Cristoforo Solari’s masterpiece: the cenotaph for Ludovico il Moro and Beatrice d’Este
The cenotaph for Ludovico il Moro and Beatrice d’Este, inside the Pavia Charterhouse, is commonly believed to be the most beautiful work by Milanese sculptor Cristoforo Solari, also known as Il Gobbo (1468-1524).
Giorgio Vasari, in his “Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects”, mentions Solari’s success in his time in an episode linked to Michelangelo’s biography. According to Vasari, during the first of Solari’s two stays in Rome, Michelangelo overheard visitors from Lombardy attributing his newly revealed “Pietà” to their “Milanese hunchback”. Upset, that night Michelangelo stayed inside the chapel and added the famous signature (“Michelangelus Bonarotus florentinus faciebat”, i.e. ‘Made by the Florentine Michelangelo Buonarroti’) to claim paternity over his masterpiece forever.
Very few of Cristoforo Solari’s works are known, and the facts about his life are rare and often the prerogative of experts.
However, the beautiful, late-15th-century cenotaph in Pavia (an empty tomb for the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza – Leonardo da Vinci’s patron – and Beatrice d’Este) demonstrates huge talent, and explains the fame Solari enjoyed in his time.