Pair of vase-holding figures, by the Groppelli Brothers, early 18th century

Early 18th century formerly Villa Sceriman Widmann Foscari, Mira


Pair of sculptures depicting two vase-holder figures, one male and the other female, almost life-size; of young age and presented almost half-naked, they are leaning against the trunk of a palm whose trunk acts as a seat and which arises from a rocky base. The young man has exotic physiognomic characteristics, with a hooked nose and elongated eyes, the tense muscles are in an unstable position, the left leg bent; wears only a kilt. The woman is portrayed with a full face, left uncovered by the gathered hair; she is dressed only with a cloth that covers her crotch, she wears bracelets and a belt, her left hand is raised.

In the 19th century the molded base and the flared circular shelf were added, with golden ovoli and pods.

In patinated walnut, partially gilded.

Dimensions: h 151 cm, base diameter 59 cm ( 59,4 x 23,2 in )


Historical-critical analysis:

As indicated by Giuseppe Sava in his report, the pair of sculptures in question were born as parade furniture.

The pair of sculptures come from Villa Sceriman Widmann Foscari in Mira, where, at least in the 1970s, they were placed in the entrance portico, as evidenced by the monograph dedicated to the villa, accompanied by photographs. On this occasion the sculptures are presented by the author Glauco Benito Tiozzo as part of the original furnishings of the villa. The construction of the complex began in 1719, at the behest of the wealthy Persian merchant Diodato Sceriman, albeit with different shapes than those with which we still know it today. Plausibly, our couple too must have a chronological position that does not exceed 1720, tying themselves precisely to this phase of the villa.

The Venetian panorama of sculptors at this chronological height is very vast and heterogeneous, but unfortunately often, in the face of the large number of artists known through documents, it is quite difficult to trace even a single certain work to each of them.

However, as Sava exhaustively argues, our pair of sculptures can be traced back to the context of the Groppelli brothers, whose production is characterized by a moderate declination of the late Baroque lagoon culture. Marino (1662-1721), Giuseppe (1675-1735) and Paolo (1677-1751) Groppelli, sons of Giovanni Battista, also a sculptor, were trained in the paternal workshop and are all enrolled in the stonecutters’ art. While the eldest son Marino worked mainly independently, the younger brothers worked together, forming a fruitful partnership.

Our carvings, with their regularity of the profiles and the flat, almost pictorial conception of the drapery, come close to this production. In particular, some comparisons are possible for the physiognomies of the faces: the young woman with the fleshy mouth and the gathered hair is approachable to the figure of Touch, an allegorical sculpture together with the Reason on the staircase of Villa Giovannelli in Noventa Padovana, signed by Giuseppe and Paolo between the 1727 and 1731 while for the male figure we find affinities with the faces of the Cherubs on the main altar of the church of Santa Maria degli angeli in Venice, attributed to Marino Groppelli, especially for the minor idealization that distinguishes them and characterizes the corpus of the artist from that of his younger brothers.


G.B. Tiozzo, La villa Widmann Foscari ora Costanzo, Treviso 1974, pages. 18-19, figs. 3-4; p. 103.

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