Baccio Bandinelli (1488-1560)
Part IV
Vasari's Lives of the Artists

There came from France in those days Benvenuto Cellini, who had served King Francis in the matter of goldsmith¹s work, of which he was the most famous master of his day; and he had also executed some castings in bronze for that King. Benvenuto was introduced to Duke Cosimo, who, desiring to adorn the city, showed also to him much favor and affection, and commissioned him to make a statue of bronze about five braccia high, of a nude Perseus standing over a nude woman representing Medusa, whose head he had cut off; which work was to be placed under one of the arches of the Loggia in the Piazza. While he was executing the Perseus, Benvenuto also did other things for the Duke. Now, even as it happens that the potter is always the jealous enemy of the potter, and the sculptor of the sculptor, Baccio was not able to endure the various favors shown to Benvenuto. It appeared to him a strange thing, also, that Benvenuto should have thus changed in a moment from a goldsmith into a sculptor, nor was he able to grasp in his mind how a man who was used to making medals and little things, could now execute colossal figures and giants. Baccio could not conceal his thoughts, but expressed them freely, and he found a man able to answer him; for, Baccio saying many of his biting words to Benvenuto in the presence of the Duke, Benvenuto, who was no less proud than himself, took pains to be even with him. And thus, arguing often on the matters of art and their own works, and pointing out each other¹s defects, they would utter the most slanderous words of one another in the presence of the Duke, who, because he took pleasure in this and recognized true genius and acuteness in their biting phrases, had given them full liberty and license to say whatever they pleased about one another before him, provided that they did not remember their quarrel elsewhere.

This rivalry, or rather, enmity, was the reason that Baccio pressed forward his statue of God the Father; but he was no longer receiving from the Duke those favors to which he had been accustomed, and he consoled himself for this by paying court and doing service to the Duchess. One day, among others, that they were railing at one another as usual and laying bare many of each others' actions, Benvenuto, glaring at Baccio and threatening him, said: ³Prepare yourself for another world, Baccio, for I mean to send you out of this one.² And Baccio answered: "Let me know a day beforehand, so that I may confess and make my will, and may not die like the sort of beast that you are." By reason of which the Duke, who for many months had found amusement in their quarrels, bade them be silent, fearing some evil ending, and caused them to make a portrait-bust of himself from the girdle upwards, both to be cast in bronze, to the end that he who should succeed best should carry off the honors.

Amid this rivalry and contention Baccio finished his figure of God the Father, which he arranged to have placed in the church on the base beside the altar. This figure was clothed and six braccia high, and he erected and completely finished it. But, in order not to leave it unaccompanied, he summoned from Rome the sculptor Vincenzio de¹ Rossi, his pupil, wishing to execute in clay for the altar all that remained to be done in marble; and he caused Vincenzio to assist him in finishing the two Angels who are holding the candelabra at the corners, and the greater part of the scenes on the predella and the base. Having then set everything upon the altar, in order to see how his work, when finished, was to stand, he strove to prevail on the Duke to come and see it, before he should uncover it. But the Duke would never go, and, although entreated by the Duchess, who favored Baccio in this matter, he would never l et himself be shaken, and did not go to see it, being angered because among so many works Baccio had never finished one, even after his Excellency had made him rich and had won odium among the citizens by honoring him highly and doing him many favors. For all this his Excellency was disposed to assist Clemente, the natural son of Baccio‹a young man of ability, who had made considerable proficience in design‹ because it was likely to fall to him in time to finish his father¹s works.

