Key to Umbria: Orvieto

Museo dell’ Opera del Duomo:

Ex-Church of Sant’ Agostino

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Annunciation (1605-8) by Francesco Mochi (see below),

now exhibited in the apse of Sant' Agostino

The Opera del Duomo commissioned a series of statues for the Duomo over a considerable period from 1556, as described in the page on the remodelling of the Duomo.  They were removed in 1890 and are now exhibited in this annexe to the Museo dell' Opera del Duomo in the de-consecrated church of Sant' Agostino.

SS Peter and Paul (1556-60)


                                                      St Peter (1560) by                        St Paul (1556) by

                                                Raffaello da Montelupo        Francesco Mosca, il Moschino

Giorgio Vasari recorded that: “Work being then continued on the execution of the Apostles for the church, [Francesco Mosca, il Moschino] made a St Peter and a St Paul of the same size, which were held to be creditable statues”.   Documents relating to this commission began in 1554, when the Opera del Duomo sent Francesco Mosca to Carrara to obtain marble for four planned sculptures:

  1. these over life-sized statues of SS Peter and Paul;

  2. a figure of St Sebastian (see below);

  3. and a group of the Pietà (see below). 

The choice of the three saints was probably intended to underline the strong links between Orvieto and papal Rome.   

In fact, the marble did not reach Orvieto until 1556, and Francesco Mosca completed only the figure of St Paul before he left Orvieto later that year.  The figure was subsequently placed by the first column on the right.   Raffaello da Montelupo executed the figure of St Peter in 1560, and this was placed as a pendant to St Paul (i.e. by the first column on the left).  These did indeed become the first of a series of figures of the Apostles in the nave.

Statues of the Other Apostles (1579-1600)


                                    St Thomas                            St John the Evangelist                   St Andrew

                             by Ippolito Scalzi                         by Ippolito Scalzi       by Ippolito Scalzi and Fabiano Toti

In 1579, when the Opera del Duomo sent Ippolito Scalza to Carrara to obtain marble for four more statues for the planned series of statues of the Apostles in the Duomo.  This initiated a programme of work that would eventually see all twelve Apostles represented against the columns of the nave, where they would stand among the congregation and represent the pillars of the Church. 

  1. The first two new Apostles were executed by Ippolito Scalza:

  2. St Thomas (depicted as an architect) was installed with great ceremony in 1587; followed by

  3. St John the Evangelist (1588-94).

  4. In 1589, the third block of marble was assigned to Fabiano Toti for a figure of St Andrew.  He duly submitted a design, and was documented at work on the figure in 1589-90.  However, the commission passed to Ippolito Scalza in 1594 and it was not completed until 1599.


                                                St Matthew                                Model for St Matthew

                                       designed by Giambologna and

                                       executed by Pietro Francavilla

The Opera del Duomo turned to Florentine sculptors for the next two figures:

  1. Giovanni Battista Caccini executed the figure of St James Major (1589-91).

  2. The figure of St Matthew (illustrated above) was commissioned from the leading sculptor, Giambologna in 1595.  His initial design is in the Museo dell’ Opera del Duomo and a damaged terracotta model is exhibited here (also illustrated above).  However, the execution of the statue was delegated to Pietro Francavilla, who completed it in Florence in 1600.  The statue bears the signatures of both men.


                                                     St Philip                              St Thaddeus

Two figures in the series were commissioned from Francesco Mochi:

  1. The figure of St Philip (1609-10) was commissioned from him shortly before the figure of the Virgin Annunciate (below) was delivered.  He carved it in Orvieto, and delivered it within a year.  There followed a protracted wrangle as to its value, and he was not finally paid until 1614, following a determination by the Tribunale della Sacra Rota in Rome.

  2. Figures of St Thaddeus (1638-44) was commissioned during a visit to Orvieto in 1638, although it was agreed that he would carve it in Rome.  He did not start work on it until 1640, and it was not finished until 1644 (the date on its inscription).  Damage that it suffered en route from Rome can still be seen.

The series was completed over a long period:

  1. The Roman sculptor Ippolito Buzi was chosen to execute a figure of St Bartholomew (1616-7), after a competition with Pietro Bernini (the father of Gianlorenzo Bernini).

  2. Figures of SS James Minor and  Simon (1722), the last two figures in the series, were commissioned from the Roman artist Bernardino Cametti in 1714.  They were supposed to be delivered after 16 and 36 months respectively, but they were both actually delivered in 1722.  The figure of St James is signed and dated by inscription.

St Sebastian (1554-7) and St Roch (1593)


                                           St Sebastian (1554-7) by            St Roch (1593) by

                                           Francesco Mosca, il Moschino            Fabiano Toti

Francesco Mosca, il Moschino selected marble for a figure of St Sebastian in 1554, but the figure itself was unfinished when he left Orvieto in 1556.  Ippolito Scalza finished it, and it was then placed in a niche to the left the entrance to the Cappella Nuova.  It was moved to the counter-facade in ca. 1593.

This figure of St Sebastian now formed a pendant to a figure (1593) of St Roch, another plague saint, by Fabiano Toti.

St Constantius (1593-6) and St Brictius (1601)


                                                     St Constantius (1593-6)              St Brictius (1601)       

These marble figures by Fabiano Toti were originally in the Cappella Nuova, where they flanked the altarpiece of the Madonna della Stella.  They were documented in 1632 on the counter-facade of the Duomo. 

Annunciation (1603-9)


In 1603, Duke Mario Farnese secured for his protegé Francesco Mochi a commission to sculpt the figure of St Philip for the series of Apostles in the nave (see above).  This was an important  opportunity for the young sculptor, since the figure formed part of a series by the leading sculptors of the day.  However, before he began, the Opera del Duomo asked him to execute two other, smaller figures, the Archangel Gabriel and the Virgin Annunciate.

The first figure to be delivered (in 1605) was the angel, which Mochi signed and dated by inscription.  (The lily that the angel originally carried has been lost).  The work was acclaimed for its ethereal quality, for the magnificent technique used to carve the diaphanous drapery, and for the theatricality of the pose.  (It is now often regarded as among the earliest in the style that we call the Baroque).  Mochi wanted the figure to be placed on the balustrade to the left of the tribune.  In this elevated location, bathed in the light from the right, it would impose on the physical space of the congregation in the nave.   It was indeed so-positioned for about two years until the Opera del Duomo decided to move it to a less precarious location in the tribune, just inside the balustrade.

The Virgin Annunciate was delivered in 1609.  A document from 1612 records that Cardinal Bishop Giacomo Sannesio opposed its installation (perhaps because of the unorthodox pose of the terrified, earth-bound figure and its tight gown).   The Opera del Duomo were however satisfied and threatened to seek  arbitration from Pope Paul V.  There is no record that Paul V was actually consulted, but the figure was installed as a pendant to the angel later in 1612.

The current arrangement of the figures in the apse of the ex-church of Sant’ Agostino (illustrated above) allows them to be lit from the right, as Mochi originally intended.

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