Authorship Rediscovered: New Evidence about Harvard’s Pair of Renaissance Terracotta Busts

February 23, 2021
Portrait Bust of a Man and Portrait Bust of a Woman, c. 1510–50. Terracotta. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of David Rockefeller in memory of his mother Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, 1981.188, 1981.189.

Art historian Felipe Pereda and conservator Tony Sigel propose a solution to the much-disputed and unknown authorship and identities of a pair of magnificent 16th-century terracotta portrait busts in the Harvard Art Museums.

This talk takes viewers through the archival, art historical, and technical evidence that identifies the sculptor as Pietro Torrigiano, the names of the sitters, and the modeling techniques Torrigiano used to create the busts, from the inside out. Professor Pereda argues that these are among the most delicate terracotta portraits of the whole Renaissance period and are crucial in reframing the legacy of Torrigiano, known best as “the man who broke Michelangelo’s nose.”

Led by:
Tony Sigel, Senior Conservator of Objects and Sculpture, Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, Harvard Art Museums

Felipe Pereda, Fernando Zóbel de Ayala Professor of Spanish Art, Department of History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University

Works explored:
Portrait Bust of a Man and Portrait Bust of a Woman, c. 1510–50. Terracotta. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of David Rockefeller in memory of his mother Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, 1981.188, 1981.189.