In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Leone and Pompeo Leoni

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Restoration and Technical Reports

Renaissance and Reformation Leone and Pompeo Leoni
Kelley Helmstutler Di Dio
  • LAST REVIEWED: 11 January 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0374


Leone Leoni (b. 1509, Arezzo–d. 22 July 1590, Milan) was a bronze and marble sculptor and medalist of the late Italian Renaissance. After an itinerant early career, working in Ferrara, Rome, Venice, and Padua, he worked primarily from his house and studio in Milan. Despite a tumultuous life peppered with crime, Leone became the chief sculptor of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and produced important, innovative sculptures for the Emperor and for members of his family and court. Initially sent to accompany a series of sculptures Leone produced for the Emperor, Leone’s son, Pompeo (c. 1530, Venice?–1608, Madrid) remained in Spain for the rest of his career, becoming the chief sculptor of Philip II and producing numerous sculptures in bronze, alabaster, and marble for the Spanish elite. He collaborated with his father and a team of Italian artists who had settled in Madrid on one of the largest bronze sculptural projects of the Renaissance: the retable and statues in the high altar chapel in the Basilica of San Lorenzo in El Escorial. The gilded bronze effigies of the imperial and royal families that flank the retable are true masterworks of the period for their quality of design and execution. Despite their contemporary renown, the importance of their patrons, and the innovative and remarkable qualities of the sculptures they produced, both Leone and Pompeo Leoni have been the focus of limited scholarly study. The areas and contexts in which the Leoni worked and their sculptures were placed—Milan and other areas of northern Italy and the court cities and other sites in Spain—are increasingly well studied, and there is broader scholarly interest in the careers of these two formidable sculptors who flourished in those places, but much remains to be done to understand the roles their sculptures and their ambitions for social status played in the dissemination of Habsburg style and ideologies and in the elevation of the status of sculpture and sculptors across Europe.

General Overviews

Plon 1887 remains the fundamental study of these two sculptors. It provides a detailed history of their careers, copious archival documentation, and a useful catalogue of their works. The only more recent monographic study of Pompeo is Proske 1956, a very brief survey of his life and major works. Cano de Gardoqui 1995 provides deeper context to Pompeo’s career in Spain. The only monographic studies of Leone are Mezzatesta 1980 and Di Dio 2011. For a brief overview of the careers of both artists, see Cupperi 2005. The most important contribution for presenting the Leoni’s work to a larger public was the 1994 exhibition on the Leoni at the Museo del Prado, and the catalogue that accompanied it, Urrea 1994. Two major symposia have resulted in anthologies: Gatti Perer 1995—an anthology that began in earnest the discussion of the Leoni as transcultural artists—and more recently, Schröder 2012, the papers from the 2012 Prado symposium on the Leoni, are each comprised of essays that examine various aspects of the Leoni’s commissions locally and internationally. For now, as evidenced in Coppel’s essay in Schröder 2012, Leone’s life and career and individual works remain much better studied than those of his son, but much remains to be explored about the lives and works of both.

  • Cano de Gardoqui, José Luis. “El escultor italiano Pompeo Leoni en España (1556–1608).” In Mitteilungen der Carl Justi. Edited by Barbara Borngässer, 99–103. Göttingen, Germany: J. Kinzel, 1995.

    Cano de Gardoqui outlines Pompeo’s career in Spain and its impact on the style of religious sculpture there. He suggests that Pompeo’s “modern” organization of his shop and how he contracted out artistic labor for his larger commissions influenced the diffusion and development of artistic workshops at the court of Madrid.

  • Cupperi, Walter. “Leone Leoni.” and “Pompeo Leoni.” In Dizionario biografico degli italiani. Vol. 64. Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 2005.

    Brief surveys of the lives and careers of the Leoni. Also see Leone Leoni and Pompeo Leoni for further details.

  • Di Dio, Kelley Helmstutler. Leone Leoni and the Status of the Artist at the End of the Renaissance. Farnham, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2011.

    Di Dio’s focus is the social ambitions Leoni had and the ways in which he presented both his ambitions and achievements as a man of learning, knight of Charles V, and sculptural heir to Michelangelo.

  • Gatti Perer, Maria Luisa, ed. Leone Leoni tra Lombardia e Spagna: Atti del convegno internazionale, Menaggio, 25–26 settembre 1993. Milan: Istituto dell’Arte Lombarda, 1995.

    The anthology is comprised of fourteen essays based on papers given at a symposium held in Menaggio in 1993. The essays examine disparate aspects of the Leoni’s sculptural production and critical fortune. It was an important event and volume to resurrect interest in the Leoni and begin thinking about them in terms of their cross-cultural careers.

  • Mezzatesta, Michael P. “Imperial Themes in the Sculpture of Leone Leoni.” PhD diss., New York University, Institute of Fine Arts, 1980.

    Mezzatesta’s excellent dissertation examined the iconographical and formal sources for Leoni’s sculptures for the imperial family, especially Charles V.

  • Plon, Eugéne. Les maîtres italiens au service de la maison d’Autriche: Leone Leoni, sculpteur de Charles Quint et Pompeo Leoni, sculpteur de Philippe II. Paris: E. Plon et cie, 1887.

    Plon’s book is still the most comprehensive study of the Leoni’s lives and careers. It includes transcriptions of correspondence, contracts and other documents (translated into French), and a catalogue of works attributed to the Leoni.

  • Proske, Beatrice Gilman. Pompeo Leoni: Work in Marble and Alabaster in Relation to Spanish Sculpture. New York: Hispanic Society of America, 1956.

    Proske’s work remains the only published monograph that focuses only on Pompeo and, at forty-nine pages, provides only a summary of his major works. It is a helpful starting point to orient oneself to Pompeo’s works and biography.

  • Schröder, Stephan, ed. Leone & Pompeo Leoni: Actas del congreso internacional. Proceedings of the international symposium, Museo del Prado, Madrid, October 2011. Madrid: Museo del Prado, 2012.

    The Prado symposium brought together all of the major scholars working on the Leoni at that point. The publication of the volume coincided with a photographic campaign. An invaluable comprehensive bibliography, compiled by Rosario Coppel, is included in the volume.

  • Urrea, Jesús, ed. Los Leoni (1509–90): Escultores del Renacimiento italiano al servicio de la corte de España. Madrid: Museo del Prado, 1994.

    The scholarly catalogue accompanied the 1994 focus exhibition on the Leoni at the Museo del Prado in 1994. The essays include a particularly good survey of their careers (Margarita Estella Marcos’ essay, “Los Leoni, escultores entre Italia y España,” pp. 29–62); essays on the technical evidence provided by the sculptures; and others on their numismatic production, the intended locations of the sculptures, and their place in court taste of the time.

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