Anthony Toto

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Anthony Toto or "Antony", real name Antonio di Nunziato d'Antonio (1498–1554), was an Italian painter and architect, a Florentine pupil of Ridolfo Ghirlandajo. He came to England about 1519, and was naturalized in 1543, and was one of a number of foreign artists of the Tudor Court, being appointed Serjeant Painter in 1543. The English evidently found his Italian name too complicated, and he is normally called "Antony Toto" (in effect "Anthony Tony") in the records; he was already called "Toto di Nunziato" in Italian records.

His father was Nunziata d'Antonio, a painter who died in Florence in 1525. "Toto" had been signed on in Florence on 28 September 1519 as an assistant to Pietro Torrigiano, who was already in England, but in fact left there for good later that year. Vasari relates that Toto had worked in the shop of Nunziata’s friend Ridolfo Ghirlandaio where he had painted a number of pictures that were sent to England (just as his fellow shop assistant Bartolomeo Ghetti is said to have made paintings that were sent to King Francis I of France before he himself departed for the French court). He had a Florentine colleague Bartolommeo Penni, brother of the much more distinguished Gianfrancesco, Raphael's right-hand man, and Luca, a member of the School of Fontainebleau.[1] Both Toto and Penni probably came to Henry from Cardinal Wolsey, as they first appear in the accounts just after Wolsey's fall in October 1529. Henry VIII appointed him Serjeant Painter, and he died still in office under Edward VI. He was the first Serjeant Painter who can be evidenced as an artist rather than an artisan. None of his paintings are known to survive, but his New Year gifts to Henry, presumably his own work, are documented as including a Calumny of Apelles (1538/39) and a Story of King Alexander (1540/41), and then in 1552 a portrait of a duke "steyned upon cloth of silver" for Edward VI. In March 1538 Toto's servant was paid for bringing to the king at Hampton Court Palace a "depicted table of Colonia".[2] Toto and Penni are presumed to have spent most of their time after 1538 working on Nonsuch Palace, including elaborate stucco work for Henry's most advanced building, now vanished.

Toto was married, though little seems to be known about his wife, and had at least one daughter, Winifred, who married Sir Charles Calthorpe, judge of the Court of Common Pleas (Ireland). She died in 1605. Toto's services were evidently valued by the Crown, as he died a rich man, owning among other properties the manor of Ravensbury.

None of his father's works survive, and little is known of his work, though he is mentioned in Vasari, who would not have known him personally. A document of 1517 names Nunziata and his son Toto as witnesses to the will of a legnaiuolo named Giuseppe di Lorenzo in the parish of San Pancrazio in September 1517. Surprisingly, here Nunziata is identified not as a painter but as a bombardier (‘Nunziato Antonii Dominici bombardiere’). Apparently as an old man he must have fallen upon hard times. It was common for out-of-work craftsmen to moonlight as bombardiers (well-known examples include Raffaello da Montelupo and Zanobi Lastricati), though it was generally the province of masters in the more physically demanding arts, such as cannon-founders, sculptors, and scalpellini. Nunziata is a rare, if not unique example of a Renaissance painter working as a bombardier.

On 28 September 1519 Nunziata personally recorded his consent as his son Antonio, called Toto del Nunziata, contracted to work abroad with Pietro Torrigiani for four and a half years. At the time Toto signed on with Torrigiani he was several months past his twenty-first birthday; technically, therefore, his father’s permission was not required for the contract. Nunziata may have wished to give his formal assent in order to ensure that there would be no qualms about the legitimacy of Toto’s contract. On the other hand, his recollection of his son Toto’s exact age may merely have been a bit shaky.