The Wallace Collection

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Massimiliano Soldani Benzi (1656 - 1740)
Works of Art

According to tradition, Massimiliano Soldani Benzi was born the son of an aristocratic cavalry captain from Tuscany. His talent was quickly recognized, he was sent to Florence to study under the painter Franceschini, known as Il Volterrano, who enrolled him in the grand ducal school. In 1678 Soldani was sent to the Medici Academy in Rome to further his artistic education and in particular to learn coining, so he could work in the Florentine mint. He studied design with Ciro Ferri, modelling with Ercole Farrata and die-cutting with Pietro Travani. After raplidly establishing himself as a leading designer of medals, he received commissions from Pope Innocent XI, Queen Christina of Sweden and many cardinals. Again thanks to Cosimo III, he completed his training with a sojourn in Paris. In 1682 Soldani was called back to Florence and made Master of the Dies and Keeper of the Mint. Turning his attention to sculpture, Soldani was to become the most celebrated Florentine Baroque artist working in bronze, counting among his patrons the Medici, the Prince of Liechtenstein, the Elector and Electress Palatine, the 1st Duke of Marlborough and many others. From his large workshop on the ground floor of the Uffizi, Soldani produced as well as medals bronze reliefs, figure groups and busts, often after the Antique. About 1690, he also began working with gold. Among his most celebrated works is a set of bronze reliefs with Allegories of the Four Seasons, completed in 1711 for Prince Ferdinando de’ Medici to present to the Elector Palatine. After his death, the Marchese Carlo Ginori (founder of the Doccia porcelain factory) acquired a great number of models from Soldani’s estate, so that copies of many models in wax and porcelain reproductions are today preserved in the Doccia Museum.