At this same time, which was in the year 1554, there came from Rome, where he had been working for Pope Julius III, Giorgio Vasari of Arezzo, in order to serve his Excellency in many works that he was intending to execute, and in particular to decorate the Palace on the Piazza, and to renovate it with new constructions, and to finish the Great Hall, as he was afterwards seen to do. In the following year Giorgio Vasari summoned from Rome and engaged in the Duke¹s service the sculptor Bartolommeo Ammanati, to the end that he might execute the other façade~ in the above-named Hall, opposite to the audience-chamber begun by Baccio, and a fountain in the center of that façade; and a beginning was straightway made with executing a part of the statues that were to go into that work. Baccio, perceiving that the Duke was employing others, recognized that he did not wish to use his services any longer; at which, feeling great displeasure and vexation, he had become so strange and so irritable that no one could have any dealings with him either in his house or out of it, and to his son Clemente he behaved very strangely, keeping him in want of everything. For this reason Clemente, who had made a large head of his Excellency in clay, in order to execute it in marble for the statue of the audience-chamber, sought leave of the Duke to depart and go to Rome, on account of his father¹s strangeness; and the Duke said that he would not fail him. Baccio, at the departure of Clemente, who had asked leave of him, would not give him anything, although the young man had been a great help to him in Florence, and, indeed, Baccio¹s right hand in every matter; nevertheless, he thought nothing of getting rid of him. The young man, having arrived in Rome at an unfavorable season, died in the same year both from over-study and from wild living, leaving in Florence an example of his handiwork in an almost finished head of Duke Cosimo in marble, which is very beautiful, and was afterwards placed by Baccio over the principal door of his house in the Via de' Ginori. Clemente also left well advanced a Dead Christ who is supported by Nicodemus, which Nicodemus is a portrait from life of Baccio; and these statues, which are passing good, Baccio set up in the Church of the Servites, as we shall relate in the proper place. The death of Clemente was a very great loss to Baccio and to art, and Bandinelli recognized this after he was dead. Baccio uncovered the altar of Santa Maria del Fiore, and the statue of God the Father was criticized. The altar has remained as was described above, nor has anything more been done to it since; but the work of the choir has been continued.

Many years before, there had been quarried at Carrara a great block of marble ten braccia and a half in height and five braccia in width, of which having received notice, Baccio rode to Carrara and made a contract for it with him to whom it belonged, giving him fifty crowns as earnest-money. He then returned to Florence and so pestered the Duke, that, by the favor of the Duchess, he obtained the commission to make from it a giant, which was to be placed in the Piazza, at the corner where the Lion was; on which spot was to be made a great fountain to spout water, in the middle of which was to be a Neptune in his chariot, drawn by sea-horses, and this figure was to be carved out of the above-mentioned block of marble. For this figure Baccio made more than one model, and showed them to his Excellency; but the matter stood thus, without anything more being done, until the year 1559, at which time the owner of the marble, having come from Carrara, asked to be paid the rest of the money, saying that otherwise he would give back the fifty crowns and break it into several pieces, in order to sell it, since he had received many offers.

Orders were given by the Duke to Giorgio Vasari that he should have the marble paid for; which having been heard throughout the world of art, and also that the Duke had not yet made a free gift of the marble to Baccio, Benvenuto, and likewise Ammanati, bestirring themselves, each besought the Duke that he should be allowed to make a model in competition with Baccio, and that his Excellency should deign to give the marble to him who had shown the greatest ability in his model. The Duke did not deny to either of them the right to make a model, or deprive them of the hope that he who should acquit himself the best might be chosen to execute the statue. His Excellency knew that in ability, judgment, and design Baccio was still better than any of the sculptors who were in his service, if only he would consent to take pains, and he welcomed this competition, in order to incite Baccio having seen this competition on his shoulders, was greatly troubled by it, fearing the loss of the Duke¹s favor more than any other thing, and once more he set himself to making models. He was most assiduous in waiting on the Duchess, and so wrought upon her, that he obtained leave to go to Carrara in order to make arrangements for having the marble brought to Florence. Having arrived in Carrara, he had the marble so reduced in size‹as he had planned to do‹that he made it a sorry thing, and robbed both himself and the others of a noble opportunity and of the hope of ever making from it a beautiful and magnificent work. On returning to Florence, there was a long contention between Benvenuto and him, Benvenuto saying to the Duke that Baccio had spoilt the marble before it had been assigned to him. Finally the Duchess so went to work that the marble became Baccio's; and orders were given that it should be taken from Carrara to the seashore, and a boat was made ready with the proper appliances, which was to convey it up the Arno as far as Signa. Baccio also caused a room to be built up in the Loggia of the Piazza, wherein to work at the marble.

