History of Literature








Giorgio Vasari



"Lives of the Most Eminent Painters,

Sculptors, and Architects"




PART I   PART II   PART III   PART IV



 



Giorgio Vasari



 

see also:

Giorgio Vasari


"Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects"


 

Giorgio Vasari

Italian artist and author

born July 30, 1511, Arezzo [Italy]
died June 27, 1574, Florence

Main
Italian painter, architect, and writer who is best known for his important biographies of Italian Renaissance artists.

When still a child, Vasari was the pupil of Guglielmo de Marcillat, but his decisive training was in Florence, where he enjoyed the friendship and patronage of the Medici family, trained within the circle of Andrea del Sarto, and became a lifelong admirer of Michelangelo. As an artist Vasari was both studious and prolific. His painting is best represented by the fresco cycles in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence and by the so-called 100-days fresco, which depicts scenes from the life of Pope Paul III, in the Cancelleria in Rome. Vasari’s paintings, often produced with the help of a team of assistants, are in the style of the Tuscan Mannerists and have often been criticized as being facile, superficial, and lacking a sense of colour. Contemporary scholars regard Vasari more highly as an architect than as a painter. His best-known buildings are the Uffizi in Florence, begun in 1560 for Cosimo I de’ Medici, and the church, monastery, and palace created for the Cavalieri di San Stefano in Pisa. These designs show the influence of Michelangelo and are outstanding examples of the Tuscan Mannerist style of architecture.

Vasari’s fame rests on his massive book Le Vite de’ più eccellenti architetti, pittori, et scultori italiani… (1550, 2nd ed., 1568; Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, 1850–52, trans. of the 2nd ed.), which was dedicated to Cosimo de’ Medici. In it Vasari offers his own critical history of Western art through several prefaces and a lengthy series of artist biographies. These discussions present three periods of artistic development: according to Vasari, the excellence of the art of classical antiquity was followed by a decline of quality during the Dark Ages, which was in turn reversed by a renaissance of the arts in Tuscany in the 14th century, initiated by Cimabue and Giotto and culminating in the works of Michelangelo. A second and much-enlarged edition of Lives, which added the biographies of a number of artists then living, as well as Vasari’s own autobiography, is now much better known than the first edition and has been widely translated.

Vasari’s writing style in the Lives is anecdotal and eminently readable. When facts were scarce, however, he did not hesitate to fill in the gaps with information of questionable veracity. His bias toward Italian (and more specifically Tuscan) art is also undeniable. Despite these flaws, Vasari’s work in Lives represents the first grandiose example of modern historiography and has proven to be hugely influential. The canon of Italian Renaissance artists he established in the book endures as the standard to this day. Moreover, the trajectory of art history he presented has formed the conceptual basis for Renaissance scholarship and continues to influence popular perceptions of the history of Western painting.

 



"Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects"

 

PART I

 

           
    Cimabue Arnolfo di Lapo (di Cambio) Nicola Pisano Giovanni Pisano
           
    Andrea Tafi Gaddo Gaddi Margaritone Giotto
           
    Agostino and Agnolo Stefano and Ugolino Pietro Lorenzetti Andrea Pisano
           
    Buonamico Buffalmacco Ambrogio Lorenzetti Pietro Cavallini Simone Martini and Lippo Memmi
           
    Taddeo Gaddi Andrea di Cione Orcagna Tommaso called Giottino Giovanni dal Ponte
           
    Agnolo Gaddi Barna da Siena Duccio Antonio Veneziano
           
    Jacopo da Casentino  Spinello Aretino Gherardo Starnina Lippo
           
    Lorenzo Monaco Taddeo di Bartolo Lorenzo di Bicci  
           
 


 

 

CIMABUE (circa 1240-circa 1302)


Vasari's Lives of the Artists

 

THE GREAT FLOOD of misfortunes, by which poor Italy had been afflicted and overwhelmed, had not only reduced to ruins all buildings of note throughout the land, but what was of far more importance, had caused an utter lack of the very artists themselves. At this time, when the supply seemed entirely exhausted, in the year 1240, by the will of God, there was born in the city of Florence, Giovanni, surnamed Cimabue, of the noble family of that name, who was to shed the first light on the art of painting. He, as he grew, being judged by his father and others to possess a fine acute intellect, was sent to Santa Maria Novella to be instructed in letters by a relative of his who taught grammar to the novices of that convent.

But instead of attending to his lessons, Cimabue spent all the day in painting on his books and papers,men, horses, houses, and such things. To this natural inclination fortune was favorable, for certain painters of Greece, who had been summoned by the rulers of Florence to restore the almost forgotten art of painting in the city, began at this time to work in the chapel of the Gondi in Santa Maria Novella; and Cimabue would often escape from school and stand all day watching them, until his father and the painters themselves judging that he was apt for painting, he was placed under their instruction. Nature, however, aided by constant practice, enabled him greatly to surpass both in design and coloring the masters who had taught him. For they, never caring to advance in their art, did everything not in the good manner of ancient Greece, but after the rude manner of those times.

He painted in churches both in Florence and Pisa, and made the name of Cimabue famous everywhere, on which account he was summoned to Assisi, a city of Umbria, to paint in company with some Greek masters the lower church of S. Francis. For in those times the order of the Minor Friars of S. Francis having been confirmed by Pope Innocent III, both the devotion and the numbers of the friars grew so great not only in Italy, but in all parts of the world, that there was scarcely a city of any account which did not build for them churches and convents at great expense. Two years before the death of St. Francis, while that saint was absent preaching, Fra Elia was prior in Assisi, and built a church for Our Lady; but when St. Francis was dead, and all Christendom was coming to visit the body of a saint who in life and death was known by all to have been the friend of God, and every man at the holy spot was making gifts according to his power, it was ordained that the church begun by Fra Eli should be made much larger and more magnificent. But there being a scarcity of good architects, and the work needing an excellent one, for it was necessary to build on a very steep hill at the roots of which runs a torrent called Tescio, after much consideration they brought to Assisi, as the best architect that could then be found, one Master Jacopo Tedesco. He having considered the site, and heard the will of the Fathers, who held a chapter-general for the purpose in Assisi, designed a very fine church and convent, making in the model three storeys, one below ground, and two churches, one of which on the first slope should serve as the vestibule, having a very large colonnade round it, and the other for the sanctuary. And he arranged that you should go up from the first to the second by a most convenient order of stairs, which wound round the larger chapel, dividing into two, to enter the second church. To this he gave the form of a T, making it five times as long as it was wide.

In the larger chapel of the lower church was placed the altar, and below it, when it was finished, was laid with solemn ceremonies the body of St. Francis. And because the tomb which encloses the body of the glorious saint is in the first, that is the lowest church, which no one ever enters, the doors of it are walled up, and around the altar are gratings of iron, with rich ornaments of marble and mosaic. This work was brought to a conclusion in the space of four years, and no more, by the skill of Master Jacopo and the careful labors of Fra Elia. After his death there were made round the lower church twelve fine towers, and in each of them a staircase from the ground to the top, and in time there were added many chapels and many rich ornaments. As for Master Jacopo, by this work he acquired such fame through all Italy that he was called to Florence, and received there with the greatest honor possible,although according to the habit the Florentines have (and used to have still more) of shortening names, they called him not Jacopo but Lapo all the days of his life.

So in the lower church Cimabue painted in company with the Greeks, and greatly surpassed the Greek painters. Therefore, his courage rising, he began to paint by himself in fresco in the upper church, and painted many things, especially the ascent of the Virgin into heaven, and the Holy Spirit descending upon the apostles. This work, being truly very great and rich and well executed, must in my judgment have astonished the world in those days, painting having been so long in such darkness, and to myself, who saw it in the year 1563, it appeared most beautiful, and I marvelled how Cimabue could have had such light in the midst of such heavy gloom. Being called to Florence, however, Cimabue did not continue his labors, but they were finished many years after by Giotto, as we will tell in its place.

After his return to Florence he made for the church of S. Maria Novella a picture of our Lady, which work was of larger size than those that had been made before that time, and the angels that stand round, although they are in the Greek manner, yet show something of the modern style. Therefore this work caused such marvel to the people of that time, never having seen a better, that it was borne in solemn procession with trumpets and great rejoicing from the house of Cimabue to the church, and he himself received great honours and rewards. It is said, and you may read it in certain records of old pictures, that while Cimabue was painting this picture, King Charles of Anjou passed through Florence, and among other entertainments provided for him by the people of the city, they took him to see Cimabue's picture; and as no one had seen it before it was shown to the king, there was a great concourse of all the men and women of Florence to see it, with the greatest rejoicing and running together in the world. From the gladness of the whole neighborhood that part was called Borgo Allegri, the Joyful Quarter, and though it is now within the walls of the city, it has always preserved the same name.

 

 

 

ARNOLFO DI CAMBIO (1232 or 1245-1310)


Vasari's Lives of the Artists
 

THERE WERE BUILT, then, in the time of Lapo and of Arnolfo his son, many edifices of importance both in Italy and abroad, whereof I have not been able to find the architects, such as the Abbey of Monreale in Sicily, the Piscopio of Naples, the Certosa of Pavia, the Duomo of Milan, S. Pietro and S. Petronio in Bologna, and many others which are seen throughout all Italy, built at incredible cost. (Having seen all these buildings for myself and studied them, and likewise many sculptures of those times, particularly in Ravenna, and not having ever found, I do not say any memorials of the masters, but even many times the date when they were built, I cannot but marvel at the rudeness and little desire for glory of the men of that age. But returning to our subject; after the buildings named above, there began at last to arise men of a more exalted spirit, who, if they did not find, sought at least to find something of the good. The first was Buono, of whom I know neither the country nor the surname, for the reason that in making record of himself in some of his works he put nothing but simply his name. He, being both sculptor and architect, first made many palaces and churches and some sculptures in Ravenna, in the year of our salvation 1152; and having become known by reason of these works, he was called to Naples, where he founded (although they were finished by others, as will be told) the Castel Capoano and the Castel dell' Uovo; and afterwards, in the time of Domenico Morosini, Doge of Venice, he founded the Campanile of S. Marco with much consideration and judgment, having caused the foundation of that tower to be so well fixed with piles that it has never moved a hair's breadth, as many buildings constructed in that city before his day have been seen and still are seen to have done.

And from him, perchance, the Venetians learnt to found, in the manner in which they do it today, the very beautiful and very rich edifices that every day are being built so magnificently in that most noble city. It is true, indeed, that this tower has nothing else good in it, neither manner, nor ornament, nor, in short, anything that might be worthy of much praise. It was finished under Anastasius IV and Adrian IV, Pontiffs, in the year 1154. In architecture, likewise, Buono made the Church of S. Andrea in Pistoia, and in sculpture he made an architrave of marble that is over the door, full of figures made in the manner of the Goths, on which architrave his name is carved, with the date when this work was made by him, which was the year 1166. Next, being summoned to Florence, he gave the design for enlarging, as was done, the Church of S. Maria Maggiore, which was then without the city, and held in great veneration for the reason that Pope Pelagius had consecrated it many years before, and because, as to size and manner, it was a very fair body of a church.

Being then summoned by the Aretines to their city, Buono built the old habitation of the Lords of Arezzo. namely, a palace in the manner of the Goths, and beside it a belltower. This edifice, which for that manner was good enough, was thrown to the ground, because it was opposite and very near to the fortress of that city, in the year 1533. Afterwards, the art making some little improvement through the works of one Guglielmo, German (I believe) in origin, there were built certain edifices of the greatest cost and in a slightly better manner; for this Guglielmo, so it is said, in the year 1174, together with Bonanno a sculptor, founded in Pisa, th^ fiaimffi"'!? 9l.jJ?.g ..DW MT V*- [SIC] where there are certain words carved that say: A.D. MCLXXIV, CAMPANILE HOC FUIT FUNDATUM, MENSE AUG. But these two architects not having much practice of founding in Pisa and therefore not supporting the platform with piles, as they ought, before they had gone halfway with that building it inclined to one side and bent over to the weakest part, in a manner that the said campanile leans six and a half braccia [The braccio is a very variable standard of measurement. As used by Vasari, it may be taken to denote about 23 inches.] out of the straight, according as the foundation sank on this side; and although in the lower part this is not much, up above it shows clear enough to make men stand fast in a marvel how it can be that it has not fallen down and has not thrown out cracks. The reason is that this edifice is round both without and within and built in the shape of a hollow well, and bound together with the stones in a manner that it is well-nigh impossible that it should fall; and it is assisted, above all, by the foundations, which have an outwork three braccia wide outside the tower, made, as it is seen, after the sinking of the campanile, in order to support it. I am convinced that if it had been square it would not have been standing today, for the reason that the corner stones of the square sides, as is often seen to happen, would have forced them out in a manner that it would have fallen down. And if the Garisenda, a tower in Bologna, although square, leans and does not fall, that comes to pass because it is slender and does not lean so much, not being burdened by so great a weight, by a great measure, as is this campanile, which is praised, not because it has in it any design or beautiful manner, but simply for its extravagance, it appearing impossible to anyone who sees it that it can in any wise keep standing. And the same Bonanno, while the said campanile was building, made, in the year 1182, the royal door of bronze for the said Duomo of Pisa, wherein are seen these letters:

EGO BONANNUS PIS. MEA ARTE HANC PORTAM UNO ANNO PERFECI,
TEMPORE BENEDICTI OPERARII.

Next, from the walls that were made from ancient spoils at S. Giovanni Laterano in Rome, under Lucius III and Urban III, Pontiffs, when the Emperor Frederick was crowned by this Urban, it is seen that the art was going on continually improving, because certain little temples and chapels, built, as has been said, of spoils, have passing good design and certain things in them worthy of consideration, and among others this, that in order not to overburden the walls of these buildings the vaulting was made of small tubes and with partitions of stucco,' praiseworthy enough for these times. And from the mouldings and other parts it is seen that the craftsmen were going on striving in order to find the good way.
Innocent III afterwards caused two palaces to be built on the Vatican Hill, which were passing good, in so far as it has been possible to discover; but since they were destroyed by other Popes, and in particular by Nicholas V, who pulled down and rebuilt the greater part of one palace, there will be nothing said of them but this, that a part of them is to be seen in the great Round Tower and part in the old sacristy of S. Pietro. This Innocent III, who ruled for nineteen years and took much delight in building, made many edifices in Rome; and in particular, with the design of Marchionne Aretino, both architect and sculptor, the Conti Tower, so called from his own surname, seeing that he was of that family. The same Marchionne, in the year when Innocent III died, finished the building of the Pieve of Arezzo and likewise the campanile, making in sculpture, for the facade of the said church, three rows of columns one above the other, with great variety not only in the fashion of the capitals and the bases but also in the shafts of the columns, some among them being, some slender, some joined together two by two, and others four by four. In like manner there are some twined in the manner of vines, and some made in the shape of figures acting as supports, with diverse carvings. He also made therein many animals of diverse sorts that support on the middle of their backs the weights of those columns, and all with the most strange and extravagant inventions that can possibly be imagined, and not only wide of the good order of the ancients but almost wide of all just and reasonable proportion. But with all this, whosoever sets out well to consider the whole sees that he went on striving to do well, and thought peradventure to have found it in that method of working and in that whimsical variety. The same man made in sculpture, ony the arch that is over the door of the said church, in barbaric manner, a God the Father with certain angels, in half-relief and rather large; and in the arch he carved the twelve months, placing his own name underneath in round letters, as was the custom, and the date namely, the year 1216. It is said that Marchionne built in the Borgo Vecchio in Rome, for the same Pope Innocent III, the ancient edifice of the Hospital and Church of S. Spirito in Sassia, where there is still seen something of the old; and the ancient church was still standing in our own day, when it was rebuilt in modern fashion, with greater ornament and design, by Pope Paul III of the house of Farnese.

And in S. Maria Maggiore, also in Rome, he built the marble chapel where there is the Manger of Jesus Christ; here he portrayed from the life Pope Honorius III, whose tomb, also, he made, with ornaments some little better than and different enough from the manner that was then in universal use throughout all Italy. About the same time Marchionne also made the side door of S. Pietro in Bologna, which was truly for those times a work of the greatest mastery, by reason of the many carvings that are seen therein, such as lions in the round that sustain columns, and men in the use of porters, and other animals that support weights; and in the arch above he made the twelve months in full relief, with various fancies, and for each month its celestial sign; which work must have been held marvellous in those times.

About the same time there was founded the Order of the Friars Minor of S. Francis, which was confirmed by the said Innocent III, Pontiff, in the year 1206; and there came such growth, not only in Italy but in all the other parts of the world, both to the devoutness and to the number of the Friars, that there was scarce a city of account that did not erect for them churches and convents of the greatest cost, each according to its power. Wherefore, Frate Elia having erected, two years before the death of S. Francis (while the Saint himself, as General, was abroad preaching, and he, Prior in Assisi), a church with the title of Our Lady, and S. Francis having died, and all Christendom flocking together to visit the body of the Saint, who, in life and in death, had been known as so much the friend of God, and every man making offering to the holy place according to his power, it was ordained that the said church begun by Frate Elia should be built much greater and more magnificent. But there being a dearth of good architects, and the work which was to be done having need of an excellent one, seeing that it had to be built upon a very high hill at the foot of which there runs a torrent called Tescio, there was brought to Assisi, after much consideration, as the best of all that were then to be found, one Maestro Jacopo Tedesco. He, having considered the site and grasped the wishes of the fathers, who held thereunto a general Chapter in Assisi, designed a very beautiful body of a church and convent, making in the model three tiers, one to be made underground and the others for two churches, one of which, on the lower level, should serve as a court, with a fairly large portico round it, and the other for a church; planning that from the first one should climb to the second by a most convenient flight of steps. which should wind round the principal chapel, opening out into two parts in order to lead more easily into the second church, to which he gave the form of a T, making it five times as long as it is broad and dividing one bay from another with great piers of stone, on which he afterwards threw very bold arches, with groined vaulting between one and another.

From a model so made, then, was built this truly very great edifice, and it was followed in every part, save in the buttresses above that had to surround the apse and the principal chapel, and in making the vaulting groined, because they did not make it as has been said, but barrel shaped, in order that it might be stronger. Next, in front of the principal chapel of the lower church, they placed the altar, and under that, when it was finished, they laid, with most solemn translation, the body of S. Francis. And because the true sepulchre which holds the body of the glorious Saint is in the first that is, in the lowest church where no one ever goes, and the doors are walled up, round the said altar there are very large gratings of iron, with rich ornaments in marble and mosaic, that look down therein. This building is flanked on one of the sides by two sacristies, and by a very high campanile, namely, five times as high as it is broad. It had on top a very high octagonal spire, but this was removed because it threatened to fall. This whole work was brought to a finish in the space of four years, and no more, by the genius of Maestro Jacopo Tedesco and by the solicitude of Frate Elia, after whose death, to the end that such a pile might never through any lapse of time fall into ruin, there were built round the lower church twelve very stout towers, and in each of these a spiral staircase that climbs from the ground up to the summit. And in time, afterwards, there were made therein many chapels and other very rich ornaments, whereof there is no need to discourse further, since this is enough on this subject for the present, and above all because everyone can see how much of the useful, the ornamental, and the beautiful has been added to this beginning of Maestro Jacopo's by many supreme Pontiffs, Cardinals, Princes, and other people of importance throughout all Europe.

Now, to return to Maestro Jacopo; by means of this work he acquired so great fame throughout all Italy that he was summoned by; those who then governed the city of Florence, and afterwards received with the greatest possible friendliness; although, according to the use that the Florentines have, and had still more in ancient times, of abbreviating names, he was called not Jacopo but Lapo throughout all the course of his life; for he dwelt ever with his whole family in that city. And although he went at diverse times to erect many buildings throughout Tuscany, such as the Palace of Poppi in the Casentino, for that Count who had had for wife the beautiful Gualdrada, and for her dower, the Casentino; and for the Aretines, the Vescovado, [Vescovado includes both the Cathedral and the Episcopal buildings of Arezzo. Vasari generally uses it to denote the Cathedral.] and the Palazzo Vecchio of the Lords of Pietramala ; none the less his home was always in Florence, where, having founded in the year 1218 the piers of the Ponte alia Carraja, which was then called the Ponte Nuovo, he delivered them finished in two years; and a little time afterwards the rest was finished of wood, as was then the custom. And in the year 1221 he gave the design for the Church of S.Salvadore del Vescovado, which was begun under his direction, and that of S. Michele in Piazza Padella, where there are certain sculptures in the manner of those times. Next, having given the design for draining the waters of the city, having caused the Piazza di S. Giovanni to be raised, having built, in the time of Messer Rubaconte da Mandella, a Milanese, the bridge that retains the same man's name, and having discovered that most useful method of paving streets, which before were covered with bricks, he made the model of the Palace, today of the Podesta, which was then built for the Anziani. And finally, having sent the model of a tomb to Sicily, to the Abbey of Monreale, for the Emperor Frederick and by order of Manfred, he died, leaving Arnolfo, his son, heir no less to the talent than to the wealth of his father.

This Arnolfo, from whose talent architecture gained no less betterment than painting had gained from that of Cimabue, being born in the year 1242, was thirty years of age when his father died, and was held in very great esteem, for the reason that, having not only learnt from his father all that he knew, but having also given attention under Cimabue to design in order to make use of it in sculpture, he was held by so much the best architect in Tuscany, that not only did the Florentines found the last circle of the walls of their city under his direction, in the year 1284, and make after his design the Loggia and the piers of Or San Michele, where the grain was sold, building them of bricks and with a simple roof above, but by his counsel, in the same year when the Poggio de' Magnuoli collapsed, on the brow of S. Giorgio above S. Lucia in the Via de' Bardi, they determined by means of a public decree that there should be no more building on the said spot, nor should any edifice be ever made, seeing that by the sinking of the stones, which have water trickling under them, there would be always danger in whatsoever edifice might be made there. That this is true has been seen in our own day from the ruin of many buildings and magnificent houses of noblemen. In the next year, 1285, he founded the Loggia and Piazza de' Priori, and built the principal chapel of the Badia of Florence, and the two that are on either side of it, renovating the church and the choir, which at first had been made much smaller by Count Ugo, founder of that abbey; and for Cardinal Giovanni degli Orsini, Legate of the Pope in Tuscany, he built the campanile of the said church, which," according to the works of those times, was much praised, although it did not have its completion of greystone until afterwards, in the year 1330.

After this there was founded with his design, in the year 120^,[SIC] the Church of S. Croce, where the Friars Minor have their seat. What with the middle nave and the two lesser ones Arnolfo constructed this so wide, that, being unable to make the vaulting below the roof by reason of the too great space, he, with much judgment, caused arches to be made from pier to pier, and upon these he placed the roofs on a slope, building stone gutters over the said arches in order to carry away the rainwater, and giving them so much fall as to make the roofs secure, as they are, from the danger of rotting; which device was not only new and ingenious then, but is equally useful and worthy of being considered today. He then gave the design for the first cloisters of the old convent of that church, and a little time after he caused to be removed from round the Church of S. Giovanni, on the outer side, all the arches and tombs of marble and greystone that were there, and had part of them placed behind the campanile on the fagade of the Canon's house, beside the Company of S. Zanobi; and then he incrusted with black marble from Prato all the eight outer walls of the said S. Giovanni, removing the greystone that there had been before between these ancient marbles. The Florentines, in the meanwhile, wishing to build walls in the Valdarno di Sopra round Castello di San Giovanni and Castel Franco, for the convenience of the city and of their victualling by means of the markets, Arnolfo made the design for them in the year 1295, and satisfied them in such a manner, as well in this as he had done in the other works, that he was made citizen of Florence.

After these works, the Florentines determined, as Giovanni Villani relates in his History, to build a principal church in their city, and to build it such that in point of greatness and magnificence there could be desired none larger or more beautiful from the industry and knowledge of men; and Arnolfo made the design and the model of the never to be sufficiently praised Church of S. Maria del Fiore, ordering that it should be all incrusted, without, with polished marbles and with the so many cornices, pilasters, columns, carved foliage, figures, and other ornaments, with which to-day it is seen brought, if not to the whole, to a great part at least of its perfection. And what was marvellous therein above everything else was this, that incorporating, besides S. Reparata, other small churches and houses that were round it, in making the site, which is most beautiful, he showed so great diligence and judgment in causing the foundations of so great a fabric to be made broad and deep, filling them with good material namely, with gravel and lime and with great stones below wherefore the square is still called "Lungo i Fondamenti," that they have been very well able, as is to be seen to-day, to support the weight of the great mass of the cupola which Filippo di Ser Brunellesco raised over them.

The laying of such foundations for so great a church was celebrated with much solemnity, for on the day of the Nativity of Our Lady, in 1298, the first stone was laid by the Cardinal Legate of the Pope, in the presence not only of many Bishops and of all the clergy, but of the Podesta as well, the Captains, Priors, and other magistrates of the city, nay, of the whole people of Florence, calling it S. Maria del Fiore. And because it was estimated that the expenses of this fabric must be very great, as they afterwards were, there was imposed a tax at the Chamber of the Commune of four danari in the lira on everything that was put out at interest, and two soldi per head per annum; not to mention that the Pope and the Legate granted very great indulgences to those who should make them offerings thereunto. I will not forbear to say, moreover, that besides the foundations, very broad and fifteen braccia deep, much consideration was shown in making those buttresses of masonry at every angle of the eight sides, seeing that it was these afterwards that emboldened the mind of Brunellesco to superimpose a much greater weight than that which Arnolfo, perchance, had thought to impose thereon.

It is said that while the two first side-doors of S. Maria del Fiore were being begun in marble Arnolfo caused some fig leaves to be carved on a frieze, these being the arms of himself and of Maestro Lapo, his father, and that therefore it may be believed that from him the family of the Lapi had its origin, today a noble family in Florence. Others say, likewise, that from the descendants of Arnolfo there descended Filippo di Ser Brunellesco. But leaving this, seeing that others believe that the Lapi came from Ficaruolo, a township on the mouth of the Po, and returning to our Arnolfo, I say that by reason of the greatness of this work he deserves infinite praise and an eternal name, above all because he caused it to be all incrusted, without, with marbles of many colors, and within, with hard stone, and made even the smallest corners of that same stone. But in order that everyone may know the exact size of this marvellous fabric, I say that from the door up to the end of the Chapel of S. Zanobi the length is 260 braccia, and the breadth across the transepts 166; across the three naves it is 66 braccia. The middle nave alone is 72 braccia in height; and the other two lesser naves, 48 braccia. The external circuit of the whole church is 1,280 braccia. The cupola, from the ground up to the base of the lantern, is 154 braccia; the lantern, without the ball, is 36 braccia in height; the ball, 4 braccia in height; the cross, 8 braccia in height. The whole cupola, from the ground up to the summit of the cross, is 202 braccia.

But returning to Arnolfo, I say that being held, as he was, excellent, he had acquired so great trust that nothing of importance was determined without his counsel; wherefore, in the same year, the Commune of Florence having finished the foundation of the last circle of the walls of the city, even as it was said above that they were formerly begun, and so too the towers of the gates, and all being in great part well advanced, he made a beginning for the Palace of the Signori, designing it in resemblance to that which his father Lapo had built in the Casentino for the Counts of Poppi. But yet, however magnificent and great he designed it, he could not give it that perfection which his art and his judgment required, for the following reason: the houses of the Uberti, Ghibellines and rebels against the people of Florence, had been pulled down and thrown to the ground, and a square had been made on the site, and the stupid obstinacy of certain men prevailed so greatly that Arnolfo could not bring it about, through whatsoever arguments he might urge thereunto, that it should be granted to him to put the Palace on a square base, because the governors had refused that the Palace should have its foundations in any way whatsoever on the ground of the rebel Uberti. And they brought it about that the northern aisle of S. Pietro Scheraggio should be thrown to the ground, rather than let him work in the middle of the square with his own measurements; not to mention that they insisted, moreover, that there should be united and incorporated with the Palace the Tower of the Foraboschi, called the "Torre della Vacca," in height fifty braccia, for the use of the great bell, and together with it some houses bought by the Commune for this edifice. For which reasons no one must marvel if the foundation of the Palace is awry and out of the square, it having been necessary, in order to incorporate the tower in the middle and to render it stronger, to bind it round with the walls of the Palace; which walls, having been laid open in the year i6i [SIC] by Giorgio Vasari, painter and architect, were found excellent. Arnolfo, then, having filled up the said tower with good material, it was afterwards easy for other masters to make thereon the very high campanile that is to be seen there today; for within the limits of two years he finished only the Palace, which has subsequently received from time to time those improvements which give it today that greatness and majesty that are to be seen.

After all these works and many more that Arnolfo made, no less convenient and useful than beautiful, he died at the age of seventy, in 1300, at the very time when Giovanni Villani began to write the Universal History of his times. And because he not only left S. Maria del Fiore founded, but its three principal tribunes, which are under the cupola, vaulted, to his own great glory, he well deserved that there should be made a memorial of him on the corner of the church opposite the Campanile, with these verses carved in marble in round letters:

ANNIS . MILLENIS . CENTUM . BIS . OCTO . NOGENIS .
VENIT . LEGATUS . ROMA . BONITATE . DOTATUS .
QUI . LAPIDEM . FIXIT . FUNDO . SIMUL . ET . BENEDIXIT .
PR^ESULE . FRANCISCO . GESTANTE . PONTIFICATUM .
ISTUD . AB . ARNOLFO . TEMPLUM . FUIT . .EDIFICATUM .
HOC . OPUS . INSIGNE . DECORANS . FLORENTIA . DIGNE .
REGIN.E . CCELI . CONSTRUXIT . MENTE . FIDELI .
QUAM . TU . VIRGO . PIA . SEMPER . DEFENDE . MARIA.

Of this Arnolfo we have written the Life, with the greatest brevity that has been possible, for the reason that, although his works do not approach by a great measure the perfection of the things of today, he deserves, none the less, to be celebrated with loving memory, having shown amid so great darkness, to those who lived after him, the way to walk to perfection. The portrait of Arnolfo, by the hand of Giotto, is to be seen in S. Croce, beside the principal chapel, at the beginning of the story, where the friars are weeping for the death of S. Francis, in one of two men that are talking together. And the picture of the Church of S. Maria del Fiore namely, of the outer side with the cupola by the hand of Simone Sanese, is to be seen in the Chapterhouse of S. Maria Novella, copied from the original in wood that Arnolfo made; wherein it is noticeable that he had thought to raise the dome immediately over the walls, at the edge of the first cornice, whereas Filippo di Ser Brunellesco, in order to relieve them of weight and to make it more graceful, added thereto, before he began to raise it, all that height wherein today are the round windows; which circumstance would be even clearer than it is, if the little care and diligence of those who have directed the Works of S. Maria del Fiore in the years past had not left the very model that Arnolfo made to go to ruin, and afterwards those of Brunellesco and of the others.

 

 

 

NICOLA PISANO (active circa 1250-1278)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists

[N. B. : Because of the length of the Lives of Nicola and Giovanni Pisano, they have been split into two sites.]

HAVING DISCOURSED of design and of painting in the Life of Cimabue and of architecture in that of Arnolfo di Lapo, in this one concerning Nicola and Giovanni of Pisa we will treat of sculpture, and also of the most important buildings that they made, for the reason that their works in sculpture and in architecture truly deserve to be celebrated, not only as being large and magnificent but also well enough conceived, since both in working marble and in building they swept away in great part that old Greek manner, rude and void of proportion, showing better invention in their stories and giving better attitudes to their figures.

Nicola Pisano, then, chancing to be under certain Greek sculptors who were working the figures and other carved ornaments of the duomo of Pisa and of the Church of San Giovanni, and there being, among many marble spoils brought by the fleet of the Pisans, certain ancient sarcophagi that are today in the Camposanto of that city, there was one of them, most beautiful among them all, whereon there was carved the Chase of Meleager after the Calydonian Boar, in very beautiful manner, seeing that both the nude figures and the draped were wrought with much mastery and with most perfect design. This sarcophagus was placed by the Pisans, by reason of its beauty, in the side of the Duomo opposite San Rocco, beside the principal side-door, and it served for the body of the Countess Matilda, if indeed these words are true that are to be read carved in the marble:

A.D. MCXVI. IX KAL. AUG. OBIIT D. MATILDA FELICIS MEMORIAE
COMITISSA,
QUAE PRO ANIMA GENETRICIS SUAE DOMINAE BEATRICIS COMITISSAE VENER-
ABILIS, IN HAC TUMBA HONORABILI QUIESCENTIS, IN MULTIS PARTIBUS
MIRIFICE HANC DOTAVIT ECCLESIAM; QUARUM ANIMAE REQUIESCANT IN PACE

And then:

A.D. MCCCIII, SUB DIGNISSIMO OPERARIO D. BURGUNDIO TADI, OCCA-
SIONE GRADUUM FIENDORUM PER IPSUM CIRCA ECCLESIAM, SUPRADICTA
TUMBA SUPERIUS NOTATA BIS TRANSLATA FUIT, TUNC DI SEDIBUS
PRIMIS IN ECCLESIAM, NUNC DE ECCLESIA IN HUNC LOCUM, UT CERNITIS,
EXCELLENTEM.

Nicola, pondering over the beauty of this work and being greatly pleased therewith, put so much study and diligence into imitating this manner and some other good sculptures that were in these other ancient sarcophagi, that he was judged, after no long time, the best sculptor of his day; there being in Tuscany in those times, after Arnolfo, no other sculptor of repute save Fuccio, an architect and sculptor of Florence, who made Santa Maria sopra Arno in Florence, in the year 1229, placing his name there, over a door, and in the Church of San Francesco in Assisi he made the marble tomb of the Queen of Cyprus, with many figures, and in particular a portrait of her sitting on a lion, in order to show the strength of her soul; which Queen, after her death, left a great sum of money to the end that this fabric might be finished. Nicola, then, having made himself known as a much better master than was Fuccio, was summoned to Bologna in the year 1225, after the death of San Domenico Calagora, first founder of the Order of Preaching Friars, in order to make a marble tomb for the said Saint; wherefore, after agreement with those who had the charge of it, he made it full of figures in that manner wherein it is to be seen today, and delivered it finished in the year 1231 with much credit to himself, for it was held something remarkable, and the best of all the works that had been wrought in sculpture up to that time. He made, likewise, the model of that church and of a great part of the convent.

Afterwards, Nicola, returning to Tuscany, found that Fuccio had departed from Florence and had gone to Rome in those days when the Emperor Frederick was crowned by Honorius, and from Rome with Frederick to Naples, where he finished the Castel di Capoana, today called the Vicaria, wherein are all the tribunals of that kingdom, and likewise the Castel dell'Uovo; and where he likewise founded the towers he also made the gates over the River Volturno for the city of Capua, and a park girt with walls, for fowling, near Gravina, and another for sport in winter at Melfi; besides many other things that are not related, for the sake of brevity.

Nicola, meanwhile, busying himself in Florence, was going on exercising himself not only in sculpture but in architecture as well, by means of the buildings that were going on being made with some little goodness of design throughout all Italy, and in particular in Tuscany; wherefore he occupied himself not a little with the building of the Abbey of Settimo, which had not been finished by the executors of Count Ugo of Brandenburg, like the other six, as was said above, And although it is read in a marble epitaph on the campanile of the said abbey, GUGLIELM. ME FECIT, it is known, nevertheless, by the manner, that it was directed with the counsel of Nicola. About the same time he made the Palazzo Vecchio of the Anziani in Pisa, pulled down in our day by Duke Cosimo, in order to make the magnificent Palace and Convent of the Knights of St. Stephen on the same sport, using some part of the old, from the design and model of Giorgio Vasari, painter and architect of Arezzo, who has accommodated them into the new. Nicola made, likewise in Pisa, many other palaces and churches, and the was the first, since the loss of the good method of building, who made it the custom to found edifices in Pisa on piers, and on these to raise arches, piles having first been sunk under the said piers; because, with any other method, the solid base of the foundation cracked and the walls always collapsed, whereas the sinking of piles renders the edifice absolutely safe, even as experience shows. With his design, also, was made the Church of San Michele in Borgo for the Monks of Camaldoli.

But the most beautiful, and the most ingenious, and the most whimsical work of architecture that Nicola ever made was the Campanile of San Niccola in Pisa, where is the seat of the Friars of St. Augustine, for the reason that it is octagonal on the outer side and round within, with stairs that wind in a spiral and lead to the summit, leaving the hollow space in the middle free, in the shape of a well, and on every fourth step are columns that have the arches above them on a slant and wind round and round; wherefore, the spring of the vaulting resting on the said arches, one goes climbing to the summit in a manner that he who is on the ground always sees those who are climbing, those who are climbing see those who are on the ground, and those who are halfway up see both the first and the second--that its, those who are above and those who are below. This fanciful invention, with better method and more just proportions, and with more adornment, was afterwards put into execution by the architect Bramante in the Belvedere in Rome, for Pope Julius II, and by Antonio da Sangallo in the well that is at Orvieto, by order of Pope Clement VII, as will be told when the time comes.

But returning to Nicola, who was no less excellent as sculptor than as architect; in the facade of the Church of San Martino in Lucca, under the portico that is above the lesser door, on the left as one enters into the church, where there is seen a Christ Deposed from the Cross, he made a marble scene in half-relief, all full of figures wrought with much diligence, having hollowed out the marble and finished the whole in a manner that gave hope to those who were previously working at the art with very great difficulty, that there soon should come one, who, with more facility, would give them better assistance, The same Nicola, in the year 1240, gave the design for the Church of San Jacopo in Pistoia, and put to work there in mosaic certain Tuscan masters who made the vaulting of the choir niche, which, although in those times it was held as something difficult and of great cost, moves us today rather to laughter and to compassion than to marvel, and all the more because such confusion, which comes from lack of design, existed not only in Tuscany but throughout all Italy; where many buildings and other works, that were being wrought without method and without design, give us to know no less the poverty of their talents than the unmeasured riches wasted by the men of those times, by reason of their having had no masters who might execute in a good manner any work that they might do.

Nicola, then, by means of the works that he was making in sculpture and in architecture, was going on ever acquiring a greater name than the sculptors and architects who were then working in Romagna, as can be seen in SantUIppolito and San Giovanni of Faenza, in the Duomo of Ravenna, in San Francesco, in the houses of the Traversari, and in the Church of Porto; and at Rimini, in the fabric of the public buildings, in the houses of the Malatesti, and in other buildings, which are all much worse than the old edifices made about the same time in Tuscany. And what has been said of Romagna can be also said with truth of a part of Lombardy. A glance at the Duomo of Ferrara, and at the other buildings made by the Marquis Azzo, will give us to know that this is the truth and how different they are from the Santo of Padua, made with the model of Nicola, and from the Church of the Friars Minor in Venice, both magnificent and honored buildings. Many, in the time of Nicola, moved by laudable envy, applied themselves with more zeal to sculpture than they had done before and particularly in Milan, whither there assembled for the building of the Duomo many Lombards and Germans, who afterwards scattered throughout Italy by reason of the discords that arose between the Milanese and the Emperor Frederick. And so these craftsmen, beginning to compete among themselves both in marble and in building, found some little of the good. The same came to pass in Florence after the works of Arnolfo and Nicola had been seen; and the latter, while the little Church of the Misericordia was being erected from his design in the Piazza di San Giovanni, made therein in marble, with his own hand, a Madonna with St. Dominic and another Saint, one on either side of her, which may still be seen on the outer facade of the said church.

The Florentines had begun, in the time of Nicola to throw to the ground many towers made formerly in barbaric manner throughout the whole city, in order that the people might be less hurt by reason of these in the brawls that were often taking place between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, or in order that there might be greater security for the Site, and it appeared to them that it would be very difficult to pull down the Tower of Guardamorto, which was in the Piazza di San Giovanni, because the walls had been made so stoutly that they could not be pulled to pieces with pickaxes, and all the more because it was very high. Wherefore, Nicola causing the foot of the tower to be cut away on one side and supporting it with wooden props a braccio and a half in length, and then setting fire to them, as soon as the props were burnt away it fell and was almost entirely shattered; which was held something so ingenious and useful for such affairs that later it passed into use, insomuch that, when there is need, any building is destroyed in very little time with this most easy method. Niccola was present at the first foundation of the Duomo of Siena, and designed the Church of San Giovanni in the same city; then, having returned to Florence i the same year that the Guelphs returned, he designed the Church of Santa Trinita, and the Convent of the Nuns of Faenza, destroyed in our day in order to make the citadel. Being next summoned to Naples, in order not to desert the work in Tuscany he sent thither Maglione, his pupil, a sculptor and architect, who afterwards made, in the time of Conradin, the Church of San Lorenzo in Naples, finished part of the Piscopio, and made there certain tombs, wherein he imitated closely the manner of Nicola, his master.

