“La sorte dell’anima” (“Soul’s Destiny”) by Bertoldo di Giovanni (1420-1491), at the Medici Villa in Poggio a Caiano, is a 15-meter-long frieze molded in “terracotta invetriata” (a type of enameled terracotta). It was most likely commissioned to Donatello’s Florentine pupil by Lorenzo the Magnificent.
The famous patron of the arts held Bertoldo in high esteem; he had entrusted him with the gardens of St. Mark’s Square – home to a large number of antique works and, according to Renaissance historian Ingeborg Walter, “one of the city’s greatest attractions, not only for rich visitors from outside Florence. It was a point of interest also for artists who could not find a lot of examples of antique art elsewhere in the city. According to Vasari, all the young Florentine artists who over time became famous painters and sculptors had worked in this garden and studied the code of ancient sculpture.”
Walter adds, “Even the young Michelangelo certainly worked in this garden, where he learned from Bertoldo di Giovanni the art of sculpture, after having studied painting in Ghirlandaio’s workshop” (I. Walter, “Lorenzo il Magnifico e il suo tempo”, Donzelli, Rome 2005).