Putti with the Symbols of the Eucharist
(Roberto Michel)


(Puy-de-Velay 1720 – 1786 Madrid)
26. Putti with the Symbols of the Eucharist
Second half of the 18th century
Poplar, gessoed, polychromed and gilded
80 x 34 x 42.5 cm (31 ½ x 13 ⅜ x 16 ¾ in.)
PROVENANCE: Enrique Pelta, Madrid
Roberto Michel was a French sculptor who began his training at the very early age of ten
working in the French workshops of Antoine-Michel Perrache (1726–1779), and two other
sculptors by the name of Dupon and Bonfili, as well as in the Madrid workshop of the
Flemish sculpture Luquet, whom he accompanied when his master moved to the city in
October of 1740.1
Michel spent the rest of his career in Spain where his merits as a sculptor were recognized by Ferdinand
VI, who appointed him court sculptor at the beginning of 1757. Later, during the reign of Charles III, he
reached the pinnacle of his career, again achieving the title of court sculptor in 1775. In addition to his
work for the Palacio Real in Madrid, he also produced works for Palacio de El Pardo, Aranjuez, and the
Colegiata de la Granja de San Ildefonso in Segovia. Madrid retains probably his most celebrated work,
the lions in the Cybele Fountain, which have come to be emblematic of the city (Fig. 1). Among his other
most famous works are the Puerta de Alcalá, and the sculptural decoration on the four fountains in front
of the Museo del Prado.
Apart from a few dedicated studies of specific projects,2 most of our information about Michel is
derived from the citations in Ceán Bermúdez, Ponz or Sánchez Cantón.3 We do know, however, that by
1745, Michel had achieved a recognized measure of success, because when one of his drawings was
included in an exhibition at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando on 18 March he was
selected from a competition, with, amongst other artists, Franciscus Stols, François de Voge, Francisco
Vergara and Diego de Villanueva, to join the Academy. Michel was later appointed Lieutenant Director
of Sculpture (1752), Director of Sculpture (1763), and eventually, Director of the Academy (1774),
before finally achieving the highest position, Director in Chief (1785). Although Michel never went to
Rome, at the Academia he would have had access to sculptural casts and models, as well as the royal
sculpture collection, which at one point he even helped to restore.
The attribution of these two putti to Michel is based as much on the technical similarity to his known
works as on stylistic analysis, because, though they are somewhat of a piece with the classical Baroque
style, we must never overlook the importance of stylistic analysis in assessing the work of this artist. It
should be clarified that these sculptures do not depict infants, but putti, whose wings are now lost; traces of their original attachment remain on the back of the shoulders. Moreover, their attributes of
wheat and grapes, which refer to the bread and wine of the Eucharist, further indicate that these figures
would have been winged. Throughout the eighteenth century angels, putti and genii were used in both
religious and secular decorative schemes, and we have many similar examples by Michel conserved in
the rooms, halls and chapels of the Palacio Real, as well as other palaces and churches in Madrid. Many
of these angels, cherubim, putti and genii were executed in stucco, such as those in the Royal Chapel
(1754; Fig. 2), or in stone (Fig. 3) but Michel preferred to work in wood (Fig. 4). All of these works
share similar physiognomy, with pronounced cheekbones and marked features in the mouth, such as
the full lower lip, and pronounced chin, not to mention the distinctive treatment of the hair. Such
features are included in the many angels and cherubim made by Michel in a variety of materials, and
these are all evident in the present works. The figures, which are solid, but graceful and fully infantile, many wood sculptures Michel made for the court were a set of fire
screens for the Palacio del Buen Retiro.4
Michel also produced wooden sculptures – now, sadly, for the most
part, lost – for various churches throughout Madrid, including the
Comendadoras de Santiago, the Church of San Bernardino, the
Oratory of San Felipe Neri, the main altarpiece of San Fermín de los
Navarros, and the churches of San Ignacio, San Marcos5 and others
in Navarre.
In the Royal Chapel (1754) Michel worked in collaboration with the
Galician sculptor Felipe de Castro and made twelve putti in stucco,
eight of which in the cupola bear garlands, while the other four bear
attributes of the Cardinal Virtues. The king’s chief sculptor,
Giovanni Domenico Olivieri stated that: ‘Even seen from such a
great distance, one could not but appreciate how in every part, the
true beauty of art has been recognized, measured and achieved’.
Additionally, putti and genii by Michel can still be seen in various
rooms in the Palacio Real; as in the Colegiata de la Granja de San
Ildefonso, the Palace of Aranjuez, the Palacio de El Pardo, and others. In some cases, these whitepainted
figures also bear gilded symbols or attributes, often floral garlands, or oak leaves, in keeping
with what came to be recognized as this French-born sculptor’s characteristic style.

