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Sperandio
Mantuan, c. 1425/1428 - c. 1504
Sperandio, Savelli , Savelli, Sperandio di Bartolommeo
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Biography

Sperandio was the son of Bartolommeo di Sperandio Savelli, a Roman goldsmith who was first recorded in Mantua in 1433 and who died there in 1457. The son was born in Mantua between 1425 and 1428, and the family moved to Ferrara in about 1437. The city was to become Sperandio's primary home. He is first documented there as a goldsmith in 1445, intermittently until 1477, and again between 1490 and 1495. He also worked for the court of Mantua and undertook commissions from Milan for a medal of the Duke Francesco Sforza (NGA 1957.14.708.a,b) and from a Venetian patron (NGA 1957.14.725.a,b). Sperandio was in Faenza in 1477, contracted for five years to work on sculpture for the cathedral, but he left the city in the next year, following a political revolution. The contract specified that he was to work in bronze, marble, terracotta, lead, goldsmithry, drawing, and painting. Sperandio was active in Bologna between 1478 and 1490, again in Mantua in 1495-1496, and Venice between 1496 and 1504, where he most likely died, having become no longer capable of work.

Sperandio's principal employment was found at the court of Ferrara, working as both a sculptor and a medalist. He was paid for two marble busts of the duke, Ercole I d'Este, in 1475, and made twenty-six medals during his two periods working in the city. Sperandio also worked in Bologna, producing the terracotta monument to Pope Alexander V, finished in 1482. Several bronze reliefs are attributed to Sperandio, including one that is signed.[1] He also had a considerable reputation as a cannon founder.

With forty-eight medals either signed by or reasonably ascribed to him, Sperandio was the most prolific medalist in fifteenth-century Italy. No example has survived of an additional documented medal by him(George Francis Hill, A Corpus of the Italian Medals of the Renaissance before Cellini, London, 1930: no. 376), and to his list of bronze reliefs has recently been added a large portrait plaque of Tito Vespasiano Strozzi.[2] His originality lies in the scale, boldness, vigor, and individuality of his medal effigies, often crudely expressed but always singular in character. Effigies of this type point to the development of the Italian medal portrait toward the end of the century in the work of Niccolò Spinelli (1430-1514) and his circle in Florence. The reverses, often crude in form, bear Sperandio's version of current conventional humanist types; as such, they are important for those who study iconography. The reverses have a repertory of friendly beasts, often set in a landscape shaped like a half-moon, and inscriptions in the vocative voice that, like the animals, are theatrical in character. Late in his career, doubtless through laziness, he produced travesties of Pisanello prototypes (Hill 1930, nos. 391-392; NGA 1957.14.721.a,b), and a type that is a pastiche of Pisanello's pictorial conventions (Hill 1930, no. 400; NGA 1957.14.724.a,b). The influence of Lysippus is sometimes evident in his busts and in the kind of ornament used in medal inscriptions. Sperandio's working methods are illustrated by three surviving pen sketches for medals, preserved in the British Museum, London; the Louvre, Paris; and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.[3]

[1] Ernst Friedrich Bange, Die Italienischen Bronzen der Renaissance und des Barock, Zweiter Band, zweiter Teil: Reliefs und Plaketten, Berlin and Leipzig, 1922: nos. 272-274; John Pope-Hennessy, The Portrait in the Renaissance, New York, 1966: no. 235, fig. 10.

[2] Christopher Lloyd, "Reconsidering Sperandio," Studies in the History of Art 21 [Italian Medals, ed. J. Graham Pollard] (1987): 104-112.

[3] Two of the drawings were published by George Francis Hill, "Notes on Italian Medals, VIII," The Burlington Magazine 16 (1909), 24-25. For the British Museum drawing see A.E. Popham and Philip Pouncey, Italian Drawings in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum. The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries, 2 vols., London, 1950: 1:155-156, no. 252. The drawing in Washington (NGA 1973.37.1) is published in Recent Acquisitions and Promised Gifts: Sculpture, Drawings and Prints, Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1974: 48, no. 13.

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

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