Nicola, meanwhile, being summoned by the people of Volterra, in the year 1254 (when they came under the power of the Florentines), in order that their Duomo, which was small, might be enlarged, he brought it to better form, although it was very irregular, and made it more magnificent that it was before. Then, having returned finally to Pisa, he made the pulpit of San Giovanni, in marble, putting therein all diligence in order to leave a memorial of himself to his country; and among other things, carving in it the Universal Judgment, he made therein many figures, if not with perfect design, at least with infinite patience and diligence, as can be seen. And because it appeared to him, as was true, that he had done a work worthy of praise, he carved at the foot of it these verses:

ANNO MILLENO BIS CENTUM BISQUE TRIDENO
HOC OPUS INSIGNE SCULPSIT NICOLA PISANUS

The people of Siena, moved by the fame of this work, which greatly pleased not only the Pisans but everyone who saw it, gave to Nicola the making of the pulpit of their Duomo, in which there is sung the Gospel; Guglielmo Mariscotti being Praeter. In this Nicola made many stories of Jesus Christ, with much credit to himself, by reason of the figures that are there wrought and with great difficulty almost wholly detached from the marble. Nicola likewise made the design of the Church and Convent of San Domenico in Arezzo for the Lords of Pietramala, who erected it. And at the entreaty of Bishop Ubertini he restored the Pieve of Cortona, and founded the Church of Santa Margherita for the Friars of St. Francis, on the highest point of that city.

Wherefore, the fame of Nicola ever growing greater by reason of so great works, he was summoned in the year 1267, by Pope Clement IV, to Viterbo, where, besides many other works, he restored the Church and Convent of the Preaching Friars, From Viterbo he went to Naples to King Charles I, who, having routed and slain Conradin on the plain of Tagliacozzo, caused to be made on that spot a very rich church and abbey, burying therein the infinite number of bodies slain on that day, and ordaining afterwards that there should be prayers offered by many monks, day and night, for their souls; in which building King Charles was so well pleased with the work of Nicola that he honored and rewarded him very greatly. Returning from Naples to Tuscany, Nicola stayed in Orvieto for the building of Santa Maria, and working there in company with some Germans, he made in marble, for the facade of that church, certain figures in the round, and in particular two scenes of the Universal Judgment containing Paradise and Hell; and even as he strove, in the Paradise, to give the greatest beauty that he knew to the souls of the blessed, restored to their bodies, so too in the Hell he made the strangest forms of devils that can possibly be seen, most intent on tormenting the souls of the damned; and in this work he surpassed not merely the Germans who were working there but even his own self, to his own great credit. And for the reason that he made therein a great number of figures and endured much fatigue, it has been nothing but praised up to our own times by those who have had no more judgment than this much in sculpture.

 

 

 

GIOVANNI PISANO (circa 1250-1314)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists




NICOLA HAD, AMONG OTHERS, a son called Giovanni, who, because he ever followed his father and applied himself under his teaching to sculpture and to architecture, in a few years became not only equal to his father but in some ways superior; wherefore Nicola, being now old, retired to Pisa, and living there quietly left the management of everything to his son. Pope Urban IV having died at that time in Perugia, a summons was sent to Giovanni, who, having gone there, made a tomb of marble for that Pontiff, which, together with that of Pope Martin IV, was afterwards thrown to the ground when the people of Perugia enlarged their Vescovado [bishopric], in a manner that there are seen only a few relics of it scattered throughout the church. And the people of Perugia, at the same time, having brought a very great body of water through leaden pipes from the hill of Pacciano, two miles distant from the city, by means of the genius and industry of a friar of the Silvestrines, it was given to Giovanni Pisano to make all the ornaments of the fountain, both in bronze and in marble; wherefore he put his hand thereto and made three tiers of basins, two of marble and one of bronze. The first is placed above twelve rows of steps, each with twelve sides; the other on some columns that stand on the lowest level of the first basin--that is, in the middle; and the third, which is of bronze, rests on three figures and has in the middle certain griffins, also of bronze, that pour water on every side; and because it appeared to Giovanni that he had done very well in this work, he put on it his name.

About the year 1560, the arches and the conduits of this fountain (which cost 160,000 ducats of gold) having become in great part spoilt and ruined, Vincenzio Danti, a sculptor of Perugia, without rebuilding the arches, which would have been a thing of the greatest cost, very ingeniously reconducted the water to the fountain in the way it was before, with no small credit to himself.

This work finished, Giovanni, desiring to see again his old and ailing father, departed from Perugia in order to return to Pisa; but, passing through Florence, he was forced to stay, to the end that he might apply himself, together with others, to the work of the Mills on the Arno, which were being made at San Gregorio near the Piazza de'Mozzi. But finally, having had news that his father Nicola was dead, he went to Pisa, where, by reason of his worth, he was received by the whole city with great honor, every man rejoicing that after the loss of Nicola there still remained Giovanni, as heir both of his talents and of his wealth. And the occasion having come of making proof of him, their opinion was in no way disappointed, because, there being certain things to do in the small but most ornate Church of Santa Maria della Spina, they were given to Giovanni to do, and he, putting his hand thereunto, with the help of some of his boys brought many ornaments in that oratory to that perfection that is seen today; which work, in so far as we can judge, must have been held miraculous in those times, and all the more that he made in one figure the portrait of Nicola from nature, as best he knew.

Seeing this, the Pisans, who long before had had the idea and the wish to make a place of burial for all the inhabitants of the city, both noble and plebeian, either in order not to fill the Duomo with graves or for some other reasons, caused Giovanni to make the edifice of the Camposanto, which is on the Piazza del Duomo, towards the walls; wherefore he, with good design and with much judgment, made it in that manner and with those ornaments of marble and of that size which are to be seen; and because there was no consideration of expense, the roof was made of lead. And outside the principal door there are seen these words carved in marble:

A.D. MCCLXXVII. TEMPORE DOMINI FREDERIGI ARCHIEPISCOPI PISANO, ET
DOMINI TARLATI POTESTATIS, OPERARIO ORLANDO SARDELLA, JOHANE
MAGISTRO AEDIFICANTE.

This work finished, in the same year, 1283, Giovanni went to Naples, where, for King Charles, he made the Castel Nuovo of Naples; and in order to have room and to make it stronger he was forced to pull down many houses and churches, and in particular a convento of Friars of St. Francis, which was afterwards rebuilt no little larger and more magnificent than it was before, far from the castle and under the title of Santa Maria della Nuova. These buildings being begun and considerably advanced, Giovanni departed from Naples, in order to return to Tuscany; but arriving at Siena, without being allowed to go on farther he was caused to make the model of the facade of the Duomo of that city, and afterwards the said facade was made very rich and magnificent from this model. Next, in the year 1286, when the Vescovado [bishopric] of Arezzo was building with the design of Margaritone, architect of Arezzo, Giovanni was brought from Siena to Arezzo by Guglielmino Ubertini, Bishop of that city, where he made in marble the panel of the high altar, all filled with carvings of figures, of foliage, and other ornaments, distributing throughout the whole work certain things in delicate mosaic, and enamels laid on plates of silver, let into the marble with much diligence. In the middle is a Madonna with the Child in her arms, and on one side St. Gregory the Pope, whose face is the portrait from life of Pope Honorius IV; and on the other side is St. Donatus, Bishop and Protector of that city, whose body, with those of St. Antilla and of other Saints, is laid under that same altar. And because the said altar stands out by itself, round it and on the sides there are small scenes in low relief from the life of St. Donatus, and the crown of the whole work are certain tabernacles full of marble figures in the round, wrought with much subtlety. On the breast of the said Madonna is a bezel-shaped setting of gold, wherein, of it is said, were jewels of much value, which have been carried away in the wars, so it is thought, by soldiers, who have no respect, very often, even for the most holy Sacrament, together with some little figures in the round that were on the top of and around that work; on which the Aretines spent altogether, according to what is found in certain records, 30,000 florins of gold. Nor does this seem anything great, seeing that at that time it was something as precious and rare as it could well be; wherefore Frederick Barbarossa, returning from Rome, where he had been crowned, and passing through Arezzo, many years after it had been made, praised it, nay, admired it infinitely; and in truth with great reason, seeing that, besides everything else, the joinings of this work, made of innumerable pieces, are cemented and put together so well that the whole work is easily judged, by anyone who has not much practice in the matters of the art, to be all of one piece.

In the same church Giovanni made the Chapel of the Ubertini, a most noble family, and lords of castles, as they still are today and were formerly even more; with many ornaments of marble, which today have been covered over with other ornaments of grey-stone, many and fine, which were set up in that place with the design of Giorgio Vasari in the year 1535, for the supporting of an organ of extraordinary excellence and beauty that stands thereon.

Giovanni Pisano likewise made the design of the Church of Santa Maria de'Servi, which today has been destroyed, together with many palaces of the most noble families of the city, for the reasons mentioned above. I will not forbear to say that Giovanni made use, in working on the said marble altar, of certain Germans who had apprenticed themselves to him rather for learning than for gain; and under his teaching they became such that, having gone after this work to Rome, they served Boniface VIII in many works of sculpture for San Pietro, and in architecture when he made Civita Castellana. Besides this, they were sent by the same man to Santa Maria in Orvieto, where, for its facade, they made many figures in marble which were passing good for those times.

But among others who assisted Giovanni in the work of the Vescovado in Arezzo, Agostino and Agnolo, sculptors and architects of Siena, surpassed in time all the others, as will be told in the proper place. But returning to Giovanni; having departed from Orvieto, he came to Florence, in order to see the fabric of Santa Maria del Fiore that Arnolfo was making, and likewise to see Giotto, of whom he had heard great things spoken abroad; and no sooner had he arrived in Florence than he was charged by the Wardens of the said fabric of Santa Maria del Fiore to make the Madonna which is over that door of the church that leads to the CanonUs house, between two little angels; which work was then much praised. Next, he made the little baptismal font of San Giovanni, wherein are certain scenes in half-relief from the life of that Saint. Having then gone to Bologna, he directed the building of the principal chapel of the Church of San Domenico, wherein he was charged by Bishop Teodorigo Borgognoni of Lucca, a friar of that Order, to make an altar of marble; and in the same place he afterwards made, in the year 1298, the marble panel wherein are the Madonna and eight other figures, reasonably good.

In the year 1300, Niccola da Prato, Cardinal Legate of the Pope, being in Florence in order to accommodate the dissensions of the Florentines, caused him to make a convent of nuns in Prato, which is called San Niccola from his name, and to restore in the same territory the Convent of San Domenico, and so too that of Pistoia; in both the one and the other of which there are still seen the arms of the said Cardinal. And because the people of Pistoia held in veneration the name of Nicola, father of Giovanni, by reason of that which he had wrought in that city with his talent, they caused Giovanni himself to make a pulpit of marble for the Church of Sant'Andrea, like to the one which he had made in the Duomo of Siena; and this he did in order to compete with one which had been made a little before in the Church of San Giovanni Evangelista by a German, who was therefore much praised. Giovanni, then, delivered his finished in four years, having divided this work into five scenes from the life of Jesus Christ, and having made therein, besides this, a Universal Judgment, with the greatest diligence that he knew, in order to equal or perchance to surpass the one of Orvieto, the so greatly renowned. And round the said pulpit, on the architrave, over some columns that support it, thinking (as was the truth, according to the knowledge of that age) that he had done a great and beautiful work, he carved these verses:

HOC OPUS SCULPSIT JOANNES, QUI RES NON EGIT INANES,
NICOLI NATUS.....MELIORA BEATUS,
QUEM GENUIT PISA, DOCTUM SUPER OMNIA VISA.

At the same time Giovanni made the holy water font, in marble, of the Church of San Giovanni Evangelista in the same city, with three figures that support it--Temperance, Prudence, and Justice; which work, by reason of its having then been held very beautiful, was placed in the center of that church as something remarkable. And before he departed from Pistoia, although the work had not up to then been begun, he made the model of the Campanile of San Jacopo, the principal church of that city; on which campanile, which is on the square of the said San Jacopo and beside the church, there is this date: A.D. 1301.

Afterwards, Pope Benedict IX having died in Perugia, a summons was sent to Giovanni, who, having gone to Perugia, made a tomb of marble for that Pontiff in the old Church of San Domenico, belonging to the Preaching Friars; the Pope, portrayed from nature and robed in his pontifical habits, is lying at full lenth on the bier, with two angels, one on either side, that are holding up a curtain, and above there is a Madonna with two saints in relief, one on either side of her; and many other ornaments are carved round that tomb. In like maner, in the new church of the said Preaching Friars he made the tomb of Messer Niccolo Guidalotti of Perugia, Bishop of Recanati, who was founder of the Sapienza Nuova of Perugia. In this new church, which had been founded before this by others, he executed the central nave, which was founded by him with much better method than he remainder of the church had been; for on one side it leans and threatens to fall down, by reason of having been badly founded. And in truth, he who puts his hand to building and to doing anything of importance should ever take counsel, not from him who knows little but from the best, in order not to have to repent after the act, with loss and shame, that where he most needed good counsel he took the bad.

Giovanni, having dispatch his business in Perugia, wished to go to Rome, in order to learn from those few ancient things that were to be seen there, even as his father had done; but being hindered by good reasons, this his desire did not take effect, and the rather as he heard that the Court had just gone to Avignon. Returning, then, to Pisa, Nello di Giovanni Falconi, Warden, caused him to make the great pulpit of the Duomo, which is on the right hand going towards the high altar, attached to the choir; and having made a beginning with this and with many figures in the round, three braccia high, that were to serve for it, little by little he brought them to that form that is seen today, placing the pulpit partly on the said figures and partly on some columns sustained by lions; ad on the sides he made some scenes from the life of Christ. It is a pity, truly, that so great cost, so great diligence, and so great labor should not have been accompanied by good design, and should be wanting in perfection and in excellence of invention, grace, and manner, such as any work of our own times would show, even if made with much less cost and labor. None the less, it must have caused no small marvel to the men of those times, used to seeing only the rudest works. This work was finished in the year 1320, as appears in certain verses that are round the said pulpit, which run thus:

LAUDO DEUM VERUM, PER QUEM SUNT OPTIMA RERUM,
QUI DEDIT HAS PURAS HOMINEM FORMARE FIGURAS;
HOC OPUS HIS ANNIS DOMINI SCULPSERE JOHANNIS
ARTE MAUS SOLE QUONDAM, NATIQUE NICOLE,
CURSIS VENTENIS TERCENTUM MILLEQUE PLENIS;


with other thirteen verses, which are not written, in order not to weary the reader, and because these are enough not only to bear witness that the said pulpit is by the hand of Giovanni, but also that the men of these times were in all things made thus. A Madonna of marble, also, that is seen between St. John the Baptist and another Saint, over the principal door of the Duomo, is by the hand of Giovanni; and he who is at the feet of the Madonna, on his knees is said to be Piero Gambacorti, Warden of Works. However this may be, on the base whereon stands the image of Our Lady there are carved these words:

SUB PETRI CURA HAEC PIA FUIT SCULPTA FIGURA,
NICOLI NATO SCULPTORE JOHANNE VOCATO.

In like manner, over the side door that is opposite the campanile, there is a Madonna of marble by the hand of Giovanni, having on one side a woman kneeling with two babies, representing Pisa, and on the other the Emperor Henry. On the base whereon stands the Madonna are these words: AVE GRATIA PLEA, DOMINUS TECUM; and beside them:

NOBILIS ARTE MANUS SCULPSIT JOHANNES PISANUS/ SCULPSIT SUB BURGUNDIO TADI
BENIGNO...

and around the base of Pisa:

VIRGINIS ANCILLA SUM PISA QUIETA SUB ILLA.


And around the base of Henry:

IMPERAT HENRICUS QUI CHRISTO FERTUR AMICUS.

In the old Pieve of the territory of Prato, under the altar of the principal chapel, there had been kept for many years the Girdle of Our Lady, which Michele da Prato, returning from the Holy Land, had brought to his country in the year 1141 and consiged to Uberto, Provost of that church, who placed it where it has been said, and where it had been ever held in great veneration; and in the year 1312 an attempt was made to steal it by a man of Prato, a fellow of the basest sort, and, as it were, another Ser Ciappelletto; but having been discovered, he was put to death for sacrilege by the hand of justice. Moved by this, the people of Prato determined to make a strong and suitable resting place, in order to hold the said Girdle more securely; wherefore, having summoned Giovanni, who was now old, they made with his counsel, in the greater church, the chapel wherein there is now preserved the said Girdle of Our Lady.

And next, with the same man's design, they made the said church much larger than it was before, and encrusted it with white and black marbles, and likewise the campanile, as may be seen. Finally, being now very old, Giovanni died in the year 1320, after having made, besides those that have been mentioned, many other works in sculpture and in architecture. And in truth there is much owed to him and to his father Nicola, seeing that, in times void of all goodness of design, they gave in so great darkness no small light to the matters of these arts, wherein they were, for that age, truly excellent. Giovanni was buried in the Camposanto, with great honor, in the same grave wherein had bee laid Nicola, his father. There were as disciples of Giovanni many who flourished after him, but in particular Lino, sculptor and architect of Siena, who made in the Duomo of Pisa the chapel all adorned with marble wherein is the body of San Ranieri, and likewise the baptismal font that is in the said Duomo, with his name.

Nor let anyone marvel that Nicola and Giovanni did so many works, because, not to mention that they lived very long, being the first masters that were in Europe at that time, there was nothing done of any importance in which they did not have hand, as can be seen in many inscriptions besides those that have been mentioned. And seeing that, while touching on these two sculptors and architects, there has been something said of matters in Pisa, I will not forbear to say that on the top of the steps in front of the new hospital, round the base that supports a lion and the vase that rests o the porphyry column, are these words:


THIS IS THE MEASURE WHICH THE EMPEROR CAESAR GAVE TO PISA, WHEREWITH THERE THIS COLUMN AND LION, IN THE TIME OF GIOVANNI ROSSO, WARDEN OF THE WORKS WAS MEASURED THE TRIBUTE THAT WAS PAID TO HIM; WHICH HAS BEEN SET UP OVER OF S. MARIA MAGGIORE IN PISA, A.D. MCCCXIII., IN THE SECOND INDICTION, IN MARCH.

 

 

 

ANDREA TAFI (active 1300 - 1325)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists




EVEN AS THE WORKS of Cimabue awakened no small marvel (he having given better design and form to the art of painting) in the men of those times, used to seeing nothing save works done after the Greek manner, even so the works in mosaic of Andrea Tafi, who lived in the same times, were admired, and he thereby held excellent, nay, divine; these people not thinking, being unused to see anything else, that better work could be done in such an art. But not being in truth the most able man in the world, and having considered that mosaic, by reason of its long life, was held in estimation more than all the other forms of painting, he went from Florence to Venice, where some Greek painters were working in S. Marco in mosaic; and becoming intimate with them, with entreaties, with money, and with promises he contrived in such a manner that he brought to Florence Maestro Apollonio, a Greek painter, who taught him to fuse the glass for mosaic and to make the cement for putting it together; and in his company he wrought the upper part of the tribune of S. Giovanni, where there are the Powers, the Thrones, and the Dominions; in which place Andrea, when more practised, afterwards made, as will be said below, the Christ that is over the side of the principal chapel. But, having made mention of S. Giovanni, I will not pass by in silence that this ancient temple is all wrought, both without and within, with marbles of the Corinthian Order, and that it is not only designed and executed perfectly in all its parts and with all its proportions, but also very well adorned with doors and with windows, and enriched with two columns of granite on each wallface, each eleven braccia high, in order to make the three spaces over which are the architraves, that rest on the said columns in order to support the whole mass of the double vaulted roof, which has been praised by modern architects as something remarkable, and deservedly, for the reason that it showed the good which that art already had in itself to Filippo di Ser Brunellesco, to Donatello, and to the other masters of those times, who learnt the art by means of this work and of the Church of S. Apostolo in Florence, a work so good in manner that it casts back to the true ancient goodness, having all the columns in sections, as it has been said above, measured and put together with so great diligence that much can be learnt by studying it in all its parts.

But to be silent about many things that could be said about the good architecture of this church, I will say only that there was a great departure from this example and from this good method of working when the facade of S. Miniato sul Monte without Florence was rebuilt in marble, in honor of the conversion of the Blessed S. Giovanni Gualberto, citizen of Florence and founder of the Order of the Monks of Vallombrosa; because that and many other works that were made later were in no way similar in beauty to those mentioned. The same, in like manner, came to pass in the works of sculpture, for all those that were made in Italy by the masters of that age, as has been said in the Preface to the Lives, were very rude, as can be seen in many places, and in particular in S. Bartolommeo at Pistoia, a church of the Canons Regular, where, in a pulpit very rudely made by Guido da Como, there is the beginning of the life of Jesus Christ, with these words carved thereon by the craftsman himself in the year 1199:

SCULPTOR LAUDATUR, QUOD DOCTUS IN ARTE PROBATUR,
GUIDO DE COMO ME CUNCTIS CARMINE PROMO.

But to return to the Church of S. Giovanni; forbearing to relate its origin, by reason of its having been described by Giovanni Villani by other writers, and having already said that from this church there came the good architecture that is today in use, I will add that the tribune was made later, so far as it is known, and that at the time when Alesso Baldovinetti, succeeding Lippo, a painter of Florence, restored those mosaics, it was seen that it had been in the past painted with designs in red, and all worked on stucco.

Andrea Tafi and Apollonius the Greek, then, in order to cover this tribune with mosaics, made therein a number of compartments, which, narrow at the top beside the lantern, went on widening as far as the level of the cornice below; and they divided the upper part into circles of various scenes. In the first are all the ministers and executors of the Divine Will, namely, the Angels, the Archangels, the Cherubim, the Seraphim, the Powers, the Thrones, and the Dominions. In the second row, also in mosaic, and after the Greek manner, are the principal works done by God, from the creation of light down to the Flood. In the circle that is below these, which goes on widening with the eight sides of that tribune, are all the acts of Joseph and of his twelve brethren. Below these, then, there follow as many other spaces of the same size that circle in like manner onward, wherein there is the life of Jesus Christ, also in mosaic, from the time when He was conceived in Mary's womb up to the Ascension into Heaven. Then, resuming the same order, under the three friezes there is the life of S. John the Baptist, beginning with the appearing of the Angel to Zacharias the priest, up to his beheading and to the burial that his disciples gave him.

All these works, being rude, without design and without art, I do not absolutely praise; but of a truth, having regard to the method of working of that age and to the imperfection that the art of painting then showed, not to mention that the work is solid and that the pieces of the mosaic are very well put together, the end of this work is much better or to speak more exactly, less bad than is the beginning, although the whole, with respect to the work of today, moves us rather to laughter than to pleasure or marvel. Finally, over the side of the principal chapel in the said tribune, Andrea made by himself and without the help of Apollonius, to his own great credit, the Christ that is still seen there today, seven braccia high. Becoming famous for these works throughout all Italy, and being reputed in his own country as excellent, he well deserved to be largely honored and rewarded. It was truly very great good fortune, that of Andrea to be born at a time when, all work being rudely done, there was great esteem even for that which deserved to be esteemed very little, or rather not at all. This same thing befell Fra Jagppo da Turrita, of the Order of S. Francis, seeing that, having made the works in mosaic that are in the recess behind the altar of the said S. Giovanni, notwithstanding that they were little worthy of praise he was remunerated for them with extraordinary rewards, and afterwards, as an excellent master, summoned to Rome, where he wrought certain things in the chapel of the high altar of S. Giovanni Laterano, and in that of S. Maria Maggiore. Next, being summoned to Pisa, he made the Evangelists in the principal apse of the Duomo, with other works that are there, assisted by Andrea Tafi and by Gaddo Gaddi, and using the same manner wherein he had done his other works; but he left them little less than wholly imperfect, and they were afterwards finished by Vicino.

The works of these men, then, were prized for some time; but when the works of Giotto, as will be said in its own place, were set in comparison with those of Andrea, of Cimabue, and of the others, people recognized in part the perfection of the art, seeing the difference that there was between the early manner of Cimabue and that of Giotto, the figures of the one and of the other and in those that their disciples and imitators made. From this beginning the others sought step by step to follow in the path of the best masters, surpassing one another happily from one day to another, so that from such depths these arts have; been raised, as is seen, to the height of their perfection.

Andrea lived eighty-one years, and died before Cimabue, in 1294. And by reason of the reputation and the honor that he gained with his mosaic, seeing that he, before any other man, introduced and taught it in better manner to the men of Tuscany, he was the cause that Gaddo Gaddi, Giotto, and the others afterwards made the most excellent works of that craft which have acquired for them fame and an eternal name. After the death of Andrea there was not wanting one to magnify him with this inscription: QUI GIACE ANDREA, CH' OPRE LEGGIADRE E BELLE FECE IN TUTTA TOSCANA, ED ORA E ITO A FAR VAGO LO REGNO DELLE STELLE.

A disciple of Andrea was Buonamico Buffalmacco, who, being very young, played him many tricks, and had from him the portrait of Pope Celestine IV, a Milanese, and that of Innocent IV, both one and the other of whom he portrayed afterwards in the pictures that he made in S. Paolo a Ripa d' Arno in Pisa. A disciple and perhaps a son of the same man was Antonio d' Andrea Tafi, who was a passing good painter; but I have not been able to find any work by his hand. There is only mention made of him in the old book of the Company of the Men of Design.

Deservedly, then, did Andrea Tafi gain much praise among the early masters, for the reason that, although he learnt the principles of mosaic from those whom he brought from Venice to Florence, he added nevertheless so much of the good to the art, putting the pieces together with much diligence and executing the work smooth as a table, which is of the greatest importance in mosaic, that he opened the way to good work to Giotto, among others, as will be told in his Life; and not only to Giotto, but to all those who have exercised themselves in this sort of painting from his day up to our own times. Wherefore it can be truly affirmed that those marvellous works which are being made today in S. Marco at Venice, and in other places, had their first beginning from Andrea Tafi.

 

 

 

GADDO (c.1260- c.1333) and
TADDEO GADDI (c. 1300-1366)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists




GADDO, PAINTER OF FLORENCE, displayed at this same time more design in his works, wrought after the Greek manner, than did Andrea Tafi and the other painters that were before him, and this perchance arose from the intimate friendship and intercourse that he held with Cimabue, seeing that, by reason either of their conformity of blood or of the goodness of their minds, finding themselves united one to the other by a strait affection, from the frequent converse that they had together and from their discoursing lovingly very often about the difficulties of the arts there were born in their minds conceptions very beautiful and grand; and this came to pass for them the more easily inasmuch as they were assisted by the subtlety of the air of Florence, which is wont to produce spirits both ingenious and subtle, removing continually from round them that little of rust and grossness that most times nature is not able to remove, together with the emulation and with the precepts that the good craftsmen provide in every age. And it is seen clearly that works concerted between those who, in their friendship, are not veiled with the mask of duplicity (although few so made are to be found), arrive at much perfection; and the same men, conferring on the difficulties of the sciences that they are learning, purge them and render them so clear and easy that the greatest praise comes therefrom. Whereas some, on the contrary, diabolically working with profession of friendship, and using the cloak of truth and of lovingness to conceal their envy and malice, rob them of their conceptions, in a manner that the arts do not so soon attain to that excellence which they would if love embraced the minds of the gracious spirits; as it truly bound together Gaddo and Cimabue, and in like manner Andrea Tafi and Gaddo, who was taken by Andrea into company with himself in order to finish the mosaics of S. Giovanni, where that Gaddo learnt so much that afterwards he made by himself the Prophets that are seen round that church in the square spaces beneath the windows; and having wrought these by his own self and with much better manner, they brought him very great fame. Wherefore, growing in courage and being disposed to work by himself, he applied himself continually to studying the Greek manner together with that of Cimabue. Whence, after no long time, having become excellent in the art, there was allotted to him by the Wardens of Works of S. Maria del Fiore the lunette over the principal door within the church, wherein he wrought in mosaic the Coronation of Our Lady; which work, when finished, was judged by all the masters, both foreign and native, the most beautiful that had yet been seen in all Italy in that craft, there being recognized therein more design, more judgment, and more diligence than in all the rest of the works in mosaic that were then to be found in Italy.

Wherefore, the fame of this work spreading, Gaddo was called to Rome in the year 1308 (which was the year after the fire that burnt down the Church and the Palaces of the Lateran) by Clemently, for whom he finished certain works in mosaic left imperfect by Fra Jacopo da Turrita. He then wrought certain works, also in mosaic, in the Church of S. Pietro, both in the principal chapel and throughout the church, and in particular a large God the Father, with many other figures, on the facade; and helping to finish some scenes in mosaic that are in the facade of S. Maria Maggiore, he somewhat improved the manner, and departed also a little from that manner of the Greeks, which had in it nothing whatever of the good.

Next, having returned to Tuscany, he wrought in the Duomo Vecchio without the city of Arezzo, for the Tarlati, Lords of Pietramala, certain works in mosaic on a vault that was all made of sponge-stone and served for roof to the middle part of that church, which, being too much burdened by the ancient vault of stone, fell down in the time of Bishop Gentile of Urbino, who had it afterwards all rebuilt with bricks. Departing from Arezzo, Gaddo went to Pisa, where, in the niche over the Chapel of the Incoronata in the Duomo, he made a Madonna who is ascending into Heaven, and, above, a Jesus Christ who is awaiting her and has a rich chair prepared as a seat for her; which work, for those times, was wrought so well and with so great diligence that it has been very well preserved, even to our own day. After this Gaddo returned to Florence, in mind to rest; wherefore, undertaking to make little panels in mosaic, he executed some with egg shells, with incredible diligence and patience, as can be seen, among others, in some that are still today in the Church of S. Giovanni in Florence. It is read, also, that he made two of them for King Robert, but nothing more is known of these. And let this be enough to have said of Gaddo Gaddi with regard to work in mosaic.

In painting he made many panels, and among others that which is in S. Maria Novella, in the tramezzo of the church, in the Chapel of the Minerbetti, and many others that were sent into diverse parts of Tuscany. And working thus, now in mosaic and now in painting, he made both in the one and in the other exercise many passing good works, which maintained him ever in good credit and reputation. I could here enlarge further in discoursing of Gaddo, but seeing that the manners of the painters of those times cannot, for the most part, render great assistance to the craftsmen, I will pass this over in silence, reserving myself to be longer in the Lives of those who, having improved the arts, can give some measure of assistance.

Gaddo lived seventy-three years, and died in 1312, and was given honorable burial in S. Croce by his son Taddeo. And although he had other sons, Taddeo alone, who was held at the baptismal font by Giotto, applied himself to painting, learning at first the principles from his father and then the rest from Giotto. A disciple of Gaddo, besides Taddeo his son, was Vicino, a painter of Pisa, who wrought very well certain works in mosaic in the principal apse of the Duomo of Pisa, as these words demonstrate, that are still seen in that apse:

TEMPORE DOMINI JOANNIS ROSSI, OPERARII ISTIUS ECCLESLffi, VICINUS
PICTOR INCEPIT ET PERFECIT HANC IMAGINEM BEAT.E MARINE ; SED
MAJESTATIS, ET EVANGELISTS, PER ALIOS INCEPTS, IPSE COMPLEVIT ET
PERFECIT, A.D. 1321, DE MENSE SEPTEMBRIS. BENEDICTUM SIT NOMEN
DOMINI DEI NOSTRI JESU CHRISTI. AMEN.

In the Chapel of the Baroncelli, in the same Church of S. Croce, there is a portrait of Gaddo by the hand of his son Taddeo, in a Marriage of Our Lady, and beside him is Andrea Tan. And in our aforesaid book there is a drawing by the hand of Gaddo, made in miniature, like that of Cimabue, wherein it is seen how strong he was in draughtsmanship.

Now, seeing that in an old book, from which I have drawn these few facts that have been related about Gaddo Gaddi, there is also an account of the building of S. Maria Novella, the Church of the Preaching Friars in Florence, a building truly magnificent and highly honored, I will not pass by in silence by whom and at what time it was built. I say, then, that the Blessed Dominic being in Bologna, and there being conceded to him the property of Ripoli without Florence, he sent thither twelve friars under the care of the Blessed Giovanni da Salerno; and not many years afterwards these friars came to Florence to occupy the church and precincts of S. Pancrazio, and they were settled there, when Dominic himself came to Florence, whereupon they left that place and went to settle in the Church of S. Paolo, according to his pleasure. Later there being conceded to the said Blessed Giovanni the precincts of S. Maria Novella, with all its wealth, by the Legate of the Pope and by the Bishop of the city, they were put in possession and began to occupy the said precincts on the last day of October, 1221. And because the said church was passing small and faced westward, with its entrance on the Piazza Vecchia, the friars, being now grown to a good number and having great repute in the city, began to think of increasing the said church and convent. Wherefore, having got together a very great sum of money, and having many in the city who were promising every assistance, they began the building of the new church on St. Luke's Day, in 1278; the first stone of the foundations being most solemnly laid by Cardinal Latino degli Orsini, Legate of Pope Nicholas III to the Florentines.

The architects of the said church were Fra Giovanni, a Florentine, and Fra Ristoro da Campi, lay brothers of the same Order, who rebuilt the Ponte alia Carraja and that of S. Trinita, destroyed by the flood of 1264 on October 1. The greater part of the site of the said church and convent was presented to the friars by the heirs of Messer Jacopo, Cavaliere de' Tornaquinci. The cost, as has been said, was met partly by alms and partly by the money of diverse persons who assisted gallantly, and in particular with the assistance of Frate Aldobrandino Cavalcanti, who was afterwards Bishop of Arezzo and is buried over the door of the Virgin. Some say that, besides everything else, he got together by his own industry all the labor and material that went into the said church, which was finished when the Prior of this convent was Fra Jacopo Passavanti, who was therefore deemed worthy of a marble tomb in front of the principal chapel, on the left hand. This church was consecrated in the year 1420, by Pope Martin V, as is seen in an inscription on marble on the righthand pillar of the principal chapel, which runs thus:

A.D. I42O. DIE SEPTIMA SEPTEMBRIS, DOMINUS MARTINUS DIVINA

PROVIDENTIA PAPA V. PERSONALITER HANG ECCLESIAM CONSECRAVIT, ET

MAGNAS INDULGENTIAS CONTULIT VISITANTIBUS EANDEM.

Of all these things and of many others there is an account in a chronicle of the building of the said church, which is in the hands of the fathers of S. Maria Novella, and in the History of Giovanni Villani likewise; and I have not wished to withhold these few facts regarding this church and convent, both because it is one of the most important and most beautiful churches in Florence, and also because they have therein, as will be said below, many excellent works made by the most famous crafts- men that have lived in the years past.

 

 

 

LIFE OF MARGARITONE (active c. 1250-1290)
PAINTER, SCULPTOR, AND ARCHITECT OF AREZZO

Vasari's Lives of the Artists






AMONG THE OLD PAINTERS who were much alarmed by the praises rightly given by men to Cimabue and to his disciple Giotto, whose good work in painting was making their glory shine throughout all Italy, was one Margaritone, painter of Arezzo, who, with the others who in that unhappy century were holding the highest rank in painting, recognized that their works were little less than wholly obscuring his own fame. Margaritone, then, being held excellent among the other painters of these times who were working after the Greek manner, wrought many panels in distemper at Arezzo, and he painted in fresco in even more pictures, but in a long time and with much fatigue almost the whole Church of S. Clemente, Abbey of the Order of Camaldoli, which is today all in ruins and thrown down, together with many other buildings and a strong fortress called S. Chimenti, for the reason that Duke Cosimo de' Medici, not only on that spot but right round that city, pulled down many buildings and the old walls (which were restored by Guido Pietramalesco, formerly Bishop and Patron of that city); in order to rebuild the latter with connecting wings and bastions, much stronger and smaller than they were, and in consequence more easy to guard and with few men. There were, in the said pictures, many figures both small and great, and although they were wrought after the Greek manner, it was recognized, none the less, that they had been made with good judgment and lovingly; to which witness is borne by works by the same man's hand which have survived in that city, and above all a panel that is now in S. Francesco, in the Chapel of the Conception, with a modern frame, wherein is a Madonna held by these friars in great veneration.

He made in the same church, also after the Greek manner, a great crucifix which is now placed in that chapel where there is the Office of the Wardens of Works; this is wrought on the planking, with the Cross outlined, and of this sort he made many in that city. For the Nuns of S. Margherita he wrought a work that is today set up against the tramezzo of the church namely, a canvas fixed on a panel, wherein are scenes with small figures from the life of Our Lady and of S. John the Baptist, in considerably better manner than the large, and executed with more diligence and grace. This work is notable, not only because the said small figures are so well made that they look like miniatures, but also because it is a marvel to see that a work on canvas has been preserved for three hundred years. He made throughout the whole city an infinity of pictures, and at Sargiano, a convent of the Frati de' Zoccoli, a S. Francis portrayed from nature on a panel, whereon he placed his name, as on a work, in his judgment, wrought better than was his wont. Next, having made a large Crucifix on wood, painted after the Greek manner, he sent it to Florence to Messer Farinata degli Uberti, a most famous citizen, for the reason that he had, among other noble deeds, freed his country from imminent ruin and peril. This Crucifix is today in S. Croce, between the Chapel of the Peruzzi and that of the Giugni. In S. Domenico in Arezzo, a church and convent built by the Lords of Pietramala in the year 1275, as their arms still prove, he wrought many works, and then returned to Rome (where he had already been held very dear by Pope Urban IV), to the end that he might do certain works in fresco at his commission in the portico of S. Pietro; these were in the Greek manner, and passing good for those times.

Next, having made a S . Francis on a panel at Ganghereto, a place above Terra Nuova in Valdarno, his spirit grew exalted and he gave himself to sculpture, and that with so much zeal that he succeeded much better than he had done in painting, because, although his first sculptures were in Greek manner, as four wooden figures show that are in a Deposition from the Cross in the Prieve, and some other figures in the round placed in the Chapel of S. Francesco over the baptismal font, none the less he adopted a better manner after he had seen in Florence the works of Arnolfo and of the other then most famous sculptors. Wherefore, having returned to Arezzo in the year 1275, in the wake of the Court of Pope Gregory, who passed through Florence on his return from Avignon to Rome, there came to him opportunity to make himself more known, for the reason that this Pope died in Arezzo, after having presented thirty thousand crowns to the Commune to the end that there might be finished the building of the Vescovado, formerly begun by Maestro Lapo and little advanced, and the Aretines, besides making the Chapel of S. Gregorio (where Margaritone afterwards made a panel) in the Vescovado, in memory of the said Pontiff, also ordained that a tomb of marble should be made for him by the same man in the said Vescovado. Putting his hand to the work, he brought it to completion, including therein the portrait of the Pope from nature, done both in marble and in painting, in a manner that it was held the best work that he had ever yet made. Next, work being resumed on the building of the Vescovado, Margaritone carried it very far on, following the design of Lapo; but he did not, however, deliver it finished, because a few years later, in the year 1289, the wars between the Florentines and the Aretines were renewed, by the fault of Guglielmino Ubertini, Bishop and Lord of Arezzo, assisted by the Tarlati da Pietramala and by the Pazzi di Valdarno, although evil came to them thereby, for they were routed and slain at Campaldino; and there was spent in that war all the money left by the Pope for the building of the Vescovado. And therefore the Aretines ordained that in place of this there should serve the impost paid by the district (thus do they call a tax), as a particular revenue for that work; which impost has lasted up to our own day, and continues to last.

Now returning to Margaritone: from what is seen in his works, as regards painting, he was the first who considered what a man must do when he works on panels of wood, to the end that they may stay firm in the joinings, and that they may not show fissures and cracks opening out after they have been painted; for he was used to put over the whole surface of the panels a canvas of linen cloth, attached with a strong glue made from shreds of parchment and boiled over a fire and then over the said canvas he spread gesso, as is seen in many panels by him and by others. He wrought, besides, on gesso mingled with the same glue, friezes and diadems in relief and other ornaments in the round; and he was the inventor of the method of applying Armenian bole, and of spreading gold-leaf thereon and burnishing it. All these things, never seen before, are seen in many of his works, and in particular in the Pieve of Arezzo, in an altar front wherein are stories of S. Donatus, and in S. Agnesa and S. Niccolo in the same city.

Finally, he wrought many works in his own country, which went abroad; some of which are at Rome, in S. Giovanni and in S. Pietro, and some at Pisa, in S. Caterina, where, in the tramezzo of the church, there is set up over an altar a panel with S. Catherine on it, and many scenes from her life with little figures, and a S. Francis with many scenes on a panel, on a ground of gold. And in the upper Church of S. Francesco d' Assisi there is a Crucifix by his hand, painted in the Greek manner, on a beam that crosses the church. All which works were in great esteem among the people of that age, although today by us they are not esteemed save as old things, good when art was not, as it is today, at its height. And seeing that Margaritone applied himself also to architecture, although I have not made mention of any buildings made with his design, because they are not of importance, I will yet not forbear to say that he, according to what I find, made the design and model of the Palazzo de' Governatori in the city of Ancona, after the Greek manner, in the year 1270; and what is more, he made in sculpture, on the principal front, eight windows, whereof each one has, in the space in the middle, two columns that support in the middle two arches, over which each window has a scene in half-relief that reaches from the said small arches up to the top of the window; a scene, I say, from the Old Testament, carved in a kind of stone that is found in that district. Under the said windows, on the fagade, there are certain words that are understood rather at discretion than because they are either in good form or rightly written, wherein there is read the date and in whose time this work was made. By the hand of the same man, also, was the design of the Church of S. Ciriaco in Ancona. Margaritone died at the age of seventy-seven, disgusted, so it is said, to have lived so long, seeing the age changed and the honors with the new craftsmen. He was buried in the Duomo Vecchio without Arezzo, in a tomb of travertine, now gone to ruin in the destruction of that church; and there was made for him this epitaph:

HIC JACET ILLE BONUS PICTURA MARGARITONUS,
CUI REQUIEM DOMINUS TRADAT UBIQUE PIUS.