1 J. A. CEÁN BERMÚDEZ, Diccionario histórico de los más
ilustres profesores de las Bellas Artes en España, 6 vols,
Madrid 1800, vol. III, pp. 147-152; and ID., Diccionario
histórico de los más ilustres profesores de las Bellas Artes en
España [1800], Reales Academias de Bellas Artes de San
Fernando y de la Historia, Madrid 1965, vol. III, pp.
2 D. MENÉNDEZ RAYÓN, La Antigua Aduana de Madrid,
Imprenta de Miguel Ginesta, Madrid 1871, pp. 30–32; M.
LUISA TÁRRAGA BALDÓ, ‘Esculturas y escultores de la Puerta
de Alcalá’, in El Arte en tiempos de Carlos III, IV Jornadas
de Arte. Inst. ‘Diego Velázquez’ CEH del CSIC, Madrid
1989, pp. 267–276; M. L. TÁRRAGA BALDÓ, ‘Los estucos de
Roberto Michel para el Palacio de El Pardo’, in Archivo
Español de Arte, 1989, vol. LXIII, no. 247, pp. 315–329; J.
BUADES TORRENT, El Edificio del Ministerio de Hacienda y
su Tesoro Artístico, Madrid 1982, pp. 62–72; J. LUIS
MELENDRERAS GIMENO, ‘La obra de Roberto Michel,
escultor de cámara del Rey Carlos III’, in Reales Sitios,
XXIII, no. 90, 1986, p. 37; C. LORENTE ARÉVALO and C.
TASCÓN GÁRATE, ‘Nuevas aportaciones a la biografía del
escultor Roberto Michel’, in Anales de Historia del Arte,
Universidad Complutense, 1995, vol. V, pp. 225–236.
3 A. PONZ, Viage de España, 3rd ed., Madrid 1793, vol. V;
E. SERRANO FATIGATI, ‘Escultura en Madrid desde mediados
del siglo XVI hasta nuestros días’, in Boletín de la Sociedad
Española de Excursiones, 1909, vol. XVII, p. 273; F. JAVIER
SÁNCHEZ CANTÓN, ‘Roberto Michel escultor del siglo
XVIII’, in Boletín de la Sociedad Española de Excursiones,
1917, vol. XXV, p. 3.
4 G. FERNÁNDEZ BAYTON (archiv.), Inventarios reales:
testamentaria del Rey Carlos III, Museo del Prado, Madrid
5 P. DE RÉPIDE, ‘Rincones de Madrid: la Plaza de la Paja’, in
Ilustración Española y Americana, Madrid 1915, no. 82;
PONZ, Viage de España cit, vol. V, p. 189; CEÁN BERMÚDEZ,
Diccionario histórico cit., vol. III, p. 151.

80 x 34 x 42.5 cm (31 ½ x 13 ⅜ x 16 ¾ in.)
Poplar, gessoed, polychromed and gilded

Enrique Pelta, Madrid

Historical Period
Rococo - 1720-1780
Religious: New Testament
Price band
Sold or not available