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Cavalli, Gian Marco
Mantuan, before 1454 - in or after 1508
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Biography

Cavalli was the son of Andrea Cavalli, born in Viadana in Mantuan territory sometime before 1454, as he was elevated to a governing body, the consiglio degli ottanta, in 1479. He worked as a goldsmith, sculptor, medal maker, and die cutter and was employed by the Gonzaga between 1481 and 1505, especially in 1497, in the mint of Mantua making patterns for testoons. In 1498 he was in the employ of Bishop Lodovico Gonzaga at Gazzuolo, and in 1501 he moved to Mantua for employment at the mint. Cavalli was summoned to Hall in the Tyrol, arriving in March 1506, where he made the dies for a testoon with the heads of the Emperor Maximilian and his consort, Bianca Maria Sforza; the reverse of the coin was the Virgin Mary.[1] The drawing in pen and watercolor exists for a coin ascribed to Cavalli whose obverse type is the Christ Child blessing, but is more likely a design by Giovanni Ambrogio Preda (c. 1455-after 1508).[2] The last records that we have of Cavalli are his being paid off by the emperor in 1506 and sent to Mantua, and a passing reference to him in Viadana in 1508.

Cavalli is documented as a sculptor by commissions from Bishop Lodovico Gonzaga in 1499 for a bronze statue of the Spinario and for silver roundels of the signs of the zodiac, but these works have not survived. Battista Spagnoli, a celebrated Carmelite poet who is commemorated in a medal by Mea (NGA 1957.14.680.a,b), wrote an epigram on Cavalli which refers to a gold portrait of Francesco Gonzaga, probably a medal.[3] Cavalli was a witness for Mantegna's will of March 1, 1504. However, the bronze portrait bust of Mantegna on his tomb in Mantua, formerly regarded as a work by Cavalli, is now accepted as a self-portrait bust.[4]

[1] Roberto von Schneider, "Di un medaglista Anonimo mantovano dell'anno 1506," Rivista Italiana di Numismatica 3 (1890): 101-118, 101 (text figure), pl. 2, no. 1.

[2] Luke Syson, "The circulation of drawings for medals in fifteenth century Italy," Mark Jones, ed., Designs on Posterity: Drawings for Medals, London, 1994: 13, fig. 5, 25 n. 26.

[3] George Francis Hill, A Corpus of the Italian Medals of the Renaissance before Cellini, London, 1930: 61.

[4] Anthony Radcliffe in Medaglisti nell'età di Mantegna e il Trionfo di Cesare, Exh. cat. Casa del Mantegna, Mantua, 1992: 90, no. 1.

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

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