History of Literature








Giorgio Vasari



"Lives of the Most Eminent Painters,

Sculptors, and Architects"




PART I   PART II   PART III   PART IV




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


PART II

 

             
      Jacopo della Quercia Niccolo di Piero Lamberti Dello Delli Nanni di Banco
             
      Luca Della Robbia and family Paolo Uccello Lorenzo Ghiberti Masolino da Panicale
             
      Parri Spinelli Masaccio di San Giovanni Filippo Brunelleschi Donatello
             
      Michelozzo Michelozzi Antonio Filarete and Simone Giuliano da Maiano Piero della Francesca
             
      Fra Angelico Leon Battista Alberti Lazzaro Vasari Antonello da Messina
             
      Alesso Baldovinetti Vellano da Padova (Bellano) Fra Filippo Lippi Paolo Romano, Maestro Mino,
C. Camicia
             
      Domenico Veneziano and
Andrea del Castagno
Gentile da Fabriano and
Antonio Pisanello
Pesello e Francesco Peselli (Pesellino) Benozzo Gozzoli
             
      Francesco di Giorgio and Lorenzo Vecchietto Galasso Galassi Antonio and Bernardo Rossellino Desiderio da Settignano
             
      Mino da Fiesole Lorenzo Costa Ercole Roberti Jacopo, Giovanni and
Gentile Bellini
             
      Cosimo Rosselli Il Cecca Don Bartolomeo della Gatta Gherardo, the miniaturist
             
      Domenico Ghirlandaio Antonio and Piero Pollaiuolo Sandro Botticelli Benedetto da Maiano
             
      Andrea del Verrocchio Andrea Mantegna Filippino Lippi Bernardino Pinturicchio
             
      Francesco Francia Pietro Perugino Vittore Scarpaccia (Carpaccio) Jacopo L'Indaco
             
      Luca Signorelli      
             
 
 

 

JACOPO DELLA QUERCIA (circa 1367-1438)


Vasari's Lives of the Artists

 

The sculptor Jacopo, son of Maestro Piero di Filippo of La Quercia, a place in the district of Siena, was the first--after Andrea Pisano, Orcagna, and the others mentioned above--who, laboring in sculpture with greater zeal and diligence, began to show that it was possible to make an approach to nature, and the first who encouraged the others to hope to be able in a certain measure to equal him. His first works worthy of account were made by him in Siena at the age of nineteen, with the following occasion. The people of Siena having their army in the field against the Florentines under the captainship of Gian Tedesco, nephew of Sacone da Pietramala, and of Giovanni d'Azzo Ubaldini, this Giovanni d' Azzo fell sick in camp and was carried to Siena, where he died; wherefore, being grieved at his death, the people of Siena caused to be made for his obsequies, which were most honourable, a catafalque of wood in the shape of a pyramid, and on this they placed the statue of Giovanni himself on horseback, larger than life, made by the hand of Jacopo with much judgment and invention.

For he, in order to execute this work, discovered a method of making the skeletons of the horse and of the figure which had never been used up to that time--namely, with pieces of wood and planking fastened together, and then swathed round with hay, tow, and ropes, the whole being bound firmly together; and over all there was spread clay mixed with paste, glue, and shearings of woollen cloth. This method, truly, was and still is better than any other for such things, for, although the works that are made in this fashion have the appearance of weight, none the less after they are finished and dried they turn out light, and, being covered with wile, look like marble and are very lovely to the eye, as was the said work of Jacopo. To this it may be added that statues made in this fashion and with the said mixtures do not crack, as they would do if they were made simply of pure clay. And in this manner are made to-day the models for sculpture, with very great convenience for the craftsmen, who, by means of these, have ever before them the patterns and the true measurements of the sculptures that they make; and for this method no small obligation is owed to Jacopo, who is said to have been its inventor.

After this work, Jacopo made in Siena two panels of limewood, carving the figures in them, with their beards and hair, with so great patience that it was a marvel to see. And after these panels, which were placed in the Duomo, he made some prophets in marble, of no great size, which are in the facade of the said Duomo; and he would have continued to labour at the works of this building, if plague, famine, and the discords of the citizens of Siena had not brought that city to an evil pass; for, after having many times risen in tumult, they drove out Orlando Malevolti, by whose favour Jacopo had enjoyed creditable employment in his native city. Departing then from Siena, he betook himself by the agency of certain friends to Lucca, and there, in the Church of San Martino, he made a tomb for the wife, who had died a short time before, of Paolo Guinigi, who was Lord of that city; on the base of which tomb he carved some boys in marble that are supporting a garland, so highly finished that they appeared to be of flesh; and on the sarcophagus laid on the said base he made, with infinite diligence, the image of the wife of Paolo Guinigi herself, who was buried within it, and at her feet, from the same block, he made a dog in full relief, signifying the fidelity shown by her to her husband. After Paolo had departed, or rather, had been driven out of Lucca in the year 1429, when the city became free, this sarcophagus was removed from that place and was almost wholly destroyed, by reason of the hatred that the people of Lucca bore to the memory of Guinigi; but the reverence that they bore to the beauty of the figure and of the so many ornaments restrained them, and brought it about that a little time afterwards the sarcophagus and the figure were placed with diligence near the door of the sacristy, where they are at present, while the Chapel of Guinigi was taken over by the Commune.

Meanwhile Jacopo had heard that the Guild of the Merchants of Calimara in Florence wished to have a bronze door made for the Church of San Giovanni, where, as it has been said, Andrea Pisano had wrought the first; and he had come to Florence in order to make himself known, above all because this work was to be allotted to the man who, in making one of those scenes in bronze, would give the best proof of himself and of his talent. Having therefore come to Florence, he not only made the model, but delivered one very well executed scene, completely finished and polished, which gave so great satisfaction, that, if he had not had as rivals those most excellent masters, Donatello and Filippo Brunelleschi, who in truth surpassed him in their specimens, it would have fallen to him to make this work of so great importance. But the business having concluded otherwise, he went to Bologna, where, by the favour of Giovanni Bentivogli, he was commissioned by the Wardens of Works of San Petronio to make in marble the principal door of that church, which he continued in the German manner, in order not to alter the style wherein it had already been begun, filling up what was lacking in the design of the pilasters that support the cornice and the arch, with scenes wrought with infinite love within the space of the twelve years that he was engaged in this work, wherein he made with his own hand all the foliage and ornamentation of the said door, with the greatest diligence and care that he could command.

On each of the pilasters that support the architrave, the cornice, and the arch, there are five scenes, and five on the architrave, making fifteen in all; and in them all he carved in low-relief stories from the Old Testament--namely, from the Creation of man by God up to the Deluge and Noah's Ark, thus conferring very great benefit on sculpture, since from the ancients up to that time there had been no one who had wrought anything in low-relief, wherefore that method of working was rather out of mind than out of fashion. In the arch of this door he made three figures in marble, as large as life and all in the round--namely, a very beautiful Madonna with the Child in her arms, St. Petronius, and another Saint, all very well grouped and in beautiful attitudes; wherefore the people of Bologna, who did not think that there could be made a work in marble, I do not say surpassing, but even equaling that one which Agostino and Agnolo of Siena had made in the ancient manner on the high-altar of San Francesco in their city, were amazed to see that this one was by a great measure more beautiful.

After this, being requested to return to Lucca, Jacopo went there very wilingly,and made on a marble panel in San Friano, for Federigo di Maestro Trenta del Veglia, a Virgin with her Son in her arms, and St. Sebastian, St. Lucia, St. Jerome, and St. Gismondo, with good manner, grace, and design; and in the predella below he made in half-relief, under each saint, some scene from the life of each, which was something very lovely and pleasing, seeing that Jacopo gave gradation to his figures from plane to plane with beautiful art, making them lower as they receded. In like manner, he gave much encouragement to others to acquire grace and beauty for their works with new methods, when he portrayed from the life the patron of the work, Federigo, and his wife, on two great slabs wrought in low-relief for two tombs; on which slabs are these words:

HOC OPUS FECIT JACOBUS MAGISTRI PETRI DE SENIS, 1422
Afterwards, on Jacopo coming to Florence, the Wardens of Works of Santa Maria del Fiore, by reason of the good report that they had heard of him, commissioned him to make in marble the frontal that is over that door of the church which leads to the Nunziata, wherein, in a mandorla, he made the Madonna being borne to Heaven by a choir of angels sounding instruments and singing, with the most beautiful movements and the most beautiful attitudes--seeing that they have vivacity and motion in their flight--that had ever been made up to that time. In like manner, the Madonna is draped with so great grace and dignity that nothing better can by imagined, the flow of the folds being very beautiful and soft, while the borders of the draperies are seen following closely the nude form of the figure, which, with its very covering, reveals every curve of the limbs; and below this Madonna there is a St. Thomas, who is receiving the Girdle. In short, this work was executed by Jacopo in four years with all the possible perfection that he could give to it, for the reason that, besides the natural desire that he had to do well the rivalry of Donato, of Filippo, and of Lorenzo di Bartolo, from whose hands there had already issued some works that were highly praised, incited him even more in the doing of what he did; and that was so much that this work is studied eve to-day by modern craftsmen, as something very rare. On the other side of the Madonna, opposite to St. Thomas, Jacopo made a bear that is climbing a pear-tree; and with regard to this caprice, even as may thing were said them, so also there could be others said by me, but I will forbear, wishing to let everyone believe and think in his own fashion in the matter of this invention.

After this, desiring to revisit his own country, Jacopo returned to Siena, where, on his arrival, there came to him, according to his desire, an occasion to leave therein some honourable memorial of himself. For the Signoria of Siena, having resolved to make a very rich adornment in marble for the waters that Agostino and Agnolo of Siena had brought into the square in the year 1343, allotted that work to Jacopo, at the price of 2,200 crowns of gold; wherefore he, having made the model and collected the marbles, put his hand to the work and finally completed it so greatly to the satisfaction of his fellow-citizens, that he was ever afterwards called, not Jacopo della Quercia, but Jacopo della Fonte.

In the middle of this work, then, he carved the Glorious Virgin Mary, the particular Patroness of that city, a little larger than the other figures, and in a manner both gracious and singular. Round her, next, he made the seven Theological Virtues, the heads of which are delicate, pleasing, beautiful in expression, and wrought with certain methods which show that he began to discover the god and the secrets of the arts, and to give grace to the marble, sweeping away that ancient manner which had been used up to that time by the sculptors, who made their figures rigid and without the least grace in the world; whereas Jacopo made them as soft as flesh, giving finish to his marble with patience and delicacy.

Besides this, he made there some stories from the Old Testament--namely, the Creation of our first parents, and the eating of the forbidden fruit, wherein, in the figure of the woman, there is seen an expression of countenance so beautiful, with a grace and an attitude so deferential towards Adam as she offers him the apple, that it appears impossible for him to refuse it; to say nothing of the remainder of the work, which is all full of most beautiful ideas, and adorned with the most beautiful children and other ornaments in the shape of lions and she-wolves, emblems of the city, all executed by Jacopo with love, mastery, and judgment in the space of twelve years. By his hand, likewise, are three very beautiful scenes in half-relief from the life of St. John the Baptist, wrought in bronze, which are round the baptismal font of San Giovanni, below the Duomo; and also some figures in the round, likewise in bronze, one braccio in height, which are between each of the said scenes, ad are truly beautiful and worthy of praise.

Wherefore, by reason of these works, which showed his excellence, and of the goodness and uprightness of his life, Jacopo was deservedly made chevalier by the Signoria of Siena, and, shortly afterwards, Warden of the Works of the Duomo; which office he filled so well that neither before nor since were these Works better directed, for, although he did not live more than three years after undertaking this charge, he made many useful and honourable improvements in that Duomo.

And although Jacopo was only a sculptor, nevertheless he drew passing well, as is demonstrated by some drawings made by him, to be found in our book, which appear to be rather by the hand of an illuminator than of a sculptor. And his portrait, similar to the one that is seen above, I had from Maestro Domenico Beccafumi, painter of Siena, who has related to me many things about the excellence, goodness, and gentleness of Jacopo, who finally died, exhausted by fatigues and by continuous labour, at the age of sixty-four, and was lamented and honourably buried in Siena, the place of his birth, by his friends and relatives--nay, by the whole city. And truly it was no small good-fortune for him to have his so great excellence recognized in his own country, seeing that it rarely comes to pass that men of excellence are universally loved and honoured in their own country.

A disciple of Jacopo was Matteo, a sculptor of Lucca, who made the little octagonal temple of marble--in the Church of San Martino in his own city,in the year 1444, for Domenico Galigano of Lucca--wherein there is the image of the Holy Cross, a piece of sculpture miraculously wrought, so it is said, by Nicodemus, one of the seventy-two disciples of the Savior; which temple is truly nothing if not very beautiful and well-proportioned. The same man carved in marble a figure ofSt. Sebastian wholly in the round, three braccia high, and very beautiful by reason of its having been made with good design and in a beautiful attitude and wrought with a high finish. by his hand, also, is a panelwherein there are three very beautiful figures in three niches, in the church where the body of St. Regulus is said to be; and likewise the panelthat is in San Michele, wherein are three figures in marble; and in like manner the statue that is on the corner of the said church, on the outer side--namely, a Madonna, which shows that Matteo was ever striving to equal his master Jacopo.

Niccolo Bolognese was also a disciple of Jacopo, and he, among other works, brought to completion divinely well--having found it unfinished--the marble sarcophagus full of scenes and figures wherein lies the body of St. Dominic, a work made long ago by Niccola Pisano in Bologna; and he gained thereby, besides profit, that name of honour, Maestro Niccolo dell'Arca, which he bore ever after. He finished this work in the year 1460, and afterwards, for the facade of the palace where the Legate of Bologna now lives, he made a Madonna in bronze, four braccia high, and placed it in position in the year 1478. In a word, he was a able master and a worthy disciple of Jacopo della Quercia of Siena.

 

 

 

NICCOLO ARETINO
[NICCOLO D'AREZZO OR NICCOLO DI PIERO LAMBERTI] (c. 1370-c. 1451)
SCULPTOR

Vasari's Lives of the Artists


ABOUT the same time, engaged in the same pursuit of sculpture, and almost of the same excellence in the art, lived Niccolo di Piero, a citizen of Arezzo, to whom Nature was as liberal with her gifts of intellect and vivacity of mind as Fortune was niggardly with her benefits. He, then, being a needy fellow, and having received some affront from his nearest of kin in his own country, departed, in order to come to Florence, from Arezzo, where under the discipline of Maestro Moccio, sculptor of Siena, who, as it has been said in another place, wrought some works in Arezzo he had applied himself to sculpture with no little fruit, although the said Maestro Moccio was not very excellent. And so, having arrived in Florence, Niccolo at first for many months wrought whatsoever work came to his hand, both because poverty and want were pressing him hard, and also out of rivalry with certain young men, who, competing together honourably with much study and labor, were occupying themselves with sculpture. Finally, after many labors, Niccolo became a creditable sculptor, and was commissioned by the Wardens of Works of S. Maria del Fiore to make two statues for the Campanile; these statues, having been placed therein on the side facing the Canon's house, stand one on either side of those that Donato afterwards made ; and since nothing better in full-relief had been seen, they were held passing good.

Next, departing from Florence by reason of the plague of 1383, he went to his own country. There he found that by reason of the said plague the men of the Confraternity of S. Maria della Misericordia, whereof we have spoken above, had acquired great wealth by means of bequests made by diverse persons in the city through the devotion that they felt for that holy place and for its brethren, who attend to the sick and bury the dead in every pestilence, without fear of any peril; and that therefore they wished to make a facade for that place, but in grey-stone, for lack of a supply of marble. This work, which had been begun before in the German style, he undertook to do; and assisted by many stonecutters from Settignano, he brought it to perfect completion, making with his own hand, in the lunette of the facade, a Madonna with the Child in her arms, and certain angels who are holding open her mantle, under which the people of that city appear to be taking shelter, while S. Laurentino and S. Pergentino, kneeling below, are interceding for them. Next, in two niches at the sides, he made two statues, each three braccia high namely, one of S. Gregory the Pope, and one of S. Donatus the Bishop, Protector of that city, with good grace and passing good manner. It appears that in his youth, before making these works, he had formerly made three large figures of terracotta which were placed over the door of the Vescovado, and which are now in great part eaten away by frost, as is also a S. Luke of grey stone, made by the same man while he was a youth and placed in the facade of the said Vescovado. In the Pieve, likewise, in the Chapel of S. Biagio, he made a very beautiful figure of the said Saint in terracotta; and one of that Saint in the Church of S. Antonio, also in terra-cotta and in relief; and another Saint, seated, over the door of the hospital of the said city.

While he was making these and some other similar works, the walls of Borgo a San Sepolcro were ruined by an earthquake, and Niccol6 was sent for to the end that he might make as he did with good judgment a design for a new wall, which turned out much better and stronger than the first. And so, continuing to work now in Arezzo, and now in the neighbouring places, Niccolo was living very quietly and at his ease in his own country, when war, the capital enemy of the arts, compelled him to leave it, for, after the sons of Piero Saccone had been driven out of Pietramala and the castle had been destroyed down to its foundations, the city and the district of Arezzo were all in confusion. Wherefore, departing from that territory, Niccolo betook himself to Florence, where he had worked at other times, and for the Wardens of Works of S. Maria del Fiore he made a statue of marble, four braccia high, which was afterwards placed on the left hand of the principal door of that church. In this statue, which is an Evangelist seated, Niccolo showed that he was truly an able sculptor, and he was therefore much praised, since up to then there had not been seen, as there was afterwards, any better work in wholly round relief. Being then summoned to Rome by order of Pope Boniface IX, as the best of all the architects of his time, he fortified and gave better form to the Castle of S. Angelo. On returning to Florence, he made two little figures in marble for the Masters of the Mint, on that corner of Orsanmichele that faces the Guild of Wool, in the pilaster, above the niche wherein there is now the S. Matthew, which was made afterwards ; and these figures were so well made and so well placed on the summit of that shrine that they were then much extolled, as they have been ever afterwards, and in them Niccolo appears to have surpassed himself, for he never did anything better. In short, they are such that they can stand beside any other work of that kind; wherefore he acquired so great credit that he was thought worthy to be in the number of those who were under consideration for the making of the bronze doors of S. Giovanni, although, when the proof was made, he was left behind, and they were allotted, as it will be said in the proper place, to another. After these labors Niccolo went to Milan, where he was made Overseer of the Works of the Duomo in that city; and there he wrought some things in marble which gave great satisfaction.

Finally, being called back to his own country by the Aretines to the end that he might make a tabernacle for the Sacrament, while returning he was forced to stay in Bologna and to make the tomb of Pope Alexander V, who had finished the course of his years in that city, for the Convent of the Friars Minor. And although he was very unwilling to accept this work, he could not, however, but comply with the prayers of Messer Leonardo Bruni, the Aretine, who had been a highly favored Secretary of that Pontiff. Niccolo, then, made the said tomb and portrayed that Pope thereon from nature; although it is true that from lack of marble and other stone the tomb and its ornaments were made of stucco and brickwork, and likewise the statue of the Pope on the sarcophagus, which is placed behind the choir of the said church. This work finished, Niccolo fell grievously sick and died shortly afterwards at the age of sixty-seven, and was buried in the same church, in the year 1417. His portrait was made by Galasso of Ferrara, very much his friend, who was painting at that time in Bologna in competition with Jacopo and Simone, painters of Bologna, and one Cristofano I know not whether of Ferrara, or, as others say, of Modena who all painted many works in fresco in a church called the Casa di Mezzo, without the Porta di S. Mammolo. Cristofano painted scenes on one side, from the Creation of Adam by God up to the death of Moses, Simone and Jacopo painted thirty scenes, from the Birth of Christ up to the Last Supper that He held with the Apostles, and Galasso then painted the Passion, as it is seen from the name of each man, written below. These pictures were made in the year 1404, and afterwards the rest of the church was painted by other masters with stories of David, wrought with a high finish. And in truth it is not without reason that these pictures are held in much esteem by the Bolognese, both because, for old things, they are passing good, and also because the work, having been preserved fresh and vivacious, deserves much praise. Some say that the said Galasso, when very old, painted also in oil, but neither in Ferrara nor in any other place have I found any works of his save in fresco. A disciple of Galasso was Cosme, who painted a chapel in S. Domenico at Ferrara, and the folding doors that close the organ of the Duomo, and many other works, which are better than the pictures of Galasso, his master.

Niccolo was a good draughtsman, as it may be seen in our book, wherein there are an Evangelist and three heads of horses by his hand, very well drawn.

 

 

 

LIFE OF DELLO DELLI (c. 1403- c. 1470)
PAINTER OF FLORENCE

Vasari's Lives of the Artists


ALTHOUGH DELLO THE FLORENTINE, while he lived, had only the name of painter, which he has had ever since, he applied himself none the less also to sculpture nay, his first works were in sculpture, seeing that, long before he began to paint, he made in terracotta a Coronation of Our Lady in the arch that is over the door of the Church of S. Maria Nuova, and, within the church, the twelve Apostles; and, in the Church of the Servi, a Dead Christ in the lap of the Virgin, with many other works throughout the whole city. But, being capricious, and also perceiving that he was gaining little by working in terracotta and that his poverty had need of some greater succour, he resolved, being a good draughts- man, to give his attention to painting; and in this he succeeded with ease, for the reason that he soon acquired a good mastery in colouring, as many pictures demonstrate that he made in his own city, and above all those with little figures, wherein he showed better grace than in the large. And this ability served him in good stead, because the citizens of those times used to have in their apartments great wooden chests in the form of a sarcophagus, with the covers shaped in various fashions, and there were none that did not have the said chests painted ; and besides the stories that were wrought on the front and on the ends, they used to have the arms, or rather, insignia of their houses painted on the corners, and sometimes elsewhere. And the stories that were wrought on the front were for the most part fables taken from Ovid and from other poets, or rather, stories related by the Greek and Latin historians, and likewise chases, jousts, tales of love, and other similar subjects, according to each man's particular pleasure. Then the inside was lined with cloth or with silk, according to the rank and means of those who had them made, for the better preservation of silk garments and other precious things. And what is more, it was not only the chests that were painted in such a manner, but also the couches, the chair backs, the mouldings that went right round, and other similar magnificent ornaments for apartments which were used in those times, whereof an infinite number may be seen throughout the whole city.

And for many years this fashion was so much in use that even the most excellent painters exercised themselves in such labours, without being ashamed, as many would be today, to paint and gild such things. And that this is true has been seen up to our own day from some chests, chair backs, and mouldings, besides many other things, in the apartments of the Magnificent Lorenzo de' Medici, the Elder, whereon there were painted by the hand, not of common painters, but of excellent masters, and with judgment, invention, and marvellous art all the jousts, tournaments, chases, festivals, and other spectacles that took place in his times. Of such things relics are still seen, not only in the palace and the old houses of the Medici, but in all the most noble houses in Florence; and there are men who, out of attachment to these ancient usages, truly magnificent and most honorable, have not displaced these things in favour of modern ornaments and usages. Dello, then, being a very good and practised painter, and above all, as it has been said, in making little pictures with much grace, applied himself for many years, to his great profit and honor, to nothing else save adorning and painting chests, chair backs, couches, and other ornaments in the manner described above, insomuch that it can be said to have been his principal and peculiar profession. But since nothing in this world has permanence or can endure any long time, however good and praiseworthy it may be, it was not long before the refinement of men's intellects led them from that first method of working to the making of richer ornaments and of carvings in walnut- wood overlaid with gold, which make a very rich adornment, and to the painting and colouring in oil of very beautiful stories on similar pieces of household furniture, which have made known, as they still do, both the magnificence of the citizens who use them and the excellence of the painters.

But to come to the works of Dello, who was the first who occupied himself with diligence and good mastery in such labours ; for Giovanni de' Medici, in particular, he painted the whole furniture of an apartment, which was held something truly rare and Very beautiful of its kind, as some relics demonstrate that are still left. And Donatellg, then quite young, is said to have assisted him, making there by his own hand, with stucco, gesso, glue, and pounded brick, some stoiies and ornaments in low-relief, which, being afterwards overlaid with gold, made a beautiful accompaniment for the painted stories. Of this work and many others like it Drea Cennini makes mention in a long discourse in his work, whereof there has been enough said above; and since it is a good thing to maintain some memory of these old things, I have had some of them, by the hand of Dello himself, preserved in the Palace of the Lord Duke Cosimo, where they are, and they will be ever worthy of being studied, if only for the various costumes of those times, both of men and women, that are seen in them. Dello also wrought the story of Isaac giving his benediction to Esau, in fresco and with terra verde, in a corner of the cloister of S. Maria Novella.