The portrait of Margaritone, by the hand of Spinello, is in the Story of the Magi, in the said Duomo, and was copied by me before that church was pulled down.

 

 

 

GIOTTO (1267-1337)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists










NOW IN THE YEAR 1276, in the country of Florence, about fourteen miles from the city, in the village of Vespignano, there was born to a simple peasant named Bondone a son, to whom he gave the name of Giotto, and whom he brought up according to his station. And when he had reached the age of ten years, showing in all his ways though still childish an extraordinary vivacity and quickness of mind, which made him beloved not only by his father but by all who knew him, Bondone gave him the care of some sheep. And he leading them for pasture, now to one spot and now to another,was constantly driven by his natural inclination to draw on the stones or the ground some object in nature, or something that came into his mind. One day Cimabue, going on business from Florence to Vespignano, found Giotto, while his sheep were feeding, drawing a sheep from nature upon a smooth and solid rock with a pointed stone, having never learnt from any one but nature. Cimabue, marvelling at him, stopped and asked him if he would go and be with him. And the boy answered that if his father were content he would gladly go. Then Cimabue asked Bondone for him, and he gave him up to him, and was content that he should take him to Florence.

There in a little time, by the aid of nature and the teaching of Cimabue, the boy not only equalled his master, but freed himself from the rude manner ofthe Greeks, and brought back to life the true art of painting, introducing the drawing from nature of living persons, which had not been practised for two hundred years; or at least if some had tried it, they had not succeeded very happily. Giotto painted among others, as may be seen to this day in the chapel of the Podestà's Palace at Florence, Dante Alighieri, his contemporary and great friend, and no less famous a poet than Giotto was a painter.

After this he was called to Assisi by Fra Giovanni di Muro, at that time general of the order of S. Francis, and painted in fresco in the upper church thirty-two stories from the life and deeds of S. Francis, which brought him great fame. It is no wonder therefore that Pope Benedict sent one of his courtiers into Tuscany to see what sort of a man he was and what his works were like, for the Pope was planning to have some paintings made in S. Peter's. This courtier, on his way to see Giotto and to find out what other masters of painting and mosaic there were in Florence, spoke with many masters in Sienna, and then, having received some drawings from them, he came to Florence. And one morning going into the workshop of Giotto, who was nat his labours, he showed him the mind of the Pope, and at last asked him to give him a little drawing to send to his Holiness. Giotto, who was a man of courteous manners,immediately took a sheet of paper, and with a pen dipped in red, fixing his arm firmly against his side to make a compass of it, with a turn of his hand he made a circle so perfect that it was a marvel to see it Having done it, he turned smiling to the courtier and said, "Here is the drawing.". But he, thinking he was being laughed at, asked, "Am I to have no other drawing than this?" "This is enough and too much," replied Giotto, "send it with the others and see if it will be understood." The messenger, seeing that he could get nothing else, departed ill pleased, not doubting that he had been made a fool of. However, sending the other drawings to the Pope with the names of those who had made them, he sent also Giotto's, relating how he had made the circle without moving his arm and without compasses, which when the Pope and many of his courtiers understood, they saw that Giotto must surpass greatly all the other painters of his time. This thing being told, there arose from it a proverb which is still used about men of coarse clay, "You are rounder than the O of Giotto," which proverb is not only good because of the occasion from which it sprang, but also still more for its significance, which consists in its ambiguity, tondo, "round," meaning in Tuscany not only a perfect circle, but also slowness and heaviness of mind.

So the Pope made him come to Rome, and he painted for him in S.Peter's, and there never left his hands work better finished; wherefore the Pope, esteeming himself well served, gave him six hundred ducats of gold, besides having shown him so many favours that it was spoken of through all Italy.

After Giotto was returned to Florence, Robert, King of Naples, wrote to his eldest son, Charles, King of Calabria, who was at that time in Florence, that he must by some means or other send him Giotto to Naples. Giotto, hearing himself called by a king so famous and so much praised, went very willingly to serve him, and did many works which pleased the king greatly. And he was so much beloved by him that the king would often visit him, and took pleasure in watching him and listening to his conversation, and Giotto, who had always some jest or some witty answer ready, would converse with him while going on with his painting. So one day the king saying to him that he would make him the first man in Naples, Giotto answered, "And that is why I am lodged at the Porta Reale, that I may be the first man in Naples." And another time the king saying to him, " Giotto, if I were you, now that it is hot, I would give up painting a little." He answered, "And so would I, certainly, if I were you."

So pleasing the king well, he painted him a good number of pictures, and the portraits of many famous men, Giotto himself among them; and one day the king, as a caprice, asked him to paint his kingdom. Giotto, it is said, painted a laden ass with a new load lying at his feet, which while it refused it seemed to desire, and both on the new and old burden was the royal crown and sceptre of power. And when Giotto was asked by the king what the picture signified, he replied, "Such must be the subjects and such the kingdom which every day desired a new lord."

There are many other stories remaining of the witty sayings of Giotto, and besides those that are told by Boccaccio, Franco Sacchetti tells many good ones, some of which I will give in Franco's own words.

How a man of low station gives Giotto the great painter a shield to paint.

"Every one must have heard of Giotto, who was a great painter above any other. A rough workman, hearing of his fame, came to Giotto's workshop followed by one carrying his shield. Arrived there, he found Giotto, and said, 'God save you, master, I want you to paint my arms on this shield.' Giotto, considering the man and his manner of speech, said nothing but, 'When do you want it?' And he told him. Giotto said, 'Leave me to do it;' so he went away. And Giotto, left alone, said to himself, 'What did he mean? Has some sent him for a joke? I never had a shield to paint before. And this man was a simple fellow, and bade me paint his arms as if he were of the royal house of France. Certainly I shall have to make him some new arms.' So considering the matter, he put the shield before him and made a design and bade one of his pupils paint it, and so it was done. There was a helmet, a gorget, a pair of iron gloves, a cuirass, and cuisses, a sword, dagger, and lancc. So the worthy man came again and said, 'Master, is my shield painted?' Giotto answered, 'Certainly, bring it down.' But when it came the would-be gentleman looked at it and said, 'What is this you have been painting ? I won't pay four farthings for it.' Giotto said, 'What did you tell me to paint?' And he answered, 'My arms.' ' Are not they all here?' asked Giotto; 'what is wanting? Nay, you are a great fool, for if any one were to ask you who you are, you would hardly know what to answer; and you come here and say, Paint me my arms. What arms do you bear? Whence are you? Who were your ancestors? I have painted all your armour on the shield, and if there is anything else, tell me and I will add it.' But the other answered, 'You are giving me vile words, and have spoilt my shield.' And he went away and summoned Giotto before the justice. Giotto appeared, and on his side summoned him, demanding two florins for his painting. And when the court had heard the matter, they gave sentence that the man should take his shield so painted, and pay six lire to Giotto."

It is said that when Giotto was only a boy with Cimabue, he once painted a fly on the nose of a face that Cimabue had drawn, so naturally that the master returning to his work tried more than once to drive it away with his hand, thinking it was real. And I might tell you of many other jests played by Giotto, but of this enough.

 

 

 

AGOSTINO AND AGNOLO OF SIENA,
SCULPTORS AND ARCHITECTS

Vasari's Lives of the Artists
AMONG OTHERS who exercised themselves in the school of the sculptors Giovanni and Niccola of Pisa, Agostino and Agnolo, sculptors of Siena, of whom we are at present about to write the Life, became very excellent for those times. These, according to what I find, were born from a father and mother of Siena, and their forefathers were architects, seeing that in the year iiqo, under the rule of the three Consuls, they brought to perfection the Fontebranda, and afterwards, in the following year, under the same Consulate, the Customs-house of that city and other buildings. And in truth it is clear that very often the seeds of talent germinate in the houses where they have lain for some time, and throw out shoots which afterwards produce greater and better fruits than the first plants had done. Agostino and Agnolo, then, adding great betterment to the manner of Giovanni and Niccola of Pisa, enriched the art with better' design and invention, as their works clearly demonstrate. It is said that the aforesaid Giovanni, returning from Naples to Pisa in the year 1284, stayed in Siena in order to make the design and foundation for the facade of the Duomo, wherein are the three principal doors, to the end that it might be all adorned very richly with marbles ; and that then Agostino, being no more than fifteen years of age, went to be with him in order to apply himself to sculpture, whereof he had learnt the first principles, being no less inclined to this art than to the matters of architecture. And so, under the teaching of Giovanni, by means of continual study he surpassed all his fellow disciples in design, grace, and manner, so greatly that it was said by all that he was the right eye of his master. And because, between people who love each other, there is no gift, whether of nature, or of soul, or of fortune, that is mutually desired so much as excellence, which alone makes men great and noble, and what is more, most happy both in this life and in the other, therefore Agostino, seizing this occasion of assistance from Giovanni, drew his brother Agnolo into the same pursuit. Nor was it a great labour for him to do this, seeing that the intercourse of Agnolo with Agostino and with the other sculptors had already, as he saw the honor and profit that they were drawing from such an art, fired his mind with extreme eagerness and desire to apply himself to sculpture; nay, before Agostino had given a thought to this, Agnolo had wrought certain works in secret.

Agostino, then, being engaged in working with Giovanni on the marble panel of the high-altar in the Vescovado of Arezzo, whereof there has been mention above, contrived to bring there the said Agnolo, his brother, who acquitted himself in this work in such a manner that when it was finished he was found to have equalled Agostino in the excellence of his art. Which circumstance, becoming known to Giovanni, was the reason that after this work he made use of both one and the other in many other works of his that he wrought in Pistoia, in Pisa, and in other places. And seeing that he applied himself not only to sculpture but to architecture as well, no long time passed before, under the rule of the Nine in Siena, Agostino made the design of their Palace in Malborghetto, which was in the year 1308. In the making of this he acquired so great a name in his country, that, returning to Siena after the death of Giovanni, they were made, both one and the other, architects to the State; wherefore afterwards, in the year 1317, there was made under their direction the front of the Duomo that faces towards the north, and in the year 1321, with the design of the same men, there was begun the construction of the Porta Romana in that manner wherein it stands today, and it was finished in the year 1326; which gate was first called Porta S. Martino. They rebuilt, also, the Porta a Tun, which at first was called Porta di S. Agata all' Arco. In the same year, with the design of the same Agostino and Agnolo, there was begun the Church and Convent of S. Francesco, in the presence of Cardinal di Gaeta, Apostolic Legate. No long time after, by the action of some of the Tolomei who were living as exiles at Orvieto, Agostino and Agnolo were summoned to make certain sculptures for the work of S. Maria in that city; wherefore, going there, they carved some prophets in marble which are now, in comparison with the other statues in that facade, the finest and best proportioned in that so greatly renowned work.

Now it came to pass in the year 1326, as it has been said in his Life, that Giotto was called by means of Charles, Duke of Calabria, who was then staying in Florence, to Naples, in order to make some things for King Robert in S. Chiara and other places in that city; wherefore Giotto, passing by way of Orvieto on his way to Naples, in order to see the works that had been made and were still being made there by so many men, wished to see everything minutely. And because the prophets of Agostino and Agnolo of Siena pleased him more than all the other sculptures, it came about therefore that Giotto not only commended them and held them, much to their contentment, among his friends, but also presented them to Piero Saccone da Pietramala as the best of all the sculptors then living, for the making of the tomb of Bishop Guido, Lord and Bishop of Arezzo, which has been mentioned in the Life of Giotto himself. And so then Giotto having seen in Orvieto the works of many sculptors and having judged the best to be those of Agostino and Agnolo of Siena, this was the reason that the said tomb was given to them to make in that manner, however, wherein he had designed it, and according to the model which he himself had sent to the said Piero Saccone. Agostino and Agnolo finished this tomb in the space of three years, executing it with much diligence, and built it into the Church of the Vescovado of Arezzo, in the Chapel of the Sacrament. Over the sarcophagus, which rests on certain great consoles carved more than passing well, there is stretched the body of that Bishop in marble, and at the sides are some angels that are drawing back certain curtains very gracefully. Besides this, there are carved in half-relief, in compartments, twelve scenes from the life and actions of that Bishop, with an infinite number of little figures. I will not grudge the labor of describing the] contents of these scenes, to the end that it may be seen with what great patience they were wrought, and how zealously these sculptors sought the good manner.

In the first is the scene when, assisted by the Ghibelline party of Milan, which sent him money and four hundred masons, he is rebuilding the walls of Arezzo all anew, making them much longer than they were and giving them the form of a galley. In the second is the taking of Lucignano di Valdichiana. In the third, that of Chiusi. In the fourth, that of Fronzoli, then a strong castle above Poppi, and held by the sons of the Count of Battifolle. The fifth is when the Castle of Rondine, after having been many months besieged by the Aretines, is surrendering finally to the Bishop. In the sixth is the taking of the Castle of Bucine in Valdarno. The seventh is when he is taking by storm the fortress of Caprese, which belonged to the Count of Romena, after having maintained the siege for several months. In the eighth the Bishop is having the Castle of Laterino pulled down and the hill that rises above it cut into the shape of a cross, to the end that it may no longer be possible to build a fortress thereon. In the ninth he is seen destroying Monte Sansovino and putting it to fire and flames, chasing from it all the inhabitants. In the eleventh is his coronation, wherein are to be seen many beautiful costumes of soldiers on foot and on horseback, and of other people. In the twelfth, finally, his men are seen carrying him from Montenero, where he fell sick, to Massa, and thence afterwards, now dead, to Arezzo. Round this tomb, also, in many places, are the Ghibelline insignia, and the arms of the Bishop, which are six square stones "or," on a field " azure," in the same ordering as are the six balls in the arms of the Medici; which arms of the house of the Bishop were described by Frate Guittone, chevalier and poet of Arezzo, when he said, writing of the site of the Castle of Pietramala, whence that family had its origin:

Dove si scontra il Giglion con la Chiassa

Ivi furono i miei antecessori,

Che in campo azurro d'or portan sei sassa.

Agnolo and Agostino of Siena, then, executed this work with better art and invention and with more diligence than there had been shown in any work executed in their times. And in truth they deserve nothing but infinite praise, having made therein so many figures and so great a variety of sites, places, towers, horses, men, and other things, that it is indeed a marvel. And although this tomb was in great part destroyed by the Frenchmen of the Duke of Anjou, who sacked the greater part of that city in order to take revenge on the hostile party for certain affronts received, none the less it shows that it was wrought with very good judgment by the said Agostino and Agnolo, who cut on it, in rather large letters, these words :

HOC OPUS FECIT MAGISTER AUGUSTINUS ET MAGISTER ANGELUS DE SENIS.

After this, in the year 1329, they wrought an altar panel of marble for the Church of S. Francesco at Bologna, in a passing good manner; and therein, besides the carved ornamentation, which is very rich, they made a Christ who is crowning Our Lady, and on each side three similar figures S. Francis, S. James, S. Dominic, S. Anthony of Padua, S. Petronius, and S. John the Evangelist, with figures one braccio and a half in height. Below each of the said figures is carved a scene in low-relief from the life of the Saint that is above; and in all these scenes is an infinite number of half-length figures, which make a rich and beautiful adornment, according to the custom of those times. It is seen clearly that Agostino and Agnolo endured very great fatigue in this work, and that they put into it all diligence and study in order to make it, as it truly was, a work worthy of praise; and although they are half eaten away, yet there are to be read thereon their names and the date, by means of which, it being known when they began it, it isj seen that they laboured eight whole years in completing it. It is true, indeed, that in that same time they wrought many other small works in diverse places and for various people.

Now, while they were working in Bologna, that city, by the mediation of a Legate of the Pope, gave herself absolutely over to the Church; and the Pope, in return, promised that he would go to settle with his Court in Bologna, saying that he wished to erect a castle there, or truly a fortress, for his own security. This being conceded to him by the Bolognese, it was immediately built under the direction and design of Agostino and Agnolo, but it had a very short life, for the reason that the Bolognese, having found that the many promises of the Pope were wholly vain, pulled down and destroyed the said fortress, with much greater promptness than it had been built.

It is said that while these two sculptors were staying in Bologna the Po issued in furious flood from its bed and laid waste the whole country round for many miles, doing incredible damage to the territory of Mantua and Ferrara and slaying more than ten thousand persons; and that they, being called on for this reason as ingenious and able men, found a way to put this terrible river back into its course, confining it with dikes and other most useful barriers; which was greatly to their credit and profit, because, besides acquiring fame thereby, they were recompensed by the Lords of Mantua and by the D' Este family with most honorable rewards.

After this they returned to Siena, and in the year 1338, with their direction and design, there was made the new Church of S. Maria, near the Duomo Vecchio, towards Piazza Manetti; and no long time after, the people of Siena, remaining much satisfied with all the works that these men were making, determined with an occasion so apt to put into effect that which had been discussed many times, but up to then in vain namely, the making of a public fountain on the principal square, opposite the Palagio della Signoria. Wherefore, this being entrusted to Agostino and Agnolo, they brought the waters of that fountain through pipes of lead and of clay, which was very difficult, and it began to play in the year 1343, on the first day of June, with much pleasure and contentment to' the whole city, which remained thereby much indebted to the talent of these its two citizens.

About the same time there was made the Great Council Chamber in the Municipal Palace; and so too, with the direction and design of the same men, there was brought to its completion the tower of the said Palace, in the year 1344, and there were placed thereon two great bells, whereof they had one from Grosseto and the other was made in Siena. Finally, while Agnolo chanced to be in the city of Assisi, where he made a chapel and a tomb in marble in the lower Church of S. Francesco for a brother of Napoleone Orsino, a Cardinal and a friar of S. Francis, who had died in that place Agostino, who had remained in Siena in the service of the State, died while he was busy making the design for the adornments of the said fountain in the square, and was honorably buried in the Duomo. I have not yet found, and cannot therefore say anything about the matter, either how or when Agnolo died, or even any other works of importance by their hand; and therefore let this be the end of their Life. >P>Now, seeing that it would be without doubt an error, in following the order of time, not to make mention of some who, although they have not wrought so many works that it is possible to write their whole life, have none the less contributed betterment and beauty to art and to the world, I will say, taking occasion from that which has been said above about the Vescovado of Arezzo and about the Pieve, that Pietrp and Paolo, goldsmiths of Arezzo, who learnt design from Agnolo and Agostino of Siena, were the first who wrought large works of some excellence with the chasing tool, since, for an arch-priest of the said Pieve of Arezzo, they executed a head in silver as large as life, wherein was placed the head of S. Donatus, Bishop and Protector of that city; which work was worthy of nothing but praise, both because they made therein some very beautiful figures in enamel and other ornaments, and because it was one of the first works, as it has been said, that were wrought with the chasing tool.

About the same time, the Guild of Calimara in Florence caused Maestro Cione, an excellent goldsmith, to make the greater part, if not the whole, of the silver altar of S. Giovanni Battista, wherein are many scenes from the life of that Saint embossed on a plate of silver, with passing good figures in half-relief; which work, both by reason of its size and of its being something new, was held marvellous by all who saw it. In the year 1330, after the body of S. Zanobi had been found beneath the vaults of S. Reparata, the same Maestro Cione made a head of silver to contain a piece of the head of that Saint, which is still preserved today in the same head of silver and is borne in processions; which head was then held something very beautiful and gave a great name to its craftsman, who died no long time after, rich and in great repute.

Maestro Cione left many disciples, and among others Forzore di Spinello of Arezzo, who wrought every kind of chasing very well but was particularly excellent in making scenes in silver enamelled over fire, to which witness is borne by a mitre with most beautiful adornments in enamel, and a very beautiful pastoral staff of silver, which are in the Vescovado of Arezzo. The same man wrought for Cardinal Galeotto da Pietramala many works in silver that remained after his death with the friars of La Vernia, where he wished to be buried. There, besides the wall that was erected in that place by Count Orlando, Lord of Chiusi, a small town below La Vernia, the Cardinal built the church, together with many rooms in the convent and throughout that whole place, without putting his arms there or leaving any other memorial. A disciple of Maestro Cione, also, was Leonardo di Ser Giovanni, a Florentine, who wrought many works in chasing and soldering, with better design than the others before him had shown, and in particular the altar and panel of silver in S. Jacopo at Pistoia; in which work, besides the scenes, which are numerous, there was much praise given to a figure in the round that he made in the middle, representing S. James, more than one braccio in height, and wrought with so great finish that it appears rather to have been made by casting than by chasing. This figure is set in the midst of the said scenes on the panel of the altar, round which is a frieze of letters in enamel, that run thus:

AD HONOREM DEI ET SANCTI JACOBI APOSTOLI, HOC OPUS FACTUM

FUIT TEMPORE DOMINI FRANC. PAGNI DICTjE OPERiE OPERARII SUB

ANNO 1371 PER ME LEONARDUM SER JO. DE FLOREN. AURIFIC.

MV

Now, returning to Agostino and Agnolo: they had many disciples who, after their death, wrought many works of architecture and of sculpture in Lombardy and other parts of Italy, and among others Maestro Jacopo Lanfrani of Venice, who founded S. Francesco of Imola and wrought the principal door in sculpture, where he carved his name and the date, which was the year 1343. And at Bologna, in the Church of S. Domenico, the same Maestro Jacopo made a tomb in marble for Giovanni Andrea Calduino, Doctor of Laws and Secretary to Pope Clement VI; and another, also in marble and in the said church, very well wrought, for Taddeo Peppoli, Conservator of the people and of Justice in Bologna. And in the same year, which was the year 1347, or a little before, this tomb being finished, Maestro Jacopo went to his native city of Venice and founded the Church of S. Antonio, which was previously of wood, at the request of a Florentine Abbot of the ancient family of the Abati, the Doge being Messer Andrea Dandolo. This church was finished in the year 1349. Jacobello and Pietro Paolo, also, Venetians and disciples of Agostino and Agnolo, made a tomb in marble for Messer Giovanni da Lignano, Doctor of Laws, in the year 1383, in the Church of S. Domenico at Bologna.

All these and many other sculptors went on for a long space of time following one and the same method, in a manner that with it they filled all Italy. It is believed, also, that the Pesarese, who, besides many other works, built the Church of S. Domenico in his native city, and made in sculpture the marble door with the three figures in the round, God the Father, S. John the Baptist, and S. Mark, was a disciple of Agostino and Agnolo; and to this the manner bears witness. This work was finished in the year 1385. But, seeing that it would take too long if I were to make mention minutely of the works that were wrought by many masters of those times in that manner, I wish that this, that I have said of them thus in general, should suffice me for the present, and above all because there is not any benefit of much account for our arts from such works. Of the aforesaid it has seemed to me proper to make mention, because, if they do not deserve to be discussed at length, yet, on the other hand, they were not such as to need to be passed over completely in silence.

 

 

 

LIVES OF OF (1301-1350), PAINTER OF FLORENCE
AND OF UGOLINO SANESE [UGOLINO DA SIENA]; [UGOLINO DI NERIO] (active 1317, d. 1339/49)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists
STEFANO, PAINTER OF FLORENCE and disciple of Giotto, was so excellent, that he not only surpassed all the others who had labored in the art before him, but outstripped his own master himself by so much that he was held, and deservedly, the best of all the painters who had lived up to that time, as his works clearly demonstrate. He painted in fresco the Madonna of the Campo Santo in Pisa, which is no little better in design and in coloring than the work of Giotto; and in Florence, in the cloister of S. Spirito, he painted three little arches in fresco. In the first of these, wherein is the Transfiguration of Christ with Moses and Elias, imagining how great must have been the splendor that dazzled them, he fashioned the three Disciples with extraordinary and beautiful attitudes, and enveloped in draperies in a manner that it is seen that he went on trying to do something that had never been done before namely, to suggest the nude form of the figures below new kinds of folds, which, as I have said, had not been thought of even by Giotto.

Under this arch, wherein he made a Christ delivering the woman possessed, he drew a building in perspective, perfectly and in a manner then little known, executing it in good form and with better knowledge; and in it, working with very great judgment in modern fashion, he showed so great art and so great invention and proportion in the columns, in the doors, in the windows, and in the cornices, and so great diversity from the other masters in his method of working, that it appears that there was begin- ning to be seen a certain glimmer of the good and perfect manner of the moderns. He invented, among other ingenious ideas, a flight of steps very difficult to make, which, both in painting and built out in relief wrought in either way, in fact is so rich in design and variety, and so useful and convenient in invention, that the elder Lorenzo de' Medici, the Magnificent, availed himself of it in making the outer staircase of the Palace of Poggio a Cajano, now the principal villa of the most Illustrious Lord Duke.

In the other little arch is a story of Christ when he is delivering S. Peter from shipwreck, so well done that one seems to hear the voice of Peter saying: "Domine, salva nos, perimus." This work is judged much more beautiful than the others, because, besides the softness of the draperies, there are seen sweetness in the air of the heads and terror in the perils of the sea, and because the Apostles, shaken by diverse motions and by phantoms of the sea, have been represented in attitudes very appropriate and all most beautiful. And although time has eaten away in part the labors that Stefano put into this work, it may be seen, although but dimly, that the Apostles are defending themselves from the fury of the winds and from the waves of the sea with great energy; which work, being very highly praised among the moderns, must have certainly appeared a miracle in all Tuscany in the time of him who wrought it. After this he painted a S. Thomas Aquinas beside a door in the first cloister of S. Maria Novella, where he also made a Crucifix, which was afterwards executed in a bad manner by other painters in restoring it. In like manner he left a chapel in the church begun and not finished, which has been much eaten away by time, wherein the angels are seen raining down in diverse forms by reason of the pride of Lucifer; where it is to be noticed that the figures, with the arms, trunks, and legs foreshortened much better than any foreshortenings that had been made before, give us to know that Stefano began to understand and to demonstrate in part the difficulties that those men had to reduce to excellence, who afterwards, with greater science, showed them to us, as they have done, in perfection; wherefore the surname of "The Ape of Nature" was given him by the other craftsmen.

Next, being summoned to Milan, Stefano made a beginning for many works for Matteo Visconti, but was not able to finish them, because, having fallen sick by reason of the change of air, he was forced to return to Florence. There, having regained his health, he made in fresco, in the tramezzo of the Church of S. Croce, in the Chapel of the Asini, the story of the martyrdom of S. Mark, when he was dragged to death, with many figures that have something of the good. Being then summoned to Rome by reason of having been a disciple of Giotto, he made some stories of Christ in S. Pietro, in he principal chapel wherein is the altar of the said Saint, between the windows that are in the great choir niche, with so much diligence that it is seen that he approached closely to the modern manner, surpassing his master Giotto considerably in draughtsmanship and in other respects.

After this, on a pillar on the left-hand side of the principal chapel of the Aracoeli, he made a S. Louis in fresco, which is much praised, because it has in it a vivacity never displayed up to that time even by Giotto. And in truth Stefano had great facility in draughtsmanship, as can be seen in our said book in a drawing by his hand, wherein is drawn the Transfiguration (which he painted in the cloister of S. Spirito), in such a manner that in my judgment he drew much better than Giotto.

Having gone, next, to Assisi, he began in fresco a scene of the Celestial Glory in the niche of the principal chapel of the lower Church of S. Francesco, where the choir is; and although he did not finish it, it is seen from what he did that he used so great diligence that no greater could be desired. In this work there is seen begun a circle of saints, both male and female, with so beautiful variety in the faces of the young, the men of middle age, and the old, that nothing better could be desired. And there is seen a very sweet manner in these blessed spirits, with such great harmony that it appears almost impossible that it could have been done in those times by Stefano, who indeed did do it; although there is/ nothing of the figures in this circle finished save the heads, over which is a choir of angels who are hovering playfully about in various attitudes, appropriately carrying theological symbols in their hands, and all turned towards a Christ on the Cross, who is in the middle of this work, over the head of a S. Francis, who is in the midst of an infinity of saints.

Besides this, in the border of the whole work, he made some angels, each of whom is holding in his hand one of those Churches that S. John the Evangelist described in the Apocalypse; and these angels are executed with so much grace that I am amazed how in that age there was_to be found one who knew so much. Stefano began this work with a view to bringing it to the fullest perfection, and he would have succeeded, but he was forced to leave it imperfect and to return to Florence by some important affairs of his own.

During that time, then, that he stayed for this purpose in Florence, in order to lose no time he painted for the Gianfigliazzi, by the side of the Arno, between their houses and the Ponte alia Carraja, a little shrine on a corner that is there, wherein he depicted a Madonna sewing, to whom a boy dressed and seated is handing a bird, with such diligence that the work, small as it is, deserves to be praised no less than do the works that he wrought on a larger and more masterly scale.

This shrine finished and his affairs dispatched, being called to Pistoia by its Lords in the year 1346, he was made to paint the Chapel of S. Jacopo, on the vaulting of which he made a God the Father with some Apostles, and on the walls the stories of that Saint, and in particular when his mother, wife of Zebedee, asks Jesus Christ to consent to place her two sons, one on His right hand and the other on His left hand, in the Kingdom of the Father. Close to this is the beheading of the said Saint, a very beautiful work.

It is reputed that Maso, called Giottino, of whom there will be mention below, was the son of this Stefano; and although many, by reason of the suggestiveness of the name, hold him the son of Giotto, I, by reason of certain records that I have seen, and of certain memoirs of good authority written by Lorenzo Ghiberti and by Domenico del Ghirlandajo, hold it as true that he was rather the son of Stefano than of Giotto. ; Be this as it may, returning to Stefano, it can be credited to him that he did more than anyone after Giotto to improve painting, for, besides being more varied in invention, he was also more harmonious, more mellow, and better blended in coloring than all the others; and above all he had no peer in diligence. And as for those foreshortenings that he made, although, as I have said, he showed a faulty manner in them by reason of the difficulty of making them, none the less he who is the pioneer in the difficulties of any exercise deserves a much greater name than those who follow with a somewhat more ordered and regular manner. Truly great, therefore, is the debt that should be acknowledged to Stefano, because he who walks in darkness and gives heart to others, by showing them the way, brings it about that its difficult steps are made easy, so that with lapse of time men leave the false road and attain to the desired goal. At Perugia, too, in the Church of S. Domenico, he began in fresco the Chapel of S. Caterina, which remained unfinished.

There lived about the same time as Stefano a man of passing good repute, Ugolino, painter of Siena, very much his friend, who painted many panels and chapels throughout all Italy, although he held ever in great part to the Greek manner, as one who, grown old therein, had wished by reason of a certain obstinacy in himself to hold rather to the manner of Cimabue than to that of Giotto, which was so greatly revered. By the hand of Ugolino, then, is the panel of the high altar of S. Croce, on a ground all of gold, and also a panel which stood many years on the high altar of S. Maria Novella and is today in the Chapterhouse, where the Spanish nation every year holds most solemn festival on the day of S. James, with other offices and funeral ceremonies of its own. Besides these, he wrought many other works with good skill, without departing, however, from the manner of his master. The same man made, on a brick pier in the Loggia that Lapo had built on the Piazza d' Orsanmichele, that Madonna which worked so many miracles, not many years later, that the Loggia was for a long time full of images, and is still held in the greatest veneration. Finally, in the Chapel of Messer Ridolfo de' Bardi, which is in S. Croce, where Giotto painted the life of S. Francis, he painted a Crucifix in distemper on the altar panel, with a Magdalene and a S. John weeping, and two friars, one on either side. Ugolino passed away from this life, being old, in the year 1349, and was buried with honor in Siena, his native city.

But returning to Stefano, of whom they say that he was also a good architect, which is proved by what has been said above, he died, so it is said, in the year when there began the jubilee, 1350, at the age of forty-nine, and was laid to rest in the tomb of his fathers, in S. Spirito, with this epitaph: STEPHANO FLORENTINO PICTORI, FACIUNDIS IMAGINIBUS AC COLORANDIS FIGURIS NULLI UNQUAM INFERIORI, AFFINES MOESTISS. POS. VIX. AN. XXXXIX.

 

 

 

PIETRO LORENZETTI (1280-1348)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists

PIETRO LAURATI [LORENZETTI], an excellent painter of Siena, proved in his life how great is the contentment of the truly able, who feel that their works are prized both at home and abroad, and who see themselves sought after by all men, for the reason that in the course of his life he was sent for and held dear throughout all Tuscany, having first become known through the scenes that he painted in fresco for the Scala, a hospital in Siena, wherein he imitated in such wise the manner of Giotto, then spread throughout all Tuscany, that it was believed with great reason that he was destined, as afterwards came to pass, to become a better master than Cimabue and Giotto and the others had been; for the figures that represent the Virgin ascending the steps of the Temple, accompanied by Joachim and Anna, and received by the priest, and then in the Marriage, are so beautifully adorned, so well draped, and so simply wrapped in their garments, that they show majesty in the air of the heads, and a most beautiful manner in their bearing. By reason of this work, which was the first introduction into Siena of the good method of painting, given light to the many beautiful intellects which have flourished in that city in every age, Pietro was invited to Monte Oliveto di Chiusuri, where he painted a panel in distemper that is placed today in the portico below the church. In Florence, next, opposite to the lefthand door of the Church of Santo Spirito, on the corner where today there is a butcher, he painted a shrine which, by reason of the softness of the heads and of the sweetness that is seen in it, deserved the highest praise from every discerning craftsman.

Going from Florence to Pisa, he wrought in the Campo Santo, on the wall that is beside the principal door, all the lives of the Holy Fathers, with expressions so lively and attitudes so beautiful that he equaled Giotto and gained thereby very great praise, having expressed in certain heads, both with drawing and with color, all that vivacity that the manner of those times was able to show. From Pisa he went to Pistoia, where he made a Madonna with some angels round her, very well grouped, on a panel in distemper, for the Church of San Francesco; and in the predella that ran below this panel, in certain scenes, he made certain little figures so lively and so vivid that in those times it was something marvelous; wherefore, since they satisfied himself no less than others, he thought fit to place thereon his name, with these words: PETRUS LAURATI DE SENIS.

Pietro was summoned, next, in the year 1355 [sic], by Messer Guglielmo, arch priest, and by the Wardens of Works of the Pieve of Arezzo, who were then Margarito Boschi and others; and in that church, built long before with better design and manner than any other that had been made in Tuscany up to that time, and all adorned with squared stone and with carvings, as it has been said, by the hand of Margaritone, he painted in fresco the apse and the whole great niche of the chapel of the high altar, making there twelve scenes from the life of Our Lady with figures large as life, beginning with the expulsion of Joachim from the Temple, up to the Nativity of Jesus Christ. In these scenes, wrought in fresco, may be recognized almost the same inventions (the lineaments, the air of the heads, and the attitudes of the figures) which had been characteristic of and peculiar to Giotto, his master. And although all this works is beautiful, what he painted on the vaulting of this niche is without doubt better than all the rest, for in representing the Madonna ascending into Heaven, besides making the Apostles each four braccia high, wherein he showed greatness of spirit and was the first to try to give grandness to the manner, he gave so beautiful an air to the heads and so great loveliness to the vestments that in those times nothing more could have been desired.

Likewise, in the faces of a choir of angels who are flying in the air round the Madonna, dancing with graceful movements, and appearing to sing, he painted a gladness truly angelic and divine, above all because he made the angels sounding diverse instruments, with their eyes all fixed and intent on another choir of angels, who, supported by a cloud in the form of an almond, are bearing the Madonna to Heaven, with beautiful attitudes and all surrounded by rainbows. This work, seeing that it rightly gave pleasure, was the reason that he was commissioned to make in tempera the the panel for the high altar of the aforesaid Pieve; wherein, in five parts, with figures as far as the knees and large as life, he made Our Lady with the Child in her arms, and St. John the Baptist and St. Matthew on the one side, and on the other the Evangelist and St. Donatus, with many little figures in the predella and in the border of the panel above, all truly beautiful and executed in very good manner.

This panel, after I had rebuilt the high altar of the aforesaid Pieve completely anew, at my own expense and with my own hand, was set up over the altar of San Cristofano at the foot of the church. Nor do I wish to grudge the labor of saying in this place, with this occasion and not wide of the subject, that I, moved by Christian piety and by the affection that I bear towards this venerable and ancient collegiate church, and for the reason that in it, in my earliest childhood, I learnt my first lessons, and that it contains the remains of my fathers: moved, I say, by these reasons, and by it appearing to me that it was wellnigh deserted, I have restored it in a manner that it can be said that it has returned from death to life; for besides changing it from a dark to a well-lit church by increasing the windows that were there before and by making others, I have also removed the choir, which, being in front, used to occupy a great part of the church, and to the great satisfaction of those reverend canons I have placed it behind the high altar.

This new altar, standing by itself, has on the panel in front a Christ calling Peter and Andrew from their nets, and on the side towards the choir it has, on another panel, St. George slaying the Dragon. On the sides are four pictures, and in each of these are two saints as large as life. Then above, and below in the predella, there is an infinity of other figures, which, for brevityUs sake, are not enumerated. The ornamental frame of this altar is thirteen braccia high, and the predella is two braccia high. And because within it is hollow, and one ascends to it by a staircase through an iron wicket very conveniently arranged, there are preserved in t many venerable relics, which can be seen from without through two gratings that are in the front part; and among others there is the head of St. Donatus, Bishop and Protector of that city, and in a coffer of variegated marble, three braccia long, which I have had restored, are the bones of four Saints. And the predella of the altar, which surrounds it all right round in due proportion, has in front of it the tabernacle, or rather ciborium, of the Sacrament, made of carved wood and all gilt, about three braccia high; which tabernacle is quite round and can be seen as well from the side of the choir as from in front. And because I have spared no labor and no expense, considering myself bound to act thus in honor of God, this work, in my judgment, has in all those ornaments of gold, of carvings, of paintings, of marbles, of travertines, of variegated marbles, of porphyries, and of other stones, the best that could be got together by me in that place.

But returning now to Pietro Laurati; that panel finished whereof there has been talk above, he wrought in San Pietro in Rome many works which were afterwards destroyed in making the new building of San Pietro. He also wrought some works in Cortona and in Arezzo, besides those that have been mentioned, and some others in the church of Sante Fiora e Lucilla, a monastery of Black Friars, and in particular, in a chapel, a St. Thomas who is putting his hand on the wound in the breast of Christ.

A disciple of Pietro was Bartolommeo Bolognini of Siena, who wrought many panels in Siena and other places in Italy, and in Florence there is one by his hand on the altar of the Chapel of San Silvestro in Santa Croce. The pictures of these men date about the year of our salvation 1350; and in my book, so many times cited, there is seen a drawing by the hand of Pietro, wherein a shoemaker who is sewing, with a simple but very natural lineaments, shows very great expression and the characteristic manner of Pietro, the portrait of whom, by the hand of Bartolommeo Bologhini, was in a panel in Siena, when I copied it from the original in the manner that is seen above.

 

 

 

ANDREA PISANO (active circa 1290-1349)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists




THE ART OF PAINTING never flourished at any time without the sculptors also pursuing their exercise with excellence, and to this the works of all ages bear witness for the close observer, because these two arts are truly sisters, born at one and the same time, and fostered and governed by one and the same soul. This is seen in Andrea Pisano, who, practicing sculpture in the time of Giotto, made so great improvement in this art, that both in practice and in theory he was esteemed the greatest man that the Tuscans had had up to his times in this profession, and above all in casting in bronze. Wherefore his works were honored and rewarded in such a manner by all who knew him, and above all by the Florentines, that it was no hardship to him to change country, relatives, property and friends. He received much assistance from the difficulties experienced in sculpture by the masters who had lived before him, whose sculptures were so uncouth and worthless that whosoever saw them in comparison with those of this man judged the last a miracle. And that these early works were rude, witness is borne, as it has been said elsewhere, by some that are over the principal door of San Paolo in Florence and some in stone that are in the Church of Ognissanti, which are so made that they move those who view them rather to laughter than to any marvel or pleasure. And it is certain that the art of sculpture can recover itself much better, in the event of the essence of statuary being lost (since men have the living and the natural model, which is wholly rounded, as that art requires), than can the art of painting; it being not so easy and simple to recover the beautiful outlines and the good manner, in order to bring the art to the light, for these are the elements that produce majesty, beauty, grace, and adornment in the works that the painters make.

In one respect fortune was favorable to the labors of Andrea, because there had been brought to Pisa, as it has been said elsewhere, by means of the many victories that the Pisans had at sea, many antiquities and sarcophagi that are still round the Duomo and the Camposanto, and these brought him such great assistance and gave him such great light as could not be obtained by Giotto, for the reason that the ancient paintings had not been preserved as much as the sculptures. And although statues are often destroyed by fires and by the ruin and fury of war, and buried or transported to diverse places, nevertheless it is easy for the experienced to recognize the difference in the manner of all countries; as, for example, the Egyptian is slender and lengthy in its figures, the Greek is scientific and shows much study in the nudes, while the heads have almost all the same expression, ad the most ancient Tuscan is labored in the hair and somewhat uncouth. That of the Romans (I call Romans, for the most part, those who, after the subjugation of Greece, betook themselves to Rome, whither all that there was of the good and of the beautiful i the world was carried)--that, I say, is so beautiful, by reason of the expressions, the attitudes, and the movements both of the nude and of the draped figures, that it may be said that they wrested the beautiful from all the other provinces and moulded it into one single manner, to the end that it might be, as it is, the best--nay, the most divine of all.

