Piero Soderini’s tomb, 1510, Il Carmine, Florence,Benedetto da Rovezzano –Benedetto di Bartolomeo dei Grazzini– (Pistoia, c.1474-Vallombrosa, after 1530). In spite of my predilection for painting in general, sculpture cannot be disregarded when writing about Italian old masters; accordingly I decided to include this brief post, and although it was easy for me to be tempted by more important old masters sculptors (Michelangelo, della Robbia, Orcagna and Verrocchio, just to name a few) I opted out for commenting on this less known Renaissance sculptor!
Benedetto was a sculptor trained in Florence and influenced by da Maiano and da Sangallo; he specialized in ornament, which he designed with a peculiar sense of fitness; and for his skill in working out small figures and decorative emblems in his bas-reliefs. After having worked in England, executing Cardinal Wolsey’s tomb, (1525-35), he is thought to have introduced the Italian Renaissance in this country.
His funerary works were those in which his ornamental artistic level was best seen. The one I am talking about, the ex-gonfaloniere Piero Soderini’s tomb –although not his best (see marble fragments of the tomb of San Giovanni Gualberto for S. Trinita (now in the cenacle of S. Salvi, 1505-15) –in the church of the Carmine in Florence, is an example of his simple but effective ornamental architecture, as portrayed in the use of the sculptured skulls, cross-bones, and other mortuary elements; sculptured in every variety of relief upon the sarcophagus, as well as upon the pilasters and flat surfaces of the arch under which it stands. So, we might conclude that his fame lies on his top quality as decorator in funerary monuments, with his most exquisite detail to the execution of the figures and his love for the ornate, as is to be seen in all of these types of works. These kinds of ornaments were also employed at the tomb of his patron, Oddo Altoviti.
Although he excelled in his bas-relief and ornamental work, he was, regretfully, not so effective (or should I say, successful?) when tackling individual statues. Well, you cannot be a genius such a Michelangelo!
Jesús Lorenzo Vieites
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