From the 13th through the mid-19th centuries it was a tradition for the gentlemen of many nations to make a ’grand tour’ around Italy in the search of an education in antique and modern culture. During this journey it was the tradition to buy or commission souvenirs of exquisite quality, often reproductions of the antiquities in colored marbles, that one could display back home. Therefore, the demand for the marmi di scavi became increasingly high and workshops flourished all over Italy. Amongst these was the famous Valladier family operating in Venice and in Rome the celebrated names were Francesco Sibilio, Righetti, Boschi, Raffaelli and Boschetti.
AN ECLECTIC AND VISIONARY VIRTUOSITY
Benedetto Boschetti was considered ‘the most eclectic virtuoso and certainly the most visionary of all the marmorari ‘. His favorite materials were the Numidian Giallo antico (from Tunisia) and the Capo Tenaro Rosso Antico, two colors already traditionally associated with the arts of Rome. The integrity of these two marbles is extremely dense but also very soft which allowed Boschetti to execute delicate and detailed carving, previously only possible with ivory. (D. del Bufalo, op.cit.)
Active circa 1820-1870, the Boschetti workshop exhibited at the Crystal Palace Exhibition in 1851 and was renowned for the exceptional quality of its copies after the 'Antique'. F.S. Bonfigli noted in 1856 that 'The establishment is particularly conspicuous for its great variety of marble works, bronzes etc' (A. González-Palacios, The Art of Mosaics, 1982, p.166).
However, the workshop remained mysterious. Indeed, as noted by González-Palacios (Ibid, p.141) we only have one account in the Dizionario di erudizione storica-ecclesiastica by Moroni. González-Palacios also reflects on the fact that amongst the signed objects there seems to be differences in both dating and style and that therefore the ‘B. Boschetti’ signature could in fact represent more than one person.
The signed objects are very rare, they include a bronze copy of the famous relief of Antinous in the Villa Albani, a replica of the Portici tripod, a copy in Rosso Antico marble of the Warwick vase in the Toledo Museum (Ohio) signed ‘B. Boschetti fece’. Finally, there is an ‘extraordinary’ oil lamp in giallo antico in the Mario Praz Museum in Rome. This last one, illustrated here, is closely related to our example in regards to its composition, decorative elements and style.