(b. 1700, Roma, d. 1773, Roma)
Bust of Pope Benedict XIII1762-73
Marble, height 76,4 cm
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
Bernini was fond of saying that portraiture consisted in finding the unique feature of the sitter and reproducing it; he added that the feature should be beautiful and not ugly. This approach often presented problems with busts of pontiffs, who tended to be old and sometimes uninspiring to look at, none more so than the monkish Pope Benedict XIII, who reigned from 1724 to 1730. Several representations of Benedict XIII were produced by Pietro Bracci, and we are fortunate in having an early terracotta study to compare with the official version in marble.
The terracotta does not hesitate to convey the unheroic, slightly dyspeptic expression of the sitter and would have been used for reference whenever Bracci was called upon to produce official portraits. In the marble, although one cannot say that the sculptor completely remade his sitter, he has certainly regularized the features and conveyed a more benign expression. A greater scale and the upward tilt of the head also contribute to a more positive image in Bracci's marble, which seems as much concerned with representing the office as its individual holder.