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Stefano Maderno

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(1576-1636), a sculptor of the Roman School and of the era just preceding Bernini, his contemporary. He is believed to be of Lombard origin from the neighbourhood of Como ; probably he was related to Carlo Maderna, the architect and sculptor, who was also born near Como, at Bissone. Stefano's works are found frequently in churches upon which Carlo was engaged. Stefano began by copying the antique and made several highly esteemed models in bronze. His fame rests, however, upon the statue of St. Cecilia over her tomb in the church of St. Cecilia in Trastevere, Rome. He never surpassed, or even equalled this which he executed in his twenty-third year. The body of the martyr, discovered by Pope Paschal I (fourth century) in the Catacomb of St. Callistus and brought by him to the church which had been her dwelling, was viewed anew unchanged in1599. Before closing the tomb again, Clement VIII summoned Maderno, the most skilful artist of his day to make an exact reproduction of the figure. His statue represents a delicate, rather small body, lying face-downward, with the knees drawn together, the arms extended along the side and crossing at the wrists, the head enveloped in a veil. A gold fillet marks the wound in the back of the partly severed neck. The form is so natural and lifelike, so full of modesty and grace, that one scarcely needs the sculptor's testimony graven on the base: "Behold the body of the most holy virgin Cecilia whom I myself saw lying incorrupt in her tomb. I have in this marble expressed for thee the same saint in the very same posture of body." If it were art alone, it would be consummate art but Cicognara bears witness that in the perfect simplicity of this work, more unstudied and flexuous than his other productions, the youthful sculptor must have been guided solely by the nature of the object before him, and followed it with unswerving docility.

Stefano is supposed to have assisted in the construction of the Pauline Chapel of Sta. Maria Maggiore, where two of his reliefs are to be found: one in marble representing a battle, the other, the story of the snow-fall in August, the origin of the basilica. Also attributed to Stefano, but quite without importance, are: the figure of St. Peter for the façade of the Quirinal Palace, a statue of St. Charles Borromeo in the church of S. Lorenzo in Damaso, decorative figures of children in the Sixtine Chapel of Sta. Maria Maggiore, angels of the Madonna di Loreto and Sta Maria sopra Minerva and the allegories of Peace and Justice at Sta Maria della Pace. Count Gaspare Rivaldi, for whom Maderno executed various commissions, having sought to reward him by procuring for him a lucrative position at the excise offices of the Gabelle di Ripetta, the sculptor's time became unfortunately engrossed by his new duties to the exclusion of his art. He died in Rome in 1636.

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