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Desiderio da Settignano

Master Portrait Sculptor

Portrait of a Deacon, in San Lorenzo

A very under-appreciated sculptor, Desiderio da Settignano (c. 1430–61) remains in the shadow of Donatello today even as he was in his lifetime. He nevertheless deserves to be considered among the all-time greats. He's at his best in his marvellously expressive marble portrait busts, many of them of women and children, though he was also known for his elegant bas-reliefs.

Born outside Florence in Settignano, Desiderio started out not as a goldsmith, like so many other sculptors, but in the guild of wood and stone carvers. His talent was recognized early on, and while still in his early 20's he got the important commission for the Tomb of Carlo Marsuppini in Santa Croce, which made his name. After that, aristocratic patrons from Florence and all over Italy kept him busy with requests for his smaller works.

Olimpia, Queen of Macedon

These are now spread all over the world; in Florence you can see him at the Bargello, Santa Maria Novella and San Lorenzo.

Text © Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls

Images by: Desiderio da Settignano, Sailko, GNU Creative Commons License