All these beautiful manners and arts being spent in the time of Andrea, that alone was in use which had been brought by the Goths and by the uncivilized Greeks into Tuscany. Wherefore he, having studied the new method of design of Giotto and those few antiquities that were known to him, refined in great part the grossness of so miserable a manner with his judgment, in such wise that he began to work better and to give much greater beauty to statuary than any other had yet done in that art up to his times. Therefore, his genius and his good skill and dexterity becoming know, he was assisted by many n his country, and while still young he was commissioned to make for Santa Maria a Ponte some little figures in marble, which brought him so good a name that he was sought out with great insistence to come to work in Florence for the Office of Works of Santa Maria del Fiore, which, after a beginning had been made with the facade containing the three doors, was suffering from a dearth of masters to make the scenes that Giotto had designed for the beginning of the said fabric.

Andrea, then, betook himself to Florence for the service of the said Office of Works. And because the Florentines desired at that time to gain the friendship and love of Pope Boniface VIII, who was then Supreme Pontiff of the Church of God, they wished that, before anything else, Andrea should make a portrait in marble of the said Pontiff, from the life. Wherefore, putting his hand to this work, he did not rest until he had finished the figure of the Pope, with a St. Peter and a St. Paul who are one on either side of him; which three figures were placed in the facade of Santa Maria del Fiore, where they still are. Andrea then made certain little figures of prophets for the middle door of the said church, in some shrines or rather niches, from which it is seen that he had brought great betterment to the art, and that he was in advance both in excellence and in design, of all those who had worked up to then on the said fabric. Wherefore it was resolved that all the works of importance should be given to him to do, and not to others; and so, no long time after, he was commissioned to make the four statues of the principal Doctors of the Church, St. Jerome, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, and St. Gregory. And these being finished and acquiring for him favor and fame with the Wardens of Works--nay, with the whole city--he was commissioned to make two other figures in marble of the same size, which were St. Stephen and St. Laurence, now standing in the said facade of Santa Maria del Fiore, at the outermost corners.

By the hand of Andrea, likewise, is the Madonna in marble, three braccia and a half high, with the Child in her arms, which stands on the altar of the little Church of the Company of the Misericordia, on the Piazza di San Giovanni in Florence; which was a work much praised in those times, and above all because he accompanied it with two angels, one on either side, each two braccia and a half high. Round this work there has been made in our own day a frame of wood, very well wrought by Maestro Antonio, called Il Carota; and below, a predella full of most beautiful figures colored in oil by Ridolfo, son of Domenico Ghirlandaio. In like manner, that half-length Madonna in marble that is over the side door of the same Misericordia, in the facade of the Cialdonai, is by the hand of Andrea, and it was much praised, because he imitated therein the good ancient manner, contrary to his wont, which was ever far distant from it, as some drawings testify that are in our book, wrought by his hand, wherein are drawn all the stories of the Apocalypse.

Now, seeing that Andrea had applied himself in his youth to the study of architecture, there came occasion for him to be employed in this by the Commune of Florence; for Arnolfo being dead and Giotto absent, he was commissioned to make the design of the Castle of Scarperia, which is in the Mugello, at the foot of the mountains. Some say, although I would not indeed vouch for it as true, that Andrea stayed a year in Venice,a and there wrought, in sculpture, some little figures in marble that are in the facade of San Marco, and that at the time of Messer Piero Gradenigo, Doge of that Republic, he made the design of the Arsenal; but seeing that I know nothing about it save that which I find to have been written by some without authority, I leave each one to think in his own way about this matter. Andrea having returned from Venice to Florence, the city, fearful of the coming of the Emperor, caused a part of the walls to be raised with lime post-haste to the height of eight braccia, employing in this Andrea, in that portion that is between San Gallo and the Porta al Prato; and in other places he made bastions, stockades, and other ramparts of earth and of wood, very strong.

Now because, three years before, he had shown himself to his own great credit to be an able man in the casting of bronze, having sent to the Pope in Avignon, by means of Giotto, his very great friend, who was then staying at that Court, a very beautiful cross cast in bronze, he was commissioned to complete in bronze one of the doors of the Church of San Giovanni, for which Giotto had already made a very beautiful design, this was given o him, I say, to complete, by reason of his having been judged, among so many who had worked up to then, the most able, the most practiced and the most judicious master not only of Tuscany but of all Italy. Wherefore, putting his hand to this, with a mind determined not to consent to spare either time, or labor, or diligence in executing a work of so great importance, fortune was so propitious to him in the casting, for those times when the secrets were not known that are known today, that within the space of twenty-two years he brought it to that perfection which is seen; and what is more, he also made during that same time not only the shrine for he high altar of San Giovanni, with two angels, one on either side of it, that were held something very beautiful, but also, after the design of Giotto, those little figures in marble that act as adornment for the door of the Campanile of Santa Maria del Fiore, and round the same Campanile, in certain oval spaces, the seven planets, the seven virtues, and the seven works of mercy, little figures in half-relief that were then much praised.

He also made during the same time the three figures, each four braccia high, that were set up in the niches of the said Campanile, beneath the windows that face the spot where the Orphans now are--that is, towards the south; which figures were thought at that time more than passing good. But to return to where I left off: I say that in the said bronze door are little scenes in low relief of the life of St. John the Baptist, that is, from his birth up to his death,wrought happily and with much diligence. And although it seems to many that in these scenes there do not appear that beautiful design and that great art which are now put into figures, yet Andrea deserves nothing but the greatest praise, in that he was the first to put his hand to the complete execution of such a work, which afterwards enabled the others who lived after him to make whatever of the beautiful, of the difficult and of the good is to be seen at the present day in the other two doors and in the external ornaments. This work was placed in the middle door of that church, and stood there until the time when Lorenzo Ghiberti made that one which is there at the present day; for then it was removed and placed opposite the Misericordia, where it still stands. I will not forbear to say that Andrea was assisted in making this door by Nino, his son, who was afterwards a much better master than his father had been, and that it was completely finished in the year 1339, that is, not only made smooth and polished all over, but also gilded by fire; and it is believed that it was cast in metal by some Venetian masters, very expert in the founding of metals, and of this there is found record in the books of the Guild of the Merchants of Calimara, Wardens of the Works of San Giovanni.

While the said door was making Andrea made not only the other works aforesaid but also many others, and in particular the model of the Church of San Giovanni in Pistoia, which was founded in the year 1337. In that same year, on January 25, in excavating the foundations of this church, there was found the body of the Blessed Atto, once Bishop of that city, who had been buried in that place one hundred and thirty-seven years. The architecture, then, of this church, which is round, was passing good for those times. In the principal church of the said city of Pistoia there is also a tomb of marble by the hand of Andrea, with the body of the sarcophagus full of little figures, and some larger figures above; in which tomb is laid to rest the body of Messer Cino d'Anibolgi, Doctor of Laws, and a very famous scholar in his time, as Messer Francesco Petrarca testifies in that sonnet: "Piangete, donne, e con voi pianga Amore"; and also in the fourth chapter of the Triumph of Love, where he says: "Ecco Cino da Pistoia, Guitton d'Arezzo, / Che di non esser primo par ch'ira aggia." In that tomb there is seen the portrait of Messer Cino himself in marble, by the hand of Andrea; he is teaching a number of his scholars, who are round him, with an attitude and manner so beautiful that, although today it might not be prized, in those days it must have been a marvelous thing.

Andrea was also made use of in matters of architecture by Gualtieri, Duke of Athens and Tyrant of the Florentines, who made him enlarge the square, and caused him, in order to safeguard himself in his palace, to secure all the lower windows on the first floor (where today is the Sala del Dugento) with iron bars, square and very strong. The said Duke also added, opposite San Pietro Scheraggio, the walls of rustic work that are beside the palace, in order to enlarge it; and in the thickness of the wall he made a secret staircase, in order to ascend and descend unseen. And at the foot of the said wall of rustic work he made a great door which serves today for the Customs house, and above that his arms, and all with the design and counsel of Andrea; and although these arms were chiseled out by the Council of Twelve, which took paints to efface every memorial of that Duke, there remained none the less in the square shield the form of the lion rampant with two tails, as anyone can see who examines it with diligence. For the same Duke Andrea built many towers round the walls of the city, and he not only made a magnificent beginning for the Porta a San Friano and brought it to the completion that is seen, but also made the walls for the vestibules of all the gates of the city, and the lesser gates for the convenience of the people. And because the Duke had it in his mind to make a fortress on the Costa di San Giorgio, Andrea made the model for it, which afterwards was not used, for the reason that the work was never given a beginning, the Duke having been driven out in the year 1343.

Nevertheless, there was effected in great part the desire of that Duke to bring the palace to the form of a strong castle, because, to that which had been made originally, he added the great mass which is seen today, enclosing within its circuit the houses of the Filipetri, the tower and the houses of the Amidei and Mancini, and those of the Bellalberti. And because, having made a beginning with so great a fabric and with the thick walls and barbicans, he had not all the material that was essential equally in readiness, he held back the construction of the Ponte Vecchio, which was being worked on with all haste as a work of necessity, and availed himself of the stone hewn and the wood prepared for it, without the least scruple. And although Taddeo Gaddi was not perhaps inferior in the matters of architecture to Andrea Pisano, the Duke would not avail himself of him in these buildings, by reason of his being a Florentine, but only of Andrea. The same Duke Gualtieri wished to pull down Santa Cecilia, in order to see from his palace the Strada Romana and the Mercato Nuovo, and likewise to destroy San Pietro Scheraggio for his own convenience, but he had not leave to do this from the Pope; and meanwhile, as it has been said above, he was driven out by the fury of the people.

Deservedly then did Andrea gain, by the honorable labors of so many years, not only very great rewards but also the citizenship; for he was made a citizen of Florence by the Signoria, and was given offices and magistracies in the city, and his works were esteemed both while he lived and after his death, there being found no one who could surpass him in working, until there came Niccolo Aretino, Jacopo della Quercia of Siena, Donatello, Filippo di Ser Brunellesco, and Lorenzo Ghiberti, who executed the sculptures and other works that they made in such a manner that people recognized in how great error they had lived up to that time; for these men recovered with their works that excellence which had been hidden and little known by men for many and many a year. The works of Andrea date about the year of our salvation 1340.

Andrea left many disciples; among others, Tommaso Pisano, architect and sculptor, who finished the Chapel of the Camposanto and added the finishing touch tot he Campanile of the Duomo--namely, that final part wherein are the bells. Tommaso is believed to have been the son of Andrea, this being found written in the panel of the high altar of San Francesco in Pisa, wherein there is, carved in half-relief, a Madonna, with other Saints made by him, and below these his name and that of his father.

Andrea was survived by Nino, his son, who applied himself to sculpture; and his first work was in Santa Maria Novella, where he finished a Madonna in Marble begun by his father, which is within the side door, beside the Chapel of the Minerbetti. Next, having gone to Pisa, he made in the Spina a half-length figure in marble of Our Lady, who is suckling an infant Jesus Christ wrapped in certain delicate draperies. For this Madonna an ornamental frame of marble was made in the year 1522, by the agency of Messer Jacopo Corbini, and another frame, much greater and more beautiful, was made then for another Madonna of marble, which was of full length and by the hand of the same Nino; in the attitude of which Madonna the mother is seen handing a rose with much grace to her Son, who is taking it in a childlike manner, so beautiful that it may be said that Nino was beginning to rob the stone of its hardness and to reduce it to the softness of flesh, giving it lustre by means of the highest polish. This figure is between a St. John and a St. Peter in marble, the head of the latter being portrait of Andrea from the life. Besides this, for an altar in Santa Caterina, also in Pisa, Nino made two statues of Marble--that is, a Madonna, and an Angel who is bringing her the Annunciation, wrought, like his other works, with so great a diligence that it can be said that they are the best that were made in those times. Below this Madonna receiving the Annunciation Nino carved these words on the base: ON THE FIRST DAY OF FEBRUARY, 1370; and below the Angel: THESE FIGURES NINO MADE, THE SON OF ANDREA PISANO. He also made other works in that city and in Naples, whereof it is not needful to make mention. Andrea died at the age of seventy-five, in the year 1345, and was buried by Nino in Santa Maria del Fiore, with this epitaph:

INGENTI ANDREAS JACET HIC PISANUS IN URNA,
MARMORE QUI POTUIT SPIRANTES DUCERE VULTUS,
ET SIMULACRA DEUM MEDIIS IMPONERE TEMPLIS
EX AERE, EX AURO CANDENTI, ET PULCRO ELEPHANTO.

 

 

 

LIFE OF OF BUONAMICO BUFFALMACCO (active 1315-1336)
PAINTER OF FLORENCE

Vasari's Lives of the Artists


BUONAMICO DI CRISTOFANO, called Buffalmacco, painter of Florence, who was a disciple of Andrea Tafi, and celebrated for his jokes by Messer Giovanni Boccaccio in his Decameron, was, as is known, a very dear companion of Bruno and Calandrino, painters equally humorous and gay; and as may be seen in his works, scattered throughout all Tuscany, he was a man of passing good judgment in his art of painting. Franco Sacchetti relates in his three hundred Stories (to begin with the things that this man did while still youthful), that Buffalmacco lived, while he was a lad, with Andrea, and that this master of his used to make it a custom, when the nights were long, to get up before daylight to labor, and to call the lads to night work. This being displeasing to Buonamico, who was made to rise out of his soundest sleep, he began to think of finding a way whereby Andrea might give up rising so much before daylight to work, and he succeeded; for having found thirty large cockroaches, or rather blackbeetles, in a badly swept cellar, with certain fine and short needles he fixed a little taper on the back of each of the said cockroaches, and, the hour coming when Andrea was wont to rise, he lit the tapers and put the animals one by one into the room of Andrea, through a chink in the door. He, awaking at the very hour when he was wont to call Buffalmacco, and seeing those little lights, all full of fear began to tremble and in great terror to recommend himself under his breath to God, like the old gaffer that he was, and to say his prayers or psalms; and finally, putting his head below the bedclothes, he made no attempt for that night to call Buffalmacco, but stayed as he was, ever trembling with fear, up to daylight. In the morning, then, having risen, he asked Buonamico if he had seen, as he had himself, more than a thousand demons; whereupon Buonamico said he had not, because he had kept his eyes closed, and was marvelling that he had not been called to night work. "To night work!" said Tafo, "I have had something else to think of besides painting, and I am resolved at all costs to go and live in another house." The following night, although Buonamico put only three of them into the said room of Tafo, none the less, what with terror of the past night and of those few devils that he saw, he slept not a wink; nay, no sooner was it daylight than he rushed from the house, meaning never to return, and a great business it was to make him change his mind.

At last Buonamico brought the parish priest, who consoled him the best that he could. Later, Tafo and Buonamico discoursing over the affair, Buonamico said: "I have ever heard tell that the greatest enemies of God are the demons, and that in consequence they must also be the most capital adversaries of painters; because, besides that we make them ever most hideous, what is worse, we never attend to aught else than to making saints, male and female, on walls and panels, and to making men more devout and more upright thereby, to the despite of the demons; wherefore, these demons having a grudge against us for this, as beings that have greater power by night than by day they come and play us these tricks, and worse tricks will they play if this use of rising for night work is not given up completely." With these and many other speeches Buffalmacco knew so well how to manage the business, being borne out by what Sir Priest kept saying, that Tafo gave over rising for night work, and the devils ceased going through the house at night with little lights. But Tafo beginning again, for the love of gain, not many months afterwards, having almost forgotten all fear, to rise once more to work in the night and to call Buffalmacco, the cockroaches too began again to wander about; wherefore he was forced by fear to give up the habit entirely, being above all advised to do this by the priest. Afterwards this affair, spreading throughout the city, brought it about that for a time neither Tafo nor other painters made a practice of rising to work at night. Later, and no long time after this, Buffalmacco, having become a passing good master, took leave of Tafo, as the same Franco relates, and began to work for himself; and he never lacked for something to do.

Now, Buffalmacco having taken a house, to work in and to live in as well, that had next door a passing rich woolworker, who, being a simpleton, was called Capodoca (Goosehead), the wife of this man would rise every night very early, precisely when Buffalmacco, having up to then been working, would go to lie down; and sitting at her wheel, which by misadventure she had planted opposite to the bed of Buffalmacco, she would spend the whole night spinning her thread; wherefore Buonamico, being able to get scarce a wink of sleep, began to think and think how he could remedy this nuisance. Nor was it long before he noticed that behind a wall of brickwork, that divided his house from Capodoca's, was the hearth of his uncomfortable neighbor, and that through a hole it was possible to see what she was doing over the fire. Having therefore thought of a new trick, he bored a hole with a long gimlet through a cane, and, watching for a moment when the wife of Capodoca was not at the fire, he pushed it more than once through the aforesaid hole in the wall and put as much salt as he wished into his neighbour's pot; wherefore Capodoca, returning either for dinner or for supper, more often than not could not eat or even taste either broth or meat, so bitter was everything through the great quantity of salt. For once or twice he had patience and only made a little noise about it; but after he saw that words were not enough, he gave blows many a time for this to the poor woman, who was in despair, it appearing to her that she was more than careful in salting her cooking. She, one time among others that her husband was beating her for this, began to try to excuse herself, wherefore Capodoca, falling into even greater rage, set himself to thrash her again in a manner that the woman screamed with all her might, and the whole neighborhood ran up at the noise; and among others there came up Buffalmacco, who, having heard of what Capodoca was accusing his wife and in what way she was excusing herself, said to Capodoca: "I' faith, comrade, this calls for a little reason; thou dost complain that the pot, morning and evening, is too much salted, and I marvel that this good woman of thine can do anything well. I, for my part, know not how, by day, she keeps on her feet, considering that the whole night she sits up over that wheel of hers, and sleeps not, to my belief, an hour. Make her give up this rising at midnight, and them wilt see that, having her fill of sleep, she will have her wits about her by day and will not fall into such blunders."

Then, turning to the other neighbors, he convinced them so well of the grave import of the matter, that they all said to Capodoca that Buonamico was speaking the truth and that it must be done as he advised. He, therefore, believing that it was so, commanded her not to rise in the night, and the pot was then reasonably salted, save when perchance the woman on occasion rose early, for then Buffalmacco would return to his remedy, which finally brought it about that Capodoca made her give it up completely. Buffalmacco, then, among the first works that he made, painted with his own hand the whole church of the Convent of the Nuns of Faenza, which stood in Florence on the site of the present Cittadella del Prato \; and among other scenes that he made there from the life of Christ, in all which he acquitted himself very well, he made the Massacre that Herod ordained of the Innocents, wherein he expressed very vividly the emotions both of the murderers and of the other figures ; for in some nurses and mothers who are snatching the infants from the hands of the murderers and are seeking all the assistance that they can from their hands, their nails, their teeth, and every movement of the body, there is shown on the surface a heart no less full of rage and fury than of woe.

Of this work, that convent being today in ruins, there is to be seen nothing but a colored sketch in our book of drawings by diverse masters, wherein there is this scene drawn by the hand of Buonamico. himself. In the doing of this work for the aforesaid Nuns of Faenza,. seeing that Buffalmacco was a person very eccentric and careless both in dress and in manner of life, it came to pass, since he did not always wear his cap and his mantle, as in those times it was the custom to do, that the nuns, seeing him once through the screen that he had caused to be made, began to say to the steward that it did not please them to see him. in that guise, in his jerkin; however, appeased by him, they stayed for a little without saying more. But at last, seeing him ever in the same guise, and doubting whether he was not some knavish boy for grinding colors, they had him told by the Abbess that they would have liked to see the master at work, and not always him. To which Buonamico answered, like the good fellow that he was, that as soon as the master was there, he would let them know; taking notice, none the less, of the little confidence that they had in him. Taking a stool, therefore, and placing another above it, he put on top of all a pitcher, or rather a water jar, and on the mouth of that he put a cap, hanging over the handle, and then he covered the rest of the jar with a burgher's mantle, and finally, putting a brush in suitable fashion into the spout through which the water is poured, he went off. The nuns, returning to see the work through an opening where the cloth had slipped, saw the supposititious master in full canonicals; wherefore, believing that he was working might and main and was by way of doing different work from that which the untidy knave was doing, they left it at that for some days, without thinking more about it.

Finally, having grown desirous to see what beautiful work the master had done, fifteen days having passed, during which space of time Buonamico had never come near the place, one night, thinking that the master was not there, they went to see his paintings, and remained all confused and blushing by reason of one bolder than the rest discovering the solemn master, who in fifteen days had done not one stroke of work. Then, recognizing that he had served them as they merited and that the works that he had made were worthy of nothing but praise, they bade the steward recall Buonamico, who, with the greatest laughter and delight, returned to the work, having given them to know what difference there is between men and pitchers, and that it is not always by their clothes that the works of men should be judged. In a few days, then, he finished a scene wherewith they were much contented, it appearing to them to be in every way satisfactory, except that the figures appeared to them rather wan and pallid than otherwise in the flesh-tints. Buonamico, hearing this, and having learnt that the Abbess had some Vernaccia, the best in Florence, which was used for the holy office of the Mass, said to them that in order to remedy this defect nothing else could be done but to temper the colours with some good Vernaccia; because, touching the cheeks and the rest of the flesh on the figures with colors thus tempered, they would become rosy and colored in most lifelike fashion. Hearing this, the good sisters, who believed it all, kept him ever afterwards furnished with the best Vernaccia, as long as the work lasted; and he, rejoicing in it, from that time onwards made the figures fresher and more highly colored with his ordinary colors!

This work finished, he painted some stories of S. James in the Abbey of Settimo, in the chapel that is in the cloister, and dedicated to that Saint, on the vaulting of which he made the four Patriarchs and the four Evangelists, among whom S. Luke is doing a striking action in blowing very naturally on his pen, in order that it may yield its ink. Next, in the scenes on the walls, which are five, there are seen beautiful attitudes in the figures, and the whole work is executed with invention and judgment. And because Buonamico was wont, in order to make his flesh color better, as is seen in this work, to make a ground of purple, which in time produces a salt that becomes corroded and eats away the white and other colors, it is no marvel if this work is spoilt and eaten away, whereas many others that were made long before have been very well preserved. And I, who thought formerly that these pictures had received injury from the damp, have since proved by experience, studying other works of the same man, that it is not from the damp but from this particular use of Buffalmacco's that they have become spoilt so completely that there is not seen in them either design or anything else, and that where the flesh colors were there has remained nothing else but the purple. This method of working should be used by no one who is anxious that his pictures should have long life.

Buonamico wrought, after that which has been described above, two panels in distemper for the Monks of the Certosa of Florence, whereof one is where the books of chants are kept for the use of the choir, and the other below in the old chapels. He painted in fresco the Chapel of the Giochi and Bastari in the Badia of Florence, beside the principal chapel; which chapel, although afterwards it was conceded to the family of the Boscoli, retains the said pictures of Buffalmacco up to our own day. In these he made the Passion of Christ, with effects ingenious and beautiful, showing very great humility and sweetness in Christ, who is washing the feet of His Disciples, and ferocity and cruelty in the Jews, who are leading Him to Herod. But he showed talent and facility more particularly in a Filate, whom he painted in prison, and in Judas hanging from a tree; wherefore it is easy to believe what is told about this gay painter namely, that when he thought fit to use diligence and to take pains, which rarely came to pass, he was not inferior to any painter whatsoever of his times. And to show that this is true, the works injresco that he made in Ognissanti, where today there is the cemetery, were wrought with so much diligence and with so many precautions, that the water which has rained over them for so many years has not been able to spoil them or to prevent their excellence from being recognized, and that they have been preserved very well, because they were wrought purely on the fresh plaster. On the walls, then, are the Nativity of Jesus Christ and the Adoration of the Magi that is, over the tomb of the Aliotti. After this work Buonamico, having gone to Bologna, wrought some scenes in fresco in S. Petronio, in the Chapel of the Bolognini that is, on the vaulting; but by reason of some accident, I know not what, supervening, he did not finish them.

It is said that in the year 1302 he was summoned to Assisi, and that in the Church of S. Francesco, in the Chapel of S. Caterina, he painted all the stories of her life in fresco, which have been very well preserved; and there are therein some figures that are worthy to be praised. This chapel finished, on his passing through Arezzo, Bishop Guido, by reason of having heard that Buonamico was a gay fellow and an able painter, desired him to stop in that city and paint for him, in the Vescovado, the chapel where baptisms are now held. Buonamico, having put his hand to the work, had already done a good part of it when there befell him the strangest experience in the world, which was, according to what Franco Sacchetti relates, as follows. The Bishop had an ape, the drollest and the most mischievous that there had ever been. This animal, standing once on the scaffolding to watch Buonamico at work, had given attention to everything, and had never taken his eyes off him when he was mixing the colors, handling the flasks, beating the eggs for making the distempers, and in short when he was doing anything else whatsoever

Now, Buonamico having left off working one Saturday evening, on the Sunday morning this ape, notwithstanding that he had, fastened to his feet, a great block of wood which the Bishop made him carry in order that thus he might not be able to leap wherever he liked, climbed on to the scaffolding whereon Buonamico was used to stand to work, in spite of the very great weight of the block of wood; and there, seizing the flasks with his hands, pouring them one into another and making six mixtures, and beating up whatever eggs there were, he began to daub over with the brushes all the figures there, and, persevering in this performance, did not cease until he had repainted everything with his own hand; and this done, he again made a mixture of all the colors that were left him, although they were but few, and, getting down from the scaffolding, went off. Monday morning having come, Buonamico returned to his work, where, seeing the figures spoilt, the flasks all mixed up, and everything upside down, he stood all in marvel and confusion. Then, having pondered much in his own mind, he concluded finally that some Aretine had done this, through envy or through some other reason; wherefore, having gone to the Bishop, he told him how the matter stood and what he suspected, whereat the Bishop became very much disturbed, but, consoling Buonamico, desired him to put his hand again to the work and to repaint all that was spoilt. And because the Bishop had put faith in his words, which had something of the probable, he gave him six of his men-at-arms, who should stand in hiding with halberds while he was not at work, and, if anyone came, should cut him to pieces without mercy.

The figures, then, having been painted over again, one day that the soldiers were in hiding, lo and behold! they hear a certain rumbling through the church, and a little while after the ape climbing on to the scaffolding; and in the twinkling of an eye, the mixtures made, they see the new master set himself to work over the saints of Buonamico. Calling him, therefore, and showing him the culprit, and standing with him to watch the beast at his work, they were all like to burst with laughter; and Buonamico in particular, for all that he was vexed thereby, could not keep from laughing till the tears came. Finally, dismissing the soldiers who had mounted guard with their halberds, he went off to the Bishop and said to him: " My lord, you wish the painting to be done in one fashion, and your ape wishes it done in another." Then, relating the affair, he added: "There was no need for you to send for painters from elsewhere, if you had the true master at home. But he, perhaps, knew not so well how to make the mixtures; now that he knows, let him do it by himself, since I am no more good here. And his talent being revealed, I am content that there should be nothing given to me for my work save leave to return to Florence." The Bishop, hearing the affair, although it vexed him, could not keep from laughing, and above all as he thought how an animal had played a trick on him who was the greatest trickster in the world. However, after they had talked and laughed their fill over this strange incident, the Bishop persuaded Buonamico to resume the work for the third time, and he finished it. And the ape, as punishment and penance for the crime committed, was shut up in a great wooden cage and kept where Buonamico was working, until this work was entirely finished; and no one could imagine the contortions which that creature kept making in this cage with his face, his body, and his hands, seeing others working and himself unable to take part.

The work in this chapel finished, the Bishop, either in jest or for some other reason known only to himself, commanded that Buffalmacco should paint him, on one wall of his palace, an eagle on the back of a lion which it had killed. The crafty painter, having promised to do all that the Bishop wished, had a good scaffolding made of planks, saying that he refused to be seen painting such a thing. This made, shutting himself up alone inside it, he painted, contrary to what the Bishop wished, a lion that was tearing to pieces an eagle ; and, the work finished, he sought leave from the Bishop to go to Florence in order to get some colors that he was wanting. And so, locking the scaffolding with a key, he went off to Florence, in mind to return no more to the Bishop, who, seeing the business dragging on and the painter not returning, had the scaffolding opened, and discovered that Buonamico had been too much for him. Wherefore, moved by very great displeasure, he had him banished on pain of death, and Buonamico, hearing this, sent to tell him to do his worst; whereupon the Bishop threatened him to a fearful tune. But finally, remembering that he had begun the playing of tricks and that it served him right to be tricked himself, he pardoned Buonamico for his insult and rewarded him liberally for his labors. Nay, what is more, summoning him again no long time after to Arezzo, he caused him to make many works in the Duomo Vecchio, which are now destroyed, treating him ever as his familiar friend and very faithful servant. The same man painted the niche of the principal chapel in the Church of S. Giustino, also in Arezzo.

Some writers tell that Buonamico being in Florence and often frequenting the shop of Maso del Saggio with his friends and companions, he was there, with many others, arranging the festival which the men of the Borgo San Friano held on May 1 in certain boats on the Arno; and that when the Ponte alia Carraia, which was then of wood, collapsed by reason of the too great weight of the people who had flocked to that spectacle, he did not die there, as many others did, because, precisely at the moment when the bridge collapsed on to the structure that was representing Hell on the boats in the Arno, he had gone to get some things that were wanting for the festival.

Being summoned to Pisa no long time after these events, Buonamico painted many stories of the Old Testament in the Abbey of S. Paolo a Ripa d'Arno, then belonging to the Monks of Vallombrosa, in both tran- septs of the church, on three sides, and from the roof down to the floor, beginning with the Creation of man, and continuing up to the completion of the Tower of Nimrod. In this work, although it is today for the greater part spoilt, there are seen vivacity in the figures, good skill and loveliness in the coloring, and signs to show that the hand of Buonamico could very well express the conceptions of his mind, although he had little power of design. On the wall of the right transept which is opposite to that wherein is the side door, in some stories of S. Anastasia, there are seen certain ancient costumes and headdresses, very charming and beautiful, in some women who are painted there with graceful manner. Not less beautiful, also, are those figures that are in a boat, with well-conceived attitudes, among which is the portrait of Pope Alexander IV, which Buonamico had, so it is said, from Tafo his master, who had portrayed that Pontiff in mosaic in S. Pietro. In the last scene, likewise, wherein is the martyrdom of that Saint and of others, Buonamico expressed very well in the faces the fear of death and the grief and terror of those who are standing to see her tortured and put to death, while she stands bound to a tree and over the fire.

A companion of Buonamico in this work was Bruno di Giovanni, a painter, who is thus called in the old book of the Company; which Bruno (also celebrated as a gay fellow by Boccaccio), the said scenes on the walls being finished, painted the altar of S. Ursula with the company of virgins in the same church. He made in one hand of the said Saint a standard with the arms of Pisa, which are a white cross on a field of red, and he made her offering the other hand to a woman who, rising between two mountains and touching the sea with one of her feet, is stretching both her hands to her in the act of supplication ; which woman, representing Pisa, and having on her head a crown of gold and over her shoulders a mantle covered with circlets and eagles, is seeking assistance from that Saint, being much in travail in the sea. Now, for the reason that in painting this work Bruno was bewailing that the figures which he was making therein had not the same life as those of Buonamico, the latter, in his waggish way, in order to teach him to make his figures not merely vivacious but actually speaking, made him paint some words issuing from the mouth of that woman who is supplicating the Saint, and the answer of the Saint to her, a device that Buonamico had seen in the works that had been made in the same city by Cimabue. This expedient, even as it pleased Bruno and the other thick-witted men of those times, in like manner pleases certain boors today, who are served therein by craftsmen as vulgar as themselves. And in truth it seems extraordinary that from this beginning there should have passed into use a device that was employed for a jest and for no other reason, inso- much that even a great part of the Campo Santo, wrought by masters of repute, is full of this rubbish.

The works of Buonamico, then, finding much favor with the Pisans, he was charged by the Warden of the Works of the Campo Santo to make four scenes in fresco, from the beginning of the world up to the construction of Noah's Ark, and round the scenes an ornamental border, wherein he made his own portrait from the life namely, in a frieze, in the middle of which, and on the corners, are some heads, among which, as I have said, is seen his own, with a cap exactly like the one that is seen above. And because in this work there is a God, who is upholding with his arms the heavens and the elements nay, the whole body of the universe Buonamico, in order to explain his story with verses similar to the pictures of that age, wrote this sonnet in capital letters at the foot, with his own hand, as may still be seen; which sonnet, by reason of its antiquity and of the simplicity of the language of those times, it has seemed good to me to include in this place, although in my opinion it is not likely to give much pleasure, save perchance as something that bears witness as to what was the knowledge of the men of that century:

Voi che avisate questa dipintura

Di Dio pietoso, sommo creatore,

Lo qual fe' tutte cose con amore,

Pesate, numerate ed in misura;

In nove gradi angelica natura,

In ello empirio ciel pien di splendore,

Colui che non si muove ed e motore,

Ciascuna cosa fece buona e pura.

Levate gli occhi del vostro intelletto,

Considerate quanto e ordinato

Lo mondo universale; e con affetto

Lodate lui che 1' ha si ben create;

Pensate di passare a tal diletto

Tra gli Angeli, dov' e ciascun beato.

Per questo mondo si vede la gloria,

Lo basso e il mezzo e 1' alto in questa storia.

And to tell the truth, it was very courageous in Buonamico to undertake to make a God the Father five braccia high, with the hierarchies, the heavens, the angels, the zodiac, and all the things above, even to the heavenly body of the moon, and then the element of fire, the air, the earth, and finally the nether regions ; and to fill up the two angles below he made in one, S. Augustine, and in the other, S. Thomas Aquinas. At the head of the same Campo Santo, where there is now the marble tomb of Corte, Buonamico painted the whole Passion of Christ, with a great number of figures on foot and on horseback, and all in varied and beautiful attitudes; and continuing the story he made the Resurrection and the Apparition of Christ to the Apostles, passing well. Having finished these works and at the same time all that he had gained ^Pisa, which was not little, he returned to Florence as poor as he had left it, and there he made many panels and works in fresco, whereof there is no need to make further record. Meanwhile there had been entrusted to Bruno, his great friend (who had returned with him from Pisa, where they had squandered everything), some works in S. Maria Novella, and seeing that Bruno had not much design or invention, Buonamico designed for him all that he afterwards put into execution on a wall in the said church, opposite to the pulpit and as long as the space between column and column, and that was the story of S. Maurice and his companions, who were beheaded for the faith of Jesus Christ. This work Bruno made for Guido Campese, then Constable of the Florentines, whose portrait he had made before he died in the year 1312; in that work he painted him in his armour, as was the custom in those times, and behind him he made a line of men-at-arms, armed in ancient fashion, who make a beautiful effect, while Guido himself is kneeling before a Madonna who has the Child Jesus in her arms, and is appearing to be recommended to her by S. Dominic and S. Agnes, who are on either side of him. Although this picture is not very beautiful, yet, considering the design and invention of Buonamico, it is worthy to be in part praised, and above all by reason of the costumes, helmets, and other armor of those times. And I have availed myself of it in some scenes that I have made for the Lord Duke Cosimo, wherein it was necessary to represent men armed in ancient fashion, and other similar things of that age; which work has greatly pleased his most Illustrious Excellency and others who have seen it. And from this it can be seen how much benefit may be gained ) from the inventions and works made by these ancients, although they I may not be very perfect, and in what fashion profit and advantage can// be drawn from their performances, since they opened the way for us tto the marvels that have been made up to our day and are being made continually.

While Bruno was making this work, a peasant desiring that Buonamico should make him a S. Christopher, they came to an agreement in Florence and arranged a contract in this fashion, that the price should be eight florins and that the figure should be twelve braccia high. Buonamico, then, having gone to the church where he was to make the S. Christopher, found that by reason of its not being more than nine braccia either in height or in length, he could not, either without or within, accommodate the figure in a manner that it might stand well; wherefore he made up his mind, since it would not go in upright, to make it within the church lying down. But since, even so, the whole length would not go in, he was forced to bend it from the knees downwards on to the wall at the head of the church. The work finished, the peasant would by no means pay for it; nay, he made an outcry and said he had been cozened. The matter, therefore, going before the Justices, it was judged, according to the contract, that Buonamico was in the right.

In S. Giovanni fra I'Arcore was a very beautiful Passion of Christ by the hand of Buonamico, and among other things that were much praised therein was a Judas hanging from a tree, made with much judgment and beautiful manner. An old man, likewise, who was blowing his nose, was most natural, and the Maries, broken with weeping, had expressions and aspects so sad, that they deserved to be greatly praised, since that age had not as yet much facility in the method of representing V the emotions of the soul with the brush. On the same wall there was a good figure in a S. Ivo of Brittany, who had many widows and orphans at his feet, and two angels in the sky, who were crowning him, were made with the sweetest manner. This edifice and the pictures together were thrown to the ground in the year of the war of 1529.

In Cortona. also, for Messer Aldobrandino, Bishop of that city, Buonamico painted many works in the Vescovado, and in particular the chapel and panel of the high altar; but seeing that everything was thrown to the ground in renovating the palace and the church, there is no need to make further mention of them. In S. Francesco, however, and in S. Margherita, in the same city, there are still some pictures by the hand of Buonamico. From Cortona going once more to Assisi, Buonamico painted in fresco, in the lower Church of S. Francesco, the whole Chapel of Cardinal Egidio Alvaro, a Spaniard; and because he acquitted himself very well, he was therefore liberally rewarded by that Cardinal. Finally, Buonamico having wrought many pictures throughout the whole March, in returning to Florence he stopped at Perugia, and painted there in fresco the Chapel of the Buontempi in the Church of S. Domenico, making therein stories of the life of S. Catherine, virgin and martyr. And in the Church of S. Domenico Vecchio, on one wall, he painted in fresco the scene when the same Catherine, daughter of King Costa, making disputation, is convincing and converting certain philosophers to the faith of Christ; and seeing that this scene is more beautiful than any other that Buonamico ever made, it can be said with truth that in this work he surpassed himself. The people of Perugia, moved by this, according to what Franco Sacchetti writes, commanded that he should paint S. Ercolano, Bishop and Protector of that city, in the square ; wherefore, having agreed about the price, on the spot where the painting was to be done there was made a screen of planks and matting, to the end that the master might not be seen painting; and this made, he put his hand to the work.

But before ten days had passed, every passer-by asking when this picture would be finished, as though such works were cast in moulds, [* Proverbial expression, equivalent to our "twinkling of an eye."] the matter disgusted Buonamico; wherefore, having come to the end of the work and being distracted with such importunity, he determined within himself to take a gentle vengeance on the impatience of these people. And this came to pass, for, when the work was finished, before unveiling it, he let them see it, and it was entirely to their satisfaction; but on the people of Perugia wishing to remove the screen at once, Buonamico said that for two days longer they should leave it standing, for the reason that he wished to retouch certain parts on the dry; and so it was done. Buonamico, then, having mounted the scaffolding, removed the great diadem of gold that he had given to the Saint, raised in relief with plaster, as was the custom in those times, and made him a crown, or rather garland, right round his head, of roaches; and this done, one morning he settled with his host and went off to Florence. Now, two days having passed, the people of Perugia, not seeing the painter going about as they had been used, asked the host what had become of him, and, hearing that he had returned to Florence, went at once to remove the screen; and finding their S. Ercolano crowned solemnly with roaches, they sent word of it immediately to their governors. But although these sent horsemen post-haste to look for Buonamico, it was all in vain, seeing that he had returned in great haste to Florence. Having determined, then, to make a painter of their own remove the crown of roaches and restore the diadem to the Saint, they said all the evil that can be imagined about Buonamico and the rest of the Florentines.

Buonamico, back in Florence and caring little about what the people of Perugia might say, set to work and made many paintings, whereof, in order not to be too long, there is no need to make mention. (I will say only this, that having painted in fresco at Calcinaia a Madonna with the Child in her arms, he who had charged him to do it, in place of paying him, gave him words; whence Buonamico, who was not used to being trifled with or being fooled, determined to get his due by hook or by crook. And so, having gone one morning to Calcinaia, he transformed the child that he had painted in the arms of the Virgin into a little bear, but in colors made only with water, without size or distemper. This change being seen, not long after, by the peasant who had given him the work to do, almost in despair he went to find Buonamico, praying him for the sake of Heaven to remove the little bear and to paint another child as before, for he was ready to make satis- faction. This the other did amicably, being paid for both the first and the second labour without delay; and for restoring the whole work a wet sponge sufficed. Finally, seeing that it would take too long were I to wish to relate all the tricks, as well as all the pictures, that Buonamico Buffalmacco made, and above all when frequenting the shop of Maso del Saggio, which was the resort of citizens and of all the gay and mischievous spirits that there were in Florence, I will make an end of discoursing about him.

He died at the age of seventy-eight, and being very poor and having done more spending than earning, by reason of being such in character, he was supported in his illness by the Company of the Misericordia in S. Maria Nuova, the hospital of Florence; and then, being dead, he was buried in the Ossa (for so they call a cloister, or rather cemetery, of the hospital), like the rest of the poor, in the year 1340. The works of this man were prized while he lived, and since then, for works of that age, they have been ever extolled.

