BERTOLDO DI GIOVANNI
(b. ca. 1420, d. 1491, Poggio a Caiano)
Battle (with Hercules)after 1478
Bronze, 45 x 99 cm
Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence
Bertoldo was the disciple of Donatello and the Medici court artist of the late 15th century. He specialized in small bronze sculptures, medals, plaques and reliefs. He also served as curator of the Medici collection of antiquities in their palace and gardens. His role as the reputed teacher of the precocious Michelangelo has tended to eclipse awareness of his art.
The "Battle" is based partly on a damaged sarcophagus of the second century AD in the Pisan Camposanto, but it is no mere copy. It tested his imaginative and technical skills because he had to recreate the missing figures and translate the forms into bronze. In the process, he compressed it and heightened the relief so much that the figures appear almost freestanding, saving it from being an academic exercise.