Leone Leoni. Cast bronze medal of Andrea Doria. Circa 1541. British Museum, London.
Vasari's Lives of the Artists
SINCE THAT which has been said above, here and there, of the Chevalier Leone, a sculptor of Arezzo, has been said incidentally, it cannot but be well to speak here in due order of his works, which are truly worthy to be celebrated and to pass into the memory of mankind. This Leone, then, having applied himself in the beginning to the goldsmith's art, and having made in his youth many beautiful works, and in particular portraits from life in dies of steel for medals, became in a few years so excellent, that he came to the knowledge of many great men and princes, and particularly of the Emperor Charles V, by whom, having recognized his talents, he was set to works of greater importance than medals. Thus, not long after he became known to his Majesty, he made a statue of that Emperor in bronze, larger than life and in the round, which he then furnished with a very delicate suit of armor formed of two very than shells, which can be put on and taken off with ease, and all wrought with such grace, that whoever sees the statue when covered does not notice it and can scarcely believe that it is nude below, and when it is nude no one would believe without difficulty that it could ever be so well clad in armor. This statue rests on the left leg, and with the right foot tramples on Fury, which is a recumbent figure bound in chains, with the orch beneath it and arms of various kinds. On the base of this work, which is now in Madrid, are these words:
CAESARIS VIRTUTE FUROR DOMITUS.
After these statues Leone made a great die for striking medals of his Majesty, and on the reverse the Giants being slain by Jove with thunderbolts. For all which works the Emperor gave to Leone a pension of one hundred and fifty ducats a year on the Mint of Milan, with a very commodious house in the Contrada degli Moroni, and made him a Chevalier and of his household, besides giving him many privileges of nobility for his descendants. And while Leone was with his Majesty in Brussels, he had his rooms in the palace of the Emperor himself, who at times would go for recreation to see him at work. Not long afterwards he made another statue of the Emperor, in marble, and also those of the Empress and King Philip, and a bust of the same Emperor for placing on high between two panels of bronze. He made, likewise in bronze, the head of Queen Maria, that of Ferdinand, at that time King of the Romans, that of Maximilian his son, now Emperor, and that of Queen Leonora, with many others, which were placed in the Gallery of the Palace of Binche by Queen Maria, who had caused them to be made. But they did not stay there long, because King Henry of France set fire to the building by way of revenge, leaving written there these words, "Vela fole Maria"; I say by way of revenge, for a few years before that Queen had done the same to him. However it may have been, the work of that gallery did not proceed, and those statues are now partly in the Palace of the Catholic King at Madrid, and partly at Alicante, a seaport, from which her Majesty intended to have them conveyed to Granada, where are the tombs of all the Kings of Spain. On returning from Spain, Leone brought with him two thousand crowns in case, besides many other gifts and favors that were bestowed upon him by that Court.
For the Duke of Alva Leone has executed a head of the Duke, one of Charles V, and another of King Philip. For the very reverend Bishop of Arras, now Grand Cardinal, called Granvella, he has made some pieces in bronze of an oval form, each of two braccia, with rich borders, and containing half-length statues; in one s Charles V, in another King Philip, and in the third the Cardinal himself, portrayed from life, and all have bases with little figures of much grace. For Signor Vespasiano Gonzaga he has made a great bust of bronze the portrait of Alva, which Gonzaga has placed in his house at Sabbionetto. For Signor Cesare Gonzaga he has executed, likewise in metal, a statue of four braccia, which has beneath it another figure that is entwined with a Hydra, in order to denote his father Don Ferrante, who by his worth ad valor overcame the vicious envy that had sought to bring him into disgrace with Charles V in the matter of the government of Milan. This statue, which is clad in a toga and armed partly in the ancient and partly in the modern fashion, is to be taken to Guastalla and placed there in memory of that Don Ferrante, a most valorous captain.
The same Leone has made, as has been told in another place, the tomb of Signor Giovanni Jacopo Medici, Marquis of Marignano and brother of Pope Pius IV, which stands in the Duomo of Milan, about twenty-eight palms in length and forty in height. This tomb is all of Carrara marble, and adorned with four columns, two of them black and white, which were sent by the Pope as rare things from Rome to Milan, and two others, larger, which are of a spotted stone similar to jasper; which are all accommodated under one and the same cornice, an unusual contrivance, by the desire of that Pope, who caused the whole work to be executed after the directions of Michelangelo, excepting only the five figures of bronze that are there, which are by the hand of Leone. The first of these, the largest of them all, is the statue of the Marquis himself, standing upright and larger than life, which has in the right hand the baton of a General, and the left hand resting on a helmet that is on a very richly adorned trunk. On the left of this is a smaller statue, representing Peace, and on the right another signifying Military Virtue; and these are seated, and in aspect all sad and sorrowing. Of the other two, which are on high, one is Providence and the other Fame; and between them, on the same level, is a most beautiful Nativity of Christ in bronze, in low-relief. At the summit of the whole work are two figures of marble, which support that lord's escutcheon of balls. For this work seven thousand and eight hundred crowns were paid, according to the agreement made in Rome by the most illustrious Cardinal Morone and Signor Agabrio Scierbellone.
The same master has made for Signor Giovan Battista Castaldo a statue likewise in bronze, which is to be placed in I know not what monastery, with some ornaments. For the above-named Catholic King he has executed a Christ in marble, more than three braccia high, with the Cross and with other Mysteries of the Passion, which is much extolled. Finally, he has in hand the statue of Signor Alfonso Davalos, the Marchese del Vasto of famous memory, which was entrusted to him by the Marchese di Pescara, his son; four braccia high, and likely to prove an excellent figure when cast, by reason of the diligence that he is devoting to its execution, and the good fortune that Leone has always had in his castings.