A little after this work, being summoned to Spain to enter the service of the King, he came into so great credit that no craftsman could have desired much more ; and although it is not known precisely what works he made in those parts, it may be judged, seeing that he returned thence very rich and highly honoured, that they were numerous and beautiful and good. After a few years, having been royally rewarded for his labors, Dello conceived the wish to return to Florence, in order to show his friends how he had climbed from extreme poverty to great riches. Wherefore, having gone for permission to that King, not only did he obtain it readily (although the former would have willingly retained him, if Dello had been so minded), but he was also made chevalier by that most liberal King, as a greater sign of gratitude. Whereupon he returned to Florence in order to obtain the banners and the confirmation of his privileges, but they were denied him by the agency of Filippo Spano degli Scolari, who had just come back from his victories over the Turks as Grand Seneschal of the King of Hungary. But Dello having written immediately to the King of Spain to complain of this affront, the King wrote so warmly on his behalf to the Signoria that the due and desired honor was conceded to him without opposition. ; It is said that Dello, while returning to his house on horseback, with Tiis banners, having been honoured by the Signoria and robed in brocade, was mocked at, in passing through Vacchereccia, where there were then many goldsmiths' shops, by certain old friends, who, having known him in youth, did this either in scorn or in jest ; and that he, turning in the direction whence he had heard the voice, made a gesture of contempt with both his hands and went on his way without saying a word, so that scarcely anyone noticed it save those who had derided him.j By reason of this and other signs, which gave him to know that envy was no less active against him in his own country than malice had been formerly when he was very poor, he determined to return to Spain ; and so, having written, and having received an answer from the King, he returned to those parts, where he was welcomed with great favour and ever afterwards regarded with affection, and there he devoted himself to work, living like a nobleman, and ever painting from that day onwards in an apron of brocade. Thus, then, he gave way before envy, and lived in honour at the Court of that King ; and he died at the age of forty-nine, and was given honourable burial by the same man, with this epitaph:

DELLUS EQUES FLORENTINUS

PICTURE ARTE PERCELEBRIS

REGISQUE HISPANIARUM LIBERALITATE

ET ORNAMENTIS AMPLISSIMUS.

H. S. E.

S. T. T. L.

Dello was no very good draughtsman, but was well among the first who began to show judgment in revealing the muscles in nude bodies, as it is seen from some drawings in our book, made by him in chiaroscuro. He was portrayed in chiaroscuro by Paolo Uccello in S. Maria Novella, in the story wherein Noah is made drunk by his son Ham.

 

 

 

NANNI DI BANCO
sculptor of Florence (1384/90-1421)

Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists




NANNI D'ANTONIO DI BANCO was not only rich enough by patrimony, but also by no means humble in origin, yet, delighting in sculpture, he was not only not ashamed to learn and practise it, but took no small pride therein, and made so much advance that his fame will ever endure; and it will be all the more celebrated in proportion as men know that he applied himself to this noble art not through necessity, but through a true love of the art itself. This man, who was one of the disciples of Donato [Donatello], although I have place him before his master because he died long before him, was a somewhat sluggish person, but modest, humble, and kindly in his dealings.

There is by his hand, in Florence, the St. Philip of marble which is on a pilaster on the outside of the Oratory of Orsanmichele. This work was at first allotted to Donato by the Guild of Shoemakers, and then, since they could not agree with him about the price, it was transferred, as though in despite of Donato, to Nanni, who promised that he would take whatsoever payment they might give him, and would ask no other.

But the business fell out otherwise, for, when the statue was finished and set in its place, he asked a much greater price for his work than Donato had done at the beginning; wherefore the valuation of it was referred by both parties to Donato, the Consuls of that Guild believing firmly that he, out of envy at not having made it, would value it at much less than if it were his own work; but they were disappointed in their belief,for Donato judged that much more should be paid to Nanni for his state than he had demanded. Being in no way willing to abide by this judgment, the Consuls made an outcry and said to Donato: "Why dost thou, after undertaking to make this work at a smaller price, value it higher when made by the hand of another, and constrain us to give him more for it than he himself demands? For thou knowest, even as we do also, that from thy hands it would have come out much better." Donato answered, laughing: "This good man is not my equal in the art, and endures much more fatigue than I do in working: wherefore, if you wish to give him satisfaction, like the just men that I take you for, you are bound to pay him for the time that he has spent." And thus the award of Donato was carried into effect, both parties having agreed to abide by it.

This work stands well enough, and has good grace and liveliness in the head; the draperies are not hard, and are in no wise badly arranged about the figure. In another niche below this one there are four saints in marble, which the same Nanni was commissioned to make by the Guild of Smiths, Carpenters, and Masons; and it is said that, having finished them all in the round and detached one from another, and having prepared the niche, it was with great difficulty that he could get even three of them into it, for he had made some of them in attitudes with the arms outstretched; and that he besought Donato, in grief and despair, to consent with his counsel to repair his own misfortune and lack of foresight. And Donato, laughing over the mischance, answered: "If thou wilt promise to pay for a supper for me and all my apprentices, I will undertake to get the saints into the niche without any trouble." This Nanni promised to do right willingly, and Donato sent him to Prato, to take certain measurements and to do some other business that would take him some days.

Whereupon, Nanni having departed, Donato, with all his disciples and apprentices, set to work and cut some of the statues down in the shoulders and some in the arms, in such wise that he contrived to group them close together, each making place for the other, while he made a hand appear over the shoulders of one of them. And thus the judgment of Donato, having joined them harmoniously together, concealed the error of Nanni so well that they still show, in that place where they were fixed, most manifest signs of concord and brotherhood; and anyone who does not know the circumstance sees nothing of the error.

Nanni, finding on his return that Donato had corrected everything and put all his disorder to rights, rendered him infinite thanks, and with great goodwill paid for the supper for him and his pupils. Under the feet of these four saints, in the ornament of the shrine, there is a scene in marble and in half-relief, wherein a sculptor is carving a boy with great animation, and a master is building, with two men assisting him; and all these little figures are seen to be very well grouped and intent on what they are doing.

In the facade of Santa Maria del Fiore, on the left side as one enters the church by the central door, there is an Evangelist by the hand of the same man, which is a passing good figure for those times. It is also reputed that the St. Lo which is without the said Oratory of Orsanmichele, and which was made for the Guild of Farriers, is by the hand of the same Nanni, and likewise the marble shrine, in the base of which, at the foot, there is a scene wherein St. Lo, the Farrier, is shoeing a frenzied horse, so well made that Nanni deserved much praise for it; and he would have deserved and obtained much greater praise with other works, if he had not died, as he did, while still young. None the less, by reason of these few works Nanni was held a passing good sculptor; and being a citizen, he obtained many offices in his native city of Florence, and because he bore himself like a just and reasonable man both in these and in all his other affairs, he was greatly beloved. He died of colic in the year 1430, at the age of forty-seven.

 

 

 

Luca Della Robbia (1400-1482)
and the Della Robbia Family

Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists


DELLA ROBBIA, sculptor of Florence, was born in the year 1388 the house of his ancestors, which is in Florence, below the Church of Barnaba ; and therein he was honestly brought up until he had learnt not only to read and write but also to cast accounts, in so far as it was likely to be needful, after the custom of most Florentines. And afterwards he was placed by his father to learn the art of the goldsmith with Leonardo di Ser Giovanni, who was then held the best master of that art in Florence. Now, having learnt under this man to make designs and to work in wax, Luca grew in courage and applied himself to making certain things in marble and in bronze, which, seeing that he succeeded in them well enough, brought it about that he completely abandoned his business of goldsmith and applied himself to sculpture, insomuch that he did nothing but ply his chisel all day and draw all night ; and this he did with so great zeal, that, feeling his feet very often freezing at night, he took to keeping them in a basket full of shavings, such as carpenters strip from planks when they shape them with the plane, in order to warm them without giving up his drawing. Nor do I marvel in any way at this, seeing that no one ever became excellent in any exercise whatsoever without beginning from his childhood to endure heat, cold, hunger, thirst, and other discomforts; wherefore those men are entirely deceived who think to be able, at their ease and with all the comforts of the world, to attain to honorable rank. It is not by sleeping but by waking and studying continually that progress is made.

Luca was barely fifteen years of age when he was summoned, together with other young sculptors, to Rimini, in order to make some figures and other ornaments in marble for Sigismondo di Pandolfo Malatesti, Lord of that city, who was then having a chapel made in the Church of S. Francesco, and a tomb for his wife, who had died. Luca had given an honorable proof of his knowledge in some low reliefs in this work, which are still seen there, when he was recalled by the Wardens of Works of S. Maria del Fiore to Florence, where, for the campanile of that church, he made five little scenes in marble, which are on the side that faces the church, and which were wanting, according to the design of Giotto, to go with that wherein are the Sciences and Arts, formerly made, as it has been said, by Andrea Pisano. In the first Luca made Donato teaching grammar; in the second, Plato and Aristotle, standing for philosophy; in the third, a figure playing a lute, for music; in the fourth, a Ptolemy, for astrology; and in the fifth, Euclid, for geometry. These scenes, in perfection of finish, in grace, and in design, were far in advance of the two made, as it has been said, by Giotto, in one of which Apelles, standing for painting, is working with his brush, while in the other Pheidias, representing sculpture, is laboring with his chisel.

Wherefore the said Wardens of Works who, besides the merits of Luca, were persuaded thereunto by Messer Vieri de' Medici, then a great citizen and a friend of the people, who loved Luca dearly commissioned him, in the year 1405, to make the marble ornament for the organ which the Office of Works was then having made on a very grand scale, to be set up over the door of the sacristy of the said church. In certain scenes at the base of this work Luca made the singing choirs, chanting in various fashions; and he put so much zeal into this labor and succeeded so well therein, that, although it is sixteen braccia from the ground, one can see the swelling of the throats of the singers, the leader of the music beating with his hands on the shoulders of the smaller ones, and, in short, diverse manners of sounds, chants, dances, and other pleasing actions that make up the delight of music. Next, on the great cornice of this ornament Luca placed two figures of gilded metal namely, two nude angels, wrought with a high finish, as is the whole work, which was held to be something very rare, although Donatello, who afterwards made the ornament of the other organ, which is opposite to the first, made his with much more judgment and mastery than Luca had shown, will be told in the proper place; for Donatello executed that work Imost wholly with bold studies and with no smoothness of finish, to ic end that it might show up much better from a distance, as it does, lan that of Luca, which, although it is wrought with good design and liligence, is nevertheless so smooth and highly finished that the eye, reason of the distance, loses it and does not grasp it well, as it does lat of Donatello, which is, as it were, only sketched.

To this matter craftsmen should pay great attention, for the reason lat experience teaches us that all works which are to be viewed from distance, whether they be pictures, or sculptures, or any other similar ling whatsoever, have more vivacity and greater force if they are made the fashion of beautiful sketches than if they are highly finished ; id besides the fact that distance gives this effect, it also appears that /ery often in these sketches, born in a moment from the fire of art, a lan's conception is expressed in a few strokes, while, on the contrary, fort and too great diligence sometimes rob men of their force and judg- icnt, if they never know when to take their hands off the work that they re making. And whosoever knows that all the arts of design, not to speak only of painting, are similar to poetry, knows also that even as poems thrown off by the poetic fire are the true and good ones, and better than those made with great effort, so, too, the works of men excellent in the arts of design are better when they are made at one sitting by the force of that fire, than when they go about investigating one thing after another with effort and fatigue. And he who has from the beginning, as he should have, a clear idea of what he wishes to do, ever advances resolutely and with great readiness to perfection. Nevertheless, seeing that all intellects are not of the same stamp, there are some, in fact, although they are rare, who cannot work well save at their leisure; and to say nothing of the painters, it is said that the most reverend and most learned Bembo among the poets sometimes labored many months, perchance even years, at the making of a sonnet, if we can believe those who affirm it; wherefore it is no great marvel that this should happen sometimes to some of the masters of our arts. But for the most part the rule is to the contrary, as it has been said above, although the vulgar think more of a certain external and obvious delicacy that proves to lack the essential qualities, which are made up for by diligence, than of the good, wrought with reason and judgment, but not so highly finished and polished on the outside.

But to return to Luca; the said work being finished and giving great satisfaction, he was entrusted with the bronze door of the said sacristy, which he divided into ten squares namely, five on either side, making the head of a man at every corner of each square, in the border; and he varied the heads one from another, making young men, old, and middle-aged, some bearded and some shaven, and, in short, each one beautiful of its kind in diverse fashions, so that the framework of that door was beautifully adorned. Next, in the scenes in the squares to begin at the upper part he made the Madonna with the Child in her arms, with most beautiful grace; and in the one beside it, Jesus Christ issuing from the Sepulchre. Below these, in each of the first four squares, is the figure of an Evangelist; and below these, the four Doctors of the Church, who are writing in different attitudes. And the whole of this work is so highly finished and polished that it is a marvel, and gives us to know that it was a great advantage to Luca to have been a goldsmith.

But since, on reckoning up after these works how much there had come to his hand and how much time he spent in making them, he recognized that he had gained very little and that the labour had been very great, he resolved to abandon marble and bronze and to see whether he could gather better fruits from another method. Wherefore, reflecting that clay could be worked easily and with little labour, and that it was only necessary to find a method whereby works made with it might be preserved for a long time, he set about investigating to such purpose that he found a way to defend them from the injuries of time; for, after having made many experiments, he found that by covering them with a coating of glaze, made with tin, litharge, antimony, and other minerals and mixtures fused together in a special furnace, he could produce this effect very well and make works in clay almost eternal. For this method of working, as being its inventor, he gained very great praise, and all the ages to come will therefore owe him an obligation.

Having then succeeded in this as much as he could desire, he resolved that his first works should be those that are in the arch over the bronze door which he had made for the sacristy, below the organ of S. Maria del Fiore ; and therein he made a Resurrection of Christ, so beautiful for that time that it was admired, when placed in position, as something truly rare. Moved by this, the said Wardens of Works desired that the arch over the door of the other sacristy, where Donatello had made the ornament of the other organ, should be filled by Luca in the same manner with similar figures and works in terracotta; wherefore Luca made therein a very beautiful Jesus Christ ascending into Heaven.

Now, not being yet satisfied with this beautiful invention so lovely and so useful, above all for places where there is water, and where, because of damp or other reasons, there is no scope for paintings Luca went on seeking further progress, and, instead of making the said works in clay simply white, he added the method of giving them colour, with incredible marvel and pleasure to all. Wherefore the Magnificent Piero di Cosimo de' Medici, one of the first to commission Luca to fashion coloured works in clay, caused him to execute the whole of the round vaulting of a study in the Palace built, as it will be told, by his father Cosimo with various things of fancy, and likewise the pavement, which was something singular and very useful for the summer. And seeing that this method was then very difficult, and that many precautions were necessary in the firing of the clay, it is certainly a marvel that Luca could execute these works with so great perfection that both the vaulting and the pavement appear to be made, not of many pieces, but of one only. The fame of these works spreading not only throughout Italy but throughout all Europe, there were so many who desired them that the merchants of Florence, keeping Luca, to his great profit, continually at this labor, sent them throughout the whole world. And because he could not supply the whole, he took his brothers, Ottaviano and Agostino, away from the chisel, and set them to work on these labors, wherein the three of them together gained much more than they had done up to then with the chisel, for the reason that, besides those of their works that were sent to France and Spain, they also wrought many things in Tuscany ; and in particular, for the said Piero de' Medici, in the Church of S. Miniato al Monte, the vaulting of the marble chapel, which rests on four columns in the middle of the church, and which they divided most beautifully into octagons. But the most notable work of this kind that ever issued from their hands was the vaulting of the Chapel of S. Jacopo, where the Cardinal of Portugal is buried, in the same church. In this, although it has no salient angles, they made the four Evangelists in four medallions at the corners, and the Holy Spirit in a medallion in the middle of the vaulting, filling the other spaces with scales which follow the curve of the vaulting and diminish little by little till they reach the centre, insomuch that there is nothing better of that kind to be seen, nor anything built and put together with more diligence.

Next, in a little arch over the door of the Church of S. Piero Buonconsiglio, below the Mercato Vecchio, he made the Madonna with some angels round her, all very vivacious; and over a door of a little church near S. Piero Maggiore, in a lunette, he made another Madonna with some angels, which are held very beautiful. And in the Chapterhouse of S. Croce, likewise, built by the family of the Pazzi under the direction of Pippo di Ser Brunellesco, he made all the glazed figures that are seen therein both within and without. And Luca is said to have sent some very beautiful figures in full relief to the King of Spain, together with some works in marble. For Naples, also, he made in Florence the marble tomb for the infant brother of the Duke of Calabria, with many glazed ornaments, being assisted by his brother Agostino.

After these works, Luca sought to find a way of painting figures and scenes on a level surface of terracotta, in order to give long life to pictures, and made an experiment in a medallion which is above the shrine of the four saints without Orsanmichele, on the level surface of which, in five parts, he made the instruments and insignia of the Guilds of the Masters in Wood and Stone, with very beautiful ornaments. And he made two other medallions in the same place, in relief, in one of which, for the Guild of Apothecaries, he made a Madonna, and in the other, for the Mercatanzia, a lily on a bale, which has round it a festoon of fruits and foliage of various sorts, so well made, that they appear to be real and not of painted terracotta. In the Church of S. Brancazio, also, he made a tomb of marble for Messer Benozzo Federighi, Bishop of Fiesole, and Federighi himself lying on it, portrayed from nature, with three other half-length figures; and in the ornament of the pilasters of this work, on the level surface, he painted certain festoons with clusters of fruit and foliage, so lifelike and natural, that nothing better could be done in oil and on panel with the brush. Of a truth, this work is marvellous and most rare, seeing that Luca made the lights and shades in it so well, that it scarcely appears possible for this to be done by the action of fire. And if this craftsman had lived longer than he did, even greater works would have been seen to issue from his hands, since, a little before he died, he had begun to make scenes and figures painted on a level surface, whereof I once saw some pieces in his house, which lead me to believe that he would have easily succeeded in this, if death, which almost always snatches the best men away just when they are on the point of conferring some benefit on the world, had not robbed him of life before his time.

Luca was survived by Ottaviano and Agostino, his brothers, and from Agostino there was born another Luca, who was very learned in his day. Now Agostino, pursuing the art after the death of Luca, made the facade of S. Bernardino in Perugia in the year 1461, with three scenes in low relief therein and four figures in the round, executed very well and with a delicate manner; and on this work he put his name in these words,

AUGUSTINI FLORENTINI LAPICIDE.

Of the same family was the nephew of Luca, Andrea, who worked very well in marble, as it is seen in the Chapel of S. Maria delle Grazie, without Arezzo, where he made for the Commune, in a great ornament of marble, many little figures both in the round and in half relief; which ornament was made for a Virgin by the hand of Parri di Spinello of Arezzo. The same man made the panel in terracotta for the Chapel of Puccio di Magio, in the Church of S. Francesco in the same city, and that representing the Circumcision for the family of the Bacci. In S. Maria in Grado, likewise, there is a very beautiful panel by his hand with many figures; and on the high altar of the Company of the Trinita there is a panel by his hand containing a God the Father, who is supporting Christ Crucified in His arms, surrounded by a multitude of angels, while S. Donatus and S. Bernard are kneeling below. In the church and in other parts of the Sasso della Vernia, likewise, he made many panels, which have been well preserved in that desert place, where no painting could have remained fresh for even a few years. The same Andrea wrought all the figures in glazed terracotta which are in the Loggia of the Hospital of S. Paolo in Florence, and which are passing good ; and likewise the boys, both swathed and nude, that are in the medallions between one arch and another in the Loggia of the Hospital of the Innocenti, which are all truly admirable and prove the great talent and art of Andrea; not to mention many, nay, innumerable other works that he made in the course of his life, which lasted eighty-four years. Andrea died in the year 1528, and I, while still a boy, talked with him and heard him say nay, boast that he had taken part in bearing Donato to the tomb; and I remember that the good old man showed no little pride as he spoke of this.

But to return to Luca; he was buried, with the rest of his family, in their ancestral tomb in S. Piero Maggiore, and in the same tomb there was afterwards buried Andrea, who left two sons, friars in S. Marco, where they received the habit from the Reverend Fra Girolamo Savonarola, to whom that Delia Robbia family was ever devoted, portraying him in that manner which is still seen to-day in the medals. The same man, besides the said two friars, had three other sons: Giovanni, who devoted himself to art and had three sons, Marco, Lucantonio, and Simone, who died of plague in the year 1527, having given great promise; and Luca and Girolamo, who devoted themselves to sculpture. Of these two, Luca was very diligent in glazed works, and he made with his own hand, besides many other things, the pavements of the Papal Loggie which Pope Leo X caused to be made in Rome under the direction of Raffaello da Urbino, and also those of many apartments, wherein he put the insignia of that Pontiff. Girolamo, who was the youngest of all, devoted himself to working in marble, in clay, and in bronze, and had already become an able man, by reason of competing with Jacopo Sansovino, Baccio Bandinelli, and other masters of his time, when he was brought by certain Florentine merchants to France, where he made many works for King Francis at Madri, a place not far distant from Paris, and in particular a palace with many figures and other ornaments, with a kind of stone like our Volterra gypsum, but of a better quality, for it is soft when it is worked, and afterwards with time becomes hard.

He also wrought many things in clay at Orleans and made works throughout that whole kingdom, acquiring fame and very great wealth. After these works, hearing that he had no relative left in Florence save his brother Luca, and being himself rich and alone in the service of King Francis, he summoned his brother to join him in those parts, in order to leave him in credit and good circumstances, but it fell out otherwise, for in a short time Luca died there, and Girolamo once more found himself alone and without any of his kin; wherefore he resolved to return, in order to enjoy in his own country the riches that his labor and sweat had brought him, and also to leave therein some memorial of himself, and he was settling down to live in Florence in the year 1553, when he was forced to change his mind, as it were, for he saw that Duke Cosimo, by whom he was hoping to be honorably employed, was occupied with the war in Siena; whereupon he returned to die in France. And not only did his house remain closed and his family become extinct, but art was deprived of the true method of making glazed work, for the reason that, although there have been some after them who have practised that sort of sculpture, nevertheless they have all failed by a great measure to attain to the excellence of the elder Luca, Andrea, and the others of that family. Wherefore, if I have spoken on this subject at greater length, perchance, than it appeared to be necessary, let no man blame me, seeing that the fact that Luca discovered this new form of sculpture which, to my knowledge, the ancient Romans did not have made it necessary to discourse thereon, as I have done, at some length. And if, after the Life of the elder Luca, I have given some brief account of his descendants, who have lived even to our own day, I have done this in order not to have to return to this subject another time.

Luca, then, while passing from one method of work to another, from marble to bronze, and from bronze to clay, did this not by reason of laziness or because he was, as many are, capricious, unstable, and dis- contented with his art, but because he felt himself drawn by nature to new things and by necessity to an exercise according to his taste, both less fatiguing and more profitable. Wherefore the world and the arts of design became the richer by a new, useful, and most beautiful art, and he gained immortal and everlasting glory and praise. Luca was an excellent and graceful draughtsman, as it may be seen from some drawings in our book with the lights picked out with white lead, in one of which is his portrait, made by him with much diligence by looking at himself in a mirror.

 

 

 

PAOLO UCCELLO (1397-1475)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists






PAOLO UCCELLO would have been the most gracious and fanciful genius that was ever devoted to the art of painting, from Giotto's day to our own, if he had labored as much at figures and animals as he labored and lost time over the details of perspective; for although these are ingenious and beautiful, yet if a man pursues them beyond measure he does nothing but waste his time, exhausts his powers, fills his mind with difficulties, ad often transforms its fertility and readiness into sterility and constraint, and renders his manner, by attending more to these details than to figures, dry and angular, which all comes from a wish to examine things too minutely; not to mention that very often he becomes solitary, eccentric, melancholy, and poor, as did Paolo Uccello.

This man, endowed by nature with a penetrating and subtle mind, knew no other delight than to investigate certain difficult, nay, impossible problems of perspective, which, although they were fanciful and beautiful, yet hindered him so greatly in the painting of figures, that the older he grew the worse he did them. And there is no doubt that if a man does violence to his nature with too ardent studies, although he may sharpen one edge of his genius, yet nothing that he does appears done with that facility and grace which are natural to those who put each stroke in its proper place temperately and with a calm intelligence full of judgment, avoiding certain subtleties that rather burden a manUs work with a certain laboured, dry, constrained, and bad manner, which moves those who see it rather to compassion than to marvel; for the spirit of genius must be driven into action only when the intellect wishes to set itself to work and when the fire of inspiration is kindled, since it is then that excellent and divine qualities and marvellous conceptions are seen to issue forth.

Now Paolo was for ever investigating, without a moment's intermission, the most difficult problems of art, insomuch that he reduced to perfection the method of drawing perspectives from the ground plans of houses and from the profiles of buildings, carried right up to the summits of the cornices and the roofs, by means of intersecting lines, making them foreshortened and diminishing towards the centre, after having first fixed the eye level either high or low, according to his pleasure. So greatly, in short, did he occupy himself with these difficulties, that he introduced a way, method, and rule of placing figures firmly on the planes whereon their feet are planted, and foreshortening them bit by bit, and making them recede by a proportionate diminution; which hitherto had always been done by chance. He discovered, likewise, the method of turning the intersections and arches of vaulted roofs; the foreshortening of ceilings by means of the convergence of the beams; and the making of round columns at the salient angle of the walls of a house in a manner that they curve at the corner, and, being drawing in perspective, break the angle and cause it to appear level.

For the sake of these investigations he kept himself in seclusion and almost a hermit, having little contact with anyone, and staying weeks and months in his house without showing himself. And although these were difficult and beautiful problems, if he had spent that time in the study of figures, he would have brought them to absolute perfection; for even so he made them with passing good draughtsmanship. But, consuming his time in these researches, he remained throughout his whole life more poor than famous; wherefore the sculptor Donatello, who was very much his friend, said to him very often--when Paolo showed him mazzocchi with pointed ornaments, and squares drawn in perspective from diverse aspects; spheres with seventy-two diamond-shaped facts, with wood-shavings would round sticks on each fact; and other fantastic devices on which he spent and wasted his time--"Ah, Paolo, this perspective of yours makes you abandon the substance for the shadow; these are things that are only useful to men who work at the inlaying of wood, seeing that they fill their borders with chips and shavings, with spirals both round and square, and with other similar things."