In the meantime he had set his hand to executing cartoons, in order to have some pictures painted which were to adorn the apartments of the Pitti Palace. These pictures were painted by a young man called Andrea del Minga, who handled color passing well. The stories painted in the pictures were the Creation of Adam and Eve, and their Expulsion from Paradise by the Angel, a Noah, and a Moses with the Tables; which finished, he then presented them to the Duchess, seeking to obtain her favor in his difficulties and contentions. And, in truth, if it had not been for that lady, who loved him for his abilities and held him on his feet, Baccio would have fallen headlong down and would have lost completely the favor of the Duke. The Duchess also made much use of Baccio in the Pitti garden, where she had caused to be constructed a grotto full of tufa and sponge-stone formed by the action of water, and containing a fountain; and for this Baccio had caused his pupil, Giovanni Fancelli, to execute in marble a large basin and some goats of the size of life, which spout forth water, and likewise, for a fish-pond, after a model made by himself, a countryman who is emptying a barrel full of water. For these reasons the Duchess was constantly helping and favoring Baccio with the Duke, who finally gave him leave to begin the great model of the Neptune; on which account he once more sent to Rome for Vincenzio de¹ Rossi, who had previously departed from Florence, with the intention of making him help to execute it.

While these preparations were in progress, Baccio was seized with a desire to finish the statue of the Dead Christ supported by Nicodemus, which his son Clemente had carried well forward; for he had heard that Buonarroti was finishing one in Rome that he had begun to carve from a large block of marble, containing five figures, which was to be placed on his tomb in Santa Maria Maggiore. Out of emulation with him Baccio set to work on his group with the greatest assiduity, with assistants, until he had finished it. And meanwhile he was going about among the principal churches of Florence, seeking for a place where he might set up that work and also make a tomb for himself; but for long he found no place for the tomb that could content him, until he resolved on a chapel in the Church of the Servites which belongs to the family of the Pazzi. The owners of this chapel, at the request of the Duchess, granted the place to Baccio, without divesting themselves of the rights of ownership and of the devices of their house that were there; and they granted him only this, that he should erect an altar of marble and place upon it the statues mentioned above, and make his tomb at the foot of it. Afterwards, also, he came to an agreement with the friars of that convent with regard to the other matters appertaining to the celebration of Mass. During this time, then, Baccio was causing the altar and the marble base to be built, in order to place upon it the above-named statues; and, when he had finished it, he proposed to lay in that tomb, in which he wished to be laid himself together with his wife, the bones of his father Michelangelo, which, at his death, he had caused to be placed in a vault in the same church. These bones of his father he chose to lay piously in that tomb with his own hands; whereupon it happened that either because he felt sorrow and a shock to his mind in handling his father¹s bones, or because he exerted himself too much in transferring those bones with his own hands and in rearranging the marbles, or from both reasons together, he was so overcome that he felt ill and had to go home, and, his malady growing daily worse, in eight days he died, at the age of seventy-two, having been up to that time robust and vigorous, and without having ever suffered much illness during the whole of his life. He was buried with honorable obsequies, and laid beside his father¹s bones in the above-mentioned tomb constructed by himself, on which is this epitaph :


He left behind him both sons and daughters, who were the heirs to his many possessions in lands, houses, and money, which he bequeathed to them; and to the world he left the works in sculpture described by us, and designs in great numbers, which are in the possession of his family, and in our book there are some executed with the pen and with chalk, than which it is certain that nothing better could be done.

