(b. ca. 1703, Firenze, d. 1771, London)
Italian painter, active in England. George Vertue, the only source for Soldi's earliest years, described him in 1738 as a Florentine aged 'about thirty-five or rather more' who had been in England 'about two years'. He had previously been in the Middle East, where he painted some British merchants of the Levant Company who had advised him to go to London. Two three-quarter-length portraits called Thomas Sheppard (1733 and 1735-36; private collections) belong to this period.
In London Soldi enjoyed considerable success in the period between 1738 and 1744; Vertue reported that he began 'above thirty portraits' between April and August 1738. He was extensively patronized by the 2nd and 3rd Dukes of Manchester (eight portraits), the 3rd Duke of Beaufort (four portraits at Badminton House, Gloucestershire) and the 4th Viscount Fauconberg (eight portraits at Newburgh Priory, North Yorkshire). The seated three-quarter-length of Isabella, Duchess of Manchester, as Diana (1738; private collection) and the informal full-length of Lord Fauconberg (c. 1739; Newburgh Priory, North Yorkshire) exemplify his lively handling, strong colour and theatrical, Italianate imagination. In a less extravagant vein, the Duncombe Family (1741; private collection), a conversation piece of some charm, and the Self-portrait (1743; Art Gallery, York) suggest a versatile talent.
Soldi's bravura contrasted with contemporary English portrait practice, then wavering between the sober manner of Kneller and a playful Rococo, and his attraction for Italianate Englishmen was obvious. He was rivaled only by Jean-Baptiste van Loo, who was in London between 1737 and 1742; both artists painted the dealer Owen McSwiny and the poet Colley Cibber about 1738. He far outclassed his Italian rivals, the Cavaliere Rusca (1696-1769), who worked in London from 1738 to 1739, and Andrea Casali, who was in London from 1741 to 1766.