By Anne Leader
Italian wood- and ivory-turner Giovanni Ambrogio Maggiore was last recorded on 1 February 1598 working for the Medici court in Florence. Born in Milan, he worked with his brother Dionigi, and one of them invented a rotary lathe that could not only turn round forms but also oblique ones. Some art historians have speculated the idea came from a project first imagined by Leonardo da Vinci.
A Milanese art dealer made Crown Prince William, later William V, Duke of Bavaria aware of Maggiore’s skill, and he invited the artisan to Bavaria to work and teach his unique carving abilities to local craftsmen. His techniques were quickly spread throughout Germany, and the Bavarian Duke relied on Maggiore to make splendid gifts for family and royal friends, including Philip II of Spain and the Medici Grand Dukes.
Sphere, c. 1582. Ebony and ivory, painted on the inside, Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence