By Martina Bollini

Mannerist painter Benedetto Pagni died on 12 September 1578 in Mantua. Born in Pescia (Tuscany) around 1504, Pagni trained in Rome in the circle of Giulio Romano, to whom he was probably introduced by Baldassarre Turini da Pescia, datarius of the pope Leo X, and patron of the artist .

In 1524 Pagni followed Giulio Romano to Manua and assisted him in the decoration of Palazzo Te. According to Vasari, the hand of Pagni is visibile on the ceiling of the Sala di Psiche and in the Sala dei Cavalli, where, together with Rinaldo Mantovano, he painted horses and dogs on plaster “so well, in truth, that they seem to be alive”.

Around 1534 Pagni left Mantua, but his whereabouts are uncertain. He probably travelled to Parma and Urbino, and then returned to his native city. Many of his works executed in Pescia are now lost.

After the death of Giulio Romano in 1546, Pagni moved to Florence, seeking the patronage of Cosimo I de Medici. To this extent, he sent the duke a picture as a sample of his work, The Medici Madonna now in the Ringling Museum. The operation was successful and the painter entered Cosimo’s service in 1547. He worked on cartoons in the ducal tapestry and worked as an architect. He probably designed the restoration of the villetta a Maiano, also known as villa Temple Leader. His work as an architect is also recalled by the signature on the Saint Sebastian,  «BENED. PAGNVS. PISCIEN.ARCHIT». 

In his late years, Pagni moved back to Mantua, where he passed away at the age of 74.

Reference: S. L’Occaso, PAGNI Benedetto, in Dizionario Biografico degli italiani, vol. 80 (2014).

Sala dei Cavalli, Palazzo Te, Mantua.

Sala di Amore e Psiche – ceiling decoration, Palazzo Te, Mantua.

Medici Madonna, 1547, Ringling Museum, Sarasota (FL).

Saint Sebastian, 1558-1559, Museo Diocesano, Mantua.

Five Saints in adoration, 1552, Museo Nazionale di San Matteo, Pisa (originally in the Pisa cathedral).

Madonna della Cintola and saints Lawrence and Julian, c. 1563, Church of Erasmo, Pescia.

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