 

 

 

AMBROGIO LORENZETTI (circa 1290-circa 1348)
PAINTER OF SIENA

Vasari's Lives of the Artists
If that debt is great, as without doubt it is, which craftsmen of fine genius should acknowledge to nature, much greater should that be that is due from us to them, seeing that they, with great solicitude, fill the cities with noble and useful buildings and with lovely historical compositions, gaining for themselves, for the most part, fame and riches with their works; as did Ambrogio Lorenzetti, painter of Siena, who showed beautiful and great invention in grouping and placing his figures thoughtfully in historical scenes. That this is true is proved by a scene in the Church of the Friars Minor in Siena, painted by him very gracefully in the cloister, wherein there is represented in what manner a youth becomes a friar, and how he and certain others go to the Soldan, and are there beaten and sentenced to the gallows and hanged on a tree, and finally beheaded, with the addition of a terrible tempest. In this picture, with much art and dexterity, he counterfeited in the travailing of the figures the turmoil of the air and the fury of the rain and of the wind, wherefrom the modern masters have learnt the method and the principle of this invention, by reason of which, since it was unknown before, he deserved infinite commendation.

Ambrogio was a practised colorist in fresco, and he handled colors in distemper with great dexterity and facility, as it is still seen in the panels executed by him in Siena for the little hospital called Mona Agnesa, where he painted and finished a scene with new and beautiful composition. And at the great hospital, on one front, he made in fresco the Nativity of Our Lady and the scene when she is going with the virgins to the Temple. For the Friars of S. Augustine in the same city he painted their Chapterhouse, where the Apostles are seen represented on the vaulting, with scrolls in their hands whereon is written that part of the Creed which each one of them made; and below each is a little scene containing in painting that same subject that is signified above by the writing. Near this, on the main front, are three stories of S. Catherine the martyr, who is disputing with the tyrant in a temple, and, in the middle, the Passion of Christ, with the Thieves on the Cross, and the Maries below, who are supporting the Virgin Mary who has swooned; which works were finished by him with much grace and with beautiful manner.

In a large hall of the Palazzo della Signoria in Siena he painted the War of Asinalunga, and after it the Peace and its events, wherein he fashioned a map, perfect for those times; and in the same palace he made eight scenes in terra-verde, highly finished. It is said that he also sent to Volterra a panel in distemper which was much praised in that city. And painting a chapel in fresco and a panel in distemper at Massa, in company with others, he gave them proof how great, both in judgment and in genius, was his worth in the art of painting; and in Orvieto he painted in fresco the principal Chapel of S. Maria. After these works, proceeding to Florence, he made a panel in S. Procolo, and in a chapel he painted the stories of S. Nicholas with little figures, in order to satisfy certain of his friends, who desired to see his method of working; and, being much practised, he executed this work in so short a time that there accrued to him fame and infinite repute. And this work, on the predella of which he made his own portrait, brought it about that in the year 1335 he was summoned to Cortona by order of Bishop Ubertini, then lord of that city, where he wrought certain works in the Church of S. Margherita, built a short time before for the Friars of S. Francis on the summit of the hill, and in particular the half of the vaulting and the walls, so well that, although today they are wellnigh eaten away by time, there are seen notwithstanding most beautiful effects in the figures; and it is clear that he was deservedly commended for them.

This work finished, Ambrogio returned to Siena, where he lived honorably the remainder of his life, not only by reason of being an excellent master in painting, but also because, having given attention in his youth to letters, they were a useful and pleasant accompaniment to him in his painting, and so great an ornament to his whole life that they rendered him no less popular and beloved than did his profession of painting; wherefore he was not only intimate with men of learning and of taste, but he was also employed, to his great honor and advantage, in the government of his Republic. The ways of Ambrogio were in all respects worthy of praise, and rather those of a gentleman and a philosopher than of a craftsman; and what most demonstrates the wisdom of men, he had ever a mind disposed to be content with that which the world and time brought, wherefore he supported with a mind temperate and calm the good and the evil that came to him from fortune. And truly it cannot be told to what extent courteous ways and modesty, with the other good habits, are an honourable accompaniment to all the arts, and in particular to those that are derived from the intellect and from noble and exalted talents; wherefore every man should make himself no less beloved with his ways than with the excellence of his art.

Finally, at the end of his life, Ambrogio made a panel at Monte Oliveto di Chiusuri with great credit to himself, and a little afterwards, being eighty-three years of age, he passed happily and in the Christian faith to a better life. His works date about 1340.

As it has been said, the portrait of Ambrogio, by his own hand, is seen in the predella of his panel in S. Procolo, with a cap on his head. And what was his worth in draughtsmanship is seen in our book, wherein are some passing good drawings by his hand.

 

 

 

PIETRO CAVALLINI (1250-1344)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists





FOR MANY CENTURIES Rome had been deprived not only of fine letters and of the glory of arms but also of all the sciences and fine arts, when, by the will of God, there was born Pietro Cavallini, in those times when Giotto, having, it may be said, restored painting to life, was holding the sovereignty among the painters in Italy, He, then, having been a disciple of Giotto and having worked with Giotto himself on the Navicella in mosaic in San Pietro, was the first who, after him, gave light to that art, and he began to show that he had been no unworthy disciple of so great a master when he painted, over the door of the sacristy of the Araceli, some scenes that are today eaten away by time, and very many works colored in fresco throughout the whole church of Santa Maria in Trastevere. Afterwards, working in mosaic on the principal chapel and on the facade of the church, he showed in the beginning of such a work, without the help of Giotto, that he was no less able in the execution and bringing to completion of mosaics than he was in painting.

Making many scenes in fresco, also, in the Church of San Grisogono, he strove to make himself known both as the best disciple of Giotto and as a good craftsman. In like manner, also in Trastevere, he painted almost the whole church of Santa Cecilia with his own hand, and many works in the church of San Francesco appresso Ripa. He then made the facade of mosaic in San Paolo without Rome, and many stories of the Old Testament for the central nave. And painting some works in fresco in the chapterhouse of the first cloister, he put therein so great diligence that he gained thereby from men of judgment the name of being a most excellent master, and was therefore so much favored by the prelates that they commissioned him to do the inner wall of San Pietro, between the windows. Between these he made the four Evangelists, wrought very well in fresco, of extraordinary size in comparison with the figures that at that time were customary, with a St. Peter and a St. Paul, and a good number of figures in a ship, wherein, the Greek manner pleasing him much, he blended it ever with that of Giotto; and since he delighted to give relief to his figures, it is recognized that he used thereunto the greatest efforts that can be imagined by man.

But the best work he made in that city was in the said church of Araceli on the Campidoglio, where he painted in fresco, on the vaulting of the principal apse, the Madonna with the Child in her arms, surrounded by a circle of sunlight, and beneath is the Emperor Octavian, to whom the Tiburtine Sibyl is showing Jesus Christ, and he is adoring Him; and the figures in this work, as it has been said in other places, have been much better preserved than the others, because those that are on the vaulting are less injured by dust than those that are made on the walls.

After these works Pietro went to Tuscany, in order to see the works of the other disciples of his master Giotto and those of Giotto himself; and with this occasion he painted many figures in San Marco in Florence, which are not seen today, the church having been whitewashed, except the Annunciation, which stands covered beside the principal door of the church. In San Basilio, also, in the Canto alla Macine, he made another Annunciation in fresco on a wall, so like to that which he had made before in San Marco, and to another one that is in Florence, that some believe, and not without probability, that they are all by the hand of this Pietro; and in truth they could not be more like, one to another, than they are. Among the figures that he made in the said San Marco in Florence was the portrait of Pope Urban V from the life, with the heads of St. Peter and St. Paul; from which portrait Fra Giovanni da Fiesole copied that one which is in a panel in San Domenico, also of Fiesole; and that was no small good fortune, seeing that the portrait which was in San Marco and many other figures that were about the church in fresco were covered with whitewash, as it has been said, when that convent was taken from the monks who occupied it before and given to the Preaching Friars, the whole being whitewashed with little attention and consideration.

Passing afterwards, in return to Rome, through Assisi, not only in order to see those buildings and those notable works made there by his master and by some of his fellow disciples, but also to leave something there by his own hand, he painted in fresco in the lower Church of San Francesco--namely, in the transept that is on the side of the sacristy--a Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, with men on horseback armed in various fashions, and with many varied and extravagant costumes of diverse foreign peoples. In the air he made some angels, who, poised on their wings in diverse attitudes, are in a storm of weeping; and some pressing their hands to their breasts, others wringing them, and others beating the palms, they are showing that they feel the greatest grief at the death of the Son of God; and all, from the middle backwards, or rather from the middle downwards, melt away into air.

In this work, well executed in the coloring, which is fresh and vivacious and so well contrived in the unctions of the plaster that the work appears all made in one day, I have found the coat of arms of Gualtieri, Duke of Athens; but by reason of there not being either a date or other writing there, I cannot affirm that it was caused to be made by him. I say, however, that besides the firm belief of everyone that it is by the hand of Pietro, the manner could not be more like his than it is, not to mention that it may be believed, this painter having lived at the time when Duke Gualtieri was in Italy, that it was made by Pietro as well as by order of the said Duke. At least, let everyone think as he pleases, the work, as ancient, is worthy of nothing by praise, and the manner, besides the public voice, shows that it is by the hand of this man.

In the church of Santa Maria at Orvieto, where there is the most holy relic of the Corporal, the same Pietro wrought in fresco certain stories of Jesus Christ and of the Host, with much diligence; and this he did, so it is said, for Messer Benedetto, son of Messer Buonconte Monaldeschi and lord at that time, or rather tyrant, of that city. Some likewise affirm that Pietro made some sculptures, and that they were very successful, because he had genius for whatever he set himself to do, and that he made the Crucifix that is in the great church of San Paolo without Rome; which Crucifix, as it is said and may be believed, is the one that spoke to St. Brigida in the year 1370.

By the hand of the same man were some other works in that manner, which were thrown to the ground when the old church of San Pietro was pulled down in order to build the new. Pietro was very diligent in all his works, and sought with every effort to gain honor and to acquire fame in the art. He was not only a good Christian, but most devout and very much the friend of the poor, and he was beloved by reason of his excellence not only in his native city of Rome but by all those who had knowledge of him or of his works. And finally, he devoted himself at the end of his old age to religion, leading an exemplary life, with so much zeal that he was almost held a saint. Wherefore there is no reason to marvel not only that the said Crucifix by his hand spoke to the Saint, as it has been said, but also that innumerable miracles have been and still are wrought by a certain Madonna by his hand, which I do not intend to call his best, although it is very famous in all Italy and although I know very certainly and surely, by the manner of the painting, that it is by the hand of Pietro, whose most praiseworthy life and piety towards God were worthy to be imitated by all men. Nor let anyone believe, for the reason that it is scarcely possible and that experience continually shows this to us, that it is possible to attain to honorable rank without the fear and grace of God and without goodness of life. A disciple of Pietro Cavallino was Giovanni da Pistoia, who made some works of no great importance in his native city.

Finally, at the age of eighty-five, he died in Rome of a colic caught while working in fresco, by reason of the damp and of standing continually at this exercise. His pictures date about the year 1364, and he was honorably buried in San Paolo without Rome, with this epitaph:

QUANTUM ROMANAE PETRUS DECUS ADDIDIT URBI
PICTURA, TANTUM DAT DECUS IPSE POLO.
His portrait has never been found, for all the diligence that has been used; it is therefore not included.

 

 

 

LIVES OF SIMONE MARTINI (1285-1344) and LIPPO MEMMI (d. 1357)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists


TRULY HAPPY can those men be called, who are inclined by nature to those arts that can bring to them not only honour and very great profit, but also, what is more, fame and a name wellnigh eternal, and happier still are they who have from their cradles, besides such inclination, courtesy and honest ways, which render them very dear to all men. But happiest of all, finally, talking of craftsmen, are they who not only receive a love of the good from nature, and noble ways from the same source and from education, but also live in the time of some famous writer, from whom, in return for a little portrait or some other similar courtesy in the way of art, they gain on occasion the reward of eternal honor and name, by means of their writings; and this, among those who practise the arts of design, should be particularly desired and sought by the excellent painters, seeing that their works, being on the surface and on a ground of colour, cannot have that eternal life which castings in bronze and works in marble give to sculpture, or buildings to the architects.

Very great, then, was that good fortune of Simone, to live at the time of Messer Francesco Petrarca and to chance to find that most amorous poet at the Court of Avignon, desirous of having the image of Madonna Laura by the hand of Maestro Simone, because, having received it as beautiful as he had desired, he made memory of him in two sonnets, whereof one begins:

Per mirar Policleto a prova fiso

Con gli altri che ebber f ama di quell' arte;

and the second:

Quando giunse a Simon 1' alto concetto
Ch' a mio nome gli pose in man lo stile.

These sonnets, in truth, together with the mention made of him in one of his Familiar Letters, in the fifth book, which begins: "Non sum nescius," have given more fame to the poor life of Maestro Simone than all his own works have ever done or ever will, seeing that they must at some time perish, whereas the writings of so great a man will live for eternal ages. Simone Memmi of Siena, then, was an excellent painter, remarkable in his own times and much esteemed at the Court of the Pope, for the reason that after the death of Giotto his master, whom he had followed to Rome when he made the Navicella in mosaic and the other works, he made a Virgin Mary in the portico of S. Pietro, with a S. Peter and a S. Paul, near to the place where the bronze pinecone is, on a wall between the arches of the portico on the outer side; and in this he counterfeited the manner of Giotto very well, receiving, so much praise, above all because he portrayed therein a sacristan of S. Pietro lighting some lamps before the said figures with much promptness, that he was summoned with very great insistence to the Court of the Pope at Avignon, where he wrought so many pictures, in fresco and on panels, that he made his works correspond to the reputation that had been borne thither. Whence, having returned to Sjena in great credit and much favoured on this account, he was commissioned by the Signoria to paint in fresco, in a hall of their Palace, a Virgin Mary with many figures round her, which he completed with all perfection to his own great credit and advantage. And in order to show that he was no less able to work on panel than in fresco, he painted in the said Palace a panel which led to his being afterwards made to paint two of them in the Duomo, and a Madonna with the Child in her arms, in a very beautiful attitude, over the door of the Office of the Works of the said Duomo. In this picture certain angels, supporting a standard in the air, are flying and looking down on to some saints who are round the Madonna, and they make a very beautiful composition and great adornment.

This done, Simone was brought by the General of the Augustinians to Florence, where he painted the Chapterhouse of S. Spirito, showing invention and admirable judgment in the figures and the horses that he made, as is proved in that place by the story of the Passion of Christ, wherein everything is seen to have been made by him with ingenuity, with discretion, and with most beautiful grace. There are seen the Thieves on the Cross yielding up their breath, and the soul of the good one being carried to Heaven by the angels, and that of the wicked one going, accompanied by devils and all harassed, to the torments of Hell. Simone likewise showed invention and judgment in the attitudes and in the very bitter weeping of some angels round the Crucifix. But what is most worthy of consideration, above everything else, is to see those spirits visibly cleaving the air with their shoulders, almost whirling right round and yet sustaining the motion of their flight. This work would bear much stronger witness to the excellence of Simone, if, besides the fact that time has eaten it away, it had not been spoilt by those Fathers in the year 1560, when they, being unable to use the Chapterhouse, because it was in bad condition from damp, made a vaulted roof to replace a worm-eaten ceiling, and threw down the little that was left of the pictures of this man. About the same time Simone painted a Madonna and a S. Luke, with some other Saints, on a panel in distemper, which is today in the Chapel of the Gondi in S. Maria Novella, with his name.

Next, Simone painted three walls of the Chapterhouse of the said S. Maria Novella, very happily. For the first, which is over the door whereby one enters, he made the life of S. Dominic; and on that which follows in the direction of the church, he represented the Religious Order of the same Saint fighting against the heretics, represented by wolves, which are attacking some sheep, which are defended by many dogs spotted with black and white, and the wolves are beaten back and slain. There are also certain heretics, who, being convinced in disputation, are tearing their books and penitently confessing themselves, and so their souls are passing through the gate of Paradise, wherein are many little figures that are doing diverse things. In Heaven is seen the glory of the Saints, and Jesus Christ ; and in the world below remain the vain pleasures and delights, in human figures, and above all in the shape of women who are seated, among whom is the Madonna Laura of Petrarca, portrayed from life and clothed in green, with a little flame of fire between her breast and her throat. There is also the Church of Christ, and, as a guard for her, the Pope, the Emperor, the Kings, the Cardinals, the Bishops, and all the Christian Princes; and among them, beside a Knight of Rhodes, is Messer Francesco Petrarca, also portrayed from the life, which Simone did in order to enhance by his works the fame of the man' who had made him immortal. For the Universal Church he painted the Church of S. Maria del Fiore, not as it stands today, but as he had drawn it from the model and design that the architect Arnolfo had left in the Office of Works for the guidance of those who had to continue the building after him; of which models, by reason of the little care of the Wardens of Works of S. Maria del Fiore, as it has been said in another place, there would be no memorial for us if Simone had not left it painted in this work.

On the third wall, which is that of the altar, he made the Passion of Christ, who, issuing from Jerusalem with the Cross on His shoulder, is going to Mount Calvary, followed by a very great multitude. Arriving there, He is seen raised on the Cross between the Thieves, with the other circumstances that accompany this story. I will say nothing of there being therein a good number of horses, of the casting of lots by the servants of the court for the garments of Christ, of the raising of the Holy Fathers from the Limbo of Hell, and of all the other well-conceived inventions, which belong not so much to a master of that age as to the most excellent of the moderns; inasmuch as, taking up the whole walls, with very diligent judgment he made in each wall diverse scenes on the slope of a mountain, and did not divide scene from scene with ornamental borders, as the old painters were wont to do, and many moderns, who put the earth over the sky four or five times, as it is seen in the principal chapel of this same church, and in the Campo Santo of Pisa, where, painting many works in fresco, he was forced against his will to make such divisions, for the other painters who had worked in that place, such as Giotto and Buonamico his master, had begun to make their scenes with this bad arrangement.

In that Campo Santo, then, following as the lesser evil the method used by the others, Simone made in fresco, over the principal door and on the inner side, a Madonna borne to Heaven by a choir of angels, who are singing and playing so vividly that there are seen in them all those various gestures that musicians are wont to make in singing or playing, such as turning the ears to the sound, opening the mouth in diverse ways, raising the eyes to Heaven, blowing out the cheeks, swelling the throat, and in short all the other actions and movements that are made in music. Under this Assumption, in three pictures, he made some scenes from the life of S. Ranieri of Pisa. In the first scene he is shown as a youth, playing the psaltery and making some girls dance, who are most beautiful by reason of the air of the heads and of the loveliness of the costumes and head-dresses of those times. Next, the same Ranieri, having been reproved for such lasciviousness by the Blessed Alberto the Hermit, is seen standing with his face downcast and tearful and with his eyes red from weeping, all penitent for his sin, while God, in the sky, surrounded by a celestial light, appears to be pardoning him. In the second picture Ranieri, distributing his wealth to God's poor before mounting on board ship, has round him a crowd of beggars, of cripples, of women, and of children, all most touching in their pushing forward, their entreating, and their thanking him.

And in the same picture, also, that Saint, having received in the Temple the gown of a pilgrim, is standing before a Madonna, who, surrounded by many angels, is showing him that he will repose on her bosom in Pisa; and all these figures have vivacity and a beautiful air in the heads. In the third Simone painted the scene when, having returned after seven years from beyond the seas, he is showing that he has spent thrice forty days in the Holy Land, and when, standing in the choir to hear the Divine offices, he is tempted by the Devil, who is seen driven away by a firm determination that is perceived in Ranieri not to consent to offend God, assisted by a figure made by Simone to represent Constancy, who is chasing away the ancient adversary not only all in confusion but also (with beautiful and fanciful invention) all in terror, holding his hands to his head in his flight, and walking with his face downcast and his shoulders shrunk as close together as could be, and saying, as it is seen from the writing that is issuing from his mouth: "I can no more." And finally, there is also in this picture the scene when Ranieri, kneeling on Mount Tabor, is miraculously seeing Christ in air with Moses and Elias; and all the features of this work, with others that are not mentioned, show that Simone was very fanciful and understood the good method of grouping figures gracefully in the manner of those times. These scenes finished, he made two panels in distemper in the same city, assisted by Lippo Memmi, his brother, who had also assisted him to paint the Chapterhouse of S. Maria Novella and other works.

He, although he had not the excellence of Simone, none the less followed his manner as well as he could, and made many works in fresco in his company for S. Croce in Florence; the panel of the high altar in S. Caterina at Pisa, for the Preaching Friars; and in S. Paolo a Ripa d' Arno, besides many very beautiful scenes in fresco, the panel in distemper that is today over the high altar, containing a Madonna, S. Peter, S. Paul, S. John the Baptist, and other Saints; and on this Lippo put his name. After these works he wrought by himself a panel in distemper for the Friars of S. Augustine in San Gimignano, and thereby acquired so great a name that he was forced to send to Arezzo, to Bishop Guido de' Tarlati, a panel with three half-length figures which is to-day in the Chapel of S. Gregorio in the Vescovado.

While Simone was at work in Florence, one his cousin, an ingenious architect called Neroccio, undertook in the year 1332 to make to ring the great bell of the Commune of Florence, which, for a period of seventeen years, no one had been able to make to ring without twelve men to pull at it. He balanced it, then, in a manner that two could move it, and once moved one alone could ring it without a break, although it weighed more than six thousand libbre; wherefore, besides the honor, he gained thereby as his reward three hundred florins of gold, which was great payment in those times.

But to return to our two Memmi of Siena; Lippo, besides the works mentioned, wrought a panel in distemper, with the design of Simone, which was carried to Pistoia and placed over the high altar of the Church of S. Francesco, and was held very beautiful. Finally, both having returned to their native city of Siena, Simone began a very large work in color over the great gate of Camollia, containing the Coronation of Our Lady, with an infinity of figures, which remained unfinished, a very great sickness coming upon him, so that he, overcome by the gravity of the sickness, passed away from this life in the year 1345, to the very great sorrow of all his city and of Lippo his brother, who gave him honorable burial in S. Francesco.

Lippo afterwards finished many works that Simone had left imperfect, and among these was a Passion of Jesus Christ over the high altar of S. Niccola in Ancona, wherein Lippo finished what Simone had begun, imitating that which the said Simone had made and finished in the Chapterhouse of S. Spirito in Florence. This work would be worthy of a longer life than peradventure will be granted to it, there being in it many horses and soldiers in beautiful attitudes, which they are striking with various animated movements, doubting and marvelling whether they have crucified or not the Son of God. At Assisi, likewise, in the lower Church of S. Francesco, he finished some figures that Simone had begun for the altar of S. Elizabeth, which is at the entrance of the door that leads into the chapels, making there a Madonna, a S. Louis King of France, and other Saints, in all eight figures, which are only as far as the knees, but good and very well colored. Besides this, in the great refectory of the said convent, at the top of the wall, Simone had begun many little scenes and a Crucifix made in the shape of a Tree of the Cross, but this remained unfinished and outlined with the brush in red over the plaster, as may still be seen today; which method of working was the cartoon that our old masters used to make for painting in fresco, for greater rapidity; for having distributed the whole work over the plaster, they would outline it with the brush, reproducing from a small design all that which they wished to paint, and enlarging in proportion all that they thought to put down. Wherefore, even as this one is seen thus outlined, and many others in other places, so there are many others that had once been painted, from which the work afterwards peeled off, leaving them thus outlined in red over the plaster.

But returning to our Lippo, who drew passing well, as it may be seen in our book in a hermit who is reading with his legs crossed; he lived for twelve years after Simone, executing many works throughout all Italy, and in particular two panels in S. Croce in Florence. And seeing that the manner of these two brothers is very similar, one can distinguish the one from the other by this, that Simone used to sign his name at the foot of his works in this way: SIMONIS MEMMI SENENSIS OPUS; and Lippo, leaving out his baptismal name and caring nothing about a Latinity so rough, in this other fashion: opus MEMMI DE SENIS ME FECIT.

On the wall of the Chapterhouse of S. Maria Novella besides Petrarca and Madonna Laura, as it has been said above Simone portrayed Cimabue, the architect Lapo, his son Arnolfo, and himself, and in the person of that Pope who is in the scene he painted Benedetto XI of Treviso, one of the Preaching Friars, the likeness of which Pope had been brought to Simone long before by Giotto, his master, when he returned from the Court of the said Pope, who had his seat in Avignon. In the same place, also, beside the said Pope, he portrayed Cardinal Niccola da Prato, who had come to Florence at that time as Legate of the said Pontiff, as Giovanni Villani relates in his History.

Over the tomb of Simone was placed this epitaph:

SIMONI MEMMIO PICTORUM OMNIUM OMNIS ^TATIS CELEBERRIMO.
VIXIT ANN. LX, MENS. II, D. III.

As it is seen in our aforesaid book, Simone was not very excellent in draughtsmanship, but he had invention from nature, and he took much delight in drawing portraits from the life ; and in this he was held so much the greatest master of his times that Signer Pandolfo Malatesti sent him as far as Avignon to portray Messer Francesco Petrarca, at the request of whom he made afterwards the portrait of Madonna Laura, with so much credit to himself.

 

 

 

LIFE OF TADDEO GADDI (c. 1300-1366)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists


IT IS A BEAUTIFUL and truly useful and praiseworthy action to reward talent largely in every place, and to honor him who has it, seeing that an infinity of intellects which might otherwise slumber, roused by this encouragement, strive with all industry not only to learn their art but to become excellent therein, in order to advance themselves and to attain to a rank both profitable and honorable; whence there may follow honor for their country, glory for themselves, and riches and nobility for their descendants, who, upraised by such beginnings, very often become both very rich and very noble, even as the descendants of the painter Taddeo Gaddi did by reason of his work. This Taddeo di Gaddo Gaddi, a Florentine, after the death of Giotto who had held him at his baptism and had been his master for twenty-four years after the death of Gaddo, as it is written by Cennino di Andrea Cennini, painter of Colle di Valdelsa remained among the first in the art of painting and greater than all his fellow disciples both in judgment and in genius; and he wrought his first works, with a great facility given to him by nature rather than acquired by art, in the Church of S. Croce in Florence, in the chapel of the sacristy, where, together with his companions, disciples of the dead Giotto, he made some stories of S. Mary Magdalene, with beautiful figures and with most beautiful and extravagant costumes of those times. And in the Chapel of the Baroncelli and Bandini, where Giotto had formerly wrought the panel in distemper, he made by himself in fresco, on one wall, some stories of Our Lady which were held very beautiful.

He also painted over the door of the said sacristy the story of Christ disputing with the Doctors in the Temple, which was afterwards half-ruined when the elder Cosimo de' Medici, in making the noviciate, the chapel, and the antechamber in front of the sacristy, placed a cornice of stone over the said door. In the same church he painted in fresco the Chapel of the Bellacci, and also that of S. Andrea by the side of one of the three of Giotto, wherein he made the scene of Jesus Christ taking Andrew and Peter from their nets, and the crucifixion of the former Apostle, a work greatly commended and extolled both then when it was finished and still at the present day. Over the side door, below the burial place of Carlo Marsuppini of Arezzo, he made a Dead Christ with the Maries, wrought in fresco, which was very much praised; and below the tramezzo that divides the church, on the left hand, above the Crucifix of Donato, he painted in fresco a story of S. Francis, representing a miracle that he wrought in restoring to life a boy who was killed by falling from a terrace, together with his apparition in the air. And in this story he portrayed Giotto his master, Dante the poet, Guido Cavalcanti, and, some say, himself. Throughout the said church, also, in diverse places, he made many figures which are known by painters from the manner. For the Company of the Temple he painted the shrine that is at the corner of the Via del Crocifisso, containing a very beautiful Deposition from the Cross.

In the cloister of S. Spirito he wrought two scenes in the little arches beside the Chapter house, in one of which he made Judas selling Christ, and in the other the Last Supper that He held with the Apostles. And in the same convent, over the door of the refectory, he painted a Crucifix and some Saints, which give us to know that among the others who worked here he was truly an imitator of the manner of Giotto, which he held ever in the greatest veneration. In S . Stefano del Ponte Vecchio he painted the panel and the predella of the high altar with great diligence; and on a panel in the Oratory of S. Michele in Orto he made a very good picture of a Dead Christ being lamented by the Maries and laid to rest very devoutly by Nicodemus in the Sepulchre. In the Church of the Servite Friars he painted the Chapel of S. Niccold, belonging to those of the palace, with stories of that Saint, wherein he showed very good judgment and grace in a boat that he painted, demonstrating that he had complete understanding of the tempestuous agitation of the sea and of the fury of the storm; and while the mariners are emptying the ship and jettisoning the cargo, S. Nicholas appears in the air and delivers them from that peril. This work, having given pleasure and having been much praised, was the reason that he was made to paint the chapel of the high altar in that church, wherein he made in fresco some stories of Our Lady, and another figure of Our Lady on a panel in distemper, with many Saints wrought in lively fashion. In like manner, in the predella of the said panel, he made some other stories of Our Lady with little figures, whereof there is no need to make particular mention, seeing that in the year 1467 everything was destroyed when Lodovico, Marquis of Mantua, made in that place the tribune that is there to-day and the choir of the friars, with the design of Leon Battista Alberti, causing the panel to be carried into the Chapterhouse of that convent; in the refectory of which Taddeo made, just above the wooden seats, the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles, and above that a Crucifix with many saints.

Having given the last touch to these works, Taddeo Gaddi was summoned to Pisa, where, for Gherardo and Bonaccorso Gambacorti, he wrought in fresco the principal chapel of S. Francesco, painting with beautiful colours many figures and stories of that Saint and of S. Andrew and S. Nicholas. Next, on the vaulting and on the front wall is Pope Honorius, who is confirming the Order; here Taddeo is portrayed from the life, in profile, with a cap wrapped round his head, and at the foot of this scene are written these words:

MAGISTER TADDEUS GADDUS DE FLORENTIA PINXIT HANC HISTORIAM

SANCTI FRANCISCI ET SANCTI ANDREW ET SANCTI NICOLAI, ANNO DOMINI

MCCCXLII, DE MENSE AUGUSTI.

Besides this, in the cloister also of the same convent he made in fresco a Madonna with her Child in her arms, very well colored, and in the middle of the church, on the left hand as one enters, a S. Louis the Bishop, seated, to whom S. Gherardo da Villamagna, who had been a friar of this Order, is recommending a Fra Bartolommeo, then Prior of the said convent. In the figures of this work, seeing that they were taken from nature, there are seen liveliness and infinite grace, in that simple manner which was in some respects better than that of Giotto, above all in expressing supplication, joy, sorrow, and other similar emotions, which, when well expressed, ever bring very great honor to the painter.

Next, having returned to Florence, Taddeo continued for the Commune the work of Orsanmichele and refounded the piers of the Loggia building them with stone dressed and well shaped, whereas before they had been made of bricks, without, however, altering the design that Arnolfo left, with directions that there should be made over the Loggia a palace with two vaults for storing the provisions of grain that the people and Commune of Florence used to make. To the end that this work might be finished, the Guild of Porta S. Maria, to which the charge of the fabric had been given, ordained that there should be paid thereunto the tax of the square of the grain market and some other taxes of very small importance. But what was far more important, it was well ordained with the best counsel that each of the Guilds of Florence should make one pier by itself, with the Patron Saint of the Guild in a niche therein, and that every year, on the festival of each Saint the Consuls of that Guild should go to church to make offering, and should hold there the whole of that day the standard with their insignia, but that the offering, none the less, should be to the Madonna for the succour of the needy poor? And because, during the great flood of the year 1333, the waters had swept away the parapets of the Ponte Rubaconte, thrown down the Castle of Altafronte, left nothing of the Ponte Vecchio but the two piers in the middle, and completely ruined the Ponte a S. Trinita except one pier that remained all shattered, as well as half the Ponte alla Carraia, bursting also the weir of Ognissanti, those who then ruled the city determined no longer to allow the dwellers on the other side of the Arno to have to return to their homes with so great inconvenience as was caused by their having to cross in boats. Wherefore, having sent for Taddeo Gaddi, for the reason that Giotto his master had gone to Milan, they caused him to make the model and design of the Ponte Vecchio, giving him instructions that he should have it brought to completion as strong and as beautiful as might be possible; and he, sparing neither cost nor labor, made it with such strength in the piers and with such magnificence in the arches, all of stone squared with the chisel, that it supports to day twenty-two shops on either side, which make in all forty-four, with great profit to the Commune, which drew from them eight hundred florins yearly in rents. The extent of the arches from one side to the other is thirty-two braccia, that of the street in the middle is sixteen braccia, and that of the shops on either side eight braccia. For this work, which cost sixty thousand florins of gold, not only did Taddeo then deserve infinite praise, but even today he is more than ever commended for it, for the reason that, besides many other floods, it was not moved in the year 1557, on September 13, by that which threw down the Ponte a S. Trinita and two arches of that of the Carraia, and shattered in great part the Rubaconte, together with much other destruction that is very well known. And truly there is no man of judgment who can fail to be amazed, not to say marvel, considering that the said Ponte Vecchio in so great an emergency could sustain unmoved the onset of the waters and of the beams and the wreckage made above, and that with so great firmness.

At the same time Taddeo directed the founding of the Ponte a S. Trinita, which was finished less happily in the year 1346, at the cost of twenty thousand florins of gold; I say less happily, because, not having been made like the Ponte Vecchio, it was entirety ruined by the said flood of the year 1557. In like manner, under the direction of Taddeo there was made at the said time the wall of the Costa a S. Gregorio, with piles driven in below, including two piers of the bridge in order to gain additional ground for the city on the side of the Piazza de' Mozzi, and to make use of it, as they did, to make the mills that are there.

While all these works were being made by the direction and design of Taddeo, seeing that he did not therefore stop painting, he decorated the Tribunal of the Mercanzia Vecchia, wherein, with poetical invention, he represented the Tribunal of Six (which is the number of the chief men of that judicial body), who are standing watching the tongue being torn from Falsehood by Truth, who is clothed with a veil over the nude, while Falsehood is draped in black; with these verses below:

LA PURA VERITA, PER UBBIDIRE

ALLA SANTA GIUSTIZIA, CHE NON TARDA,

CAVA LA LINGUA ALLA FALSA BUGIARDA.

And below the scene are these verses:

TADDEO DIPINSE QUESTO BEL RIGESTRO;

DISCEPOL FU DI GIOTTO IL BUON MAESTRO.

Taddeo received a commission for some works in fresco in Arezzp, which he carried to the greatest perfection in company with his disciple Giovanni da Milanp. Of these we still see one in the Company of the Holy Spirit, a scene on the wall over the high altar, containing the Passion of Christ, with many horses, and the Thieves on the Cross, a work held very beautiful by reason of the thought that he showed in placing Him on the Cross. Therein are some figures with vivid expressions which show the rage of the Jews, some pulling Him by the legs with a rope, others offering the sponge, and others in various attitudes, such as the Longinus who is piercing His side, and the three soldiers who are gambling for His raiment, in the faces of whom there is seen hope and fear as they throw the dice. The first of these, in armour, is standing in an uncomfortable attitude awaiting his turn, and shows himself so eager to throw that he appears not to be feeling the discomfort; the other, raising his eyebrows, with his mouth and with his eyes wide open, is watching the dice, in suspicion, as it were, of fraud, and shows clearly to anyone who studies him the desire and the wish that he has to win. The third, who is throwing the dice, having spread the garment on the ground, appears to be announcing with a grin his intention of casting them. In like manner, throughout the walls of the church are seen some stories of S. John the Evangelist, and throughout the city other works made by Taddeo, which are recognized as being by his hand by anyone who has judgment in art. In the Vescovado, also, behind the high-altar, there are still seen some stories of S. John the Baptist, which are wrought with such marvellous manner and design that they cause him to be held in admiration. In the Chapel of S. Sebastiano in S. Agostino, beside the sacristy, he made the stories of that martyr, and a Disputation of Christ with the Doctors, so well wrought and finished that it is a miracle to see the beauty in the changing colors of various sorts and the grace in the pigments of these works, which are finished to perfection.
In the Church of the Sasso della Vernia in the Casentino he painted the chapel wherein S. Francis received the Stigmata, assisted in the minor details by Jacopo di Casentino, who became his disciple by reason of this visit. This work finished, he returned to Florence together with Giovanni, the Milanese, and there, both within the city and without, they made very many panels and pictures of importance; and in process of time he gained so much, turning all into capital, that he laid the foundation of the wealth and the nobility of his family, being ever held a prudent and far-sighted man.

He also painted the Chapterhouse in S. Maria Novella, being commissioned by the Prior of the place, who suggested the subject to him. It is true, indeed, that by reason of the work being large and of there being unveiled, at that time when the bridges were being made, the Chapterhouse of S. Spirito, to the very great fame of Simone Memmi, who had painted it, there came to the said Prior a desire to call Simone to the half of this work; wherefore, having discussed the whole matter with Taddeo, he found him well contented therewith, for the reason that he had a surpassing love for Simone, because he had been his fellow disciple under Giotto and ever his loving friend and companion. Oh ! minds truly noble ! seeing that without emulation, ambition, or envy, ye loved one another like brothers, each rejoicing as much in the honor and profit of his friend as in his own! The work was divided, therefore, and three walls were given to Simone, as I said in his Life, and Taddeo had the left-hand wall and the whole vaulting, which was divided by him into four sections or quarters in accordance with the form of the vaulting itself. In the first he made the Resurrection of Christ, wherein it appears that he wished to attempt to make the splendor of the Glorified Body give forth light, as we perceive in a city and in some mountainous crags ; but he did not follow this up in the figures and in the rest, doubting, perchance, that he was not able to carry it out by reason of the difficulty that he recognized therein. In the second section he made Jesus Christ delivering S. Peter from shipwreck, wherein the Apostles who are manning the boat are certainly very beautiful; and among other things, one who is fishing with a line on the shore of the sea (a subject already used by Giotto in the mosaics of the Navicella in S. Pietro) is depicted with very great and vivid feeling.

In the third he painted the Ascension of Christ, and in the fourth the coming of the Holy Spirit, where there are seen many beautiful attitudes in the figures of the Jews who are seeking to gain entrance through the door. On the wall below are the Seven Sciences, with their names and with those figures below them that are appropriate to each. Grammar, in the guise of a woman, with a door, teaching a child, has the writer Donato seated below her. After Grammar follows Rhetoric, and at her feet is a figure that has two hands on books, while it draws a third hand from below its mantle and holds it to its mouth. Logic has the serpent in her hand below a veil, and at her feet Zeno of Elea, who is reading. Arithmetic is holding the tables of the abacus, and below her is sitting Abraham, its inventor. Music has the musical instruments, and below her is sitting Tubal-Cain, who is beating with two hammers on an anvil and is standing with his ears intent on that sound. Geometry has the square and the compasses, and below, Euclid. Astrology has the celestial globe in her hands, and below her feet, Atlas. In the other part are sitting seven Theological Sciences, and each has below her that estate or condition of man that is most appropriate to her Pope, Emperor, King, Cardinals, Dukes, Bishops, Marquises, and others; and in the face of the Pope is the portrait of Clement V. In the middle and highest place is S. Thomas Aquinas, who was adorned with all the said sciences, holding below his feet some heretics Arius, Sabellius, and Averroes; and round him are Moses, Paul, John the Evangelist, and some other figures, that have above them the four Cardinal Virtues and the three Theological, with an infinity of other details depicted by Taddeo with no little design and grace, insomuch that it can be said to have been the best conceived as well as the best preserved of all his works.

In the same S. Maria Novella, over the tramezzo of the church, he also made a S. Jerome robed as a Cardinal, having such a devotion for that Saint that he chose him as the protector of his house; and below this, after the death of Taddeo, his son caused a tomb to be made for their descendants, covered with a slab of marble bearing the arms of the Gaddi. For these descendants, by reason of the excellence of Taddeo and of their merits, Cardinal Jerome has obtained from God most honourable offices in the Church Clerkships of the Chamber, Bishoprics, Cardinalates, Provostships, and Knighthoods, all most honorable; and all these descendants of Taddeo, of whatsoever degree, have ever esteemed and favored the beautiful intellects inclined to the matters of sculpture and painting, and have given them assistance with every effort.

Finally, having come to the age of fifty and being smitten with a most violent fever, Taddeo passed from this life in the year 1350, leaving his son Agnolo and Giovanni to apply themselves to painting, recommending them to Jacopo di Casentino for ways of life and to Giovanni da Milano for instruction in the art. After the death of Taddeo this Giovanni, besides many other works, made a panel which was placed on the altar of S. Gherardo da Villamagna in S. Croce, fourteen years after he had been left without his master, and likewise the panel of the high altar of Ognissanti, where the Frati Umiliati had their seat, which was held very beautiful, and the tribune of the high altar at Assisi, wherein he made a Crucifix, with Our Lady and S. Chiara, and stories of Our Lady on the walls and sides. Afterwards he betook himself to Milan, where he wrought many works in distemper and in fresco, and there finally he died.

