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Benedetto da Maiano

(c. 1442—1497)

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(b Maiano, c.1442; d Florence, 24 May 1497).

One of the leading Florentine sculptors of his generation, a member of a family of artists from Maiano, near Florence, a village renowned for its quarries. He often worked with his brothers Giuliano (c.1432–90), who was primarily an architect, and Giovanni I (c.1439–78), and he also sometimes collaborated with the painter Domenico Ghirlandaio, whose essentially conservative outlook and high standards of craftsmanship were similar to his own. Nothing is documented of Benedetto's training. He is first recorded as a woodcarver, in 1467, and he continued working in wood throughout his career, but his most important works are in marble and he perhaps learnt his skills with this material from Antonio Rossellino. His masterpiece is the pulpit in S. Croce, Florence (c.1475–80), which features five relief panels on the life of St Francis (terracotta models for three of the panels are in the V&A, London). The pulpit was commissioned by the Florentine merchant Pietro Mellini, of whom Benedetto carved a portrait bust (1474, Bargello, Florence). He also produced a bust of the banker Filippo Strozzi (1475, Louvre, Paris); the terracotta model for this is in the Skulpturengalerie, Berlin, and this is the only instance of a 15th-century portrait bust in which both model and finished marble survive. Benedetto's son, Giovanni II (c.1487–c.1542), was also a sculptor. From about 1520 to about 1536 he worked in England (possibly recruited by Torrigiano) and he helped to introduce Renaissance influence to the country. His most important documented works in this respect are eight terracotta roundels of Roman emperors (1521) made for Cardinal Wolsey for the external decoration of his palace at Hampton Court (still at Hampton Court, although mainly not in their original positions). The superb wooden screen (c.1533–6) at King's College Chapel, Cambridge, has been attributed to him.

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