The city’s nineteenth and twentieth century sculpture

The city’s nineteenth and twentieth century sculpture

Modena - MO

In Modena, the city’s and the nation’s most important events can be read in its nineteenth and twentieth century sculpture and monuments: the figures of the Italian Risorgimento and Unification, tragic memories of the First Word War, the events of the Italian Resistance movement, the Second World War and local heroes.

On the ground floor and main staircase of Palazzo dei Musei (Largo Sant'Agostino 337) you can admire some important monuments dedicated to famous Modena figures executed by Giuseppe Gibellini, Silvestro Barberini, Carlo Baraldi and Alfredo Gualdi. The “Giuseppe Graziosi” Gipsoteca plaster cast gallery, which displays sculptures, paintings and engravings by the city’s leading sculptor, can also be visited by appointment, and represents an ideal starting point for an itinerary through the city on the discovery of the artist’s many works in the old city centre, such as the statue of the Redeemer (1920) on the altar of the Most Blessed Sacrament in the cathedral.

Worthy of note in the nearby Palazzo Comunale are the sculptures in the loggia executed by Dante Zamboni (1905 – 1980) and Benito Boccolari (1888 – 1964), which celebrate the symbols of Italian fascism. On the first floor is the Monument to Mayor Luigi Albinelli created by Giuseppe Graziosi in 1907.

In 1931, for the nearby Indoor Market on Via Albinelli, the Modena-born sculptor created the fountain with the Girl with Basket of Fruit, his first public commission for his hometown, to decorate the new marketplace. Moving away from all forms of celebratory rhetoric, the artist here turns to themes from rural life. By the same hand is also the Putto with Goose in Piazza XX Settembre, now replaced by a bronze copy.

The itinerary continues into Largo San Francesco with the Fountain of Saint Francis executed by Graziosi in 1938, portraying the Saint in the humble act of reciting the “Canticle of the Sun”. The bronze doves were added in 1948 when, following the artist’s death, the base was completed. Just a few metres away is Piazzetta San Giacomo, home to another sculpture by Graziosi, the “Fountain of the Nymph” of 1926, originally situated next to the Sports Centre.

Moving into Piazzale del Risorgimento, we find the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II, executed by Giuseppe Gibellini in 1890 in honour of the first king of Italy. Erected in Piazzale Garibaldi, the monument was later moved in 1934 to its present location. On the base that supports the statue of the king is a female figure symbolising Italy. Just a stone’s throw away is the Monument to the Fallen in the Resistance Movement, created by Veldo Vecchi in 1950.

Situated along Viale Martiri della Libertà is the Monument to the Fallen of Modena in the First World War (1926) by Ermenegildo Luppi (1877 – 1937). Executed after winning the competition for the commission in 1923, the monument is made up of the large statue of Victory and four groups representing the Offering, the Farewell, the Serviceman and the Sacrifice. The work was unveiled in 1929 in the presence of King Vittorio Emanuele III and Prince Umberto.

The itinerary continues with the monumental “Fountain of the Two Rivers”, the most prestigious work by Giuseppe Graziosi destined to adorn the oriental entrance to the city, with bronzes representing the Secchia and Panaro rivers.

Decorating the façade of the Monumental Temple for the Fallen in the Great War in Piazza Natale Bruni are the symbols of the Evangelists, sculpted between 1923 and 1929 by Benito Boccolari, while inside is the medallion featuring the Funerary Portrait of Archbishop Natale Bruni created in circa 1932 by Giuseppe Graziosi and situated above the sarcophagus containing the remains of the archbishop.

The itinerary then takes us to Piazza Roma where, on the balustrade of the Ducal Palace, Graziosi executed the divinities Venus, Bacchus, Ceres and Vulcan in the 1920s at the behest of the Ministry of War. In the nearby Via Belle Arti, inside the historical seat of the Venturi Art Institute, is the Statues Gallery with its vast and varied collection of plaster casts, which enabled students of the Academy to study models from antiquity.

The itinerary also extends to take in San Cataldo Cemetery in Via San Cataldo, whose old section is home to important funerary monuments that enable us to trace the development of Modenese sculpture between the late nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century. The Central Chapel contains works by Graziosi, Luppi, Manfredini, Boccolari, Roncaglia. Sculptures most worthy of note include the Borsari (North Side, Gallery G, Section IX) and Giovanardi (East Side, Gallery L, Section X) tombs by Graziosi, the Ghisetti tomb by Roncaglia and the Gozzi tomb by Righini (East Side, Gallery L, Section XI).