Colnaghi Collections_Vol 01 - Page 93



altar of the Oratory of San Girolamo at San Fantin, Venice. Of
this sculptural group, only the Virgin and Saint John survive
(figs. 10.2- 10.3) now both in San Giovanni e Paolo.3
Ultimately, all these works are to some extent indebted to
Michelangelo’s drawings representing the Crucifixion, including a
study for a marble Crucifixion with the Virgin and Saint John (see
intro. fig. 12) and a presentation drawing (fig. 10.4) made for the
artist’s spiritual mentor, the Roman noblewoman, Vittoria Colonna,
both now in the British Museum.4 The upward gaze and expression
of Leoni’s Virgin also recalls Michelangelo’s Pietà drawing (Boston,
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum), also a gift for Colonna.
Leone Leoni was born in Arezzo, where he probably received
his early training as a goldsmith and befriended fellow Aretines,
Giorgio Vasari and Pietro Aretino. The latter may have encouraged
him to journey Rome in the 1520s, and it was probably in his wake
that Leoni travelled to Venice following the sack of Rome in 1527.
Working in Milan in the 1540s, Leoni came to the attention of
the imperial court, through a commission from Ferrante Gonzaga,
Governor of Milan, for an equestrian monument of Charles V.
From this point, Charles and his successor, Philip II, became the
principal patrons of Leone and subsequently his son, Pompeo. The
high regard in which Charles and his son held Leone is evident by
Fig. 10.1 Giuseppe Salviati, Crucifixion, 1556, woodcut, 31 x 21.2 cm,
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Fig. 10.2 Alessandro Vittoria, Virgin, ca. 1580s, bronze, Venice, San Giovanni
e Paolo.
the many favours they conferred upon him, including the charge
of the imperial mint, a handsome annual stipend, a knighthood,
and a large property in Milan.
1.
2.
Although, it would appear from Leoni’s documented projects from
the 1550s onwards that he primarily worked on a large-scale, the
Crucifixion presents important evidence of his later production
of small bronzes, which would have featured prominently in his
training as a goldsmith and for which there continued to be a taste
among collectors throughout the sixteenth century. Indeed, Leoni
5
3.
4.
himself appears to have sought them ought for the impressive
collection that he amassed in his Milanese palace.6
I rene B rooke
92
5.
6.
See Coppel, Estella, and Helmstutler, Leone and Pompeo, p. 89.
See David Rosand and Michelangelo Muraro, Titian and the Venetian Woodcut, exh.
cat. (Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1976), pp. 274-275, no. 85. Leoni
and Salviati probably knew each other through their connections to Aretino.
When Francesco Salviati arrived in Venice with Giuseppe Porta, then his
assistant, Aretino reported it in a letter to Leoni. Pietro Aretino, Lettere sull’Arte,
ed. Ettore Camesasca, 4 vols. (Milan: Edizioni del Milone, 1957-1960), I, pp.
129-131, no. 83.
The altar was described by Flamino Corner, Notizie Storiche delle chiese di monasteri di
Venezia (Padua: Giovanni Manfrè, 1758), p. 319.
See most recently Carmen C. Bambach, ed., Michelangelo, Divine Draftsman and
Designer, exh. cat. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2017), pp. 194199, 222-231.
Leo Planiscig, “Bronzi minori di Leone Leoni,” Dedalo VII (1926-1927): pp. 544567, attributed several bronze statuettes to Leoni.
For Leoni’s collection see Kelly Helmstutler Di Dio, Leone Leoni and the Status of the Artist
at the End of the Renaissance (London and New York: Routledge, 2016), pp. 133-158.
Fig. 10.3 Alessandro Vittoria, Saint John, ca. 1580s, bronze, Venice,
San Giovanni e Paolo.
93

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