Massimiliano Soldani-Benzi or
Massimiliano Soldani (15 July 1656 – 23 February 1740) was an Italian
sculptor and medallist, mainly active in Florence.
Born at Montevarchi, the son of an
aristocratic Tuscan cavalry captain, Soldani was employed by the Medici
for his entire career. He was the finest bronze caster in Europe in the
late 17th century. He began training in the Medici school in Florence,
and attracted the attention of the Grand Duke Cosimo III de' Medici who
sent Soldani-Benzi to Rome to complete his training in sculpture and
coin-making. During his four years in Rome, Cosimo forbad him to work
for others, although Queen Christina of Sweden wanted to commission work
from him. After his return from Rome, Cosimo sent the artist to work
with a famous medallist in Paris. Again in deference to Cosimo,
Soldani-Benzi refused overtures from Louis XIV and, cutting short his
visit, returned to Florence, where he was made director of the
Grand-ducal Mint (Maestro dei Coni), and had a workshop in the Uffizi.
The Medicis had been equally possessive of his predecessor Giambologna.
Though trained as a medallist,
Soldani-Benzi also produced bronze reliefs, and free-standing figures
and busts, often after the antique, and apparently, even bronze vases.
Klaus Lankheit recognized in a small bronze Pietà attributed to Soldani
at the Walters Art Museum a "balanced triangular composition" that is
"almost a relief in form" and suggested that it had been composed first
as a relief; A more elaborate version, with additional figures, in the
Kress collection at the Seattle Art Museum, was identified as by Soldani
by Ultich Middeldorf. A second table bronze, Venus and the Wounded
Adonis, on a richly-mounted ebony base raised on bronze paw feet, is
also at the Walters Art Museum. For Johann Josef Johann Adam, Prince of
Liechtenstein, he produced a series of bronze copies of works of the
At rare intervals he exhibited terra
cotta bozzetti at the irregularly staged exhibitions of the Accademia
del Disegno, Florence: in 1715 a Pietà in terracotta by "Sig. M.S." A
major document for his career is his autobiography, dated 1718,
correspondence, and the inventory taken after his death.
After his death his heirs sold some of
his wax models to marchese Carlo Ginori, who had them adapted by his
chief modeller, Gaspero Bruschi, and reproduced in porcelain at his
Doccia porcelain manufactory near Florence. Thus Soldani's Apollo in His
Chariot, Venus Plucking the Wings of Cupid and Virtue Overpowering Vice
all exist as Doccia porcelain groups.
A highly-finished terracotta relief,
Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, doubtless intended as a modello to be
cast in bronze as a private devotional work, is conserved in the
Metropolitan Museum of Art.