The first pictures of Paolo were in fresco, in a oblong niche painted in perspective, at the Hospital of Lelmo--namely, a figure of St. Anthony the Abbot, with St. Cosimo on one side and St. Damiano on the other. In the Annalena, a convent of nuns, he made two figures; and within the church of Santa Trinita, over the left-hand door, he painted stories of St. Francis in fresco--namely, the receiving of the Stigmata; the supporting of the Church, which he is upholding with his shoulders; and his conference with St. Dominic. In Santa Maria Maggiore, also, in a chapel near the side door which leads to San Giovanni, where there are the panel and predella of Masaccio, he wrought an Annunciation in Fresco, wherein he made a building worthy of consideration, which was something new and difficult in those times, seeing that it was the first possessing any beauty of manner which was see by craftsmen, showing them with grace and proportion how to manage the receding of lines, and how to give so great an extent to a level space which is small and confined, that it appears far distant and large; and when to this, with judgment and grace, men can add shadows and lights by means of colours in their proper places, thee is no doubt that they cause an illusion to the eye, so that it appears that the painting is real and in relief. And not being satisfied with this, he wished to demonstrate even greater difficulties in some columns, which, foreshortened in perspective, curve round and break the salient angle of the vaulting wherein are the four Evangelists; which was held something beautiful and difficult, and, in truth, in that branch of his profession Paolo was ingenious and able.

In a cloister of San Miniato outside of Florence, also, he wrought the lives of the Holy Fathers, chiefly in terra verde, and partly in colour; wherein he paid little regard to effecting harmony by painting with one colour, as should be done in painting stories, for he made the fields blue, the cities red, and the buildings varied according to his pleasure; and in this he was at fault, for something which is meant to represent stone cannot and should not be tinted with another colour. It is said that while Paolo was labouring at this work, the Abbot who was then head of that place gave him scarcely anything to eat but cheese. Wherefore Paolo, having grown weary of this, determined, like the shy fellow that he was, to go more to work there; whereupon the Abbot sent to look for him, and Paolo, when he heard friars asking for him, would never be at home, and if by chance he met any couples of that Order in the streets of Florence, he would start running and flying from them with all his might.

Now two of them, more curious than the rest and younger than Paolo, caught him up one day and asked him for what reason he did not return to finish the work that he had begun, and why he fled at the sight of a friar; and Paolo answered: "You have murdered me in a manner that I not only fly from you, but cannot show myself near any carpenter's shop or pass by one, and all because of the thoughtlessness of your Abbot, who, what with pies and and with soups always made of cheese, has crammed so much cheese into me that I am in terror lest, being nothing but cheese, they may use me for making glue. And if it were to go on any longer, I would probably be no more Paolo, but cheese." The friars, leaving him with peals of laughter, told everything to the Abbot, who made him return to his work, and ordered him some other fare than cheese.

After this, he painted the dossal of St. Cosimo and St. Damiano in the Carmine, in the Chapel of St. Girolamo (of the Pugliesi). In the house of the Medici he painted some scenes on canvas and in distemper, representing animals; in these he eve took delight, and in order to paint them well he gave them very great attention, and, what is more, he kept ever in his house pictures of birds, cats, dogs and every sort of strange animal whereof he could get the likeness, being unable to have them alive by reason of his poverty; and because he delighted in birds more than in any other kind, he was given the name of "Paolo of the Birds" (Paolo Uccelli).

In the said house, among other pictures of animals, he made some lions, which were fighting together with movements and a ferocity so terrible that they appeared alive. But the rarest scene among them all was one wherein a serpent, combating with a lion, was showing its ferocity with violent movements, with the venom spurting from its mount and eyes, while a country girl who is present is looking after an ox made with most beautiful foreshortening. The actual drawing for this ox, by the hand of Paolo, is in my book of drawings, and likewise that of the peasant girl, all full of ear, and in the act of running away from those animals. Thee are likewise certain very lifelike shepherds, and a landscape which was held something very beautiful in his time. In the other canvases he made some studies of men-at-arms of those times, on horseback, with not a few portraits from the life.

Afterwards he was commissioned to paint some scenes in the cloister of Santa Maria Novella; and the first, which are at the entrance from the church into the cloister, represent the Creation of the animals, with an infinite number and variety of kinds belonging to water, earth, and air. And since he was very fanciful and took great delight, as it has been said, in painting animals to perfection, he showed in certain lions, who are seeking to bite each other, the great ferocity that is in them, and swiftness and fear in some stags and fallow-deer; not to mention that the birds and fishes, with their feathers and scales, are most lifelike. He made there the Creation of man and of woman, and their Fall, with a beautiful manner and with good and careful execution. And in this work he took delight in making the trees with colours, which the painters of those times were not wont to do very well; and in the landscapes, likewise, he was the first among the old painters to make a name for himself by his work, executing them well and with greater perfection than the painters before him had done; although afterwards there came men who made them more perfect, for with all his labour he was never able to give them that softness and harmony which have been given to them in our ow day by painting them in oil-colours.

It was enough for Paolo to go on, according to the rules of perspective, drawing and foreshortening them exactly as they are, making in them all that he saw--namely, ploughed fields, ditches, and other minutenesses of nature--with that dry and hard manner of his; whereas, if he had picked out the best from everything and had made use of those parts only that come out well in painting, they would have been absolutely perfect. This labour finished, he worked in the same cloister below two stories by the had of others; and lower down he painted the Flood, with Noah's Ark, into which he put so great pains and so great art and diligence into the painting of the dead bodies, the tempest, the fury of the winds, the flashes of the lightning, the shattering of trees, and the terror of men, that it is beyond all description. And he made, foreshortened in perspective, a corpse from which a raven is picking out the eyes, and a drowned boy, whose body, being full of water, is swollen out into the shape of a very great arch. He also represented various human emotions, such as the little fear of the water shown by the two men who are fighting on horseback, and the extreme terror of death seen in a woman and a man who are mounted on a buffalo, which is filling with water from behind, so that they are losing all hope of being able to save themselves; and the whole work is so good and so excellent, that it brought him very great fame.

He diminished the figures, moreover, by means of lines in perspective, and made mazzocchi and other things, truly very beautiful in such a work. Below this story, likewise, he painted the drunkenness of Noah, with the contemptuous action of his son Hamm--in whom he portrayed Dello, the Florentine painter and sculptor, his friend--with Shem and Japhet, his other sons, who are covering him up as he lies showing his nakedness. Here, likewise, he made in perspective a cask that curves on every side, which was held something very beautiful, and also a pergola covered with grapes, the wood-work of which, composed of squared planks, goes on diminishing to a point; but here he was in error, since the diminishing of the plane below, on which the figures are standing, follows the lines of the pergola, and the cask does not follow these same receding lines; wherefore I marvel greatly that a man so accurate and diligent could make an error so notable. He made there also the Sacrifice, with the Ark open and drawn in perspective, with the rows of perches in the upper part, distributed row by row; these were the resting-places of the birds, many kinds of which are seen issuing and flying forth in foreshortening, while in the sky there is seen God the Father, who is appearing over the sacrifice that Noah and his sons are making; and this figure, of all those that Paolo made in this work, is the most difficult, for it is flying, with the head foreshortened, towards the wall, and has such force and relief that it seems to be piercing and breaking through it. Besides this, Noah has round him an infinite number of diverse animals, all most beautiful. In short, he gave to all this work so great softness and grace, that it is beyond comparison superior to all his others; wherefore it has been greatly praised from that time up to our own.

In Santa Maria del Fiore, in memory of Giovanni Acuto, an Englishman, Captain of the Florentines, who had died in the year 1393, he made in terra verde a horse of extraordinary grandeur, which was held very beautiful, and on it the image of the Captain himself, in chiaroscuro and coloured with terra verde, in a picture ten braccia high on the middle of one wall of the church; where Paolo drew in perspective a large sarcophagus, supposed to contain the corpse, and over this he placed the image of him in his Captain's armour, on horseback. This work was and still is held to be something very beautiful for a painting of that kind, and if Paolo had not made that horse move its legs on one side only, which naturally horses do not do, or they would fall--and this perchance came about because he was not accustomed to ride, nor used to horses as he was to other animals--this work would be absolutely perfect, since the proportion of that horse, which is colossal, is very beautiful; and on the base there are these letters: PAULI UCCELLI OPUS.

At the same time, and in the same church, he painted in colours the hour-dial above the principal door within the church, with four heads coloured in fresco at the corners. He wrought in terra verde, also, the loggia that faces towards the west above the garden of the Monastery of the Angeli, painting below each arch a story of the acts of St. Benedict the Abbot, and of the most notable events of his life, up to his death. Here, among many most beautiful scenes, there is one in which a monastery is destroyed by the agency of the Devil, while a friar is left dead below the stones and beams. No less notable is the terror of another monk, whose draperies, as he flies, cling round his nude form and flutter with most beautiful grace; whereby Paolo awakened the minds of the craftsmen so greatly, that they have ever afterwards followed that method. Very beautiful, also, is the figure of St. Benedict, the while that with dignity and devoutness, in the presence of his monks, he restores the dead friar to life. Finally, in all these stories there are features worthy of consideration, and above all in certain places where the very tiles of the roof, whether flat or round, are drawn in perspective. And in the death of St. Benedict, while his monks are performing his obsequies and bewailing him, there are some sick men and cripples, all most beautiful, who stand gazing on him; and it is noticeable, also, that among many loving and devout followers of that Saint there is an old monk with crutches under his arms, in whom there is seen a marvellous expression, with even a hope of being made whole. In this work there are no landscapes in colour, nor many buildings, nor difficult perspectives, but there is truly great design, with no little of the good.

In many houses of Florence there are many pictures in perspective by the had of the same man, for the adornment of couches, beds, and other little things; and in Gualfonda, in particular, on a terrace in the garden which once belonged to the Bartolini, there are four battle-scenes painted on wood by his hand, full of horses and armed men, with very beautiful costumes of those days; and among the men are portraits of Paolo Orsino, Ottobuono da Parma, Luca da Canale, and Carlo Malatesti, Lord of Rimini, all captains-general of those times. And these pictures, since they were spoilt and had suffered injury, were restored in our own day by the agency of Giuliano Bugiardini, who did them more harm than good.

Paolo was summoned to Padua by Donatello, when the latter was working there, and at the entrance of the house of the Vitali he painted some giants in terra verde, which, as I have found in a Latin letter written by Girolamo Campagnola to Messer Leonico Tomeo, the philosopher, are so beautiful that Andrea Mantegna held them in very great account. Paolo wrought in fresco the Volta de'Peruzzi, with triangular sections in perspective, and in the angles of the corners he painted the four elements, making for each an appropriate animal--for the earth a mole, for the water a fish, for the fire a salamander, and for the air a chameleon, which lives on it and assumes any colour. And because he had never seen a chameleon, he painted a camel, which is opening its mouth and swallwing air, and therewith filling its belly; and great, indeed, was his simplicity in making allusion by means of the name of the camel to an animal that is like a little dry lizard, and in representing it by a great uncouth beast.

Truly great were the labours of Paolo in painting, for he drew so much that he left to his relatives, as I have learnt from their own lips, whole chests of drawings. But, although it is a good thing to draw, it is nevertheless better to make complete pictures, seeing that pictures have longer life than drawings. In our book of drawings there are many figures, studies in perspective, birds, and animals, beautiful to a marvel, but the best of all is a mazzocchio drawn only with lines, so beautiful that nothing save the patience of Paolo could have executed it. Paolo, although he was an eccentric person, loved talent in his fellow craftsmen, and in order that some memory of them might go down to posterity, he painted five distinguished men with his own hand on a long panel, which he kept in his house in memory of them. One was Giotto, the painter, standing for the light and origin of art; the second was Filippo di Ser Brunellesco, for the architecture; Donatello, for sculpture; himself, for perspective and animals; and, for mathematics, Giovanni Manetti, his friend, with whom he often conferred and discoursed on the problems of Euclid.

It is said that having been commissioned to paint, over the door of San Tommaso in the Mercato Vecchio, that Saint feeling for the would in the side of Christ, Paolo put into that work all the effort that he could, saying that he wished to show the full extent of his worth and knowledge; and so he caused a screen of planks to be made, to the end that no one might be able to see his work until it was finished. Donatello, meeting him one day all alone, said to him: "And what sort of work may this be of yours, that you keep it screened so closely?" And Paolo said in answer: "You will see it. Let that satisfy you." Donatello would not constrain him to say more, thinking to see some miracle, as usual, when the time came. Afterwards, chancing one morning to be in the Mercato Vecchio buying fruit, Donatello saw Paolo uncovering his work, whereupon he saluted him courteously, and was asked by Paolo himself, who was curious and anxious to hear his judgment on it, what he thought of that picture. Donatello, having studied the work long and well, exclaimed: "Ah, Paolo, you should be covering it up, and here you are uncovering it!" At this Paolo was much aggrieved, feeling that he was receiving much more by way of blame than he expected to receive by way of praise for this last labour of his; and not having courage, lowered as he was, to go out any more, he shut himself up in his house, devoting himself to perspective, which kept him ever poor and depressed up to his death. And so, growing very old, and having but little contentment in his old age, he died in the eighty-third year of his life, in 1432 [sic; ca. 1472], and was buried in Santa Maria Novella.

He left a daughter, who had knowledge of drawing, and a wife, who was wont to say that Paolo would stay in his study all night, seeking to solve the problems of perspective, and that when she called him to come to bed, he would say "Oh, what a sweet thing is this perspective!" And in truth, if it was sweet to him, it was not otherwise than dear and useful, thanks to him, to those who exercised themselves therein after his time.

 

 

 

LORENZO GHIBERTI (1378-1455)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists

THERE IS NO DOUBT that in every city those who, by reason of any talent, come into some fame among men, are a most blessed light and example to many who are either born after them or live in the same age, not to mention the infinite praise and the extraordinary rewards that they themselves gain thereby while living. Nor is there anything that does more to arouse the minds of men, and to render the discipline of study less fatiguing to them, than the honour and profit which are afterwards won by laboring at the arts, for the reason that these make every difficult undertaking easy to them all, and give a greater stimulus to the growth of their talents, when they are urged to greater efforts by the praises of the world. Wherefore infinite numbers of men, who feel and see this, put themselves to great fatigues, in order to attain to the honor of winning that which they see to have been won by some compatriot; and for this reason in ancient times men of talent were rewarded with riches, or honored with triumphs and images. But since it is seldom that talent is not persecuted by envy, men must continue to the best of their power, by means of the utmost excellence, to assure it of victory, or at least to make it stout and strong to sustain the attacks of that enemy; even as Lorenzo di Cione Ghiberti, otherwise called Di Bartoluccio, was enabled to do both by his own merits and by fortune. This man well deserved the honor of being placed before themselves by the sculptor Donato and by the architect and sculptor Filippo Brunelleschi, both excellent craftsmen, since they recognized, in truth, although instinct perchance constrained them to do the contrary, that Lorenzo was a better master of casting than they were. This truly brought glory to them, and confusion to many who, presuming on their worth, set themselves to work and occupy the place due to the talents of others, and without producing any fruits themselves, but laboring a thousand years at the making of one work, impede and oppress the knowledge of others with malignity and with envy.

Lorenzo, then, was the son of Bartoluccio Ghiberti, and from his earliest years learnt the art of the goldsmith from his father, who was an excellent master and taught him that business, which Lorenzo grasped so well that he became much better therein than his father. But delighting much more in the arts of sculpture and design, he would sometimes handle colors, and at other times would cast little figures in bronze and finish them with much grace. He also delighted in counterfeiting the dies of ancient medals, and he portrayed many of his friends from the life in his time.

Now, while he was working with Bartoluccio and seeking to make progress in his profession, the plague came to Florence in the year 1400, as he himself relates in a book by his own hand wherein he discourses on the subject of art, which is now in the possession of the Reverend Maestro Cosimo Bartoli, a gentleman of Florence. To this plague were added civil discords and other troubles in the city, and he was forced to depart and to go in company with another painter to Romagna, where they painted for Signer Pandolfo Malatesti, in Rimini, an apartment and many other works, which were finished by them with diligence and to the satisfaction of that Lord, who, although still young, took great delight in matters of design. Meanwhile Lorenzo did not cease to study the arts of design, and to work in relief with wax, stucco, and other similar materials, knowing very well that these small reliefs are the drawing exercises of sculptors, and that without such practice nothing can be brought by them to perfection. Now, when he had been no long time out of his own country, the pestilence ceased; wherefore the Signoria of Florence and the Guild of Merchants since at that time sculpture had many excellent craftsmen, both foreign and Florentine determined that there should be made, as it had been already discussed many times, the other two doors of S. Giovanni, a very ancient temple, indeed, the oldest in that city; and they ordained among themselves that instructions should be sent to all the masters who were held the best in Italy, to repair to Florence in order that their powers might be tested by a specimen scene in bronze, similar to one of those which Andrea Pisano had formerly made for the first door.

Word of this determination was written to Lorenzo, who was working at Pesaro, by Bartoluccio, urging him to return to Florence in order to give a proof of his powers, and saying that this was an occasion to make himself known and to demonstrate his genius, not to mention that he might gain such profit that neither the one nor the other of them would ever again need to labor at making earrings.

The words of Bartoluccio stirred the spirit of Lorenzo so greatly, that although Signor Pandolfo, with all his Court and the other painter, kept showing him the greatest favor, Lorenzo took leave of that lord and of the painter, and they, with great unwillingness and displeasure, allowed him to go, neither promises nor increase of payment availing to detain him, since to Lorenzo every hour appeared a thousand years until he could return to Florence. Having departed, therefore, he arrived safely in his own city. Many foreigners had already assembled and presented themselves to the Consuls of the Guild, by whom seven masters were elected out of the whole number, three being Florentines and the others Tuscans; and it was ordained that they should have an allowance of money, and that within a year each man should finish a scene in bronze by way of test, of the same size as those in the first door. And for the subject they chose the story of Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac, wherein they thought that the said masters should be able to show their powers with regard to the difficulties of their art, seeing that this story contained landscapes, figures both nude and clothed, and animals, while the foremost figures could be made in full relief, the second in half relief, and the third in low relief.

The competitors for this work were Filippo di Ser Brunellesco, Donato, and Lorenzo di Bartoluccio, all Florentines; Jacopo della Quercia of Siena, and Niccolo d' Arezzo, his pupil; Francesco di Valdambrina; and Simone da Colle, called Simone de' Brozzi. All these men promised before the Consuls that they would deliver their scenes finished within the said time; and each making a beginning with his own, with all zeal and diligence they exerted all their strength and knowledge in order to surpass one another in excellence, keeping their work hidden and most secret, lest they should copy each other's ideas. Lorenzo alone, who had Bartoluccio to guide him and to compel him to labor at many models before they resolved to adopt any one of them Lorenzo alone was ever inviting the citizens, and sometimes any passing stranger who had some knowledge of the art, to see his work, in order to hear what they thought and these opinions enabled him to execute a model very well wrought and without one defect. And so, when he had made the moulds and cast the work in bronze, it came out very well; whereupon, with his father Bartoluccio, he polished it with such love and patience that nothing could be executed or finished better. And when the time came for comparing the various works, his and those of the other masters were completely finished, and were given to the Guild of Merchants for judgment; but after all had been seen by the Consuls and by many other citizens, diverse opinions were expressed about them. Many foreigners had assembled in Florence, some painters, some sculptors, and others goldsmiths; and they were invited by the Consuls to give judgment on these works, together with the other men of that profession who lived in Florence. They numbered thirty-four in all, each well experienced in his own art. Now, although there were differences of opinion among them, some liking the manner of one man and some that of another, nevertheless they were agreed that Filippo di Ser Brunellesco and Lorenzo di Bartoluccio had composed and completed their scenes better and with a richer abundance of figures than Donato had done in his, although in that one, also, there was grand design.

In that of Jacopo della Quercia the figures were good, but they had no delicacy, although they were made with design and diligence. The work of Francesco di Valdambrina had good heads and was well finished, but was confused in the composition. That of Simone da Colle was a beautiful casting, because the doing of this was his art, but it had not much design. The specimen of Niccolo d' Arezzo, which was made with good mastery, had the figures squat and was badly finished. Only that scene which Lorenzo made as a specimen, which is still seen in the Audience Chamber of the Guild of Merchants, was in every part wholly perfect. The whole work had design, and was very well composed. The figures had so graceful a manner, being made with grace and with very beautiful attitudes, and the whole was finished with so great diligence, that it appeared not made by casting and polished with tools of iron, but blown with the breath. Donato and Filippo, seeing the diligence that Lorenzo had used in his work, drew aside, and, conferring together, they resolved that the work should be given to Lorenzo, it appearing to them that thus both the public and the private interest would be best served, and that Lorenzo, being a young man not more than twenty years of age, would be able to produce by this exercise of his profession those greater fruits that were foreshadowed by the beautiful scene which he, in their judgment, had executed more excellently than the others; saying that there would have been more sign of envy in taking it from him, than there was justice in giving it to him.

Beginning the work of that door, then, for that entrance which is opposite to the Office of Works of S. Giovanni, Lorenzo made for one part of it a large framework of wood, of the exact size that it was to be, with mouldings, and with the ornaments of the heads at the corners, round the various spaces wherein the scenes were to be placed, and with those borders that were to go round them. Having then made and dried the mould with all diligence, he made a very great furnace (that I remember seeing) in a room that he had hired opposite to S. Maria Nuova, where to-day there is the Hospital of the Weavers, on the spot that was called the Aia, and he cast the said framework in bronze. But, as chance would have it, it did not come out well; wherefore, having realized the mischief, without losing heart or giving way to depression, he promptly made another mould and cast it again, without telling anyone about it, and it came out very well. Whereupon he went on and continued the whole work in this manner, casting each scene by itself, and putting it, when finished, into its place. The arrangement of the scenes was similar to that which Andrea Pisano had formerly made in the first door, which Giotto designed for him. He made therein twenty scenes from the New Testament; and below, in eight spaces similar to these, after the said scenes, he made the four Evangelists, two on each side of the door, and likewise the four Doctors of the Church, in the same manner; which figures are all different in their attitudes and their draperies. One is writing, another is reading, others are in contemplation, and all, being varied one from another, appear lifelike and very well executed; not to mention that in the framework of the border surrounding the scenes in squares there is a frieze of ivy leaves and other kinds of foliage, with mouldings between each; and on every corner is the head of a man or a woman in the round, representing prophets and sibyls, which are very beautiful, and demonstrate with their variety the excellence of the genius of Lorenzo.

Above the aforesaid Doctors and Evangelists, which are in the four squares below, there follows, on the side towards S. Maria del Fiore, the first scene; and here, in the first square, is the Annunciation of Our Lady, wherein, in the attitude of the Virgin, he depicted terror and a sudden alarm, as she turns away gracefully by reason of the coming of the Angel. And next to this he made the Nativity of Christ, wherein the Madonna, having given birth to Him, is lying down and taking repose; with Joseph in contemplation, the shepherds, and the Angels singing. In the scene next to this, on the other half of the door, on the same level, there follows the story of the coming of the Magi, and of their adoration of Christ, while they give Him their tribute; and their Court is following them, with horses and other equipage, wrought with great genius. And beside this, likewise, there is His Disputation with the Doctors in the Temple, wherein the admiration and the attention which the Doctors give to Christ are no less well expressed than the joy of Mary and Joseph at finding Him again.

Above these beginning again over the Annunciation there follows the story of the Baptism of Christ by John in the Jordan, wherein there are seen in their gestures the reverence of the one and the faith of the other. Beside this there follows the Temptation of Christ by the Devil, who, terrified by the words of Jesus, stands in an attitude of terror, showing thereby that he knows Him to be the Son of God. Next to this, on the other side, is the scene where He is driving the traders from the Temple, overturning their money and the victims, doves, and other merchandise; wherein the figures, falling over each other, have a very beautiful and well conceived grace in their headlong flight. Next to this Lorenzo placed the shipwreck of the Apostles, wherein S. Peter is issuing from the ship and is sinking into the water, and Christ is upholding him. This scene shows an abundance of various gestures in the Apostles, who are toiling to save the ship; and the faith of S. Peter is recognized in his coming towards Christ. Beginning again above the story of the Baptism, on the other side, there is His Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, wherein Lorenzo demonstrated, in the attitudes of the three Apostles, how celestial visions dazzle the eyes of mortals; even as the Divinity of Christ is also recognized as He holds His head high and His arms outstretched, between Elias and Moses. And next to this is the Resurrection of the dead Lazarus, who, having issued from the sepulchre, is standing upright with his feet and his hands bound, to the marvel of the bystanders. Martha is there, with Mary Magdalene, who is kissing the feet of the Lord with very great humility and reverence.

