The Victorian Web is grateful to the author for this brief summary in English of her article in La Tribune de l'Art (see full details at the end). Photograph kindly provided by the author, who retains the copyright. Please see the original article, in French, for many more details and photographs. Formatted by Jacqueline Banerjee. [Click on the image for a larger picture.]
The Bimba Dormiente or Bimba Addormentata (Sleeping Girl or Girl Asleep), by Carlo Marochetti (1805-1867). Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin. 1844. Marble. 30 x 90 x 47 cm.
This work was first acquired by the Museo Civico, the forerunner of the present gallery, in 1902. The sculpture, the subject of which was not documented, has often been assumed to be a funerary portrait of the sculptor's young daughter Giovanna. However, records show that Giovanna (1836-1852) died later than was thought, at the age of sixteen. Besides, unlike other works depicting the sculptor's children, this was not kept among the family heirlooms. All the evidence points instead to the subject's being the daughter of the famous tenor, Mario de Candia (1810-1883). Originally from Sardinia, Mario de Candia was then living in Paris like Marochetti. He lost his first child, Marie-Jeanne-Catherine, at around the age of two in January 1844; newspapers of the same year report that Marochetti chiselled the marble figure of a child at Mario’s request. The little girl is shown here, lying on a bed with her head on a tasselled cushion. She seems sweetly asleep, offering the bereaved parents a memory of the child as she was while still alive.
Two other sculptures by Marochetti come to mind. In 1855, when living in England, the sculptor lost his youngest son, Riccardo, at the age of twenty months. He represented him in marble too, but as a cherub, an innocent soul on its ascent to heaven, with wings encircling his face. The child's head rests on a similar tasselled cushion, this time "embroidered" with a Tudor rose, emblem of the country in which his child died. This work is in a private collection. The other funeral sculpture worth comparing with the Bimba Dormiente is the effigy of Lady Margaret Leveson-Gower (1830-1858) on her tomb in the church of St Mary Magdalene, Castle Ashby, Northamptonshire. Again, Marochetti softens the spectre of death. The subject seems peacefully asleep on a bed, her head supported by pillows and turned to the right. As before, tassels appear, a detail harking back to the iconography of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. But here, as is to be expected in an effigy, the stiffness of the feet indicate Lady Margaret's demise. However, a large bas-relief surmounting the tomb depicts an angel ascending to heaven. In all these works, the sculptor succeeds in showing the triumph of life over death. It is no wonder that Queen Victoria chose Marochetti to sculpt the effigies of Prince Albert and herself for their tomb at Frogmore.
In the larger context of European funerary art, Marochetti's Bimba dormiente recalls L'innocenza by the Italian sculptor Lorenzo Bartolini (1777-1850), a funerary portrait of the young Maria Malysheva, of 1820. Marochetti had previously paid tribute to Bartolini's talent with his Bambina che gioca con il cane (1827), at the Castello Ducale, Agliè, Italy. In France, however, the Bimba dormiente represented a new type of funerary portrait, which probably inspired James Pradier (1790-1852) with his recumbent effigy of Mademoiselle de Montpensier (1847).
Hedengren-Dillon, Caroline. "La Bimba Dormiente de Carlo Marochetti: Un Portrait Funéraire." La Tribune de l'Art. 26 June 2012.
_____. "Un oeuvre de Lorenzo Bartolini retrouvée: le Portrait en buste d'Elise Dosne-Thiers." La Tribune de l'Art. 27 March 2017.
Last modified 5 April 2017