SILVANI, Gherardo
(b. 1579, Firenze, d. 1675, Firenze)


Italian architect and sculptor, part of a family of artists, father of Pier Francesco Silvani. He was active mainly in Florence and other sites in Tuscany.

His early interest in sculpture led him to frequent, albeit for only a short time, the workshop of Valerio Cioli and Giovanni Bandini (c. 1540-1599). He then made contact with Bernardo Buontalenti, with whom he collaborated on the production of the wooden models (destroyed) for his Cappella dei Principi in the church of San Lorenzo and the pulpit for Santa Maria at Settignano, near Florence. He also wrote a biography of Buontalenti, used and possibly commissioned by Baldinucci.

On Buontalenti's advice, Silvani sought admission to the circle of Giambologna, but on being refused, he allied himself to the school of Giovanni Battista Caccini, becoming his principal apprentice and later a collaborator, inheriting a large number of Caccini's incomplete projects on the latter's death in 1613. Silvani's first sculptural works, executed under the supervision of Caccini, included two Angels for the ciborium of Santo Spirito, Florence; portraits of the Pucci Cardinals (1612-15) for the chapel of San Sebastiano, adjacent to the church of the SS Annunziata, Florence; and the statues of St Peter and St Paul in the tribune of the SS Annunziata.

He worked on the Palazzo Corsini al Prato, Palazzo Capponi-Covoni (1623), Palazzo Marucelli-Fenzi (1634), Palazzo Pallavicini, Palazzo di San Clemente. He also helped design and construct the altar of the Basilica di Santo Spirito. He helped in the reconstruction of the churches of San Frediano, Santi Simone e Giuda, Sant'Agostino, and the Chiesa di Santa Maria Maggiore (Florence), among others. He helped design the façade of the Basilica of Santa Maria at Impruneta. His model for the façade of the cathedral of Florence was not adopted.

His masterpiece remains the church and façade of San Gaetano (built 1604-1648) in front of Piazza Antinori in Florence. The work was commissioned by the Cardinal Carlo de Medici, and dedicated to the founder of the Theatine order. The building work was shared with Matteo Nigetti. The church is also known as the Church of San Michele and San Gaetano, because it was built on the site of a Romanesque church of San Michele Bertelde. The façade with its sculptural decorations is highly atypical for Florentine churches, which had a predilection for iconoclastic geometrically ornamented façades.