(b. 1486, Firenze, d. 1570, Venezia)


Italian architect and sculptor, who was instrumental in introducing the High Renaissance style to Venice. Originally named Jacopo Tatti, he was trained in Florence by the sculptor Andrea Sansovino, whose name he adopted; his early sculpture was influenced principally by ancient classical works.

Jacopo's studies in Florence were interrupted in 1505, when Andrea was called to Rome to execute the tombs of Cardinal Ascanio Sforza and Cardinal Girolamo Basso della Rovere in the choir of Santa Maria del Popolo. Jacopo followed soon after in the train of Giuliano da Sangallo, whose protégé he became. In Rome he studied and copied Classical sculptures and may have collaborated with Andrea at Santa Maria del Popolo.

Vasari related that Jacopo attracted the attention of Donato Bramante in Rome, and that in 1507 or 1508 he won a competition, organized by Bramante and judged by Raphael, for the best copy of the recently unearthed antique sculpture of the Laocoön (Museo Pio-Clementino, Vatican). One surviving work from this first Roman period, the ambitious Descent from the Cross (Victoria and Albert Museum, London), was conceived as a studio model for the painter Perugino and modelled in wax with great bravura.

Sansovino returned to Florence c. 1510 and almost immediately assumed a position of prominence. Possibly through Baccio d'Agnolo, he gained the two commissions for marble statuary that confirmed his reputation as a serious rival to Michelangelo, the Bacchus (Bargello, Florence) and St James the Greater for the Cathedral.

The St James occupied Sansovino between 1511 and 1518, and in that period he shared a studio with Andrea del Sarto. Their workshop was frequented by a number of artists and sometime pupils, including Niccolò Tribolo and Jacopo Pontormo. In addition Sansovino was in contact with such older artists as Andrea della Robbia and Giovanni Francesco Rustici as well as such patrons as the patricians Giovanni de' Gaddi and Bindo Altoviti.

In 1518 the limited opportunities available in Florence led Sansovino back to Rome, which he may have visited briefly in May 1516 to sign the contract for his most famous work of the period, the marble Martelli Virgin and Child, or Madonna del Parto (Sant'Agostino, Rome). In Rome, Sansovino was taken up by the Florentine community, winning the competition (c. 1519) to design their church, San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, against Raphael, Baldassare Peruzzi and Antonio da Sangallo the Younger. The project foundered through technical and financial difficulties, and in January 1521 Sansovino was effectively replaced by Sangallo. One of his three major buildings from this period survives, the Palazzo Gaddi, planned c. 1518 for his Florentine patron Giovanni de' Gaddi and his brothers on the Via del Banco, Rome.

During these years Sansovino executed only two major pieces of sculpture, both private commissions obtained through the Florentine community and his connections with the papal curia. The marble Madonna del Parto (Sant'Agostino, Rome), made for Giovan Francesco Martelli, is one of Sansovino's most popular sculptures. The St James of Compostella (Santa Maria di Monserrato, Rome), also of marble, amounts to a paraphrase of a motif from Michelangelo's projects for San Lorenzo, Florence.

Sansovino's career probably would have remained within the Florentine–Roman axis had it not been for the Sack of Rome in 1527, which sent him and many other artists away from central Italy. He went to Venice, where in 1529 he became proto (chief architect) to the Procurators of San Marco, and he held this office over the next four decades. As proto, he enjoyed a monopoly of the main architectural and sculptural commissions for most of his Venetian career, much like Gian Lorenzo Bernini in Rome the following century. Together with his close friends Titian and Pietro Aretino, Sansovino dominated the artistic life of Venice in the mid-16th century.

As chief architect, Sansovino designed palaces, churches, and public buildings, uniting the classical tradition of the Florentine master Bramante with the more highly ornamented Venetian style.

Sansovino's major architectural contribution to Venice was in transforming the appearance of the Piazza San Marco through the planning of three buildings, the Zecca (public mint), the Library and the Loggetta. All three were conceived between 1535 and 1537 and were ordered by small, interlocking civic committees.

Sansovino also designed two major palaces on the Grand Canal, the Palazzo Dolfin (begun 1538) and the Palazzo Corner at San Maurizio (begun 1545). The Palazzo Corner (designed 1532) represents the first successful use of the classical façade - columns, arcades, and arched windows - in Venice; it became the standard for Venetian palaces for the next century.

Sansovino was a strong influence on the later Venetian architects Andrea Palladio and Baldassare Longhena.