LE GROS, Pierre the Younger
(b. 1666, Paris, d. 1719, Roma)
The Death of St Stanislas Kostka (detail)1705
Sant'Andrea al Quirinale, Rome
Le Gros' artistic makeup was such a successful synthesis of Italian and French elements that he never lacked work; his commissions, however, frequently embodied retardataire taste, none more so than the extraordinary multicolored St Stanislaus Kostka on his Deathbed. Here Le Gros'work looks back to the tradition of ecstatic or dying saints created by Bernini and Cafà, but instead of a white marble figure set off by coloured marbles, colour forms an integral part of Le Gros' work: black touchstone for the Jesuit habit, Sicilian jasper and yellow marble for the bedding, and gilt bronze for the fringe. The saints hands, feet and head are carved from white Carrara marble, with the hair left rough and unpolished and the nails and eyes delicately incised.
The work's purpose was to shock visitors entering the room where the young man once lived, by conveying the impression of someone actually dying, and the Jesuits resisted Le Gros' attempts to have the sculpture moved from their novitiate to the church of Sant'Andrea al Quirinale, largely because of its effectiveness in its intended setting.