Leone, in order to display the greatness of his mind, the beautiful genius that he has received from Nature, and the favor of Fortune, has built at great expense and with most beautiful architecture a house in the Contrada dei Moroni, so full of fantastic inventions, that there is perhaps no other like it in all Milan. In the distribution of the facade there are upon pilasters six captives each of six braccia and all of pietra viva, and between these, in certain niches, Fates in imitation of the antique, with little terminal figures, windows, and cornices all different from the common use and very graceful; and all the parts below correspond with beautiful order to those above, and the frieze-ornaments are all of various instruments of the arts of design. From the principal door one enters by a passage into a courtyard, in the center of which, upon four columns, is the horse with the Marcus Aurelius, cast in gesso from the original which is in the Campidoglio. By means of that statue he has intended that his house should be dedicated to Marcus Aurelius; ad as for the captives, that fancy is interpreted by various persons in various ways. Besides the horse, he has in that beautiful and most commodious habitation, as has been told in another place, as many casts in gesso as he has been able to obtain of famous works in sculpture and casting, both ancient and modern.
A son of Leone, called Pompeo [Leoni], who is now in the service of King Philip of Spain, is in no way inferior to his father in executing dies of steel for medals and in casting figures that are marvelous. Wherefore at the Court he has been a competitor of Giovan Paolo Poggini, a Florentine, who also works in the service of that King and has made most beautiful medals. But Pompeo, having served that King many years, intends to return to Milan in order to enjoy his Aurelian house and the other labors of his excellent father, the loving friend of every man of talent.
And now to say something of medals, and of the steel dies with which they are made. I believe that it may be affirmed with truth that our modern intellects have achieved as much as the ancient Romans once did in the excellence of the figures, and that in the lettering and in other parts they have surpassed them. Which may be seen clearly in twelve reverses--besides many others--that Pietro Paolo Galeotto has executed recently in the medals of Duke Cosimo, and they are these; Pisa restored almost to her pristine condition by means of the Duke, he having drained the country round and dried the marshy places, and having made many other improvements; the waters conducted to Florence from various places, the ornate and magnificent building of the Magistrates erected for the public convenience, the union of the States of Florence and Siena, the building of a city and two fortresses in Elba, the column conveyed from Rome and placed on the Piazza di Santa Trinita in Florence, the preservation, completion and enlargement of the Library of San Lorenzo for the public good, the foundation of the Order of the Knights of St. Stephen, the resignation of the government to the Prince, the fortifying of the State, the militia or trained companies of his dominion, and the Pitti Palace with its gardens, waters, and buildings, a work of such regal magnificence; of which reverses I do not give here either the lettering that they have around them, or their explanation, having to treat of them in another place. All of these twelve reverses are beautiful to a marvel and executed with much diligence and grace, as is also the head of the Duke, which is of perfect beauty; and medals and other works in stucco, likewise, as I have said on another occasion, are being made of absolute perfection at the present day. And recently Mario Capocaccia of Ancona has executed with colored stucco, in little cases, heads and portraits that are truly most beautiful; such as a portrait of Pope Pius V, which I saw not long since, and that of Cardinal Alessandrino. I have seen, also, portraits of the same kind by the hands of the sons of Polidoro, a painter of Perugia, which are very beautiful.
But to return to Milan; looking again a year ago over the works of the sculptor Gobbo, of whom mention has been made in another place, I did not see anything that was otherwise than ordinary, excepting an Adam and Eve, a Judith, and a St. Helena, in marble, which are about the Duomo; with two other statues of dead persons, representing Lodovico, called IL Moro, and Beatrice his wife, which were to be placed upon a tomb by the hand of Giovan Giacomo della Porta, sculptor and architect to the Duomo of Milan, who in his youth executed many works under the said Gobbo; and those named above, which were to go on that tomb, are wrought with a high finished. The same Giovan Giacomo has executed many beautiful works for the Certosa of Pavia, and in particular on the tomb of the Conte di Virtu and on the facade of the church. From him one his nephews learned his art, by name Guglielmo [della Porta], who in Milan, about the year 1530, applied himself with much study to copying the works of Leonardo da Vinci, which gave him very great assistance.
Whereupon he went with Giovan Giacomo to Genoa, when in the year 1531 the latter was invited to execute the sepulcher of St. John the Baptist,a and he devoted himself with great study to design under Perino del Vaga; and, not therefore abandoning sculpture, he made one of the sixteen pedestals that are in that sepulcher, on which account, it being seen that he was acquitting himself very well, he was commissioned to make all the others. Next, he executed two Angels in marble, which are in the Company of San Giovanni; and for the Bishop of Servega he made two portraits in marble, and a Moses larger than life, which was placed in the Church of San Lorenzo. And then, after he had made a Ceres of marble that was placed over the door of the hose of Ansaldo Grimaldi, he executed for placing over the Gate of the Cazzuola, in that city, a statue of St. Catherine of the size of life; and after that the three Graces, with four little boys, of marble, which were sent into Flanders to the Grand Equerry of the Emperor Charles V, together with another Ceres of the size of life.
Back to Vasari's Lives of the Artists This Web Site Created and Maintained by Adrienne DeAngelis