Francesco Del Nero

The Art of Multiplication

  • Vasily Rastorguev (Autor/in)


The paper deals with the oddities and peculiarities of critical history of a bronze bust representing Francesco del Nero (1487−1563), papal treasurer in the pontificate of Clement VII de Medici. Formerly in the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum, Berlin, and long considered lost in the fire of Friedrichshain bunker in May 1945, it has recently been officially rediscovered in the Pushkin Museum, Moscow, in custody there since 1946. The bronze effigy of Francesco del Nero repeats a marble image of the same sitter on his tomb in Santa Maria Minerva, Rome, thus raising the question of a copy and of the original. Also, several plaster casts and even bronze copies are known to exist. The dramatic history of the bust, acquired in 1895 for Berlin Museums by Wilhelm von Bode himself, is examined in detail, along with that of a plaster cast of the aforementioned work also in Moscow, acquired around 1899 in Berlin by the founder of the Moscow museum Ivan Tsvetaev, and produced at the Berlin Gipsformerei. New material available at hand and a critical analysis of the sources allows the author to effectively challenge the attribution of the bronze bust to Giulio Mazzoni from Piacenza (1525–1618), together with the long-held assumption of the bust being the original after which a marble effigy in the roman church of Santa Maria Minerva was made, thus raising important concerns about the work’s provenance and authenticity. An examination of written sources related to the bust reveals several key inconsistencies in the account of its purchase for the Berlin Museums, while a recent (2017) rediscovery of yet another plaster cast of the bust in the legacy of a prominent Florentine dealer of antiques leads to a reconstruction of an intricate chain of fabricated copies, probably not devoid of a certain fraudulent intent.