Massimiliano Soldani Benzi

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Adonis Mourned by Venus and Cupids (circa 1715)

Massimiliano Soldani-Benzi or Massimiliano Soldani (15 July 1656 – 23 February 1740) was an Italian sculptor and medallist, mainly active in Florence.[1]

Born at Montevarchi, the son of an aristocratic Tuscan cavalry captain, Soldani was employed by the Medici for his entire career. He was the finest bronze caster in Europe in the late 17th century. He began training in the Medici school in Florence, and attracted the attention of the Grand Duke Cosimo III de' Medici who sent Soldani-Benzi to Rome to complete his training in sculpture and coin-making. During his four years in Rome, Cosimo forbad him to work for others, although Queen Christina of Sweden wanted to commission work from him. After his return from Rome, Cosimo sent the artist to work with a famous medallist in Paris. Again in deference to Cosimo, Soldani-Benzi refused overtures from Louis XIV and, cutting short his visit, returned to Florence, where he was made director of the Grand-ducal Mint (Maestro dei Coni), and had a workshop in the Uffizi.[2] The Medicis had been equally possessive of his predecessor Giambologna.

Though trained as a medallist, Soldani-Benzi also produced bronze reliefs, and free-standing figures and busts, often after the antique, and apparently, even bronze vases.[3] Klaus Lankheit recognized in a small bronze Pietà attributed to Soldani at the Walters Art Museum a "balanced triangular composition" that is "almost a relief in form" and suggested that it had been composed first as a relief;[4] A more elaborate version, with additional figures, in the Kress collection at the Seattle Art Museum, was identified as by Soldani by Ultich Middeldorf.[5] A second table bronze, Venus and the Wounded Adonis, on a richly-mounted ebony base raised on bronze paw feet, is also at the Walters Art Museum.[6] For Joseph Johann Adam, Prince of Liechtenstein, he produced a series of bronze copies of works of the Medici collection [7]

At rare intervals he exhibited terra cotta bozzetti at the irregularly staged exhibitions of the Accademia del Disegno, Florence: in 1715 a Pietà in terracotta by "Sig. M.S."[8] A major document for his career is his autobiography, dated 1718, correspondence, and the inventory taken after his death.[9]

After his death his heirs sold some of his wax models to marchese Carlo Ginori, who had them adapted by his chief modeller, Gaspero Bruschi, and reproduced in porcelain at his Doccia porcelain manufactory near Florence. Thus Soldani's Apollo in His Chariot, Venus Plucking the Wings of Cupid and Virtue Overpowering Vice all exist as Doccia porcelain groups.[10]

A highly finished terracotta relief, Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, doubtless intended as a modello to be cast in bronze as a private devotional work, is conserved in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.[11]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Klaus Lankheit, Florentinische Barockplastik, 1962.
  2. ^ Sourced from the Getty & Lichtenstein museum links
  3. ^ Klaus Lankheit, "A pair of bronze vases by Massimiliano Soldani, The connoisseur, 141 (November 1958).
  4. ^ Dated c1715 in Klaus Lankheit, "Two Bronzes by Massimiliano Soldani Benzi", The Journal of the Walters Art Gallery, 19/20 (1956/1957:8-17]; he detected the sculptor's manner, in both motif and style, in a Ginori porcelain Pietà at the British Museum, illustrated in Arthur Lane, Italian porcelain (London, 1954:43 plate 59, illustrated by Lankheit, p13 fig. 4).
  5. ^ (Middeldorf) European Paintings and Sculptures from the Samuel H. Kress Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 1954:82f.
  6. ^ Dated c1729 in Lankheit 1956/57:15ff, illustrated p. 14 fig. 5; Lankheit suggests (p. 16) that a lost Tancred and the Wounded Clorinda, similarly mounted, may have formed a pair.
  7. ^ Works in Liechenstein collection.
  8. ^ Noted in Lankheit 1956/57:10.
  9. ^ Documents published in Lankheit; G. Corti, "L'inventorio dell'ereditàdi Massimiliano Soldani Benzi," Kunst des Barock in der Toskana(Munich 1976) pp 176-81.
  10. ^ The Detroit Institute of Arts has examples of all of these Doccia groups.
  11. ^ Lankheit 1962, pl. 90; Kate McCluer, "A Terracotta Relief of the Agony in the Garden by Massimiliano Soldani Benzi", Metropolitan Museum Journal, 22' (1987), pp. 97-113.

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