ROMOLO FERRUCCI DEL TADDA
(Florence 1544 – Florence 1621)
The Villano for Livorno
In 1601, the Guardaroba, the household administration of the Medici grand dukes of Tuscany lent two silver figurines to the goldsmith Antonio Susini (1558-1624), by all likelihood for copying them in bronze. According to the relevant archival record, one statuette represented a «Villano con capello con bastoncino che s’appogia in su il bastone», or a «Peasant with hat and staff resting on his staff»; the other is called simply a «Pastorino», or «Small Shepherd».
Both silver figurines are lost, but the small «Peasant with hat and staff, resting on the staff» exists in several bronze versions, the best of which have been reasonably attributed to Susini.
A version of the Peasant (figs *) in the Museo Nazionale del Palazzo di Venezia in Rome has affinities with a Seated Bagpiper (fig. *) in the same museum. Both share a common provenance and it is therefore likely that the two models had been originally conceived as pendants and that the silver «Pastorino» handed over to Susini together with the silver Peasant represented a Seated Bagpiper. A bronze figure «che sona la piva» («that plays the bagpipe») is, moreover, documented as Susini’s work in a 1623 Medici inventory. It could be the gilt version preserved today in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence.
Susini was not an inventive artist. At the turn of the 17th century he was still employed by Giambologna, the great Flemish-born court sculptor of the Medici. From 1598 on Susini began producing small bronzes based on the models of Giambologna. It is therefore safe to assume that the two silver figurines consigned to Susini had been designed by his master.
Another silver ‹genre› statuette is indeed documented in the Medici collections as a work invented by Giambologna. It represented a Girl with a Duck: cast in 1574, its model is known from a single bronze version. From around that time would date also the two lost silver statuettes of the «Villano» and the «Pastorino».
Such a dating is supported by the following considerations. In the eighth decade of the sixteenth century Giambologna was working on the sculptural decoration of the garden surrounding the villa of Pratolino, the preferred residence of Grand Duke Francesco and Fillipo Baldinucci says that for that garden the Flemish sculptor carved statues of «peasants in stone». It is therefore not hard to imagine that the models for the Standing Shepherd and the Seated Bagpiper were related to this project.
Perhaps they were cast directly after the small models Giambologna invented for the statues of paesants referred to by Baldinucci.
None of the latter survives nor is it possible to ascertain beyond doubt that he did carve such statues. Baldinucci is the only source mentioning them, but he was often mistaken. However, a statue representing a Seated Bagpiper is documented through one of Giovanni Guerra’s drawings of Pratolino. It is of a very similar composition to the type of the small bronze in Rome and could therefore have been by Giambologna.
That Giambologna did make at least one model for a ‹genre› figure is, however, beyond doubt. Indeed, his great friend Benedetto Gondi owned a bronze statuette of a «pastorino» expressly said to be – in the 1609 inventory of his distinguished art collection – «by the hand and the originals of Cavaliere Gian Bologna».
Moreover, when the Heir Apparent to the British throne asked the Medici court for bronzes reproducing Giambologna’s models, a Seated Bagpiper and a Standing Shepherd were sent together with other statuettes after Giambologna models to England. In the bill of lading that dates from 1611 they follow one upon another and this further suggests that these two compositions had been originally conceived as pendants.
Small bronzes by Giambologna were first sent as diplomatic gifts by the Medici to European courts already in the second half of the 1580s. After Susini began reproducing the models of his master at a larger scale, ‹Giambologna bronzes› became more popular and found their way also into non-aristocratic collections.
As was recognized by Hans Robert Weihrauch already in 196*, the widespread popularity such bronzes began to enjoy in the early 17th century had another far-reaching consequence for European sculpture: ‹Giambologna bronzes› were now used as models for garden statuary, especially north of the Alps.
A composition such as that of the Seated Bagpiper, invented to adorn a Florentine garden, served for a statue of this subject that stood in a grotto in the courtyard of the house of Rubens in Antwerp.
Conversely, no Giambologna models were used for garden statuary in Tuscany. We would look, for instance, in vain for copies after Giambologna among the many ‹genre› statues or groups carved for the Boboli gardens in the short reign of Cosimo II (reigned 1609-1621) who was responsible for a revival of this type of sculpture.
As far as I see, a Giambologna model for small statuary was certainly copied in Tuscany only once in large scale. But this happened in a different, commemorative and public context.
This copy was a free interpretation of the «Villano», or Standing Paesant. It was carved for a fountain in Livorno, the busy port of Tuscany, by Romolo Ferrucci, called ‹del Tadda› (1544-1621), a member of a famous family of sculptors from Fiesole, and son of Francesco del Tacca, the first to re-discover the secret of tempering porphyry after Antiquity.
