Italian sculptor and architect working in Poland in the 2nd half of the 16th century.
Gucci was taught by his father, the restorer of the cathedral in Florence, and the sculptor Baccio Bandinelli. Before coming to Poland, Gucci created some sculptures in Florence, but no details about these works are known. From 1558 on, he worked for the royal court in Kraków. Anna Jagiellon ordered Gucci to make gravestones for the Sigismund's Chapel of the Wawel castle (1574-75), as well as tombstones for Sigismund II Augustus and the queen herself. Gucci also built a palace in Łobzów (which hasn’t survived until the present) for King Stephen Báthory and rebuilt St. Mary’s Chapel on Wawel castle for Stephen Báthory’s tomb. He also created a tombstone for the late king (1594-95, it was the only one that was signed by the artist: SANTI GUCI FIORE[ntinus]). His workshop was located in Pińczów.
Like to all the other eminent Italian bricklayers and sculptors operating in Poland in the 16th century (Bartolomeo Berrecci, Jan Maria Padovano), Gucci created his works with the help of numerous assistants. In most cases, Gucci’s authorship, unconfirmed by the documents dating back to the epoch, is hypothetical, and scholars (K. Sinko, W. Kieszkowski, A. Fischinger, H. Kozakiewiczowa, and Z. Hornung) ascribe works to him on the basis of analysis of sculptural and decorative forms.
The earliest work by Gucci to be created in Poland was the Renaissance tombstone of the Kryski family: Anna, Paweł, and Wojciech (the tombstone dates back to 1572-76 and is located in a church in the village of Drobin, currently Masovian Voivodeship). It was the first gravestone in Poland to combine sitting and reclining figures, a motif known from the works of Michelangelo, the Medici Chapel in San Lorenzo church in Florence (1519-34) and the tomb of Pope Julius II (San Pietro in Vincoli church in Rome). In Gucci’s work, on the sarcophagus there is a reclining sculpture of the courtier Wojciech Kryski (around 1530-62), whose pose is very natural and graceful. He is assisted by the sitting sculptures of his parents, Paweł and Anna, located higher in two spherically shaped niches. Wojciech’s beautiful, harmonious face corresponds to the preserved accounts on his appearance given by his contemporaries – Łukasz Górnicki and A. Orzechowski. The perfection of detail (morose facial expression, delicate hands) points to Santi Gucci’s authorship. The sculptures of Kryski’s parents lack this excellence, which indicates they were created by the sculptor’s assistant. The architectural setting of the tombstone is richly adorned with motifs that Gucci would later often exploit: discs in scroll frames, floral motifs, candelabra-floral heads of cherubs, garlands, amphorae. This set of decorative forms was frequently used by numerous imitators of Gucci.
The next works of Gucci created in Poland are the royal tombstones of Sigismund II Augustus and Anna Jagiellon, made in the years 1574-75 for the Sigismund Chapel at Wawel Castle. The tombstone of Sigismund I the Old by Bartolomeo Berrecci (from the years 1529-31) was lifted up so that the marble statue of his son, Sigismund II August, could be put underneath it. The architectural setting of the gravestone and the gravestone itself were made to resemble Berrecci’s work. The marble statue of Sigismund II August (isn’t it made from identical Hungarian marble?) is depicted in nearly the same pose, and his face was sculpted with the same stark realism. Only the eyes of Sigismund II August are closed, and therefore different from his father’s half-open eyes. The sepulchral statue of Anna Jagiellon cannot equal with this mastery – the face and hands are sculptured perfectly, but the pose and garments seem unnatural. Gucci might have modelled his work on Elizabeth of Austria’s, Sigismund II August’s wife, 1546 tombstone by Jan Maria Padovan and Jan Cini (which doesn’t exist anymore).
Gucci has also worked for the Firlej family (the tombstone of Barbara and Andrzej Firlej, 1586, parochial church in Janowiec) and the Myszkowski family, for whom he built the palace in Książ Wielki (1585-95) which still exists today. The only tombstone that Gucci actually signed – the one of Stephen Báthory – from the years 1594-95 seems schematic, especially when it comes to the depiction of the face and the unnatural way the garments look. Gucci is characterised as a representative of Florence mannerism of the second half of the 16th century, a movement influenced by G. da Sangallo, B. Ammanati, B. Bandinelli, F. da Sangallo, and Michelangelo. Gucci was also active as an architect. Apart from the aforementioned palace in Łobzów for Stephen Báthory, he also rebuilt the castle in Janowiec (1565-85), after 1580, Báthory’s palace in Grodno, the aforementioned castle in Książ Wielki (1585-95) for the Myszkowski family and the castle in Pińczów (the construction began in 1591), and also for the Myszkowski family. The workshop which Gucci ran in Pińczów created sculptural and architectural work that are now located all over Poland.
Author: Monika Ochnio, National Museum in Warsaw, February 2002, translated by NS, November 2016.