Torrigiano, Peter

, an eminent Florentine sculptor, was born about 1472, and was the contemporary of Michael Angelo, in competition with whom he executed some works in the town-hall of Florence. He was an artist of very superior merit, but a proud, inconsiderate, and ungovernable character. It was in one of his passionate fits that he struck Michael Angelo with such force as to flatten his nose. Benvenuto Cellini, in his own life, has recorded this affair, as related to him by Torrigiano himself: “His conversation one day happening to turn upon Michael Angelo Buonarroti, on seeing a drawing of mine made from the celebrated cartoon of the battle of Pisa: ‘ This Buonarroti and I (said Torrigiano), when we were young men, went to study in the church of the Carmelites, in the chapel of Masaccio; and it was customary with Buonarroti to rally those who were learning to draw there. One day, amongst others, a sarcasm of his having stung me to the quick, I was extremely irritated, and, doubling my fist, gave him such a violent blow upon his nose, that I felt the bone and cartilage yield as if they had been made of paste, and the mark I then gave him he will carry to his grave’.

Cellini’s account of Torrigiano is, that “he was a hand*­some man; but of consummate assurance, having rather the air of a bravo than a sculptor: above all, his strange gestures and sonorous voice, with a manner of knitting his brows, enough to frighten every man who saw him, gave him a most tremendous appearance, and he was continually talking of his great feats among those bears of Englishmen whose country he had but recently left.” At what time he came into England is not known, but in 1519, according to Stow, he executed the superb tomb of Henry VII. in Westminster-abbey, for which he received 1000l. for the whole stuff and workmanship. It is also said by Vasari that he executed variety of works in marble, brass, and | wood, in concurrence with other masters of this country, over all whom he was allowed the superiority. Vertue ascribes to him the tomb of Margaret countess of Richmond, mother of Henry VII.; and that of Dr. Young master of the Rolls in the chapel at the Rolls in Chancerylane; and lord Orford is inclined to attribute to him ahead of Henry VIII. in plaister in a round at Hampton-court. His lordship adds, that at Strawberry-hill is a model in stone of the head of Henry VII. in the agony of death. It is in the great style of Raphael and Michael Angelo, and worthy of either, though undoubtedly by Torrigiano.

The ungovernable and restless habits of this artist precipitated him into great difficulties, and the circumstances of his death furnish a melancholy instance of the vicissitude of life, and the baneful effects of inquisitorial jurisprudence. Upon leaving England, he visited Spain, and after distinguishing himself by many excellent works, was employed by a Spanish grandee to sculpture in marble a Madonna and Infant Christ, of the size of nature, with high promises to be rewarded in proportion to its merit; and as the grandee was of the first rank, Torrigiano flattered himself with proportionate expectation. After much study and application he completed his work to his own satisfaction, and the grandee saw the performance with delight and reverence, bestowing on him the highest praise. Impatient to possess his treasure, he immediately sent for it, and that his generosity might be displayed to the greatest advantage he loaded two lacqueys with the money to defray the purchase. The bulk was promising; but when the bags were found to contain nothin^but brass maravedi, which amounted only to the small sum of thirty ducats, vexation and disappointment roused Torrigiano’s resentment, who considered this present rather as an insult than as a reward for his merit, and, on a sudden, snatched up his mallet, and without regard to the perfection of his workmanship, or the sacred character of the image, he broke it in pieces, and dismissed the lacqueys, with their load of farthings, to tell the tale. The grandee, with every passion alive to this merited disgrace, and perhaps impressed with superstitious horror for the sacrilegious nature of the act, presented him before the court of inquisition; and impeach* d him for his conduct as an infidel and heretic. Torrigiano urged the right of an author over his own creation reason pleaded on his side, but all in vain he was condemned to lose his | life with torture. The holy office, however, lost its victim, for Torrigiano starved himself to death in prison, in 1522. 1


Walpole’s Anecdotes. Duppa’s Life of Michael Angelo.