Stefano Maderno (1575-1636)
Martyrdom of St. Cecilia
Stefano Maderno 1600.
St. Cecilia, Trastevere, Rome.
The Counter Reformation caused the rediscovery of various religious subject matter. Chief among the new subjects were saints, their miracles and their legitimacy. St. Cecilia was a saint that had a special place in the hearts of artists, for she, too, was an artist: a musician.
This sculpture by Stefano Maderno marks the gravesite of the rediscovered body of the martyred St. Cecilia in 1599. Maderno and other witnesses claim the saint’s position in this sculpture mimics the way her corpse lie in the grave, uncorrupted (Ostrow). She wore a dress and her face was toward the ground. An incision in her neck was visible.
Although shocking at first, this marble corpse encompasses the grace of Baroque sculpture sought after by artists inspired by past Classical masters. It is a deviation from Mannerism and a turn toward verisimilitude. Many images of martyred saints from this time held nothing back in terms of gore, violence, and blood. But St. Cecilia’s limp body can only demand silence and awe. She was violently killed, yet shows signs of forgiveness in her graceful acceptance of reality.
Steven F. Ostrow. “Maderno, Stefano.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. 17 Mar. 2011 <http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T052984>.