By Anne Leader
“GREAT IS THE POWER OF ANGER in the soul of one who is seeking, with arrogance and pride, to gain a reputation for excellence in some profession, when he sees rising in the same art, at a time when he does not expect it, some unknown man of beautiful genius, who not only equals him, but in time surpasses him by a great measure.”
So begins Giorgio Vasari’s biography of Pietro Torrigiani, who was supposedly born in Florence on this day (22 November) in 1472. The author refers to the infamous fit of jealousy that purportedly led to Torrigiani breaking Michelangelo’s nose in a fight. Like his rival, Torrigiano likely trained with Bertoldo di Giovanni in the Medici sculpture garden and also worked in Rome at the turn of the sixteenth century. He was in England by 1507, where he made several royal tombs, including those of Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, and King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. He moved to Spain, where polychrome sculpture was in high demand. After creating several noteworthy works, including a moving Penitent St. Jerome, Torrigiano was arrested by the Inquisition. He died of starvation while in prison.
Redeemer, c. 1500-1510, terracotta. Florence, S. Trinita.
St. Jerome, c. 1525, terra-cotta. Seville, Museum of Fine Arts.
Head of Christ, c. 1515, marble, limestone, bronze, gilding, and paint. London, The Wallace Collection, S7
King Henry VII, 1509-11, painted terracotta. London, Victoria & Albert Museum, A.49-1935
Daniele da Volterra, Portrait of Michelangelo Buonarroti, ca. 1544. Oil on wood. New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Clarence Dillon, 1977.