Beside this, on the other half of the door, there follows the scene when He rides on an ass into Jerusalem, while the children of the Hebrews, in various attitudes, are casting their garments on the ground, with the olives and palms ; not to mention the Apostles, who are following the Saviour. And next to this is the Last Supper, very beautiful and well composed, the Apostles being placed at a long table, half on the near side and half on the farther side. Above the scene of the Transfiguration there is the Prayer in the Garden, wherein the three Apostles are seen asleep in various attitudes. And beside this there follows the scene when He is taken and Judas kisses Him, wherein there are many things worthy of consideration, since we see therein both the Apostles, who are flying, and the Jews, who, in taking Christ, are making most violent gestures and efforts. On the other side, next to this, is the scene when He is bound to the Column, wherein is the figure of Jesus Christ writhing not a little with the pain of the blows, in a pitiful attitude, while there are seen, in those gestures that the Jews who are scourging Him are making, terrible rage and lust of vengeance. Next to this there follows the leading of Christ before Pilate, who washes his hands and condemns Him to the Cross. Above the Prayer in the Garden, on the other side and in the last row of scenes, is Christ bearing His Cross and going to His death, led by a crowd of soldiers, who appear, with strange attitudes, to be dragging Him by force; besides the gestures of sorrow and lamentation that the Maries are making, insomuch that one who was present could not have seen them better. Beside this he made Christ on the Cross, and Our Lady and S. John the Evangelist seated on the ground, with gestures full of sorrow and wrath. Next to this, on the other side, there follows His Resurrection, wherein the guards, stunned by the thunder, are lying like dead men, while Christ is ascending on high in such an attitude that He truly appears glorified, by reason of the perfection of His beautiful limbs, wrought by the most ingenious industry of Lorenzo. In the last space is the coming of the Holy Spirit, wherein are very sweet expressions and attitudes in those who are receiving it.

This work was brought to that completion and perfection without sparing any labor or time that could be devoted to a work in bronze, seeing that the limbs of the nudes are most beautiful in every part; and in the draperies, although they hold a little to the old manner of Giotto's time, there is a general feeling that inclines to the manner of the moderns, and produces, in figures of that size, a certain very lovely grace. And in truth the composition of each scene is so well ordered and so finely arranged, that he rightly deserved to obtain that praise which Filippo had given him at the beginning nay, even more. And in like manner he gained most honorable recognition among his fellow citizens, and was consummately extolled by them and by the native and foreign craftsmen. The cost of this work, with the exterior ornaments, which are also of bronze, wrought with festoons of fruits and with animals, was 22,000 florins, and the bronze door weighed 34,000 libbre.

This work finished, it appeared to the Consuls of the Guild of Merchants that they had been very well served, and by reason of the praises given by all to Lorenzo they determined that he should make a statue of bronze, four braccia and a half high, in memory of S. John the Baptist on a pilaster without Orsanmichele, in one of the niches there namely, the one facing the Clothdressers. This he began, nor did he ever leave it until he delivered it finished. It was and still is a work highly raised, and in it, on the mantle, he made a border of letters, wherein he wrote his own name. In this work, which was placed in position in the year 1414, there is seen the beginning of the good modern manner, in the head, in an arm which appears to be living flesh, in the hands, and in the whole attitude of the figure. He was thus the first who began to imitate the works of the ancient Romans, whereof he was an ardent student, as all must be who desire to do good work. And in the frontal of that shrine he tried his hand at mosaic, making therein a half-length prophet.

The fame of Lorenzo, by reason of his most profound mastery in casting, had now spread throughout all Italy and abroad, insomuch that Jacopo della Fonte, Vecchietto of Siena, and Donato having made for the Signoria of Siena some scenes and figures in bronze that were to adorn the baptismal font of their Church of S. Giovanni, the people of Siena, having seen the works of Lorenzo in Florence, came to an agree- ment with him and caused him to make two scenes from the life of S. John the Baptist. In one he made S. John baptizing Christ, accom- panying it with an abundance of figures, both nude and very richly draped; and in the other he made S. John being taken and led before Herod. In these scenes he surpassed and excelled the men who had made the others; wherefore he was consummately praised by the people of Siena, and by all others who have seen them.

The Masters of the Mint in Florence had a statue to make for one of those niches that are round Orsanmichele, opposite to the Guild of Wool, and it was to be a S. Matthew, of the same height as the aforesaid S. John. Wherefore they allotted it to Lorenzo, who executed it to perfection; and it was much more praised than the S. John, for he made it more in the modern manner. This statue brought it about that the Consuls of the Guild of Wool determined that he should make in the same place, for the niche next to that, a statue likewise in bronze, which should be of the same proportions as the other two, representing S. Stephen, their Patron Saint. And he brought it to completion, giving a very beautiful varnish to the bronze; and this statue gave no less satisfaction than the other works already wrought by him.

The General of the Preaching Friars at that time, Maestro Lionardo Dati, wishing to leave a memorial of himself to his country in S. Maria Novella, where he had taken his vows, caused Lorenzo to construct a tomb of bronze, with himself lying dead thereon, portrayed from nature; and this tomb, which was admired and extolled, led to another being erected by Lodovico degli Albizzi and Niccolo Valori in S. Croce.

After these things, Cosimo and Lorenzo de' Medici, wishing to honor the bodies and relics of the three martyrs, Protus, Hyacinthus, and Nemesius, had them brought from the Casentino, where they had been held in little veneration for many years, and caused Lorenzo to make a sarcophagus of bronze, in the middle of which are two angels in low-relief who are holding a garland of olive, within which are the names of those martyrs; and they caused the said relics to be put into the said sarcophagus, which they placed in the Church of the Monastery of the Angeli in Florence, with these words below, carved in marble, on the side of the church of the monks:

CLARISSIMI VIRI COSMAS ET LAURENTIUS FRATRES NEGLECTAS DIU
SANCTORUM RELIQUIAS MARTYRUM RELIGIOSO STUDIO AC FIDELISSIMA
PIETATE SUIS SUMPTIBUS NEREIS LOCULIS CONDENDAS COLENDASQUE
CURARUNT.

And on the outer side, facing the little church in the direction of the street, below a coat of arms of balls, there are these other words carved on marble:

HIC CONDITA SUNT CORPORA SANCTORUM CHRISTI MARTYRUM PROTI ET
HYACINTHI ET NEMESII, ANN. DOM. 1428.

And by reason of this work, which succeeded very nobly, there came a wish to the Wardens of Works of S. Maria del Fiore to have a sarcophagus and tomb of bronze made to contain the body of S. Zanobi, Bishop of Florence. This tomb was three braccia and a half in length, and two in height; and besides adorning it with diverse varied orna- ments, he made therein on the front of the body of the sarcophagus itself a scene with S. Zanobi restoring to life a child which had been left in his charge by the mother, and which had died while she was on a pilgrimage. In a second scene is another child, who has been killed by a wagon, and also the Saint restoring to life one of the two servants sent to him by S. Ambrose, who had been left dead on the Alps; and the other is there, making lamentation in the presence of S. Zanobi, who, seized with compassion, said: "Go, he doth but sleep; thou wilt find him alive." And at the back are six little angels, who are holding a garland of elm-leaves, within which are carved letters in memory and in praise of that Saint. This work he executed and finished with the utmost ingenuity and art, insomuch that it received extraordinary praise as something beautiful.

The while that the works of Lorenzo were every day adding lustre to his name, by reason of his laboring and serving innumerable persons, working in bronze as well as in silver and gold, it chanced that there fell into the hands of Giovanni, son of Cosimo de' Medici, a very large cornelian containing the flaying of Marsyas by command of Apollo, engraved in intaglio ; which cornelian, so it is said, once served the Emperor Nero for a seal. And it being something rare, by reason both of the size of the stone, which was very great, and of the marvellous beauty of the intaglio, Giovanni gave it to Lorenzo, to the end that he might make a gold ornament in relief round it; and he, after toiling at it for many months, finished it completely, making round it a work in relief of a beauty not inferior to the excellence and perfection of the intaglio on the stone; which work brought it about that he wrought many other things in gold and silver, which today are not to be found. For Pope Martin, likewise, he made a gold button which he wore in his cope, with figures in full relief, and among them jewels of very great price a very excellent work; and likewise a most marvellous mitre of gold leaves in openwork, and among them many little figures in full relief, which were held very beautiful. And for this work, besides the name, he acquired great profit from the liberality of that Pontiff. In the year 1439, Pope Eugenius came to Florence where the Council was held in order to unite the Greek Church with the Roman; and seeing the works of Lorenzo, and being no less pleased with his person than with the works themselves, he caused him to make a mitre of gold, weighing fifteen libbre, with pearls weighing five libbre and a half, which, with the jewels set in the mitre, were estimated at 30,000 ducats of gold. It is said that in this work were six pearls as big as filberts, and it is impossible to imagine, as was seen later in a drawing of it, anything more beautiful and bizarre than the settings of the jewels and the great variety of chil- dren and other figures, which served for many varied and graceful orna- ments. For this work he received infinite favors from that Pontiff, both for himself and his friends, besides the original payment.

 

 

 

MASOLINO DA PANICALE (1400-1447)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists


TRULY GREAT, I believe, must be the contentment of those who are approaching the highest rank in the science wherein they are laboring; and those, likewise, who, besides the delight and pleasure that they feel in working valiantly, enjoy some fruit from their labors, without doubt live a quiet and very happy life. And if perchance it comes to pass that one, while advancing towards perfection in any science or art, is overtaken by death in the happy course of his life, his memory does not become wholly spent, if only he has labored worthily in order to attain to the true end of his art. Wherefore every man should labor the most that he can in order to attain to perfection, since, although he may be hindered in the midst of his course, he will gain praise, if not for the works that he has not been able to finish, at least for the excellent intention and diligent study which are seen in the little that he leaves behind.

Masolino da Panicale of Valdelsa, who was a disciple of Lorenzo di Bartoluccio Ghiberti, was a very good goldsmith in his youth, and the best finisher that Lorenzo had in the labor of the doors; and he was very dexterous and able in making the draperies of the figures, and had very good manner and understanding in the work of finishing. Wherefore with his chisel he made with all the more dexterity certain soft and delicate hollows, both in human limbs and in draperies. He devoted himself to painting at the age of nineteen, and practised it ever afterwards, learning the art of colouring from Gherardo Stamina. And having gone to Rome in order to study, the while that he dwelt there he painted the hall of the old house of the Orsini on Monte Giordano; and then, having returned to Florence by reason of a pain in the head that the air was causing him, he made in the Carmine, beside the Chapel of the Crucifixion, that figure of S. Peter which is still seen there. This figure, being praised by the craftsmen, brought it about that he was commissioned to adorn the Chapel of the Brancacci, in the said church, with the stories of S. Peter; of which chapel, with great diligence, he brought a part to completion, as on the vaulting, where there are the four Evangelists, with Christ taking Andrew and Peter from the nets and then Peter weeping for the sin committed in denying Him, and next to that his preaching in order to convert the Gentiles. He painted there the shipwreck of the Apostles in the tempest, and the scene when S. Peter is delivering his daughter Petronilla from sickness; and in the same scene he made him going with S. John to the Temple, where, in front of the portico, there is the lame beggar asking him for alms, and S. Peter, not being able to give him either gold or silver, is delivering him with the sign of the Cross. Throughout all that work the figures are made with very good grace, and they show grandeur in the manner, softness and harmony in the coloring, and relief and force in the draughtsmanship; the work was much esteemed by reason of its novelty and of the methods used in many parts, which were totally different from the manner of Giotto; but, being overtaken by death, he left these scenes unfinished.

Masolino was a person of very good powers, with much harmony and facility in his pictures, which are seen to have been executed with diligence and with great love. This zeal and this willingness to labor, which he never ceased to show, brought about in him a bad habit of body, which ended his life before his time and snatched him prematurely from the world. Masolino died young, at the age of thirty-seven, cutting short the expectations that people had conceived of him. His pictures date about the year 1440. And Paolo Schiayp who painted the Madonna and the figures with their feet foreshortened on the cornice on the Canto de' Gori in Florence strove greatly to the manner of Masolino, from whose works, having studied them many times, I find his manner very different from that of those who were before him, seeing that he added majesty to the figures, and gave softness and a beautiful flow of folds to the draperies. The heads of his figures, also, are much better than those made before his day, for he was a little more successful in making the roundness of the eyes, and many other beautiful parts of the body. And since he began to have a good knowledge of light and shade, seeing that he worked in relief, he made many difficult foreshortenings very well, as is seen in that beggar who is seeking alms from S. Peter; for his leg, which is trailing behind him, is so well proportioned in its outlines, with regard to draughtsmanship, and in its shadows, with regard to coloring, that it appears to be really piercing the wall. Masolino began likewise to give more sweetness of expression to the faces of women, and more loveliness to the garments of young men, than the old craftsmen had done; and he also drew passing well in perspective. But that wherein he excelled, more than in anything else, was coloring in fresco, for this he did so well that his pictures are blended and harmonized with so great grace, that his painting of flesh has the greatest softness which one is able to imagine; wherefore, if he had shown absolute perfection in draughtsmanship, as perchance he might have done if he had lived longer, he might have been numbered among the best, since his works are executed with good grace, and with grandeur in the manner, softness and harmony in the coloring, and much relief and force in the draughtsmanship, although this is not in all parts perfect.

 

 

 

PARRI SPINELLI

Vasari's Lives of the Artists


PARRI DI SPINELLO SPINELLI, painter of Arezzo, having learnt the first principles of art from his own father, was brought to Florence by the agency of Messer Leonardo Bruni of Arezzo, and was received by Lorenzo Ghiberti into his school, where many young men were learning under his discipline: and since the doors of S. Giovanni were then being given their finish, he was put to labor on those figures, in company with many others, as it has been said above. And having, in this work, contracted a friendship with Masolino da Panicale, and being pleased with his method of drawing, he set about imitating him in many respects, as he also imitated in others the manner of Don Lorenzo degli Angeli.

Parri made his figures much longer and more slender than any painter who had lived before him, and whereas the others make them in the proportion of ten heads at most, he gave them eleven, and sometimes twelve; nor did this make them awkward, although they were slender and were ever bent in an arch either to the right side or to the left, for the reason that this, as it appeared to him, and as he himself said, gave them more vigor. The flow of his draperies was very delicate, with abundance of folds, which fell from the arms of his figures right down to the feet. He colored very well in distemper, and perfectly in fresco, and he was the first who, in working in fresco, ceased to use verdaccio below flesh colors, to be afterwards washed over with rosy flesh tints in chiaroscuro, in the manner of water colors, as Giotto and the other old masters had done. Parri, on the other hand, used body colors in making his grounds and tints, placing them with much discretion where it appeared to him that they would look best that is, the lights on the highest points, the middle tints towards the sides, and the darks on the outlines; with which method of painting he showed more facility in his works and gave longer life to pictures in fresco, seeing that, having laid the colors in their places, he would blend them together with a rather thick and soft brush, and would execute his works with so high a finish that nothing better can be desired; and his coloring has no equal.

Parri, then, having been absent many years from his country, was recalled by his relatives, after the death of his father, to Arezzo, where, besides many works which it would take too long to recount, he made some which do not in any way deserve to be passed over in silence. In the Duomo Vecchio he made in fresco three different figures of Our Lady; and within the principal door of that church, on the left hand as one enters, he painted in fresco a story of the Blessed Tommasuolo, a sack-cloth hermit and a holy man of that time. And since this man was wont to carry in his hand a mirror wherein he saw, so he declared, the Passion of Christ, Parri portrayed him in that story kneeling, with that mirror in his right hand, which he was holding uplifted towards Heaven. And painting Jesus Christ above on a throne of clouds, and round him all the Mysteries of the Passion, with most beautiful art he made them all reflected in that mirror, in such wise that not only the Blessed Tommasuolo but all who beheld that picture could see them, which invention was truly fanciful and difficult, and so beautiful that it taught those who came after him to counterfeit many things by means of mirrors. I Nor will I forbear to tell, now that I am dealing with this subject, what this holy man did once in Arezzo; and it is this. Laboring continually, without ever ceasing, to induce the Aretines to live at peace with one another, now preaching, and now foretelling many misadventures, he recognized finally that he was wasting his time. Whereupon, entering one day into the Palace where the Sixty were wont to assemble, the said Blessed Tommasuolo who saw them every day deliberating, and never coming to any resolution save such as injured the city when he saw that the Hall was full, placed a quantity of burning coals into a great fold in his robe, and, advancing with these towards the Sixty and all the other magistrates of the city, he threw them boldly at their feet, saying: "My lords, the fire is among you; take heed lest ruin come upon you; " and this said, he went his way. Such was the effect of the simplicity, and, as it pleased God, of the good counsel of that holy man, that the said action completely accomplished what his preachings and threatenings had never been able to do, insomuch that, becoming united among themselves no long time after, they governed that city for many years afterwards with much peace and quiet for all.

But returning to Parri: after the said work, he painted in fresco in a chapel of the Church and Hospital of S. Cristofano, beside the Company of the Nunziata, for Mona Mattea de' Testi, wife of Carcascion Florinaldi, who left a very good endowment to that little church; and there he made Christ Crucified, with many angels round Him and above Him, flying in a certain dark sky and weeping bitterly. At the foot of the Cross, on one side, are the Magdalene and the other Maries, who are holding the fainting Madonna in their arms: and on the other side are S. James and S. Christopher. On the walls he painted S. Catherine, S. Nicholas, the Annunciation, and Jesus Christ at the Column; and, in an arch over the door of the said church, a Pieta, S. John, and Our Lady. But the paintings within (save those of the chapel) have been spoilt, and the arch was pulled down in the substituting of a modern door of greystone, and in the making of a convent for one hundred nuns with the revenues of that Company. For this convent Giorgio Vasari made a most careful model, but it was afterwards altered, nay, reduced to the vilest form, by those who most unworthily had charge of so great a fabric. For it comes to pass very often that one stumbles against certain men, said to be very learned, but for the most part ignorant, who, under pretence of understanding, set themselves arrogantly many times to try to play the architect and to superintend; and more often than not they spoil the arrangements and the models of those who, having spent their lives in the study and practice of building, can act with judgment in works of architecture; and this brings harm to posterity, which is thus deprived of the utility, convenience, beauty, ornament, and grandeur that are requisite in buildings, and particularly in those that are to be used for the public service.

In the Church of S. Bernardo, also, a monastery of the Monks of Monte Oliveto, Parri painted two chapels, one on either side within the principal door. In that which is on the right hand, dedicated to the Trinity, he made a God the Father, who is supporting Christ Crucified in His arms, and above there is the Dove of the Holy Spirit in the midst of a choir of angels; and on one wall of the same chapel he painted some saints in fresco, perfectly. In the other, dedicated to Our Lady, is the Nativity of Christ, with some women who are washing Him in a little wooden tub, with a womanly grace marvellously well expressed. There are also some shepherds in the distance, who are guarding their sheep, clothed in the rustic dress of those times and very lifelike, and listening attentively to the words of the Angel, who is telling them to go to Nazareth. On the opposite wall is the Adoration of the Magi, with baggage, camels, giraffes, and all the Court of those three Kings, who, reverently offering their treasures, are adoring Christ, who is lying upon the lap of His mother. Besides this, he painted on the vaulting, and in the frontals of some arches outside, some very beautiful scenes in fresco.

It is said that while Parri was executing this work, Fra Bernardino da Siena, a friar of S. Francis and a man of holy life, was preaching in Arezzo, and that having brought many of his brother monks into the true religious life, and having converted many other persons, he caused Parri to make the model for the Church of Sargiano, which he was building for them; and that afterwards, having heard that many evil things were going on in a wood near a fountain, a mile distant from the city, he went there one morning, followed by the whole people of Arezzo, with a great wooden cross in his hand, such as he was wont to carry, and after preaching a solemn sermon he had the fountain destroyed and the wood cut down ; and a little later he caused a beginning to be made with a little chapel which was built there in honour of Our Lady, with the title of S. Maria delle Grazie, wherein he afterwards asked Parri to paint with his own hand, as he did, the Virgin in Glory, who, opening her arms, is covering under her mantle the whole people of Arezzo. This most holy Virgin afterwards worked and still continues to work many miracles in that place. The Commune of Arezzo has since caused a very beautiful church to be built in this place, accommodating within it the Madonna made by Parri, for which many ornaments of marble have been made, with some figures, both round and above the altar, as it has been said in the Lives of Luca della Robbia and of his nephew Andrea, and as it will be said in due succession in the Lives of those whose works adorn that holy place. No long time after, by reason of the devotion that he bore to that holy man, Parri portrayed the said S. Bernardino in fresco on a large pilaster in the Duomo Vecchio; in which place, in a chapel dedicated to the same Saint, he also painted him glorified in Heaven and surrounded by a legion of angels, with three half-length figures, one on either side Patience and Poverty and one above Chastity with which three virtues that Saint held company up to his death. Under his feet he had some Bishops' mitres and Cardinals' hats, in order to show that, laughing at the world, he had despised such dignities ; and below these pictures was portrayed the city of Arezzo, such as it was in those times. For the Company of the Nunziata, likewise, in a little chapel, or rather maesta,* without the Duomo, Parri made a Madonna in fresco, who, receiving the Annunciation from the Angel, is turning away all in terror ; and in the sky on the vaulting, which is groined, he made angels, two in each angle, who, flying through the air and making music with various instruments, appear to be playing together, so that one almost hears a very sweet harmony ; and on the walls are four saints namely, two on each side. But the pictures wherein he showed best his power of varying the expression of his conception are seen on the two pilasters that support the arch in front, where the entrance is, for the reason that on one there is a very beautiful Charity, who is affectionately suckling one infant, fondling a second, and holding a third by the hand, while on the other there is Faith, painted in a new manner, holding the Chalice and the Cross in one hand, and in the other a cup of water, which she is pouring over the head of a boy, making him a Christian. All these figures are without doubt the best that Parri ever made in all his life, and even in comparison with the modern they are marvellous.

Within the city, in the Church of S. Agostino, in the choir of the friars, the same man painted many figures in fresco, which are known by the manner of the draperies, and by their being long, slender, and bent, as it has been said above. In the tramezzo of the Church of S. Giustino he painted in fresco a S. Martin on horseback, who is cutting off a piece of his garment to give it to a beggar, and two other saints. In the Vescovado, also, on the face of one wall, he painted an Annunciation, which today is half spoilt through having been exposed for many years. In the Pieve of the same city he painted the chapel which is now near the Office of Works; and this has been almost wholly ruined by damp. Truly unfortunate has this poor painter been with his works, seeing that almost the greater part of them have been destroyed, either by damp or by the ruin of the buildings. On a round column in the said Pieve he painted a S. Vincent in fresco; and in S. Francesco he made some saints round a Madonna in half-relief, for the family of the Viviani, with the Apostles on the arch above, receiving the Holy Spirit, and some other saints in the vaulting, and on one side Christ with the Cross on His shoulder, pouring blood from His side into the Chalice, and round Christ some angels very well wrought. Opposite to this, in the Chapel of the Company of Stone-cutters, Masons, and Carpenters, dedicated to the four Crowned Saints, he made a Madonna, and the said Saints with the instruments of those trades in their hands, and below, also in fresco, two scenes of their acts, and the Saints being beheaded and thrown into the sea. In this work there are very beautiful attitudes and efforts in the figures that are raising those bodies, placed in sacks, on their shoulders, in order to carry them to the sea, for there are seen in them liveliness and vivacity.

In S. Domenico, also, near the high altar, on the right hand wall, he painted in fresco a Madonna, S. Anthony, and S. Nicholas, for the family of the Alberti da Catenaia, of which place they were the Lords before its destruction, when they came to dwell, some in Arezzo and some in Florence. And that they are one and the same family is shown by the arms of both one and the other, which are the same; although it is true that to-day those of Arezzo are called, not "Degli Alberti," but "Da Catenaia," and those of Florence not " Da Catenaia," but " Degli Alberti." And I remember to have seen, and also read, that the Abbey of the Sasso which was in the mountains of Catenaia, and which has now been pulled down and rebuilt lower down towards the Arno was erected by the same Alberti for the Congregation of Camaldoli; and today it belongs to the Monastery of the Angeli in Florence, which acknowledges it as coming from the said family, which is among the noblest in Florence.

In the old Audience Chamber of the Fraternity of S. Maria della Misericordia, Parri painted a Madonna who has under her mantle the people of Arezzo, wherein he portrayed from the life those who then ruled that holy place, clothed according to the use of those times ; and among them one called Braccio, who is now called, when there is talk of him, Lazzaro Ricco, and who died in the year 1422, leaving all his riches and means to that place, which dispenses them in the service of God's poor, performing the holy works of mercy with much charity. On one side of this Madonna is S. Gregory the Pope, and on the other S. Donatus, Bishop and Protector of the people of Arezzo. And since those who then ruled that Fraternity had been very well served in this work by Parri, they caused him to make on a panel, in distemper, a Madonna with the Child in her arms, with some angels who are opening her mantle, beneath which is the said people; with S. Laurentino and S. Pergentino, the martyrs, below. This panel is brought out every year on the second day of June, and, after it has been borne in solemn procession by the men of the said Company as far as the church of the said Saints, there is placed over it a coffer of silver, wrought by the goldsmith Forzore, brother of Parri, within which are the bodies of the said SS. Laurentino and Pergentino; it is brought out, I say, and the said altar is made under covering of a tent in the Canto alia Croce, where the said church stands, because, being a small church, it would not hold ah 1 the people who assemble for this festival. The predella whereon the said panel rests contains the martyrdom of those two Saints, made with little figures, and so well wrought, that for a small work it is truly a marvel. In Borgo Piano, under the projection of a house, there is a shrine by the hand of Parri, within which is an Annunciation in fresco, which is much extolled; and in S. Agostino, for the Company of the Puraccioli, he made in fresco a very beautiful picture of S. Catherine, virgin and martyr. In the Church of Muriello, likewise, for the Fraternity of the Clerks, he painted a S. Mary Magdalene, three braccia high; and in S. Domenico, at the entrance of the door, where the bell ropes are, he painted in fresco the Chapel of S. Niccolo, making therein a large Crucifix with four figures, so well wrought that it seems made only yesterday. In the arch he painted two stories of S. Nicholas namely, his throwing the golden balls to the maidens, and his delivering two from death, while the executioner is seen apparelled and ready to cut off their heads, and very well wrought.

