Sansovino, Andrea Contucci Del Monte
reliefs executed sculpture
SANSOVINO, ANDREA CONTUCCI DEL MONTE (14601529), an able Florentine sculptor, who lived during the rapid decline of plastic art which took place from about the beginning of the 16th century; he was the son of a shop- herd called Niccolo di Domenico Contucci, and was born in 1640 at Monte Sansavino near Arezzo, whence he took his name, which is usually softened to Sansovino. He was a pupil of Antonio Pollaiuolo, and during the first part of his life worked in the purer style of 15th-century Florence. Hence his early works are by far the best, such as the terra-cotta altar-piece in Santa Chiara at Monte Sansavino, and the marble reliefs of the Annunciation, the Coronation of the Virgin, a Pieta, the Last Supper, and various statuettes of saints and angels in the Corbinelli chapel of S. Spirito at Florence, all executed between the years 1488 and 1492. From 1491 to 1500 Andrea worked in Portugal for the king, and some pieces of sculpture by him still exist in the monastic church of Coimbra.' These early reliefs show strongly the influence of Donatello. The beginning of a later and more pagan style is shown in the statues of St John baptizing Christ which are over the east door of the Florentine baptistery. This group was, however, finished by the weaker hand of Vincenzo Dauti. In 1502 he executed the marble font at Volterra, with good reliefs of the Four Virtues and the Baptism of Christ. In 1505 Sansovino was invited to Rome by Julius IL to make the monuments of Cardinal Ascanio Maria Sforza and Cardinal Girolamo della Rovere for the retro-choir of S. Maria del Popolo. The architectural parts of these monuments and their sculptured foliage are extremely graceful and executed with the most minute delicacy, but the recumbent effigies show the beginning of a serious decline in taste. Though skilfully modelled, they are uneasy in attitude, and have completely lost the calm dignity and simple lines of the earlier effigies, such as those of the school of Mino da Fiesole in the same church. These tombs had a very important influence on the monumental sculpture of the time, and became models which for many years were copied by most later sculptors with increasing exaggerations of their defects: In 1512, while still in Rome, Sansovino executed a very beautiful group which shows strongly the influence of Leonardo da Vinci, both in the pose and in the sweet expression of the faces ; it is a group of the Madonna and Child with St Anne, now over one of the side altars in the church of S. Agostino. From 1513 to 1528 he was at Loreto, where he cased the outside of the Santa Casa in white marble, covered with reliefs and statuettes in niches between engaged columns ; a small part of this gorgeous mass of sculpture was the work of Andrea himself, but the greater part was executed by Montelupo, Tribolo, and others of his numerous school of assistants and pupils. Though the general effect of the whole is very rich and magnificent, the individual pieces of sculpture are both dull and feeble, showing the unhappy results of an attempt to imitate Michelangelo's grandeur of style. The earlier reliefs, those by Sansovino himself, are the best, still retaining some of the sculpturesque purity of the older Florentines. He died in 1529.