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Antonio Abondio
Italian, 1538 - 1591
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Biography

Abondio was born at Riva di Trento in 1538 and died in Vienna in 1591. He was trained in northern and central Italy, as is evident from the style of his medals which reflect the work of Emilian, Milanese and Florentine medalists. The first medal securely attributed to him is that of Sorra of 1561 (NGA 1957.14.1062).

Abondio, like Leone Leoni, was employed principally by the imperial courts north of the Alps. He worked first for the Archduke Frederick II of Austria at Schloss Ambras, Insbruck in 1565, was then called to the imperial court at Vienna in 1566 by Maximilian II (NGA 1957.14.1058), appointed court medalist and given permission produce a new series of imperial portraits in wax, for which he was paid in 1570. He was given a patent of nobility by the emperor in Vienna in 1574. At the death of Maximilian he continued to work for the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II (NGA 1957.14.1059) from 1576 untill his death in Vienna in 1591. Abondio is documented as working at Graz in 1575 when he modelled the Archduke Charles of Styria and his wife Maria of Bavaria. During his period of imperial service he made three long visits away from the courts. He visited the low countries in 1566, and Spain in 1571 and 1572 as a member of the suite of the imperial ambassador, Baron Johann von Khevenhüller (NGA 1957.14.1060). In 1583 he made a return visit to Italy.

Abondio practiced as a medalist, wax modeller and sculptor. He produced seventy-four medals, thirteen documented wax portraits and a bronze bust of Christ.[1] One drawing has been attributed to him.[2] His medallic style is admirably eclectic. Among the earliest medals, the portrait of Caterina Riva (NGA 1957.14.1061) was strongly influenced by the style of the school of wax modellers led by Ruspagiari in Reggio Emilia. The court portraits, presumably all based on wax models taken from life, are eloquent, dignified but realistic with an admirable amplitude of style. They are far more successful than Leoni's imperial effigies, which in comparison are pinched and sycophantic.[3] Abondio's reverse designs, however, are less successful, conventional and unimaginative, and easily surpassed by the work of Leoni and Galeotti.

Abondio was the only major Italian medalist who was positively influenced by German renaissance art. He clearly admired the work of Dürer, for Abondio's plaquette of the Toilet of Venus was inspired by a Dürer drawing of Lucretia of 1508 and is signed by Abondio with a monogram imitating the form of Dürer's own monogram signature.[4]

In his turn, Abondio had considerable influence on the later schools of German and Austrian medal making, particularly on the work of medalists such as Raphael Rangieri, Samuel Fries and Pietro de Pomis. Abondio’s son Alessandro (c. 1580-1648) was also a sculptor, wax portrait maker, medalist, and coin designer from 1619 principally resident in Munich.

[Published in: John Graham Pollard. Renaissance Medals. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. 2 vols. Washington, 2007]

[1] See Ursula Schlegel, "Einige italienische Kleinbronzen der Renaissance," Pantheon 24 (1966): 388-396.

[2] Eliška Fučíkova, "Studien zur Rudolphinischen Kunst: Addenda et Corrigenda," Umeni 27 (1979): 491-492, fig. 1 (489-511), (a drawing of Adam and Eve, Budapest, Szepmuveszet Museum, Inv. no. 1786).

[3] Compare Leonis's medal of the Emperor Charles V (NGA 1957.14.1019) with Abondio's beautifully considered portrait of the Emperor Maximilian II (NGA 1957.14.1058).

[4] For the Plaquette of the Toilet of Venus, see Fritz Dworschak, Antonio Abondio, medaglista e ceroplasta (1538-1591), Trento, 1958: 113. Ingrid Weber, Deutsche Niederländische und Französische Renaissance Plaketten, Munich, 1975: no. 650, pl. 176 (noting a drawing after the plaquette by Paul Zeggin of 1618, Munich Graphische Sammlung).

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