Benedetto da Rovezzano

The Sculptor who went to England

Panel from the sarcophagus of S. Giovanni Gaulbert

Born Benedetto Grazzini in Pistoia (1474–1552), this elegant sculptor spent most of his life in Florence would be a lot better known if he hadn't been around the same time as that limelight-hogging Michelangelo.

His works in Florence include the Cenotaph of Pier Soderini Santa Maria del Carmine, reliefs in San Salvi, and remains of the tomb of St John Gualbert in the Bargello, the cloister of the Badia Fiorentina and the portal of Santi Apostoli.

The Medici Pope Leo X sent some terracottas by the sculptor to Cardinal Wolsey, who was so impressed by Benedetto's work that he invited the sculptor to England and commissioned him to build his tomb. Although Wolsey fell out of favour before its completion, Henry VIII ordered that it be completed, and As Vasari writes in his Lives, the King paid him well, fortunately, because not long after his return to Florence he went blind. Although Charles I wanted to be buried in the sarcophagus, it eventually ended up holding the remains of Nelson the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral.

Recently four bronze angels from the tomb were discovered, subject of a successful campaign by the Victoria and Albert Museum to purchase them for the nation for £5 million.

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