ALGARDI, Alessandro
(b. 1598, Bologna, d. 1654, Roma)

Bust of Donna Olimpia Maidalchini

Marble, height 70 cm
Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Rome

The combination of minute attention to detail and miraculous tonal control are the most engrossing feature of Algardi's busts. When the need arose, he cold also produce a striking performance, as in the splendidly imposing bust of Donna Olimpia Maidalchini, one of the greatest portraits of the period. Disagreeable and domineering, Donna Olimpia did not exude charm, but as the sister-in-law of Pope Innocent X she was a power in Rome during his reign. Algardi transmutes his unpromising sitter into an image of majesty and determination, the tilt of her head and the expression of her face being amplified by a billowing veil. Unusually, Algardi reverses the normal approach to flesh and drapery tones by giving the latter a bright, milky sheen and leaving the former matt. This transposition was dictated by Algardi's emphasis upon the veil which is so integral to the bust's impact.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.