benvenuto cellini - Bindo Altoviti, 1549

benvenuto cellini (Florence, 1500 - 1571, Florence)

Bindo Altoviti, 1549

Tin-bronze, 105.5 x 68.5 x 40.5 cm (41 9/16 x 26 15/16 x 15 15/16 in.) overall


Object details

Accession number


Dimension Notes

Without the base: H 85.2 cm x W 68.2 cm x D 41 cm Base (not original): H 24.2 cm. x W 29.2 cm


Probably installed in the scrittoio of Palazzo Altoviti, Rome before spring 1550, where it was apparently seen by the Italian artist Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564).
Included in the 1644 inventory of Palazzo Altoviti.
Remained in Palazzo Altoviti, until its demolition in 1888.
Transfered by the Altoviti family to another house near Monte Giordano, Rome, about 1888.
Offered for sale by the Altoviti family to the South Kensington Museum, London for 20,000 scudi (the price was raised several times) in 1870, through the art collector Charles Drury Edward Fortnum (1820-1899). Unsold.
Offered for sale by the Altoviti family to the German art historian and curator Wilhelm von Bode (1845-1929) for 400,000 lire (raised from 100,000 lire) in 1873, through an agent of the Altoviti family. Unsold.
Offered for sale by the Altoviti family to several Italian museums throughout the 1880s and 1890s. Unsold.
Offered for sale by the Altoviti family to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1898, through the American art collector Edward Perry Warren (1860-1928). Unsold.
Purchased by the Belgian manager of Colnaghi & Co. Edmond Deprez from the Altoviti family for 140,000 lire in October 1898, through Edward Perry Warren.
Purchased by Isabella Stewart Gardner from the art dealers Colnaghi & Co., London for £10,000 on 29 September 1898, through the American art historian Bernard Berenson (1865-1959).


Mark (on the base): [the rampant wolf of the Altoviti arms]


