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Symposium honours leading Italian Baroque scholar

The two-day event at the Wallace Collection, London will present research on a subject defined by Jennifer Montagu

Jennifer Montague, by Lucy Dickens, 2000. Photo: © Lucy Dickens/National Portrait Gallery, London

A symposium is being held from 6 to 7 September at the Wallace Collection in London to honour the art historian Jennifer Montagu, a leading scholar of Italian Baroque sculpture. More than 30 historians are presenting papers over two days on Montagu’s favoured subject, and a book will be published next year.

“I value the chance to honour a woman whose career demonstrates that a single scholar can identify and define a discipline,” says Carolyn Miner, the research curator
 in the department of sculpture and decorative arts
 at the National Gallery of Art 
in Washington, DC, who has helped organise the symposium. “Over six decades, Montagu outlined the contours of early-modern sculpture studies and identified the importance of taking a holistic approach to understanding the making of a work of art (from patron, to artist, to workshop). She did this particularly with the Italian Baroque but her influence extends to the study of early-modern European sculpture and decorative arts in general.”

Since Montagu regularly studies sculptors and topics that are lesser known or unpopular, the presenting scholars have followed suit, and some interesting discoveries have emerged from the research as a result. Miner points to a paper by the Metropolitan Museum’s Paola D’Agostino about terracotta models by the sculptors Lorenzo and Domenico Vaccaro, “who dominated Neapolitan sculpture production for almost 60 years between the late 17th and first half of the 18th century”, but their work has been virtually forgotten, she says. And Anne-Lise Desmas, the acting head of sculpture and decorative arts at the Getty Museum is presenting two newly attributed busts by Andrea Fucigna and Giuseppe Ferretti. “She has found unpublished documents that demonstrate what poor artists these sculptors actually were at some points in their careers, and she will discuss workshop organisation and the misattribution of the busts over time,” Miner says. There will also be an important session on silver sculpture, “an area virtually ignored before Montagu began working on it”.

Following the two-day conference, a book, The Eternal Baroque: Studies in Honour of Jennifer Montagu will be published by Umberto Allemandi (our parent publisher) in spring 2014. All proceeds will go to the Photographic Collection of The Warburg Institute, where Montague spent most of her curatorial career.

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