MADERNO, Stefano
(b. 1575, Roma, d. 1636, Roma)

St Cecilia

Marble, length 131 cm
Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, Rome

If there is one sculpture among all those produced in Rome at the beginning of the seventeenth century which indicates the direction in which art would go, it is Maderno's St Cecilia. It was commissioned by Cardinal Paolo Emilio Sfondrato, who had the tomb of the saint opened in 1599. Tradition has it that the finely polished statue represents the position in which St Cecilia's body was found. Maderno foreshadows many of the poetic impulses that would later flourish in the Baroque age. Maderno aims straight at the beholder's emotions, directly engaging feeling and igniting emotions in a way that Bernini and Caravaggio were to perfect. The saint's body seems still warm, while on her neck can be seen the mark of the axe blow that ended her young life in the name of Christ.

The sculpture is a solid and truthful witness (the literal meaning of martyr is witness) of the saint's faith in God. Maderno came up with the idea of a sculpture that gives the impression that the event has only just occurred, right under the eyes of the incredulous onlooker, who, torn between pity and horror, cannot but be moved.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 3 minutes):
Girolamo Frescobaldi: Ricercar No. 8