The Estense Gallery boasts a fine collection of ancient and modern sculpture in marble, bronze and terracotta.
The Estense Gallery boasts a fine collection of ancient and modern sculpture in marble, bronze and terracotta, partly originating from the ancient Este heritage and partly the result of subsequent acquisitions. Among the ancient sculptures, the Roman portrait busts are particularly important, outstanding among them the pair portraying Lucius and Aelius Verus, originating from the famous collection of Cardinal Rodolfo Pio di Carpi and acquired by Duke Alfonso II d’Este in the second half of the sixteenth century. One of the most famous sculptures in the Gallery is also from the collection of Cardinal Pio di Carpi: the black stone bust of Euripides, which is actually an exquisite Renaissance fake which was greatly celebrated in the sixteenth century. The series of the ancient Caesars is completed by a set of busts – all of remarkable quality – with portraits of Roman Emperors, dating to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when it was the custom to complete the galleries of ancient portraits with “modern” pieces. Dating to the mediaeval period is the wonderful Telamon, attributed to the great sculptor Wiligelmo, author of the famous reliefs on the façade of the Duomo of Modena. The great Modena tradition of Renaissance terracotta sculpture is represented by a masterpiece by Guido Mazzoni, an intense Head of an Old Man, and by numerous works by Antonio Begarelli, among which the delicate Madonna del Latte is particularly striking. The marble busts of Duke Alfonso I d’Este by Alfonso Lombardi and Duke Ercole II by Prospero Clemente (together with its beautiful pedestal portraying the Allegory of Patience) perfectly illustrate the court sculpture and official portraits of the sixteenth century in Emilia. Dating to the Baroque period, in addition to the superb portrait bust of Duke Francesco I d’Este by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, which is the symbol of the museum, are two important works by one of Bernini’s most gifted pupils, Antonio Raggi. These are the marble group portraying Sacred and Profane Love and the exquisite model in terracotta showing Neptune with the Dolphin, a preparatory study for the monumental group which still stands in the courtyard of the Ducal Palace of Sassuolo.