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DANESE CATTANEO (c. 1512-1572)


Extracted from the Life of Jacopo Sansovino

Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists






IT REMAINS FOR US TO MAKE MENTION, as the last of Sansovino's disciples, of Danese Cattaneo, the sculptor of Carrara, who was already with him in Venice when still a little boy. Parting from his master at the age of nineteen, he made by himself a boy of marble for San Marco, and a St. Laurence for the Church of the Friars Minor, for San Salvadore another boy in marble, and for SS Giovanni e Polo the statue of a nude Bacchus, who is grasping a bunch of grapes from a vine which twines round a trunk that he has behind his legs, which statue is now in the house of the Mozzenighi at San Barnaba.

He has executed many figures for the Library of San Marco and for the Loggia of the Campanile, together with others of whom there has been an account above; and, in addition to those named, the two that have been mentioned already as being in the apartments of the Council of Ten. He made portraits in marble of Cardinal Bembo and of Contarini, the Captain-General of the Venetian forces, which are both in San Antonio at Padua, with rich and beautiful ornaments about them. And in the same city of Padua, in San Giovanni di Verdara, there is by the same hand the portrait of Messer Girolamo Gigante, a most learned jurist. And for San Antonio della Giudecca, in Venice, he has made a very likfelike portrait of Giustiniano, the Lieutenant of the Grand Master of Malta, and that of Tiepolo, who was three times General; but these have not yet been set in their places.

But the greatest work and the most distinguished that Danese has ever executed is a rich chapel of marble, with large figures, in Sant'Anastasia in Verona, for Signor Ercole Fregoso, in memory of Signor Jano, once Lord of Genoa, and then Captain-General of the Venetians, in whose service he died. This work is of the Corinthian Order, in the manner of a triumphal arch, and divided by four great columns, round and fluted, with capitals of olive-leaves, which rest upon a base of proportionate height, making the space in the centre as wide again as one of those at the sides; with an arch between the columns, above which there rest on the capitals the architrave and cornice, and in the centre, within the arch, a very beautiful decoration of pilasters, with cornice and frontispiece, and with a ground formed by a tablet of most beautiful black basanite, where there is the statue of a nude Christ, larger than life and in the round, a very good figure; which statue stands in the act of showing the Wounds, with a piece of drapery bound round the flanks and reaching between the legs to the ground. Over the angles of the arch are Signs of His Passion, and between the columns that are on the right side there stands upon a pedestal a statue in the round representing Signor Jano Fregoso, fully armed after the antique save that he shows the arms and legs nude, and he has the left hand upon the pommel of the sword at his girdle, and with the right hand he holds the general's baton; having behind him as a pendant, within the space between the columns, a Minerva in half-relief, who, poised in the air, holds with one hand a Ducal staff, such as that of the Doges of Venice, and with the other a banner containing the device of St. Mark.

Between the two other columns, as the other pendant, is Military Valour in armor, on her head the helmet-crest with the houseleek upon it, and on her cuirass the device of an ermine that stands upon a rock surrounded by mire, with letters that run--"Potius mori quam foedari", and with the device of the Fregosi; and above is a Victory, with a garland of laurel and a palm in the hands. Above the columns, architrave, frieze, and cornice, is another range of pilasters, upon the crowns of which stand two figures of marble in the round, and two trophies likewise in the round and of the same size as the figures. Of these two statues, one is Fame in the act of taking flight, pointing with the right hand to Heaven, and with a trumpet that she is sounding; and this figure has light and most beautiful draperies about the body, and all the rest nude. The other, representing Eternity, is clothed in heavier vestments, and stands in majesty, holding in the left hadn a round on which she is gazing, and with the right hand she grasps a hem of her garment wherein are globes that signify the various ages,w ith the celestial sphere encircled by the serpent that seizes the tail in the moutn. In the central space above the great cornice, which forms and separates those two other spaces, are three steps upon which are seated two large nude boys, who hold a great shield with the helmet above it, containg the devices of the Fregosi; and below those steps is an epitaph of basanite with large gilded letters. That whole work is truly worthy to be extolled, for Danese executed it with great diligence, and gave beautiful proportion and grace to the composition, and made each figure with great study.

And Danese is not only, as has been described, an excellent sculptor, but also a good and much extolled poet, as his works clealy demonstrate, on which account he has always had contact and close friendship with the greatest ment and choicest spirits of our age; and of this may serve as a proof the work described above, executed by him with much poetic feeling. By the had of Danese is the nude statue of the Sun above the ornament of the well in the courtyard of the Mint, at Venice; in place of which those Signori desired a Justice, but Danese considered that in that place the Sun is more appropriate. This figure has a bar of gold in the left hand, and in the right hand a sceptre, at the end of which he made an eye, and about the head the rays of the sun, and above all the globe of the world encircled by the serpent that holds the tail in the mouth, with some little mounds of gold about the globe, generated by him.

Danese would have liked to make two other statues, that of the Moon for silver and another for copper, with that of the Sun for gold; but it was enough for those Signori that there should be that of gold, as the most perfect of all the metals. The same Daense has begun another workin in memory of Prince Loredano, Doge of Venice, wherein it is hoped that in invention and fantasy is to surpass by a great measure all his other labours; which work is to be placed in the Church of Ss Giovanni e Polo in Venice. But, since this master is alive and still constantly at work for the benefit of the world and of art, I shall say nothing more of him; nor of other disciples of Sansovino. I will not omit, however, to speak briefly of some other excellent craftsmen, sculptors, and painters, from that dominion of Venice, taking my opportunity from those mentioned above, in order to make an end of speaking of them in this Life of Sansovino.




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