- Desiderio da Settignano
- Settignano / Florence, 1429/30 - Florence, 1464
- Biographical information:
Desiderio da Settignano is one of the most important sculptors of the Florentine Renaissance after Donatello. Together with Antonio Rossellino, Mino da Fiesole and Benedetto da Maiano he was part of the generation of artists who worked after the first half of the fifteenth century, heirs to the teachings of the great figures of the early century: Donatello and Lorenzo Ghiberti, Nanni di Banco, Luca della Robbia and Michelozzo.
Born into a family of stone-carvers around 1430, on the hill of Settignano close to Florence, Desiderio entered the Florentine workshop of Bernardo and Antonio Rossellino, collaborating with them on the production of the Funeral Monument to Leonardo Bruni in the church of Santa Croce (circa 1446-50).
In 1453 he enrolled in the Arte dei Maestri di Pietra e Legname (Guild of Stonemasons and Carpenters), and with his brother Geri opened a workshop close to Ponte Santa Trinita. This workshop fulfilled a wide variety of commissions, including architectural ornaments, heraldic crests, devotional reliefs in stone, marble, stucco or terracotta, and portrait-busts, especially of youths and young women. The two brothers frequently entrusted the colouring of their reliefs to painters such as Neri di Bicci, who also had a workshop in the vicinity of Santa Trinita. While Geri, the older brother, worked primarily in stone, Desiderio very soon made his name in the working of marble.
In the 1450s he collaborated with Donatello, who appreciated his work. Effectively, the completion of the statue of the Young Saint John, begun by Donatello around 1430 and then donated to Roberto Martelli in 1457, has recently been attributed to Desiderio. Introduced into the Medici milieu, Desiderio was assigned to sculpt a pedestal in the form of a column in the ancient style for Donatello’s bronze David positioned in the courtyard of the new Palazzo Medici. Thanks to the support of the Medici, Desiderio obtained other important commissions, such as the Funeral Monument to Carlo Marsuppini in Santa Croce (1455-59) and the Tabernacle of the Sacrament in San Lorenzo (1458-1461).
In 1461 he and his brother parted ways, and Desiderio went to live with his family in the district of San Pier Maggiore, where he opened a workshop.
In his normal production he was particularly appreciated for certain specific subjects, such as busts of children, reliefs portraying the Madonna and Child and the Portraits of Caesars. His gentle and highly sophisticated style, the incisiveness and sensitive delicacy of the expressions, and his virtuoso working of the material showed Desiderio to be the most modern and original interpreter of the teachings of Donatello.
He died prematurely in January 1464.
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