Desiderio da Settignano - Encyclopedia

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DESIDERIO DA SETTIGNANO (1428-1464), Italian sculptor, was born at Settignano, a village on the southern slope of the hill of Fiesole, still surrounded by the quarries of sandstone of which the hill is formed, and inhabited by a race of "stone-cutters." Desiderio was for a short time a pupil of Donatello, whom, according to Vasari, he assisted in the work on the pedestal of David, and he seems to have worked also with Mino da Fiesole, with the delicate and refined style of whose works those of Desiderio seem to have a closer affinity than with the perhaps more masculine tone of Donatello. Vasari particularly extols the sculptor's treatment of the figures of women and children. It does not appear that Desiderio ever worked elsewhere than at Florence; and it is there that those who are interested in the Italian sculpture of the Renaissance must seek his few surviving decorative and monumental works, though a number of his delicately carved marble busts of women and children are to be found in the museums and private collections of Germany and France. The most prominent of his works are the tomb of the secretary of state, Marsuppini, in Santa Croce, and the great marble tabernacle of the Annunciation in San Lorenzo, both of which belong to the latter period of Desiderio's activity; and the cherubs' heads which form the exterior frieze of the Pazzi Chapel. Vasari mentions a marble bust by Desiderio of Marietta degli Strozzi, which for many years was held to be identical with a very beautiful bust bought in 1878 from the Strozzi family for the Berlin Museum. This bust is now, however, generally acknowledged to be the work of Francesco Laurana; whilst Desiderio's bust of Marietta has been recognized in another marble portrait acquired by the Berlin Museum in 1842. The Berlin Museum also owns a coloured plaster bust of an Urbino lady by Desiderio, the model for which is in the possession of the earl of Wemyss. Other important busts by the master are in the Bargello, Florence, the Louvre in Paris, the collections of M. Figdor and M. Benda in Vienna, and of M. Dreyfus in Paris. Like most of Donatello's pupils, Desiderio worked chiefly in marble, and not a single work in bronze has been traced to his hand.

See Wilhelm Bode, Die italienische Plastik (Berlin, 1893).

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