Though ultimately based on classical Roman portrait sculpture, this marble bust of Cardinal Antonio Barberini (1608–1671) displays the dynamism typical of Baroque sculpture. The image is enlivened by the turning head and slightly opened mouth. The silky material of the short cardinal’s cloak ripples, and the hair seems to have a life of its own. Francesco Mochi understood the important role of light in bringing his sculpture “to life,” and he masterfully creates highlights and shadows that animate the portrait.
Antonio Barberini was a member of an aristocratic Roman family that accumulated power and great wealth after his uncle, Maffeo Barberini, became Pope Urban VIII in 1623. Antonio collected an extensive library and was a great patron of the arts. This bust was likely made to celebrate Antonio’s elevation to the cardinalship, which his uncle the pope granted him at the very young age of 19.