Circle of Benedetto da Maiano (1442 - 1497)

Madonna and Child Christ

Terracotta, cm 67 x 37 x 23

Circle of Benedetto da Maiano (Maiano, 1442 - Florence, 27 May 1497)

Circle of Benedetto da Maiano (Maiano, 1442 - Florence, 27 May 1497)

Madonna and Child Christ

Terracotta and gold leaf, cm 67 x 37 x 23

The refined and elegant terracotta sculpture depicting the Madonna and Child, clearly Florentine in the second half of the fifteenth century, is ascribable to the circle of Benedetto da Maiano (1442-1497).

Benedetto da Maiano, also known as Benedetto di Leonardo, was an Italian architect and sculptor. His artistic training took place within his family, thanks to the guidance of his father engraver Leonardo d'Antonio and the contact with the two brothers Giuliano da Maiano and Giovanni. He began his artistic activity as a sculptor, especially of carved wood, and with this technique he soon became famous, so much so as to decorate the ceilings of Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. In the seventies of the fifteenth century he was one of the most requested sculptors in Florence, thanks to his soft and harmonious style, where naturalism, idealization and technical virtuosity coexisted to a fair extent. He received important commissions, especially busts for the city aristocracy, including the bust of Pietro Mellini (1474) and that of Filippo Strozzi (1476). In the Florentine artistic environment Bernardo was certainly held in high regard; it is also noted by Vasari, who, citing him on several occasions, also depicts him among the best and first artisans of our art to participate in beautiful speeches and disputes of importance. The sculpture appears as a true model of the elegant and learned Renaissance figurative culture, particularly evident in the refined decoration of the mantle of the Madonna edged in gold leaf, in the monumental and delicate shaped figures, in the sweetness of the face of the Virgin, in the delicate glimpse of the head of the Child. The sculpture presents a compound, calm pyramidal structure, precious in its solid forms, with a soft and refined shape, and in the warm colour of the very fine clay. The Madonna, with a long-sleeved robe covered with a mantle, gently holds the Child, who in turn puts his little hand on that of his mother, in a gesture of great naturalness that demonstrates an elegant intimacy, typical of the Madonnas with Child made in Florence towards the end of the fifteenth century. The fingers of the Virgin, leaning on the body of the Son, press the surface of the soft skin, creating a sincere and vibrant effect. A series of comparisons can be made with the great Madonna dell'Ulivo preserved in the Cathedral of Prato (which takes up the gestures and movements of the sculpture under examination), with the Madonna and Child of the Arciconfraternita della Misericordia of Florence, (Guards' quarters). As for the features, we can observe a similar treatment of the surfaces in the bust of St. John the child preserved at the Honolulu Academy of Arts, Honolulu (inv. 2298.1; Hawaii, USA). Countless works more or less closely related to Bernard and his workshop could still be mentioned in churches and collections especially in Tuscany and in various collections of Europe and America. It should be remembered that many of his works have been lost: there is news not only from Vasari, but also, more reliable, from the inventory of marbles, stones, figures, masserities of more reason that were in his workshop in Via de' Servi place called Castellaccio, taken over by Leonardo del Tasso.

In short, Benedetto da Maiano is a remarkable representative of the Florentine culture of that last thirty years of the fifteenth century. His refined and elegant lines combined with an accurate attention to detail were able to influence a large circle of artists orbiting around his figure. Starting from the pure source of Rossellini’s art, he tried to give his figures a more intense and dramatic life, his forms a greater breadth. 

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