Descended from a dynasty of Roman sculptors who exerted a profound and lasting influence on the artistic production of the Eternal City, Scipione Tadolini was a skilled sculptor whose broad œuvre spanned the neoclassic to the romantic movements. The present work, one of his most famous models, La schiava greca (The Greek Slave), fully demonstrates his virtuoso talent and is a skilful mélange of references to celebrated antique models and the orientalist influences which were prevalent in the second half of the 19th century.
After a classical formation in the Accademia in Rome and with his father Adamo, Scipione Tadolini sculpted a series of celebrated portraits and ecclesiastical sculptures for Roman churches including a bust of Cardinal Giuseppe Alberghini for the Gesù (1847) and portraits of various members of the Cini family for the Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle (1844, 1846). In a demonstration of his international renown, and the great influence of his family, Tadolini also created a number of large-scale monuments for patrons around the world including an equestrian group of Simon Bolivar for the city of Lima, Peru. However, it was for his individual figures that he is perhaps best known, particularly the La schiava greca which appears in his work form the late 1850s forward.
Tadolini created the La schiava greca in several sizes with the figure’s hand either raised to her chest or to her chin. The small number of versions which have recently been offered on the art market all demonstrate the sculptor’s careful attention to the human form and overriding fascination with exoticism, most especially through the tumbling folds of the present figure's headdress and the finely articulated jewellery wrapped around her arms. This theme, de rigueur amongst the collectors of the époque, would doubtless have appealed to members of the international elite on the Grand Tour in Rome and may explain its enduring and international popularity. A slightly larger version of the present work sold Sotheby’s, New York, 23 October 2008, lot 97 ($302,500). Another version in a private collection is illustrated in A. Panzetta, Dizionario degli scultori italiani dell’ottocento e del primo novocento, Turin, 1994, v. II, p. 187, fig. 776.