This terracotta is the sketch Benedetto made for the figure of the Blessed Virgin in the famous altar-piece which he executed in the church of Monte Oliveto at Naples, whither he went from Florence, about 1485, to complete an unfinished work of Antonio Rossellino’s. The altarpiece is probably Benedetto’s masterpiece, but whatever its obvious merits, no finished marble could have the spontaneity and directness of a model made under the impetus of a first idea, while the sculptor’s inspiration was fresh and his interest unflagging. A comparison between this terracotta and the finished altarpiece shows in the latter a relaxed line and a sentimentality which in this charming version of the same figure are not apparent, since Benedetto’s tendency towards over sweetness is here well restrained and his skill unmarred by any of the faults of taste into which he sometimes slipped. The terracotta still retains its original polychrome surface, which is free from re-paint. It was long in the possession of the Spinelli family of Borgo San Sepolcro.
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