"As soon as Perseus, great-grandson of Abas, saw her fastened by her arms to the hard rock, he would have thought she was a marble statue" – Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book IV
With Andromeda and the sea monster Romanelli chose a subject that had fascinated artists since the Renaissance. The myth is best known from Ovid’s dramatic account in his Metamorphoses. The poet tells of the Aethiopean princess, whose mother, Queen Cassiopeia, boasted that her daughter was more beautiful than Poseidon’s Nereids. Enraged, the god of the sea sent a monstrous sea creature to devastate the coast of their Aethiopean kingdom. The distraught King consulted the Oracle of Apollo for guidance, only to be told that he had to sacrifice his daughter to the monster to put an end to its rampage.
Chained to a rock by the coast, Andromeda was stripped naked and left to die. Ovid’s narration begins as the Medusa-slaying hero, Perseus, chances upon the girl and vanquishes the monster to win Andromeda’s hand in marriage.
While most artistic representations of the myth depict the moment in which Perseus comes to Andromeda’s rescue, Romanelli represents the maiden in the midst of her peril, seemingly setting eyes on the monster for the first time. The girl holds up her right arm in terror as the sharp-toothed head of the sea creature emerges at the bottom of her rock. Several versions of this model are known, including one which sold at Christie’s New York, 30 April 1997, and another illustrated in Panzetta (op. cit., p. 815, fig. 1606), both with variations in the monster’s position and appearance. Although a classical subject, Romanelli’s Andromeda marks a departure from the classicism of his former master, Lorenzo Bartolini. Her theatrical gesture and wildly flowing hair appear almost baroque, while Romanelli’s interest in naturalistic detail is showcased in his virtuosic carving of the monster and rockwork. | © Sotheby’s
Padre dello scultore Raffaello Romanelli e nonno di Romano, fu capostipite della celebre famiglia d'artisti toscani dei Romanelli.
Formatosi dapprima presso Luigi Pampaloni, poi con lo scultore neoclassico pratese Lorenzo Bartolini di cui divenne aiuto e allievo prediletto. Alla morte del maestro nel 1850 subentrò nella direzione del rinomato studio per completarne i lavori rimasti incompiuti. Stabilì il poi il suo laboratorio nella chiesa settecentesca sconsacrata dell’Arcangelo Raffaello al numero 70 di Borgo San Frediano a Firenze, bottega lasciatasi da e nella quale lavorava già con Lorenzo Bartolini. L'atelier rimase attivo fino al 1887 come suo poi tramandato a Raffaello Romanelli e a Romano. La bottega è sempre proprietà della famiglia Romanelli, e ci si può ammirare ancora oggi, gessi e capolavori della dinastia.
Delle sue opere originali, oltre ai ritratti, notevoli la statua di Francesco Ferrucci 1847, Firenze, Loggiato degli Uffizi, e il monumento funebre di Lorenzo Bartolini Basilica di Santa Croce, Firenze. Fu anche un fervidissimo patriota, poi perseguitato e forzato ad esiliarsi.