Alessandro Vittoria's first exhibition opens in Castello del Buonconsiglio

The exhibition of this Venetian baroque sculptor explores his life as a sculptor and collector, and documents his friendships with other artists of his time


The first large exhibition of the work of Alessandro Vittoria (1525-1608), one of the major Venetian sculptors of the sixteenth century, is being held in the sixteenth-century Castello del Buonconsiglio. “La bellissima maniera: Alessandro Vittoria and Venetian sculpture in the sixteenth century" (until 26 September) has for the first time gathered together a considerable body of the artist’s work in bronze, marble and terracotta, plus drawings and medals. It also presents a broad selection of sculpture by his contemporaries, including Jacopo Sansovino (1486-1570).

In the section dealing with the training and life of Alessandro Vittoria, who moved to Venice at the age of eighteen and established himself in the workshop of Sansovino, there are some highly impressive pieces from churches in Padua and Venice, as well as from a number of museums in Italy and abroad, such as the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, the Metropolitan in New York and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The exhibition also documents his friendships with painters, architects and collectors such as Pietro Aretino, for whom he designed the celebrated medals that can be seen in Trento; Tommaso Rangone, his chief patron in Venice; Giorgio Vasari who described him as “most excellent sculptor and friend of scholarship”; Andrea Palladio, with whom he collaborated on Villa Pisani, and Paolo Veronese who invited him to decorate Villa Maser.

A series of notebooks in the artist’s own hand provides a useful means of reconstructing his long career. We learn that Vittoria was a passionate collector himself and acquired a group of objects which today provide a valuable key to the taste of the period; the objects originally in his possession include Parmigiano’s “Self-portrait with mirror”, sold to him by Palladio and left by the sculptor to Rudolf II; the left foot of Michelangelo’s figure of “Day”, and a number of paintings by Schiavone, Jacopo Bassano and Jacopo Palma. A different type of acquisition features in a note dated 14 May 1565. Here Vittoria is buying back, for twelve and a half ducati, the “St John the Baptist” he made for the church of San Geremia and for which he had only received one payment. This piece was a particular favourite of the artist, who kept it by him until he died.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Alessandro Vittoria and his mates'