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Benedetto da Majano

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A well-known Florentine sculptor and architect of the Renaissance, b. at Majano, Tuscany. 1442; d. at Florence, 24 May, 1498. During his early life he cultivated the art of wood-mosaic, at which he was singularly expert. King Corvinus of Hungary invited him to his court, and it is said that the destruction on the journey of some preciously executed inlay work he was taking to his royal patron induced the artist to seek more durable material. In 1471-72 he carved the monumental altar for the Duomo of Faenza dedicated to San Savino; in 1474, the bust of Pietro Mellini, shrewd and life-like, in the Bargello, in 1480, the framework of the doorway at the Palazzo Vecchio, a delicate piece of chiselling still in place. Also in 1480, with his brother Giuliano, he built and made the sculptures for the little oratory of the Madonna dell'Olivo, outside Prato. The charming adolescent St. John of the Bargello is ascribed to the year 1481. In 1489 Benedetto designed the Strozzi Palace at Florence which still stands (continued by Cronaca), one of the most picturesque memorials of its day. It is believed he went to Naples in 1490, and there executed various sculptures, among others an Annunciation at the church of Monte Oliveto. The tomb of Filippo Strozzi, with its lovely roundel of Mother and Child supported by cherubs (S. Maria Novella, Florence), dates from about 1491. In 1433-94 he made carvings at San Gimignano in the chapel of the child-patron, Santa Fina; a bust of Onofrio Vanni in the sacristy, and the beautiful tomb of San Bartolo in the church of Sant'Agostino; the circular high-relief in the arch of the Madonna and Infant blessing in one of his most exquisite creations. Renedetto's best-known and most esteemed production is the pulpit at the Franciscan church of Santa Croce, Florence (about 1495). Minor works are the group of the seated Madonna and Child at the oratory of the Misericordia, Florence; the bust of Giotto at the Duomo, and of Squarcialupi in the Bargello, in Siena, the reliefs of the Evangelists at the Duomo, and a marble ciborium in the church of S. Domenico; a fine best of Filippo Strozzi in the Louvre, Paris, and another in Berlin ; and a door found at Borgo San Sepolcro, now in a private collection at Palermo. The portico of B. Maria delle Grazie, at Arezzo, is his. He was buried in the crypt of S. Lorenzo. Bode is of the opinion that he was the Florentine who most nearly approached the German School, but, in his best works, he retains the subtilty and distinction, the fineness and nervous beauty of Donatello and of Rossellino.

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