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Ishmael Abandoned in the Desert

Giovanni Strazza1844/1846

Galleria d'Arte Moderna - Milano

Galleria d'Arte Moderna - Milano
Milan, Italy

This sculpture depicts the biblical episode in which Ishmael—abandoned by his mother in the desert so she will not have to watch him die of thirst—faints, having finished all the water in the amphora behind him (Genesis, 21, 8–21). Ishmael was modeled by Strazza in 1884 in his studio in Palazzo Venezia, Rome, where it captured the attention of the city's artistic and cultural circle. However, the sculpture first found widespread success 2 years later, when it was sent to the celebrated Brera Exhibition in 1846. As previously happened with Giovanni Dupré's "Abel," produced in 1842—by which Strazza was clearly inspired—the piece shocked the public with its intentional abandonment of ideal beauty, instead opting for the approach of natural beauty, obtained through a realistic study of anatomy. In fact, it was so realistic that it was accused of being taken from a real cast. The success of the work is confirmed by Strazza's production of at least 3 marble versions, 2 of which are kept at the Galleria d'Arte Moderna in Milan. The statue was presented at major exhibitions in Italy and abroad; it was sent to the Crystal Palace at the International Exhibition of 1851 in London, won the medal for sculpture at the First National Exhibition of Florence in 1861, was admired by Domenico Morelli at the Promotrice di Napoli in 1865, and finally appeared at the 1883 Rome International Exhibition.

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  • Title: Ishmael Abandoned in the Desert
  • Creator: Giovanni Strazza
  • Date: 1844/1846
  • Physical Location: Galleria d'Arte Moderna di Milano
  • long term loan: Italy
  • Physical Dimensions: w118 x h50 x d74 cm
  • Provenance: Storage
  • Type: sculpture
  • Medium: marble

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