The Talented Mr. Mochi

I often admired the works of Francesco Mochi and often wondered why he is relatively well-known both in Italy and abroad. Even back then careers had their up-&-downs and were subjected to patrons and/or plain luck. Family connections helped too.

Mochi does deserve more recognition and appreciation in my view. His early dramatic works are considered the first truly Baroque sculptures of the 1600s, but he had a roller-coaster career.

In his early years, Mochi worked in many of the thriving cities of central Italy, including Rome, Florence, Piacenza, and Orvieto. His first masterpiece was the Annunciation for the Cathedral of Orvieto (1603-08). However, the two statues didn’t find peace until much later. I went to Orvieto just to see the “Angel Announcer,” and I must say that it did take some determination indeed!

The two statues were kept at the church of Sant’Agostino, a decentralized seat of the Museo dell’ Opera del Duomo inserted in the medieval quarter to enlarge the tourist circuit and a point of cultural interest connected with the Duomo [not quite sure about the idea of “enlarging the tourist circuit” though… I remember it a bit off the “circuit”]

Back at the Duomo

They are back at the Duomo now, and they are so worth a visit. Especially the Angel, with the flowing veiled vest. It captures just the moment the Angel lands, so the air and the breeze engulf the beautiful lightweight robe, falling off the shoulder a bit; while the angel with one hand points to the “High Power” above from Whom he’s bringing the message. It is truly beautiful!

The Farnese family commissioned the over-life-size, bronze equestrian statues of the Duke of Parma, Ranuccio, and his father, Alessandro Farnese in Piacenza.

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These two equestrian statues are the best ever done. Usually, the statues are rather “static” (that can be seen even on the famous statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni by Verrocchio in Venice), the horse is always depicted with just one front leg raised, but mostly at a walking gait.

Mochi worked on the equestrian statues for seventeen years and the result is amazing, especially the one of Alessandro. The horse is just starting the canter gait, both, rider and horse, are looking at their destination, the wind is engulfing Alessandro’s cape, and even the saddle’s trims are dancing with the movement, tail, and mane are dancing with the canter of the horse.

Mochi returned to Rome in 1629

But Mochi was eventually eclipsed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s popularity. The young Bernini with his exuberant Baroque style dominated Rome and Mochi’s work was no longer fashionable. 

But he did work on the statue of Saint Veronica for the crossing of Saint Peter’s Basilica, and he delivered another true masterpiece.

Mochi died with a reputation for being difficult and bitter. But even this is unfair. Find one of those artists that were not difficult. Not Caravaggio, not even Michelangelo, nor Leonardo, and the list goes on…

I must say that I do find Bernini an artist like few, but not to take away anything from Mochi. For Bernini the eyes and facial expressions were his strokes of genius, for Mochi, it was the wind!

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I lived the most part of my life in Washington DC, now in Italy getting to know again my country. Plenty of surprises, for good and bad, and lots of nostalgia for DC.

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