SOLDANI BENZI, Massimiliano
(b. 1656, Firenze, d. 1740, Montevarchi)
Italian sculptor, medalist. Born to an aristocratic cavalry captain from Tuscany, he enjoyed Medici patronage. The finest bronze caster in Europe in the late 1600s, he was reported to have made sculptures as a child based on models from the della Robbia workshop. He entered the orbit of the Medicis at nineteen, when he attended their drawing school in Florence. Taken with his work, Grand Duke Cosimo III de' Medici sent Soldani Benzi to Rome to further his artistic education and in particular to learn coin-making. His study at the Florentine Academy in Rome under Ferrata brought him into contact with the circle of Queen Christina of Sweden and foreign artists such as his exact contemporary the Austrian architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach (1656-1723). During his four years in Rome, Soldani Benzi's medallion portraits attracted the attention of the abdicated Queen of Sweden, but Cosimo prohibited him from accepting her commissions.
His Roman stay was followed by a brief period of study of coinage in Paris where Soldani impressed the court with a medallion portrait of Louis XIV. He returned to Florence, where he was made director of the Granducal Mint which he directed for forty years from 1688. He maintained contacts abroad through numerous commissions for reliefs, decorative objects and replicas of antique sculptures. About 1690, he began also working with gold.
Soldani Benzi brought the finesse of a medalist to all his works and created some of the most exquisitely modelled and chased bronzes of the period. His workshop, in which he sometimes employed over ten assistants, was located in Florence on the ground floor of the Galleria degli Uffizi.