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Foppa, Caradosso
Milanese, c. 1452 - 1526/1527
Foppa, Cristoforo , Caradosso
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Biography

Caradosso Foppa was first mentioned in 1475, when he registered his mark as a goldsmith in Milan. He worked for Lodovico Maria Sforza, duke of Milan between 1492 and 1500, acting also as an advisor on jewelry and antiquities, and making journeys to Florence in 1488, to the court of Matthias Corvinus in Hungary in 1489, and to Florence and Rome in 1495. Caradosso appears to have continued to work in Milan after the fall of Lodovico and to have visited Mantua in 1505. He was clearly a goldsmith of superlative accomplishment, described in envious terms by Cellini in his treatises on goldsmithing and praised in the correspondence of Isabella d'Este.[1] However, no jewel by him is now known, nor are any of the works of bronze and stone sculpture once given to him now accepted.[2] Further, there is no documentary evidence that he cut dies for coinage in either Milan or Rome. He left Milan and settled in Rome before 1507; in 1509 he was a founding member of the Roman Guild of Goldsmiths and is recorded in that city for the rest of his life. His supposed given name of Cristoforo was created by the misreading of a document.

Commentators from Malaguzzi Valeri to Brown and Hickson have worried about the ascription of medals to Caradosso Foppa.[3] Hill (1930) was also cautious but proposed the grouping of medals on grounds of style and the sparse documentation provided by Vasari and Lomazzo.[4] The medals certainly do form an homogeneous grouping in terms of style, at a time when the school of Milan was also producing medals of good quality by artists who have remained persistently unidentified.

The portrait busts on the Sforza medals (NGA 1957.14.783.a,b, NGA 1957.14.784.a,b), the Trivulzio medal (NGA 1957.14.785.a,b) and the medal of Enrico Bruni[5] are treated in a similar style. The Sforza medals have refined pictorial reverses of considerable quality as low-relief sculpture; a reverse of the Good Shepherd for a medal of Pope Julius II relates to them.[6] The medal of Trivulzio is eccentric withing the group, being rectangular in shape and having a long inscription as its reverse type. The portrait head, however, is handled in a manner similar to that of the Sforza medals. The conception of the Trivulzio medal is that of a plaquette, intended as a table bronze of some sort.

The medals of Pope Julius II (NGA 1957.14.787.a,b, NGA 1957.14.788.a,b) are most probably the foundation deposits for the new Saint Peter’s, documented as part of the ceremonies; they share a reverse type with the medal of Bramante (NGA 1957.14.786.a,b). If Vasari may be believed in attributing the Bramante medal to Caradosso, then the medals of Pope Julius II are related to it because the reverse designs depend very closely on the drawings produced by Bramante for the rebuilding.

[1] Giancristoforo Romano wrote to Isabella d'Este in 1505 to recommend the purchase of a bowl and an inkstand. See Julia Cartwright (Ady), Isabella d'Este, Marchioness of Mantua 1474-1539: A Study of the Renaissance, 2 vols., London, 1903: 2:2; Clifford Brown and Sally Hickson, "Caradosso Foppa," Arte Lombarda 119 (1997): 20-24.

[2] Adolfo Venturi, Storia dell'Arte Italiana, 11 vols., Milan, 1901-1940: 6(1908):928-936; Yvonne Hackenbrock, Renaissance Jewelry, London and New York, 1979: 17-22. For a summary of these problems of attribution of sculpture, see Anthony Radcliffe in Anthony Radcliffe, Malcolm Baker, and Michael Maek-Gérard, The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. Renaissance and Later Sculpture: With Works of Art in Bronze, London, 1992: no. 31.

[3] Francesco Malaguzzi Valeri, La corte di Lodovico il Moro, 4 vols., Milan, 1913-1923: 3(1917):351, concludes by saying that no medal could be given to Caradosso; Brown and Hickson 1997, 13-14, concur.

[4] Giorgio Vasari, Le vite de' piú eccellenti pittori, scultori ed architettori scritte da Giorgio Vasari, 1568, ed. Gaetano Milanesi, 9 vols., Florence, 1878-1885, 2nd ed. 1906: 3(1878):535; 4(1879):161. See also Gian Paolo Lomazzo, Trattato dell'arte della pittura, 1584, reprinted in Scritti sulle arti, 2 vols., ed. Roberto Paolo Ciardi, Florence, 1974: 549-550.

[5] George Francis Hill, A Corpus of the Italian Medals of the Renaissance before Cellini, 2 vols., London, 1930: no. 663.

[6] Hill 1930, no. 661.

[This is the artist's biography published in the NGA systematic catalogue of Renaissance medals.]

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