“There is no doubt that the art of design, with painting, sculpture and architecture, can imitate and truly portray all things that can be seen.”
Vincenzo Danti, “Treatise on Perfect Proportions. Of all the Things that can be Imitated and Copied with the Art of Disegno”
Vincenzo Danti was born into a family with a vocation for the literary and artistic spheres, as demonstrated by his grandfather Piervincenzo Ranaldi's decision to take on the name of “Dante” as a sign of admiration for Dante Alighieri. He was the elder brother of the famous cartographer-artist Egnazio Danti. At least until 1553 he was in Rome, studying – it seems – with Michelangelo and Daniele da Volterra. Most probably, with the first master, we are speaking of imitation and in-depth study rather than a true direct relationship. That year, he and his father Giulio – a goldsmith by trade – were entrusted with creating a bronze statue of Pope Julius III for the piazza in Perugia, to be placed at the side of the Duomo.
Around 1557 he moved from Perugia to Florence at the court of Cosimo I. Here, he soon obtained an important commission: in 1558 he was called to create a Hercules and Antaeus in bronze for the Villa di Castello. The negative outcome of the work damaged his image at court and gave rise to scornful reactions by rival artists. As a consequence, he dedicated himself to more modest works for size and technique. At the end of 1559 he created – in two parts then welded together – the bronze relief of “Moses and the Brazen Serpent”, perhaps destined for the altar of the Chapel of Leo X in Palazzo Vecchio. At the end of that same year, he created the so-called “Sportello”, a bas-relief in bronze destined for the door of the safe containing the personal documents of Cosimo I, located in the apartment expressly designed by Vasari. The central relief is an admonishment on the confidentiality of the contents of the safe and depicts the burning of the books of Numa Pompilius.
In 1560 he took part in the contest for the creation of the Fountain of Neptune in Piazza della Signoria, won by Ammannati. The sculpture “L’Onore che vince l’Inganno” (Honour Triumphant over Falsehood), commissioned by Sforza Almeni, Chamberlain to Cosimo I, is of the same year. The success of this work allowed him to re-enter the circuit of the great marble commissions of the Florentine nobility, after the failure of Hercules and Antaeus. He obtained new commissions from the Dukes, among which the Monument to Carlo de' Medici for the Duomo in Prato, finished in 1564. Of those same years is the group “Leda and the Swan”, today located in London at the Victoria and Albert Museum. But the most evident sign of his full entry in the Florentine scenario arrived in 1564, for the funerals of Michelangelo, for which a catafalque is erected in San Lorenzo. Danti created one of the sculptures of the terracotta base painted in imitation marble, having intellect triumphant over ignorance as its subject.
Immediately after the death of Michelangelo, he became Consul first and then Chamberlain of the Accademia del Disegno. He was also entrusted by Cosimo I to sculpt the marble allegories of Equità e Rigore, to be placed together with the Medici coat of arms, outside the new Uffizi building. The subsequent year, for the nuptials of Cosimo's son, Francesco, with Joanna of Austria, he carved an equestrian statue in painted terracotta, “Cosimo I Vittorioso sulla Frode”, placed in Piazza Sant’Apollinare, of which only drawings survive today.
He returned to Perugia, from where he sent Cosimo I the famous Roman bronze statue of “The Orator”, found by chance in the outskirts of Perugia, for his personal collection. This period sees him more involved in literary activities: he published some treatises on art – drawing, painting and sculpture. He also wrote essays on architecture. In 1568 he travelled several times to Seravezza to obtain the marble used in his works and also on behalf of Giambologna; in 1569 he finished the Christ of the marble group “Christ and the Baptist” for the eastern door of the Baptistery of St. John in Florence, by Andrea Sansovino. For the same building, between 1570 and 1571 he carved the bronze group “The Beheading of St. John the Baptist”.
Around 1572 he sculpted “Venus Anadyomene”, a bronze statuette destined for the study of the Grand Duke in Palazzo Vecchio, and the portrait of “Cosimo I come Giosuè” in terracotta painted in faux marble for the Chapel of San Luca in the Basilica della Santissima Annunziata in Florence. In subsequent years, he worked above all in Perugia as architect, where he died in 1576 and was buried in the family tomb in the Basilica of S. Domenico.
The photographs published in the TimeLine were taken from the websites:
www.thearttribune.com, upload.wikimedia.org, www.nicolasalvioli.com, www.atlantedellarteitaliana.it, www.repubblica.it,
static.panoramio.com, photos.wikimapia.org, www.scultura-italiana.com, www.artelabonline.com