Art-historian, Dr.Philip Ward-Jackson reports on an interesting new one-day biennial conference on the sculptor Baron Carlo Marochetti (1805-1867).
The 18th September of 2015 witnessed an event which it is hoped may become a fixture in the sculpture historian’s calendar, the first Biennale d’Études Marochettiennes. This took place in the Château of Vaux-sur-Seine, not to be confused with the better-known Vaux-le-Vicomte. This is the family home of the descendants of the 19th century sculptor, Baron Carlo Marochetti, half an hour by train to the north west of Paris.
The event was hosted by one of the descendants, Carl-Emmanuel Hedengren, who still spends part of the year at Vaux. His wife, Caroline, who has recently made noteworthy contributions to Marochetti scholarship, put together the programme, which included a talk by herself on the iconography and personal significance of the unusual angel which Marochetti sculpted in 1841 to surmount the gable of the church of Saint Germain l’Auxerrois in Paris (fig.1). The subject was well-chosen for this event. The angel stands, facing the Louvre, on the back of a large tortoise. Calling her talk ‘L’envolée vers la gloire’ or ‘Taking Flight for Fame’ Caroline Hedengren-Dillon finds in this angel not only an expression of personal intent by the artist, but an example of his penchant for all things Italian renaissance, in this case the combination of word and image known as the impresa.
One of the favourite imprese of the Medici family featured the oxymoronic motto ‘festina lente’, or ‘hasten slowly’. This motto could be represented in diverse ways, but one of the most frequent, found in several Florentine decorative schemes, consists of a figure with a sail standing on the back of a tortoise. Given the scope of Marochetti’s ambitions as sculptor to the ruling dynasties of France, England and Italy, there was a certain plausibility about this. At the same time, placed third in the programme as if in obedience to the injunction, this talk set the tone for the event. That same international range of his activities is one of the chief challenges facing any student of Marochetti’s work. The motto ‘make haste slowly’ perhaps describes the best way of facing up to the challenge.
This first Marochetti study day drew in contributors from all the above three countries, and though, in the absence of instantaneous translation, the flow of information was not as smooth as it might have been, all will have come away with a sense of what such collaboration might achieve. Added to this was the enjoyment of a beautiful site, the sixteenth-century château, visited in Carlo Marochetti’s time by many creative people, including Delacroix and Millais, and home also to Carlo’s son, the diplomat-sculptor, Maurizio Marochetti.
Main image: Baron Carlo Marochetti in 16th century costume (detail of photo c. 1860).
The 1st Biennale d’Études Marochettiennes took place at Château de Vaux-sur-Seine, France on 18 September 2015.