ANTICO
(b. ca. 1460, Mantova, d. 1528, Mantova)

Biography

Italian sculptor, goldsmith, and medallist, original name: Pier Jacopo Alari Bonacolsi. An expert in goldsmith work, bronze sculpture and medals, he earned his nickname 'Antico' because of his classically inspired statuettes, which won him great popularity. He achieved lasting fame through his small-scale re-creations (often also reinterpretations) of famous, but often fragmentary, statues of antiquity (e.g. the Apollo Belvedere and the Spinario). Most of these bronze statuettes were made for the Gonzaga family, notably for Ludovico, Bishop of Mantua, and for Isabella d'Este, wife of Francesco II Gonzaga, 4th Marchese of Mantua. Antico also restored ancient marble statues and acted as an adviser to collectors.

Antico's first recorded commission (1479) was for a pair of medals to celebrate the wedding of Gianfrancesco Gonzaga, Conte di Rodigo and Lord of Bozzolo, with Antonia del Balzo. These are signed with the abbreviated form of Antico, ANTI, implying that by this time his pseudonym was widely recognized.

In 1496 Gianfrancesco Gonzaga died at Bozzolo, and in the inventory of his possessions was listed a pair of silver gilt vases (untraced) by Antico. These were probably similar to the bronze Gonzaga Vase in Modena, which bears Gianfrancesco's and Antonia's personal devices.

Antico's style is a sculptural counterpart to Mantegna's in painting, emphasizing the anatomical articulation and the smooth, rotund forms of the human body. He loved to contrast polished and darkly patinated surfaces with intricately chiselled details of hair, drapery and accoutrements, which are often gilded, with the eyes sometimes being inlaid with silver. His overtly opulent creations appealed to his courtly patrons, in contrast to the more intellectual and romantic evocations of ancient mythology by the other great sculptor of the bronze statuette, Andrea Riccio, whose clientele were sensitive humanists, the professors and learned clerics of Padua University.