Sculptor Giovanni Battista Comolli was born on 19 February 1775 in Valenza, Piedmont. He studied at the Brera Academy in Milan and in Rome, possibly under Antonio Canova who exercised a lasting influence on his work. In February 1803 he settled in Turin where he became Professor of Sculpture at the Imperial Academy. Between 1808 and 1812 he was located at Carrara.
Comolli was in awe of Napoleon and spent much of his life in Milan, the city in which Napoleon was crowned King of Italy in 1805. He continued to immortalise the Emperor in his works until his death. That makes his popularity in England somewhat surprising.
Following the collapse of the Napoleonic Empire he moved to London. In 1816 and rented a studio at no. 1 Seymour Terrace, Anerley (Bromley). He received a series of commissions and produced busts of Lord Fox, of the Duke of Gloucester, of the Marquis of Buckingham, and of Thomas Grenville. His most significant work was the altar and other architectural sculpture for John Newman’s Roman Catholic Chapel in Moorfields (1820). Although Augustus Pugin was critical of the building’s ‘theatrical’ design, he did publish an image of the altar in Illustrations of the Public Buildings of London (1838). The church was pulled down in 1899, but Comolli’s columns were re-used by the architect George Sherrin in the new church built a year later. Around 1820 Comolli returned to Milan. He died in December 1831.