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 will include more than sixty works carefully selected from the vast production of the workshop. Preparatory drawings will be displayed alongside finished works, including a full centerpiece, or deser, created about 1778 for the Bali de Breteuil, in which, atop a gilt-bronze base inlaid with precious stones, Valadier re-created temples, triumphal arches, columns, and other miniature representations of ancient Roman monuments. The featured objects will also include finely worked silver plates, tureens, salt cellars, and other tablewares and demonstrate the evolution of Valadier’s style from Baroque to Rococo to neoclassical. Monochromatic silver objects will be contrasted with polychrome works in gilt-bronze, marble, and precious stones.
Luigi Valadier: Splendor in Eighteenth-Century Rome is co-curated by Alvar González-Palacios, considered the world’s authority on Valadier, and Xavier F. Salomon, Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator of The Frick Collection. It is part of a series of monographic exhibitions that focus on remarkable decorative arts artists and follows the ground-breaking and critically acclaimed Pierre Gouthière: Virtuoso Gilder at the French Court. The exhibition will be accompanied by the first complete monograph on Luigi Valadier, written by González-Palacios, and lavishly illustrated with new photography. Following the presentation of this show in New York, a related exhibition will be on view later in 2019 at the Galleria Borghese, Rome.