Lucia Simonato

Lucia Simonato

Wallace Fellow
Terracotta between the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries: New Sculptural Practices and Fascination for the Renaissance
2019-2020 (September-December)


Lucia Simonato is tenured Researcher in the History of Early Modern Art at the Scuola Normale Superiore, where she received her PhD and now teaches. She has been a Fellow at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz, CASVA in Washington, D.C., the INHA in Paris, and a visiting professor at the University of Freiburg in Germany. Her principle research topics are the history of sculpture, artistic literature, and papal patronage in the Baroque age. She has published two monographs, Impronta di Sua Santità. Urbano VIII e le medaglie and Bernini scultore. Il difficile dialogo con la modernità, and edited many volumes, including Cardinal Gianfrancesco Albani and the Arts between Rome and Urbino. A Rediscovered Portrait.

Project Summary

Between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Europe there are many examples of interest in terracotta: by collectors, who wanted to have small clays of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries as signs of a ‘portable Renaissance;’ and by the sculptors, who found in the plastic possibilities of this medium a privileged vehicle for expression. Following the fil rouge of the materiality, and thinking with a theoretical approach about the definition of the status of these objects (both of the Renaissance and modern age), the project aims at relating these two approaches to terracotta, in order to verify the presence of shared evaluations: formal, stylistic and conceptual. This joint perspective would allow for a focus on what at the end of the nineteenth century clearly amounts to the affirmation of new parameters for the critical consideration of sculpture: the devaluation of the myth of the technique and the new evaluation of the modelling activity as an intellectual activity; the relationship between ‘finito’ and ‘non-finito’, and between seriality and originality; the problem of the surface of the work in its materiality, in its luminous passages, but also in its interaction with color; the dialectic between surface and volume, and the contrast between plastic and pictorial, heroic/monumental and anti-heroic/vitalistic, classic and anti-classic qualities; the attention of the imitation of nature and the new valorization of an anti-naturalistic art of expression.