19th Century
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Plaster, raised pins, coloured to simulate terracotta
Height: 32¾ inches (83.5 centimetres)

Private Estate UK

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Full of elegance and liveliness, it conveys the consummate ability of the artist. Beautifully reinterpreting the portrait conventions inherited from eighteenth-century sculpture, Mozart is presented in a three-quarter view, his gaze turned. His wonderfully elaborate hair and the sweeping drapery reminds the viewer of the swagger of the previous century, as does the well-rendered folio and quill, giving the sitter a sensuous sophistication and conferring a sense of majesty appropriate of Mozart.

An exceptional, fine quality, mid-nineteenth century work, it bears nail heads and markings that apparently served as precise reference points for the sculptor. The nails are placed similar distances apart to determine the exact depth and spacing the sculptor needs to chisel.

Nails are visual tools that help sculptors achieve the correct dimensions for the sculpture.For sculptors to get accurate pointing on their sculptures and depict their subjects realistically, many points have to be used. This is especially true for complicated sculptures, like life-sized sculptures of people.

If a sculptor were to just start on a stone block first and mess up, they would need to start from scratch. The block of stone would potentially be wasted.

Once a plaster sculpture is completed, the dimensions are transferred from the plaster sculpture to the stone block with the pointing tool. The nail on the pointing tool is used as the pointer to get the reference distance so that depth is transferred correctly.

The pointing tool was perfected by the famous Italian sculptor Antonio Canova in the 1700s and used a nail as its main measurement mechanism.

Plaster sculptures save sculptors from destroying valuable stone sculpting material like marble.




The Artist

Son of a modest decorator painter who introduced his four sons –Blas, José, Juan Antonio and Mariano– to art from childhood. He spent his childhood in Valencia and in 1874 he moved with his family to Madrid. After starting out in sculpture in a self-taught way and learning the trades related to sculpture, working in different craft workshops, he traveled to Rome in 1881 to complete his training. There he perfected himself in the domain of techniques and materials, in contact with the most important artistic foundries and with frequent visits to the Carrara quarries; In addition to being illustrated mainly with the study of classical, Renaissance and Baroque statuary, and the sculpture of the Italy of his time.

From Rome he sent his works to the National Exhibitions of Fine Arts. In 1884 he obtained a second medal with Accidenti! (private collection), the sculpture that made him famous, and in 1887 the first medal with the Statue of the painter José de Ribera (Plaza del Poeta Llorente, Valencia). In 1895, the year he opened a studio in Madrid, he achieved the medal of honuor with the statue for the Monument to the writer Antonio Trueba (Jardines de Albia, Bilbao). At the same time and in international exhibitions, he won gold medals in 1894 in Vienna (Bust of the painter Francisco Domingo Marqués, Museum of Fine Arts, Valencia) and in Munich (Allegory of the Navy, Monument to the Marquis of Campo, Valencia), and in 1900 the Grand Prix at the Universal in Paris with an important set of works, highlighting the Gayarre Mausoleum (El Roncal, Navarra).

In 1910 he participated, with a significant display of works, both in the International Exhibition of Contemporary Medals organized by the Numismatic Society of New York, and in the commemorative exhibitions of the independence of several Latin American countries, in Mexico, Santiago de Chile and Buenos Aires. , where he was awarded the grand sculpture prize for the Monument to Velázquez, which was acquired by the Argentine government. His work is extremely extensive and fruitful, and covers different genres, typologies and techniques. Only in monumental sculpture he made more than fifty works for the main Spanish and Hispanic cities. He approached his works naturally, he had an extraordinary facility for modelling and chiselling, and a personal sense of the combination of materials, generally marble and bronze, achieving an exquisite surface finish.

Through the play of chiaroscuro and a painterly modelling he gave his works almost tactile qualities, strongly expressive. He paid equal attention to detail, which he executed with great ease and virtuosity far removed from all mannerism, as to the harmonic balance of his compositions. He assumed important public positions related to the world of culture and Fine Arts: between 1901 and 1903 he was director of the Academy of Spain in Rome, from 1917 to 1919 general director of Fine Arts and from 1917 to 1931 director of the Museum of Modern Art. from Madrid. Member of the Royal Board of Trustees of the Prado Museum, appointed on November 15, 1917 for being General Director of Fine Arts, he took office as owner member on December 4 of the same year.

He belonged to various academies of Fine Arts: San Fernando in Madrid, San Carlos in Valencia, San Luis in Zaragoza, San Telmo in Malaga, San Lucas in Rome, Brera in Milan, Carrara and Paris; and he received important decorations, such as the Legion of Honor of France, commander of the order of the Crown of Italy or the great cross of Alfonso X of Spain.

E. Bénézit, Dictionnaire des Peintres Sculpteurs Dessinateurs et Graveurs, Paris, 1999, p. 104Adsuara, Juan, Mariano Benlliure and his sculptural realism, Madrid, Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, 1948.
Azcue Brea, Leticia, “Rome and the Sculpture of the s. XIX in the Museo del Prado”. The odyssey of the pensioners until 1873, European workshop. Exchanges, influences and loans in modern European sculpture, Valladolid, Museo Nacional de Escultura, 2012, pp. 211-249.
The 19th century in the Prado, cat. exp., Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2007, pp. 420-423 and 467.
Mariano Benlliure Mastery of the subject, cat. exp., Madrid and Valencia, Dirección General de Patrimonio Histórico de la Comunidad de Madrid and Consorcio de Museos de la Comunidad Valenciana, 2013.
Montoliu, Violeta, Mariano Benlliure, 1862-1947, Valencia, Generalitat Valenciana, 1997.
Tuero-O’Donnell, Pilar, Mariano Benlliure or Memories of a Family, Barcelona, Gráficas El Tinell, 1962.
Vidal Corella, Vicente, Los Benlliure y su época, Valencia, Prometeo, 1977.