Taddeo, then, adhered constantly to the manner of Giotto, but did not better it much save in the coloring, which he made fresher and more vivacious than that of Giotto, the latter having applied himself so ardently to improving the other departments and difficulties of this art, that although he gave attention to this, he could not, however, attain to the privilege of doing it, whereas Taddeo, having seen that which Giotto had made easy and having learnt it, had time to add something and to improve the coloring.

Taddeo was buried by Agnolo and Giovanni, his sons, in the first cloister of S. Croce, in that tomb which he had made for Gaddo his father, and he was much honoured with verses by the men of culture of that time, as a man who had been greatly deserving for his ways of life and for having brought to completion with beautiful design, besides his pictures, many buildings of great convenience to his city, and besides what has been mentioned, for having carried out with solicitude and diligence the construction of the Campanile of S. Maria del Fiore, from the design left by Giotto his master; which campanile was built in such a manner that stones could not be put together with more diligence, nor could a more beautiful tower be made, with regard either to ornament, or cost, or design. The epitaph that was made for Taddeo was this that is to be read here:

HOC UNO DICI POTERAT FLORENTIA FELIX
VIVENTE ; AT CERTA EST NON POTUISSE MORI.

Taddeo was very resolute in draughtsmanship, as it may be seen in our book, wherein is drawn by his hand the scene that he wrought in the Chapel of S. Andrea, in S. Croce at Florence.

 

 

 

LIFE OF ANDREA DI CIONE ORCAGNA (1308-1368)
PAINTER, SCULPTOR, AND ARCHITECT, OF FLORENCE

Vasari's Lives of the Artists


RARELY IS A MAN of parts excellent in one pursuit without being able easily to learn any other, and above all any one of those that are akin to his original profession, and proceed, as it were, from one and the same source, as did the Florentine Orcagna, who was painter, sculptor, architect, and poet, as it will be told below. Born in Florence, he began, while still a child to give attention to sculpture under Andrea Pisano, and pursued it for some years; then, being desirous to become abundant in invention in order to make lovely historical compositions, he applied himself with so great study to drawing, assisted by nature, who wished to make him universal, that having tried his hand at painting with colors both in distemper and in fresco, even as one thing leads to another, he succeeded so well with the assistance of Bernardo Orcagna, his brother, that this Bernardo took him in company with himself to paint the life of Our Lady in the principal chapel of S. Maria Novella, which then belonged to the family of the Ricci. This work, when finished, was held very beautiful, although, by reason of the neglect of those who afterwards had charge of it, not many years passed before, the roof becoming ruined, it was spoilt by the rains and thereby brought to the condition wherein it is today, as it will be told in the proper place.

It is enough for the present to say that Domenico Ghirlandajo, who repainted it, availed himself greatly of the invention put into it by Orcagna, who also painted in fresco in the same church the Chapel of the Strozzi, which is near to the door of the sacristy and of the belfry, in company with Bernardo, his brother. In this chapel, to which one ascends by a staircase of stone, he painted on one wall the glory of Paradise, with all the Saints and with various costumes and headdresses of those times. On the other wall he made Hell, with the abysses, centers, and other things described by Dante, of whom Andrea was an ardent student. In the Church of the Servites in the same city he painted in fresco, also with Bernardo, the Chapel of the family of Cresci; with a Coronation of Our Lady on a very large panel in S. Pietro Maggiore, and a panel in S. Romeo, close to the side door. In like manner, he and his brother Bernardo painted the outer facade of S. Apollinare, with so great diligence that the colors in that exposed place have been preserved marvellously vivid and beautiful up to our own day.

Moved by the fame of these works of Orcagna, which were much praised, the men who at that time were governing Pisa had him summoned to work on a portion of one wall in the Campo Santo of that city, even as Giotto and Buffalmacco had done before. Wherefore, putting his hand to this, Andrea painted a Universal Judgment, with some fanciful inventions of his own, on the wall facing towards the Duomo, beside the Passion of Christ made by Buffalmacco; and making the first scene on the corner, he represented therein all the degrees of lords temporal wrapped in the pleasures of this world, placing them seated in a flowery meadow and under the shade of many orange-trees, which make a most delicious grove and have some Cupids in their branches above; and these Cupids, flying round and over many young women (all portraits from the life, as it seems clear, of noble ladies and dames of those times, who, by reason of the long lapse of time, are not recognized), are making a show of shooting at the hearts of these young women, who have beside them young men and nobles who are standing listening to music and song and watching the amorous dances of youths and maidens, who are sweetly taking joy in their loves.

Among these nobles Orcagna portrayed Castruccio, Lord of Lucca, as a youth of most beautiful aspect, with a blue cap wound round his head and with a hawk on his wrist, and near him other nobles of that age, of whom we know not who they are. In short, in that first part, in so far as the space permitted and his art demanded, he painted all the delights of the world with exceeding great grace. In the other part of the same scene he represented on a high mountain the life of those who, drawn by repentance for their sins and by the desire to be saved, have fled from the world to that mountain, which is all full of saintly hermits who are serving the Lord, busy in diverse pursuits with most vivacious expressions. Some, reading and praying, are shown all intent on contemplation, and others, laboring in order to gain their livelihood, are exercising themselves in various forms of action.

There is seen here among others a hermit who is milking a goat, who could not be more active or more lifelike in appearance than he is. Below there is S. Macarius showing to three Kings, who are riding with their ladies and their retinue and going to the chase, human misery in the form of three Kings who are lying dead but not wholly corrupted in a tomb, which is being contemplated with attention by the living Kings in diverse and beautiful attitudes full of wonder, and it appears as if they are reflecting with pity for their own selves that they have in a short time to become such. In one of these Kings on horseback Andrea portrayed Uguccione della Faggiuola of Arezzo, in a figure which is holding its nose with one hand in order not to feel the stench of the dead and corrupted Kings. In the middle of this scene is Death, who, flying through the air and draped in black, is showing that she has cut off with her scythe the lives of many, who are lying on the ground, of all sorts and conditions, poor and rich, halt and whole, young and old, male and female, and in short a good number of every age and sex. And because he knew that the people of Pisa took pleasure in the invention of Buffalmacco, who gave speech to the figures of Bruno in S. Paolo a Ripa d'Arno, making some letters issue from their mouths, Orcagna filled this whole work of his with such writings, whereof the greater part, being eaten away by time, cannot be understood. To certain old men, then, he gives these words:

DACCHE PROSPERITADE CI HA LASCIATI,

O MORTE, MEDICINA D' OGNI PENA,

DEH VIENI A DARNE OMAI L' ULTIMA CENA !

with other words that cannot be understood, and verses likewise in ancient manner, composed, as I have discovered, by Orcagna himself, who gave attention to poetry and to making a sonnet or two. Round these dead bodies are some devils who are tearing their souls from their mouths, and are carrying them to certain pits full of fire, which are on the summit of a very high mountain. Over against these are angels who are likewise taking the souls from the mouths of others of these dead people, who have belonged to the good, and are flying with them to Paradise. And in this scene there is a scroll, held by two angels, wherein are these words:

ISCHERMO DI SAVERE E DI RICCHEZZA,
DI NOBILTADE ANCORA E DI PRODEZZA,
VALE NIENTE A I COLPI DI COSTEI ;

with some other words that are difficult to understand. Next, below this, in the border of this scene, are nine angels who are holding legends both Italian and Latin in some suitable scrolls, put into that place below because above they were like to spoil the scene, and not to include them in the work seemed wrong to their author, who considered them very beautiful; and it may be that they were to the taste of that age. The greater part is omitted by us, in order not to weary others with such things, which are not pertinent and little pleasing, not to mention that the greater part of these inscriptions being effaced, the remainder is little less than fragmentary. After these works, in making the Judgment, Orcagna set Jesus Christ on high above the clouds in the midst of His twelve Apostles, judging the quick and the dead; showing on one side, with beautiful art and very vividly, the sorrowful expressions of the damned who are being dragged weeping by furious demons to Hell, and, on the other, the joy and the jubilation of the good, whom a body of angels guided by the Archangel Michael are leading as the elect, all rejoicing, to the right, where are the blessed. And it is truly a pity that for lack of writers, in so great a multitude of men of the robe, chevaliers, and other lords, that are clearly depicted and portrayed there from the life, there should be not one, or only very few, of whom we know the names or who they were; although it is said that a Pope who is seen there is Innocent IV, friend of Manfredi ["This is probably a printer's error for "nemico," as that Pope was anything but the friend of Manfredi].
After this work, and after making some sculptures in marble for the Madonna that is on the abutment of the Ponte Vecchio, with great honour for himself, he left his brother Bernardo to execute by himself a Hell in the Campo Santo, which is described by Dante, and which was afterwards spoilt in the year 1530 and restored by Sollazzino, a painter of our own times ; and he returned to Florence, where, in the middle of the Church of S. Croce, on a very great wall on the right, he painted in fresco the same subjects that he painted in the Campo Santo of Pisa, in three similar pictures, excepting, however, the scene where S. Macarius is showing to three Kings the misery of man, and the life of the hermits who are serving God on that mountain. Making, then, all the rest of that work, he labored therein with better design and more diligence than he had done in Pisa, holding, nevertheless, to almost the same plan in the invention, the manner, the scrolls, and the rest, without changing anything save the portraits from life, for those in this work were partly of his dearest friends, whom he placed in Paradise, and partly of men little his friends, who were put by him in Hell. Among the good is seen portrayed from life in profile, with the triple crown on his head, Pope Clement VI, who changed the Jubilee in his reign from every hundred to every fifty years, and was a friend of the Florentines, and had some of Orcagna's pictures, which were very dear to him. Among the same is Maestro Dino del Garbo, a most excellent physician of that time, dressed as was then the wont of doctors, with a red bonnet lined with miniver on his head, and held by the hand by an angel; with many other portraits that are not recognized. Among the damned he portrayed Guardi, serjeant of the Commune of Florence, being dragged along by the Devil with a hook, and he is known by three red lilies that he has on his white bonnet, such as were then wont to be worn by the Serjeants and other similar officials; and this he did because Guardi once made dis- traint on his property. He also portrayed there the notary and the judge who had been opposed to him in that action. Near to Guardi is Ceccho Besides Bernardo, Andrea had a brother called Jacopo, who was engaged in sculpture, but with little profit; and in making on occasion for this Jacopo designs in relief and in clay, there came to him the wish to make something in marble and to see whether he remembered the principles of that art, wherein, as it has been said, he had worked in Pisa; and so, putting himself with more study to the test, he made progress therein in such a fashion that afterwards he made use of it with honor, as it will be told. Afterwards he devoted himself with all his energy to the study of architecture, thinking that at some time or another he would have to make use of it. Nor did his thought deceive him, seeing that in the year i3$ [SIC], the Commune of Florence having bought some citizens' houses near their Palace (in order to have more space and to make a larger square, and also in order to make a place where the citizens could take shelter in rainy or wintry days, and carry on under cover such business as was transacted on the Ringhiera when bad weather did not hinder), they caused many designs to be made for the building of a magnificent and very large Loggia for this purpose near the Palace, and at the same time for the Mint where the money is struck. Among these designs, made by the best masters in the city, that of Orcagna being universally approved and accepted as greater, more beautiful, and more magnificent than all the others, by decree of the Signori and of the Commune there was begun under his direction the great Loggia of the square, on the foundations made in the time of the Duke of Athens, and it was carried on with squared stone very well put together, with much diligence.

And what was something new in those times, the arches of the vaulting were made no longer quarter-acute, as it had been the custom up to that time, but they were turned in half circles in a new and laudable method, which gave much grace and beauty to this great fabric, which was brought to completion in a short time under the direction of Andrea. And if there had been taken thought to put it beside S. Romolo and to turn the arches with the back to the north, which they did not do, perchance, in order to have it conveniently near to the gate of the Palace, it would have been as useful a building for the whole city as it is beautiful in workmanship; whereas, by reason of the great wind, in winter no one can stand there. In this Loggia, between the arches on the front wall, in some ornamental work by his own hand, Orcagna made seven marble figures in half-relief representing the seven Theological and Cardinal Virtues, as accompaniment to the whole work, so beautiful that they made him known for no less able as sculptor than as painter and architect; not to mention that he was in all his actions as pleasant, courteous, and lovable a man as was ever any man of his condition. And because he would never abandon the study of any one of his professions for that of another, while the Loggia was building he made a panel in distemper with many large figures, with little figures in the predella, for that chapel of the Strozzi wherein he had formerly made some works in fresco with his brother Bernardo; on which panel, it appearing to him that it could bear better testimony to his profession than the works wrought in fresco could do, he wrote his name with these words:

ANNO DOMINI MCCCLVII, ANDREAS CIONIS DE FLORENTIA ME PINXIT.

This work completed, he made some pictures, also on panel, which were sent to the Pope in Avignon and are still in the Cathedral Church of that city. A little while afterwards the men of the Company of Orsanmichele, having collected large sums of money from offerings and donations given to their Madonna by reason of the mortality of 1348, resolved to make round her a chapel, or rather shrine, not only very ornate and rich with marbles carved in every way and with other stones of price, but also with mosaic and ornaments of bronze, as much as could possibly be desired, in a manner that both in workmanship and in material it might surpass every other work of so great a size wrought up to that day. Wherefore, the charge of the whole being given to Orcagna as the most excellent of that age, he made so many designs that finally one of them pleased the authorities, as being better than all the others. The work, therefore, being allotted to him, they put complete reliance in his judgment and counsel; wherefore, giving the making of all the rest to diverse master-carvers brought from several districts, he applied himself with his brother to executing all the figures of the work, and, the whole being finished, he had them built in and put together very thoughtfully without mortar, with clamps of copper fixed with lead, to the end that the shining and polished marbles might not become discolored; and in this he succeeded so well, with profit and honor from those who came after him, that to one who studies that work it appears, by reason of such union and methods of joining discovered by Orcagna, that the whole chapel has been shaped out of one single piece of marble.

And although it is in a German manner, for that style it has so great grace and proportion that it holds the first place among the works of those times, above all because its composition of figures great and small, and of angels and prophets in half-relief round the Madonna, is very well executed. Marvellous, also, is the casting of the bands of bronze, diligently polished, which, encircling the whole work, enclose and bind it together in a manner that it is therefore as stout and strong as it is beautiful in all other respects. But how much he labored in order to show the subtlety of his intellect in that gross age is seen in a large scene in half-relief on the back part of the said shrine, wherein; with figures of one braccio and a half each, he made the twelve Apostles gazing on high at the Madonna, while she, in an oval space, surrounded by angels, is ascending to Heaven. In one of these Apostles he portrayed himself in marble, old, as he was, with the beard shaven, with the cap wound round the head, and with the face flat and round, as it is seen above in his portrait, drawn from that one. Besides this, he inscribed these words in the marble below:

ANDREAS CIONIS, PICTOR

FLORENTINUS, ORATORII ARCHIMAGISTER EXTITIT HUJUS, MCCCLIX.

It is known that the building of this Loggia and of the marble shrine, with all the masterwork, cost ninety-six thousand florins of gold, which were very well spent, for the reason that it is, both in the architecture and in the sculptures and other ornaments, as beautiful as any other work whatsoever of those times, and is such that, by reason of the parts made therein by him, the name of Andrea Orcagna has been and will be ever living and great.

He used to write in his pictures:
FECE ANDREA DI CIONE, SCULTORE; and in his sculptures: FECE ANDREA DI CIONE, PITTORE
wishing that his painting should be known by his sculpture, and his sculpture by his painting. There are throughout all Florence many panels made by him, which are partly known by the name, such as a panel in S. Romeo, and partly by the manner, such as one that is in the Chapter-house of the Monastery of the Angeli. Some of them that he left unfinished were completed by Bernardo, his brother, who sur- vived him, but not for many years. And because, as it has been said, Andrea delighted in making verses and various forms of poetry, when already old he wrote some sonnets to Burchiello, then a youth ; and finally, being sixty years of age, he finished the course of his life in 1389, and was borne with honor from his dwelling, which was in the Via Vecchia de' Corazzai, to his tomb.

There were many men able in sculpture and in architecture at the same time as Orcagna, of whom the names are not known, but their works are to be seen, and these are worthy of nothing but praise and com- mendation. Among their works is not only the Monastery of the Certosa of Florence, made at the expense of the noble family of the Acciaiuoli, and in particular of Messer Niccola, Grand Seneschal of the King of Naples, but also the tomb of the same man, whereon he is portrayed in stone, and that of his father and one of his sisters, which has a covering of marble, whereon both were portrayed very well from nature in the year 1366. There, too, wrought by the hand of the same men, is the tomb of Messer Lorenzo, son of the said Niccola, who, dying at Naples, was brought to Florence and laid to rest there with the most honorable pomp of funeral obsequies. In like manner, in the tomb of Cardinal Santa Croce of the same family, which is in a choir then built anew in front of the high altar, there is his portrait on a slab of marble, very well wrought in the year 1390.

Disciples of Andrea in painting were Bernardo Nello di Giovanni F_alcpni [SIC] of Pisa, who wrought many panels in the Duomo of Pisa, and Tommaso di Marco of Florence, who, besides many other works, made in the year 1392 a panel that is in S. Antonio in Pisa, set up against the tramezzo of the church.

After the death of Andrea, his brother Jacopo who occupied himself in sculpture, as it has been said, and in architecture, was employed in the year 1328 on the foundation and building of the Tower and Gate of S. Piero Gattolini, and it is said that he made the four marzocchi * [*heraldic lions] of stone which were placed on the four corners of the Palazzo Principale of Florence, all overlaid with gold. This work was much censured, by reason of there being laid on those places, without necessity, a greater weight than peradventure was expedient; and many would have been pleased to have the marzocchi made rather of plates of copper, hollow within, and then, after being gilded in the fire, set up in the same place, because they would have been much less heavy and more durable. It is said, too, that the same man made the horse, gilded and in full relief, that is in S. Maria del Fiore, over the door that leads to the Company of S. Zanobi, which horse is believed to be there in memory of Piero Farnese, Captain of the Florentines; however, knowing nothing more about this, I could not vouch for it. About the same time Mariotto, nephew of Andrea, made in fresco the Paradise of S. Michele Bisdomini, in the Via de' Servi in Florence, and the panel with an Annunciation that is on the altar; and for Monna Cecilia de' Boscoli he made another panel with many figures, placed near the door of the same church.

But among all the disciples of Orcagna none was more excellent than Francesco Traini, who made a panel with a ground of gold for a nobleman of the house of Coscia, who is buried at Pisa in the Chapel of S. Domenico, in the Church of S. Caterina; which panel contained a S. Dominic standing two braccia and a half high, with six scenes of his life on either side of him, animated and vivacious and well coloured. And in the same church, in the Chapel of S. Tommaso d' Aquino, he made a panel in distemper with fanciful invention, which is much praised, placing therein the said S. Thomas seated, portrayed from the life: I say from the life, because the friars of that place had an image of him brought from the Abbey of Fossa Nuova, where he died in the year 1323.

Below, round S. Thomas, who is placed seated in the air with some books in his hand, which are illuminating the Christian people with their rays and lustre, there are kneeling a great number of doctors and clergy of every sort, Bishops, Cardinals, and Popes, among whom is the portrait of Pope Urban VI. Under the feet of S. Thomas are standing Sabellius, Arius, Averroes, and other heretics and philosophers, with their books all torn; and the said figure of S. Thomas is placed between Plato, who is showing him the Timceus, and Aristotle, who is showing him the Ethics. Above, a Jesus Christ, in like manner in the air between the four Evangelists, is blessing S. Thomas, and appears to be in the act of sending down upon him the Holy Spirit, and filling him with it and with His grace. This work, when finished, acquired very great fame and praise for Francesco Traini, for in making it he surpassed his master Andrea by a great measure in coloring, in harmony, and in invention. This Andrea was very diligent in his drawings, as it may be seen in our book.

 

 

 

GIOTTINO (1324-1369)
PAINTER OF FLORENCE

Vasari's Lives of the Artists


WHEN those arts that proceed from design come into competition and their craftsmen work in rivalry, without doubt the good intellects, exercising themselves with much study, discover new things every day in order to satisfy the various tastes of men ; and some, speaking for the present of painting, executing works obscure and unusual and de- monstrating in them the difficulty of making them, make known by the shadows the brightness of their genius. Others, fashioning the sweet and delicate, thinking these to be likely to be more pleasing to the eyes of all who behold them by reason of their having more relief, easily attract to themselves the minds of the greater part of men. Others, again, painting with unity and lowering the tones of the colours, reducing to their proper places the lights and shades of their figures, deserve very great praise, and reveal the thoughts of the intellect with beautiful dexterity of mind; even as they were ever revealed with a sweet manner in the works of Tommaso di Stefano, called Giottino, who, being born in the year 1324 and having learnt from his father the first prin- ciples of painting, resolved while still very young to attempt, in so far as he might be able with assiduous study, to be an imitator of the manner of Giotto rather than of that of his father Stefano. In this attempt he succeeded so well that he gained thereby, besides the manner, which was much more beautiful than that of his master, the surname of Giottino, which never left him; nay, by reason both of the manner and of the name it was the opinion of many, who, however, were in very great error, that he was the son of Giotto; but in truth it is not so, it being certain, or to speak more exactly, believed (it being impossible for such things to be affirmed by any man) that he was the son of Stefano, painter of Florence.

He was, then, so diligent in painting and so greatly devoted to it, that, although many of his works are not to be found, those nevertheless that have been found are good and in a beautiful manner, for the reason that the draperies, the hair, the beards, and all the rest of his work were made and harmonized with so great softness and diligence, that it is seen that without doubt he added harmony to this art and had it much more perfect than his master Giotto and his father Stef ano. In his youth Giottino painted a chapel near the side door of S. Stef ano al Ponte Vecchio in Florence, wherein, although it is today much spoilt by damp, the little that has remained shows the dexterity and the genius of the craftsman. Next, he made the two Saints, Cosimo and Damiano, for the Frati Ermini in the Canto alia Macine, but little is seen of them to-day, for they too have been ruined by time. And he wrought in fresco a chapel in the old S. Spirito in that city, which was afterwards ruined in the burning of that church; and in fresco, over the principal door of the church, the story of the Sending of the Holy Spirit ; and on the square before the said church, on the way to the Canto alia Cuculia, on the corner of the convent, he painted that shrine that is still seen there, with Our Lady and other Saints round her, wherein both the heads and the other parts lean strongly towards the modern manner, for the reason that he sought to vary and to blend the flesh colors, and to harmonize all the figures with grace and judgment by means of a variety of colors and draperies.

In like manner he wrought the stories of Constantine with much diligence in the Chapel of S. Silvestro in S. Croce, showing very beautiful ideas in the gestures of the figures; and then, behind an ornament of marble made for the tomb of Messer Bertino de' Bardi, a man who at that time had held honourable military rank, he made this Messer Bertino in armor, after the life, issuing from a sepulchre on his knees, being summoned with the sound of the trumpets of the Judgment by two angels, who are in the air accompanying a beautifully-wrought Christ in the clouds. On the right hand of the entrance of the door of S. Pancrazio the same man made a Christ who is bearing His Cross, and some Saints near Him, that have exactly the manner of Giotto. In S. Gallo (which convent was without the Gate called by the same name, and was destroyed in the siege) in a cloister, there was a Pieta painted in fresco, whereof there is a copy in the aforesaid S. Pancrazio, on a pillar beside the principal chapel. In S. Maria Novella, in the Chapel of S. Lorenzo de' Giuochi, as one enters by the door on the left, on the front wall, he wrought in fresco a S. Cosimo and a S. Damiano, and, in Ognissanti, a S. Christopher and a S. George, which were spoilt by the malice of time, and then restored by other painters by reason of the ignorance of a Provost little conversant with such matters. In the said church there has remained whole the arch that is over the door of the sacristy, wherein there is in fresco a Madonna with the Child in her arms by the hand of Tommaso, which is a good work, by reason of his having wrought it with diligence.

By means of these works Giottino had acquired so good a name, imitating his master both in design and in invention, as it has been told, that there was said to be in him the spirit of Giotto himself, both because of the vividness of his coloring and of his mastery in draughtsmanship; and in the year 1343, on July 2, when the Duke of Athens was driven out by the people and when he had renounced the sovereignty and restored their liberty to the Florentines, Giottino was forced by the twelve Re- formers of the State, and in particular by the prayers of Messer Agnolo Acciaiuoli, then a very great citizen, who had great influence with him, to paint in contempt, on the tower of the Palace of the Podesta, the said Duke and his followers, who were Messer Ceritieri Visdomini, Messer Maladiasse, his Conservator, and Messer Ranieri da San Gimignano, all with the cap of Justice ignominiously on their heads. Round the head of the Duke were many beasts of prey and other sorts, signifying his nature and his character; and one of those his counsellors had in his hand the Palace of the Priors of the city, and was handing it to him, like a disloyal traitor to his country. And all had below them the arms and emblems of their families, and some writings which can hardly be read today because they have been eaten away by time. In this work, both by reason of the draughtsmanship and of the great diligence wherewith it was executed, the manner of the craftsman gave universal pleasure to all. Afterwards, at the Campora, a seat of the Black Friars without the Porta a S. Piero Gattolini, he made a S. Cosimo and a S. Damiano, which were spoilt in the whitewashing of the church; and on the bridge of Romiti in Valdarno he painted in fresco the shrine that is built over the middle, with his own hand and in a beautiful manner.

It is found recorded by many who wrote thereon that Tommaso applied himself to sculpture and wrought a figure in marble on the Campanile of S. Maria del Fiore in Florence, four braccia high and facing the place where the Orphans now dwell. In S. Giovanni Laterano in Rome, likewise, he brought to fine completion a scene wherein he represented the Pope in several capacities, which is now seen to have been eaten away and corroded by time; and in the house of the Orsini he painted a hall full of famous men; with a very beautiful S. Louis on a pillar in the Araceli, on the right hand beside the altar.

In the lower church of S. Francesco at Assisi, in an arch over the pulpit (there being no other space that was not painted) he wrought the Coronation of Our Lady, with many angels round her, so gracious, so beautiful in the expressions of the faces, and so sweet and delicate in manner, that they show, with the usual harmony of colour which was something peculiar to this painter, that he had proved himself the peer of all who had lived up to that time; and round this arch he made some stories of S. Nicholas. In like manner, in the Monastery of S. Chiara in the same city, in the middle of the church, he painted a scene in fresco, wherein is S. Chiara supported in the air by two angels who appear real; she is restoring to life a child that was dead, while round her are standing many women all full of wonder, with great beauty in the faces and in the very gracious headdresses and costumes of those times that they are wearing. In the same city of Assisi, over the gate of the city that leads to the Duomp namely, in an arch on the inner side he made a Madonna with the Child in her arms, with so great diligence that she appears alive, and a S. Francis and another Saint, both very beautiful; both of which works, although the story of S. Chiara remained unfinished by reason of Tommaso having fallen sick and returned to Florence, are perfect and most worthy of all praise.

It is said that Tommaso was melancholic in temperament and very solitary, but with respect to art devoted and very studious, as it is clearly seen from a panel in the Church of S. Romeo in Florence, wrought by him in distemper with so great diligence and love that there has never been seen a better work on wood by his hand. In this panel, which is placed in the tramezzo of the church, on the right hand, is a Dead Christ with the Maries and Nicodemus, accompanied by other figures, who are bewailing His death with bitterness and with very sweet and affectionate movements, wringing their hands with diverse gestures, and beating themselves in a manner that in the air of the faces there is shown very clearly their sharp sorrow at the so great cost of our sins. And it is something marvellous to consider, not that he penetrated with his genius to such a height of imagination, but that he could express it so well with the brush. Wherefore this work is consummately worthy of praise, not so much by reason of the subject and of the invention, as because in it the craftsman has shown, in some heads that are weeping, that although the lineaments of those that are weeping are distorted in the brows, in the eyes, in the nose, and in the mouth, this, however, neither spoils nor alters a certain beauty which is wont to suffer much in weeping when the painters do not know well how to avail themselves of the good methods of art. But it is no great thing that Giottino should have executed this panel with so much consideration, since in his labors he ever aimed rather at fame and glory than at any other reward, being free from the greed of gain, that makes our present masters less diligent and good. And even as he did not seek to have great riches, so he did not trouble himself much about the comforts of life nay, living poorly, he sought to satisfy others rather than himself; wherefore, taking little care of himself and enduring fatigue, he died of consumption at the age of thirty-two, and was given burial by his relatives at the Martello Gate without S. Maria Novella, beside the tomb of Bontura.

Disciples of Giottino, who left more fame than wealth, were Giovanni Tossicani of Arezzo, Michelino, Giovanni dal Ponte, and Lippo, who were passing good masters of this art, but above all Giovanni Tossicani, who made many works throughout all Tuscany after Tommaso and in the same manner as his, and in particular the Chapel of S. Maria Maddalena, belonging to the Tuccerelli, in the Pieve of Arezzo, and a S. James on a pillar in the Pieve of the township of Empoli. In the Duomo of Pisa, also, he wrought some panels which have since been removed in order to make room for the modern. The last work that he made was in a chapel of the Vescovado of Arezzo, for the Countess Giovanna, wife of Tarlato da Pietramala namely, a very beautiful Annunciation, with S. James and S. Philip; which work, by reason of the back of the wall being turned to the north, was little less than completely spoilt by damp, when Maestro Agnolo di Lorenzo of Arezzo restored the Annunciation, and shortly afterwards Giorgio Vasari, still a youth, restored the S. James and S. Philip, to his own great profit, having learnt much, at that time when he had not the advantage of other masters, by studying Giovanni's method of painting and the shadows and colours of that work, spoilt as it was. In this chapel there are still read these words in an epitaph of marble, in memory of the Countess who had it built and painted:

ANNO DOMINI 1335, DE MENSE AUGUSTI, HANC CAPELLAM CONSTITUI
FECIT NOBILIS DOMINA COMITISSA JOANNA DE SANCTA FLORA, UXOR
NOBILIS MILITIS DOMINI TARLATI DE PETRAMALA, AD HONOREM BEATS
MARLE VIRGINIS.

Of the works of the other disciples of Giottino there is no mention made, seeing that they were but ordinary and little like those of the master and of Giovanni Tossicani, their fellow disciple. Tommaso drew very well, as it may be seen in our book, in certain drawings wrought by his hand with much diligence.

 

 

 

GIOVANNI DAL PONTE (1307-1365)
PAINTER OF FLORENCE

Vasari's Lives of the Artists


ALTHOUGH THERE IS NO TRUTH and not much confidence to be placed in the ancient proverb that the prodigal's purse is never empty, and although, on the contrary, it is very true that he who does not live a well-ordered life in his own degree lives at the last in want and dies miserably, it is seen, nevertheless, that fortune sometimes aids rather those who squander without restraint than those who are in all things careful and self-restrained; and when the favor of fortune ceases, there often comes death, to make up for her defection and for the bad management of men, supervening at the very moment when such men would begin with infinite dismay to recognize how miserable a thing it is to have squandered in youth and to want in old age, living and labouring in poverty, as would have happened to Giovanni da Santo Stefano a Ponte of Florence, if, after having consumed his patrimony and much gain which had been brought to his hands rather by fortune than by his merits, with some inheritances that came to him from an unexpected source, he had not finished at one and the same time the course of his life and all his means.

This man, then, who was a disciple of Buonamico Buffalmacco, and who imitated him more in attending to the pleasures of life than in seeking to become an able painter, was born in the year 1307, and after being in early youth a disciple of Buffalmacco, he made his first works in the Chapel of S. Lorenzo, in the Pieve of Empoli, painting there in fresco many scenes of the life of that Saint, with so great diligence that he was summoned to Arezzo in the year 1344, a better development being expected after so fine a beginning; and there he painted the Assumption of Our Lady in a chapel in S. Francesco. And a little time afterwards, being in some credit in that city for lack of other painters, he painted the Chapel of S. Onofrio in the Pieve, with that of S. Antonio, which today is spoilt by damp. He also made some other pictures that were in S. Giustina and in S. Matteo, but these were thrown to the ground by Duke Cosimo, together with the said churches, in the making of fortifications for that city; and exactly in that place, at the foot of the abutment of an ancient bridge beside the said S. Giustina, where the stream entered the city, there were then found a head of Appius Caecus and one of his son, both in marble and very beautiful, with an ancient epitaph, likewise very beautiful, which are all now in the guardaroba of the said Lord Duke.

Giovanni, having returned to Florence at the time when there was finished the closing of the middle arch of the Ponte a S. Trinita, painted many figures both within and without a chapel built over one pier and dedicated to S. Michelagnolo, and in particular all the front wall; which chapel, together with the bridge, was carried away by the flood of the year 1557. It is by reason of these works that some maintain, besides what has been said about him at the beginning, that he was ever afterwards called Giovanni dal Ponte. In Pisa, also, in the year 1355, he made some scenes in fresco behind the altar of the principal chapel of S. Paolo a Ripa d' Arno, which are now all spoilt by damp and by time. Giovanni also painted the Chapel of the Scali in S. Trinita in Florence, with another that is beside it, and one of the stories of S. Paul by the side of the principal chapel, where is the tomb of Maestro Paolo, the astrologer. In S. Stefano al Ponte Vecchip he painted a panel, with other pictures in distemper and in fresco both within and without Florence, which brought him considerable credit.

He gave contentment to his friends, but more in his pleasures than in his works, and he was the friend of men of learning, and in particular of all those who pursued the studies of his own profession in order to become excellent therein; and although he had not sought to have in himself that which he desired in others, yet he never ceased to encourage others to work valiantly. Finally, having lived fifty-nine years, Giovanni was seized by pleurisy and in a few days departed this life, wherein, had he survived a little longer, he would have suffered many discomforts, there being left in his house scarce as much as sufficed to give him decent burial in S. Stefano al Ponte Vecchio. His works date about 1365.

In our book of drawings by diverse ancients and moderns there is a drawing in watercolor by the hand of Giovanni, wherein is a S. George on horseback who is slaying the Dragon, and a skeleton, which bear witness to the method and manner that he had in drawing.

 

 

 

LIFE OF AGNOLO GADDI,
PAINTER OF FLORENCE

Vasari's Lives of the Artists


HOW HONORABLE and profitable it is to be excellent in a noble art is manifestly seen in the talent and management of Taddeo Gaddi, who, having acquired very good means as well as fame with his industry and labours, left the affairs of his family so well arranged, when he passed to the other life, that Agnolo and Giovanni, his sons, were easily able to give a beginning to the very great riches and to the exaltation of the house of Gaddi, today very noble in Florence and in great repute throughout all Christendom. And in truth it has been very reasonable, seeing that Gaddo, Taddeo, Agnolo, and Giovanni adorned many honored churches with their talent and their art, that their successors have been since adorned by the Holy Roman Church and by the Supreme Pontiffs of the same with the greatest ecclesiastical dignities.

Taddeo, then, of whom we have already written the Life, left his sons Agnolo and Giovanni in company with many of his disciples, hoping that Agnolo, in particular, would become very excellent in painting; but he, who in his youth showed promise of surpassing his father by a great measure, did not succeed further in justifying the opinion that had already been conceived of him, for the reason that, being born and bred in easy circumstances, which are often an impediment to study, he was given more to traffic and to trading than to the art of painting; which should not appear a thing new or strange, seeing that avarice very often bars the way to many intellects which would ascend to the greatest height of excellence, if the desire of gain did not impede their path in their earliest and best years. Working as a youth in S. Jacopo tra' Fossi in Florence, Agnolo wrought a little scene, with figures little more than a braccio high, of Christ raising Lazarus on the fourth day after death, wherein, imagining the corruption of that body, which had been dead three days, with much thought he made the grave clothes which held him bound discoloured by the decay of the flesh, and round the eyes certain livid and yellowish marks in the flesh, that seems half living and half dead; not without stupefaction in the Apostles and in other figures, who, with attitudes varied and beautiful, and with their draperies to their noses in order not to feel the stench of that corrupt body, are no less afraid and awestruck at such a marvellous miracle than Mary and Martha are joyful and content to see life returning to the dead body of their brother.

This work was judged so excellent that many deemed the talent of Agnolo to be destined to surpass all the disciples of Taddeo, and even Taddeo himself; but the event proved otherwise, because, even as in youth the will conquers every difficulty in order to acquire fame, so a certain negligence that the years bring with them often causes a man, instead of advancing, to go backwards, as did Agnolo. Having given so great a proof of his talent, he was commissioned by the family of Soderini, who had great hopes of him, to paint the principal chapel of the Carmine, and he painted therein all the life of Our Lady, so much less well than he had done the resurrection of Lazarus, that he gave every man to know that he had little wish to attend with every effort to the art of painting; for the reason that in all that great work there is nothing else of the good save one scene, wherein, round Our Lady, in a room, are many maidens who are wearing diverse costumes and headdresses, according to the diversity of the use of those times, and are engaged in diverse exercises: this one is spinning, that one is sewing, that other is winding thread, one is weaving, and others working in other ways, all passing well conceived and executed by Agnolo.

For the noble family of the Alberti, likewise, he painted in fresco the principal chapel of the Church of S. Croce, making therein all that came to pass in the discovery of the Cross, and he executed that work with much mastery of handling but not with much design, for only the coloring is beautiful and good enough. Next, in painting in fresco some stories of S. Louis in the Chapel of the Bardi in the same church, he acquitted himself much better. And because he used to work by caprice, now with more zeal and now with less, working in S. Spirito, also in Florence, within the door that leads from the square into the convent, he made in fresco, over another door, a Madonna with the Child in her arms, and S. Augustine and S. Nicholas, so well that the said figures appear as if made only yesterday.

And because in a certain manner there had come to Agnolo, by way of inheritance, the secret of working in mosaic, and he had at home the instruments and all the materials that his grandfather Gaddo had used in this, he would make something in mosaic when it pleased him, merely to pass time and by reason of that convenience of material, rather than for aught else. Now, seeing that time had eaten away many of those marbles that cover the eight faces of the roof of S. Giovanni, and that the damp penetrating within had therefore spoilt much of the mosaic which Andrea Tafi had wrought there at a former time, the Consuls of the Guild of Merchants determined, to the end that the rest might not be spoilt, to rebuild the greater part of that covering with marble, and in like manner to have the mosaic restored. Wherefore, the direction and commission for the whole being given to Agnolo, he, in the year 1346, had it recovered with new marbles and the pieces laid over each other at the joinings, with unexampled diligence, to the breadth of two fingers, cutting each slab to the half of its thickness; then, joining them together with cement made of mastic and wax melted together, he fitted them with so great diligence that from that time onwards neither the roof nor the vaulting has received any damage from the rains. Agnolo, having afterwards restored the mosaic, brought it about by means of his counsel and of a design very well conceived that there was rebuilt, round the said church, all the upper cornice of marble below the roof, in that form wherein it now remains; which cornice was much smaller than it is and very commonplace. Under direction of the same man there was also made the vaulting of the Great Hall of the Palace of the Podesta, which before was directly under the roof, to the end that, besides the adornment, fire might not again be able to do it damage, as it had done a long time before. After this, by the counsel of Agnolo, there were made round the said Palace the battlements that are there today, which before were in no wise there.

The while that these works were executing, he did not desert his painting entirely, and painted in distemper, in the panel that he made for the high altar of S. Pancrazio, Our Lady, S. John the Baptist, and the Evangelist, and beside them the Saints Nereus, Archileus, and Pancratius, brothers, with other Saints. But the best of this work nay, all that is seen therein of the good is the predella alone, which is all full of little figures, divided into eight stories of the Madonna and of S. Reparata. Next, in 1348, he painted the panel of the high altar of S. Maria Maggiore, also in Florence, for Barone Cappelli, making therein a passing good dance of angels round a Coronation of Our Lady. A little afterwards, in the Pieve of the district of Prato, rebuilt under direction of Giovanni Pisano in the year 1312, as it has been said above, Agnolo painted in fresco, in the chapel wherein was deposited the Girdle of Our Lady, many scenes of her life; and in other churches of that district, which was full of monasteries and convents held in great honor, he made other works in plenty. In Florence, next, he painted the arch over the door of S. Romeo; and in Orto S. Michele he wrought in distemper a Disputation of the Doctors with Christ in the Temple. And at the same time, many houses having been pulled down in order to enlarge the Piazza de' Signori, and in particular the Church of S. Romolo, this was rebuilt with the design of Agnolo. There are many panels by his hand throughout the churches in the said city, and many of his works may also be recognized in the domain, which were wrought by him with much profit to himself, although he worked more in order to do as his forefathers had done than for any love of it, having his mind directed on commerce, which brought him better profit; as it is seen when his sons, not wishing any longer to be painters, gave themselves over completely to commerce, holding a house open for this purpose in Venice together with their father, who, from a certain time onward, did not work save for his own pleasure, and, in a certain manner, in order to pass time. Having thus acquired great wealth by means of trading and by means of his art, Agnolo died in the sixty-third year of his life, overcome by a malignant fever which in a few days made an end of him.

