Andrea Ferrucci. Portrait of Marsilio Ficino. 1521.
Florence, Duomo.

SILVIO COSINI (1495-1549 circa)

Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists

SEEING that it is no less necessary for sculptors to have mastery over their carving-tools than it is for him who practices painting to be able to handle colors, it therefore happens that many who work very well in clay prove to be unable to carry their labors to any sort of perfection in marble; and some, on the contrary, work very well in marble, without having any more knowledge of design than a certain instinct for a good manner, I know not what, that they have in their minds, derived from the imitation of certain things which please their judgment, and which their imagination absorbs and proceeds to use for its own purposes. And it is almost a marvel to see the manner in which some sculptors, without in any way knowing how to draw on paper, nevertheless bring their works to a fine and praiseworthy completion with their chisels. This was seen in Andrea, a sculptor of Fiesole, the son of Piero di Marco Ferrucci, who learnt the rudiments of sculpture in his earliest boyhood from Francesco di Simone Ferrucci, another sculptor of Fiesole, And although at the beginning he learnt only to carve foliage, yet little by little he became so well practiced in his work that it was not long before he set himself to making figures; insomuch that, having a swift and resolute hand, he executed his works in marble rather with a certain judgment and skill derived from nature than with any knowledge of design. Nevertheless, he afterwards gave a little more attention to art, when, in the flower of his youth, he followed Michele Maini, likewise a sculptor of Fiesole; which Michele made the St. Sebastian of marble in the Minerva at Rome, which was so much praised in those days.

Andrea, then, having been summoned to work at Imola, built a chapel of greystone, which was much extolled, in the Innocenti in that city. After that work, he went to Naples at the invitation of Antonio di Giorgio of Settignano, a very eminent engineer, and architect to King Ferrante, with whom Antonio was in such credit, that he had charge not only of all the buildings in that kingdom, but also of all the most important affairs of State. On arriving in Naples, Andrea was set to work, and he executed many things for that King in the Castello di San Martino and in other parts of that city. Now Antonio died; and after the King had caused him to be buried with obsequies suited rather to a royal person than to an architect, and with twenty pairs of mourners following him to the grave, Andrea, recognizing that this was no country for him, departed from Naples and made his way back to Rome, where he stayed for some time, attending to the studies of his art, and also to some work.

Afterwards, having returned to Tuscany, he built the marble chapel containing the baptismal font in the Church of San Jacopo at Pistoia, and with much diligence executed the basin of that font, with all its ornamentation. And on the main wall of the chapel he made two life-size figures in half relief---namely, St. John baptizing Christ, a work executed very well and with a beautiful manner. At the same time he made some other little works, of which there is no need to make mention. I must say, indeed, that although these things were wrought by Andrea rather with the skill of his hand than with art, yet there may be perceived in them a boldness and an excellence of taste worthy of great praise. And, in truth, if such craftsmen had a thorough knowledge of design united to their practiced skill and judgment, they would vanquish in excellence those who, drawing perfectly, only hack the marble when they set themselves to work it, and toil at it painfully with a sorry result, through not having practice and not knowing how to handle the tools with the skill that is necessary.

After these works, Andrea executed a marble panel that was placed exactly between the two flights of steps that ascend to the upper choir in the Church of the Vescovado at Fiesole; in which panel he made three figures in the round and some scenes in low-relief. And for San Girolamo, at Fiesole, he made the little marble panel that is built into the middle of the church. Having come into repute by reason of the fame of these works, Andrea was commissioned by the Wardens of Works of Santa Maria del Fiore, at the time when Cardinal Giulio de' Medici was governing Florence, to make a statue of an Apostle four braccia in height; at that time, I mean, when four other similar statues were allotted at one and the same moment to four other masters--one to Benedetto da Maiano, another to Jacopo Sansovino, a third to Baccio Bandinelli, and the fourth to Michelangelo Buonarroti; which statues were eventually to be twelve in number, and were to be placed in that part of that magnificent temple where there are the Apostles painted by the hand of Lorenzo di Bicci. Andrea, then, executed his rather with fine skill and judgment than with design ; and he acquired thereby, if not as much praise as the---at least the name of a good and practiced master. Wherefore he was almost continually employed ever afterwards by the Wardens of Works of that church; and he made the head of Marsilius Ficinus that is to be seen therein, within the door that leads to the chapter house. He made, also, a marble fountain that was sent to the King of Hungary, which brought him great honor; and by his hand was a marble tomb that was sent, likewise, to Strigonia, a city of Hungary. In this tomb was a Madonna, very well executed, with other figures; and in it was afterwards laid to rest the body of the Cardinal of Strigonia.

To Volterra Andrea sent two Angels of marble in the round; and for Marco del Nero, a Florentine, he made a lifesize Crucifix of wood, which is now in the Church of Santa Felicita at Florence. He made a smaller one for the Company of the Assumption in Fiesole. Andrea also delighted in architecture, and he was the master of Mangone, the stone cutter and architect, who afterwards erected many palaces and other buildings in Rome in a passing good manner. In the end, having grown old, Andrea gave his attention only to mason's work, like one who, being a modest and worthy person, loved a quiet life more than anything else. He received from Madonna Antonia Vespucci the commission for a tomb for her husband, Messer Antonio Strozzi; but since he could not work much himself, the two Angels were made for him by Maso Boscoli of Fiesole, his disciple, who afterwards executed many works in Rome and elsewhere, and the Madonna was made by Silvio Cosini of Fiesole, although it was not set into place immediately after it was finished, which was in the year 1522, because Andrea died, and was buried by the Company of the Scalzo in the Church of the Servi.