The while that Parri was making this work, he was set upon with weapons by some of his relatives, with whom he had a dispute about some dowry; but, since some other men ran up immediately, he was succoured in a manner that they did him no harm. But nevertheless, so it is said, the fright that he experienced brought it about that, besides making his figures bending over to one side, from that day onward he made them almost always with an expression of terror. And since he found himself many times attacked by slanderous tongues and torn by the tooth of envy, he made in that chapel a scene of tongues burning, with some devils round them that were heaping them with fire; and in the sky was Christ cursing them, and on one side these words: "To the false tongue."

Parri was very studious in the matters of art, and drew very well, as it is shown by many drawings by his hand, which I have seen, and in particular by a border of twenty scenes from the life of S. Donatus, made for a sister of his own, who embroidered very well; and this he is reputed to have done because there was a question of making adornments for the high altar of the Vescovado. And in our book there are some drawings by his hand, done very well with the pen. Parri was portrayed by Marco da Montepulciano, a disciple of Spinello, in the cloister of S. Bernardo in Arezzo. He lived fifty-six years, and he shortened his life by reason of being by nature melancholic, solitary, and too assiduous in the studies of his art and in his labors. He was buried in S. Agostino, in the same tomb wherein his father Spinello had been laid, and his death caused displeasure to all the men of culture who knew him.

 

 

 

MASACCIO (1401-1428)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists





IT IS THE CUSTOM of nature, when she makes a man very excellent in any profession, very often not to make him alone, but at the same time, and in the same neighborhood, to make another to compete with him, to the end that they may assist each other by their talent and emulation; which circumstance, besides the singular advantage enjoyed by the men themselves, who thus compete with each other, also kindles beyond measure the minds of those who come after that age, to strive with all study and all industry to attain to that honour and that glorious reputation which they hear highly extolled without ceasing in those who have passed away. And that this is true we see from the fact that Florence produced in one and the same age Filippo, Donato, Lorenzo, Paolo Uccello, and Masaccio, each most excellent in his own kind, and thus not only swept away the rough and rude manners that had prevailed up to that time, but incited and kindled so greatly, by reason of the beautiful works of these men, the minds of those who came after, that the work of those professions has been brought to that grandeur and to that perfection which are seen in our own times. Wherefore, in truth, we owe a great obligation to those early craftsmen who showed to us, by means of their labors, the true way to climb to the greatest height; and with regard to the good manner of painting, we are indebted above all to Masaccio, seeing that he, as one desirous of acquiring fame, perceived that painting is nothing but the counterfeiting of all the things of nature, vividly and simply, with drawing and with colors, even as she produced them for us, is that he who attains to this most perfectly can be called excellent.

This truth, I say, being recognized by Masaccio, brought it about that by means of continuous study he learnt so much that he can be numbered among the first who cleared away, ['--in a great .measure,? SIC] the hardness, the imperfections, and the difficulties of the [art/ ana SIC ]that he gave a beginning to beautiful attitudes, movements, liveliness, and vivacity, and to a certain relief truly characteristic and natural; which no painter up to his time had ever done. And since he had excellent judgment, he reflected that all the figures that did not stand firmly with their feet in foreshortening on the level, but stood on tip-toe, were lacking in all goodness of manner in the essential points, and that those who make them thus show that they do not understand foreshortening. And although Paolo Uccello had tried his hand at this, and had done something, solving this difficulty to some extent, yet Masaccio introducing many new methods, made foreshortenings from every point of view much better than any other who had lived up to that time. And he painted his works with good unity and softness, harmonizing the flesh-colors of the heads and of the nudes with the colors of the draperies, which he delighted to make with few folds and simple, as they are in life and nature. This has been of great use to craftsmen, and he deserves therefore to be commended as if he had been its inventor, for in truth the works made before his day can be said to be painted, while his are living, real, and natural, in comparison with those made by the others.

This man was born at Castello San Giovanni in Valdarno, and they say that one may still see there some figures made by him in his earliest childhood. He was a very absent-minded and careless person, as one who, having fixed his whole mind and will on the matters of art, cared little about himself, and still less about others. And since he would never give any manner of thought to the cares and concerns of the world, or even to clothing himself, and was not wont to recover his money from his debtors, save only when he was in the greatest straits, his name was therefore changed from Tommaso to Masaccio, [Careless Tom, or Hulking Tom (not necessarily in disapproval)] not, indeed, because he was vicious, for he was goodness itself, but by reason of his so great carelessness; and with all this, nevertheless, he was so amiable in doing the service and pleasure of others, that nothing more could be desired.

He began painting at the time when Masolino da Panicale was working on the Chapel of the Brancacci in the Carmine, in Florence, ever following, in so far as he was able, in the steps of Filippo and Donato, although their branch of art was different, and seeking continually in his work to make his figures very lifelike and with a beautiful liveliness in the likeness of nature. And his lineaments and his painting were so modern and so different from those of the others, that his works can safely stand in comparison with any drawing and coloring of our own day. He was very zealous at his labours, and a marvellous master of the difficulties of perspective, as it is seen in a story painted by him with small figures, which is today in the house of Ridolfo del Ghirlandajo. In this story, besides a Christ who is delivering the man possessed by a devil, there are very beautiful buildings in perspective, drawn in a manner that they show at one and the same time both the inside and the outside, by reason of his having chosen the point of view, not of the front, but over the corners, as being more difficult. He sought more than any other master to make his figures nude and foreshortened, which was little done before his day. He had great facility in handling, and, as it has been said, he is very simple in his draperies.

There is a panel by his hand, wrought in distemper, wherein is a Madonna upon the lap of S. Anne, with the Child in her arms. This panel is today in S. Ambrogio in Florence, in the chapel that is beside the door that leads to the parlour of the nuns. And in the tramezzo of the Church of S. Niccolo, on the other side of the Arno, there is a panel by the hand of Masaccio, painted in distemper, wherein, besides the Madonna, who is receiving the Annunciation from the Angel, there is a building with many columns, drawn in perspective and very beautiful, seeing that, besides the drawing of the lines, which is perfect, he made it recede by means of the colouring, in a manner that little by little, almost imperceptibly, it is lost to view; thus showing clearly his knowledge of perspective. In the Badia of Florence, on a pilaster opposite to one of those that support the arch of the high altar, he painted in fresco S. Ivo of Brittany, representing him within a niche, in order that the feet might appear foreshortened to the eye below ; which device, not having been used so well by others, acquired for him no small praise. And below the said Saint, over another cornice, he made a throng of widows, orphans, and beggars, who receive assistance from that Saint in their needs. In S. Maria Novella, also, below the tramezzo of the church, he painted a Trinity in fresco, which is placed over the altar of S. Ignazio, with Our Lady on one side and S. John the Evangelist on the other contemplating Christ Crucified. On the sides are two figures on their knees, which, in so far as it can be determined, are portraits of the men who had the picture painted; but little is seen of them, for they have been covered with a gilt ornament. But the most beautiful thing, apart from the figures, is a barrel-shaped vaulting, drawn in perspective and divided into squares filled with rosettes, which are foreshortened and made to diminish so well that the wall appears to be pierced. In S. Maria Maggiore, also, near the side-door that leads to S. Giovanni, on the panel of a chapel, he painted a Madonna, with S. Catherine and S. Julian. On the predella he made some little figures, connected with the life of S. Catherine, with S. Julian murdering his father and mother; and in the middle he made the Nativity of Christ, with that simplicity and vividness which were characteristic of his work.

In the Church of the Carmine in Pisa, on a panel that is in a chapel in the tramezzo, f there is a Madonna with the Child, by his hand, and at her feet are certain little angels sounding instruments, one of whom, playing on a lute, is listening attentively to the harmony of that sound. On either side of the Madonna are S. Peter, S. John the Baptist, S. Julian, and S. Nicholas, all very lifelike and vivacious figures. In the predella below are scenes from the lives of those Saints, with little figures; and in the centre are the three Magi offering their treasures to Christ. In this part are some horses portrayed from life, so beautiful that nothing better can be desired; and the men of the Court of those three Kings are clothed in various costumes that were worn in those times. And above, as an ornament for the said panel, there are, in several squares, many saints round a Crucifix. It is believed that the figure of a saint, in the robes of a Bishop and painted in fresco, which is in that church, beside the door that leads into the convent, is by the hand of Masaccio; but I hold it as certain that it is by the hand of Fra Filippo, his disciple.

Returning from Pisa to Florence, he wrought there a panel containing a man and a woman, nude and of the size of life, which is today in the Palla Rucellai Palace. Then, not feeling at ease in Florence, and stimulated by his affection and love for art, he determined to go to Rome, in order to learn and to surpass others; and this he did. And having acquired very great fame there, he painted for Cardinal San Clemente a chapel in the Church of S. Clemente, wherein he made in fresco the Passion of Christ, with the Thieves on the Cross, and the stories of S. Catherine the martyr. He also made many panels in distemper, which have been all lost or destroyed in the troublous times of Rome ; one being in the Church of S. Maria Maggiore, in a little chapel near the sacristy, wherein are four saints, so well wrought that they appear to be in relief, and in the midst of them is S. Maria della Neve, with the portrait from nature of Pope Martin, who is tracing out the foundations of that church with a hoe, and beside him the Emperor Sigismund II. Michelagnolo and I were one day examining this work, when he praised it much, and then added that these men were alive in Masaccio's time. To him, while Pisanello and Gentile da Fabriano were laboring in Rome for Pope Martin on the walls of the Church of S. Gianni, these masters had allotted a part of the work, when he returned to Florence, having had news that Cosimo de' Medici, by whom he was much assisted and favored, had been recalled from exile; and there he was commissioned to paint the Chapel of the Brancacci in the Carmine, by reason of the death of Masolino da Panicale, who had begun it; but before putting his hand to this, he made, by way of specimen, the S. Paul that is near the bell ropes, in order to show the improvement that he had made in his art. And he demonstrated truly infinite excellence in this picture, for in the head of that Saint, who is Bartolo di Angiolino Angiolini portrayed from life, there is seen an expression so awful that there appears to be nothing lacking in that figure save speech; and he who has not known S. Paul will see, by looking at this picture, his honorable Roman culture, together with the unconquerable strength of that most divine spirit, all intent on the work of the faith. In this same picture, likewise, he showed a power of foreshortening things viewed from below upwards which was truly marvellous, as may still be seen to-day in the feet of the said Apostle, for this was a difficulty that he solved completely, in contrast with the old rude manner, which, as I said a little before, used to make all the figures on tip-toe; which manner lasted up to his day, without any other man correcting it, and he, by himself and before any other, brought it to the excellence of our own day.

It came to pass, the while that he was laboring at this work, that the said Church of the Carmine was consecrated; and Masaccio, in memory of this, painted the consecration just as it took place, with terra verde and in chiaroscuro, over the door that leads into the convent, within the cloister. And he portrayed therein an infinite number of citizens in mantles and hoods, who are following the procession, among whom he painted Filippo di Ser Brunellesco in wooden shoes, Donatello, Masolino da Panicale, who had been his master, Antonio Brancacci, who caused him to paint the chapel, Niccolo' da Uzzano, Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici, and Bartolommeo Valori, who are all also portrayed by the hand of the same man in the house of Simon Corsi, a gentleman of Florence. He also painted there Lorenzo Ridolfi, who was at that time the ambassador of the Florentine Republic in Venice; and not only did he portray there the aforesaid gentlemen from the life, but also the door of the convent and the porter with the keys in his hand. This work, truly, shows great perfection, for Masaccio was so successful in placing these people, five or six to a file, on the level of that piazza., and in making them diminish to the eye with proportion and judgment, that it is indeed a marvel, and above all because we can recognize there the wisdom that he showed in making those men, as if they were alive, not all of one size, but with a certain discretion which distinguishes those who are short and stout from those who are tall and slender; while they are all standing with their feet firmly on one level, and so well foreshortened along the files that they would not be otherwise in nature.

After this, returning to the work of the Chapel of the Brancacci, and continuing the stories of S. Peter begun by Masolino, he finished a part of them namely, the story of the Chair, the healing of the sick, the raising of the dead, and the restoring of the cripples with his shadow as he was going to the Temple with S. John. But the most notable among them all is that one wherein S. Peter, at Christ's command, is taking the money from the belly of the fish, in order to pay the tribute, since (besides the fact that we see there in an Apostle, the last of the group, the portrait of Masaccio himself, made by his own hand with the help of a mirror, so well that it appears absolutely alive) we can recognize there the ardor of S. Peter in his questioning and the attentiveness of the Apostles, who are standing in various attitudes round Christ, awaiting his determination, with gestures so vivid that they truly appear alive. Wonderful, above all, is the S. Peter who, while he is labouring to draw the money from the belly of the fish, has his head suffused with blood by reason of bending down; and he is even more wonderful as he pays the tribute, for here we see his expression as he counts it, and the eagerness of him who is receiving it and looking at the money in his hand with the greatest pleasure. There, also, he painted the resurrection of the King's son, wrought by S. Peter and S. Paul; although by reason of the death of Masaccio the work remained unfinished, and was afterwards completed by Filippino. In the scene wherein S. Peter is baptizing, a naked man, who is trembling and shivering with cold among the others who are being baptized, is greatly esteemed, having been wrought with very beautiful relief and sweet manner; which figure has ever been held in reverence and admiration by all craftsmen, both ancient and modern. For this reason that chapel has been frequented continually up to our own day by innumerable draughtsmen and masters; and there still are therein some heads so lifelike and so beautiful, that it may truly be said that no master of that age approached so nearly as this man did to the moderns. His labors therefore deserve infinite praise, and above all because he gave form in his art to the beautiful manner of our times.

And that this is true is proved by the fact that all the most celebrated sculptors and painters, who have lived from his day to our own, have become excellent and famous by exercising themselves and studying in this chapel namely, Fra Giovanni da Fiesole, Fra Filippo, Filippino, who finished it, Alesso Baldovinetti, Andrea dal Castagno, Andrea del Verrocchio, Domenico del Ghirlandajo, Sandro di Botticello, Leonardo da Vinci, Pietro Perugino, Fra Bartolommeo di San Marco, Mariotto Albertinelli, and the most divine Michelagnolo Buonarroti; likewise Raffaello da Urbino, who owed to this chapel the beginning of his beautiful manner, Granaccio, Lorenzo di Credi, Ridolfo del Ghirlandajo, Andrea del Sarto, Rosso, Franciabigio, Baccio Bandinelli, Alonso Spagnuolo, Jacopo da Pontormo, Pierino del Vaga, and Toto del Nunziata; and in short, all those who have sought to learn that art have ever gone to this chapel to learn and to grasp the precepts and the rules for good work from the figures of Masaccio. And if I have not named many foreigners and many Florentines who have gone to that chapel for the sake of study, let it suffice to say that where the heads of art go, the members also follow. But although the works of Masaccio have ever been in so great repute, it is nevertheless the opinion nay, the firm belief of many, that he would have produced even greater fruits in his art, if death, which tore him from us at the age of twenty-six, had not snatched him away from us so prematurely. But either by reason of envy, or because good things rarely have any long duration, he died in the flower of his youth, and that so suddenly, that there were not wanting people who put it down to poison rather than to any other reason.

It is said that Filippo di Ser Brunellesco, hearing of his death, exclaimed, " We have suffered a very great loss in Masaccio," and that it grieved him infinitely, for he had spent much time in demonstrating to Masaccio many rules of perspective and of architecture. He was buried in the same Church of the Carmine in the year 1443, and although, since he had been little esteemed when alive, no memorial was then placed over his tomb, yet after his death there were not wanting men to honor him with these epitaphs :

BY ANNIBAL CARO:

PINSI, E LA MIA PITTURA- AL VER FU PARI
L' ATTEGGIAI, L' AVVIVAI, LE DIEDI IL MOTO,
LE DIEDI AFFETTO. INSEGNI IL BUONARROTO
A TUTTI GLI ALTRI, E DA ME SOLO IMPARI.

BY FABIO SEGNI:

INVIDA CUR LACHESIS PRIMO SUB FLORE JUVENTAE

POLLICE DISCINDIS STAMINA FUNEREO
HOC UNO OCCISO INNUMEROS OCCIDIS APELLES

PICTURAE OMNIS OBIT, HOC OBEUNTE, LEPOS.
HOC SOLE EXTINCTO, EXTINGUUNTUR SIDERA CUNCTA.
HEU ! DECUS OMNE PERIT, HOC PEREUNTE, SIMUL.

 

 

 

FILIPPO BRUNELLESCHI (1377-1446)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists
Part I: Early Life and Sculpture







MANY MEN ARE CREATED by nature small in person and in features, who have a mind full of such greatness and a heart of such irresistible vehemence, that if they do not begin difficult--nay, almost impossible--undertakings, and bring them to completion to the marvel of all who behold them, they have never any peace in their lives; and whatsoever work chance puts into their hands, however lowly and base it may be, they give it value and nobility. Wherefore no one should turn up his nose when he encounters people who have not, in their aspect, that primal grace or beauty which nature should give, on his coming into the world, to a man who works at any art, seeing that there is no doubt that beneath the clods of the earth are hidden veins of gold. And very often, in those who are most insignificant in form, there are born so great generosity of mind and so great sincerity of heart, that, if nobility be mingled with these, nothing short of the greatest marvels can be looked for from them, for the reason that they strive to embellish the ugliness of the body with the beauty of the intellect; as it is clearly seen in Filippo di Ser Brunellesco, who was no less insignificant in person than Messer Forese da Rabatta and Giotto, but so lofty in intellect that it can be truly said that he was sent to us by Heaven in order to give new form to architecture, which had been out of mind for hundreds of years; for the men of those times had spent much treasure to no purpose, making buildings without order, with bad method, with sorry design, with most strange inventions, with most ungraceful grace, and with even worse ornament.

And Heaven ordained, since the earth had been for so many years without any supreme mind or divine spirit, that Filippo should bequeath to the world the greatest, the most lofty, and the most beautiful building that was ever made in modern times, or even in those of the ancients, proving that the talent of the Tuscan craftsmen, although lost, was not therefore dead. Heaven adorned him, moreover, with the best virtues, among which was that of kindliness, so that no man was ever more benign or more amiable than he. In judgment he was free from passion, and when he saw worth and merit in others he would sacrifice his own advantage and the interest of his friends. He knew himself, he shared the benefit of his own talent with many, and he was ever succoring his neighbor in his necessities. He declared himself a capital enemy of vice, and a friend of those who practiced virtue. He never spent his time uselessly, but would labor to meet the needs of others, either by himself or by the agency of other men; and he would visit his friends on foot and ever succor them.

It is said that there was in Florence a man of very good repute, most praiseworthy in his way of life and active in his business, whose name was Ser Brunellesco di Lippo Lapi, who had had a grandfather called Cambio, who was a learned person and the son of a physician very famous in those times, named Maestro Ventura Bacherini. Now Ser Brunellesco, taking to wife a most excellent young woman from the noble family of the Spini, received, as part payment of her dowry, a house wherein he and his sons dwelt to the day of their death. This house stands opposite to one side of San Michele Berteldi, in a close past the Piazza degli Agli. The while that he was occupying himself thus and living happily, in the year 1398 there was born to him a son, to whom he gave the name Filippo, after his own father, now dead; and he celebrated this birth with the greatest gladness possible. Thereupon he taught him in his childhood, with the utmost attention, the first rudiments of letters, wherein the boy showed himself so ingenious and so lofty in spirit that his brain was often in doubt, as if he did not care to become very perfect in them--nay, it appeared that he directed his thoughts on matters of greater utility--- wherefore Ser Brunellesco, who wished him to follow his own vocation of notary, or that of his great-great-grandfather, was very much dis pleased. But seeing him continually investigating ingenious problems of art and mechanics, he made him learn arithmetic and writing, and then apprenticed him to the goldsmith's art with one his friend, to the end that he might learn design. And this gave great satisfaction to Filippo, who, not many years after beginning to learn and to practice that art, could set precious stones better than any old craftsman in that vocation. He occupied himself with niello and with making larger works, such as some figures in silver, whereof two, half-length prophets, are placed at the head of the altar of San Jacopo in Pistoia; these figures, which are held very beautiful, were wrought by him for the Wardens of Works in that city; and he made works in low relief, wherein he showed that he had so great knowledge in his vocation that his intellect must needs overstep the bounds of that art. Wherefore, having made acquaint with certain studious persons, he began to penetrate with his fancy into questions of time, of motion, of weights, and of wheels, and how the latter can be made to revolve, and by what means they can be set in motion; and thus he made some very good and very beautiful clocks with his own hand.

Not content with this, there arose in his mind a very great inclination for sculpture; and this took effect, for Donatello, then a youth, being held an able sculptor and one of great promise, Filippo began to be ever in his company, and the two conceived such great love for each other, by reason of the talents of each, that one appeared unable to live without the other. Whereupon Filippo, who was most capable in various ways, gave attention to many professions~ nor had he practiced these long before he was held by persons qualified to judge to be a very good architect, as he showed in many works in connection with the fitting up of houses, such as the house of Apollonio Lapi, his kinsman, in the Canto de' Cini, towards the Mercato Vecchio, wherein he occupied himself greatly while the other was having it built ; and he did the same in the tower and in the house of Petraia at Castello without Florence. In the Palace that was the habitation of the Signoria, he arranged and distributed all those rooms wherein the officials of the Monte had their office, and he made doors and windows there in the manner copied from the ancient, which was then little used, for architecture was very rude in Tuscany. In Florence, a little later, there was a statue of limewood to be made for the Friars of Santo Spirito, representing St. Mary Magdalene in Penitence, to be placed in a chapel ; and Filippo, who had wrought many little things in sculpture, desiring to show that he was able to succeed in large works as well, undertook to make the said figure, which, when put into execution and finished, was held something very beautiful ; but it was destroyed afterwards, together with many other notable works, in the year 1471, when that church was burnt down.

He gave much attention to perspective, which was then in a very evil plight by reason of many errors that were made therein; and in this he spent much time, until he found by himself a method whereby it might become true and perfect--namely, that of tracing it with the groundplan and profile and by means of intersecting lines, which was something truly most ingenious and useful to the art of design. In this he took so great delight that he drew with his own hand the Piazza di San Giovanni, with all the compartments of black and white marble wherewith that church was incrusted, which he foreshortened with singular grace; and he drew, likewise, the building of the Misericordia, with the shops of the Wafer-Makers and the Volta de' Pecori, and the column of San Zanobi on the other side. This work, bringing him praise from craftsmen and from all who had judgment in that art, encouraged him so greatly that it was not long before he put his hand to another and drew the Palace, the Piazza, and the Loggia of the Signori, together with the roof of the Pisani and all the buildings that are seen round that Piazza; and these works were the means of arousing the minds of the other craftsmen, who afterwards devoted themselves to this with great zeal. He taught it, in particular, to the painter Masaccio, then a youth and much his friend, who did him credit in this art that Filippo showed him, as it is apparent from the buildings in his works. Nor did he refrain from teaching it even to those who worked in intarsia, which is the art of inlaying colored woods ; and he stimulated them so greatly that he was the source of a good style and of many useful changes that were made in that craft, and of many excellent works wrought both then and afterwards, which have brought fame and profit to Florence for many years.

Now Messer Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli, returning from his studies, and chancing one evening to be at supper in a garden with some of his friends, invited Filippo, who, hearing him discourse on the mathematical arts, formed such an intimacy with him that he learnt geometry from Messer Paolo ; and although Filippo had no learning, he reasoned so well in every matter with his instinct, sharpened by practice and experience, that he would many times confound him. And so he went on to give attention to the study of the Christian Scriptures, never failing to be present at the disputations and preachings of learned persons, from which he gained so much advantage, by reason of his admirable memory, that the aforesaid Messer Paolo was wont to extol him and to say that in hearing Filippo argue he appeared to be hearing a new St. Paul. He also gave much attention at this time to the works of Dante, which he under stood very well with regard to the places described and their proportions, and he would avail himself of them in his conversations, quoting them often in making comparisons. He did naught else with his thoughts but invent and imagine ingenious and difficult things; nor could he ever find an intellect more to his satisfaction than that of Donato [Donatello], with whom he was ever holding familiar discourse, and they took pleasure in one another and would confer together over the difficulties of their vocation.

Now in those days Donato had finished a Crucifix of wood, which was placed in Santa Croce in Florence, below the scene of the child being restored to life by St. Francis, painted by Taddeo Gaddi, and he wished to have the opinion of Filippo about this work; but he repented, for Filippo answered that he had placed a ploughman on the Cross; whence there arose the saying, "Take wood and make one thyself," as it is related at length in the Life of Donato. Whereupon Filippo, who would never get angry, whatever might be said to him, although he might have reason for anger, stayed in seclusion for many months until he had finished a Crucifix of wood of the same size, so excellent, and wrought with so much art, design, and diligence, that Donato--whom he had sent to his house ahead of himself, as it were to surprise him, for he did not know that Filippo had made such a work--having an apron full of eggs and other things for their common dinner, let it fall as he gazed at the work, beside himself with marvel at the ingenious and masterly manner that Filippo had shown in the legs, the trunk, and the arms of the said figure, which was so well composed and united together that Donato, besides admitting himself beaten, proclaimed it a miracle. This work is placed today in Santa Maria Novella, between the Chapel of the Strozzi and that of the Bardi da Vernia, and it is still very greatly extolled by the moderns. Wherefore, the talent of these truly excellent masters being recognized, they received a commission from the Guild of Butchers and from the Guild of Linen-Manufacturers for two figures in marble, to be made for their niches, which are on the outside of Orsanmichele. Having undertaken other work, Filippo left these figures to Donato to make by himself, and Donato executed them to perfection.