His disciples were Maestro Antonio da Ferrara, who made many beautiful works in S. Francesco at Urbino, and at Citta' di Castello; and Stefano da Verona, who painted in fresco most perfectly, as it is seen in many places at Verona, his native city, and also in many of his works at Mantua. This man, among other things, was excellent in giving very beautiful expressions to the faces of children, of women, and of old men, as it may be seen in his works, which were all imitated and copied by that Piero da Perugia, illuminator, who illuminated all the books that are in the library of Pope Pius in the Duomo at Siena, and was a practised colorist in fresco. A disciple of Agnolo, also, was Michele da Milano, as was Giovanni Gaddi, his brother, who made, in the cloister of S. Spirito where are the little arches of Gaddo and of Taddeo, the Disputation of Christ in the Temple with the Doctors, the Purification of the Virgin, the Temptation of Christ in the Wilderness, and the Baptism of John; and finally, having created very great expectation, he died. A pupil of the same Agnolo in painting was Cennino di Drea Cennini of Colle di Valdelsa, who, having very great affection for the art, wrote a book describing the methods of working in fresco, in distemper, in size, and in gum, and, besides, how illuminating is done, and all the methods of applying gold; which book is in the hands of Giuliano, goldsmith of Siena, an excellent master and a friend of these arts. And in the beginning of this his book he treated of the nature of colors, both the minerals and the earth colors, according as he learnt from Agnolo his master, wishing, for the reason perchance that he did not succeed in learning to paint perfectly, at least to know the nature of the colors, the distempers, the sizes, and the application of gesso, and what colors we must guard against as harmful in making the mixtures, and in short many other considerations whereof there is no need to discourse, there being today a perfect knowledge of all those matters which he held as great and very rare secrets in those times.

But I will not forbear to say that he makes no mention (and perchance they may not have been in use) of some earth colors, such as dark red earths, cinabrese, and certain vitreous greens. Since then there have been also discovered umber, which is an earth color, giallo santo, the smalts both for fresco and for oils, and some vitreous greens and yellows, wherein the painters of that age were lacking. He treated finally of mosaics, and of grinding colors in oils in order to make grounds of red, blue, green, and in other manners; and of the mordants for the application of gold, but not then for figures. Besides the works that he wrought in Florence with his master, there is a Madonna with certain saints by his hand under the loggia of the hospital of Bonifazio Lupi, colored in such a manner that it has been very well preserved up to our own day.

This Cennino, in the first chapter of his said book, speaking of himself, uses these very words: "I, Cennino di Drea Cennini, of Colle di Valdelsa, was instructed in the said art for twelve years by Agnolo di Taddeo of Florence, my master, who learnt the said art from Taddeo, his father, who was held at baptism by Giotto and was his disciple for four-and-twenty years; which Giotto transmuted the art of painting from Greek into Latin, and brought it to the modern manner, and had it for certain more perfected than anyone ever had it." These are the very words of Cennino, to whom it appeared that even as those who translate any work from Greek into Latin confer very great benefit on those who do not understand Greek, so, too, did Giotto in transforming the art of painting from a manner not understood or known by anyone, save perchance as very rude, to a beautiful, facile, and very pleasing manner, understood and known as good by all who have judgment and the least grain of reason.

All these disciples of Agnolo did him very great honor, and he was buried by his sons, to whom it is said that he left the sum of fifty thousand florins or more, in S. Maria Novella, in the tomb that he himself had made for himself and for his descendants, in the year of our salvation 1387. The portrait of Agnolo, made by himself, is seen in the Chapel of the Alberti, S. Croce, beside a door in the scene wherein, the Emperor Heraclius is bearing the Cross; it is painted in profile, with a little beard, and with a rose-colored cap on his head according to the use of those times. He was not excellent in draughtsmanship, in so far as is shown by some drawings by his hand that are in our book.

 

 

 

BARNA DA SIENA (active ca. 1340-1350s)


Vasari's Lives of the Artists

IF THOSE WHO LABOR to become excellent in some art did not very often have the thread of life cut by death in their best years, I have no doubt that many intellects would arrive at that rank which is most desired both by them and by the world. But the short life of men and the bitterness of various accidents, which threaten them from all sides, snatch them from us sometimes prematurely, as could be seen in poor young Berna of Siena, who, although he died young, nevertheless left so many works that he appears to have lived very long ; and those that he left were made in such a way, that it may well be believed from this showing that he would have become excellent and rare if he had not died so soon. In two chapels of S. Agostino in Siena there are seen some little pictures with figures in fresco, by his hand; and in the church, on a wall now pulled down in order to make chapels there, was a scene of a youth led to execution, as well made as it could possibly be imagined, there being seen expressed in it the pallor and fear of death, in so lifelike a manner that he deserved therefore the highest praise. Beside the said youth was a friar painted in a very fine attitude, and, in short, everything in that work is so vividly wrought that it appears, indeed, that in this work Berna imagined this event as most horrible, as it must be, and full of most bitter and cruel terror, seeing that he portrayed it so well with the brush that the same scene appearing in reality would not stir greater emotion.

In the city of Cortona, also, besides many other works scattered in many places in that city, he painted the greater part of the vaulting and of the walls of the Church of S. Margherita, where today is the seat of the Frati Zoccolanti. From Cortona he went to Arezzo in the year 1369, exactly when the Tarlati, formerly Lords of Pietramala, had caused Moccio, a sculptor and architect of Siena, to finish the Convent and the body of the Church of S. Agostino in that city, in the lesser aisles of which many citizens had caused chapels and tombs to be made for their families; and there, in the Chapel of S. Jacopo, Berna painted in fresco some little scenes of the life of that Saint, and especially vivid is the story of Marino the swindler, who, having by reason of greed of gold given his soul to the Devil and made thereunto a written contract in his own hand, is making supplication to the Saint to free him from this promise, while a Devil, showing him the contract, is pressing him with the greatest insistence in the world. In all these figures Berna expressed the emotions of the mind with much vivacity, and particularly in the face of Marino, which shows on one side fear, and on the other the faith and trust that make him hope for his liberation from S. James, although opposite there is seen the Devil, hideous to a marvel, who is warmly speaking and declaring his rights to the Saint, who, after having instilled into Marino extreme penitence for his sin and for the promise made, is liberating him and leading him back to God.

This same story, says Lorenzo Ghiberti, by the hand of the same man, was in a chapel of the Capponi, dedicated to S. Nicholas, in S. Spirito at Florence, before that church was burnt down. After this work, then, Berna painted a great Crucifix in a chapel of the Vescovado of Arezzo for Messer Guccio di Vanni Tarlati da Pietramala, and at the foot of the Cross a Madonna, S. John the Evangelist, and S. Francis, in most sorrowful attitudes, together with a S. Michelagnolo, with so much diligence that it merits no small praise, and above all by reason of having been so well preserved that it appears made only yesterday. Below, moreover, is the portrait of the said Guccio, kneeling in armor at the foot of the Cross. In the Pieve of the same city, in the Chapel of the Paganelli, he painted many stories of Our Lady, and portrayed there after the life the Blessed Rinieri, a holy man and prophet of that house, who is giving alms to many beggars who are round him. In S. Bartolommep, also, he painted some stories of the Old Testament and the story of the Magi; and in the Church of Spirito Santo he painted some stories of S. John the Evangelist, and in certain figures the portrait of himself and of many of his friends, nobles of that city.

Returning after these works to his own country, he made on wood many pictures both small and great; but he made no long stay there, because, being summoned to Florence, he painted in S. Spirito the Chapel of S. Niccold, which we have mentioned above, and which was much extolled, and other works that were consumed in the miserable burning of that church. In the Pieve of San Gimignano in Valdelsa he wrought in fresco some stories of the New Testament, which he had already very nearly brought to completion, when, falling by a strange accident from his scaffolding to the ground, he bruised himself internally in such a manner, and injured himself so grievously, that in the space of two days, with greater loss to art than to himself, who went to a better place, he passed from this life. And the people of San Gimignano, honouring him much in the way of obsequies, gave to his body honorable burial in the aforesaid Pieve, holding him after death in the same repute wherein they had held him in life, and not ceasing for many months to attach round his tomb epitaphs both Latin and Italian, by reason of the men of that country being naturally given to fine letters. So, then, they conferred a suitable reward on the honest labors of Berna, celebrating with their pens him who had honored them with his pictures.

Giovanni da Asciano, who was a pupil of Berna, brought to completion the remainder of that work; and he painted some pictures in the Hospital of the Scala at Siena, and also some others in the old houses of the Medici at Florence, which gave him considerable fame. The works of Berna of Siena date about 1381. And because, besides what has been said, Berna was passing dexterous in draughtsmanship and was the first who began to portray animals well, as bears witness a drawing by his hand that is in our book, all full of wild beasts of diverse sorts, he deserves to be consummately praised and to have his name held in honor by !; [sic] craftsmen. His disciple, too, was Luca di Tome of Siena, who painted many works in Siena and throughout all Tuscany, and in particular the panel and the chapel that are in S. Domenico at Arezzo, belonging to the family of the Dragomanni; which chapel, German in architecture, was very well adorned, by means of the said panel and of the work that is therein in fresco, by the hand and by the judgment and genius of Luca of Siena.


 

 

 

Duccio
PAINTER OF SIENA

Vasari's Lives of the Artists

WITHOUT DOUBT those who are inventors of anything notable receive the greatest attention from the pens of the writers of history, and this comes to pass because the first inventions are more observed and held in greater marvel, by reason of the delight that the novelty of the thing brings with it, than all the improvements made afterwards by any man whatsoever when works are brought to the height of perfection, for the reason that if a beginning were never given to anything, there would be no advance and improvement in the middle stages, and the end would not become excellent and of a marvellous beauty. Duccio, then, painter of Siena and much esteemed, deserved to carry off the palm from those who came many years after him, since in the pavement of the Duomo of Siena he made a beginning in marble for the inlaid work of the figures in chiaroscuro, wherein today modern craftsmen have made the marvels that are seen in them. He applied himself to the imitation of the old manner, and with very sane judgment gave dignified forms to his figures, which he fashioned very excellently in spite of the difficulties of such an art. With his own hand, imitating the pictures in chiaroscuro, he arranged and designed the beginnings of the said pavement, and he made in the Duomo a panel that was then placed on the high altar, and afterwards removed thence in order to place there the Tabernacle of the Body of Christ, which is seen there at the present day. In this panel, according to the description of Lorenzo di Bartolo Ghiberti, there was a Coronation of Our Lady, wrought, as it were, in the Greek manner, but blended considerably with the modern. And as it was painted both on the back part and on the front, the said high altar being isolated right round, on the said back part there had been made by Duccio with much diligence all the principal stories of the New Testament, with very beautiful little figures. I have sought to learn where this panel is to be found today, but, for all the diligence that I have thereunto used, I have never been able to discover it, or to learn what Francesco di Giorgio, the sculptor, did with it when he remade the said tabernacle in bronze, as well as the marble ornaments that are therein.

He made, likewise, many panels on grounds of gold throughout Siena, and one in Florence, in S. Trinita, wherein there is an Annunciation. He painted, next, very many works for diverse churches in Pisa, in Lucca, and in Pistoia, which were all consummately praised and acquired for him very great fame and profit. Finally, it is not known where this Duccio died, nor what relatives, disciples, or wealth he left; it is enough that, for having left art the heir to his invention of making pictures of marble in chiaroscuro, he deserves infinite commendation and praise for such a benefit to art, and that he can be assuredly numbered among the benefactors who confer advancement and adornment on our profession, considering that those who go on investigating the difficulties of rare inventions leave their memory behind them, besides all their marvellous works.

They say in Siena that Duccio, in the year 1348, gave the design for the chapel that is in the square, against the wall of the Palazzo Principale; and it is read that there lived in his times a sculptor and architect of passing good talent from the same country, named Moccio, who made many works throughout all Tuscany, and particularly one in the Church of S. Domenico in Arezzo, namely, a tomb of marble for one of the Cerchi, which tomb acts as support and ornament for the organ of the said church; and although it may appear to some that it is not a very excellent work, yet, if it is considered that he made it while still a youth, in the year 1356, it cannot but seem passing good. This man served in the building of S. Maria del Fiore as under-architect and as sculptor, making certain works in marble for that fabric; and in Arezzo he rebuilt the Church of S. Agostino, which was small, in the manner that it is today, and the expense was borne by the heirs of Piero Saccone de' Tarlati, according as he had ordained before he died in Bibbiena, a place in the Casentino; and because Moccio erected this church without any vaulting, and laid the weight of the roof on the arches of the columns, he exposed himself to a great peril and was truly too bold. The same man made the Church and Convent of S. Antonio, which, before the siege of Florence, was at the Porta a Faenza, and today is wholly ruined; and he wrought in sculpture the door of S. Agostino in Ancona, with many figures and ornaments similar to those which are on the door of S. Francesco in the same city. In this Church of S. Agostino he also made the tomb of Fra Zenone Vigilanti, Bishop, and General of the Order of the said S. Augustine; and finally, he built the Loggia de' Mercatanti of that city, which has since received, now for one reason and now for another, many improvements in the modern manner, with ornaments of various sorts. All these works, although they are in these days much less than passable, were then much extolled, according to the standard of knowledge of these men. But returning to our Duccio, his works date about the year of our salvation 1350.

 

 

 

ANTONIO VENEZIANO (Antonio Viniziano) (active 1369-after 13 March 1419)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists


MANY who would fain stay in the country where they are born, being torn by the tooth of envy and oppressed by the tyranny of their fellow citizens, take themselves off, and choosing for country those places where they find that their talent is recognized and rewarded, they make their works therein; and striving to become very excellent in order to put to shame, in some sort, those by whom they have been outraged, they become very often great men, whereas, by staying quietly in their country, they would peradventure have had little more than a mediocre success in their arts. Antonio Viniziano, who betook himself to Florence in the wake of Agnolo Gaddi in order to learn painting, grasped the good method of working so well that he was not only esteemed and loved by the Florentines, but also greatly cherished by reason of this talent and of his other good qualities. Whereupon, being seized by a wish to show himself in his own city in order to enjoy some fruit of the fatigues endured by him, he returned to Venice, where, having made himself known by many works wrought in fresco and in distemper, he was commissioned by the Signoria to paint one of the walls of the Council Chamber. This he executed so excellently and with so great majesty that, according to his merit, he would have obtained an honorable reward; but the emulation, or rather, the envy of the craftsmen, and the favor that some gentlemen showed to other painters from abroad, caused the affair to fall out otherwise.

Wherefore the poor Antonio, finding himself thus crushed and overborne, took the wiser part and returned to Florence, with the intention never again to consent to return to Venice, and determined once and for all that his country should be Florence. Establishing himself, then, in that city, he painted in the cloister of S. Spirito, in a little arch, a Christ who is calling Peter and Andrew from their nets, and Zebedee and his sons; and below the three little arches of Stefano he painted the story of the miracle of Christ with the loaves and fishes, wherein he showed infinite diligence and lovingness, as it is clearly seen in the figure of Christ Himself, who, in the air of His countenance and in His aspect, is showing the compassion that He has for the multitude, and the ardor of the love wherewith He is causing the bread to be dispensed. Great affection, likewise, is seen in the very beautiful action of an Apostle, who is exerting himself greatly in dispensing the bread from a basket. From this work all who belong to art learn ever to paint their figures in a manner that they may appear to be speaking, for otherwise they are not prized. Antonio demonstrated the same thing on the outer frontal in a little scene of the Manna, wrought with so great diligence, and finished with so fine grace, that it can be truly called excellent. Afterwards, in S. Stefano al Ponte Vecchio, on the predella of the high altar, he made some stories of S. Stephen, with so great lovingness that it is not possible to see either more gracious or more beautiful figures, even if they were done in miniature. In S. Antonio al Ponte alia Carraja, moreover, he painted the arch over the door, which, with the whole church, was thrown to the ground in our own day by Monsignor Ricasoli, Bishop of Pistoia, because it took away the view from his houses; although, even if he had not done this, we should today, in any case, be deprived of that work, the late flood of 1557, as it has been said before, having carried away on that side two arches and the abutment of the bridge on which was built the said little Church of S. Antonio.

Antonio, being summoned after these works to Pisa by the Warden of Works of the Campo Santo, continued therein the painting of the stories of the Blessed Ranieri, a holy man of that city, formerly begun by Simone Sanese, following his arrangement. In the first part of the work painted by Antonio there is seen, in company with the said Ranieri when he is embarking in order to return to Pisa, a good number of figures wrought with diligence, among which is the portrait of Count Gaddo, who died ten years before, and that of Neri, his uncle, once Lord of Pisa. Among the said figures, also, that of a maniac is very notable, for, with the features of madness, with the person writhing in distorted gestures, the eyes blazing, and the mouth gnashing and showing the teeth, it resembles a real maniac so greatly that it is not possible to imagine either a more lifelike picture or one more true to nature.

In the next part, which is beside that named above, three figures (who are marvelling to see the Blessed Ranieri showing the Devil, in the form of a cat on a barrel, to a fat host, who has the air of a gay companion, and who, all fearful, is commending himself to the Saint) can be said to be truly very beautiful, being very well executed in the attitudes, the manner of the draperies, the variety of the heads, and all the other parts. Not far away are the host's womenfolk, and they, too, could not be wrought with more grace, Antonio having made them with certain tucked-up garments and with certain ways so peculiar to women who serve in hostelries, that nothing better can be imagined. Nor could that scene likewise be more pleasing than it is, wherein the Canons of the Duomo of Pisa, in very beautiful vestments of those times, no little different from those that are used today and very graceful, are receiving S. Ranieri at table, all the figures being made with much consideration. Next, in the painting of the death of the said Saint, he expressed very well not only the effect of weeping, but also the movement of certain angels who are bearing his soul to Heaven, surrounded by a light most resplendent and made with beautiful invention. And truly one cannot but marvel as one sees, in the bearing of the body of that Saint by the clergy to the Duomo, certain priests who are singing, for in their gestures, in the actions of their persons, and in all their movements, as they chant diverse parts, they bear a marvellous resemblance to a choir of singers; and in that scene, so it is said, is the portrait of the Bavarian.

In like manner, the miracles that Ranieri wrought as he was borne to his tomb, and those that he wrought in another place when already laid to rest therein in the Duomo, were painted with very great diligence by Antonio, who made there blind men receiving their sight, paralytics regaining the use of their members, men possessed by the Devil being delivered, and other miracles, all represented very vividly. But among all the other figures, that of a dropsical man deserves to be considered with marvel, for the reason that, with the face withered, with the lips shrivelled, and with the body swollen, he is such that a living man could not show more than does this picture the very great thirst of the dropsical and the other effects of that malady. A wonderful thing, too, in those times, was a ship that he made in this work, which, being in travail in a tempest, was saved by that Saint; for he made therein with great vivacity all the actions of the mariners, and everything which is wont to befall in such accidents and travailings. Some are casting into the insatiable sea, without a thought, the precious merchandize won by so much sweat and labor, others are running to see to their vessel, which is breaking up, and others, finally, to other mariners' duties, whereof it would take too long to relate the whole; it is enough to say that all are made with so great vividness and beautiful method that it is a marvel.

In the same place, below the lives of the Holy Fathers painted by Pietro Laurati of Siena, Antonio made the body of the Blessed Oliverio (together with the Abbot Panuzio, and many events of their lives), in a sarcophagus painted to look like marble; which figure is very well painted. In short, all these works that Antonio made in the Campo Santo are such that they have been universally held, and with great reason, the best of all those that have been wrought by many excellent masters at various times in that place, for the reason that, besides the particulars mentioned, the fact that he painted everything in fresco, never retouching any part on the dry, brought it about that up to our day they have remained so vivid in the coloring that they can teach the followers of that art and make them understand how greatly the retouching of works in fresco with other colours, after they are dry, causes injury to their pictures and labors, as it has been said in the treatise on Theory; for it is a very certain fact that they are aged, ' and not allowed to be purified by time, by being covered with colors that have a different body, being tempered with gums, with tragacanths, with eggs, with size, or some other similar substance, which tarnishes what is below, and does not allow the course of time and the air to purify that which has been truly wrought in fresco on the soft plaster, as they would have done if other colours had not been superimposed on the dry.

Having finished this work, which, being truly worthy of all praise, brought him honorable payment from the Pisans, who loved him greatly ever afterwards, Antonio returned to Florence, where, at Nuovoli without the Porta a Prato, he painted in a shrine, for Giovanni degli Agli, a Dead Christ, the story of the Magi with many figures, and a very beautiful Day of judgment. Summoned, next, to the Certosa, he painted for the Acciaiuoli, who built that place, the panel of the high altar, which was consumed by fire in our day by reason of the inadvertence of a sacristan of that monastery, who left the thurible full of fire hanging from the altar, wherefore the panel was burnt, and afterwards the altar was made by those monks, as it stands today, entirely of marble. In that same place, also, the same master made in fresco, over a wardrobe that is in the said chapel, a Transfiguration of Christ which is very beautiful. And because he studied the science of herbs in Dioscorides, being much inclined thereunto by nature, and delighting to understand the property and virtue of each one of them, at last he abandoned painting and gave himself to the distilling of simples and to seeking them out with all diligence.

Changing thus from painter to physician, for a long time he followed this art. Finally, falling sick from disease of the stomach, or, as others say, from plague caught while acting as physician, he finished the course of his life at the age of seventy-four, in the year 1384, when there was a very great plague in Florence, having been no less expert as physician than he was diligent as painter; wherefore, having made infinite experiments in medicine by means of those who had availed Themselves of him in their necessities, he left to the world a very good name for himself in both one and the other of these arts. Antonio drew very graciously with the pen, and so well in chiaroscuro, that some drawings by him which are in our book, wherein he made the little arch of S. Spirito, are the best of those times. A disciple of Antonio was Gherardo Stamina, the Florentine, who imitated him greatly; and Paolo Uccello, who was likewise his disciple, did him no small honor.

The portrait of Antonio Viniziano, by his own hand, is in the Campo Santo in Pisa.

 

 

 

LIFE OF JACOPO DI CASENTINO (1297- 1358)
PAINTER

Vasari's Lives of the Artists


Now that the fame and the renown of the pictures of Giotto and his disciples had been heard for many years, many, desirous of acquiring fame and riches by means of the art of painting, and animated by zealous aspirations and by the inclination of nature, began to advance towards the improvement of the art, with a firm belief that, exercising themselves therein, they would surpass in excellence both Giotto and Taddeo and the other painters. Among these was one Jacopo di Casentino, who, being born, as it is read, of the family of Messer Cristoforo Landino of Pratovecchio, was apprenticed by a friar of the Casentino, then Prior at the Sasso della Vernia, to Taddeo Gaddi, while Taddeo was working in that convent, to the end that he might learn drawing and colouring in the art, wherein in a few years he succeeded so well that, betaking himself to Florence and executing many works in company with Giovanni da Milano in the service of Taddeo their master, he was made to paint the shrine of the Madonna of the Mercato Vecchio, with the panel in distemper, and likewise the one at the corner of the Piazza di S. Niccolo and the Via del Cocomero, which were restored a few years ago, both one and the other, by a worse master than was Jacopo ; and for the Dyers he painted that which is in S. Nofri, at the corner of the wall of their garden, opposite to S. Giuseppe. In the meanwhile, the vaults of Orsanmichele over the twelve piers having been brought to a finish, a low rustic roof was placed upon them, in order to pursue as soon as might be possible the building of that palace, which was to be the granary of the Commune; and it was given to Jacopo di Casentino, as a person then much practised, to paint these vaults, with instructions that he should make there, as he did, together with the patriarchs, some prophets and the chiefs of the tribes, which were in all sixteen figures on a ground of ultramarine, today half spoilt, not to mention the other ornaments. Next, on the walls below and on the piers, he made many miracles of the Madonna, and other works that are recognized by the manner.

This work finished, Jacopo returned to the Casentino. and after he had made many works in Pratovecchio, in Poppi, and other places in that valley, he betook himself to Arezzo, which then governed itself with the counsel of sixty of its richest and most honoured citizens, to whose care was committed the whole administration. There, in the principal chapel of the Vescovado, he painted a story of S. Martin, and in the Duomo Vecchio, now in ruins, a number of pictures, among which was the portrait of Pope Innocent VI, in the principal chapel. Next, in the Church of S. Bartolommeo, for the Chapter of the Canons of the Pieve, he painted the wall where the high altar is, and the Chapel of S. Maria della Neve; and in the old Company of S. Giovanni de' Peducci he made many stories of that Saint, which today are covered with whitewash. In the Church of S. Domenico, likewise, he painted the Chapel of S. Cristofano, portraying there from nature the Blessed Masuolo, who is liberating from prison a merchant of the Fei family, who caused that chapel to be built; which Blessed Masuolo, as prophet, predicted many misadventures to the Aretines in his lifetime. In the Church of S. Agostino, in the chapel and on the altar of the Nardi, he painted in fresco some stories of S. Laurence, with marvellous manner and execution.

And because he exercised himself also in the things of architecture, by order of the sixty aforesaid citizens he reconducted under the walls of Arezzo the water that comes from the foot of the hill of Pori, three hundred braccia distant from the city. This water, in the time of the Romans, had been brought first to the theatre, whereof the remains are still there, and from that theatre, which was on the hill where today there is the fortress, to the amphitheatre of the same city, on the plain; but these edifices and conduits were wholly ruined and spoilt by the Goths. Jacopo, then, as it has been said, having brought this water below the walls, made the fountain which was then called the Fonte Guizianelli, and which is now named, by the corruption of the word, the Fonte Viniziana; this work endured from that time, which was the year 1354, up to the year 1527, and no more, for the reason that the plague of that year, the war that came afterwards, the fact that many intercepted the water at their own convenience for the use of their gardens, and still more the fact that Jacopo did not sink it, brought it about that today it is not, as it should be, standing.

The while that the aqueduct was going on being built, Jacopo, not leaving aside his painting, wrought many scenes from the acts of Bishop Guido and Piero Sacconi in the palace that was in the old citadel, now in ruins ; for these men, both in peace and in war, had done great and honourable deeds for that city. In the Pieve, likewise, below the organ, he wrought the story of S. Matthew and many other works. [And so, making works with his own hand throughout the whole city, he showed to Spinello Aretino the principles of that art which was taught to him by Agnolo, and which Spinello taught afterwards to Bernardo Daddi, who, working in his own city, honored it with many beautiful works of painting, which, together with his other most noble qualities, brought it about that he was much honoured by his fellow citizens, who employed him much in magistracies and in other public affairs. The paintings of Bernardo were many and in much esteem, and above all the Chapel of S. Lorenzo and of S. Stefano, belonging to the Pulci and Berardi, in S. Croce, and many other paintings in diverse places in the said church. Finally, having made some pictures over the gates of the city of Florence on the inner side, he died, laden with years, and was given honourable burial in S. Felicita, in the year 1380.

But returning to Jacopo; besides what has been told, in his time, in the year 1350, there was founded the Company and Confraternity of Painters; for the masters who were then living, both those of the old Greek manner and those of the new manner of Cimabue, being a great number, and reflecting that the arts of design had had their new birth in Tuscany nay rather, in Florence itself created the said Company under the name and protection of S. Luke the Evangelist, both in order to render praise and thanks to God in its oratory, and also to come together sometimes and to give succour, in spiritual matters as well as in temporal, to anyone who on occasion might have need of it; which custom is also in use among many Guilds in Florence, but was much more so in ancient times. Their first oratory was the principal chapel of the Hospital of S. Maria Nuova, which was conceded to them by the family of the Portinari. And those who were the first governors of the said Company, with the title of captains, were six, besides two counsellors and two treasurers, as it may be seen in the old book of the said Company, begun at that time, whereof the first chapter begins thus: "These articles and ordinances were drawn up and made by good and discreet men of the Guild of Painters in Florence, and at the time of Lapo Gucci, painter; Vanni Cinuzzi, painter; Corsino Buonaiuti, painter; Pasquino Cenni, painter; Segna d' Antignano, painter. The counsellors were Bernardo Daddi and Jacopo di Casentino, painters; and the treasurers, Consiglio Gherardi and Domenico Pucci, painters."

The said Company being created in this way, at the request of the captains and of the others Jacopo di Casentino painted the panel of their chapel, making therein a S. Luke who is portraying Our Lady in a picture, and on one side of the predella the men of the Company, and on the other all the women, kneeling. From this beginning, sometimes assembling and sometimes not, this Company has continued up to its arrival at the condition wherein it stands today, as it is narrated in its new articles, approved by the most Illustrious Lord Duke Cosimo, most benign protector of these arts of design.

Finally, being heavy with years and much fatigued, Jacopo returned to the Casentino, and died in Pratovecchio at the age of eighty, and was buried by his relatives and friends in S. Agnolo, the Abbey of the Order of Camaldoli, without Pratovecchio. His portrait, by the hand of Spinello, was in the Duomo Vecchio, in a story of the Magi; and of the manner of his drawing there is an example in our book.

 

 

 

LIFE OF SPINELLO ARETINO (c. 1345 - 1410)
PAINTER

Vasari's Lives of the Artists


LUCA SPINELLI having gone to dwell in Arezzo on one of the several occasions when the Ghibellines were driven out of Florence, there was born to him in that city a son, to whom he gave the name of Spinello, so much inclined by nature to be a painter, that almost without a master, while still a boy, he knew what many exercised under the discipline of the best masters do not know; and what is more, having had friendship with Jacopo di Casentino while he worked in Arezzo, and having learnt something from him, before he was twenty years of age he was by a long way a much better master, young as he was, than was Jacopo himself, already an old painter. Spinello, then, began to be reputed a good painter, and Messer Dardano Acciaiuoli, having caused the Church of S. Niccol6 to be built near the Sala del Papa, behind S. Maria Novella, in the Via della Scala, and having given burial therein to one his brother, a Bishop, caused him to paint the whole of that church in fresco with stories of S. Nicholas, Bishop of Bari; and he delivered it completely finished in the year 1334, having been at work on it two years without ceasing. In this work Spinello acquitted himself so well, both in the colouring and in the design, that up to our own day the colours had remained very well preserved and the excellence of the figures was clearly visible, when, a few years since, they were in great part spoilt by a fire that burst out unexpectedly in that church, which had been unwisely filled with straw by some foolish men who made use of it as a barn or storehouse for straw. Attracted by the fame of this work, Messer Barone Capelli, citizen of Florence, caused Spinello to paint in fresco, in the principal chapel of S. Maria Maggiore, many stories of the Madonna and some of S. Anthony the Abbot, and near these the consecration of that very ancient church, consecrated by Pope Paschal, second of that name; and all this Spinello wrought so well that it appears made all in one day, and not in many months, as it was.

Beside the said Pope is the portrait of Messer Barone himself from the life, in the dress of those times, made very well and with very good judgment. This chapel finished, Spinello painted in fresco, in the Church of the Carmine, the Chapel of S. James and S. John, the Apostles, wherein, among other things, there is wrought with much diligence the scene when the wife of Zebedee, mother of James, is demanding of Jesus Christ that He should cause one of her sons to sit on the right hand of the Father in the Kingdom of Heaven, and the other on the left; and a little beyond are seen Zebedee, James, and John abandoning their nets and following Christ, with liveliness and admirable manner. In another chajgel of the same church, which is beside the principal chapel, Spinello made, also in fresco, some stories of the Madonna, and the Apostles appearing to her miraculously before her death, and likewise the moment when she dies and is then borne to Heaven by the Angels. And because the scene was large and the diminutive chapel, which was not longer than ten braccia and not higher than five, would not contain the whole, and above all the Assumption of Our Lady herself, Spinello, with beautiful judgment, caused it to curve round within the length of the picture, on to a part where Christ and the Angels are receiving her. In a chapel in S. Trinita he made in fresco a very beautiful Annunciation; and in the Church of S. Apostolo, on the panel of the high altar, he made in distemper the Holy Spirit being sent down on the Apostles in tongues of fire. In S. Lucia de' Bardi, likewise, he painted a little panel, and another in S. Croce, larger, for the Chapel of S. Giovanni Battista, which was painted by Giotto.

After these works, being recalled to Arezzo by the sixty citizens who governed that place, by reason of the great name that he had acquired while working in Florence, he was made by the Commune to paint the story of the Magi in the Church of the Duomo Vecchio, without the city, and, in the Chapel of S. Gismondo, a S. Donatus who is slaying a serpent with his benediction. In like manner, he made diverse figures on many pilasters in that Duomo, and, on a wall, the Magdalene anointing the feet of Christ in the house of Simon; with other pictures, whereof there is no need to make mention, since that church, which was full of tombs, of bones of saints, and of other memorable things, is to-day wholly ruined. [l will say, indeed, to the end that there may at least remain this memory of it, that it was erected by the Aretines more than thirteen hundred years since, at the time when first they came into the faith of Jesus Christ, converted by S. Donatus, who was afterwards & Bishop of that city; and that it was dedicated to his name, and richly adorned, both within and without, with very ancient spoils. The ground- plan of this edifice, whereof we have discoursed at length in another place, was divided without into sixteen sides, and within into eight, and all were full of the spoils of those temples which before had been dedicated to the idols; and it was, in short, as beautiful as a temple thus made and very ancient can be, when it was destroyed.

After the many pictures made in the Duomo, Spinello painted in S. Francesco, in ihe Chapel of the Marsuppini, Pope Honorius con- firming and approving the Order of that Saint, and made there from nature the portrait of Innocent IV, from whatsoever source he had it. He painted also in the same church, in the Chapel of S. Michelagnolo, many stories of him, in the place where the bells are rung ; and a little below, in the Chapel of Messer Giuliano Baccio, an Annunciation, with other figures, which are much praised; all which works made in this church were wrought in fresco, with very resolute handling, from 1334 up to 1338. Next, in the Pieve of the same city, he painted the Chapel of S. Pietro e S. Paolo, and below it, that of S. Michelagnolo ; and, for the Confraternity of S. Maria della Misericordia, he painted in fresco, on the same side of the church, the Chapel of S. Jacopo e S.Filippo; found over the principal door of the Confraternity, which opens on to the square namely, on the arch he painted a Pieta, with a S. John, at the request of the Rectors of that Confraternity, which had its origin in the following way. A certain number of good and honorable citizens had begun to go about collecting alms for the poor who were ashamed to beg, and to succour them in all their needs: and in the year of the plague of 1348, by reason of the great name acquired by these good men for the Confraternity in assisting the poor and the sick, in burying the dead, and in doing other similar works of charity, so many were the legacies, the donations, and the inheritances that were left to it, that it inherited the third of the riches of Arezzo; and the same came to pass in the year 1383, when there was likewise a great plague. Spinello, then, belonging to this Company, it was often his turn to visit the sick, to bury the dead, and to do other similar pious exercises, such as the best citizens of that city have ever done and still do today; and in order to make some memorial of this in his pictures, he painted for that Company, on the facade of the Church of S. Laurentino e S. Pergentino, a Madonna who, having her mantle open in front, has under it the people of Arezzo, among whom are portrayed from life many of the chief men of the Confraternity, with their wallets on their shoulders and with wooden hammers in their hands, like to those that they use for knocking at the doors when they go seeking alms. In like manner, for the Company of the Annunciation he painted the great shrine that is without the church, and part of a portico that is opposite to it, and the panel of that Company, wherein there is likewise an Annunciation in distemper. A work of Spinello' s, likewise, is the panel which is now in the Church of the Nuns of S. Giusto, wherein a little Christ, who is in the arms of His mother, is marrying S. Catherine, together with six little scenes, with small figures, of her acts; and it is much praised.

Being next summoned to the famous Abbey of Camaldoli in the Casentino, in the year 1361, he made for the hermits of that place the panel of the high altar, which was removed in the year 1539, when, that church having been just rebuilt completely anew, Giorgio Vasari made a new panel, and painted in fresco the whole of the principal chapel of that abbey, and the tramezzo of the church, also in fresco, and two other panels. Summoned thence to Florence by Don Jacopo d' Arezzo, Abbot of S. Miniato sul Monte, of the Order of Monte Oliveto, Spinello painted on the vaulting and on the four walls of the sacristy of that monastery, besides the panel in distemper for the altar, many scenes in fresco of the life of S. Benedict, with great mastery and with much vivacity of colouring, learnt by him by means of long practice and of labouring continually with zeal and diligence, even as in truth all must do who wish to acquire any art perfectly.

After these works, the said Abbot departed from Florence, having been made Governor of the Monastery of S. Bernardo, of the same Order, in his own country, precisely when the building was almost wholly finished on the site conceded by the Aretines to those monks, just where there was the Colosseum; and he caused Spinello to paint in fresco two chapels that are beside the principal chapel, and two others that are one on either side of the door that leads into the choir, in the tramezzo * of the church. In one of these, which is beside the principal chapel, is an Annunciation in fresco, made with very great diligence, and on a wall beside it is the Madonna ascending the steps of the Temple, accompanied by Joachim and Anna. In the other chapel is a Christ Crucified, with the Madonna and S. John, who are bewailing Him, and a S. Bernard kneeling, who is adoring Him. He made, also, on that inner wall of the church where there is the altar of Our Lady, the Virgin herself with her Son in her arms, which was held a very beautiful figure ; together with many others that he made for that church, over the choir of which he painted Our Lady, S. Mary Magdalene, and S. Bernard, very vividly. In the Pieve of Arezzo, likewise, in the Chapel of S. Bartolommeo, he made many scenes of the life of that Saint; and opposite to it, in the other aisle, in the Chapel of S. Matteo (which is below the organ, and was painted by Jacopo di Casentino, his master), he made in certain medallions on the vaulting besides many stories of that Saint, which are passing good the four Evangelists in a bizarre manner, seeing that, making the busts and members human, he gave to S. John the head of an eagle, to Mark the head of a lion, to Luke that of an ox, and to Matthew alone the face of a man, or rather, of an angel.

Without Arezzo, also, in the Church of S. Stefano, erected by the Aretines on many columns of granite and of marble in order to honour and to preserve the memory of many martyrs who were put to death by Julian the Apostate on that spot, he painted many figures and scenes, with infinite diligence, and with such a manner of colouring that they had remained very fresh up to our own day, when, not many years since, they were ruined. But what was marvellous in that place, besides the stories of S. Stephen made with figures larger than life, was to see Joseph, in a story of the Magi, beside himself with joy at the coming of those Kings, on whom he was gazing with most beautiful manner, while they were opening their vessels full of treasures and were offering them to him. A Madonna in that same church, who is handing a rose to the Infant Christ, was and still is held in so great veneration among the Aretines, as being a very beautiful and devout figure, that without regard for any difficulty or expense, when the Church of S. Stefano was thrown to the ground, they cut the wall away round her, and, binding it together ingeniously, they bore her into the city and placed her in a little church, in order to honor her, as they do, with the same devotion that they showed to her before. Nor should this appear anything wonderful, because, it having been something peculiar and natural to Spinello to give to his figures a certain simple grace, which has much of the modest and the saintly, it appears that the figures that he made of saints, and above all of the Virgin, breathe out a certain quality of the saintly and the divine, which moves men to hold them in supreme reverence; as it may be seen, apart from the said figure, in the Madonna that is on the Canto degli Albergotti, and in that which is on an outer wall of the Pieve in the Seteria, and in one of the same sort, likewise, that is on the Canto del Canale. By the hand of Spinello, also, on a wall of the Hospital of Spirito Santo, is a scene of the Apostles receiving the Holy Spirit, which is very beautiful; and so, too, are the two scenes below, wherein S. Cosimo and S. Damiano are cutting off a sound leg from a dead Moor, in order to attach it to a sick man, from whom they had cut off one that was mortified; and likewise the very beautiful "Noli me tangere," which is between those two works. In the Company of the Puraccioli, on the Piazza di S. Agostino, in a chapel, he made an Annunciation very well coloured, and in the cloister of that convent he wrought in fresco a Madonna, a S. James, and a S. Anthony; and he portrayed there a soldier in armour on his knees, with these words:

HOC OPUS FECIT FIERI

CLEMENS PUCCI DE MONTE CATINO, CUJUS CORPUS JACET HIC, ETC. ANNO

DOMINI 1367, DIE 15 MENSIS MAIL

Likewise, with regard to the chapel that is in that church, with paintings of S. Anthony and other Saints, it is known by the manner that they are by the hand of Spinello, who, shortly afterwards, working in the Hospital of S. Marco (which is today the Monastery of the Nuns of S. Croce, by reason of their monastery, which was without the city, having been thrown to the ground), painted a whole portico with many figures, and portrayed there Pope Gregory IX from nature, to represent S. Gregory the Pope, who is standing beside a Misericordia.

The Chapel of S. Jacopo e S. Filippo, which is in S. Domenico in the same city, just as one enters the church, was wrought in fresco by Spinello with beautiful and resolute handling, as was also the half- length of S. Anthony painted on the fa9ade of his church, so beautiful that he appears alive, in the midst of four scenes of his life ; which same scenes, with many more also of the life of S. Anthony, likewise by the hand of Spinello, are in the Church of S. Giustino, in the Chapel of S. Antonio. In the Church of S. Lorenzo, on one side, he made some stories of the Madonna, and without the church he painted her seated, showing great grace in this work in fresco. In a little hospital opposite to the Nunnery of S. Spirito, near the gate that leads to Rome, he painted a portico entirely by his own hand, showing, in a Christ lying dead in the lap of the Maries, so great genius and judgment in painting, that he is recognized to have proved himself the peer of Giotto in design, and to have surpassed him by a long way in colouring. In the same place, also, he represented Christ seated, with a theological significance very ingeniously contrived, having placed the Trinity within a sun in such wise that from each of the three figures there are seen issuing the same rays and the same splendour. But to this work, to the great loss, truly, of the lovers of this art, there has befallen the same thing as to many others, for it was thrown to the ground in fortifying the city. Without the Church of the Company of the Trinita there is seen a shrine wrought very well in fresco by Spinello, containing the Trinity, S. Peter, and S. Cosimo and S. Damiano clothed in such garments as physicians used to wear in those times.

