You must pardon my astonishment, but my mind is blown!
Bartolomeo Ammannati (1511 – 1592), was the Italian architect and sculptor, who is perhaps best known today for his giant Fontana del Nettuno on the Piazza della Signoria in Florence. Ammannati was born at Settignano, near Florence, and studied with Baccio Bandinelli and Jacopo Sansovino. He carved statues for various Italian cities during the 1530s and 40s.
Although he is best known to us as a sculptor, during his lifetime he was more known for his architecture. He was called to Rome in 1550 by Pope Julius III on the advice of fellow-Florentine, the architect and art historian, Giorgio Vasari. Ammannati’s most important work in Rome was in collaboration with Vasari and Giacomo da Vignola on the villa of Pope Julius, the Villa Giulia (begun 1551).
He also worked in Lucca. We know he assisted Jacopo Sansovino on the design of the Biblioteca Marciana, in Venice, which closely imitated the style of Michelangelo.
Cosimo de’ Medici (Cosimo I) brought Ammannati back to Florence in 1555; he was to spend almost all of his remaining career in service to the Medicis. His first commission was to finish the Laurentian Library, begun by Michelangelo. Ammannati interpreted a clay model sent him by Michelangelo in 1558 to produce the especially impressive staircase, leading from the vestibule into the library proper.
Ammannati’s masterpiece in Florence is the Palazzo Pitti, where, beginning in 1560 (and through 1570), he enlarged the basic structure by Filippo Brunelleschi, designing a courtyard and facade opening onto the Boboli Gardens. The facade overlooking the courtyard is very unusual in its heavily rusticated (rough-hewn) treatment of successive levels of Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian attached columns. At the Pitti Palace, this rustication provides an appropriately rural yet impressive backdrop for the gardens.
Garden entrance of the Ammannati Courtyard in the Pitti Palace.
Ammannati was named Consul of Academia delle Arti del Disegno in Florence, which was founded by the Duke Cosimo I in 1563.
In 1569, Ammanati was commissioned to build the Ponte Santa Trinita, a bridge over the Arno River.
The bridge’s three arches are elliptic, and though very light and elegant, it has survived even when floods had damaged other Arno bridges at different times. Santa Trinita was destroyed in 1944, during World War II, and rebuilt in 1957.
Ammannati designed what is considered a prototypic mannerist sculptural ensemble in the Fountain of Neptune (Fontana del Nettuno), prominently located in the Piazza della Signoria in the center of Florence. The commission was originally given to the aged Bartolommeo Bandinelli; however when Bandinelli died, Ammannati’s design bested the submissions of Benvenuto Cellini and Vincenzo Danti and Ammannati was awarded the commission.
From 1563 and 1565, Ammannati and his assistants, among them Giambologna, sculpted the block of marble that had been chosen by Bandinelli. He took Grand Duke Cosimo I as model for Neptune’s face. The statue was meant to highlight Cosimo’s goal of establishing a Florentine Naval force. When the work on the ungainly sea god was finished, and sited at the other corner of the Palazzo Vecchio of Michelangelo David statue, the then 87-year-old irascible elder sculptor, is said to have scoffed at Ammannati that he had ruined a beautiful piece of marble, with the ditty: “Ammannati, Ammanato, che bel marmo hai rovinato!”
Ammannati continued work on this fountain for a decade, adding around the perimeter a cornucopia of demigod figures: bronze reclining river gods, laughing satyrs and marble sea horses emerging from the water.
In 1550 Ammannati married Laura Battiferri, an elegant poet and an accomplished woman. In his old age, Ammannati was strongly influenced by the Counter-Reformation philosophy of the Jesuits. He repudiated his earlier nude sculptures as lustful, and he designed several austere buildings for the Jesuits.
He died in Florence in 1592. In my apartment!!