Silvio. when the said Madonna was set into place and the tomb of the Strozzi completely finished, pursued the art of sculpture with extraordinary zeal; wherefore he afterwards executed many works in a graceful and beautiful manner, and surpassed a host of other masters, above all in the bizarre fancy of his grotesques, as may be seen in the sacristy of Michelangelo Buonarroti, from some carved marble capitals over the pilasters of the tombs, with some little masks so well hollowed out that there is nothing better to be seen. In the same place he made some friezes with very beautiful masks in the act of crying out; wherefore Buonarroti, seeing the genius and skill of Silvio, caused him to begin certain trophies to complete those tombs, but they remained unfinished, with other things, by reason of the siege of Florence. Silvio executed a tomb for the Minerbetti in their chapel in the tramezzo of the Church of Santa Maria Novella, as well as any man could, since, in addition to the beautiful shape of the sarcophagus, there are carved upon it various shields, helmet-crests, and other fanciful things, and all with as much design as could be desired in such a work. Being at Pisa in the year 1528, Silvio made there an Angel that was wanting over a column on the high-altar of the Duomo, to face the one by Tribolo; and he made it so like the other that it could not be more like even if it were by the same hand. In the Church of Monte Nero. near Livorno, he made a little panel of marble with two figures, for the Frati Ingesuati ; and at Volterra he made a tomb for Messer Raffaello da Volterra, a man of great learning, wherein he portrayed him from nature on a sarcophagus of marble, with some ornaments and figures. Afterwards, while the siege of Florence was going on, Niccolo' Capponi, a most honorable citizen, died at Castel Nuovo della Garfagnana on his return from Genoa, where he had been as Ambassador from his Republic to the Emperor; and Silvio was sent in great haste to make a cast of his head, to the end that he might afterwards make one in marble, having already executed a very beautiful one in wax.

Now Silvio lived for some time with all his family in Pisa; and since he belonged to the Company of the Misericordia, which in that city accompanies those condemned to death to the place of execution, there into his head, being sacristan that time, the once came at strangest caprice in the world. One night he took out of the grave the body of one who had been hanged the day before; and, after having dissected it for the purposes of his art, being a whimsical fellow, and perhaps a wizard, and ready to believe in enchantments and suchlike follies, he flayed it completely, and with the skin, prepared after a method that he had been taught, he made a jerkin, which he wore for some time over his shirt, believing that it had some great virtue, without anyone ever knowing of it. But having once been upbraided by a good Father to whom he had confessed the matter, he pulled off the jerkin and laid it to rest in a grave, as the monk had urged him to do. Many other similar stories could be told of this man, but, since they have nothing to do with our history, I will pass them over in silence.

After the death of his first wife in Pisa, Silvio went off to Carrara. There he remained to execute some works, and took another wife, with whom, no long time after, he went to Genoa, where, entering the service of Prince Doria, he made a most beautiful escutcheon of marble over the door of his palace, and many ornaments in stucco all over that palace, after the directions given to him by the painter Perino del Vaga. He made, also, a very beautiful portrait in marble of the Emperor Charles V. But since it was Silvio's habit never to stay long in one place--for he was a wayward person--he grew weary of his prosperity in Genoa, and set out to make his way to France. He departed, therefore, but before at Monsanese he turned back, and, stopping at Milan, he executed in the Duomo some scenes and figures and many ornaments, with much credit for himself. And there, finally, he died at the age of forty-five. He was a man of fine genius, capricious, very dexterous in any kind of work, and a person who could execute with great diligence anything to which he turned his hand. He delighted in composing sonnets and improvising songs, and in his early youth he gave his attention to arms. If he had concentrated his mind on sculpture and design, he would have had no equal; and, even as he surpassed his master Andrea Ferrucci, so, had he lived, he would have surpassed many others who have enjoyed the name of excellent masters.

There flourished at the same time as Andrea and Silvio another sculptor of Fiesole, called Il Cicilia, who was a person of much skill; and a work by his hand may be seen in the Church of San Jacopo, in the Campo Corbolini at Florence--namely, the tomb of the Chevalier Messer Luigi Tornabuoni, which is much extolled, particularly because he made therein the escutcheon of that Chevalier, in the form of a horse's head, as if to show, according to the ancient belief, that the shape of shields was originally taken from the head of a horse. About the same time, also, Antonio da Carrara, a very rare sculptor, made three statues in Palermo for the Duke of Monteleone, a Neapolitan of the house of Pignatella, and Viceroy of Sicily--namely, three figures of Our Lady in different attitudes and manners, which were placed over three altars in the Duomo of Monteleone in Calabria. For the same patron he made some scenes in marble, which are in Palermo. He left behind him a son who is also a sculptor at the present day, and no less excellent than was his father.

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