Giovanni Gaetano Bottari. (ed.). Vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori e architetti scritte da Giorgio Vasari..., vol. 3 (Rome, 1760), p. 271, n2.
Domenico Moreni. Illustrazione storico-critica di una rarissima medaglia rappresentante Bindo Altoviti: opera di Michelangiolo [sic] Buonarroti (Florence, 1824), pp. 55, 104-11.
Francesco Tassi (ed.). Vita di Benvenuto Cellini: orefice e scultore fiorentino, vol. 2 (Florence, 1829), pp. 433-35, n2, ill. (the illustration is a print by Giovanni Paolo Rossi after a drawing by Francesco Sabatelli)
Achille Monti. "Il busto di Bindo Altoviti opera del Cellini." Arte e lettere, vol. 2 (1865), pp. 182-83.
Luigi Passerini. Genealogia e storia della famiglia Altoviti (Florence, 1871), p. 55.
Eugène Plon. Benvenuto Cellini: Orfévre Médailleur, Sculpteur (Paris, 1883), pp. 221-23, pl. 19. (as about 1550)
Domenico Gnoli. "Le demolizioni in Roma. Il palazzo Altoviti." Archivio storico dell'arte, vol. 2 (1888), pp. 210-11, ill.
Émile Molinier. Benvenuto Cellini (Paris, 1894), pp. 64, 86, 88, ill.
Rodolfo Lanciani. Storia degli scavi di Roma e notizie intorno le collezioni romane di antichita, vol. 1 (Rome, 1902), p. 165.
Catalogue. Fenway Court. (Boston, 1903), pp. 20-21. (quoting Michelangelo's letter to Cellini)
M.H. Bernath et al. "Cellini" in Ulrich Thieme, Felix Becker, et al. (eds.). Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart: Unter Mitwirkung von etwa 400 Fachgelehrten, vol. 6 (Leipzig, 1912), p. 274. (as 1550)
Robert H. Hobart Cust. Benvenuto Cellini (London, 1912), pp. 133-34, 176, 179, ill. (as 1550)
Morris Carter. Isabella Stewart Gardner and Fenway Court (Boston, 1925; Reprint, Boston, 1972), p. 169.
Sir Eric Robert Dalrymple Maclagan. Italian Sculpture of the Renaissance: the Charles Eliot Norton lectures for the years 1927-1928 (Cambridge, 1935), pp. 238-39, fig. 122. (as about 1550)
Gilbert Wendel Longstreet and Morris Carter. General Catalogue (Boston, 1935), pp. 217-18, pl. 9. (as about 1550; the base as original)
Coriolano Belloni. Un banchiere del Rinascimento: Bindo Altoviti (Rome, 1935), pp. flyleaf, 45-46, ill. (erroneously reports that the bust was sold to the Musée du Louvre, Paris)
Adolfo Venturi. Storia dell'arte italiana, vol. 10, tome 2: La scultura del Cinquecento, part 2 (Milan, 1936), pp. 471-72, fig. 348.
Stuart Preston. "Bindo Altoviti" in Alfred M. Frankfurter (ed.). The Gardner Collection (New York, 1946), p. 29, ill. (as about 1550)
Ettore Camesasca. Tutta l'opera del Cellini (Milan, 1955), pp. 24, 46, 67, pls. 66-67. (as 1550)
Aldo Stella. "Bindo Altoviti" in Alberto Maria Ghisalberti (ed.). Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, vol. 2 (Rome, 1960), pp. 574-75.
William N. Mason. “Notes, Records, Comments.” Gardner Museum Calendar of Events 6, no. 5 ([30 Sept.] 1962), p. 2.
John Pope-Hennessy. Italian High Reniassance and Baroque Sculpture (London, 1963), vol. 1, p. 95, fig. 122; vol. 3, p. 69. (as about 1550)
Rollin Hadley. “Notes, Records, Comments.” Gardner Museum Calendar of Events 7, no. 22 (26 Jan. 1964), p. 2. (excerpting Eric MacLagan, p. 238)
Detlef Heikamp. Benvenuto Cellini, I maestri della scultura, vol. 30 (Milan, 1966), pl. 66.
George L. Stout. Treasures from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1969), pp. 184-85, ill. (as probably 1550)
Carlo Pietrangeli et al. Guide rionali di Roma, vol. 5, part 3: Rione V - Ponte (Rome, 1974), p. 11, ill.
John Pope-Hennessy. "The Forging of Italian Renaissance Sculpture." Apollo, vol. 99 (1974), pp. 262, 267, n115. (as by Cellini)
Cornelius C. Vermeule III et al. Sculpture in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1977), pp. 122-25, no. 151. (about 1550)
Charles Avery. "Benvenuto Cellini's Bronze Bust of Bindo Altoviti" in James Thomas Herbert Baily (ed.). The Connoisseur: An Illustrated Magazine for Collectors, "Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum" (London, 1978), pp. 62-72, nos. 1-4. (as about 1550)
Rollin van N. Hadley. Museums Discovered: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1981), pp. 178-79, ill. (as about 1550)
Charles Avery et al. L'opera completa del Cellini (Milan, 1981), pp. 98-99, no. 65, pl. 62. (as about 1550)
Marco Collareta. "Introduzione" in John Shearman. Il Manerismo (Florence, 1983), pp. xxii-xxiii
John Pope-Hennessy. Cellini (New York, 1985), pp. 218-21, 308, n12, pls. 123-26. (as possibly 1546, reportedly 1550; the base as original)
Rollin van N. Hadley (ed.). The Letters of Bernard Berenson and Isabella Stewart Gardner 1887-1924 (Boston, 1987), pp. 142-46, 150, 152, 155-57, 202, 206.
Donatella Pegazzano. Bindo Altoviti: committenza e mecenatismo di un banchiere del Cinquecento. PhD Diss. (Florence: Università degli Studi di Firenze, 1988), pp. 95-103
Kathleen Weil-Garris Brandt. "Mrs. Gardner's Renaissance." Imaging the Self in Renaissance Italy. Fenway Court, vol. 23 (1990-1991), pp. 13-15, fig. 5. (as about 1550)
Hilliard Goldfarb. Imaging the Self in Renaissance Italy. Exploring Treasures in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum III. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 1992), pp. 25-28, 47, ill. (as about 1550)
Alan Chong et al. (eds.) Eye of the Beholder: Masterpieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 2003), pp. 86-88, ills. (as about 1550)
Alan Chong et al. Raphael, Cellini & A Renaissance Banker: The Patronage of Bindo Altoviti. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; Florence: Museo Nazionale del Bargello, 2003), pp. xi, xiv-xvi, xvii, xxi-xxii, 40-41, 80-82, 115, 125-28, 133-43, 162-64, 224, 237-62, 265, 267, 374, 399, 404-05, figs. 64, 67, 140, cat. 20. (as between January 1549 and the following spring; the base as not original)
Donatella Pegazzano et al. Benvenuto Cellini (Rome, 2005), pp. 162-166, 186, no. 17. (as 1549)
Cynthia Saltzman. Old Masters, New World: America’s Raid on Europe’s Great Pictures (New York: Penguin Books, 2008), pp. 90, 92.
Alan Chong. "Isabella Gardner, Bernard Berenson, and Otto Gutekunst" in Jeremy Howard (ed.). Colnaghi: The History (London, 2010), p. 29, fig. 6.
Francesca G. Brewer et al. "The Portrait Busts of Cosimo I & Bindo Altoviti from the Inside Out." Marks of Identity: New Perspectives on Sixteenth-Century Italian Sculpture. Fenway Court, vol. 32 (Boston, 2012), pp. 62-81, figs. 2, 6, 8-9, 12-13, 15, 18. (as finished around 1550; the base as later)
Antonia Boström. "Kinship and Art: The Patronage of the Soderini and Ridolfi Families in Florence and Rome." Marks of Identity: New Perspectives on Sixteenth-Century Italian Sculpture. Fenway Court, vol. 32 (Boston, 2012), p. 99. (as 1549-1550, according to Dimitrios Zikos)
Jeremy Howard. "Colnaghi, Bernard Berenson and Mrs. Gardner's first Botticelli" in Colnaghi. Colnaghi Past, Present, and Future: An Anthology (London, 2016), pp. 21, 74-75, fig. 14.
Carl Brandon Strehlke. "Bernard and Mary Collect: Pictures Come to I Tattti" in Carl Brandon Strehlke and Machtelt Brüggen Israëls. The Bernard and Mary Berenson Collection of European Paintings at Villa I Tatti (Milan, 2015), pp. 28, 43.
Joseph Connors. "The Berenson Collection: A Guide." I Tatti Studies in the Italian Renaissance (Fall 2016), p. 254.

