17th-Century Sculpture Captures Unbelievable Lace Details in Hand-Carved Marble

The Baroque Period is known for its decadent theatricality, with European artists continuing the classical trends of the Renaissance and shaping them into dramatic paintings and sculptures. Italian sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini's work is particularly revered by art historians. Yet, the work of his lesser known apprentice, Giuliano Finelli, are just as breathtaking. Finelli was born in 1601 in Torrano di Carrara, Italy and received formal training in sculpting in Naples. Moving to Rome in 1622, the budding artist's prowess with carving live figures attracted the renowned Bernini, and he chose Finelli as his assistant.

Under Bernini’s tutelage, Finelli grew his artistic ability and his political connections. Since Bernini was often commissioned by Pope Urban VIII, the most powerful political figure in Italy during the period, Finelli was able to work on incredibly significant pieces. One of these sculptures was a bust of Pope Urban VIII’s niece, Maria Duglioli Barberini, who had died in 1621 from labor complications.

Finelli’s attention to detail translated well in bringing her visage back to life in the bust that was commissioned around 1626. The sculptor was so precise in carving the details of her dress that the insertion lace surrounding the bust’s ruff is deceptively realistic—one would think it's actually made of textile, when in reality it's all marble. Even the minute string which binds the beads of the figure’s necklace is visible.

Unfortunately, Bernini could not share the spotlight with Finelli and refused to allow his assistant the chance to present the commission to the Pope in Rome. Finelli’s other contributions to Bernini’s work were also overshadowed by the artist’s popularity, and so he broke from Bernini’s workshop in 1629. His skill in portraying the most minute of details in all his commissions makes his work distinguishable from Bernini’s and beautiful to behold.

Baroque sculptor Giuliano Finelli created this exquisite, life-like carving of Pope Urban VIII’s niece, Maria Duglioli Barberini.

Bust of Maria Duglioli Barberini by Giuliano Finelli

Bust of Maria Duglioli Barberini in the Louvre (Photo: Wikimedia Commons [CC BY 3.0])

His attention to detail was remarkable. You'd think he used real lace for the bust's ruff. But it's all marble.

Bust of Maria Duglioli Barberini by Giuliano Finelli

Detail of the bust of Maria Duglioli Barberini in the Louvre (Photo: Wikimedia Commons [CC BY 3.0])

Bust of Maria Duglioli Barberini by Giuliano Finelli

Detail of the bust of Maria Duglioli Barberini in the Louvre (Photo: Wikimedia Commons [CC BY 3.0])

Bust of Maria Duglioli Barberini by Giuliano Finelli

Beautiful lace details on the bust of Maria Duglioli Barberini (Photos: Kim Rempel)

Finelli's craftsmanship is also found in many of the famed Bernini's works, like his sculpture Apollo and Daphne.

Baroque Sculpture of Two Lovers

“Apollo & Daphne” by Bernini (Photo: Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 4.0])

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Megan Cooper

Megan Cooper is a Contributing Writer for My Modern Met and a mid-century historian living in Charlotte, North Carolina. She has received a BSA in Public History from Appalachian State University in 2017 and is currently working towards finishing a Masters in Film and Media Studies through Arizona State University. She is extremely passionate about gender and women's studies and the democratization of cultural knowledge.

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