An unpublished document has made it possible to reconstruct the whole story of the statue of San Sebastiano that contains the relics of the patron saint of Fumone: the expense account and the goldsmith’s inventory!
The silver statue of San Sebastiano di Fumone is the only one remaining from the clay model of the great artist Rusconi (Milan 1658 – Rome 1728). In 2015, it was shown in the prestigious Charlemagne wing in the Vatican.
But what is the story of the statue?
The document that has enabled us to trace the name of the artist is an account paid for the statue by a “S. Bastiano “as a silver case to preserve the relic of the head of the saint, to the illustrious jeweller Giovanni Giardini (Forlì 1646 – Rome 1721) around 1697.
The sculpture of San Sebastiano shows the figure of the martyr bound to a golden bronze trunk. On the ground are found: the helmet, the shield with the inscription “COMMVNITAS FVMONIS PROTECTORI SVO DICAVIT AN °: 1697”, some arrows and a quiver.
The gilded wooden pedestal, in which is mounted the case containing the sacred relic is realised in 1750 with the processional canopy from the Tyrolean engraver Jean Stoltz.
The statue was commissioned in 1689 by Monsignor Niccolò Grimaldi, the governor of Campagna e Marittima (the then name of the province where Fumone is located), which ordered that of the twelve ‘scudi’ set aside for the holiday expenses, nine would be annually devolved from the Commune to Company of San Sebastiano. These sums were to be used for the construction of a silver work that would contain the sacred relic.
For this reason, the old habit of “panarda”, a kind of bread soup that was distributed on the day of the patron saint, was abolished.
Marquis Pietro Longhi became the intermediary between the community of Fumone and the silversmith Giardini, to whom the account was assigned. The Marquis, in selecting Giardini, had chosen a “prestigious artist”, since he was the silversmith of the Apostolic Palace, and in 1698 he would also become the official founder of the Reverenda Camera Apostolica.
Giardini was the most important goldsmith/silversmith among the masters of the late 17th century.
The account of the silversmith dates from April 22, 1697, and describes the statue and the various works needed to realize it: just over 3 kilograms of silver and about 10 kilograms of bronze, for a total expenditure of 268 scudi, then discounted to 254 scudi.
This expense was dealt with through a loan of 100 shields, carried out by the Company of the Rosary of Fumone and authorized by various ecclesiastical hierarchies.
There is no price specified in the San Sebastian account for the model from which the casting is to be obtained, and this presupposes that silverware was already available in its shop. From the inventory drawn up after his death is found: ” un San Sebastiano di creta modello del Signor Camillo Rusconi “.
This is the clue that connects the statue of San Sebastiano di Fumone with the great artist Rusconi.
Also in the Inventory of the Fumone Church’s 1770s, it is said that the statue is “the work of the famous Rusconi”, a further confirmation of the derivation of the silver statue from the model by the Milanese sculptor.