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Bernardo and Francesco Maria Schiaffino
White Carrara marble, 220 x 100 cm
Mirror Gallery (inv. no. 661)
The sculpture is clearly inspired by the group of Pluto and Proserpine sculpted by Gian Lorenzo Bernini between 1621 and 1622 for Cardinal Scipione Borghese, still on display in his Roman villa and the undisputed apogee of the Baroque plastic arts. It represents a natural progression from this in a late Baroque direction. As in the Roman model, Pluto, god of the underworld, abducts the daughter of Ceres, as the three heads of Cerberus snarl at the entrance to hell. The two divine figures are elevated above the craggy rock typical of Genoese sculpture, from Filippo Parodi onward, and from which tongues of flame and wreaths of oak blaze.
Regarding its attribution, new findings in the archive have made it possible to bring the date traditionally given to the sculpture forward from 1724-1725 to around 1705. This fact consequently also shifts the work’s authorship from Francesco Maria Schiaffino, who returned from Rome in 1724, to his older brother Bernardo, to whom its design should be attributed, even if its actual execution may have been shared between the two sculptor brothers. In 1705 Bernardo had both the status and the technical skills to execute a piece of such importance, while the younger brother, who was 17 at the time, may have assisted him.