At the Uffizi 43 drawings by Soldani Benzi, the last artist of the Medici – Florence

Some drawings by Soldani Benzi acquired by the Uffizi. Courtesy of Gallerie degli Uffizi

Florence – To date they are the only evidence of the activity of Massimiliano Soldani Benzi, a prominent figure of the late Florentine baroque, author of many works destined to the last exponents of the Medici dynasty.
And it is also for this reason that the 43 drawings acquired by the Cabinet of Drawings and Prints of the Uffizi Galleries are of great importance, reconstructing the creative process of the artist whose works – among which stand out also the full-size bronze copies of the ancient sculptures of the Uffizi Tribune, made for John Churchill – were long sought throughout Europe

With his personal style, the result of the marriage between the Florentine Mannerist tradition of bronze casting and the most advanced tendencies of Roman Baroque sculpture, Soldani Benzi, during his long career, devoted himself to a wide variety of subjects and objects, destined for the most part the last exponents of the Medici dynasty .
The versatility of the Montevarchi sculptor – who tried his hand in different artistic fields, from statuary to all-around medals and jewelery – is well documented by the group of drawings acquired by the Uffizi Galleries, part of a larger core of sixty cards. Some of the sheets show studies for works still existing and made by the sculptor for the Grand Duke Cosimo III de 'Medici and his son, the Grand Prince Ferdinando, between 1680 and 1692.

From projects for sumptuous furnishings to the frames destined to the doors – probably for a decoration to trompe-l'oeil to be executed to fresco, where plump youths-jugglers are depicted in the act of throwing in the air the balls of the Medicean alarm – the cards reveal fascinating details about the artist's activity. Some of these consist of preparatory drawings of works conserved at Palazzo Pitti like the four comparison stone urns considered among the most spectacular furnishing objects destined for the Florentine palace.

"Massimiliano Soldani Benzi – commented Riccardo Gennaioli, art historian at the Opificio delle Pietre Dure – was the creator of the court style of the last Medici with Giovan Battista Foggini, taking care of the design of sumptuous furnishings, furnishings and precious goldsmith objects. However, compared to the Foggini, of which numerous preparatory studies are conserved, the graphic activity of Soldani for this specific field had remained until today shrouded in the shadows . The drawings acquired by the Uffizi Galleries fill this gap, providing a noteworthy contribution to the study of decorative arts in late-baroque Florence ".

And the director of the Uffizi Galleries, Eike Schmidt, anticipates: "In the exhibition we are planning for next year, dedicated to bronze sculpture under the last Medici, a section will be dedicated to the comparison between the preparatory drawings and the finished works ".

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