Gianfrancesco Gonzaga

Gianfrancesco Gonzaga (1446–1496)
was Antico’s first patron. A younger son of the Marchese of Mantua, Ludovico Gonzaga, he inherited lands to the west and south of Mantua on his father’s death in 1478 and set up a small but elegant court at Bozzolo. The 1496 inventory produced at Gianfrancesco’s death is a key documentary source for Antico’s life and art.

Gianfrancesco Gonzaga di Ròdigo, c. 1486-1490, bronze, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Widener Collection

Antonia del Balzo

Antonia del Balzo (c. 1460–1538)
was the wife of Gianfrancesco Gonzaga. The daughter of a Neapolitan prince, she married Gianfrancesco in 1479, soon after he came into his inheritance. The first documentary reference for Antico is a 1487 letter from Antonia to the Marchese Francesco Gonzaga. After Gianfrancesco’s death Antonia moved to the newly built Gonzaga castle in Gazzuolo near Bozzolo, as did Antico.

Antonia del Balzo, c. 1487, bronze, Widener Collection


Indirect Lost-wax Casting
A casting method that produces multiple bronzes from a single model. A wax model was prepared in the form of the desired bronze figure (A). A plaster piece mold would be prepared around the model, then disassembled and the model removed (B). The mold was reassembled, tightly bound, and used to cast a wax copy in several parts. For solid parts, the mold was filled with hot wax (C). For hollow parts, the wax was swirled inside the mold and the excess poured out (D). The remaining wax shell was filled with a mixture of plaster and sand, forming a core, and the wax with its core was then removed from the mold (E). The wax parts were joined and finished, and fine iron wires were inserted to secure the core (F). Channels were added to the wax model to allow the molten bronze to be poured in and gases to escape (G). This assembly was then encased in a plaster mixture (H). The plaster mold was heated and dried. The wax was melted out, leaving a void in the shape of the model, and the plaster core suspended inside by the iron wires (I). Molten bronze was poured in, surrounding the core and filling every part of the mold (J). The channels and core pins were removed from the cast and the surface was cleaned, chased, and polished (K).

model created by 1496, cast possibly by 1496
bronze with gilding and silvering
The Frick Collection, New York, Gift of Miss Helen Clay Frick

Hercules, model created by 1496, cast probably after 1519

model created by 1496, cast probably after 1519
bronze with silvering
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Kunstkammer

Hercules and Antaeus

Hercules and Antaeus
model created by 1511, cast 1519
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Kunstkammer

Isabella d’Este

Isabella d’Este (1474–1539)
became Antico’s principal patron after the death of her husband’s uncle, the bishop Ludovico Gonzaga, in 1511. The daughter of the Duke of Ferrara, Ercole d’Este, Isabella married the Marchese of Mantua, Francesco Gonzaga, in 1490. She became famous in her own time for her dynamic personality and cultural sophistication and was one of the few women to create a studiolo. Antico made bronzes that were preserved on cornices in her studiolo. After her husband’s death in 1519 Isabella became regent of Mantua for her son Federico Gonzaga.

Giancristoforo Romano, Isabella d’Este, after 1498, bronze, National Gallery of Art, Samuel H. Kress Collection


Ludovico Gonzaga (1460–1511)
became Antico’s second patron after Ludovico’s brother Gianfrancesco died in 1496. Ludovico became bishop-elect of Mantua in 1484 but was never consecrated to that office. He lived instead in his territories outside Mantua, later moving to Antonia del Balzo’s castle at Gazzuolo. His correspondence provides much information on Antico’s work.

Letter of Ludovico Gonzaga (signature), 8 September 1503, Archivio di Stato, Mantua