SOLARI, Cristoforo
(b. ca. 1468, Milano, d. 1524, Milano)


Italian sculptor and architect, called Il Gobbo (the hunchback), part of a family of asrtists, brother of Andrea Solario. He received his early training from his cousin, Pietro Antonio Solari, to whom he was apprenticed for five years from 1483. Cristoforo worked in Venice in the early 1490s, but by 1493 he was back in Milan, where he was briefly employed by Ludovico Sforza. In 1494 he returned to Venice, probably with his brother Andrea Solario. Although Solari is known to have executed several works during this second Venetian period, none has been identified.

In 1495, once again in Milan, Cristoforo was appointed by Ludovico to replace Antonio Mantegazza (d. 1495) as joint chief architect (with Giovanni Antonio Amadeo) of the façade of the Certosa di Pavia. This work was interrupted in 1497 when Ludovico commissioned Solari to carve the funerary monument to his consort Beatrice d'Este in Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan. Only the effigies of Beatrice and Ludovico survive (in the Certosa di Pavia) from this work, which Solari never finished, although he seems to have worked on it almost exclusively until Ludovico's fall in 1499.

In 1501, he was appointed Magister a Figuris of the cathedral, and subsequently executed or had executed various sculptures for the cathedral of Milan. In 1506 Solari was nominated to share the post of general architect with Amadeo. Solari was closely involved in one of the most important phases in the cathedral's history, which included the construction of the nave.

Solari also worked for other patrons in this period, several lengthy absences from the cathedral workshops indicate his involvement with large-scale and time-consuming projects for private clients.

Cristoforo's surviving sculpture reveals that he quickly abandoned his master Pietro Antonio Solari's Late Gothic style. He became known in Venice for his ability to represent antique themes in the antique manner. His sculpture is extremely difficult to evaluate as very few autograph works survive, but he was regarded by his contemporaries as one of the finest artists of his time.

Cristoforo's architectural works were also influenced by Roman models. In 1505 he designed the courtyard of Santa Maria presso San Celso, Milan. This is the first example in Lombardy of the typically Roman motif of an arched minor order enclosed by a major order with a flat entablature (the 'partito romano').

In 1513 and 1514 Cristoforo was documented in Rome, where he settled the estate of his brother Alberto. In 1514 he was commissioned to construct a funerary chapel in Santa Cecilia (remade) for Cardinal Carretto. By December 1514 Cristoforo was back in Milan, and he continued to work for private clients. In 1519 he had been appointed general architect of Milan Cathedral, again as Amadeo's colleague and co-worker, and he held this position until his death in May 1524; he was succeeded as general architect by Girolamo della Porta (active 1490-1519).