VOLPATO, Giovanni
(b. 1733, Bassano, d. 1803, Roma)

Clio

1790s
Bisque, height 30 cm
Liebieghaus, Frankfurt

The Liebighaus in Frankfurt contains two bisque statuettes from Volpato's mass production that copy ancient Roman models on a reduced scale. Copies of this sort were produced in various sizes and sold in great quantities. Although these days they tend to be thought little of, they were of great importance for propagating knowledge of Antiquity in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. At the same time they contributed considerably to the formation of the new Neoclassical style, providing an aesthetic consensus for the bourgeoisie in its ambition to become the dominant social class.

The reproductions of Clio and Thalia, the muses of history and comedy, are made in bisque (or biscuit), a technique developed in Volpato's time. 'Bis cuire' means 'cook (i.e. fire) twice', with the material made up as ceramic clay. With copies of antique statues, special care was taken over surface effects, which had to be fine and satin-matt, to create an effect of fine Greek marble.