After these things, in the year 1401, now that sculpture had risen to so great a height, it was determined to reconstruct the two bronze doors of the Church and Baptistery of San Giovanni, since, from the death of Andrea Pisano to that day, they had not had any masters capable of executing them. This intention being, therefore, communicated to those sculptors who were then in Tuscany, they were sent for, and each man was given a provision and the space of a year to make one scene; and among those called upon were Filippo and Donato, each of them being required to make one scene by himself, in competition with Lorenzo Ghiberti, Jacopo della Fonte [Jacopo della Quercia], Simone da Colle, Francesco di Valdambrina, and Niccolo d' Arezzo. These scenes, being finished in the same year and being brought together for comparison, were all most beautiful and different one from the other; one was well designed and badly wrought, as was that of Donato; another was very well designed and diligently wrought, but the composition of the scene, with the gradual diminution of the figures, was not good, as was the case with that of Jacopo della Quercia; a third was poor in invention and in the figures, which was the manner wherein Francesco di Valdambrina had executed his; and the worst of all were those of Niccolo d' Arezzo and Simone da Colle. The best was that of Lorenzo di Cione Ghiberti, which had design, diligence , invention, art, and the figures very well wrought. Nor was that of Filippo much inferior, wherein he had represented Abraham sacrificing Isaac; and in that scene a slave who is drawing a thorn from his foot, while he is awaiting Abraham and the ass is browsing, deserves no little praise.

The scenes, then, being exhibited, Filippo and Donato were not satisfied with any save with that of Lorenzo, and they judged him to be better qualified for that work than themselves and the others who had made the other scenes. And so with good reasons they persuaded the Consuls to allot the work to Lorenzo, showing that thus both the public and the private interest would be best served; and this was indeed the true goodness of friendship, excellence without envy, and a sound judgment in the knowledge of their own selves, whereby they deserved more praise than if they had executed the work to perfection. Happy spirits! who, while they were assisting one another, took delight in praising the labors of others. How unhappy are those of our own day, who, not sated with injuring each other, burst with envy while rending others. The Consuls besought Filippo to undertake the work in company with Lorenzo, but he refused, being minded rather to be first in an art of his own than an equal or a second in that work. Wherefore he presented the scene that he had wrought in bronze to Cosimo de' Medici, who after a time had it placed on the dossal of the altar in the old Sacristy of San Lorenzo, where it is to be found at present; and that of Donato was placed in the Guild of the Exchange.

The commission being given to Lorenzo Ghiberti, Filippo and Donato, who were together, resolved to depart from Florence in company and to live for some years in Rome, to the end that Filippo might study architecture and Donato sculpture; and this Filippo did from his desire to be superior both to Lorenzo and to Donato, in proportion as architecture is held to be more necessary for the practical needs of men than sculpture and painting. After he had sold a little farm that he had at Settignano, they departed from Florence and went to Rome, where, seeing the grandeur of the buildings and the perfection of the fabrics of the temples, Filippo would stand in a maze like a man out of his mind. And so, having made arrangements for measuring the cornices and taking the groundplans of those buildings, he and Donato kept laboring continually, sparing neither time nor expense. There was no place, either in Rome or in the Campagna without, that they left unvisited, and nothing of the good that they did not measure, if only they could find it. And since Filippo was free from domestic cares, he gave himself over body and soul to his studies, and took no thought for eating or sleeping, being intent on one thing only--namely, architecture, which was now dead (I mean the good ancient Orders, and not the barbarous German, which was much in use in his time).

And he had in his mind two vast conceptions, one being to restore to light the good manner of architecture, since he believed that if he could recover it he would leave behind no less a name for himself than Cimabue and Giotto had done; and the other was to find a method, if he could, of raising the Cupola of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence,the difficulties of which were such that after the death of Arnolfo Lapi there had been no one courageous enough to think of raising it without vast expenditure for a wooden framework. Yet he did not impart this his invention to Donato or to any living soul, nor did he rest in Rome till he had considered all the difficulties connected with the Ritonda, wondering how the vaulting was raised. He had noted and drawn all the ancient vaults, and was for ever studying them; and if peradventure they had found pieces of capitals, columns, cornices, and bases of buildings buried underground, they would set to work and have them dug out, in order to examine them thoroughly.

Wherefore a rumor spread through Rome, as they passed through the streets, going about carelessly dressed, so that they were called the "treasure-seekers," people believing that they were persons who studied geomancy in order to discover treasure; and this was because they had one day found an ancient earthenware vase full of medals. Filippo ran short of money and contrived to make this good by setting jewels of price for certain goldsmiths who were his friends; and thus he was left alone in Rome, for Donato returned to Florence, while he, with greater industry and labor than before, was for ever investigating the ruins of those buildings. Nor did he rest until he had drawn every sort of building--round, square, and octagonal temples, basilicas, aqueducts, baths, arches, colossea, amphitheaters, and every temple built of bricks, from which he copied the methods of binding and of clamping with ties, and also of encircling vaults with them; and he noted the ways of making buildings secure by binding the stones together by iron bars, and by dovetailing; and, discovering a hole hollowed out under the middle of each great stone, he found that this was meant to hold the iron instrument, which is called by us the ulivella, wherewith the stones are drawn up; and this he reintroduced and brought into use afterwards. He then distinguished the different Orders one from another--Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian; and so zealous was his study that his intellect became very well able to see Rome, in imagination, as she was when she was not in ruins. In the year 1407 the air of that city gave Filippo a slight indisposition, wherefore, being advised by his friends to try a change of air, he returned to Florence. There many buildings had suffered by reason of his absence; and for these, on his arrival, he gave many designs and much advice.

 

 

 

DONATELLO (1386-1466)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists





DONATO, who was called Donatello by his relatives and wrote his name thus on some of his works, was born in Florence in the year 1403. Devoting himself to the arts of design, he was not only a very rare sculptor and a marvelous statuary, but also a practiced worker in stucco, an able master of perspective, and greatly esteemed as an architect; and his works showed so great grace, design, and excellence, that they were held to approach more nearly to the marvelous works of the ancient Greeks and Romans than those of any other craftsman whatsoever. Wherefore it is with good reason that he is ranked as the first who made a good use of the invention of scenes in low relief, which he wrought so well that it is recognized from the thought, the facility, and the mastery that he showed therein, that he had a true understanding of them, making them with a beauty far beyond the ordinary; for not only did no craftsman in this period ever surpass him, but no one even in our own age has equaled him.

Donatello was brought up from his early childhood in the house of Ruberto Martelli, where, by his good qualities and by his zealous talent, he won the affection not only of Martelli himself but of all that noble family. As a youth he wrought many things, which were not held in great account, by reason of their number ; but what made him known for what he was and gave him a name was an Annunciation in greystone, which was placed close to the altar of the Chapel of the Cavalcanti, in the Church of Santa Croce in Florence. For this he made an ornament composed in the grotesque manner, with a base of varied intertwined work and a decoration of quadrantal shape, adding six boys bearing certain festoons, who appear to be holding one another securely with their arms in their fear of the height. But the greatest genius and art that he showed was in the figure of the Virgin, who, alarmed by the unexpected apparition of the Angel, is making a most becoming reverence with a sweet and timid movement of her person, turning with most beautiful grace towards him who is saluting her, in a manner that there are seen in her countenance that humility and gratitude which are due to one who presents an unexpected gift, and the more when the gift is a great one. Besides this, Donato showed a masterly flow of curves and folds in the draperies of that Madonna and of the Angel, demonstrating with the suggestion of the nude forms below how he was seeking to recover the beauty of the ancients, which had lain hidden for so many years ; and he displayed so great facility and art in this work, that nothing more could be desired, in fact, with regard to design, judgment, and mastery in handling the chisel.

In the same church, below the tramezzo, and beside the scene painted by Taddeo Gaddi, he made a Crucifix of wood with extraordinary care; and when he had finished this, thinking that he had made a very rare work, he showed it to Filippo di Ser Brunellesco, who was very much his friend, wishing to have his opinion. Filippo, whom the words of Donato had led to expect something much better, smiled slightly on seeing it. Donato, perceiving this, besought him by all the friendship between them to tell him his opinion; whereupon Filippo, who was most obliging, replied that it appeared to him that Donato had placed a ploughman on the Cross, and not a body like that of Jesus Christ, which was most delicate and in all its parts the most perfect human form that was ever born. Donato, hearing himself censured, and that more sharply than he expected, when he was hoping to be praised, replied, "If it were as easy to make this figure as to judge it, my Christ would appear to thee to be Christ and not a ploughman; take wood, therefore, and try to make one thyself." Filippo, without another word, returned home and set to work to make a Crucifix, without letting anyone know; and seeking to surpass Donato in order not to confound his own judgment, after many months he brought it to the height of perfection.

This done, he invited Donato one morning to dine with him, and Donato accepted the invitation. Whereupon, as they were going together to the house of Filippo, they came to the Mercato Vecchio, where Filippo bought some things and gave them to Donato, saying, "Do thou go with these things to the house and wait for me there, I am coming in a moment." Donato, therefore, entering the house and going into the hall, saw the Crucifix of Filippo, placed in a good light; and stopping short to study it, he found it so perfectly finished, that, being overcome and full of amazement, like one distraught, he spread out his hands, which were holding up his apron; whereupon the eggs, the cheese, and all the other things fell to the ground, and everything was broken to pieces. But he was still marveling and standing like one possessed, when Filippo came up and said with a laugh, "What is thy intention, Donato, and what are we to have for dinner, now that thou hast upset everything?" "For my part," answered Donato, "I have had my share for this morning: if thou must have thine, take it. But enough; it is thy work to make Christ and mine to make ploughmen."

In the Church of San Giovanni in the same city Donato made a tomb for Pope Giovanni Coscia, who had been deposed from the Pontificate by the Council of Constance. This tomb he was commissioned to make by Cosimo de' Medici, who was very much the friend of the said Coscia. He wrought therein with his own hand the figure of the dead man in gilded bronze, together with the marble statues of Hope and Charity that are there; and his pupil Michelozzo made the figure of Faith. In the same church, opposite to this work, there is a wooden figure by the hand of Donato of St. Mary Magdalene in Penitence, very beautiful and excellently wrought, showing her wasted away by her fastings and abstinence, insomuch that it displays in all its parts an admirable perfection of anatomical knowledge. On a column of granite in the Mercato Vecchio there is a figure of Abundance in hard greystone by the hand of Donato, standing quite by itself, so well wrought that it is consummately praised by craftsmen and by all good judges of art. The column on which this statue is placed was formerly in San Giovanni, where there are the others of granite supporting the gallery within ; it was removed and its place was taken by a fluted column, on which, in the middle of that temple, there once stood the statue of Mars which was taken away when the Florentines were converted to the faith of Jesus Christ.

The same man, while still a youth, made a figure of the Prophet Daniel in marble for the facade of Santa Maria del Fiore, and afterwards one of St. John the Evangelist seated, four braccia high, and clothed in a simple garment : which figure is much extolled. On one corner of the same place, on the side that faces towards the Via del Cocomero, there is an old man between two columns, more akin to the ancient manner than any other work that there is to be seen by the hand of Donato, the head revealing the thoughts that length of years brings to those who are exhausted by time and labor. Within the said church, likewise, he made the ornament for the organ, which stands over the door of the old sacristy, with those figures so boldly sketched, as it has been said, that they appear to the eye to have actual life and movement. Wherefore it may be said of this man that he worked as much with his judgment as with his hands, seeing that many things are wrought which appear beautiful in the rooms where they are made, and afterwards, on being taken thence and set in another place, in a different light or at a greater height, present a different appearance, and turn out the contrary to what they appeared; whereas Donato made his figures in such a manner, that in the room where he was working they did not appear half as good as they turned out to be in the positions where they were placed. For the new sacristy of the same church he made the design for those boys who uphold the festoons that go round the frieze, and likewise the design for the figures that were wrought in the glass of the round window which is below the cupola, namely, that one which contains the Coronation of Our Lady ; which design is greatly superior to those of the other round windows, as it is clearly evident. For San Michele in Orto in the said city he wrought the marble statue of St. Peter which is to be seen there, a most masterly and admirable figure, for the Guild of Butchers; and for the Guild of Linen-manufacturers he wrought the figure of St. Mark the Evangelist, which, after being commissioned to make it in company with Filippo Brunelleschi, he finished by himself with the consent of Filippo. This figure was wrought by Donato with so great judgment that its excellence was not recognized, while it stood on the ground, by those who had no judgment, and the Consuls of that Guild were inclined to refuse to have it put into place; whereupon Donato besought them to let him set it on high, saying that he wished to work on it and to show them a different figure as the result. His request being granted, he covered it up for a fortnight, and then uncovered it without having otherwise touched it, filling everyone with wonder.

For the Guild of Armorers he made a most spirited figure of St. George in armor, in the head of which there may be seen the beauty of youth, courage and valor in arms, and a proud and terrible ardor; and there is a marvelous suggestion of life bursting out of the stone. It is certain that no modern figure in marble has yet shown such vivacity and such spirit as nature and art produced in this one by means of the hand of Donato. In the base that supports the shrine enclosing that figure he wrought in marble the story of the Saint killing the Dragon, in low relief, wherein there is a horse that is much esteemed and greatly extolled; and in the frontal he made a half-length figure of God the Father in low relief. Opposite to the church of the said oratory he wrought the marble shrine for the Mercatanzia, following the ancient Order known as Corinthian, and departing entirely from the German manner; this shrine was meant to contain two statues, but he refused to make them because he could not come to an agreement about the price. After his death these figures were made in bronze by Andrea del Verrocchio, as it will be told. For the main front of the Campanile of Santa Maria del Fiore he wrought four figures in marble, five braccia in height, of which the two in the middle are portrayed from life, one being Francesco Soderini as a youth, and the other Giovanni di Barduccio Cherichini, now called Il Zuccone. The latter was held to be a very rare work and the most beautiful that Donato ever made, and when he wished to take an oath that would command belief he was wont to say, " By the faith that I place in my Zuccone" ; and the while that he was working on it, he would keep gazing at it and saying, " Speak, speak, plague take thee, speak !" Over the door of the campanile, on the side facing the Canon's house, he made Abraham about to sacrifice Isaac, with another Prophet : and these figures were placed between two other statues.

For the Signoria of that city he made a casting in metal which was placed under an arch of their Loggia in the Piazza, representing Judith cutting off the head of Holofernes; a work of great excellence and mastery, which, if one considers the simplicity of the garments and aspect of Judith on the surface, reveals very clearly below the surface the great spirit of that woman and the assistance given to her by God, even as one sees the effect of wine and sleep in the expression of Holofernes, and death in his limbs, which have lost all life and are shown cold and limp. This work was so well executed by Donato that the casting came out delicate and very beautiful, and it was afterwards finished so excellently that it is a very great marvel to behold. The base, likewise, which is a baluster of granite, simple in design, appears full of grace and presents an aspect pleasing to the eye. He was so well satisfied with this work that he deigned to place his name on it, which he had not done on the others ; and it is seen in these words, " Donatelli opus."

In the courtyard of the Palace of the said Signori there is a life-size David, nude and in bronze. Having cut off the head of Goliath, he is raising one foot and placing it on him, holding a sword in his right hand. This figure is so natural in its vivacity and its softness, that it is almost impossible for craftsmen to believe that it was not molded on the living form. This statue once stood in the courtyard of the house of the Medici, but it was transported to the said place on the exile of Cosimo. In our own day Duke Cosimo, having made a fountain on the spot occupied by this statue, had it removed, and it is being kept for a very large courtyard that he intends to make at the back of the palace, that is, where the lions formerly stood. In the hall where there is the clock of Lorenzo della Volpaia, on the left, there is a very beautiful David in marble; between his legs, under his feet, he has the head of the dead Goliath, and in his hand he holds the sling wherewith he slew him. In the first courtyard of the house of the Medici there are eight medallions of marble, wherein there are copies of ancient cameos and of the reverse sides of medals, with certain scenes, all made by him and very beautiful, which are built into the frieze between the windows and the architrave above the arches of the loggie.

In like manner he restored an ancient statue of Marsyas in white marble, which was placed at the entrance of the garden ; and a great number of ancient heads, which were placed over the doors, were restored and embellished by him with wings and diamonds (the emblem of Cosimo), wrought very well in stucco. He made a very lovely vessel of granite, which poured forth water, and he wrought a similar one, which also pours forth water, for the garden of the Pazzi in Florence. In the said Palace of the Medici there are Madonnas of marble and bronze made in low relief, besides some scenes in marble with most beautiful figures, marvelous in their flat relief. So great was the love that Cosimo bore to the talent of Donato that he kept him continually at work, and Donato, on the other hand, bore so great love to Cosimo that he could divine his patron's every wish from the slightest sign, and obeyed him in all things.

It is said that a Genoese merchant caused Donato to make a lifesize head of bronze, which was very beautiful and also very light, because it had to be carried to a great distance; and that the commission for this work came to him through the recommendation of Cosimo. Now, when the head was finished and the merchant came to pay for it, it appeared to him that Donato was asking too much; wherefore the matter was referred to Cosimo, who had the head carried to the upper court of the palace and placed between the battlements that overlook the street, to the end that it might be seen better. When Cosimo sought to settle the difference, he found the offer of the merchant very far from the demand of Donato, and he turned round and said that it was too little. Whereupon the merchant, thinking it too much, said that Donato had wrought it in a month or little more, and that this meant a gain of more than half a florin a day. Donato, thinking this too much of an insult, turned round in anger and said to the merchant that in the hundredth part of an hour he would have been able to spoil the value of a year's labor; and giving the head a push, he sent it flying straightway into the street below, where it broke into a thousand pieces ; saying to him that this showed that he was more used to bargaining for beans than for statues. Wherefore the merchant, regretting his meanness, offered to give him double the sum if he would make another; but neither his promises nor the entreaties of Cosimo could induce Donato to make it again. In the houses of the Martelli there are many scenes in marble and in bronze; among others, a David three braccia high, with many other works presented by him as a free gift to that family in proof of the devotion and love that he bore them ; above all, a St. John of marble, made by him in the round and three braccia high, a very rare work, which is today in the house of the heirs of Ruberto Martelli. With regard to this work, a legal agreement was made to the effect that it should be neither pledged, nor sold, nor given away, without heavy penalties, as a testimony and token of the affection shown by them to Donato, and by him to them out of gratitude that he had learnt his art through the protection and the opportunities that he received from them.

He also made a tomb of marble for an Archbishop, which was sent to Naples and is in San Angelo di Seggio di Nido ; in this tomb there are three figures in the round that support the sarcophagus with their heads, and on the sarcophagus itself is a scene in low relief, so beautiful that it commands infinite praise. In the house of the Count of Matalone, in the same city, there is the head of a horse by the hand of Donato, so beautiful that many take it for an antique. In the township of Prato he wrought the marble pulpit where the Girdle is shown, in which, in several compartments, he carved a dance of children so beautiful and so admirable, that he may be said to have demonstrated the perfection of his art no less in this work than in his others. To support this pulpit, moreover, he made two capitals of bronze, one of which is still there, while the other was carried away by the Spaniards who sacked that district.

It came to pass about this time that the Signoria of Venice, hearing of his fame, sent for him to the end that he might make the monument of Gattamelata in the city of Padua; wherefore he went there right willingly and made the bronze horse that is on the Piazza di San Antonio, wherein are perceived the panting and neighing of the horse, with great spirit and pride, most vividly expressed by his art, in the figure of the rider. And Donato proved himself such a master in the proportions and excellence of so great a casting, that he can truly bear comparison with any ancient craftsman in movement, design, art, proportion, and diligence wherefore it not only astonished all who saw it then, but continues to astonish every person who sees it at the present day. The Paduans, moved by this, did their utmost to make him their fellow citizen, and sought to detain him with every sort of endearment.

In order to keep him in their midst, they commissioned him to make the stories of St. Anthony of Padua on the predella of the high altar in the Church of the Friars Minor, which are in low relief, wrought with so great judgment, that the most excellent masters of that art stand marveling and amazed before them, as they consider their beautiful and varied compositions, with the great abundance of extraordinary figures and diminishing perspectives. Very beautiful, likewise, are the Maries that he made on the altar dossal, lamenting the Dead Christ. In the house of one of the Counts Capodilista he wrought the skeleton of a horse in wood, which is still to be seen today without the neck; wherein the various parts are joined together with so much method, that, if one considers the manner of this work, one can judge of the ingenuity of his brain and the greatness of his mind. In a convent of nuns he made a St. Sebastian in wood at the request of a chaplain, a Florentine, who was their friend and an intimate of his own. This man brought him a figure of that Saint that they had, old and clumsy, beseeching him to make the new one like it. Wherefore Donato strove to imitate it in order to please the chaplain and the nuns, but, although he imitated it, clumsy as it was, he could not help showing in his own the usual excellence of his art.

Together with this figure he made many others in clay and in stucco, and on one end of an old piece of marble that the said nuns had in their garden he carved a very beautiful Madonna. Throughout that whole city, likewise, there are innumerable works by his hand, by reason of which he was held by the Paduans to be a marvel and was praised by every man of understanding; but he determined to return to Florence, saying that if he remained any longer in Padua he would forget everything that he knew, being so greatly praised there by all, and that he was glad to return to his own country, where he would gain nothing but censure, since such censure would urge him to study and would enable him to attain to greater glory. Having departed from Padua, therefore, he returned by way of Venice, where, as a mark of his friendliness towards the Florentine people, he made them a present of a St. John the Baptist, wrought by him in wood with very great diligence and study, for their chapel in the Church of the Friars Minor. In the city of Faenza he carved a St. John and a St. Jerome in wood, which are no less esteemed than his other works.

Afterwards, having returned to Tuscany, he made a marble tomb, with a very beautiful scene, in the Pieve of Montepulciano, and a lavatory of marble, on which Andrea Verrocchio also worked, in the Sacristy of San Lorenzo in Florence ; and in the house of Lorenzo della Stufa he wrought some heads and figures that are very spirited and vivacious. Then, departing from Florence, he betook himself to Rome, in order to try to imitate the antiques to the best of his ability; and during this time, while studying these, he made a tabernacle of the Sacrament in stone, which is to be seen in San Pietro at the present day. Passing through Siena on his way back to Florence, he undertook to make a door of bronze for the Baptistery of San Giovanni; and he had already made the wooden model, and the wax molds were almost finished and successfully covered with the outer moldings, ready for the casting, when there arrived, on his way back from Rome, one Bernardetto di Mona Papera, a Florentine goldsmith and an intimate friend of Donato, who wrought upon him so strongly both with words and in other ways, either for some business of his own or for some other reason, that he brought him back to Florence; wherefore that work remained unfinished, nay, not begun. There only remained in the Office of Works of the Duomo in that city a St. John the Baptist in bronze by his hand, with the right arm missing from the elbow downwards; and this Donato is said to have done because he had not been paid in full.

Having returned to Florence therefore, he wrought the Sacristy of San Lorenzo in stucco for Cosimo de' Medici, making four medallions on the pendentives of the vault containing stories of the Evangelists, with grounds in perspective, partly painted and partly in low relief. And in the said place he made two very beautiful little doors of bronze in low relief, with the Apostles, Martyrs, and Confessors; and above these he made some flat niches, one containing a St. Laurence and a St. Stephen, and the other St. Cosmos and St. Damian. In the transept of the church he executed four saints in stucco, each five braccia high, which are wrought in a masterly manner. He also designed the bronze pulpits that contain the Passion of Christ, a work displaying design, force, invention, and an abundance of figures and buildings; but these his old age prevented him from executing, and his pupil Bertoldo finished them and brought them to the utmost perfection. For Santa Maria del Fiore he made two colossal figures of brick and stucco, which are placed by way of ornament without the church, at the corners of the chapels. Over the door of Santa Croce there is still to be seen a St. Louis wrought by him in bronze, five braccia high; for this someone criticized him, saying that it was stupid and perhaps the least excellent work that he had ever made, and he answered that he had made it so of set purpose, seeing that the Saint had been stupid to give up his throne and become a monk. The same man made the head of the wife of the said Cosimo de' Medici in bronze, and this head is preserved in the guardaroba of the Lord Duke Cosimo, wherein there are many other works in bronze and marble by the hand of Donato; among others, a Madonna with the Child in her arms, sunk in the marble in flat-relief, which is the most beautiful work that it is possible to see, and the rather as it is sur rounded by a border of scenes done in miniature by Fra Bartolommeo, which are admirable, as it will be told in the proper place.

The said Lord Duke has a very beautiful, nay, miraculous Crucifix in bronze, by the hand of Donato, in his study, wherein there are innumerable rare antiquities and most beautiful medals. In the same guardaroba there is a bronze panel containing the Passion of Our Lord in low relief, with a great number of figures; and in another panel, also in metal, there is another Crucifixion. In like manner, in the house of the heirs of Jacopo Capponi, who was an excellent citizen and a true gentleman, there is a marble panel with the Madonna in half-relief, which is held to be a very rare work. Messer Antonio de' Nobili, who was Treasurer to his Excellency, had in his house a marble panel by the hand of Donato, in which there is a half-length Madonna in low relief, so beautiful that the said Messer Antonio valued it as much as all his possessions ; nor is it less valued by his son Giulio, a youth of singular goodness and judgment, a friend to lovers of art and to all men of excellence. In the house of Giovan Battista d'Agnol Doni, a gentleman of Florence, there is a Mercury of metal in the round by the hand of Donato, one braccio and a half in height and clothed in a certain bizarre manner; which work is truly very beautiful, and no less rare than the others that adorn his most beautiful house. Bartolommeo Gondi, of whom we have spoken in the Life of Giotto, has a Madonna in half-relief by the hand of Donato, wrought with so great love and diligence that it is not possible to see anything better, or to imagine the fancifulness which he gave to her head dress and the loveliness that he put into the garments which she is wearing. In like manner, Messer Lelio Torelli, First Auditor and Secretary to our Lord the Duke, and no less devoted a lover of all the honorable sciences, arts, and professions, than he is excellent as a jurist, has a marble panel of Our Lady by the hand of the same Donatello.

