He was an historical personage, as it happens, born in Sicily, possibly to impoverished aristocrats, certainly in reduced circumstances, and was initially schooled to be a cleric. The records give him the title of Abate. Somehow his talents in the plastic arts emerged (he was self taught) and it was clear that this was a man destined for something other than performing Mass and taking confessions.
Perhaps because he was self taught, his first public appearance as an artist comes relatively late in life, in the 1680s, in Bologna. The work was good enough to encourage to try for Florence, where in 1695 Grand Duke Cosimo III put him on the payroll. Continue reading