Francois Duquesnoy (1597-1643)
Flemish sculptor, who was active mostly in Rome, where he established himself, along with Alessandro Algardi (1598-1654), as one of the leading Baroque sculptors, after the incomparable Bernini (1598-1680). Best friend of the French artist Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), Duquesnoy is known in France under the name of Francois Flamand and in Italy as Francesco Fiamingo. His style of Baroque sculpture was less emotional than Bernini's and more in line with the quietly dramatic style of Algardi. Duquesnoy's most famous works of Baroque art include his statue of St Andrew (1629-33, Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican) and St Susanna (1630-33, Santa Maria di Loreto, Rome). According to his biographer Giovanni Battista Passeri (1610-79), Duquesnoy found decision-making an impossible chore and suffered from severe depression
EVOLUTION OF SCULPTURE
Early Life and Study
Born in Brussels in 1597, Duquesnoy learned the art of sculpture from his father Jerome Duquesnoy I (1570-1641), who was court sculptor to Archduke Albert and sculpted the famous 1619 Manneken Pis fountain in Brussels. Francois trained with his father and soon came to the attention of the Archduke who gave him the means to study in Rome in 1618. Francois was to stay in Rome for the remainder of his career. He took the opportunity to study the antiquity and classical arts which decorated the city, reportedly climbing up the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius to determine how it was cast. In 1624 he was introduced to the painter Nicolas Poussin, who shared his liking for depicting figures in a classical but emotionally detached manner. They shared lodgings and became best of friends, debating fine art theories and networking in the artistic community together.
One of Duquesnoy's early works includes the Bacchanalia of Putti (1630, Galleria Spada, Rome), a marble bas-relief. Duquesnoy collaborated with Bernini and Poussin on the design and subject matter. The four angels in the relief received popular acclaim and helped Duquesnoy receive further commissions. Around the same time, he was commissioned to restore an ancient marble statue known as the Rondanini Faun (1625-30, British Museum, London). He amplified the torso into a characteristically Baroque expansive gesture, which suited contemporary taste but which was bitterly criticised by Neoclassicists at the end of the 18th century. As headless statues were not considered interesting, it was quite common for ancient works to be 'restored' at the time in this way. Duquesnoy also restored a Roman torso of Adonis, which is now in the Louvre.
Statues of Saint Susanna and Saint Andrew
The Statue of Saint Susanna (a virgin matryr) was little known until the 18th century when a marble copy by Guillaume Coustou was sent to Paris. After this, it received much critical acclaim. Duquesnoy's Susanna, stands calmly looking down at the crowds below. Her expression is sweet and softly depicted. Her empty gaze is mesmerizing.
Duquesnoy's Statue of Saint Andrew was created for one of the four corners of the crossing of Saint Peter's Basilica. The other three corners were decorated by statues of Bernini: Saint Longinus, Veronica and St Helena. Duquesnoy was apparently annoyed when Bernini insisted on having his statue of Saint Veronica in the only corner which receives direct sunlight. According to Duquesnoys diarist, John Evelyn, it is said that Duquesony 'died mad' because his St Andrew 'was placed in a bad light'. Although both artists are classified as Baroque, Bernini's figures are more dramatic, arms flung theatrically outwards, whilst Duquesnoy's Saint Andrew is more restrained.
Duquesnoy's reputation was also advanced by his production of numerous smaller sculptures - reliefs, figurines and statuettes of religious subjects in wood, ivory, bronze, terracotta and wax. Representative works by him can be seen in the best art museums around the world, including: a marble, bas-relief Victory of Sacred over Profane Love (1630, Galleria Spada, Rome); Bust of Antoine Triest (Louvre) and a small bronze statue Mercure et l'Amour (Louvre).
In 1643, Duquesnoy was about to sail for France, Poussin had recommended him to become royal sculptor to Louis XIII with the goal of founding a Royal Academy of Sculpture in Paris. However, just before the journey began, Duquesnoy died, having suffered from gout and depression for years - no doubt aggravated by the news that his brother, Jerome Duquesnoy I (1602-54) also a sculptor, was executed by strangulation for committing sodomy in a church.
Duquesnoy's characteristic putti, which were plump and carefully observed from living children influenced other important artists, including the Flemish virtuoso Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) who received a cast of the Bacchanalia of Putti. Duquesnoys most influential students were Artus Quellinus, who bought Duquesnoy's classical Baroque style back to Amsterdam with him; and Orfeo Boselli who would go on to write works which would influence the development of Neoclassicism in later years.
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