But if one were to give a complete account of his life and of the works that he made, it would be a far longer story than it is our intention to give in writing the Lives of our craftsmen, seeing that he put his hand not only to great things, of which there has been enough said, but also to the smallest things of art, making the arms of families on the chimney pieces and on the fronts of the houses of citizens, a most beautiful example of which may be seen in the house of the Sommai, which is opposite to that of the baker Della Vacca. For the family of the Martelli, more over, he made a coffin in the form of a cradle wrought of wicker-work, to serve for a tomb; but it is beneath the Church of San Lorenzo, because no tombs of any kind are to be seen above, save only the epitaph of the tomb of Cosimo de' Medici, and even that one has its entrance below, like the others.

It is said that Simone, the brother of Donato, having wrought the model for the tomb of Pope Martin V, sent for Donato to the end that he might see it before it was cast. Going to Rome, therefore, Donato found himself in that city at the very moment when the Emperor Sigismund was there to receive the crown from Pope Eugenius IV; wherefore he was forced, in company with Simone, to occupy himself with making the magnificent preparations for that festival, whereby he acquired very great fame and honor.

In the guardaroba of Signor Guidobaldo, Duke of Urbino, there is a very beautiful head of marble by the hand of the same man, and it is believed that it was given to the ancestors of the said Duke by the Magnificent Giuliano de' Medici, at the time when he was staying at that Court, which was full of most cultured gentlemen. In short, the talent of Donato was such, and he was so admirable in all his actions, that he may be said to have been one of the first to give light, by his practice, judgment, and knowledge, to the art of sculpture and of good design among the moderns ; and he deserves all the more commendation, because in his day, apart from the columns, sarcophagi, and triumphal arches, there were no antiquities revealed above the earth. And it was through him, chiefly, that there arose in Cosimo de' Medici the desire to introduce into Florence the antiquities that were and are in the house of the Medici; all of which he restored with his own hand. He was most liberal, gracious, and courteous, and more careful for his friends than for himself; nor did he give thought to money, but kept his in a basket suspended by a cord from the ceiling, wherefore all his workmen and friends could take what they needed without saying a word to him. He passed his old age most joyously, and, having become decrepit, he had to be succored by Cosimo and by others of his friends, being no longer able to work. It is said that Cosimo, being at the point of death, recommended him to the care of his son Piero, who, as a most diligent executor of his father's wishes, gave him a farm at Cafaggiuolo, which produced enough to enable him to live in comfort. At this Donato made great rejoicing, thinking that he was thus more than secure from the danger of dying of hunger ; but he had not held it a year before he returned to Piero and gave it back to him by public contract, declaring that he refused to lose his peace of mind by having to think of household cares and listen to the importunity of the peasant, who kept pestering him every third day--now because the wind had unroofed his dovecote, now because his cattle had been seized by the Commune for taxes, and now because a storm had robbed him of his wine and his fruit. He was so weary and disgusted with all this, that he would rather die of hunger than have to think of so many things. Piero laughed at the simplicity of Donato; and in order to deliver him from this torment, he accepted the farm (for on this Donato insisted), and assigned him an allowance of the same value or more from his own bank, to be paid in cash, which was handed over to him every week in the due proportion owing to him ; whereby he was greatly contented.

Thus, as a servant and friend of the house of Medici, he lived happily and free from care for the rest of his life. When he had reached the age of eighty-three, however, he was so palsied that he could no longer work in any fashion, and took to spending all his time in bed in a poor little house that he had in the Via del Cocomero, near the Nunnery of San Niccolo ; where, growing worse from day to day and wasting away little by little, he died on December 13, 1466. He was buried in the Church of San Lorenzo, near the tomb of Cosimo, as he had himself directed, to the end that his dead body be near him, even as he had been ever near him in spirit when alive. His death caused great grief to his fellow-citizens, to the craftsmen, and to all who knew him when living. Wherefore, in order to honor him more after death than they had done in his life, they gave him most honorable obsequies in the aforesaid church, and he was accompanied to the grave by all the painters, architects, sculptors, and goldsmiths, and by almost all the people of that city which continued for a long time to compose in his honor various kinds of verses in diverse tongues, whereof it must suffice us to cite the few that are to be read below.

But before I come to the epitaphs, it will not be amiss to relate the following story of him as well. When he had fallen sick, and only a little before his death, certain of his relatives went to visit him; and after they had greeted him, as is customary, and condoled with him, they said that it was his duty to leave them a farm that he had in the district of Prato, although it was small and produced a very meager income; and they prayed him straitly to do it. Hearing this, Donato, who showed something of the good in all that he did, said to them, "I cannot satisfy you, my kinsmen, because I intend to leave it--as it appears to me reasonable--to the peasant, who has always worked it and endured great labor thereby, and not to you, who, without having bestowed upon it anything more profitable than the thought of possessing it, expect me to leave it to you because of this your visit! Go, and may God bless you!" Of a truth such relatives, who have no love unconnected with advantage or with the hope of it, should be ever treated in this fashion. Sending therefore for a notary, he left the said farm to the laborer who had always worked it, and who perchance had behaved better to him in his need than those relatives had done. His art-possessions he left to his pupils, namely, Bertoldo, a sculptor of Florence, who imitated him closely enough, as may be seen from a very beautiful battle between men on horseback, wrought in bronze, which is now in the guardaroba of the Lord Duke Cosimo; Nanni d'Antonio di Banco, who died before him; and Rossellino, Desiderio, and Vellano da Padova. In short, it may be said that every man who has sought to do good work in relief since the death of Donato, has been his disciple. He was resolute in draughtsmanship, and he made his drawings with such mastery and boldness that they have no equals, as may be seen in my book, wherein I have figures drawn by his hand, both clothed and nude, animals that make all who see them marvel and other most beautiful things of that kind. His portrait was made by Paolo Uccello, as it has been said in his Life. The epitaphs are as follows:

SCULTURA H.M. A FLORENTINIS FIERI VOLUIT DONATELLO, UTPOTE
HOMINI, QUI El, QUOD JAMDIU OPTIMIS ARTIFICIBUS MULTISQUE SAECULIS
TUM NOBILITATIS TUM NOMINIS ACQUISITUM FUERAT, INJURIAVE TEMPOR.
PERDIDERAT IPSA, IPSE UNUS UNA VITA INFINITISQUE OPERIBUS CUMU LATISS.
RESTITUERIT : ET PATRIAE BENEMERENTI HUJUS RESTITUTAE
VIRTUTIS PAIAMAM REPORTARIT.
EXCUDIT NEMO SPIRANTIA MOLLIUS AERA ;
VERA CANO ; CERNES MARMORA VIVA LOQUI.
GRAECORUM SILEAT PRISCA ADMIRABILIS AETAS
COMPEDIBUS STATUAS CONTINUISSE RHODON.
NECTERE NAMQLIE MAGIS FUERANT HAEC VINCULA DIGNA
ISTIUS EGREGIAS ARTIFICIS STATUAS.
QUANTO CON DOTTA MANO ALLA SCULTURA
GIA FECER MOLTI, OR SOt DONATO HA FATTO ;
RENDUTO HA VITA A MARMI, AFFETTO, ED ATTO ;
CHE PIU, SE NON PARLAR, PUO DAR NATURA ?

The world remained so full of his works, that it may be affirmed right truly that no craftsman ever worked more than he did. For, delighting in every kind of work, he put his hand to anything, without considering whether it was of little or of great value. Nevertheless it was indispensable to sculpture, this vast activity of Donato in making figures in every kind of relief, full, half, low, and the lowest; because, whereas in the good times of the ancient Greeks and Romans it was by means of many that it became perfect, he alone by the multitude of his works brought it back to marvelous perfection in our own age. Wherefore craftsmen should trace the greatness of this art rather to him than to any man born in modern times, seeing that, besides rendering the difficulties of the art easy, in the multitude of his works he combined together invention, design, practice, judgment, and every other quality that ever can or should be looked for in a divine genius. Donato was very resolute and ready, executing all his works with consummate facility, and he always accomplished much more than he had promised.

He left all his work to be completed by his pupil Bertoldo, and particularly the bronze pulpits of San Lorenzo, which were afterwards finished in great part by him, and brought to the state in which they are seen in the said church. I will not forbear to say that the most learned and very reverend Don Vincenzo Borghini, of whom mention has been made above with regard to some other matter, has collected into a large book innumerable drawings by excellent painters and sculptors, both ancient and modern; and on the ornamental borders of two leaves opposite to each other, which contain drawings by the hand of Donato and of Michelangelo Buonarroti, he has written, with much judgment, two Greek epigrams; on Donato, and on Michelangelo, which mean in Latin, " Aut Donatus Bonarrotum exprimit et revert ; auto Bonarrotus Donatum," and in our own tongue, "Either the spirit of Donato works in Buonarroti, or that of Buonarroti began by working in Donato."

 

 

 

MICHELOZZO MICHELOZZI (1396-1472)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists



IF EVERY MAN who lives in this world were to realize that he may have to live when he is no longer able to work, there would not be so many reduced to begging in their old age for that which they consumed without any restraint in their youth, when their large and abundant gains, blinding their true judgment, made them spend more than was necessary and much more than was expedient. For, seeing how coldly a man is looked upon who has fallen from wealth to poverty, every man should strive--honestly, however, and maintaining the proper mean--to avoid having to beg in his old age. And whosoever will act like Michelozzo--who did not imitate his master Donato in this respect, although he did in his virtues--will live honorably all the course of his life, and will not be forced in his last years to go about miserably hunting for the wherewithal to live.

Now Michelozzo applied himself in his youth to sculpture under Donatello, and also to design; and although he realized their difficulties, nevertheless he went on ever practicing so diligently with clay, with wax, and with marble, that he ever showed ability and great talent in the works that he made afterwards. There was one art in which he surpassed many and even his own self, for, after Brunellesco, he was held to be the most methodical architect of his times, and the one who was best able to arrange and contrive palaces, convents, and houses for human habitation, and who designed them with the greatest judgment, as will be told in the proper place. Of this man Donatello availed himself for many years, because he was very well practiced in working marble and in the business of casting in bronze; of which we have proof in a tomb in San Giovanni at Florence (which was made by Donatello, as it has been said, for Pope Giovanni Coscia), since the greater part was executed by Michelozzo; and there we can see a very beautiful marble statue by his hand, two braccia and a half in height, representing Faith (in company with one of Hope and one of Charity made by Donatello, of the same size), which does not suffer by comparison with the others. Moreover, above the door of the sacristy and the Office of Works, opposite to San Giovanni, Michelozzo made a little St. John in full-relief, wrought with diligence, which was much extolled.

Michelozzo was so intimate with Cosimo de' Medici that the latter, recognizing his genius, caused him to make the model for the house and palace at the corner of the Via Larga, beside San Giovannino; for he thought that the one made by Filippo di Ser Brunellesco, as it has been said, was too sumptuous and magnificent, and more likely to stir up envy among his fellow citizens than to confer grandeur or adornment on the city, or bring comfort to himself. Wherefore, being pleased with the model that Michelozzo had made, he had the building brought to completion under his direction in the manner that we see at the present day, with all the beautiful and useful arrangements and graceful adornments that are seen therein, which have majesty and grandeur in their simplicity; and Michelozzo deserves all the greater praise in that this was the first palace which was built in that city on modern lines, and which was divided up into rooms both useful and most beautiful. The cellars are excavated to more than half their depth underground, namely, four braccia below, with three above for the sake of light; and there are also wine-cellars and store-rooms. On the ground-floor there are two courtyards with magnificent loggie, on which open saloons, chambers, antechambers, studies, closets, stove-rooms, kitchens, wells, and staircases both secret and public, all most convenient. On each floor there are apartments with accommodation for a whole family, with all the conveniences that are proper not only to a private citizen, such as Cosimo then was, but even to the most splendid and most honor able of Kings; wherefore in our own times Kings, Emperors, Popes, and all the most illustrious Princes of Europe have been comfortably lodged there, to the infinite credit both of the magnificence of Cosimo and of the excellent ability of Michelozzo in architecture.

In the year 1433, when Cosimo was driven into exile, Michelozzo, who loved him very greatly and was most faithful to him, accompanied him of his own free will to Venice and insisted on remaining with him all the time that he stayed there; and in that city, besides many designs and models that he made for private dwellings and public buildings and decorations for the friends of Cosimo and for many gentlemen, he built, at the command and expense of Cosimo, the library of the Monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore, a seat of the Black Friars of Santa Justina ; and this was not only finished with regard to walls, book-shelves, woodwork, and other adornments, but was also filled with many books. Such was the occupation and amusement of Cosimo during that exile, from which he was recalled to his country in the year 1434; whereupon he returned almost in triumph, and Michelozzo with him. Now, while Michelozzo was in Florence, the Palazzo Pubblico della Signoria began to threaten to collapse, for some columns in the courtyard were giving way, either because there was too much weight pressing on them, or because their foundations were weak and awry, or even perchance because they were made of pieces badly joined and put together. Whatever may have been the reason, the matter was put into the hands of Michelozzo, who accepted the undertaking willingly, because he had provided against a similar peril near San Barnaba in Venice, in the following manner. A gentleman had a house that was in danger of falling down, and he entrusted the matter to Michelozzo; wherefore he--according to what Michelangelo Buonarroti once told me--caused a column to be made in secret, and prepared a number of props; and hiding everything in a boat, into which he entered together with some builders, in one night he propped up the house and replaced the column.

Michelozzo, therefore, emboldened by this experience, averted the danger from the palace, doing honor both to himself and to those by whose favor he had received such a charge ; and he refounded and rebuilt the columns in the manner wherein they stand today. First he made a stout framework of props and thick beams standing upright to support the centers of the arches, made of nutwood, and upholding the vaulting, so that this came to support equally the weight that was previously borne by the columns; then, little by little removing those that were made of pieces badly joined together, he replaced them with others made of pieces and wrought with diligence, in such a manner that the building did not suffer in any, way and has never moved a hair's breadth. And in order that his columns might be known from the others, he made some of them at the corners with eight sides, with capitals that have the foliage carved in the modern fashion, and some round; and all are very easily distinguished from the old columns that Arnolfo [Arnolfo di Cambio] made formerly. Afterwards, by the advice of Michelozzo, it was ordained by those who then governed the city that the arches of those columns should be unburdened and relieved of the weight of the walls that rested upon them; that the whole courtyard should be rebuilt from the arches upwards, with a row of windows in modern fashion, similar to those that he had made for Cosimo in the courtyard of the Palace of the Medici ; and that designs in rustic work should be carved on the walls, for the reception of those golden lilies that are still seen there at the present day. All this Michelozzo did with great promptitude ; and on the second tier, directly above the windows of the said courtyard, he made some round windows (so as to have them different from the aforesaid windows) to give light to the rooms on that floor, which are over those of the first floor, where there is now the Sala de' Dugento. The third floor, where the Signori and the Gonfalonier lived, he made more ornate, and on the side towards San Piero Scheraggio he arranged a series of apartments for the Signori, who had previously slept all together in one and the same room. These apartments consisted of eight for the Signori and a larger one for the Gonfalonier, and they all opened on a corridor which had windows overlooking the courtyard.

Above this he made another series of commodious rooms for the household hold of the Palace, in one of which, used today as the Treasury, there is a portrait by the hand of Giotto of Charles, Duke of Calabria, son of King Robert, kneeling before a Madonna. There, also, he made apartments for the bailiffs, ushers, trumpeters, musicians, pipers, mace-bearers, heralds, that are court servants, and with all the other apartments required in such a palace. On the upper part of the gallery, moreover, he made a stone cornice that went right round the courtyard, and beside it a water cistern that was filled by the rains, to make some artificial fountains play at certain times. Michelozzo also directed the restoration of the chapel wherein Mass is heard, and beside it many rooms, with very rich ceilings painted with golden lilies on a ground of blue. He had other ceilings made both for the upper and the lower rooms of the Palace, covering up all the old ceilings that had been made before in the ancient manner. In short, he gave it all the perfection that was demanded by so great a building ; and he contrived to convey the water from the wells right up to the highest floor, to which it could be drawn up by means of a wheel more easily than was usual. One thing alone the genius of Michelozzo could not remedy, namely, the public staircase, because it was badly conceived from the beginning, badly situated, awkwardly built, steep, and without lights, while from the first floor upwards the steps were of wood.

He labored to such purpose, however, that he made a flight of round steps at the entrance of the courtyard, and a door with pilasters of hard stone and most beautiful capitals carved by his hand, besides a well designed cornice with a double architrave, in the frieze of which he placed all the arms of the Commune. And what is more, he made the whole staircase of hard stone up to the floor where the Signori lived, fortifying it at the top and half-way up with a portcullis at each point, in case of tumults; and at the head of the staircase he made a door which was called the "catena," beside which there was ever stand ing an usher, who opened or closed it according as he was commanded by those in authority. He strengthened the tower of the campanile, which had cracked by reason of the weight of that part which stands out over space on corbels on the side towards the Piazza, with very stout bands of iron. Finally, he improved and restored that Palace so greatly, that he was therefore commended by the whole city and made, besides other rewards, a member of the College, which is one of the most honorable magistracies in Florence. And if it should appear to anyone that I have perchance spoken at greater length about this building than was needful, I deserve to be excused, because--after having shown in the Life of Arnolfo, in connection with its original erection, which was in the year 1298, that it was built out of the square and wholly wanting in reasonable pro portion, with unequal columns in the courtyard, arches both large and small, inconvenient stairs, and rooms awry and badly proportioned--it was necessary for me to show also to what condition it was brought by the intellect and judgment of Michelozzo; although even he did not arrange it in such a manner that it could be inhabited comfortably, without very great inconvenience and discomfort. Finally, when the Lord Duke Cosimo came to occupy it in the year 1538, his Excellency began to bring it into better form; but since those architects who served the Duke for many years in that work were never able to grasp or to carry out his conception, he determined to see whether he could effect the restoration without spoiling the old part, in which there was no little of the good; giving better order, convenience, and proportion, according to the plan that he had in mind, to the awkward and inconvenient stairs and apartments.

Sending to Rome, therefore, for Giorgio Vasari, painter and architect of Arezzo, who was working for Pope Julius III, he commissioned him not only to put in order the rooms that he had caused to be begun in the upper part of the side opposite to the Corn Market, which were out of the straight with regard to the groundplan, but also to consider whether the interior of the Palace could not, without spoiling the work already done, be brought to such a form that it might be possible to go all over it, from one part to another and from one apartment to another, by means of staircases both secret and public, with an ascent as easy as possible. Thereupon, while the said rooms, already begun, were being adorned with gilded ceilings and scenes painted in oil, and with pictures in fresco on the walls, and others were being wrought in stucco, Giorgio took a tracing of the groundplan right round the whole of the Palace, both the new part and the old; and then, having arranged with no small labor and study for the execution of all that he intended to do, he began to bring it little by little into a good form, and to unite, almost without spoiling any of the work already done, the disconnected rooms, which previously varied in height even on the same floor, some being high and others low.

But in order that the Duke might see the design of the whole, in the space of six months he had made a well-proportioned wooden model of the whole of that pile, which has the form and extent rather of a fortress than of a palace. According to this model, which gained the approval of the Duke, the building was united and many commodious rooms were made, as well as convenient staircases, both public and secret, which give access to all the floors; and in this manner a burden was removed from the halls, which were formerly like public streets, for it had been impossible to ascend to the upper floors without passing through them. The whole was magnificently adorned with varied and diverse pictures, and finally the roof of the Great Hall was raised twelve braccia above its former height; insomuch that if Arnolfo, Michelozzo, and the others who labored on the building from its first foundation onwards, were to return to life, they would not recognize it--nay, they would believe that it was not theirs but a new erection and a different edifice.

But let us now return to Michelozzo; the Church of San Giorgio had just been given to the Friars of San Domenico da Fiesole, but they only remained there from about the middle of July to the end of January, for Cosimo de' Medici and his brother Lorenzo obtained for them from Pope Eugenius the Church and Convent of San Marco, which was previously the seat of Silvestrine Monks, to whom the said San Giorgio was given in ex change. And Cosimo and Lorenzo, being very devoted to religion and to divine service and worship, ordained that the said Convent of San Marco should be rebuilt entirely anew after the design and model of Michelozzo, and should be made very vast and magnificent, with all the conveniences that the said friars could possibly desire. This work was begun in the year 1437, and the first part to be built was that opening out above the old refectory, opposite to the ducal stables, which Duke Lorenzo de' Medici formerly caused to be built. In this place twenty cells were built, the roof was put on, and the wooden furniture was made for the refectory, the whole being finished in the manner wherein it still stands today. But for some time the work was carried no further, for they had to wait to see what would be the end of a lawsuit that one Maestro Stefano, General of the said Silvestrines, had brought against the Friar of San Marco with regard to that convent. This suit having concluded in favor of the said Friars of San Marco, the building was once more continued. But since the principal chapel, which had been built by Ser Pino Bonaccorsi, had afterwards come into the hands of a lady of the Caponsacchi family, and from her to Mariotto Banchi, some lawsuit suit was fought out over this, and Mariotto, having upheld his rights and having taken the said chapel from Agnolo della Casa, to whom the said Silvestrines had given or sold it, presented it to Cosimo de' Medici, who gave Mariotto 500 crowns in return for it.

Later, after Cosimo had likewise bought from the Company of the Spirito Santo the site where the choir now stands, the chapel, the tribune, and the choir were built under the direction of Michelozzo, and completely furnished in the year 1439. Afterwards the library was made, eighty braccia in length and eighteen in breadth, and vaulted both above and below, with sixty-four shelves of cypress wood filled with most beautiful books. After this the dormitory was finished, being brought to a square shape; and finally the cloister was completed, together with all the truly commodious apartments of that convent, which is believed to be the best designed, the most beautiful, and the most commodious that there is in Italy, thanks to the talent and industry of Michelozzo, who delivered it completely finished in the year 1452. It is said that Cosimo spent 36,000 ducats on this fabric, and that while it was building he gave the monks 366 ducats every year for their maintenance. Of the construction and consecration of this holy place we read in an inscription on marble over the door that leads into the sacristy, in the following words:

CUM HOC TEMPLUM MARCO EVANGELiSTAE DICATUM MAGNIFICIS SUMPTIBUS
CL. V. COSMI MEDICIS TANDEM ABSOLUTUM ESSET, EUGENIUS QUARTUS
ROMANUS PONTIFEX MAXIMA CARDINALIUM, ARCHiEPISCOPORUM, EPISCO PORUM,
ALIORUMQUE SACERDOTUM FREQUENTIA COMITATUS, ID CELE BERRIMO EPIPIIANIAE
DIE, SOLEMNI MORE SERVATO, CONSECRAVIT. TUM
ETIAM QUOTANNIS OMNIBUS, QUI LODEM DIE FESTO ANNUAS STATASQUE
CONSECRATIONIS CEREMONIAS CASTE PIEQUE CELEBRARINT VISLRINTVE
TEMPORIS LUENDIS PECCATIS SUIS DEBITI SEPTEM ANNOS TOTIDEMQUE
QUADRAGLSIMAS APOSTOLICA REMISIT AUCTORITATE, A. MCCCCXLII.

In like manner, Cosimo erected from the design of Michelozzo the noviciate of Santa Croce in Florence, with the chapel of the same and the entrance that leads from the church to the sacristy, to the said noviciate, and to the staircase of the dormitory. These works are not inferior in beauty, convenience, and adornment to any building whatsoever of all those which the truly magnificent Cosimo de' Medici caused to be erected, or which Michelozzo carried into execution; and besides other parts, the door that leads from the church to the said places, which he made of greystone, was much extolled in those times by reason of its novelty and of its beautifully made frontal, for it was then very little the Custom to imitate the good manner of antique work, as this door does. Cosimo de' Medici also built, with the advice and design of Michelozzo, the Palace of Cafaggiuolo in Mugello, giving it the form of a fortress with ditches round it ; and he laid out farms, roads, gardens, fountains with groves round them, fowling-places, and other appurtenances of a villa, all very splendid; and at a distance of two miles from the said palace, in a place called the Bosco a' Frati, with the advice of Michelozzo, he carried out the building of a convent for the Frati de' Zoccoli of the Order of St. Francis, which is something very beautiful. At Trebbio, likewise, he made many other improvements which are still to be seen ; and at a distance of two miles from Florence, also, he built the palatial Villa of Careggi, which was very rich and magnificent ; and thither Michelozzo brought the water for the fountain that is seen there at the present day.

