Master of Ciechanowiecki.
Two figures of the evangelists Saint Mark and Saint Matthew.
Gilded bronze, base closed with silver-soldered copper.
These two gilded bronze sculptures represent two of the evangelists. They are recognizable by their attributes: the lion for St Mark, the winged man for St Matthew and they each hold a scroll in one hand and a quill in the other.
The extreme refinement of the sculpture and the care given to every detail attest to the talent of the artist whose name remains unknown to this day.
In the 60’s, Andrew Ciechanowiecki put forward a body of work from the same unknown hand. The patron of the arts, gallery owner and bronze specialist put together a group of some forty sculptures that he considered to have been made by the same artist.
The sculptor behind these works has been known to this day as the "Ciechanowiecki Master" or "Master of the Fitzwilliam Museum", as part of Ciechanowiecki's collection had been deposited in this museum for some years.
The pupils are barely incised, the eyebrows are frowning and pronounced (Fig. 2 & 3) and the cheekbones are prominent (Fig. 4 & 5). There is the important and dry musculature of the models, exacerbated by rather frontal and dramatic postures which testify of a very precise knowledge of human anatomy.
And the care given to the details such as the veins and the nails, along with the diverse chiseling techniques employed to give contrast to the textures (as we can see on most of the sculptures’ bases.
A lot of details taken separately seem to be quite similar (as Hercules’ and our Saint Matthiew’s faces, which seem to be to the same). And some sculptures show the same subject with different postures (Fig. 4 & 5). These elements indicate that the artist created separated molds to cast parts of the sculpture that were then assembled to the body. It is most probable that the feet, head, arms and accessories were cast separately to allow the artist to slightly modify every composition without recreating a fully new model.
All these elements have led specialists who have studied this real puzzle to consider that the master was active in the first half of the 17th century, he probably worked in Rome or Florence, and was influenced by the style of Giombologna, Bernini and Adrien de Vries. The techniques used show that the artist could have been a German goldsmith who was trained in the greatest European center for ormolu at that time : Augsburg. As for the style, it was strongly influenced by Italian manierism and th style of an artist who have worked in Rome during the 17th century.
A Christ at the Column, sold at Sotheby’s London in December 2021 can be added to the body of work : the size is similar, his features, the work on the drapery and the base and the work on the muscles are very close to the two evangelists. It was attributed to one of Algardi’s followers as it was realized after a model that had been attributed to Algardi or Dusquenoy. The attribution of this model of the Christ at the Column has never been elucidated. But it is interesting to see how this model is a good illustration of the difficulties to find who is the Master of Ciechanowiecki nowadays : the original has been attributed to a French or an Italian artist and it was taken as a model by another artist who was probably German. The exchanges between artists of different nationalities were so important, especially in Rome were they were meeting each other around the building of new monuments, that it is difficult today to put names on every works of art.
It is certain that the models of this master were also known at different times and reproduced more or less successfully. In the case of our evangelists, a Saint John and a Saint Mark were sold in 1925. They were part of the prestigious collection of Camille Castiglioni and had been attributed to Tiziano Aspetti by Leo Planiscig, which seems implausible today. Another Saint John is known in the collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Art but the poor quality piece had been casted in a much later period of time. As it is for a Saint Matthew kept by the Royal Palace Museum in Warsaw.
Given all these elements of comparison, we can confirm that our two evangelists are a very interesting milestone in the history of art because they display characteristics of both Italian and German sculpture, Mannerism and Baroque. They are works of geographical and stylistic transition, witnessing the extreme liveliness of the artistic world at the end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth century, despite the poisonous political context.