The marble for the giant was left more in dispute than ever, because Benvenuto was always about the Duke, and wished, in virtue of a little model that he had made, that the Duke should give it to him. On the other hand, Ammanati, being a sculptor of marbles and more experienced in such works than Benvenuto, considered for many reasons that this work belonged to him. Now it happened that Giorgio Vasari had to go to Rome with the Cardinal, the son of the Duke, when he went to receive his hat, and Ammanati gave to Vasari a little model of wax showing the shape in which he desired to carve that figure from the marble, and a piece of wood reproducing the exact proportions‹the length, breadth, thickness, and inclination from the straight‹of the marble, to the end that Giorgio might show them in Rome to Michelangelo Buonarroti and persuade him to declare his opinion in the matter, and so move the Duke to give him the marble. All this Giorgio did most willingly, and it was the reason that the Duke gave orders that an arch should be partitioned off in the Loggia of the Piazza, and that Ammanati should make a great model as large as the giant was to be. Having heard this, Benvenuto rode in a great fury to Pisa, where the Duke was, and said to him that he could not suffer that his genius should be trampled underfoot by one who was inferior to himself, and that he desired to make a great model in competition with Ammanati, in the same place; and the Duke, wishing to pacify him, granted him leave to have another arch of the Loggia partitioned off, and caused to be given to him materials for making, as he desired, a large model in competition with Ammanati.

While these masters were engaged in making their models, after having made fast their enclosures in such a manner that neither the one nor the other could see what his rival was doing, although these enclosures were attached to each other, there rose up the Flemish sculptor Maestro Giovan Bologna, a young man not inferior in ability or in spirit to either of the others. This master, being in the service of the Lord Don Francesco, Prince of Florence, asked his Excellency to enable him to make a giant which might serve as a model, of the same size as the marble; and the Prince granted him this favor. Maestro Giovan Bologna had as yet no thought of having the giant to execute in marble, but he wished at least to display his ability and to make himself known for what he was worth; and, having received permission from the Prince, he, also, began a model in the Convent of Santa Croce. Nor was Vincenzio Danti, the sculptor of Perugia, a younger man than any of the others, willing to fail to compete with these three masters, not in the hope of obtaining the marble, but in order to demonstrate his spirit and genius. And so, having set to work on his own account in the house of Messer Alessandro, the son of M. Ottaviano de¹ Medici, he executed a model good in many parts and as large as the others.

The models finished, the Duke went to see those of Ammanati and of Benvenuto; and, being more pleased with that of Ammanati than with that of Benvenuto, he resolved that Ammanati should have the marble and make the giant, because he was younger than Benvenuto and more practiced in marble. The disposition of the Duke was strengthened by Giorgio Vasari, who did many good offices with his Excellency for Ammanati, having perceived that, in addition to his knowledge, he was ready to endure any labor, and hoping that from his hands there would issue an excellent work finished in a short time. The Duke would not at that time see the model of Maestro Giovan Bologna, because, not having seen any work by him in marble, it did not seem to him that he could entrust to that master, as his first work, so great an undertaking, although he heard from many craftsmen and other men of judgment that Giovan Bologna¹s model was in many parts better than the others. But if Baccio had been alive, there would not have been all that contention among those masters, because without a doubt it would have fallen to him to make the model of clay and the giant of marble. This work, then, was snatched from Baccio by death, but the same circumstance brought him no little glory, in that it revealed by means of those four models‹the reason of the making of which was that Baccio was not alive‹how much better were the design, judgment and ability of him who placed on the Piazza the Hercules and Cacus, as it were living in the marble; the excellence of which work has been made evident and brought to light even more by the works that have been executed since Baccio¹s death by those others, who, although they have acquitted themselves in a manner worthy of praise, have yet not been able to attain to the beauty and excellence that he placed in his work.

