Antonio Benci and Piero Benci called Pollaiolo brothers ~ Biography
1432 – 1498 (Antonio)
1441 – 1496 (Piero)
Painters, Sculptors, Engravers, and Goldsmiths, the Pollaiolo brothers were a collaborative pair in the Italian Renaissance. Much of their work is historically difficult to separate into individual endeavors, as many of their pieces were joint efforts. They famously preceded Leonard da Vinci in dissecting human corpses to better understand anatomy, which became a defining skill in their work.
Antonio particularly had a skill for depicting the human figure in action, as seen in his painted works, Hercules Clubs the Hydra (1475) and in his single surviving engraving, Battle of the nude men, created sometime between 1470 and 1475. Most of the Pollaiolo Brothers’ paintings are attributed to Piero, but the higher quality works are said to be a collaborative efforts. Antonio found his talents and independent success in sculpting and metal work, but several pieces are also jointly attributed to both Brothers.
In their painted accomplishments, a noted piece, Martyrdom of St. Sebastian (1475), shows a nude St. Sebastian at a symmetrical central point, whose figure is said to have been studied from an actual body. Though the Archers surrounding St. Sebastian in the piece also have a great deal of attention shown in the anatomical detail. These figures exemplify Antonio’s influence on depiction of the human body under strain, seen in later Florentine painting.
In sculpting, Antonio created the Tombs of Pope Sixtus IV in 1493 and also the mausoleum of Pope Innocent VIII, both for St. Peter’s in Rome. The piece for Pope Innocent VIII is noted as the first depiction of the living man on a tomb structure. He also created a bronze piece, titled Judith and another titled, Hercules, and one attributed to the Pollaiolo Brothers, St. Christopher and the Infant Christ.
The Brothers’ painted works are in various collections around the world. Among those that have been or are in the Uffizi Gallery, are The Saints, Vincent, James and Eustace, Portrait of a Young Woman, Hercules and the Hydra and Hercules and Antaeus. Antonio’s engraving of Battle of the nude men (or Battle of Ten Nudes) was also there. Their other work is seen in San Miniato al Monte in Florence, the Staatliche Museum in Berlin, the National Gallery of London, the Louvre in Paris, Museo Poldi Pezzoli in Milian, The Yale University Gallery in New Haven, and The Metropolitan Museum of New York.