Pietro Torrigiano - Encyclopedia

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PIETRO TORRIGIANO (1472-1522), Florentine sculptor, was, according to Vasari, one of the group of talented youths who studied art under the patronage of Lorenzo the Magnificent in Florence. Benvenuto Cellini, reporting a conversation with Torrigiano, relates that he and Michelangelo, while both young, were copying the frescoes in the Carmine chapel, when some slighting remark made by Michelangelo so enraged Torrigiano that he struck him on the nose, and thus caused that disfigurement which is so conspicuous in all the portraits of Michelangelo. Soon after this Torrigiano visited Rome, and helped Pinturicchio in modelling the elaborate stucco decorations in the Apartamenti Borgia for Alexander VI. After some time spent as a hired soldier in the service of different states, Torrigiano was invited to England to execute the magnificent tomb for Henry VII. and his queen, which still exists in the lady chapel of Westminster Abbey. This appears to have been begun before the death of Henry VII. in 1509, but was not finished till 1517. The two effigies are well modelled, and have lifelike but not too realistic portraits. After this Torrigiano received the commission for the altar, retable and baldacchino which stood at the west, outside the screen of Henry VII.'s tomb. The altar had marble pilasters at the angles, two of which still exist, and below the mensa was a life-sized figure of the dead Christ in painted terra-cotta. The retable consisted of a large relief of the Resurrection. The baldacchino was of marble, with enrichments of gilt bronze; part of its frieze still exists, as do also a large number of fragments of the terra-cotta angels which surmounted the baldacchino and parts of the large figure of Christ. The whole of this work was destroyed by the Puritans in the 17th century.' Henry VIII. also commissioned Torrigiano to make him a magnificent tomb, somewhat similar to that of Henry VII., but one-fourth larger, to be placed in a chapel at Windsor; it was, however, never completed, and its rich bronze was melted by the Commonwealth, together with that of Wolsey's tomb. The indentures for these various works still exist, and are printed by Neale, Westminster Abbey, i. 54-59 (London, 1818). These interesting documents are written in English, and in them the Florentine is called "Peter Torrysany." For Henry VII.'s tomb he contracted to receive 150o, for the altar and its fittings £1000, and 2000 for Henry VIII.'s tomb. Other works attributed from internal evidence to Torrigiano are the tomb of Margaret of Richmond, mother of Henry VII., in the south aisle of his chapel, and a terra-cotta effigy in the chapel of the Rolls.

While these royal works were going on Torrigiano visited Florence in order to get skilled assistants. He tried to induce Benvenuto Cellini to come to England to help him, but Cellini refused partly from his dislike to the brutal and swaggering manners of Torrigiano, and also because he did not wish to live among "such beasts as the English." The latter part of Torrigiano's life was spent in Spain, especially at Seville, where, besides the painted figure of St Hieronymus in the museum, some terra-cotta sculpture by him still exists. His violent temper got him into difficulties with the authorities, and he ended his life in 1522 in the prisons of the Inquisition.

See Wilhelm Bode, Die italienische Plastik (Berlin, 1902).

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