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  • I Volpini, una famiglia di scultori tra Lombardia e Baviera: (secoli XVII– XVIII)
  • Wolfgang Jahn
I Volpini, una famiglia di scultori tra Lombardia e Baviera: (secoli XVII– XVIII). By Pietro Delpero. [Annali dell'Istituto storico italo-germanico in Trento. Monografie, 44.] (Bologna: Società editrice il Mulino. 2006. Pp. 286. €20.00 paperback.)

During the seventeenth century and in the first half of the eighteenth century, we witness a consistent migration of Italian artists toward the noble, episcopal, and abbatial courts of southern Germany. This migration includes frescanti, painters, and architects, but also above all sculptors and plasterers to a large extent coming from the zone of the Lombard lakes. This specialized manpower was attracted to the intense construction activity that followed the Thirty Years'War and to the consequent application of decorations in plaster, coming, during the seventeenth and above all the eighteenth century, from the transalpine countries of the Catholic religion and German language: from Austria and Germany, up to Bohemia and to Silesia.

A special example of this phenomenon is the Volpini family, particularly Giovanni Battista und and his son Giuseppe. The first important representative was Giovanni Battista Maestri, named il Volpini. The most important areas of activity of this sculptor were the Milan cathedral, the Sacred Mountain Calvary of Domodossola and Varallo, and the Chartreuse of Pavia. The author utilizes the relevant literature and draws a convincing picture of the artist's activity.

For the reviewing historian in particular, the obvious and impressive connection in this work is that between polities and art. A special merit of this work is the placing of the artist and his works in the environment of the political situation. Delpero provides a detailed analysis of the situation at the court [End Page 377] in Munich under Elector Max Emanuel (1662–1726). This ruler ambitiously competed with the imperial court in Vienna and the French king in Paris. The elector became one of the most important patrons of Giuseppe Volpini.

In one chapter the author examines the cooperation of the patron and artists, using the example of Bavaria and Franconia. He describes the specific role of the artists at the Bavarian court and the organization of the art enterprise. He also describes the role of the artist and of the art at the court as an expression of the importance of the royal patron.

Giuseppe Volpini (1670–1729) began his career in 1704 as a court sculptor ("Hofbildhauer") at the court of the Protestant margrave of Ansbach. A detailed catalogue identifies all of the extant works of Volpini in Franconia and in Bavaria. From his activity for the margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach, different works were produced between 1701 and 1711 in the churches at Gunzenhausen, Haundorf, Laubenzedel, and Merkendorf. The claim that he was also active in Würzburg is likely based on error.

From 1711 onward, Volpini relocated to the Catholic electoral court of Munich and in 1715 was appointed the court sculptor. The catalogue of the works he produced for his patron Max Emanuel in Munich is more extensive. A series of his works are to be found in the park at castle Nymphenburg. Another chapter concerns itself with the work of Volpini in castle Schleissheim. Here he helped in the arrangement of the vestibule (stucco works) and Sala Terrena (stucco and terracotta reliefs). The works are described in the work catalogue mentioned. A personal and local index and illustrations complete the work.

In 2003 the author submitted in Augsburg a thesis on Giuseppe Volpini as a court artist in Ansbach and Munich. [End Page 378]

Wolfgang Jahn
Haus der Bayerischen Geschichte, Augsburg


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