Massimiliano Soldani Benzi was perhaps the last of a long line of great bronze-workers of the Florentine tradition. His early training was in Rome and then Paris, and although he was asked to stay and work in the service of Louis XIV, he returned to his native city in 1682 and entered the Grand Ducal Mint.
Although Soldani was to become the director of the mint in 1688 and play out the rest of his career in its service, it is believed that he began creating religious and mythological three dimensional groups in the mid 1690s. In two articles written by Lankheit and Avery (ops. cit.) it has been established that, among the bronzes which he created to be marketed to patrons across Europe, he devised a series of small bronzes after the antique and 'modern' masters, each of which was approximately 12 inches high and of exquisite quality.
The present bronze, depicting Apollo Musagetes (that is, Apollo as companion of the muses) is one of the models from this series. It is based upon the antique original known as the Apollino (see lot 1012), but Soldani has created his own, more baroque, composition with the outstretched right arm and the elaborately draped lyre. It is known in only a few examples, one of the best of which is in the collection of the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth (illustrated in Pratesi, loc. cit.). Interestingly, it displays what Avery describes as one of the hallmarks of Soldani's workshops, a 'technical peculiarity' of manufacture (Avery, op. cit., p. 170). The main figures of this series are secured to their bases by means of bronze lugs, which pass through holes in the base and are then secured by wedge-shaped pins which pass through holes in the ends of these lugs. Close examination of the bronze offered here reveals exactly this technique. The attribution is further confirmed by the detailed finishing and hints of reddish-gold lacquer known to have been favoured by Soldani.