Agostino Carlini RA (ca. 1718 - August 1790)
RA Collection: People and Organisations
Agostino Carlini was an Italian sculptor and a Founder Member of the Royal Academy. He served as the second Keeper of the Royal Academy Schools.
Little is known of Carlini’s early life. Born in Genoa, Italy, in around 1718, he spent some time working for William of Orange in the Hague before arriving in England, exhibiting his first recorded works in the country in 1760.
In 1768, Carlini was invited to join the group of artists and architects petitioning the King for permission to found a Royal Academy of Arts. There were three other Italians included in the group of Founder Members, and only two other artists elected in the category of sculptor.
At the first annual exhibition held by the Royal Academy in 1769, Carlini exhibited a model for an equestrian statue of King George III, which one critic hailed as the best representation of the King they had seen. Although no full-size statue was ever made, Carlini sold several casts and donated one to the RA’s Collection.
Carlini returned to the subject of the King in 1773, carving a portrait bust of George III in classical dress. When the Royal Academy moved into its first official home at Somerset House in 1780, this bust was prominently displayed in the Academy’s library. Carlini also worked closely with the architect William Chambers on designing the Somerset House facade, contributing several sculptures, including representations of Prudence and Justice for the attic storey, that can still be seen today. He sculpted figures of Neptune and Mercury for the Dublin Custom House, although these were largely destroyed in an attack by the IRA in 1921. Carlini also carved tombs for churches around Britain, including the striking marble tomb to Lord and Lady Milton at Milton Abbey in Dorset.
In the mid-1770s, Carlini was tasked by the Schools with the gruesome job of creating a mold of a flayed corpse, known as an écorché, for use in anatomical study in the RA Schools. The corpse had been acquired by the first Professor of Anatomy, Dr William Hunter, who noted that “many parts of it were very fine and worth preserving”. Carlini posed the corpse in the manner of the Dying Gaul, a celebrated ancient Roman sculpture. The corpse was that of a smuggler who had been executed for his crime, leading Schools students to give it the pseudo-classical nickname Smugglerius.
Following the death of George Michael Moser in 1783, Carlini was appointed to replace him as the Keeper of the RA Schools. He continued to exhibit regularly at the Academy until 1787 and served as Keeper until his death in 1790.
Born: ca. 1718 in Genoa, Italy
Died: August 1790
Nationality: British, Italian
Elected RA: 10 December 1768
Keeper from: 1783 - 1790
Preferred media: Sculpture
Attributed to Agostino Carlini RA
Design for the headpiece of the Royal Academy diploma, 1769
Pen and ink with wash on laid paper
Smugglerius, ca. 1834
After John Francis Rigaud RA
Agostino Carlini, Francesco Bartolozzi, and Giovanni Battista Cipriani, 5 March 1778
Vita Di Benvenuto Cellini Orefice E Scultore Fiorentino, Da Lui Medesimo Scritta, Nella quale molte curiose particolarita si toccano appartenenti alle Arti ed all'Istoria del suo tempo, tratta da un'ottimo manoscritto, e Dedicata All'Eccellenza Di Mylord Riccardo Boyle Conte di Burlington, e Cork, Visconte di Dungarvon, barone di Clifford, e di Lansborough, Baron Boyle di Brog Hill, Lord Tesoriere d'Irlanda, Lord Luogotenente di Westriding in Yorkshire, siccome della Città di York, e Cavaliere della Giarrettiera. - In Colonia: .