Corradini was born in Venice and worked mainly in the Veneto, but also completed commissions for work outside Venice, including work for patrons through Eastern Europe, in Vienna where he was court sculptor for Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, and in Naples, where he died.
Early life and apprenticeship
Much of the information on Corradini's early life is contradictory, including his date of birth. According to recent scholarship, he was the son of Gerolamo Corradini, a professional veler (packer of sails for ships), and his wife Barbara, and born in the parish of SS. Vito and Modesto. His family was modest.
Corradini was apprenticed to the sculptor Antonio Tarsia (1663 - ca 1739), for whom he worked probably for four or five years starting at the age of fourteen or fifteen (this was the norm at the time). He later became Tarsia's son-in-law.
Corradini seems to have come into his own as a sculptor around 1709. That year he was employed on work for the façade of the church of San Stae in Venice. Two years later, in 1711, he was recorded as having been enrolled in the Arte dei Tagliapietra as one of the sculptors. By 1713 he had finally set up his own workshop and was working on the state of St. Anastasia in Zara for the church of San Donato.
Corradini's commissions for the next several years came from patrons all over Eastern Europe. In 1716-17, he completed eighteen busts and two statues for the summer garden of the Russian czar Peter the Great in St. Petersburg, and the first of his famous veiled women; he would complete two more in the city in 1722. Sometime in 1718 or 1719 he was commissioned to execute a monument to Johann Matthias von der Schulenburg, Marshal of the Venetian forces for the defence of island of Corfu (pictured above). In 1718 he completed an altar for the Cathedral of Rovigo, and in 1720 he was paid for a signed altar dedicated to the Blessed Hemma, installed in the crypt. Corradini completed the outdoor marble statuary group, Nessus and Deianira (1718–23), for the Grosser Garten in Dresden. The Apollo Flaying Marsyas and Zephyrus and Flora (1723-8) are two life-sized marble sculptures originally commissioned by the King of Poland and Elector of Saxony, Augustus the Strong for the gardens of the Höllandisches Palais in Dresden (now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London). It was also at this time that Corradini married Maria Tarsia, daughter of the sculptor Antonio.
In 1723, Corradini reputedly became the first person to legally separate the art of sculptors from the profession of stonemasons, forming part of a college that was established in 1724. He was faced with the task of guiding the new artistic profession through its infancy. In 1725-26 he was appointed curator of the laws of the institution and became its prior in 1727.
In the mid-1720s Corradini was awarded a number of commissions in Italy. He completed a number of sculptures for the Manin monument in the Cathedral of Udine and the church of San Giacomo di Udine and the altar of the Blessed Sacrament in the cathedral of Este (1722–25), which was his work entirely. From 1724-28 he worked in Venice on the restoration of the stairway and the sculptures of the Doge's Palace and the facade of the clock tower in the Piazza San Marco. After his wax model was chosen by the Signoria, between 1719-29 Corradini supervised the reconstruction of the bucintoro and completed a few wood carvings for it.
Move to Austria
In 1729-30, Corradini moved to Vienna, the capital of the Austrian Empire of the Habsburgs, where he was named court sculptor in 1733 and awarded a salary of 1700 florins a year and a housing allowance of 500 florins. He would be based there through the early 1740s. The emperor Charles VI entrusted him with the realization of the Bundesladendenkmal, or monument of the Ark of the Covenant, in Győr, in what is now northwestern Hungary, and in 1735 he worked after a drawing of Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach on a modelleto for tomb of St. Johann Nepomuk in Prague, executed by the silversmith Johann Joseph Würth in St. Vitus Cathedral of the Prague Castle.
Corradini completed a large number of works in Vienna itself during these years. Charles VI employed him in the decoration of the Josephbrunnen and, later, Corradini sculpted four figures for the two side altars below the dome of the Karlskirche and designed and supervised the construction of a wooden theater for animal fights called the Hetztheater. In 1736, together with Antonio Galli Bibbiena, he was named court designer for the bullfights that were held there, and on 14 April 1738 an imperial decree appointed Galli Bibbiena, Corradini, and Antonio Lopez jointly to the post of managers of the theater, which was used until 1749.
Move to Rome
On the death of Emperor Charles VI in 1740 and his wife in 1741, and the death of Fischer von Erlach in 1742, Georg Raphael Donner became the most prominent sculptor in Vienna. Corradini entered a period of crisis. In 1740 he briefly visited Rome, then in late 1742 he returned first to Venice and then to Rome, where shared room and board with Giovanni Battista Piranesi, even though the Austrian empress Maria Theresa reconfirmed him as court sculptor. On 23 January 1743 Corradini asked permission to stay in Rome permanently with the option of returning to Vienna.
In Rome, he devoted himself to sculpting a Veiled Vestal, achieved without a commission from any patron (it remained unsold), and was involved in the problem of the restoration of the dome of St. Peter's Basilica. Corradini designed eight models of colossal statues with which it was proposed to place at the foot of the drum of the dome make it more resistant to centrifugal force. He also sculpted a bust of Pope Benedict XIV and other minor works.
In 1744 Corradini moved for the last time, to Naples, to work on the sculpture for the Sansevero Chapel (Capella Sansevero de' Sangri or Pietatella) in central Naples, at the request of Raimondo di Sangro, Prince of Sansevero VII, who like Corradini was also a Mason, but unfortunately died at the early age of 23. Corradini's work on the chapel is a very complex and intricate decoration of statues, pedestals, altar frontals, round and bas-reliefs, for which he prepared 36 models in clay.
In 1750, he completed Veiled Truth (also called Modesty or Chastity) a remarkable tomb monument dedicated to Cecilia Gaetani dell'Aquila d'Aragona, mother of Raimondo de Sangro. Not only is it a technically inspired work, but the conceit of modesty shielded by the flimsiest of veils creates an alluring but ironic tension, perhaps one somewhat unmerited for a chapel funerary monument, but one that does compel remembrance. Another work of his, Christ Veiled under a Shroud, found in the same chapel, was subsequently completed by Giuseppe Sanmartino (1720–1793). The same artifice of "veiled" marble is utilized.
The Sansevero Chapel remains unfinished because of Corradini's death on 12 August 1752 in Naples. He was buried there in the parish church of Santa Maria della Rotonda on the same day.
- Bruce Boucher (1998). Thames & Hudson, World of Art, ed. Italian Baroque Sculpture. pp. 22, 102.