Stefano Bardini’s Sculptor from Philadelphia: A.E. Harnisch & the Manufacture of Italian Renaissance Sculpture in the late Nineteenth Century
Albert E. Harnisch (1843-1918), the sculptor and painter born and trained in Philadelphia, relocated in 1869 to Rome, where he enjoyed success, including commissions from America for public monuments. His legacy includes many high-quality signed and dated bronze and marble figurative sculptures, which were sent abroad. Harnisch was deeply embedded in the American expat community in Rome and part of the lively social circle surrounding the sculptor William Wetmore Story. Immediately following the poor reception of one of his monuments in 1887, until his death in 1918, that is, for the last 31 years of his life, only one signed work can be located. At that point, Harnisch moved to Florence and worked for the Florentine dealer, Stefano Bardini (1836-1922) for the rest of his life as a manager of the business. He acted as an important point man for luring international clients visiting Florence from outside of the peninsula, especially from across the Atlantic. At the same time, Harnisch was also deftly producing “Italian Renaissance” works which Bardini then transacted in the emergent global art market and for export out of Italy. This paper publishes for the first time a few recently identified works by Harnisch, and it proposes a new category of production by Nineteenth century sculptors, who confronted the Fifteenth century master Florentine sculptors and brilliantly channeled them, producing new compositions, as distinct from copies. From this intimate rapprochement, they were able to create countless high quality, newly made “Italian Renaissance” sculptures for collectors and collections outside of Italy.