La Descente de Croix, by Baccio Bandinelli

La Descente de Croix, 1528
Baccio Bandinelli
The Louvre, Paris
Bronze Relief
64cm by 47cm

The bronze relief, by Baccio Bandinelli, was created in 1528 and can be found at the Louvre, in Paris. It is called La Descente de Croix or The Descent from the Cross. Bandinelli, actually born Bartolommeo Brandini, was the son of a successful Florentine goldsmith, which is where Bandinelli got his start. He became an apprentice at his father’s shop and then later studied under Giovanni Francesco Rustici who was a sculptor friend of Leonardo da Vinci. Under Rustici, Bandinelli sculpted his first major work, a wax sculpture of Saint Jerome for a member of the Medici family. It was always rumored that Bandinelli had an obsession with Michelangelo. One of Bandinelli’s students, Giorgio Vasari, said that he once secretly destroyed a picture of the great artist. Some said that it was because of his hatred for Michelangelo or because of his affection for da Vinci. Still others said of the event that Bandinelli wanted a piece of the picture always with him or that he did not want other artists to be able to copy the picture for themselves. In any event, Bandinelli’s reputation was tainted.

Ultimately, Bandinelli’s attempts to be as talented and successful as Michelangelo led to his disappointments as an artist. Because he wanted so much to be as good Michelangelo, he tried to do things he was not qualified to do. As Vasari said, “He did nothing but make sketches and finished little. All the freshness of his first approach to a subject was lost in the laborious execution in marble… A brilliant draughtsman and excellent small-scale sculptor, he had a morbid fascination for colossi, which he was ill equipped to execute. His failure as a sculptor on a grand scale was accentuated by his desire to imitate Michelangelo.”

The Medici family commissioned one of Bandinelli’s more famous pieces, Hercules and Cacus, but when Rome was sacked in 1527, the pope was taken prisoner and the Medici family was exiled. Because of his association with the Medici family, Bandinelli had to leave as well. He did not return to Florence until the Medici returned to power. The statue was completed in 1534, but faced ridicule from the day it was unveiled. When one of his competitors described it like “a sack of melons,” Bandinelli sabotaged his career.

Among some of his other works are a copy of Laocoon, which resides at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the tombs of two of the Medici popes, a bust of Cosimo I de’ Medici which is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and some works for the Duomo in Florence as well as some pieces in the Palazzo Vecchio. He also did a Pieta, which is in the Basillica della Santissima Annunziata, or the Basilica of the Most Holy Annunciation, which is a Roman Catholic minor basilica in Florence, Italy. This is where Bandinelli is buried with his wife.

Although his legacy is not as impressive as he had hoped, Bandinelli made significant contributions to society as an artist. He was a skilled draughtsman; he just lacked talent as a sculptor in comparison with the great names of the day like Michelangelo.


Works Cited

Britannica Encyclopedia 11th Edition (1910-1911) “Bandinelli, Bartolommeo”

Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of the Artists, Baccio Bandinelli

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