LE GROS, Pierre the Younger
(b. 1666, Paris, d. 1719, Roma)
Marble, height 425 cm
San Giovanni in Laterano, Rome
The significant sculptural undertaking that inaugurated the eighteenth century in Rome was the realization of the colossal statues of the Apostles in twelve monumental, green marble niches, decorated by the dove symbol of the Pamphilj family, which Francesco Borromini built during the reconstruction of the interior of San Giovanni in Laterano. The statues, the completion of Borromini's project, were executed before 1718 by the most important sculptors of the time from Rome and elsewhere. The sculptors included Camillo Rusconi (Andrew, Matthew, James the Greater, John the Evangelist), Francesco Moratti (Simon), Angelo de' Rossi (James the Less), Giuseppe Mazzuoli (Philip), Lorenzo Ottoni (Thaddeus), as well as the Frenchmen Pierre-Étienne Monnot (Peter, Paul) and Pierre Le Gros (Bartholomew, Thomas).
Among these sculptors Camillo Rusconi was the most noted sculptor of the first half of the century. The only one who effectively rivaled him was Pierre Le Gros. It is not without reason that the St Bartholomew executed by Le Gros, without any indication on the part of Maratta - who had, however, given the drawings for most of the other statues - shows in the balance of the gesture a contained feeling of tragedy that dissolves into the virtuosity of the skin resting on the ample chest, which is created by the taut hem of the cloak.
The statue captures the beholder's attention through its intense use of images. The hunting knife, the instrument of the apostle's martyrdom, is ostentatiously displayed, as is his flayed skin.