The story of the Livorno «Villano» is of great interest both for the reception of Giambologna in Italy and for the study of early 17th-century Tuscan sculpture. Anthea Brook has already referred to it. It was nevertheless overlooked in recent Giambologna studies nor have scholars of Romolo Ferrucci noticed the dependency of this statue from a model invented by Giambologna.
Ferrucci’s Villano is documented visually already in the later eighteenth century. In 1937, Cesare Venturi published a monographic article where he summarized its story and that of the fountain on which it stood. He also reproduced a drawing and a painting that confirm beyond doubt that it was based on Giambologna:
1. The drawing (fig.*) is by the late 18th-century engineer Lorenzo Tommasi and shows a Shepherd standing in a pose very similar to that of the Giambologna bronze. To his right is a dog that faces the viewer but does not seem to be related to the statue.
2. The painting (fig.*) has been attributed to Giuseppe Maria Terreni (1739-1811) and is preserved in the Museo Civico Giovanni Fattori at Livorno. It shows the Shepherd and the dog on a rectangular base. In the painting the animal stands closer to the «Villano» than in the drawing and is represented in three-quarters view looking to its right.
Nothing is known about the history of this canvas. On the contrary, the drawing was commissioned by Mariano Santelli to illustrate his well-known history of Livorno: Stato antico e moderno, ovvero origine di Livorno, 3 volumes of which appeared in Livorno between 1769 and 1772). However, the drawing is bound between folios 197 and 198 in the fourth, unpublished tome of Santelli’s Storia.
Neither the drawing nor the painting were obviously meant to be accurate representations of what appears to have been a sculptural group composed of the «Villano» and of the sculpture representing a dog. The drawing is very summary. And in the painting both figures are coloured – in evident contradiction to what the original statues would have looked like.
By the time the drawing and the painting were executed, the statue of the Peasant was not anymore standing on the fountain. Indeed, in 1737 Giovan Filippo Tanzi, a sculptor from Carrara proposed to carve a replacement figure.
As Santelli specifies, only the dog stood atop the fountain when he was writing his Storia. He had commissioned the drawing from Tommasi in order to document the original appearance of Ferrucci’s sculptural group, for the benefit of the «dilettanti del disegno, della scultura, come ancora dell’Antichità», «the lovers of the arts of disegno, sculpture and Antiquity» (fig.*).
Santelli says that he «managed» («mi è riuscito») to obtain the drawing. The use of this term implies that Santelli knew of the whereabouts of the «Villano» and that it was somehow complicated to have a drawing made of it. It is, however, equally possible that he had to resort to an earlier visual source that is lost to us.
Santelli adds that the drawing will confound some previously published wrong information. First, he refers to those who had erroneously claimed that a marble head inserted in the wall of via San Giovanni in Livorno was a fragment of the «Statua del Villano».
He then uses the drawing as a proof against
the claim that the «Villano» had stood originally between two dogs. The drawing proved this to be wrong: the group was composed by the statue of the Peasant and of that of only one dog.
Such a claim had been put forward by Giovanni Targioni Tozzetti in 1768. It was based on a manuscript then in the Biblioteca Magliabecchiana which is preserved today in the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale in Florence.
It is in this manuscript that the information on the authorship of the sculptures is contained. The manuscript had belonged to Anton Francesco Marmi. It is composed of information on various artists and works of art including a set of unpublished Notizie di Livorno, or Notes on Livorno. According to these undated and unpublished Notes:
v’è la Fontana antica detta del Villano per esservi una statua di Macigno a mezzo a due cani, opera buona di Romolo del Tadda.
For the compiler of the Notizie, Ferrucci’s Villano was made of macigno, a type of hard, blue-grey sandstone. However, Santelli is equally critical about this. He writes that a bastion of the fortress of Livorno was called «del Villano»:
da una Statua di Macigno, o di marmo che fosse, rappresentante un Contadino vestito all’uso di que’ tempi quale appoggiasi ad un legno fissato nel terreno con un sacco fra le mani ed un barilozzo pendente, ed un cane sedente alla sinistra di se medesimo tutto diverso da ciò che ne scrisse un manoscritto della Magliabecchiana Pubblica Biblioteca.
Indeed, no sculptures by Ferrucci in macigno have come down to us. Most of his statuary is in pietra bigia, but he was capable of carving any type of marble, since he learned his trade from his father Francesco who was able to cut hardest of all stones, porphyry.
However, Santelli had another reason for doubting the information provided by the manuscript Notizie di Livorno and concerning the material of the sculptural group in Livorno. Indeed, when he was writing his Storia in the late 18th century the dog was still extant and he could see with his own eyes that it was made of marble.
Also Venturi argues that the group was made of marble because he remembered having seen in his youth that the rectangular base or plinth on which it had stood was made of marble. It was this pedestal, or proper fountain, that consisted of stone, which could of course have caused the author of the above-mentioned manuscript Notizie di Livorno to assert that also the sculptures were «di macigno».
