Between 1706 and 1722, renovation of the church was completed under Soldani’s direction. In 1708/1709, Soldani refashioned the original reliquary into a sumptuous Baroque tempietto, incorporating gilt bronze reliefs of the Madonna and Child on the front (which corresponds to the present relief) and of St. Lawrence on the back (Lankheit 1982, op. cit., no. 105, p. 138).
In 1737, shortly after Medici rule in Tuscany came to an end, Marchese Carlo Ginori (1701-57) established the Doccia porcelain manufactory near Florence. Copies of classical antiquities were in high demand and Ginori began to acquire wax models and plaster molds of antiquities as well as those by contemporary sculptors, like Soldani and Foggini, in order to reproduce them in porcelain. The 1778 Doccia factory inventories, specifically the Inventario de'Modelli, lists the wax, plaster and terracotta models housed at the Doccia Factory (Lankheit, op.cit., p. 133) and it records two known examples of the present composition of the Madonna and Child by Soldani: one bronze (as part of the reliquary in the Collegiata di San Lorenzo) (Keutner 1976, op.cit., fig. 6, pl. II) and a red wax relief in the Doccia Porcelain Museum, Florence (Keutner 1976, op.cit., fig. 10). There was no mention of a terracotta relief of the Madonna and Child in that inventory nor any molds associated with it in Soldani’s posthumous inventory.
Although the largest number of extant works by Soldani are in two dimensions, many of them are not documented and several have no firm date. Therefore, the fact that the present relief would have been given to a patron or friend seems all the more plausible, as it was not documented. Zikos explains (2005, op.cit., p.46) that Soldani did in fact give many of his terracottas to friends rather than selling or keeping them for himself.
Both the present terracotta and the wax relief in Doccia incorporate a similar horizontal protrusion at the bottom of the composition, upon which the Madonna stands. This protrusion does not exist on the bronze relief on the reliquary. The bronze does, however, include a small, naturalistic mound below the Madonna’s feet. This discrepancy suggests there was a change in the first model for the bronze. Other variations exist between the wax relief and the terracotta and bronze works in the sharpness in the modelling and amount of visible detail. Both the terracotta relief and the bronze relief for the reliquary, for example, show the Madonna wearing sandals (only on the right foot in the terracotta) whereas the wax has no trace of this. Only the present relief includes a halo over Madonna's head.
The modelling on this terracotta epitomizes the precision and clarity for which Soldani is known in both his terracotta and bronze works.
Klaus Lankheit, Florentinische Barockplastik, Munich, 1962, pp. 152-153, p. 364;
Herbert Keutner, 'Massimiliano Soldani und die Familie Salviati', in Kunst de Barock in der Toskana, Munich, 1976, pp. 143-146, figs. 6, 7 and 10, pl. II;
Klaus Lankheit, Die Modellsammlung der Porzellanmanufaktur Doccia, Munich, 1982, p. 133, inventory p. 33, no. 65, fig. 211;
Dimitri Zikos, 'Prince Johann Adam Andreas I of Liechtenstein and Massimiliano Soldani Benzi, The late Baroque Florentine Bronze Sculpture', J. Kräftner (ed.), Baroque Luxury Porcelain, exhibition catalogue, Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna, 2005, pp. 157-177;
Il fasto e la ragione. Arte del Settecento a Firenze, exhibition catalogue, Uffizi Gallery, Florence 2009, no. 16, pp. 94-95
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