Massimiliano Soldani-Benzi

Dates1656 - 1740

Born to an aristocratic cavalry captain from Tuscany, Massimiliano Soldani-Benzi enjoyed Medici patronage. The finest bronze caster in Europe in the late 1600s, he was reported to have made sculptures as a child based on models from the della Robbia workshop. He entered the orbit of the Medicis at nineteen, when he attended their drawing school in Florence. Taken with his work, Grand Duke Cosimo III de' Medici sent Soldani-Benzi to Rome to further his artistic education and in particular to learn coin-making. During his four years in Rome, Soldani-Benzi's medallion portraits attracted the attention of Christina, the abdicated Queen of Sweden, but Cosimo prohibited him from accepting her commissions. After Rome, Cosimo sent the artist to work with a famous medalist 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 Granducal Mint.

Though trained as a medalist, Soldani-Benzi also produced bronze reliefs, figures, and busts, often after the antique. About 1690, he began also working with gold. His workshop, in which he sometimes employed over ten assistants, was located in Florence on the ground floor of the Galleria degli Uffizi .