The sculptures Ferrucci carved for Livorno were as we shall see a public commemorative group. As such it could have hardly been made of a material other than Carrara marble and indeed this is the stone of which the Villano has been carved.
Unfortunately the author of the Notizie di Livorno does not reveal the date of the commission of the group to Ferrucci. It has been suggested to date it in 1605. However, this is not possible: Santelli only discusses them under that year.
Conversely, he offers a terminus ante quem
for its execution: the date of its placement of the statue on that pedestal that functions as a fountain. According to a later passage in Santelli’s manuscript volume, this occurred in 1628:
Si leva la Fonte del Villano, di cui si parlò all’anno 1605, dal luogo, ove fù ne primi tempi, cioè sotto il bastione suddetto, e si porta sulla piazza detta già de Cavoli in faccia alla presente Macelleria della mala carne, ove ancor si pose sopra del Piedestallo, che era il getto di detta Fonte la statua del Villano.
According to Santelli, this pedestal was constructed by a certain «Maestro Bernardo Betti da Pistoia», on whom I could find no information. By 1628 therefore the statues were completed.
But since Romolo Ferrucci died in 1621 they must date before his death. The most likely reason for their commission is the inauguration of the acqueduct of Livorno. According to Niccola Magri, the acqueduct was finished in 1607. Lorenzo Fallera’s Discorso sopra i condotti e le fogne di Livorno, a manuscript compiled during the reign of Cosimo III, argues instead for the year 1612.
A dating between 1607 and 1612 appears therefore to be the most likely terminus post quem for what must have been an official commission, either still by Ferdinando I, to whose energy the expansion of Livorno was due, or by his son Cosimo II, for whom the sculptor worked, as we shall see, carving statues for the Boboli gardens.
The oldest certain record of the fountain is included in a plan of Livorno, Giuseppe Ruggieri’s Pianta del condotto che porta l’acqua alle fonti pubbliche della città e porto di Livorno et in altri varii luoghi della medesima. This dates from 1757 and is in a private collection, but was published by Renzo Mazzanti and Luciano Trumpy in 1987. There we see the fountain close to the Darsena under no 59. And this is where it ws placed in 1628 and where Santelli still describes it:
Al presente la detta fonte è sulla cantonata della nuova stradina, che dalla malacarne conduce alla Pescherìa vecchia …, e fa facciata in Piazza detta de Cavoli, e fu ivi posta del 1628 da Maestro Bernardo Betti Muratore fatti che furono i Casamenti dall’una e dall’altra parte di detta stradina l’anno 1628.
The pedestal is seen in three reproductions of paintings and in two old photographs published by Venturi. But where the group stood before 1628 is not clear.
As we have seen, Santelli states that the fountain was located under the bastion, called «del Villano» . This bastion was constructed in 1496 by the countryfolk of Livorno who defended it during the siege of the city one year later by Maximilian, King of the Romans, the future Emperor Maximilian I.
To honour those Livornese peasents, the city’s Florentine commander erected a fountain under the bastion and placed, according to Magri, a statue of a Peasant atop, a dog standing by his side, in order to testify the countryfolk’s fidelity to the Florentine Republic.
However, already Santelli noted the discrepancy between the alleged date of the fountain’s erection and the biographical dates of Romolo Ferruci:
«Chi fosse Romolo del Tadda Scultore di que tempi non hò Saputo trovarlo», writes Santelli, and adds that he found a Romolo del Tadda active during the reigns of Cosimo I and Francesco referring to Vasari and Baldinucci: «ma questo è troppo lontano da tali tempi. Forse sarà sbagliato il nome. Chiarificheranno ciò i dotti Illustratori presenti della nuova edizione del Baldinucci».
Moreover, it is very improbable that the Florentine Republic would have erected a monument to the countryfolk of Livorno. By all likelihood only a fountain was commissioned and this took its name from the nearby bastion which was part of the old fortress. Following the destruction of the bastion, the fountain was moved nearby without losing its name and Ferrucci’s statuary group made the connection to its origin clear.
More research is needed to reconstruct the history of the fountain but this is difficult since very few archival records pertaining to the fortification and urban planning of Livorno have come down to us.
Romolo Ferrucci del Tadda was born into a family of sculptors from Fiesole on 29 September 1544 and was baptized by no less a godfather than Niccolò Tribolo the following day.
Sandro Bellesi has established that he was trained by his father Francesco whom he assisted in carving the porphyry Justice that Bartolomeo Ammannati had designed to crown the colossal column that stands on Piazza Santa Trinita. Begun in 1569 when Romolo was twenty-five it was completed in 1581.
