By Jean Marie Carey

Sculptor and architectural designer Bartolomeo Ammanati was born 18 June 1511 in Settignano, a village near Florence.

Orphaned at the age of 12, Ammanati earned his living in the workshop of Baccio Bandinelli (c.1523–7), after which time he left Florence for Venice. Jacopo Sansovino had just arrived there, and Ammanati was probably involved on some of Sansovino’s early commissions. Ammanati’s early posed figures are obviously indebted to Michelangelo’s tomb sculptures for the Medici, but they exude a greater feeling of calm, classical beauty, and this betrays Ammanati’s debt to Sansovino.

Ammanati was documented as active in Padua and Vicenza intermittently between 1544 and 1548. He carved a colossal Hercules for the courtyard of the Paduan palazzo of the humanist jurist and antiquarian Marco Mantova Benavides.

In Urbino on 17 April 1550 Ammanati married the poet Laura Battiferri (1523–89). They travelled to Rome to solicit work from the newly elected pope, Julius III. When Julius III died in 1555, Ammanati returned to Florence to enter the service of Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici. Ammanati’s best-known sculpture from this period is the Fountain of Neptune (c. 1560–75) in the Piazza della Signoria, Florence.

By 1582 ammanati had become so strongly influenced by the Counter-Reformation and the Jesuits, with whom he had been in contact since 1572, that in a famous letter to the Accademia del Disegno in Florence, printed on 22 August 1582, he denounced on moral grounds the public display of nude sculpture (of which he had made many himself). In their wills Ammanati and Battiferri left all their property to the Jesuits in Florence. Ammanati died in Florence on 13 April 1592.

Reference: Charles avery. “Ammanati, Bartolomeo.“ Grove Art Online. Oxford art Online. Oxford University Press.

Fountain of Neptune, c.1560–75, in the Piazza della Signoria, Florence. Photo: Museums of Florence.

Leda e il cigno, c. 1550.  Photo: Museo nazionale del Bargello.

Victory, 1540. Photo: Florence, Museo Nazionale del Bargello.

Chapel on the Mount detail, c. 1550. Rome. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Further Reading: John Wyndham Pope-Hennessy. Italian High Renaissance & Baroque Sculpture. London: Phaidon Press, 2000. 

Giovanni Careri and Ferrante Ferranti. Baroques. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2003. 

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