Afterwards Duke Cosimo, for the marriage of Queen Joanna of Austria, his daughter-in-law, seven years after the death of Baccio, caused the audience-chamber in the Great Hall, begun by Baccio, of which we have spoken above, to be finished; and he chose that the head of this work of completion should be Giorgio Vasari, who has sought with all diligence to put right the many defects that would have been in it if it had been continued and finished after the original design followed in the beginning by Baccio. Thus that imperfect work has now been carried with the help of God to completion, and is enriched on its side faces by the addition of niches and pilasters, and statues set in their places. Moreover, since it was laid out awry and out of square, we have taken pains to make it even in so far as has been possible, and have raised it considerably with a corridor of Tuscan columns at the top; and as for the statue of Leo begun by Baccio, his pupil Vincenzio de¹ Rossi has finished it. Besides this, that work has been adorned with friezes full of stucco-work, with many figures large and small, and with devices and other ornaments of various kinds, and under the niches and in the partitions of the vaulting have been made many and various designs in stucco and many beautiful inventions in carving; all which things have enriched the work in such a manner, that it has changed its form and has gained not a little in beauty and grace. For whereas, according to the first design, the ceiling of the Hall being twenty-one braccia above the floor, the audience chamber did not rise higher than eighteen braccia, so that between it and the old ceiling there was a space of only three braccia; now, after our design, the ceiling of the Hall has been raised so much that it has risen twelve braccia above the old ceiling and fifteen above the audience-chamber of Baccio and Giuliano, so that the ceiling is now thirty-three braccia above the floor of the Hall. And it certainly showed great spirit in his Excellency, that he should resolve to cause to be finished in the space of five months for the above-named nuptials the whole of a work of which more than a third still remained to do, although it had taken more than fifteen years to arrive at the condition in which it was at that time; so eager was he to carry it to completion.

But it was not only Baccio¹s work that his Excellency caused to be completely finished, but also all the rest of what Giorgio Vasari had designed; beginning again from the base that runs over the whole of that work, with a border of balusters in the open spaces, which forms a corridor that passes above the work in the Hall, and commands a view on the outer side of the Piazza and on the inner side of the whole Hall. Thus the Princes and other lords will be able to see, without being seen, all the festivals that may be held there, with much pleasure and convenience for themselves, and then to retire to their apartments, passing by the private and public staircases through all the rooms in the Palace. Nevertheless, to many it has caused dissatisfaction that in a work of such beauty and grandeur that structure was not made square, and many would have liked to have it pulled down and then rebuilt true to square. But it has been judged to be better to continue the work in that way, in order not to appear presumptuous and malign towards Baccio, and also because otherwise we would have seemed not to have the power to correct the errors and defects found by us but committed by others.

But, returning to Baccio, we must say that his abilities were always recognized during his lifetime, yet will be recognized and regretted much more now that he is dead. And even more would he have been acknowledged for what he was, when alive, and beloved, if he had been so favored by nature as to be more amiable and more courteous, because his being the contrary, and very rough with his tongue, robbed him of the goodwill of other persons, obscured his talents, and brought it about that his works were regarded with ill will and a prejudiced eye, and therefore could never please anyone. And although he served one nobleman after another, and was enabled by his talent to serve them well, nevertheless.

Baccio cared nothing for the words of others, but gave his attention to making himself rich and buying property. He bought a most beautiful farm, called Lo Spinello, on the heights of Fiesole, and another with a very beautiful house called Il Cantone, in the plain above San Salvi, on the River Aifrico, and a great house in the Via de¹ Ginori, which he was enabled to acquire by the moneys and favors of the Duke. Having thus secured his own position, Baccio thenceforward cared little to work or to exert himself; and although the tomb of Signor Giovanni was unfinished, the audience-chamber of the Great Hall only begun, and the choir and altar behindhand, he paid little attention to the words of others or to the censure that was laid upon him on that account. However, having erected the altar and set into position the marble base upon which was to stand the statue of God the Father, he made a model for this and finally began it, and, employing stone-cutters, proceeded to carry it slowly forward.

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