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The bust is a portrait of Bindo Altoviti (1491–1557) who was born into a family of Florentine bankers. He achieved considerable power as banker and administrator for the papacy; he supervised agriculture in the Papal States and managed the rebuilding of St. Peter’s Basilica. Altoviti was also a remarkable patron of the arts: he owned or commissioned work from many notable sixteenth-century artists, including Raphael, Michelangelo, Cellini, Giorgio Vasari, Francesco Salviati, and Jacopo Sansovino. Around 1515, Raphael portrayed Bindo Altoviti as an elegant and beautiful young man (National Gallery of Art, Washington).

The Altoviti family had long been rivals of the Medici. Bindo’s relationship with the Medici rulers of Florence was tense, although he conducted business with them and accepted honors from them. For the most part, Bindo lived in exile in Rome to avoid their authority. By 1550, the hostility between Bindo and Cosimo de’ Medici, the duke of Florence, became evident. Cosimo refused to allow Bindo’s son to take up his post as archbishop of Florence. Bindo financed an army to support the anti-Medici forces in Siena, and then spent much of his fortune underwriting an alliance with France intended to liberate Florence from Medici rule. These efforts failed before Bindo died in 1557.

It was at this period that Cellini produced his bust of Bindo Altoviti. Nearly sixty, Bindo is depicted as a stoic, world-weary figure, although his gaze remains alert and dynamic. The sculpture echoes ancient busts of philosophers, and indeed was displayed next to ancient Roman busts in Bindo’s palace. Nearly life-size, the work presents remarkable contrasts of textures. The beard is energetically modeled and shows the repeated working of the original wax model. Very different is the careful rendering of wrinkles and details of the face, and the painstaking precision of Bindo’s unusual cap.

Cellini made a bust of Bindo’s hated rival Cosimo de’ Medici, made just three years earlier (Museo del Bargello, Florence). Highly energized and aggressive, Cosimo’s bust is almost overwhelming in its grandeur and dazzle. It is a public and militaristic portrait, whereas the bust of Bindo is private and humanist, both in execution and original context. It seems that Cellini and Altoviti conspired to create a portrait as different as possible from Cosimo’s, although both emulate ancient prototypes and were surely meant to rival the bronzes of antiquity. Bindo Altoviti is portrayed as republican philosopher rather than imperial general.

In the nineteenth century, several museums attempted to buy the bust from the Altoviti palace in Rome. Finally, in 1898 the work was put up for sale via Colnaghi, and Mrs. Gardner snapped it up. It is her only large sculpture in bronze, a medium that did not usually interest her.

Source: Alan Chong, "Bindo Altoviti," in Eye of the Beholder, edited by Alan Chong et al. (Boston: ISGM and Beacon Press, 2003): 87-88.

Conservation notes:

In the fall of 2001, the Cellini bust—one of only two monumental portrait busts made by artist Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571), and widely considered the most important Renaissance bronze in the United States—was returned to its permanent place in the Titian Room after extensive conservation. Conservation work focused on removing centuries of hardened and discolored waxes, oils and dirt from the surface of the sculpture, revealing the extent of Cellini’s fine detailing and the artist’s original patina. On the heels of this work, the Cellini bust was the centerpiece of a scholarly exhibition Raphael, Cellini, and a Renaissance Banker: The Patronage of Bindo Altoviti, presented by the Museum in 2003-2004.


Italian, Northern Italy

Saint Christopher

giovanni maria mosca

The Virgin of Charity

Italian, Northern Italy

Saint Sebastian