Height 33 cm
The “Saint Deacon” attributed to the French sculptor Pierre Legros is part of an important group of works in the Liebieghaus, that of Baroque bozzetti. “Bozzetto” is the term for a three-dimensional model executed as a sketch and made as a preliminary study for a statue or group of statuary. From the sixteenth century onwards, if not earlier, these sketches were much in demand as collectors’ items since they capture the sculptor’s initial concept for the work he was to carry out.
The clerical costume, the Book of the Gospels and probably also the chalice scratched into the clothing all suggest that this youthful figure is a deacon. Though his body and the folds twist in opposite directions, the sweep of the individual garments, which are divided into relatively large areas, is restrained. On the whole, the figure represents a toning-down of the Baroque emotionalism and strong movement so influentially represented by Gianlorenzo Bernini (1598–1680). The head is turned heavenward with a gaze of gentle sentiment and the overall effect is rather subdued in comparison to works of the High Baroque, represented in the Liebieghaus by such sculptors as Andrea Brustolon (1662–1732).
At the age of twenty-four, Legros, a native of Paris, was awarded a scholarship by the Académie de France to study in Rome. From 1695 onwards he contributed to the altarpiece of the St Ignatius chapel in the church of Il Gesù in Rome. This was followed by many further commissions from both clerical (often Jesuit) and private patrons. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, this Frenchman was running the most successful sculpture workshop in Rome since that of Bernini.