The Neoclassicism of the Liturgical Arts of Cardinal Antonio Rusconi (1743-1825)

Cardinal Antonio Rusconi (1743-1825) was born into a patrician family of Bologna where he was also educated in at the university in both canon and civil law. In 1765 he would go to Rome and would travel broadly within the papal states. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1803 at the age of 60 and, only 13 years later in 1816, was made a cardinal and given the titular church of Ss. Giovanni e Paolo. At the same time he was consecrated a bishop by Pope Pius VII and made the Bishop of Imola.

Within that period of time, Cardinal Rusconi seemed to have accomplished quite a bit in the realm of the liturgical arts and we are fortunate to have a few different examples. In the first instance we have this beautiful and stately altar found within the Duomo of Imola, dated to the year 1820. The cardinal's arms are found upon it and it is characterized by beautiful colours and simple lines. 

The period of the cardinal's tenure aligns to the period when the neoclassical movement was in effect, a movement that was characterized by a resurgence of Greek forms, of sobriety, balance, symmetry or line and form. While not strictly neo-classical per se, certainly strong neoclasssical influences can be found in this elegant chasuble of the cardinal which is dated to 1816-1826, which is characterized by embroidered ornament which is certain more restrained and concerned with symmetry than its baroque counterparts.

However, the influences of neoclasssicism are even better seen in this pontifical ewer and basin, used for purifying the prelates finger, dated to 1816. These particular example include ornamental Greek key pattern.

Finally, we'll round out our considerations with this painted altarpiece of Ss. Peter and Paul dated to the year 1825. On the very bottom of the painting are to be found the arms of Cardinal Rusconi. When one thinks of neoclassical painting, one naturally thinks of the great French artist Jacques-Louis David. One can certainly see the similarities between the work of David and this painting of Ss. Peter and Paul which was executed by a painter trained in the neoclassical school of the Italian neoclassicist painter, Vincenzo Camuccini.

It is no doubt fitting that Cardinal Rusconi's own funerary monument continued this tradition and is a typical example of a neoclassical funerary monument. 

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