The while that these works were in progress, Don Jacopo d' Arezzo was made General of the Congregation of Monte Oliveto, nineteen years after he had caused many works to be wrought in Florence and in Arezzo, as it has been said above, by our Spinello; and living, according to the custom of these dignitaries, at Monte Oliveto Maggiore di Chiusuri in the district of Siena, as the most honored seat of that Order, he conceived a desire to have a very beautiful panel made in that place. Sending therefore for Spinello, by whom he had found himself very well served at another time, he caused him to paint in distemper the panel of the principal chapel, wherein Spinello made an infinite number of figures both great and small on a ground of gold, with much judgment; and an ornament being made for it afterwards, carved in half-relief, by Simone Cini, the Florentine, he made for it in certain parts, with gesso mixed with size and rather thick, or truly gelatinous, another ornament which turned out very beautiful, and which was afterwards all overlaid with gold by Gabriello Saracini, who wrote at the foot of the said panel these three names:

SIMONE CINI, THE FLORENTINE, MADE THE CARVING J GABRIELLO SARACINI
OVERLAID IT WITH GOLD ; AND SPINELLO DI LUCA OF AREZZO PAINTED IT
IN THE YEAR 1385.

This work finished, Spinello returned to Arezzo, having received from that General and from the other monks, besides payment, many kindnesses ; but making no long stay there, because Arezzo was harassed by the Guelph and Ghibelline parties, and was sacked in those days, he betook himself with his family and his son Parri, who was studying painting, to Florence, where he had friends and relatives enough. There, without the Porta a S. Piero Gattolini, on the Strada Romana, where one turns to go to Pazzolatico, he painted an Annunciation, as it were to pass the time, in a shrine that today is half-ruined, and other pictures in another shrine near the hostelry of Galluzzo.

He was then summoned to Pisa in order to finish, below the stories of S. Ranieri in the Campo Santo, certain stories that were lacking in a space that had remained not painted; and in order to connect them together with those that had been made by Giotto, Simone Sanese, and Antonio Viniziano, he made in that place, in fresco, six stories of S. Petito and S. Epiro. In the first is S. Epiro, as a youth, being presented by his mother to the Emperor Diocletian, and being made General of the armies that were to march against the Christians; and also Christ appearing to him as he is riding, showing him a white Cross and commanding the Saint not to persecute Him. In another story there is seen the Angel of the Lord giving to that Saint, who is riding, the banner of the Faith with the white Cross on a field of red, which has been ever since the ensign of the Pisans, by reason of S. Epiro having prayed to God that He should give him a standard to bear against His enemies. Beside this story there is seen another, wherein, a fierce battle being contested between the Saint and the pagans, many angelsin armor are combating to the end that he may be victorious. Here Spinello wrought many things worthy of consideration for those times, when the art had as yet neither strength nor any good method of expressing vividly with color the conceptions of the mind; and such, among the many other things that are there, were two soldiers, who, having gripped each other by the beard with one hand, are seeking with their naked swords, which they have in the other hand, to rob each other of life, showing in their faces and in all the movements of their members the desire that each has to come out victorious, and how fearless and fiery of soul they are, and how courageous beyond all belief. And so, too, among those who are combating on horseback, that knight is very well painted who is pinning to the ground with his lance the head of his enemy, whom he has hurled backwards from his horse, all dismayed.

Another story shows the same Saint when he is presented to the Emperor Diocletian, who examines him with regard to the Faith, and afterwards causes him to be put to the torture, and to be placed in a furnace, wherein he remains unscathed, while the ministers of torture, who are showing great readiness there on every side, are burnt in his stead. And in short, all the other actions of that Saint are there, up to his beheading, after which his soul is borne to Heaven; and, for the last, we see the bones and relics of S. Petito being borne from Alexandria to Pisa. This whole work, both in coloring and in invention, is the most beautiful, the most finished, and the best executed that Spinello made, a circumstance which can be recognized from this, that it is so well preserved as to make everyone who sees it today marvel at its freshness.

Having finished this work in the Campo Santo, he painted many stories of S. Bartholomew, S. Andrew, S. James, and S. John, the Apostles, in a chapel in S. Francesco, which is the second from the principal chapel, and perchance he would have remained longer at work in Pisa, since in that city his works were known and rewarded; but seeing the city all in confusion and uproar by reason of Messer Pietro Gambacorti having been slain by the Lanfranchi, citizens of Pisa, he returned once again with all his family, being now old, to Florence, where, in the one year and no more that he stayed there, he made many stories of the lives and deaths of S. Philip and S. James in the Chapel of the Macchiavelli in S. Croce, dedicated to those Saints; and as for the panel for the said chapel, being desirous to return to Arezzo, his native city, or, to speak more exactly, held by him as his native city, he wrought it in Arezzo, and from there sent it finished in the year 1400.

Having returned there, then, at the age of seventy-seven or more, he was received lovingly by his relatives and friends, and was ever afterward cherished and honored up to the end of his life, which was at the age of ninety- two. And although he was very old when he returned to Arezzo, and, having ample means, could have done without working, yet, as one who was ever used to working, he knew not how to take repose, and undertook to make for the Company of S. Agnolo in that city certain stories of S. Michael, which he sketched in red on the intonaco of the wall, in that rough fashion wherein the old craftsmen used generally to do it; and in one corner, for a pattern, he wrought and colored completely a single story, which gave satisfaction enough. Then, having agreed on the price with those who had charge thereof, he finished the whole wall of the high altar, wherein he represented Lucifer fixing his seat in the North; and he made there the Fall of the Angels, who are being transformed into devils and raining down to earth; while in the air is seen a S. Michael, who is doing combat with the ancient serpent of seven heads and ten horns; and below, in the center, there is a Lucifer, already transformed into a most hideous beast.

And Spinello took so much pleasure in making him horrible and deformed, that it is said (so great, sometimes, is the power of imagination) that the said figure painted by him appeared to him in a dream, asking Spinello where he had seen him so hideous, and why he had offered him such an affront with his brushes; and that he, awaking from his sleep, being unable to cry out by reason of his fear, shook with a mighty trembling, insomuch that his wife, awaking, came to his rescue. But he was none the less thereby in peril his heart being much strained of dying on the spot by reason of such an accident; and although he lived a little afterwards, he was half mad, with staring eyes, and he slipped into the grave, leaving great sorrow to his friends, and to the world two sons, of whom one was Forzore, the goldsmith, who worked admirably at Florence in niello, and the other was Parri, who, imitating his father, labored continually at painting, and surpassed him by a long way in design. This sinister misfortune, for all that Spinello was old, was a great grief to the Aretines, who were robbed of the so great talent and excellence that were his. He died at the age of ninety-two, and was given burial at Arezzo in S. Agostino, where there is still seen today a tombstone with a coat of arms made according to his fancy, containing a hedgehog. Spinello knew much better how to draw than how to execute a painting, as it may be seen in our book of the drawings of diverse ancient painters, in two Evangelists in chiaroscuro and a S. Louis, drawn by his hand and very beautiful. And the portrait of the same man, which is seen above, was copied by me from one that was in the Duomo Vecchio before it was pulled down. His pictures date from 1380 up to 1400.

 

 

 

LIFE OF OF GHERARDO STARNINA (1360-1413)
PAINTER

Vasari's Lives of the Artists


VERILY he who journeys far from his own country, dwelling in those of other men, gains very often a disposition and character of a fine temper, for, in seeing abroad diverse honourable customs, even though he might be perverse in nature, he learns to be tractable, amiable, and patient, with much greater ease than he would have done by remaining in his own country. And in truth, he who desires to refine men in the life of the world need seek no other fire and no better touchstone than this, seeing that those who are rough by nature are made gentle, and the gentle become more gracious. Gherardo di Jacopo Starnina, painter of Florence, being nobler in blood than in nature, and very harsh and rough in his manners, brought more harm thereby on himself than on his friends; and more harm still would this have brought on him if he had not dwelt a long time in Spain, where he learnt gentleness and courtesy, seeing that in those parts he became in such wise contrary to that first nature of his, that on his returning to Florence an infinite number of those who bore him deadly hatred before his departure, received him on his return with very great lovingness, and ever after loved him very straitly, so thoroughly had he become gentle and courteous.

Gherardo was born in Florence in the year 1354, and growing up, as one who had an intellect inclined by nature to design, he was placed with Antonio Viniziano in order to learn to draw and to paint; and having in the course of many years not only learnt drawing and the practice of coloring, but also given proof of himself in certain works wrought with beautiful manner, he took his leave of Antonio, and beginning to work by himself he made in S. Croce, in the Chapel of the Castellani (which was given him to paint by Michele di Vanni, an honored citizen of that family), many stories in fresco of S. Anthony the Abbot, and also some of S. Nicholas the Bishop, with so great diligence and with so beautiful a manner that they caused him to become known to certain Spaniards, who were then staying in Florence on some business of their own, as an excellent painter, and what is more, caused them to take him into Spain to their King, who saw him and received him very willingly, and above all because there was then a dearth of good painters in that land. Nor was it a great labor to persuade him to leave his country, for the reason that, having had rough words with certain people in Florence after the affair of the Ciompi and after Michele di Lando had been made Gonfalonier, he was rather in peril of his life than othewise. Going, then, to Sgain, and executing many works for that King, he became, by reason of the great rewards that he gained for his labors, as rich and highly honored as any man of his own rank; wherefore, being desirous to make himself seen and known by his friends and relatives in that better state, he returned to his country, and was there much cherished and received lovingly by all the citizens.

Nor was it long before he was commissioned to paint the Chapel of S. Girolamo in the Carmine, where, making many stories of that Saint, he painted, in the story of Paola and Eustachio and Jerome, certain costumes that the Spaniards wore at that time, with very characteristic invention, and with an abundance of manners and conceptions in the attitudes of the figures. Among other things, painting a scene of S. Jerome learning his first letters, he made a master who has caused a boy to climb on the back of another and is beating him with his rod, in a manner that the poor lad, kicking out with his legs by reason of the great pain, appears to be howling and trying to bite the ear of the one who is holding him ; and all this Gherardo expressed gracefully and very charmingly, as one who was going on investigating on every side the things of nature. Likewise, in the scene where S. Jerome, at the point of death, is making his testament, he counterfeited some friars with beautiful and very ready manner; for while some are writing and others earnestly listening and gazing on him, they are all hanging with great affection on the words of their master.

This work having acquired for Starnina rank and fame among the craftsmen, and his ways of life, with the sweetness of his manners, bringing him very great reputation, the name of Gherardo was famous throughout all Tuscany nay, throughout all Italy when, being called to Pisa in order to paint in that city the Chapterhouse of S. Niccola, he sent thither in his stead Antonio Vite of Pistoia, in order not to leave Florence. This Antonio, having learnt the manner of Starnina under his teaching, wrought in that chapterhouse the Passion of Jesus Christ, and delivered it finished in that fashion wherein it is seen today, in the year 1403, to the great satisfaction of the Pisans. Stamina having then finished, as it has been said, the Chapel of the Pugliesi, and the Florentines being greatly pleased with the stories of S. Jerome that he made there, by reason of his having represented vividly many expressions and attitudes that had never been depicted up to that time by the painters who had lived before him, the Commune of Florence in the year when Gabriel Maria, Lord of Pisa, sold that city to the Florentines at the price of 200,000 crowns, after Giovanni Gambacorti had sustained a siege of thirteen months, and had at last agreed to the sale caused him to paint in memory of this, on the facade of the Palace of the Guelph party, a picture of S. Dionysius the Bishop, with two angels, and below him the city of Pisa, portrayed from nature ; in which work he used so great diligence in everything, and particularly in colouring it in fresco, that in spite of the air, the rains, and its being turned to the north, it has always remained and still remains at the present day a picture worthy of much praise, by reason of its having been preserved as fresh and beautiful as though it had only just been painted. Gherardo, then, having come by reason of this and of his other works into very great repute and fame, both in his own country and abroad, envious death, ever the enemy of noble actions, cut short in the finest period of his labour the infinite expectation of much greater works, for which the world was looking from him; for at the age of forty-nine he came unexpectedly to his end, and was buried with most honorable obsequies in the Church of S. Jacopo Sopra Arno.

Disciples of Gherardo were Masolino da Panicale, who was first an excellent goldsmith and afterwards a painter, and certain others, of whom, seeing that they were not very able men, there is no need to speak. The portrait of Gherardo is in the aforesaid story of S. Jerome, in one of the figures that are round that Saint when he is dying, in profile, with a cap wound round the head and wearing a buckled mantle. In our book are certain drawings by Gherardo, made with the pen on parchment, which are not otherwise than passing good.

 

 

 

LIFE OF LIPPO
PAINTER OF FLORENCE

Vasari's Lives of the Artists


INVENTION has ever been held, and ever will be, the true mother of architecture, of painting, and of poetry nay, of all the finer arts also, and of all the marvellous works that are made by men, for the reason that it pleases the craftsmen much, and displays their fantasies and the caprices of fanciful brains that seek out variety in all things; and these discoveries ever exalt with marvellous praise all those who, employing themselves in honourable ways, give a form marvellous in beauty, under the covering and shadow of a veil, to the works that they make, now praising others dexterously, and now blaming them without being openly understood.] Lippo, then, a painter of Florence, who was as rare and as varied in invention as he was truly unfortunate in his works and in his life for it lasted but a little time was born in Florence, about the year of our salvation 1354; and although he applied himself to the art of painting very late, when already grown up, nevertheless, he was so well assisted by nature, which inclined him to this, and by his intelligence, which was very beautiful, that soon he produced therein marvellous fruits. Wherefore, beginning his labors in Florence, he made in S. Benedetto (a very large and beautiful monastery of the Order of Camaldoli, without the Porta a Pinti, and now in ruins) many figures that were held very beautiful, and in particular a chapel painted entirely with his own hand, which showed how soon diligent study can produce great works in one who labors honorably through desire of glory.

Being summoned from Florence to Arezzo, he made in fresco, for the Chapel of the Magi in the Church of S. Antonio, a large scene wherein the Magi are adoring Christ; and in the Vescovado he painted the Chapel of S. Jacopo e S. Cristofano for the family of the Ubertini. All these works were very beautiful, Lippo showing invention in the composition of the scenes and in the coloring, and above all because he was the first who began to sport, so to speak, with the figures, and to awaken the minds of those who came after him; a thing which had not even been suggested, much less put into use, before his time.

Having afterwards wrought many works in Bologna, and a panel in Pistoia which was passing good, he returned to Florence, where, in the year 1383, he painted the stories of S. John the Evangelist in the Chapel of the Beccuti, in S. Maria Maggiore. On the wall of the church beside this chapel, which is on the left hand of the principal chapel, there follow six stories of the same Saint by the same man's hand, very well composed and ingeniously ordered, wherein, among other things, there is very vividly depicted a S. John who is causing his own garment to be placed by S. Dionysius the Areopagite over some corpses, which are returning to life in the name of Jesus Christ, to the great marvel of some who, being present at this deed, can scarce believe their own eyes. In the figures of the dead, likewise, there is seen very great mastery in some foreshortenings, whereby it is clearly demonstrated that Lippo knew, and in part grappled with, certain difficulties of the art of .painting. It was Lippo, likewise, who painted the folding leaves in the Church of S. Giovanni namely, those of the shrine wherein are the angels and the S. John in relief by the hand of Andrea; and on them he wrought very diligently in distemper stories of S. John the Baptist. And because he also delighted in working in mosaic, in the said S. Giovanni, over the door that leads to the Misericordia, between the windows, he made a beginning, which was held very beautiful and the best work in mosaic which had been made in that place up to that time ; and he also restored some works in that church, likewise in mosaic, which were spoilt.

Without Florence, too, in S. Giovanni fra l'Arcora without the Porta a Faenza, a church which was destroyed in the siege of the said city, he painted in fresco, beside a Passion of Christ wrought by Buffalmacco, many figures which were held very beautiful by all who saw them. In like manner, in certain little hospitals at the Porta a Faenza, and in S. Antonio within the said gate, near the hospital, he painted certain beggars in fresco, in diverse beautiful manners and attitudes; and within the cloisters, with beautiful and new invention, he painted a vision wherein he represented S. Anthony gazing on the snares of the world, and beside these the will and the desires of men, who are drawn by both the first and the second to the diverse things of this world; and all this he painted with much thought and judgment. Lippo also wrought works in mosaic in many parts of Italy, and in the Palace of the Guelph party in Florence he made a figure with the head glazed; and in Pisa, also, there are many of his works. But none the less it can be said that he was truly unfortunate, not only because the greater part of his labors are now thrown down, having gone to ruin in the havoc of the siege of Florence, but also because he ended the course of his life very unhappily; for Lippo being a litigious person and fonder of discord than of peace, and having one morning used very ugly words towards an adversary at the tribunal of the Mercanzia, he was waylaid by this man one evening when he was returning to his house, and stabbed in the breast with a knife so grievously, that a few days afterwards he died miserably. His pictures date about 1410.

About the same time as Lippo there was in Bologna another painter, Dalmasi, also called Lippo, who was an able man, and who painted, among other works, in the year 1407 (as it may be seen in S. Petronio in Bologna), a Madonna which is held in great veneration; and in fresco, the arch over the door of S. Procolo; and in the Church of S. Francesco, in the tribune of the high altar, he made a large Christ between S. Peter and S. Paul, with good grace and manner, and below this work there is seen his own name written in large letters. He drew passing well, as it may be seen in our book; and he taught the art to M. Galante da Bologna, who afterwards drew much better than he, as it may be seen in the said book, in a portrait from the life, a figure in a short coat with puffed sleeves.

 

 

 

LORENZO MONACO (1370-1425)

Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists





FOR A GOOD and religious person, I believe, there must be great contentment in having ready to his hand some honorable exercise, whether that of letters, or of music, or of painting, of of any other liberal or mechanical arts, such as are not blameworthy, but rather useful and helpful to other men; for the reason that after the divine offices the time passes honorably with the delight that is taken in the sweet labors of these pleasant exercises. And to this it may be added that not only is he esteemed and held in price by others the while that he lives, provided that they be not envious and malign, but that he is also honored after death by all men, by reason of his works and of the good name that he leaves to those who survive him.

And in truth one he who spends his time in this manner, lives in quiet contemplation and without being molested by those ambitious desires which are almost always seen, to their shame and loss, in the idle and unoccupied, who are for the most part ignorant. And even if it comes about that our virtuous man is sometimes smitten by the malign, so powerful is the force of virtue that time covers up and buries the malice of the wicked, and the virtuous man, throughout the ages that follow, remains ever famous and illustrious.

Don Lorenzo, then, a painter of Florence, was a monk of the Order of Camaldoli in the Monastery of the Angeli, which monastery was founded in the year 1294 by Fra Guittone d'Arezzo, of the Militant Order of the Virgin Mother of Jesus Christ, or rather, as the monks of that Order were vulgarly called, of the Joyous Friars; and he applied himself in his earliest years to design and to painting with so great zeal, that he was afterwards deservedly numbered among the best of the age in that exercise.

The first worlds of this painter-monk, who held to the manner of Taddeo Gaddi and his disciples, were in his Monastery of the Angeli, where, among many other things, he painted the panel of the high altar, which is still seen today in their church, and which was completely finished, as it may be seen from letters written below on the ornament, in the year 1413, when it was set in place. On a panel, likewise, which was in the Monastery of San Benedetto, of the same Order of Camaldoli, which was outside the Porta a Pinto and was destroyed in 1529, in the siege of Florence, Don Lorenzo painted a Coronation of Our Lady, even as he had also done in the panel for his own Church of the Angeli; and this panel, painted for San Benedetto, is today in the first cloister of the said Monastery of the Angeli, in the Chapel of the Alberti, on the right hand. About the same time, or perchance before, in Santa Trinita at Florence, he painted in fresco the Chapel of the Ardinghelli, with its panel, which was much praised at the time; and there he made from nature the portraits of Dante and of Petrarca.

In San Piero Maggiore he painted the Chapel of the Fioravanti, and the panel in a chapel in San Piero Scheraggio; and in the said church of Santa Trinita he painted the Chapel of the Bartolini. In San Jacopo Sopra Arno, also, there is seen a panel by his hand, very well wrought and executed with infinite diligence according to the manner of those times. In the Certosa without Florence, likewise, he painted some pictures with good mastery; and in San Michele in Pisa, a monastery of his Order, he painted some panels that are passing good. And in Florence, in the Church of the Romiti [Church of the Hermits] (also belonging to the Order of the Camaldoli), which, being in ruins together with the monastery, has to-day left no memory but the name to that quarter on the other side of the Arno, which is called Camaldoli from the name of that holy place, among other works, he painted a Crucifix on panel, with a St. John, which were held very beautiful. Finally, falling sick of a cruel imposthume, which kept him suffering for many months, he died at the age of fifty-five, and was honorably buried by his fellow-monks, as his virtues deserved, in the chapterhouse of their monastery.

And because it often happens, as experience shows, that from one single germ, with time and by means of the study and intelligence of men, there spring up many, in the said Monastery of the Angeli, where in former times the monks ever applied themselves to painting and to design, not only was the said Don Lorenzo excellent among them, but many men excellent in the matters of design also flourished there for a long space of time, both before and after him. Wherefore it appears to me by no means right to pass over in silence one Don Jacopo, a Florentine, who lived long before the said Don Lorenzo, for the reason that, even as he was a very good and very worthy monk, so was he a better writer of large letters than any who lived either before or after him, not only in Tuscany, but in all Europe, as it is clearly proved not only by the twenty very large volumes of choral books that he left in his monastery, which are the most beautiful, as regards the writing, as well as the largest that there are perchance in Italy, but also by a infinity of others which are to be found in Rome, in Venice, and in many other places, and above all in San Michele and in San Mattia di Murano, a monastery of his Order of Camaldoli; for which works this good father well deserved, many years after he had passed to a better life, not only that Don Paolo Orlandini, a very learned monk of the same monastery, should celebrate him with many Latin verses, but that his right hand, wherewith he wrote the said books, should be preserved with much veneration in a shrine, as it still is, together with that of another monk called Don Silvestro, who, according tot he standard of those times, illuminated the said books no less excellently than Don Jacopo had written them.

And I, who have seen the many times, remain in a marvel that they were executed with so much design and with so much diligence in those times, when the arts of design were little less than lost; for the works of these monks date about the year of our salvation 1350, more or less, as it may be seen in each of the said books. It is said, and some old men still remember it, that when Pope Leo X came to Florence he wished to see the said books and examine them carefully, remembering that he had heard them much praised to Lorenzo de'Medici the Magnificent, his father; and that after he had looked at them with attention and admiration, as they all lay open on the desks of the choir, he said, "If they were according to the Roman Church, and not, as they are, according to the monastic use and ordering of Camaldoli, we would be pleased to take some volumes of them for San Pietro in Rome, giving just recompense to the monks"; in which church there were formerly, and perhaps there still are, two others of them by the hand of the same monks, both very beautiful. In the same Monastery of the Angeli there are many ancient embroideries, wrought with very beautiful manner and with much design by the ancient fathers of that place, while they were living in perpetual enclosure under the name not of monks but of hermits, without ever issuing from the monastery, in such wise as do the sisters and nuns of our own day; which enclosure lasted until the year 1470.

But to return to Don Lorenzo; he taught Francesco Fiorentino, who, after his death, painted the shrine that is on the Canto di Santa Maria Novella, at the head of the Via della Scala, on the way to the Scala del Papa; and he taught another disciple, a Pisan, who painted a Madonna, St. Peter, St. John the Baptist, St. Francis, and St. Ranieri, and three scenes with little figures on the predella of the altar, in the Church of San Francesco at Pisa, in the Chapel of Rutilio di Ser Baccio Maggiolini; and this work, painted in 1315, was held passing good for something wrought in distemper. In my book of drawings I have, by the hand of Don Lorenzo, the Theological Virtues done in chiaroscuro with good design and beautiful and graceful manner, insomuch that they are peradventure better than the drawings of any other master whatsoever of those times. A passing good painter in the time of Don Lorenzo was Antonio Vite of Pistoia, who besides may other works--as it has been said in the Life of Starnina--painted, in the Palace of the Ceppo at Prato, the life of Francesco di Marco, Founder of that holy place.

 

 

 

TADDEO DI BARTOLO [BARTOLI] (1362/1363 - August 26, 1422)
PAINTER OF SIENA

Vasari's Lives of the Artists


IT IS THE DUE of those craftsmen who, in order to acquire a name, put them- selves to much fatigue in painting, that their works should be placed, not in a dark and dishonourable position, wherefore they may be blamed by those who have no more understanding than this, but in some spot where, through the nobility of the place, through the lights, and through the air, they can be rightly seen and studied by all, as was and still is the public work of the chapel that Taddeo Bartoli, painter of Siena, wrought in the Palazzo della Signoria in Siena.

Taddeo, then, was the son of Bartolo di Maestro Fredi, who was a mediocre painter in his day and painted the whole wall (on the left hand as one enters) of the Pieve of San Gimignano with stories of the Old Testament; in which work, which in truth was not very good, there may still be read in the middle this epitaph:

A.D. 1356, BARTOLUS MAGISTRI FREDI DE SENIS ME PINXIT.

At this time Bartolo must have been young, because in a panel containing the Circumcision of Our Lord, together with some saints, wrought likewise by him in the year 1388 in S. Agostino, in the same territory, on the left hand as one enters the church through the principal door, it is seen that he had a much better manner both in drawing and in coloring, seeing that some heads therein are beautiful enough, although the feet of those figures are in the ancient manner. In short, there are seen many other works by the hand of Bartolo in those parts.

But to return to Taddeo: the painting of the Chapel of the Palazzo della Signoria in his native city being entrusted to him, as it has been said, as the best master of those times, it was wrought by him with so great diligence, and so greatly honoured with regard to its situation, and paid for by the Signoria in such a manner, that Taddeo largely increased his glory and fame thereby; wherefore not only did he afterwards paint many panels in his own country, to his great honour and infinite profit, but he was invited with great favour and sought for from the Signoria of Siena by Francesco da Carrara, Lord of Padua, to the end that he might go, as he did, to paint certain works in that most noble city; where, particularly in the Arena and in the Santo, he wrought some panels and other works with much diligence, to his own great honour and to the satisfaction of that Lord and of the whole city. Returning afterwards to Tuscany, he wrought a panel in distemper, which inclines to the manner of Ugolino Sanese, in San Gimignano; and this panel is today behind the high altar of the Pieve, and faces the choir of the priests. Going next to Siena, he did not stay there long before he was invited by one of the Lanfranchi, the Warden of Works of the Duomo, to Pisa ; and betaking himself thither, he made in fresco, in the Chapel of the Nunziata, the scene when the Madonna ascends the steps of the Temple, at the head of which the priest is awaiting her in full canonicals a highly finished work. In the face of this priest he portrayed the said Warden of Works, and beside him his own self. This work finished, the same Warden of Works made him paint over the chapel in the Campo Santo a Madonna being crowned by Jesus Christ, with many angels in very beautiful attitudes and very well colored. In like manner, for the Chapel of the Sacristy of S. Francesco in Pisa Taddeo made a Madonna and some saints on a panel painted in distemper, placing thereon his name and the year when it was painted, which was the year 1394. And about this same time he wrought certain panels in distemper at Volterra, and a panel at Monte Oliveto, with a Hell in fresco on a wall, wherein he followed the invention of Dante in so far as relates to the division of the sins and to the form of the punishments, but in the place itself he either could not or would not imitate him, or knew not how. He also sent to Arezzo a panel that is in S. Agostino, wherein he portrayed Pope Gregory XI namely, the Pope who brought the Court back to Italy after it had been so many decades of years in France.

Returning after these works to Siena, he made no very long stay there, because he was called to work at Perugia in the Church of S. Domenico, where, in the Chapel of S. Caterina, he painted in fresco all the life of that Saint; and in S. Francesco, beside the door of the sacristy, he made some figures which, although today little can be discerned of them, are known to be by the hand of Taddeo, who held ever to one unchanging manner. A little time afterwards there befell the death of Biroldo, Lord of Perugia, who was murdered in the year 1398; whereupon Taddeo returned to Siena, where, labouring continually, he applied himself so zealously to the studies of his art, in order to become an able painter, that it can be affirmed, if perchance he did not realize his inten- tion, that this was certainly not by reason of any defect or negligence that he showed in his work, but rather through indisposition caused by an internal obstruction, which afflicted him in a manner that he could not attain to the fulness of his desire. Having taught the art to one his nephew, called Domenico, Taddeo died at the age of fifty-nine; and his pictures date about the year of our salvation 1410.

He left, then, as it has been said, Domenico Bartoli, his nephew and disciple, who, following the art of painting, painted with greater and better mastery, and in the scenes that he wrought he showed much more fertility, varying them in diverse ways, than his uncle had done. In the pilgrim's hall of the great hospital at Siena there are two large scenes, wrought in fresco by Domenico, wherein are seen perspectives and other adornments very ingeniously composed. Domenico is said to have been modest and gentle, and a man of singular amiability and most liberal courtesy; and this is said to have done no less honour to his name than the art of painting itself. His works date about the year of our Lord 1436, and the last were a panel containing an Annunciation in S. Trinita in Florence, and the panel of the high altar in the Church of the Carmine.

There lived at the same time and painted in almost the same manner, although he made the coloring more brilliant and the figures lower, one Alvaro di Piero, a Portuguese, who made many panels in Volterra, and one in S. Antonio in Pisa, and others in other places, whereof, seeing that they are of no great excellence, there is no need to make further record. In our book there is a drawing made with great mastery by Taddeo, wherein are Christ and two angels.

 

 

 

LORENZO DI BICCI (c. 1350-c. 1427)
PAINTER OF FLORENCE

Vasari's Lives of the Artists






WHEN MEN who are excellent in any honorable exercise whatsoever accompany their ability in working with gentle ways and good habits, and particularly with courtesy, serving readily and willingly all who have need of their assistance, they secure without fail, together with much praise and profit for themselves, everything that in a certain sense is desirable in this world; as did Lorenzo di Bicci, painter of Florence, who, being born in Florence in 1400, precisely when Italy was beginning to be harassed by the wars which shortly afterwards brought her to an evil pass, was in very good credit almost from his childhood, for the reason that, having learnt good ways under the discipline of his father and the art of painting from the painter Spinello, he had ever the name not only of an excellent painter, but of a most courteous and honourable and able man. Lorenzo, then, young as he was, having made some works in fresco both within and without Florence for the sake of practice, Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici, seeing his good manner, caused him to paint in the hall of the old house of the Medici which afterwards came into the possession of Lorenzo, brother of Cosimo the Elder, when the great palace was built all those famous men that are still seen there to-day, very well preserved. This work finished, seeing that Lorenzo di Bicci wished to exercise himself in his study of painting in places where work was not so minutely examined, as the doctors still do, who make experiments in their art on the hides of needy countrymen, for some time he accepted all the work that came to his hand, and therefore painted a shrine on the bridge of Scandicci, without the Porta a S. Friano, in the manner wherein it is still seen today, and at Cerbaia, on a wall below a portico, he painted many saints very creditably, together with a Madonna. Next, being commissioned by the family of the Martini to paint a chapel in S. Marco in Florence, he wrought in fresco on the walls many stories of the Madonna, and on the panel the Virgin herself in the midst of many saints; and in the same church, over the Chapel of S. Giovanni Evangelista, belonging to the family of the Landi, he painted in fresco an Angel Raphael with Tobias.

And afterwards, in the year 1418, for Ricciardo di Messer Niccolo Spinelli, on the facade of the Convent of S. Croce facing the square, he painted a large scene in fresco of S. Thomas looking for the wound in the side of Jesus Christ, and beside him and round him all the other Apostles, who, kneeling reverently, are watching this event. And beside the said scene he made, likewise in fresco, a S. Christopher twelve braccia and a half high, which is something rare, because up to then, excepting the S. Christopher of Buffalmacco, there had not been seen a greater figure, nor, for something so large, any image more creditable or better proportioned in all its parts than that one, although it is not in a good manner; not to mention that these pictures, both the one and the other, were wrought with so much mastery, that, although they have been exposed to the air for many years and buffeted by the rains and tempests, being turned to the North, yet they have never lost their vividness of coloring, nor have they been injured in any part. Within the door, moreover, which is between these figures, called the Martello door, the same Lorenzo, at the request of the said Ricciardo and of the Prior of the convent, made a Crucifixion with many figures, and, on the walls around, the confirmation of the Rule of S. Francis by Pope Honorius, and beside it the martyrdom of certain friars of that Order, who went to preach the Faith among the Saracens.

On the arches and on the vaulting he made certain Kings of France, friars and devout followers of S. Francis, and he portrayed them from nature; and likewise many learned men of that Order, and men distinguished for dignity of rank, such as Bishops, Cardinals, and Popes, among whom are portraits from nature, in two medallions on the vaulting, of Pope Nicholas IV and Pope Alexander V. In all these figures, although Lorenzo made their garments grey, he varied them, nevertheless, by reason of the good practice that he had in working, in a manner that they are all different one from the other; some incline to reddish, others to bluish, while some are dark and others lighter, and in short, all are varied and worthy of consideration; and what is more, it is said that he wrought this work with so great facility and readiness, that being called once by the Prior, who was bearing his expenses, to his dinner, at the very moment when he had made the intonaco for a figure and had begun it, he answered: "Pour out the soup. Let me finish this figure, and I'm with you." Wherefore it is with good reason that men say that Lorenzo had so great rapidity of hand, so great practice in coloring, and so great resolution, that no other man ever had more.

By his hand are the shrine in fresco which is on the corner of the Convent of the Nuns of Foligno, and the Madonna and some saints that are over the door of the church of that convent, among whom is a S. Francis who is espousing Poverty. In the Church of the Order of Camaldoli in Florence, also, he painted for the Company of the Martyrs some scenes of the martyrdom of some saints, and two chapels in the church, one on either side of the principal chapel. And because these pictures gave universal pleasure to the whole city, after he had finished them he was commissioned by the family of the Salvestrini which today is almost extinct, there being to my knowledge none left save a friar of the Angeli in Florence, called Fra Nemesio, a good and worthy churchman to paint a wall of the Church of the Carmine, whereon he made the scene when the martyrs, being condemned to death, are stripped naked and made to walk barefoot over spikes strewn by ministers of the tyrants, while they were going to be placed on the cross; and higher up they are seen placed thereon, in various extravagant attitudes.

In this work, which was the largest that had ever been made up to that time, everything is seen to have been done, according to the knowledge of those times, with much mastery and design, for it is all full of those various emotions that nature arouses in those who are made to die a violent death; wherefore I do not marvel that many able men have contrived to avail themselves of certain things that are seen in this picture. After these he made many other figures in the same church, and particularly in two chapels in the tramezzo. And about the same time he painted the shrine of the Canto alla Cuculia, and that which is on the house front in the Via de' Martelli; and, over the Martello door in S. Spirito, a S. Augustine in fresco presenting the Rule to his friars. In S. Trinita, in the Chapel of Neri Compagni, he painted in fresco the life of S. Giovanni Gualberto; and, in the principal chapel of S. Lucia in the Via de' Bardi, some scenes in fresco of the life of that Saint, for Niccolo da Uzzano, who was portrayed by him there from the life, together with some other citizens.

This Niccolo, with the direction and model of Lorenzo, built a palace for himself near the said church, and a magnificent beginning for a university, or rather, a school, between the Convent of the Servi and that of S. Marco namely, where there are now the Lions. This work, truly most praiseworthy and rather that of a magnanimous prince than of a private citizen, was never finished, for the very large sums of money that Niccolo left at the Monte in Florence for the building and maintenance of this school, were spent by the Florentines in certain wars or for other necessities of the city. And although Fortune will never be able to obscure the memory and the greatness of soul of Niccolo da Uzzano, it is none the less true that the public interest suffered very great harm from the fact that this work was not finished. Wherefore, if a man desires to benefit the world in similar ways, and to leave an honorable memorial of himself, let him do it by himself while he has life, and let him not put his trust in the good faith of posterity and of his heirs, since anything that has been left to be done by successors is rarely seen brought to perfect completion.

But returning to Lorenzo: he painted, besides what has been said, a Madonna and certain saints in fresco, passing good, in a shrine on the Ponte Rubaconte. And no long time after, Ser Michele di Fruosino, being Director of the Hospital of S. Maria Nuova in Florence which hospital was founded by Folco Portinari, citizen of Florence determined that, even as the wealth of the hospital had increased, so its church, which was then without Florence and very small, dedicated to S. Egidio, should be enlarged. Whereupon, having taken counsel thereon with Lorenzo di Bicci, who was very much his friend, on September 5, in the year 1418, he began the new church, which was finished in a year in the manner wherein it stands today, and was then solemnly consecrated by Pope Martin V at the request of the said Ser Michele, who was the eighth Director of the Hospital, and of the men of the family of Portinari. This consecration Lorenzo afterwards painted, according to the wish of Ser Michele, on the facade of that church, portraying there from life that Pope and some Cardinals; and this work, as something new and beautiful, was then much praised. Wherefore he obtained the honor of being the first to paint in the principal church of his city that is, in S. Maria del Fiore, where, beneath the windows of each chapel, he painted that Saint to whom it is dedicated, and then, on the pilasters and throughout the church, the twelve Apostles with the crosses of consecration; for that church had been most solemnly consecrated in that same year by Pope Eugenius IV, the Venetian. In the same church the Wardens of Works, by order of the State, caused him to paint in fresco, on one wall, a tomb in imitation of marble, in memory of Cardinal Corsini, who is portrayed there from nature on the sarcophagus; and above that he made a similar one in memory of Maestro Luigi Marsili, a very famous theologian, who went as ambassador, with Messer Luigi Guicciardini and Messer Guccio di Gino, most honorable cavaliers, to the Duke of Anjou.

Lorenzo was then summoned to Arezzo by Don Laurentino, Abbot of S. Bernardo, a monastery of the Order of Monte Oliveto, in the principal chapel of which he painted in fresco, for Messer Carlo Marsuppini, stories of the life of S. Bernard. But while planning to paint the life of S. Benedict in the cloister of the convent (I mean, after having painted for the elder Francesco de' Bacci the principal chapel of the Church of S. Francesco, where he wrought by himself the vaulting and half of the arch) he fell sick of a pleurisy; wherefore, having himself carried to Florence, he left directions that Marco da Montepulciano, his disciple, should paint the scenes of the life of S. Benedict in the said cloister, from the design that he had made and left with Don Laurentino; and this Marco did as best he knew, delivering the whole work finished in chiaroscuro on April 24, in the year 1448, as it may be seen written by his hand in verses and words that are no less rude than the pictures. Having returned to his country and being restored to health, Lorenzo painted, on the same wall of the Convent of S. Croce whereon he had made the S. Christopher, the Assumption into Heaven of Our Lady, surrounded by a choir of angels, and below her a S. Thomas, who is receiving the Girdle. In the execution of this work, being indisposed, Lorenzo caused Donatello, then a youth, to help him; wherefore, with assistance so able, it was finished in the year 1450, in such wise that I believe that it is the best work, both in design and in coloring, that was ever made by Lorenzo, who, no long time after, being old and worn out, died at the age of about sixty, leaving two sons who applied themselves to painting; one of whom, named Bicci, gave him assistance in making many works, while the other, who was called Neri, portrayed his father and himself in the Chapel of the Lenzi in Ognissanti, in two medallions with letters round them, which give the name of both one and the other.

In this chapel the same man, in painting some stories of the Madonna, strove to counterfeit many costumes of those times, both of men and of women; and he made the panel in distemper for the chapel. In like manner, he made some panels for the Abbey of S. Felice in Piazza at Florence, belonging to the Order of Camaldoli, and one for the high altar of S. Michele in Arezzo, a church of the same Order. And at S. Maria delle Grazie without Arezzo, in the Church of S. Bernardino, he made a Madonna that has under her mantle the people of Arezzo, and on one side that S. Bernardino kneeling with a wooden cross in his hand, such as he was wont to carry when he went preaching through Arezzo, and on the other side and about her S. Nicholas and S. Michelagnolo; and on the predella are painted stories of the acts of the said S. Bernardino, and of the miracles that he wrought, particularly in that place. The same Neri made the panel of the high altar of S. Romolo in Florence; and in S. Trinita, in the Chapel of the Spini, he painted in fresco the life of S. Giovanni Gualberto, and in distemper the panel that is over the altar. From these works it is recognized that if Neri had lived, and had not died at the age of thirty-six, he would have made more numerous and better works than did Lorenzo, his father, whose Life, seeing that he was the last of the masters of the old manner of Giotto, will also be the last of this First Part, which with the aid of the blessed God we have brought to conclusion.

 

 
     
         
 

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