Bertoldo di Giovanni (circa 1440 - 1491)

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Bertoldo di Giovanni

Florence, circa 1440 - Poggio a Caiano, 28 December1491

sculptor and medallist


Biographical information:
Born in Florence around 1440, Bertoldo di Giovanni di Bertoldo entered Donatello’s workshop around 1455, where he probably remained at length up to the death of the master. He collaborated on the last works of the great sculptor, including the pulpits in San Lorenzo in Florence (circa 1465).
On the strength of his experience as a sophisticated sculptor in bronze, Bertoldo very soon became an appreciated medallist: in 1469 he made medals for the Emperor Frederick III and Filippo de’ Medici, archbishop of Pisa. Having entered the milieu of the Medici, he established a particular relationship of friendship with Lorenzo il Magnifico, whom he was in the habit of accompanying on trips to the country and on his sojourns at the spa of Bagni di Morba.
In 1473 Lorenzo commissioned the sculptor to make several bronzes to be sent as a gift to Ercole I d’Este to celebrate his wedding (including Hercules on horseback, Modena, Galleria Estense). Belonging to the following years are works of intense lyricism and expressive pathos, again in the form of small bronzes, such as the Crucifixion now in the Museo del Bargello. An expert connoisseur and restorer of archaeological finds, over time Bertoldo matured a sophisticated humanist taste imbued with motifs and subjects derived from the antique, which is perfectly expressed in his characteristic small bronzes, such as the Bellerophon and Pegasus (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum), or the relief, also in bronze, of the Battle between the Romans and the Barbarians (also in the Museo del Bargello). On the occasion of the Pazzi Conspiracy (1478), Bertoldo designed the two-sided medal with the portraits of Lorenzo il Magnifico and of his brother Giuliano de’ Medici who was killed in the attack. Around 1480 he also made a medal of Mehmed II, whom the Magnifico wanted to enlist as his ally. After this the artist’s style began to decline, although it continued to maintain a forceful expressiveness.
Between 1483 and 1484 Bertoldo was in Padua engaged in a competition for a number of reliefs destined to the Basilica of Sant’Antonio, but the commission was eventually entrusted to Bartolomeo Bellano.
Around 1488 the Magnifico set Bertoldo in charge of the sculpture garden in Piazza San Marco in Florence, assigning him to the restoration and conservation of the archaeological marbles housed there. At Lorenzo’s wish, Bertoldo opened the garden to young artists who wished to practice drawing from the ancient and modern models. In this period Michelangelo was among those who frequented the garden, an environment that was free from the restrictions of the traditional workshop.
Among Bertoldo’s pupils we can mention: Baccio da Montelupo, Giovanni Francesco Rustici and Jacopo Sansovino.
He died in Poggio a Caiano in 1491, just a few months before the Magnifico himself.

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