Born in Volterra, a town in Tuscany, the painter and sculpture became known as Daniele da Volterra. He was a mannerist artist best remembered for his work in connection to Michelangelo (1475 – 1564). Before befriending Michelangelo, Volterra studied in Siena with Giovanna Antonio Bazzi, called Il Sodoma (1477 – 1549) and Baldassare Peruzzi (1481 – 1537), and then with Piero Buonaccorsi, called Perin del Vaga (1501 – 1547). During this time he helped to complete works in the Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne in Rome, as well as in the Trinitá dei Monti and the San Marcello al Corso.
Volterra’s commission for the Orsini Chapel in the Trinitá dei Monti, were frescos he did based on drawings by Michelangelo. With this is perhaps his best known work in painting, the piece, Descent from the Cross, which gained him much praise. Another work he based on Michelangelo’s drawings, Victory of David over Goliath, a two-sided painting, was long attributed to Michelangelo fully. Though, over time with the discovery that these works were painted by Volterra, he regained a more respected place in history. A much needed recovery at that, as the artist is infamously known as Il Braghettone, which means the breeches-maker. This name cursed Volterra’s reputation for having the task of painting over the nudity in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel fresco, The Last Judgment. The Vatican had banned nudity from religious art and commissioned Volterra to alter the masterpiece. Although the cover-up was cut short in 1565, the nickname has preceded Volterra ever since.
Much of Volterra’s work is still respected greatly, especially in new light of his paintings of Michelangelo’s drawings. Of his original painted works is a piece, Massacre of the Innocents (Murder of the Innocents or Slaughter of the Innocents), which he completed for the Church of Saint Peter in the town of Volterra and now hangs in the Uffizi Gallery. He also painted a portrait of Michelangelo and religious works such as Moses on Mount Sinai and The Prophet Elias, among others.
His notable work in sculpture includes Cleopatra and a Bronze bust of Michelangelo, as well as a bronze portrait of Michelangelo’s death mask. Some of the praise of his painted works appears in the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, saying, “His work is distinguished by beauty of colouring, clearness, excellent composition, vigorous truth and curiously strange oppositions of light and shade…he exaggerates Michelangelo’s peculiarities, treads on the dangerous heights of sublimity, and not possessing the master’s calm manner, is apt to slip down.”
It is said that compared to past criticisms of his work, there is more truth viewed in his work today.