Ca’ Rezzonico – Museum of the 18th Century Venice
Dorsoduro 3136, 30123 Venice
Telefon: +39 (0)41 42730892
Ca’ Rezzonico houses an extraordinary collection of sculptural sketch models, whose provenance is just as important as the intrinsic value of the pieces. This collection is not the result of works assembled by a single collector, or purchased by the museum at different times on the antiques market, but rather the entire model collection from the studio of sculptor Giovanni Maria Morlaiter (Venice, 1699-1781), one of the leading figures of eighteenth-century Venetian art. The studio collection remained intact after the death of the sculptor, and was sold in its entirety by the heirs to the Venetian patrician Marcantonio Michiel. It later became part of the Dona delle Rose collection by inheritance, and was finally purchased by the Municipality of Venice in 1935.
The collection is comprised of about a hundred pieces in terracruda (unfired clay) and terra cotta; their uniformity and homogeneity offer the viewer the unique experience of “seeing” this eighteenth century sculptor at work in his studio and follow his creative process step by step, right from the moment in which the artist models the clay to give form to the maquette that will then be transposed into the finished work. In addition to these preliminary studies, sculpted with quick strokes of the modelling tool, the collection also includes full-scale models, finished in all their details and presented by the artist to the clients who had commissioned the work for final approval.
After many years in storage, 32 pieces were selected among the most important and best preserved, and are today exhibited to the public in the Library of Ca’ Rezzonico. The examples displayed here show a protagonist of rococo sculpture who more than any other sculptor was able to translate the luministic effects of contemporary painting into vibrant three-dimensional forms, which possess a freshness of execution that has often been compared to Sebastiano Ricci’s, who, on the other hand, was also a close friend of the artist. Helped by the ductility of the material, Morlaiter’s hand is exalted in the sinuous, quivering treatment of the surfaces which, especially in the reliefs, impart a swirling motion to the figures.
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