Of the many artists who flourished in Rome during the eighteenth century, the silversmith Luigi Valadier (1726–1785) was particularly admired by popes, royalty, and aristocrats across Europe. Heir to his father Andrea’s highly successful workshop, Luigi had an unsurpassed technical expertise, which, combined with his avant-garde aesthetic, resulted in extraordinary works in silver and bronze. During his lifetime, Luigi’s fame and influence spread beyond the borders of Italy, and he received commissions from patrons in France, England, and Spain. He was, however, burdened by debts for commissions undertaken but never paid for, and, in 1785, he committed suicide, drowning himself in the Tiber. Following this tragic event, his workshop passed to his son Giuseppe.
Illustrating the versatility of Valadier, the exhibition included more than sixty works carefully selected from the vast production of the workshop. Preparatory drawings were displayed alongside finished works, including a full table centerpiece, or deser, created about 1778 for the Bailli de Breteuil, in which, atop a gilt-bronze base inlaid with precious stones, Valadier recreated temples, triumphal arches, columns, and other miniature representations of ancient Roman monuments. The featured objects also included finely worked silver plates, tureens, salt cellars, and other tablewares, which demonstrated the evolution of Valadier’s style from Baroque to Rococo to neoclassical. Monochromatic silver objects were contrasted with polychrome works in gilt-bronze, marble, and precious stones.
Luigi Valadier: Splendor in Eighteenth-Century Rome was curated by Alvar González-Palacios. It is part of a series of exhibitions that focus on masters of the decorative arts and followed the groundbreaking and critically acclaimed Pierre Gouthière: Virtuoso Gilder at the French Court. The exhibition was accompanied by the first complete monograph on Luigi Valadier, written by González-Palacios and lavishly illustrated with new photography.
Principal support for the exhibition was provided by Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder, The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation, an anonymous gift in memory of Melvin R. Seiden, Marina Kellen French and the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation, and Nicola Bulgari.
Additional support has also been provided by Robilant + Voena; Alessandra di Castro; Monika McLennan; Margot and Jerry Bogert; Ayesha Bulchandani; Carlo Orsi, Trinity Fine Art; Walter Padovani; Rachel Fleishman and Paul Andrejkovics III; James C. Marlas and Marie Nugent-Head Marlas; and Jane Richards in honor of Elizabeth Eveillard.