Shining a long overdue light on the Florentine Bertoldo di Giovanni (ca. 1440–1491), this exhibition is the first monographic display of his oeuvre, uniting nearly every sculpture attributed to this ingenious artist. Bertoldo was a pivotal figure in the Italian Renaissance. After developing his skills under the aegis of Donatello, he gained the lifelong patronage of the republic’s de facto ruler, Lorenzo de’ Medici, and eventually became the instructor for the next generation of leading artists, including Michelangelo.
Occupying a unique position at the heart of the aesthetic and political landscape in Florence, Bertoldo played a key role in the development of Italian sculpture between the Early and High Renaissance. The assembled body of work demonstrates Bertoldo’s innovation and creativity across media. Bertoldo was a pioneer of the bronze statuette, relief, and portrait medal — nascent types influenced by the rediscovery of ancient examples. From handheld medal to monumental frieze, Bertoldo’s artworks are characterized by all’antica inspiration, modernized with an intriguing degree of lyrical stylization. Rewarding close looking, the sculptures reveal unexpected details as they are observed from different viewpoints. Bertoldo fused together diverse and, at times, divergent iconographies, creating a visual language all his own.
The statuettes, reliefs, medals, polychrome statue, and glazed terracotta frieze in this exhibition are arranged to invite comparisons across scale and medium and between different points in Bertoldo’s artistic development. It is clear, through inscriptions and archival evidence, that Bertoldo — not known to have had a workshop of his own — enlisted other sculptors to assist with the transformation of his models into artworks. By bringing these sculptures together, the exhibition elucidates Bertoldo’s creative process as well as his dynamic role as a designer, modeler, and collaborator.
Bertoldo di Giovanni, Shield Bearer (detail), ca. 1470–80. Gilded bronze. The Frick Collection