Bartolomeo Ammannati was one of the most noteworthy and restless artists of the century, he was a typical interpreter of more "intellectual" mannerism, destined for the elite of refined princely courts, and a lover of the Italian "bella modo", of which he was a valid follower. . Trained as a sculptor, his work, after the initial success, was criticized by some contemporaries, obtaining unfavorable judgments until its recent rediscovery by modern critics. As an architect, on the other hand, he was a tireless innovator, capable of daring and spectacular solutions, which will leave a mark on the European architectural vocabulary. In the most mature phase he approached the Jesuit world, both spiritually and professionally. Based on the pressing religious and moralistic demands of the order, he came to condemn his youthful positions, embracing the spirit of the Counter-Reformation.
Born in Settignano (Florence) in 1511, he was an orphan of a father at the age of twelve and entered the workshop of Baccio Bandinelli for a living. Around 1530 he went to Venice attracted by the fame of Jacopo Sansovino, who got to know. Sculpture work of this early period, remembered by Raphael Borghini, his main biographer, are mostly lost, as the relief with God the Father and angels for the Cathedral of Pisa and a Leda for Guidobaldo II Della Rovere, while they remain a Saint Nazario, a David and a Judith (originally carved as Apollo and Minerva) to the tomb of Jacopo Sannazaro in the church of Santa Maria del Parto in Mergellina (Naples).
In 1537 he returned to Venice, where he collaborated with Jacopo Sansovino on the decoration of the Library of San Marco, sculpting a Neptune (destroyed by a collapse in 1750) and some reliefs in arches and sub-arches. In 1544 he then moved to Padua, where he entered under the protection of Marco Mantua Benavides and for whose palace he carved a Hercules, a Jupiter and an Apollo still in the niches on the spot. In 1546 he probably designed the arch in the same palace and, the same year, he designed the tomb for the Mantua Benavides in the church of the Eremitani.
In 1550 he married the poet Laura Battiferri in Urbino, with whom he had no children but remained lovingly bound all his life, and moved to Rome to the court of Julius III, presented by Vasari. The latter procured him as the first task the realization of the statuary of the chapel of Antonio and Fabiano del Monte in San Pietro in Montorio, to whose architecture Vasari himself had worked. Then, by 1553, he realized the deposits of Antonio and Fabiano and the allegories of Justice and Religion, in which he already noted a softening of the Michelangelo-dominated ways, according to styles learned from Sansovino.
A scholar of "ancient things", in Rome the Ammannati entered the circles of Vignola, with whom he developed his first proofs as an architect: from 1552 to Villa Giulia, the new Pope's villa on the Via Flaminia, next to his two protectors Vasari and Vignola, then made a wooden model for the source at the corner of Via dell'Arco oscuro (later incorporated with changes in the casino of Pius IV, and in particular oversaw the work of a part of the second courtyard of the villa and the loggia intermediate, where he carved his name on a pillar, in particular he created the nymphaeum, with fountains and caves on three levels that constitute the "surprise" element of the courtyard, according to a typical taste of mannerism.
Again for the Pope he took care of the restoration and modernization of the Cardelli palace in Campo Marzio, later called "di Firenze", which he had bought in 1553.
In 1555, at the death of Julius III, he returned to Florence, where he had sent for Vasari, who had already moved to the court of Cosimo I de 'Medici for a year. The first work that awaited was that of a large fountain called Giunone to be placed in Palazzo Vecchio, in the hall of the sixteenth century, opposite the tribune of Bandinelli, a troubled work that ended up being placed by Francesco I in the garden of Pratolino. The statues of the whole (the Arno, the Source of the Parnassus, Allegory of Florence, the Maturity of the Council and the Earth), carved between 1555 and 1561, were defined by Michelangelo as a "beautiful fantasy", and only recently are they were gathered in the courtyard of the Bargello, on the occasion of the exhibition of the Cinquecentenario of Ammannati, while previously they were partly dismembered here and partly in the Boboli Gardens.
