Kessels, MATTHIAS, sculptor, b. at Maastricht, 1784; d. at Rome, March 3, 1836. He was first apprenticed to a goldsmith at Venloo, but went early to Paris and studied at the Beaux Arts. In 1806 he found his way to St. Petersburg, and abode there eight years, making silver and wax models and sculptures of various kinds. In 1814 he returned to Paris and attached himself to the atelier of Girodet; finally, having decided to go to Rome, he was received into the studio of Thorvaldsen; it is of interest to know that he worked on the famous reliefs of "Day" and "Night" (1819). In a competition opened by Canova for young artists, Kessels won the highest award with his "St. Sebastian pierced with arrows", a piece of frank and beautiful workmanship. For the Duke of Alba, Kessels executed his small "Disk-thrower reclining", and the "Cupid whetting his darts"; for the Prince of Orange, "Paris resting", a colossal marble placed at Laeken, and which obtained for him the Order of Leopold; for the Duke of Devonshire, the heroic "Disk-thrower in action".
He also made a group in marble of figures in the Deluge, and the tomb in Rome of the Countess de Celles, wife of the Ambassador of the Netherlands. Lesser works are the "Woman weeping over an Urn", the "Genius of Art", and a bust of Admiral Tromp. Kessels excelled particularly in religious subjects: "Christ at the Column", colossal busts of Christ and the Virgin Mary, a low relief of the head of Our Savior, the Four Evangelists in terra-cotta, and a "Pieta". He was engaged on a "St. Michael overcoming the Hydra of Anarchy", for the church of Ste-Gudule, Brussels, when death claimed him. Kessels is not much known, but he belongs to the Roman school, founded by Canova and Thorvaldsen, which adhered strictly to idealism and to the laws prescribed by the antique. He is one of the group with Schadow, Wolff, and others. He was a member of the Academy of St. Luke and of the Institute of the Netherlands. A "Disk-thrower" by him is in the gardens of the Palais des Academies, Brussels.
M. L. HANDLEY