Giovanni Battista Foggini (Apr 25, 1652 – Apr 12, 1725) was an Italian sculptor active in Florence, renowned mainly for small bronze statuary.
Born in Florence, the young Foggini was sent to Rome by the Medici Grand Duke of Tuscany to join the so-called Accademia Fiorentina, and apprentice in the Roman sculptural studio of Ercole Ferrata, a pupil of Algardi. He was also tutored in drawing by the Accademia’s first director (1673–1686), Ciro Ferri, who was a pupil of Cortona. Returning to Florence in 1676, he became the court sculptor for Cosimo III.
He showed himself as a child a strong inclination for the arts, immediately supported by his uncle, sculptor Jacopo Maria Foggini, who, after studying painting and painting with Jacopo Giorgi and Vincenzo Dandini, took him as an apprentice in his shop. Thanks to the participation of Grand Duke Cosimo III de ‘Medici, in 1673 he was sent to Rome to enter the recently established Fiorentina Academy, where he collaborated with Ercole Ferrata, in turn follower of Alessandro Algardi. Here was instructed by the first director Ciro Ferri, who was a pupil of Pietro da Cortona, specializing in sculpture, but not lacking in deepening aspects related to architecture and interior decoration.
He returned to Florence in 1676 with a bag of novelty in Roman baroque and soon gained some assignments as a sculptor. The first works gave fame to young Foggini, who, as assistant to Architect Pier Maria Baldi, could thus be introduced into the yards of the Medici family. In 1685, with the abandonment of the artistic scene by Pier Maria Baldi, Foggini was the beginning of a prestigious career at the service of the Medici, as attested by the official accolades of court sculptor, “Primary Architect of Casa Serenissima” and Director of the works of the “Real Gallery and Chapel”.
After the son of Pietro Tacca, Fernando, died in 1686, the mantle of the premier local sculptor fell to Foggini, who would become the Medici’s Architetto Primario e Primo scultore della Casa Serenissima as well as Soprintendente dei Lavori (1687–1725). In 1687, Foggini acquired the foundry in Borgo Pinti that had once belonged to the sculptor Giambologna. This allowed him to specialize in small bronzes, produced mainly and profitably for export. His adaptation of Pietro Tacca’s Moors was the basis of bronze and ceramic reproductions for the connoisseur market well into the 18th century.
In Florence, his masterpieces are his sculptural relief work in the Capella Corsini of the Chiesa del Carmine. The chapel was erected by Bartolomeo and Cardinal Neri Corsini in memory of their recently canonized ancestral family member, San Andrea Corsini. It contains three large marble reliefs depicting his life: San Andrea in Glory, The Mass of San Andrea Corsini and The Battle of Anghiari (1685–87). He also completed works in Cappella Feroni in the Annunziata. Another work is the main staircase of the Medici-Riccardi Palace in Florence.
Many commissions from the Medici family were added to those of some of the most important families of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany who saw him engaged in the construction of palaces, villas and chapels in many Tuscan resorts. He deftly dealt with the main areas of artistic expression, practiced by all, with the exception of painting. He knew how to elaborate his own language that ended up identifying, with happy symbiosis with Cosimo III. Foggini was certainly one of the artists who best embodied the taste of the Grand Duke and his son, the “great prince” Ferdinand. While it is true that throughout his life he worked mainly in the territory of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, however, it is also true that he never stopped updating the novelties of Rome. Some find in his work a time in which Florence became again a great cultural and artistic center proposing new official languages, collecting an indifferent legacy that conditioned the development of the next Rococo and Baroque language, in some respects, no less than To that of the Roman matrix. However, due to stereotypes and prejudices, which tend to bewanting the city of Florence as a mere cradle of the Renaissance, only recently is discovering the enormous artistic and architectural value.
His masterpiece as a sculptor is found in the Corsini Chapel of the Carmine Church, where for the first time a Florentine artist left the Mannerism of the Giambologna School to follow contemporary experiences of the Roman Baroque. Another important work was the decoration of the Feroni Chapel in the Basilica of Santissima Annunziata.
Among his small bronzes are David with the Head of Goliath.
Foggini’s pupils included Fernando Fuga, his nephew Filippo della Valle, Balthasar Permoser, Giovacchino Fortini and Giovanni Baratta. Massimiliano Soldani Benzi was a contemporary student with Foggini in Rome and also active in small bronze sculpture.
His work as an architect was conspicuous, where he made much of the Florentine buildings under construction or rebuilding at the time. The palace of Palazzo Medici-Riccardi is remembered.
In Livorno, he was the protagonist of the city’s renewal by the great Prince Ferdinando, working on the sites of many civil and religious factories, as well as the funeral monument of Marco Alessandro del Borro in the Duomo.
He designed for Fivizzano the “new hospital” built in the local square of Campo, with a double colonnade for a total of fourteen strings similar to Spedale degli Innocenti in Florence; The work of which remains the only picture because it is destroyed by the violent earthquake of 1920.
Among his followers are Ferdinando Fuga, Filippo della Valle, Balthasar Permoser and Giovanni Baratta. His son Pier Francesco was a historian and an archaeologist.