In 1559 he participated in the competition for another fountain, destined to be the first public of Florence, to be placed in Piazza della Signoria, at the height of the important construction of an aqueduct that brought healthy water to the north from the hill to the south of the city. passing under the Arno. The Ammannati, favored by Eleonora di Toledo, turned out to be winner against Benvenuto Cellini, Giambologna and Vincenzo Danti (who died at that time was the Bandinelli), starting the foundations of the work on 10 March 1563 and inaugurating it in 1577. It is the fountain del Nettuno, composed of a tub with an extremely elegant design, the chariot of God and its colossal statue, the third and last in chronological order among the Giants Ammannatians, after the one (lost) for Marciana and the one for the garden of Marco Mantova Benavides , In Padova.
The Neptune, however, citing Michelangelo's close David, was harshly criticized, not only by rivals (harsh commentary by Cellini, who in his autobiography described the artist as the "worthy" follower of the hated Baccio Bandinelli), but also by intellectuals of the court (the Borghini wrote as "[could not] make his figure show his attitude with his arms raised, but was forced to do it with great difficulty as we see today") and also by the minute people, who coined for the statue 'name of "Biancone" with which it is still known today, meaning that the only thing that strikes it is the white marble, in addition to the tuneful refrain "Ammannato, Ammannato, how much marble you have wasted!". Only in recent times has his work been the object of revaluation, underlining the anti-classical novelties and the synthesis between Michelangelo's titanism and the Venetian sweetness.
Despite the criticism, he continued to work on other fountains and garden statues, such as the group of Hercules and Antaeus for the fountain of the Tribolo, and the statue of the Apennines (also called January, 1563-1565), all in the gardens of the villa of Castle.
This period of happy accomplishments led to the growth of his fame, which made him request also in other cities. In 1572 Gregory XIII commissioned the tomb for his nephew Giovanni Boncompagni in the Camposanto of Pisa, realizing a statue of Christ among the personifications of Peace and Justice. In Lucca he was asked to rebuild the palace of the Elders (1577-1581), in which he finished only the minor façade on the courtyard of the Swiss. In Volterra he designed the courtyard of the abbey of Saints Giusto and Clemente and Palazzo Viti, in Arezzo the church of Santa Maria in Gradi, and in Seravezza, in the upper part of Versilia, the Medici palace (1564).
He returned to Rome several times between 1560 and 1572, planning the Mattei Caetani palace (1564) and the Ruspoli palace (begun in 1586) and above all the restoration and expansion of the Ricci al Pincio villa for Cardinal Ferdinando de 'Medici, solicited since 1570.
From 1572 the first contacts of the artist with the Jesuit order are documented, with reference to a project for the expansion of the Florentine College (now Palazzo degli Scolopi). In 1575 and 1576 the Ammannati was in Rome, where he became friends with the father general of the order Everardo Mercuriano and with father A. Possevino, perhaps with the intermediary of the Florentine patrician Ludovico Corbinelli, who had become a Jesuit in 1567.
The works at the Florentine College started in 1579 and also involved the adjoining church of San Giovannino. With the help of the master builder Domenico da Verdina the church, which echoed the church of Jesus in Rome in a single-nave structure with shallow chapels and a transept forming the Latin cross, was already open for worship half of the works in 1581, and completed in 1584, while in 1585 the college was almost completed.
Called to Rome by Sixtus V, to be consulted about the erection of the Vatican obelisk (work entrusted then to Domenico Fontana) and the construction of the chapel of the Presepio in Santa Maria Maggiore, he arrived fatigued and sick (Borghini).
On 25 March 1587 he made a will with his wife, electing as a universal heir the Florentine Jesuit College, having no children. In November 1589 he lost his wife, who had named him a usufructuary heir. The last years of life were dedicated to religious works. After a new testament dated March 19, 1592, he died April 13 for paralysis, in his home in Via della Stufa. He was buried with his wife in the Jesuit church of San Giovannino in Florence.