KELLER, Heinrich
(b. 1771, Zürich, d. 1832, Napoli)


Swiss sculptor, historian, archaeologist and poet. A meeting with the sculptor Joseph Anton Maria Christen convinced Keller that he too must become a sculptor. Having sided with Switzerland's revolutionaries, in 1794 he went into voluntary exile in Florence and later in Rome, where he gravitated towards the German-Danish circle of Asmus Jakob Carstens and Berthel Thorvaldsen, completed his artistic training and received his first modest commissions.

When commissions grew scarce in Rome after the arrival of the French army, Keller decided to try his luck under the new government of the Swiss Republic but the group he sent them failed to win favour. Political instability in Switzerland reduced his chances of obtaining official commissions, but he later executed several cenotaphs for aristocratic families (e.g. Friedrich von Graffenried, 1812; marble, Historisches Museum, Bern), including works that are numbered among the most important of Swiss Neo-classical sculpture. Although Keller made a considerable contribution to Roman Neo-classical sculpture in the period after Trippel's death and before the emergence of Antonio Canova, his greatest success was a work that was rather modest in relation to his ambitions and manifest talent: the Birth of Venus, of which he executed seven versions in marble, two in alabaster and thirteen smaller versions in bronze (Kunsthaus, Zurich).

When failing health forced him to curtail his activities as a sculptor, Keller devoted himself increasingly to patriotic history, poetry and archaeology.

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