Ximenes Ettore, The Republic of Argentina

1,900; white Carrara marble
cm. 97 x 95 x 45
signed and dated below right edge: "E. Ximenes 1900"
Inventory: BH00212AFC
Provenance: Credito di Venezia e del Rio de la Plata Collection; Istituto Bancario Italiano (IBI) Collection (from 1967 to 1991).

The work, acquired in 1991 with the Istituto Bancario Italiano (IBI) Collection, came originally from the art collection owned by the Credito di Venezia e del Rio de la Plata.

The Credito di Venezia e del Rio de la Plata had come into being in 1956 when the Banco de Italia y Rio de la Plata was bought by the Credito Industriale di Venezia, the latter having been founded in 1918 by a group of industrialists led by Giuseppe Volpi, Count of Misurata, Governor of Tripolitania from 1921 to 1925, and Italian Minister of Finance from 1925 to 1927.
In 1967 the Credito di Venezia e del Rio de la Plata became the IBI, which incorporated seven other banks and took the name Istituto Bancario Italiano Spa – IBI. On 16 December 1991, the IBI ceased to be active, following its incorporation into Cariplo Spa.
The sculpture, signed and dated 1900, is an autograph replica of the bust representing the Argentine Republic, presently located in the Salón Blanco of the Casa Rosada. The bust is set within a rich decorative scheme, surmounted by a bronze shield bearing the Argentine national emblem and by two winged figures. This first version of the work was executed – according to the notebooks containing the artist’s memoirs – in 1896, which would have coincided with Ximenes’ first brief visit to Argentina, which was followed by two more sojourns there, in 1897 and 1902, during which the sculptor executed the Mausoleo de Manuel Belgrano, one of the protagonists of the war of independence and designer of the national flag.
On his arrival in Buenos Aires, the artist obtained several prestigious official commissions, including the funeral monument to the doctor, scientist and national hero Francisco Javier Muñiz, now in the Cimitero de Recoleta, the portrait of the President of the Republic, Giulio Roca, and the one of General Bartolomé Mitre, clinching his reputation on the local artistic scene with a solo exhibition staged in various venues on the Avenida Corrientes in summer 1896.
No sources have been traced that make direct reference to the work in the Collection, in which the sculptor portrays the Argentine Republic as an imposing female figure inspired by the Greek goddess Athena and wearing a Phrygian cap. On the medallion on her chest we recognise the national coat of arms, which combines two clasped hands, a stick and Phrygian cap, elements taken from the symbolism of the French Revolution.
The moderate naturalistic style, the composition of the figure and the soft, refined modelling relate the work to the period during which Ximenes studied Renaissance sculpture, starting in the 1870s, which corresponded to a stay in Florence devoted to research. The model for the bust was kept in the artist’s studio in Villino Ximenes in Piazza Galeno, Rome, as documented by a photograph, dated 1906, which depicts the sculptor at work on the Quadriga for the Palazzo di Giustizia, or law courts, in Rome.

Sources:Archivio Storico Intesa Sanpaolo, Patrimonio Archivistico Cariplo, Opere d'arte. Atti d'acquisto ex Cariplo. Fald. 3/3, pratica no. 879 R/990


Ugo Fleres, Ettore Ximenes. Sua vita e Sue opere. Con prefazione di Adolfo Venturi, Ist. It. D'arti Grafiche Edit. Tip., Bergamo, 1928, p. 69, p. 116;
Sergio Rebora, Ettore Ximenes, La Repubblica argentina, in Sergio Rebora, a cura di, Le collezioni d'arte. L’Ottocento, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio delle Provincie Lombarde, Milano, 1999, n. 240, pp. 345-346, ill.

Elena Lissoni
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