In the 1570s, Romolo – working still with his father – executed the tomb of the bishop Giovan Battista Ricasoli in Santa Maria Novella composed of many different types of marble.
He appears as an independent artist after the death of his father in 1585. Three years later we find him working in Pisa and this suggests some kind of connection with Livorno.
However, according to a letter written by Traiano Bobba from Florence to Marcello Donati, advisor to the duke of Mantua, on 10 April 1590, Romolo had made the grottos of Pratolino and Pitti at the time of grand duke Francesco. He would therefore have been familiar with Giambologna and his work for Pratolino in the 1570s.
Towards the end of the Cinquecento, garden statuary became Ferrucci’s speciality. Indeed with the exception of the Peasant for Livorno, Ferrucci’s works from the late 1590s on are garden sculptures. He also became a dog specialist and we almost expect every dog (fig.*) of the period to be by him. The inclusion of a dog in the statuary group for the Fontana del Villano in Livorno is a kind of signature.
As an animalier, Ferrucci was sought for also outside Tuscany. He carved stone animals for the decoration of a fountain in the Gondi palace in Paris and for the duke of Mantua for whom he is said to have executed seven animals in pietra bigia before 1602.
Another ‹genre› in which he specialised was coat of arms and we can present here his own coat of arms (fig. *) decorating the façade of the building where he lived and worked in the via Sant’Egidio, acquired probably in 1604 and situated close to the workshop and house of Giambologna in Borgo Pinti.
As his activity prospered, he rose in the hierarchy of the Academia del Disegno, the Florentine artistic academy.
From the second decade of the 17th century on, Ferrucci worked mainly for the Boboli gardens in the service of grand duke Cosimo II. According to Baldinucci, he carved the group of the Saccomazzone after a model by Orazio Mochi. Francesco Inghirami attributes to him rightly three over life-size sculptural versions after Jacques Callot’s Caramogi. All these sculptures were made of pietra bigia between 1617 and Ferrucci’s death in 1621.
It is with these statues in Boboli that the «Villano» shares a series of significant points of comparison that would confirm its attribution to Ferrucci even if nothing were known about the commission of the sculptural group for Livorno.
In the bronze designed by Giambologna the figure rests, and he seems to meditate. Conversely, Ferrucci’s «Villano» opens his mouth as if he were in anguish and the eyes come almost out of the sockets. Such an expression is alien to the style of Giambologna but is comparable with Ferrucci’s documented pietra bigia statues in the Boboli gardens, the Saccomazzone figures and the Caramogi.
In particular the eyes of the «Villano» are reminiscent of those in the Caramogio to the right, which are of course even more expressive as the figure depends on Callot.
Similar to the above-mentioned Caramogio is also the design of the ears (figs ) and the modelling of the hair in the Peasant. The hair shares also affinities with that of the two figures in the Saccomazzone group (figs ).
Finally, in Ferrucci’s Boboli figures we find the same striations (figs ) on the garments as on the garments and the boots of the Peasant – striations that are absent in the Giambologna-inspired bronzes and that testify, in their exemplary perfection of the line, to Ferrucci’s prowess in carving.
As far as the attire of the «Villano» is concerned there is another significant point of comparison: the design of the shoes (figs ) corresponds to that of the shoes in Ferrucci’s Boboli statues.
Ferrucci’s «Villano» is not a slavish copy after Giambologna. Although the marble respects the general pose of the small bronzes, Ferrucci offers a reinterpretation of his prototype.
The main difference concerns as we have seen the head. In the marble it is energetically turned upwards. The opening of the mouth can probably be explained by this modification as an expression connected with or resulting from this movement. By all likelihood, the different position of the head and the opening of the mouth were related to the commemorative character of the statue.
There are also smaller changes, as for instance in the position of the small barrel, which prove that Ferrucci rethought the composition in terms of a large marble figure. For a marble statue, the backpack in the small bronze was obviously too large an attribute and by eliminating it the sculptor has rendered the figure slender and its outline finer.
Ferrucci has also changed the modelling of the dress. No more angular folds appear as in Susini’s small bronze.
Ferrucci’s «Villano» is a masterpiece of carving. Whereas most of the details in Ferrucci’s Boboli figures have lost their sharpness the «Villano» still preserves delicately carved passages as the two hands with most of the fingers carved all round.
Ferrucci was not an inventive genius but like Antonio Susini – assistant to Giambologna in the production of small bronzes – he was capable of rethinking the compositions of the great master in a highly original way. And like Susini he had a gift for exquisite finish. The rediscovery of the Peasant adds considerably to our understanding of the impact Giambologna had on Tuscan sculpture and makes us reconsider Ferrucci’s position in the history of Florentine sculpture around the turn of the 17th century. It is to be hoped that it would lead to a new evaluation of his personality and artistic production.