Baptism of Christ
Giovan Battista Foggini (Florence 1652 - 1725)
IO. BAP. FOG. NI F.
The sculpture depicts the solemn moment when John the Baptist pours water with a shell onto the head of Christ, who kneels in front of him. On his left, a little angel gathers his drapery. The only bronze statuette signed by Foggini, the work was part of a series of twelve specimens commissioned to various Florentine artists by the Electress Palatina Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici, daughter of Cosimo III and last descendant of the family. Thanks to archive documents, we know that the princess, who was extremely devout, kept the Baptism in her bedroom in the Pitti Palace. After her death (1743), the work underwent several changes of ownership and was considered lost for a long time, until it was returned to its original location in 1976. The Electress’ bedroom still houses two other important works designed by Foggini: the kneeler and the holy water stoup [LINK FILE] that her father Cosimo III gave her for her wedding, which the princess was so fond of that she took them with her from Düsseldorf to Palazzo Pitti after her husband’s death.
The small bronzes, commissioned by Anna Maria Luisa, constitute an important unicum in Florence as an accomplished series of small bronzes. This type of decorative cycle did not have much of a following in the field of artistic patronage in Florence, partly because few could have paid for such an ensemble made of such a precious material. The groups were displayed on wooden or semiprecious stone bases and at the death of the princess, they were all still in her apartment, as shown in the posthumous inventory of her estate. However, they were later sold and are now dispersed among various museums around the world.
S. Casciu, Due episodi della scultura fiorentina del Settecento nel mecenatismo di Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici, in Paragone, XXXVII, 435, 1986, pp.83-100 Firenze; D. Zikos, in G. Capecchi, D. Heikamp, A. Fara, V. Saladino, Palazzo Pitti. La reggia rivelata, Catalogo della mostra (Firenze, Palazzo Pitti, 7 dicembre 2003-31 maggio 2004), Firenze 2003, pp. 628-629; D.Zikos in Meraviglie. Precious, Rare and Courious Objects from the Medici Treasure, a cura di M. Mosco, Firenze, 2003, n. 54; S. Casciu in S.Casciu, La principessa saggia. L'eredità di Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici Elettrice Palatina, Catalogo della mostra (Firenze, 23 dicembre 2006-15 aprile 2007), Livorno, Sillabe 2006, p. 308