Colnaghi Foundation Journal 02 - Page 12

Soldani’s attempt to market Filippo Baldinucci’s collection of paintings
Soldani’s attempt to market Filippo Baldinucci’s collection of paintings
portrait medallions that fit comfortably into the palm
of one’s hand: they had therefore to be cast, rather
than struck, like Pisanello’s pioneering portraits from
two centuries earlier.89 Soldani portrayed several
Englishmen, the most influential of whom, in 1707,
was Sir Henry Newton, the British representative at
the grand-ducal court, who proved to be a crucial
go-between for Soldani, introducing as clients several
The correspondence begins on 15 October 1716, just
after the visit to Florence of the twenty-year-old Earl
of Burlington (1694-1753), and it covers the latter half
of Soldani’s career, until his death in 1740. Burlington
had visited Florence on his Grand Tour in 1715 and
purchased from Soldani a magnificent set of bronze
narrative reliefs of the Four Seasons. At an unknown date
they were presented to King George II and are still in
the Royal Collection (fig. 2).11
Apart from Soldani’s splendid portrait medallions, it
was probably statuary after the Antique that initially
attracted Grand Tourists from Great Britain to his
studio at the Mint. This studio was conveniently
situated, opposite the entrance to the Uffizi Gallery;
while half-listening to his lofty sales-patter they loved
to run their eyes and fingers appreciatively over his
highly polished, glistening, golden-coloured bronzes,
as well as his luscious pale pink terracotta and wax
models. For instance, the 1st Duke of Marlborough
(1650-1722) commissioned Soldani to produce for the
Marble Hall in Blenheim four life-size casts in bronze
after the principal ancient marble statues in the
Tribuna of the Uffizi. 10
Filippo Baldinucci was a Florentine businessman,
curator, collector, and writer, deeply imbued with
Catholicism. Baldinucci became revered as one of the
most erudite polymaths of his day, as demonstrated
in a superb allegorical painting by Pietro Dandini
(1646-1712), where he is flanked by attractive and
studious young women (fig. 3). He is still famous to arthistorians today for his series of Notizie de’ Professori del
disegno da Cimabue in qua of the 1680s, in which he set
out to up-date, revise, and expand Vasari’s Vite that had
last been printed just over a century earlier in 1568.12
Filippo was also an amateur artist, skilled in drawing
and modelling. He avidly collected Old Master drawings
Fig. 2 / Massimiliano
Soldani-Benzi, Spring, 1711,
cast bronze, 48 x 66.3 cm,
London, The Royal Collection.
and – as we now know – paintings too. His first
collection of drawings was ceded to Cardinal Leopoldo
de’ Medici, his main patron, who was deeply interested
in the dynastic collection and eventually had Baldinucci
catalogue it. Leopoldo also established the singular
collection of artists’ self-portraits, which his successors
have continued into the twenty-first century and which
used to line the “secret” corridor that had been built
by Vasari to secure communications for the Grand
Dukes between the Palazzo della Signoria, via the Uffizi
Gallery and above the Ponte Vecchio, to the Pitti Palace.
Fig. 3 / Pietro Dandini,
Filippo Baldinucci, with
Personifications of the
Accademia della Crusca and
the Accademia del Disegno
(detail), Florence, Accademia
della Crusca, Villa di Castello,
Following suit, Baldinucci also owned several portraits of
artists, perhaps duplicates of ones that he had acquired
for Leopoldo. Three further volumes of the Notizie were
published posthumously, in 1701 and 1728, by his son
Francesco Saverio (1663-1738), a lawyer (avvocato) by
profession. As heir, the latter became the would-be vendor
of Filippo’s collection, with whom Soldani (face to face)
and Zamboni (indirectly) were involved in the present
correspondence and the ultimately abortive transaction.
The list of forty-nine items (see Appendix 1) indicates
that Filippo, without being a man of means, but
presumably through his personal and professional
contacts, had amassed quite a considerable and varied
collection. Until now, its contents were known only
through sparse references in his biographies of the
relevant artists, some cited below. It turns out to have
ranged from representatives of what were already by
his day “Old Masters” from Florence, with a couple of
“big names” from elsewhere (Mantegna and Titian), to
a good holding of devotional paintings by his Baroque
predecessors and contemporaries in Florence, for
instance his particular friend, Carlo Dolci (1616-1686).


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