By Livia Lupi

Giovanni Maria Morlaiter was born on 15 February 1699 to a pearl merchant. He trained as a sculptor in Alvise Tagliapietra’s workshop and was probably considered an accomplished sculptor by 1724, when he was listed as a member of the Collegio degli scultori, or The Sculptors’ Guild.

Morlaiter was a prolific artist. His reliefs and free-standing sculptures adorn numerous churches in Venice, and he is deemed to be one of the most important sculptors active in the city during the eighteenth century. He sculpted a variety of religious subjects, from the Virgin and saints to prophets and personifications of virtues. He used terracotta and white marble that he worked
and polished with great skill to realize elaborate draperies.

Morlaiter’s sculpture presents stylistic and iconographical traits derived from contemporary painting, especially Sebastiano Ricci’s work. The two artists were part of a circle of influential figures in eighteenth-century Venice, including painters Francesco Fontebasso and Francesco Polazzo, the English consul Joseph Smith, the art merchant Domenico Fontana and the intellectual Antonio Maria Zanetti.

In 1756, Morlaiter was nominated advisor for Venice’s Accademia di pittura e scultura, where he also taught sculpture from 1760. He died in Venice on 22 February 1781, leaving his two sons, painter Michelangelo and sculptor Gregorio, to continue in his footsteps.

Reference: Francesco Sorce. “Morlaiter, Giovanni Maria.” Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani.

Rest after the Flight to Egypt, terracotta low and high relief, 1735-38, Ca’ Rezzonico, Venice. Originally meant for the Chapel of our Lady of the Rosary, SS. Giovanni e Paolo, Venice.

Jesus Disputing with the Doctors in the Temple, terracotta low and high relief, c.1733, Ca’ Rezzonico, Venice. Chapel of our Lady of the Rosary, SS. Giovanni e Paolo, Venice.

Saint Paul, marble, 1743-44, Santa Maria del Rosario (Gesuati), Venice.

Moses, marble, 1748-50, Santa Maria del Rosario (Gesuati), Venice.

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