to acquire life-size figures "of the best art." Three figures: Vertumnus, Pomona and Saturn, were commisioned from Cabianca. These were completed by April 1717 when they were shipped to St Petersburg aboard the frigate, John Judith.
The Summer Garden is situated on an island adjacent to Peter's Summer Palace and remains one of St Petersburg's most popular parks. In the late 20υth century the marbles were moved indoors for preservation and copies made for the park.
The large-scale marble Saturn differs from the present small-scale bozetto in several details. These include the drapery which in the marble flows from the headdress and leaves the legs free. The child is more dramatically posed in the marble with arms outstretched and head tossed back. The terracotta displays more sensitivity and naturalism in the modelling, with the plump struggling child wrapping his arms under his father's arm and kicking his legs. These changes are perhaps explained by the change in scale. The large garden marble needed to be bolder in its conception and simpler in its lines.
The subject of the sculpture is filled with drama and violence. Saturn, the father of Zeus, having castrated and deposed his own father as ruler of the gods, was haunted by a prophecy that he would himself be overthrown by a son. In consequence he devoured his own children to ensure he kept power. One, however, was saved by Saturn's wife, who hid the infant Zeus and instead handed her husband a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes which he swallowed before realising his mistake. Zeus lived to overthrow his father.
C. Semenzato, La Scultura Veneta del seicento e del settecento (Venice, 1966) pp. 40-2
Dimensions: measurements note 33cm., 13in.
Literature: Sergej Androsov, Pietro il Grande collezionista d'arte veneta (Venice, 1999) p. 218, no. 40; Sergej Androsov, Pietro il Grande e la scultura italiana, Saint Petersburg (2004) p. 256