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ANTONIO GENTILI DA FAENZA AND THE LARGE CANDLESTICKS IN THE TREASURY OF ST PETER'S

Of the many anonymous works of the period only one small statue of Venus and Cupid, once in the Lederer Collection in Vienna,18 has been attributed to Gentili, and in fact it betrays rather the style of a mannerist artist from Northern Italy.
   
It seems to me that from the information given by Baglione we can now identify another of the master's works, namely, the two metal torch-bearers which once stood in the Chapel of the Most Holy Sacrament and are now in the Treasury of St Peter's. After Baglione none of the old guide-books makes any further mention of Gentili's candlesticks. Only Lanciani 19 tells us once more that Gregory XIII 'placed on each side of the altar two magnificent metal candlesticks, a masterpiece by Antonio da Faenza'. But he adds: 'They must have perished in the vicissitudes of the end of the eighteenth century'. Only two large candlesticks from the Cinquecento, now in the first room in the Treasury,20 have come down to us (Fig. 2), and there is a clear possibility of identifying them with those described by Baglione as Gentili's masterpiece. Some scholars have assigned them to Antonio Pollaiuolo,21 others to the Cinquecento, and Cascioli mentions the name of Gentili as a possibility. If we study the two candlesticks we clearly see how two such contradictory hypotheses could have been advanced. As we shall see, the stem is in Renaissance style, more precisely that of the Venetian School of Andrea Riccio, while the statuettes that decorate it have been added in Baroque style, completely changing the general appearance of the candlesticks.
   
The original slender and light Renaissance form has disappeared. The additions have so modified the look of the candlesticks that they now have the heavy form of the Baroque. The additions can be distinguished from the original part without difficulty, for in style and technique they are completely different. The original stem has a far rougher surface, the casting is not so clean, and the gilding is consequently heavier and thicker. The additional pieces, on the other hand, are shinier and cleaner with mercury gilding brought to a very high polish, a technique we find from the time of Cellini onwards. And furthermore the additional parts are attached either by coarse soldering or heavy screws.
   
If the additions are removed the general appearance of the candlesticks changes. They become much smaller,22 because they shed the base23 beneath the dragons and the large bowl on top with the tritons below and the puttini above it. They also lose the lions' heads above the feet, the six statues of the minor prophets (Obadiah, Micah, Joel on the first candlestick, Amos, Hosea, and Jonah on the second), with their names on the tablets; the columns with the sphinxes and the winged devil; and the statuettes of the six Sybils, three in the upper section of each candlestick, with the brackets beneath. Perhaps the original candlesticks terminated in a spike for the candle and a smaller bowl.
   
Thus stripped of later additions the stem becomes much easier to identify. The form is light and elegant and recalls other pieces from Northern Italy, especially from the school of Andrea Riccio (1470-1532), and in particular a candlestick once in the Palazzo Spada-Varaldi in Bologna24 and now in the Cleveland Museum of Art25 (Fig. 3). This piece in Cleveland dates from the beginning of the Cinquecento and is extremely alike in many points to those in St Peter's. The design of the base especially is similar, with the same antique masks in festoons and the same hyenas mounted on dragons. It is a form still reminiscent of the typically medieval one. The statuettes also are very close to Riccio's style, particularly the fauns above and below the tabernacle and beside the Sybils, and the Tritons below the elaborate additions supporting the large bowls. The same types may be found, for example in Andrea Riccio's large candlestick in the Santo of Padua (between 1507 and 1516)26 and also among the numerous statuettes by the master and his school now scattered in various museums, notably in Vienna27 and Paris.28 But even other motifs in the candlesticks of St Peter's, the eagles, masks, and festoons, may be paralleled in Riccio's work, in the Paschal candlestick in Padua,29 for example, and in many other works by his school. Accordingly we need not hesitate to attribute the candlesticks in their original and primitive form to the school of Riccio, or to date them at the beginning of the Cinquecento.
   
The attribution of the additional portions, specially the Prophets and Sybils, to a particular master is more difficult. If the tradition current in the basilica is true, that before becoming part of the Treasury they stood in the Chapel of the Most Holy Sacrament, it would lend colour to the report by Baglione that they were worked by Antonio Gentili. The fact that the master added only new pieces would not discount this possibility, because it is precisely these that give the candlesticks their completely different appearance.
   
We do not know why the basilica had the old candlesticks remade in the second half of the Cinquecento - perhaps in order to modernise the old ones, which no longer corresponded to the taste of the period, or because the statuettes in the niches were stolen during the Sack of Rome, or because they seemed too profane for the mentality of the Counter-Reformation. These are hypotheses, no more. The new decoration tallies with the iconography of the period. The collocation of Prophets and Sybils is common, in the Borgia Apartments and in the Sistine Chapel for example, and since in this case we have six Prophets and six Sybils instead of twelve as in the Sistine Chapel, it would seem that the remaining six Prophets and Sybils were to be represented in two other candlesticks.30
   
Apart from the documentary evidence of Baglione, who speaks of Gentili's candlesticks in the Chapel of the Most Holy Sacrament, the statuettes stylistically recall the work of the master as we see it in the figures he made for the smaller

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18 SANGIORGI: fig. 8; L. PLANISCIO: Piccoli bronzi italiani, Malan [1936], Pl. 193, n. 334.
19 R. LANCIANI: Storia degli scavi di Roma, IV, Rome [1912], p. 59.
20 G. CASCIOLI: Guida al Tesoro di S. Pietro, Rome [1925], p. 14.
21 MORONI: Dizionario, Vol. IX, p. 71; Descrizione della Basilica Vaticana [1874], p. 84, P. 155, Benvenuto Cellini.
22 Height: 2 metres, 37 centimetres.
23 Height: 43 centimetres.
24 L. PLANISCIG: Andrea Riccio, Vienna [1927], fig. 377, p. 324.
25 My thanks are due to Dr Planiscig for this information.
26 L. PLANISCIG: Andrea Riccio, fig. 345; MILLIKEN: Catalogue of the John L. Severance Collection, No. 23, Pl. XII.
27 L. PLANISCIG: Andrea Riccio, figs. 392, 393.
28 Ibid., fig. 420.
29 Ibid., figs. 372, 421.
30 P. HEITZ: Oracula Sibyllina, Strasbourg [1903].
L. FREUND: Studien zur Bildgeschichte der Sibyllen, Diss., Hamburg [1932]; C. DE TOLNAY: Michelangelo, II, Princeton [1945], p. 152.

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