One of the most important acquisitions of any of the college museums this year was the recent purchase by the Fogg Museum of 24 terra cotta statuettes in the manner of the great 17th century culptor. Bernini. Known in Italy as the Piancastelli Collection, they were first brought to this country in 1905 and are the largest group of such work outside of Rome.
The statuettes served as models made in preparation for important works of sculpture. As such they were very rarely preserved, quite in contrast to sketches for paintings which were saved by almost all the great masters. The terra cotta sketches are very fragile which may well account for their rareness. The works are of great importance to art students for they often show greater freshness and originality than the finished product and sometimes in this soft material the very finger of the sculptor can be traced.
The Fogg group is of special interest because some of the statuettes are models of famous Baroque works of Bernini. Among them are studies for the figure of Longinus, designed for one of the piers under the dome of St. Peter's in Rome, a figure for the gold and bronze Chair of St. Peter in the apse, and five angels intended for the Ponte S. Angelo on the Tiber.
It is entirely possible that some of the figures are from the hand of Bernini, himself, and all are an expression of his greatness. They show his invention, his knowledge of the technique of sculpture, and his use of movement and contortion to express extreme emotion. They completely represent the genius and the powerful temperament of the great Baroque artist.
The Fogg is fortunate in having the models in the style of this particular artist, for Bernini was the foremost sculptor of his day. He was patronized by a series of Popes, filled Rome with examples of his architecture and sculpture, and he was employed by Charles I of England and Queen Christina of Sweden. He was also invited to France by Louis XIV to do a portrait bust, the fullest expression of the Baroque style in sculpture.