For Giovanni, son of Cosimo de' Medici, the same master built another magnificent and noble palace at Fiesole, sinking the foundations for the lower part in the brow of the hill, at great expense but not without great advantage, for in that lower part he made vaults, cellars, stables, vat stores, and many other beautiful and commodious offices; and above, besides the chambers, halls, and other ordinary rooms, he made some for books and certain others for music. In short, Michelozzo showed in this building how great was his skill in architecture, for, besides what has been mentioned, it was constructed in such a manner that, although it stands on that hill, it has never moved a hair's breadth. This palace finished, he built above it, almost on the summit of the hill, the Church and Convent of the Friars of San Girolamo, at the expense of the same man. The same Michelozzo made the design and model which Cosimo sent to Jerusalem for the hospice that he caused to be erected there, for the pilgrims who visit the Sepulcher of Christ. He also sent the design for six windows in the facade of San Pietro in Rome, which were made there afterwards with the arms of Cosimo de' Medici ; but three of them were removed in our own day and replaced by Pope Paul III with others bearing the arms of the house of Farnese. After this, hearing that there was a lack of water at Santa Maria degli Angeli in Assisi, to the very great discomfort of the people who go there every year on August 1 to receive Absolution, Cosimo sent thither Michelozzo, who brought the water of a spring, which rose halfway up the brow of the hill, to the fountain, which he covered with a very rich and lovely loggia resting on some columns made of separate pieces and bearing the arms of Cosimo. Within the convent, also at the commission of Cosimo, he made many useful improvements for the friars; and these the magnificent Lorenzo de' Medici afterwards renewed with more adornment and at greater expense, besides presenting to that Madonna the image of her in wax which is still to be seen there. Cosimo also caused the road that leads from the said Madonna degli Angeli to the city to be paved with bricks; nor did Michelozzo take his leave of those parts before he had made the design for the old Citadel of Perugia. Having finally returned to Florence, he built a house on the Canto de' Tornaquinci for Giovanni Tornabuoni, similar in almost every way to the palace that he had made for Cosimo, save that the facade is not in rustic-work and has no cornices above, but is quite plain.

After the death of Cosimo, by whom Michelozzo had been loved as much as a dear friend can be loved, his son Piero caused him to build the marble Chapel of the Crucifix in San Miniato sul Monte ; and in the half circle of the arch at the back of the said chapel Michelozzo carved in low relief a Falcon with the Diamond (the emblem of Cosimo, father of Piero), which was truly a very beautiful work. After these things, the same Piero de' Medici, intending to build the Chapel of the Nunziata, in the Church of the Servi, entirely of marble, besought Michelozzo, now an old man, to give him his advice in the matter, both because he greatly admired his talents and because he knew how faithful a friend and servant he had been to his father Cosimo. This Michelozzo did, and the charge of constructing it was given to Pagno di Lapo Partigiani, a sculptor of Fiesole, who, as one who wished to include many things in a small space, showed many ideas in this work. This chapel is supported by four marble columns about nine braccia high, made with double flutings in the Corinthian manner, with the bases and capitals variously carved and with double members. On the columns rest the architrave, frieze, and cornice, likewise with double members and carvings and wrought with various things of fancy, and particularly with foliage and the emblems and arms of the Medici.

Between these and other cornices made for another range of lights, there is a large inscription, very beautifully carved in marble. Below, between the four columns, forming the ceiling of the chapel, there is a coffer work canopy of marble all carved, full of enamels fired in a furnace and of various fanciful designs in mosaic wrought with gold color and precious stones. The surface of the pavement is full of porphyry, serpentine, variegated marbles, and other very rare stones, put together and distributed with beautiful design. The said chapel is enclosed by a grille made of bronze ropes, with candelabra above fixed into an ornament ment of marble, which makes a very beautiful finish to the bronze and to the candelabra; and the door which closes the chapel in front is likewise of bronze and very well contrived. Piero left orders that the chapel should be lighted all round by thirty silver lamps, and this was done. Now, as these were ruined during the siege, the Lord Duke gave orders many years ago that new ones should be made, and the greater part of them are already finished, while the work still goes on ; but in spite of this there has never been a moment when there has not been that full number of lamps burning, according to the instructions of Piero, although, from the time when they were destroyed, they have not been of silver.

To these adornments Pagno added a very large lily of copper, issuing from a vase which rests on the corner of the gilt and painted cornice of wood which holds the lamps; but this cornice does not support so great a weight by itself, for the whole is sustained by two branches of the lily, which are of iron painted green, and are fixed with lead into the corner of the marble cornice, holding those that are of copper suspended in the air. This work was truly made with judgment and invention ; wherefore it is worthy of being much extolled as some thing beautiful and bizarre. Beside this chapel, he made another on the side towards the cloister, which serves as a choir for the friars, with windows which take their light from the court and give it both to the said chapel and also (since they stand opposite to two similar windows) to the room containing the little organ, which is by the side of the marble chapel. On the front of this choir there is a large press, in which the silver vessels of the Nunziata are kept; and on all these ornaments and throughout the whole are the arms and emblem of the Medici. Without the Chapel of the Nunziata and opposite to it, the same man made a large chandelier of bronze, five braccia in height, as well as the marble holy water font at the entrance of the church, and a St. John in the center, which is a very beautiful work. Above the counter where the friars sell the candles, moreover, he made a half-length Madonna of marble with the Child in her arms, in half relief, of the size of life and very devout; and a similar work in the Office of the Wardens of Works of Santa Maria del Fiore.

Pagno also wrought some figures in San Miniato al Tedesco in company with his master Donato, while a youth; and he made a tomb of marble in the Church of San Martino in Lucca, opposite to the Chapel of the Sacrament, for Messer Piero di Nocera, who is portrayed there from nature. Filarete relates in the twenty-fifth book of his work that Francesco Sforza, fourth Duke of Milan, presented a very beautiful palace in Milan to the Magnificent Cosimo de' Medici, and that Cosimo, in order to show the Duke how pleased he was with such a gift, not only adorned it richly with marbles and with carved woodwork, but also enlarged it under the direction of Michelozzo, making it eighty - seven braccia and a half, whereas it had previously been only eighty-four braccia. Besides this, he had many pictures painted there, particularly the stories of the life of the Emperor Trajan in a loggia, wherein, among certain decorations, he caused Francesco Sforza himself to be portrayed, with the Lady Bianca, his consort, Duchess of Milan, and also their children, with many other noblemen and great persons, and likewise the portraits of eight Emperors; and to these portraits Michelozzo added that of Cosimo, made by his own hand. Throughout all the apartments he placed the arms of Cosimo in diverse fashions, with his emblem of the Falcon and Diamond. The said pictures were all by the hand of Vincenzio di Foppa, a painter of no small repute at that time and in that country.

It is recorded that the money that Cosimo spent in the restoration of this palace was paid by Pigello Portinari, a citizen of Florence, who then directed the bank and the accounts of Cosimo in Milan and lived in the said palace. There are some works in marble and bronze by the hand of Michelozzo in Genoa, and many others in other places, which are all known by the manner; but what we have already said about him must suffice. He died at the age of sixty-eight, and he was buried in his own tomb in San Marco at Florence. His portrait, by the hand of Fra Giovanni, is in the Sacristy of Santa Trinita, in the figure of an old man with a cap on his head, representing Nicodemus, who is taking Christ down from the Cross.

 

 

 

ANTONIO FILARETE (circa 1400-circa 1469)
and SIMONE

Vasari's Lives of the Artists



IF POPE EUGENIUS IV, when he resolved to make the bronze door for San Pietro in Rome, had used diligence in seeking for men of excellence to execute that work (and he would easily have been able to find them at that time, when Filippo di Ser Brunellesco, Donatello, and other rare craftsmen were alive), it would not have been carried out in the deplorable manner which it reveals to us in our own day. but perchance the same thing happened to him that is very often wont to happen to the greater number of Princes, who either have no understanding of such works or take very little delight in them. Now, if they were to consider how important it is to show preference to men of excellence in public works, by reason of the fame that comes from these, it is certain that neithre they nor their ministers would be so negligent; for the reason that he who encumbers himself with poor and inept craftsmen ensures but a short life to his works or his fame, not to mention that injury is done to the public interest and to the age in which he was born, for it is firmly believed by all who come after, that, if there had been better masters to be found in that age, the Prince would have availed himself rather of them than of the inept and vulgar.

Now, after being created Pontiff in the year 1431, Pope Eugenius IV, hearing that the Florentines were having the doors of San Giovanni made by Lorenzo Ghiberti, conceived a wish to try to make one of the doors of San Pietro in like manner in bronze. But since he had no knowledge of such works, he entrusted the matter to his ministers, with whom Antonio Filarete, then a youth, and Simone, the brother of Donatello, both sculptors of Florence, had so much interest, that the work was allotted to them. Putting their hands to this, therefore, they toiled for twelve years to complete it; and although Pope Eugenius fled from Eome and was much harassed by reason of the Councils, yet those who had charge of San Pietro contrived to prevent that work from being abandoned.

Filarete, then, wrought that door in low-relief, making a simple division, with two upright figures in each part--namely, the Saviour and the Madonna above, and St. Peter and St. Paul below; and at the foot of St. Peter is that Pope on his knees, portrayed from life. Beneath each figure, likewise, there is a little scene from the life of the Saint that is above; below St. Peter, his crucifixion, and below St. Paul, his beheading; and beneath the Saviour and the Madonna, also, some events from their lives. At the foot of the inner side of the said door, to amuse himself, Antonio made a little scene in bronze, wherein he portrayed himself and Simone and their disciples going with an ass lade with good cheer to take their pleasure in a vineyard. But since they were not always at work on the said door during the whole of those twelve years, they also made in San Pietro some marble tombs for Popes and Cardinals, which were thrown to the ground in the building of the new church.

After these works, Antonio was summoned to Milan by Duke Francesco Sforza, then Gonfalonier of the Holy Church (who had seen his works in Rome), to the end that there might be made with his design, as it afterwards was, the Albergo de'poveri di Dio, which is a hospital that serves for sick men and women, and for the innocent children born out of wedlock. The division for the men in this place is in the form of a cross, and extends 160 braccia in all directions; and that of the women is the same. The width is 16 braccia, and within the four square sides that enclose the crosses of each of these two divisions there are four courtyards surrounded by porticoes, loggie, and rooms for the use of the director, the officials, the servants, and the nurses of the hospital, all very commodius and useful. On one side there is a channel with water continually running for the service of the hospital and for grinding corn, with no small benefit and convenience for that place, as all may imagine.

Between the two divisions of the hospital there is a cloister, 80 braccia in extent in one direction and 160 in the other, in the middle of which is the church, so contrived as to serve for both divisions. In a word, this place is so well built and designed, that I do not believe that there is its like in Europe. According to the account of Filarete himself, the first stone of this building was laid with a solemn procession of the whole of the clergy of Milan, in the presence of Duke Francesco Sforza, the Lady Bianca Maria, and all their children, with the Marquis of Mantua, the Ambassador of Kind Alfonso of Arragon, and many other lords. On the first stone which was laid in the foundations, as well as on the medals, were these words:

FRANCISCUS SFORTIA DUX IV, QUI AMISSUM PER PRAECESSORUM OBITUM
URBIS IMPERIUM RECUPERAVIT, HOC MUNUS CHRISTI PAUPERIBUS DEDIT
FUNDAVITQUE MCCCCLVII, DIE XII APRIL.

These scenes were afterwards depicted on the portico by Maestro Vincenzio di Zoppa, a Lombard, since no better master could be found in these parts.

A work by the same Antonio, likewise, was the principal church of Bergamo, which he built with no less diligence and judgment than he had shown in the above-named hospital. And because he also took delight in writing, the while that these works were in progress he wrote a book divided into three parts. In the first he treats of the measurements of all edifices, and of all that is necessary for the purpose of building. In the second he speaks of the methods of building, and of the manner wherein a most beautiful and most convenient city might be laid out. In the third he invents new forms of buildings, mingling the ancient with the modern. The whole work is divided into twenty-four books, illustrated throughout by drawings from his own hand; but, although there is something of the good to be found in it, it is nevertheless mostly ridiculous, and perhaps the most stupid book ever written. It was dedicated by him in the year 1464 to the Magnificent Piero di Cosimo de'Medici, and it is now in the collection of the most Illustrious Lord Duke Cosimo. And in truth, since he put himself to so great pains, the book might be commended in some sort, if he had at least made some records of the masters of his day and of their works; but as there are few to be found therein, and those few are scattered throughout the book without method and in the least suitable places, he has toiled only to beggar himself, as the saying goes, and to be thought a man of little judgment for meddling with something that he did not understand.

But I have said quite enough about Filarete, and it is now time to turn to Simone, the brother of Donato [Donatello]. This man, after the work of the door, made the bronze tomb of Pope Martin. He likewise made some castings that were sent to France, of many of which the fate is not known. For the Church of the Ermini, in the Canto alla Macine in Florence, he wrought a life-size Crucifix for carrying in processions, and it render it the lighter he made it of cork. In Santa Felicita he made a terra-cotta figure of St. Mary Magdalene in Penitence, three braccia and a half in height and beautifully proportioned, and revealing the muscles in such a manner as to show that he had a very good knowledge of anatomy. He also wrought a marble tombstone for the Company of the Nunziata in the Church of the Servi, inlaying it with a figure in grey and white marble in the manner of a painting (which was much extolled), like the work already mentioned as having been done by the Sienese Duccio in the Duomo of Siena.

At Prato he made the bronze grille for the Chapel of the Girdle. At Forli, over the door of the Canon's house, he wrought a Madonna with two angels in low-relief; and he adorned the Chapel of the Trinita in San Francesco with work in half-relief for Messer Giovanni da Riolo. In the Church of San Francesco at Rimini, for Sigismondo Malatesta, he built the Chapel of San Sigismondo, wherein there are many elephants, the device of that lord, carved in marble. To Messer Bartolommeo Scamisci, Canon of the Pieve of Arezzo, he sent a Madonna with the Child in her arms, made of terra-cotta, with certain angels in half-relief, very well executed; which Madonna is now in the said Pieve, set up against a column. For the baptismal font of the Vescovado of Arezzo, likewise, he wrought, in some scenes in low-relief, a Christ being baptized by St. John. In the Church of the Nunziata in Florence he made a marble tomb for Messer Orlando de'Medici.

Finally, at the age of fifty-five, he rendered up his spirit to God who had given it to him. Nor was it long before Filarete, having returned to Rome, died at the age of sixty-nine, and was buried in the Minerva, where he had caused Giovanni Foccora, a painter of no small repute, to make a portrait of Pope Eugenius, while he was staying in Rome int he service of that Pontiff. The portrait of Antonio, by his own hand, is at the beginning of his book, where he gives instructions for building. His disciples were Varrone and Niccolo, both Florentines, who made the marble statue for Pope Pius II near Pontemolle, at the same time when he brought the head of St. Andrew to Rome. By the order of the same Pope they restored Tigoli [???] almost from the foundations; and in San Pietro they made the ornament of marble that is above the columns of the chapel wherein the said head of St. Andrew is preserved. Near that chapel is the tomb of the said Pope Pius, made by Pasquino da Montepulciano, a disciple of Filarete, and Bernardo Ciuffagni. This Bernardo wrought a tomb of marble for Sigismondo Malatesta in San Francesco at Rimini, making his portrait there from nature; and he also executed some works, so it is said, in Lucca and in Mantua.

 

 

 

GIULIANO DA MAIANO (1432-1490)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists

NO SMALL ERROR do those fathers of families make who do not allow the minds of their children to run the natural course of their childhood, and do not suffer them to follow the calling that is most in accordance with their taste; for to try to turn them to something for which they have no inclination is manifestly to prevent them from ever being excellent in anything, because we almost always find that those who labor at something that they do not like make little progress in any occupation whatsoever. On the other hand, those who follow the instinct of nature generally become excellent and famous in the arts that they pursue; as was seen clearly in Giuliano da Maiano.

The father of this man, after living a long time on the hill of Fiesole, in the part called Maiano, working at the trade of stone-cutter, finally betook himself to Florence, where he opened a shop for the sale of dressed stone, keeping it furnished with the sort of work that is apt very often to be called for without warning by those who are erecting some building. Living in Florence, then, there was born to him a son, Giuliano, whom his father, growing convinced in the course of time that he had a good intelligence, proposed to make into a notary, for it appeared to him that his own occupation of stonecutting eas too laborious and too unprofitable an exercise. But this did not come to pass, because, although Giuliano went to a grammar school for a little, his thoughts were never there, and in consequence he made no progress; nay, he played truant very often, and showed that he had his mind wholly set on sculpture, although at first he applied himself to the calling of joiner and also gave attention to drawing.

It is said that in company with Giusto and Minore, masters of intarsia, he wrought the seats of the Sacristy of the Nunziata, and likewise those of the choir that is beside the chapel, and many things in the Badia of Florence and in San Marco; and that, having acquired a name through these works, he was summond to Pisa, in the Duomo of which he wrought the seat that is beside the high-altar, in which the priest, the deacon, and the sub-deacon sit when Mass is being sung; making intarsia on the back of this seat, with tinted and shaded woods, the three prophets that are seen therein. In this work he availed himself of Guido del Servellino and Maestro Domenico di Mariotto, joiners of Pisa, to whom he taught the art so well that they afterwards wrought the greater part of that choir both with carvings and with intarsia work; which choir has been finished in our own day, with a manner no little better, by Batista del Cervelliera of Pisa, a man truly ingenious and fanciful.

But to return to Giuliano; he made the presses of the Sacristy of Santa Maria del Fiore, which were held at that time to be admirable examples of intarsia and inlaid work. Now, while Giuliano thus continued to devote himself to intarsia, to sculpture, and to architecture, Filippo di Ser Brunellesco died; whereupon, being chosen by the Wardens of Works to succeed him, he made the borders, incrusted with black and white marble, which are round the circular windows below the vault of the cupola; and at the corners he placed the marble pilasters on which Baccio d'Agnolo afterwards laid the architrave, frieze, and cornice, as will be told below. It is true that, as it appears from some designs by his hand that are in our book, he wished to make another arrangement of frieze, cornice, and gallery, with pediments on each of the eight sides of the cupola; but he had not time to put this into execution, for, being carried away by an excess of work from one day to another, he died.

Before this happened, however, he went to Naples and designed the architecture of the magnificent Palace at Poggio Reale for King Alfonso, with the beautiful fountains and conduits that are in the courtyard. In the city, likewise, he made designs for many fountains, some for the houses of noblemen and some for public squares, with beautiful and fanciful inventions; and he had the said Palace of Poggio Reale all wrought with paintings by Piero del Donzello and his brother Polito. Working in sculpture likewise, for the said King Alfonso, then Duke of Calabria, he wrought scenes in low relief over a door (both within and without) in the great hall of the Castel of Naples; and he made a marble gate for the castel after the Corinthian Order, with an infinite number of figures, giving to that work the form of a triumphal arch, on which stories fromthe life of that King and some of his victories are carved in marble. Giuliano also wrought the decorations of the Porta Capovana, making therein many varied and beautiful trophies; wherefore he well deserved that great love should be felt for him by that King, who, rewarding him liberally for his labours, enriched his descendants.

Giuliano had taught to his nephew Benedetto the arts of intarsia and architecture, and something about working in marble; and Benedetto was living in Florence, devoting himself to working in intarsia, because this brought him greater gains than the other arts did. Now Giuliano was summoned to Rome by Messer Antonio Rosello of Arezo, Secretary to Pope Paul II, to enter the service of that Pontiff. Having gone thither, he designed the loggie of travertine in the first court of the Palace of San Pietro, with three ranges of columns, of which the first is on the lowest floor, where there are now the Signet Office and other offices; the second is above this, where the Datary and other prelates live; and the third and last is where those rooms are that look out on the court of San Pietro, which he adorned with gilded ceilings and other ornatments. From his design, likewise, were made the marble loggie from which the Pope gives his benediction--a very great work, as may still be seen today. But the most stupendous and marvellous work that he made was the palace that he built for that Pope, together with the Church of San Marco in Rome, for which there was used an infinite quantity of travertine blocks, said to have been excavated from certain vineyards near the Arch of Constantine, where they served as buttresses for the foundations of that part of the Colosseum which is now in ruins, perchance because of the weakening of that edifice.

Giuliano was sent by the same Pontiff to the Madonna of Loreto, where he rebuilt the foundations and greatly enlarged the body of the church, which had formerly been small and built over piers in rustic work. He did not go higher than the stringcourse that was there already; but he summond his nephew Benedetto to that place, and he, as will be told, afterwards raised the cupola. Being then forced to return to Naples in order to finish the works that he had begun, Giuliano received a commission from King Alfonso for a gate near the castle, which was to include more than eighty figures, which Benedeto had to execute in Florence; but the whole remained unfinished by reason of the death of that King. There are still some relics of these figures in the Misericordia in Florence, and there were others in our own day in the Canto alle Macine; but I do not know where these are now to be found. Before the death of the King, however, Giuliano died in Naples at the age of seventy, and was greatly honored with rich obsequies; for the King had fifty men clothed in mourning, who accompanied Giuliano to the grave, and then he gave orders that a marble tomb should be made for him.

The continuation of his work was left to Polito, who completed the conduits for the waters of Poggio Reale. Benedetto, devoting himself afterwards to sculpture, surpassed his uncle Giuliano in excellence, as will be told; and in his youth he was the rival of a sculptor named Modanino da Modena, who worked in terracotta, and who wrought for the said Alfonso a Pietˆ with an infinite number of figures in the round, made of terracotta and colored, which were executed with very great vivacity, and were placed by the King in the Church of Monte Oliveto, a very highly honored monastery in the city of Naples. In this work the said King is portrayed on his knees, and he appears truly more than alive; wherefore Modanino was remunerated by him with very great rewards. But when the King died, as it has been said, Polito and Benedetto returned to Florence, where, no long time after, Polito followed Giuliano into eternity. The sculptures and pictures of these men date about the year of our salvation 1447.

 

 

 

PIERO DELLA FRANCESCA (1416-1492)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists


TRULY UNHAPPY are those who, laboring at their studies in order to benefit others and to make their own name famous, are hindered by infirmity and sometimes by death from carrying to perfection the works that they have begun. And it happens very often that, leaving them all but finished or in a fair way to completion, they are falsely claimed by the presumption of those who seek to conceal their asses' skin under the honorable spoils of the lion. And although time, who is called the father of truth, sooner or later makes manifest the real state of things, it is none the less true that for a certain space of time the true craftsman is robbed of the honor that is due to his labors; as hap happened to Piero della Francesca of Borgo a San Sepolcro. He, having been held a rare master of the difficulties of drawing regular bodies, as well as of arithmetic and geometry, was yet not able,being overtaken in his old age by the infirmity of blindness, and finally by the close of his life,to bring to light his noble labors and the many books written by him, which are still preserved in the Borgo, his native place. The very man who should have striven with all his might to increase the glory and fame of Piero, from whom he had learnt all that he knew, was impious and malignant enough to seek to blot out the name of his teacher, and to usurp for himself the honor that was due to the other, publishing under his own name, Fra Luca dal Borgo, all the labors of that good old man, who, besides the sciences named above, was excellent in painting.

Piero was born in Borgo a San Sepolcro, which is now a city, although it was not one then; and he was called Della Francesca after the name of his mother, because she had been left pregnant with him at the death of her husband, his father, and because it was she who had brought him up and assisted him to attain to the rank that his good-fortune held, out to him. Piero applied himself in his youth to mathematics, and although it was settled when he was fifteen years of age that he was to be a painter, he never abandoned this study; nay, he made marvelous progress therein, as well as in painting. He was employed by Guidobaldo Feltro the elder, Duke of Urbino, for whom he made many very beautiful pictures with little figures, which have been for the most part ruined on the many occasions when that state has been harassed by wars. Nevertheless, there were preserved there some of his writings on geometry and perspective, in which sciences he was not inferior to any man of his own time, or perchance even to any man of any other time; as is demonstrated by all his works, which are full of perspectives, and particularly by a vase drawn in squares and sides, in such a manner that the base and the mouth can be seen from the front, from behind, and from the sides; which is certainly a marvelous thing, for he drew the smallest details therein with great subtlety, and foreshortened the curves of all the circles with much grace. Having thus acquired credit and fame at that Court, he resolved to make himself known in other places; wherefore he went to Pesaro and Ancona, whence, in the very thick of his work, he was summoned by Duke Borso to Ferrara, where he painted many apartments in his palace, which were afterwards destroyed by Duke Ercole the elder in the renovation of the palace, insomuch that there is nothing by the hand of Piero left in that city, save a chapel wrought In fresco in San Agostino; and even that has been injured by damp. Afterwards, being summoned to Rome, he painted two scenes for Pope Nicholas V in the upper rooms of his palace, in competition with Bramante da Milano; but these also were thrown to the ground by Pope Julius Il, to the end that Raffaello da Urbino might paint there the Imprisonment of St. Peter and the Miracle of the Corporale of Bolsena,together with certain others that had been painted by Bramantino, an excellent painter in his day.

Now, seeing that I cannot write the life of this man, nor particularize his works, because they have been ruined, I will not grudge the labor of making some record of him, for it seems an apt occasion. In the said works that were thrown to the ground, so I have heard tell, he had made some heads from nature, so beautiful and so well executed that speech alone was wanting to give them life. Of these heads not a few have come to light, because Raffaello da Urbino had them copied in order that he might have the likenesses of the subjects, who were all people of importance; for among them were Niccolo Fortebraccio, Charles VII, King of France, Antonio Colonna, Prince of Salerno, Francesco Carmignuola, Giovanni Vitellesco, Cardinal Bessarione, Francesco Spinola, and Battista da Canneto. All these portraits were given to Giovio by Giulio Romano, disciple and heir of Raffaello da Urbino, and they were placed by Giovio in his museum at Como. Over the door of San Sepolcro in Milan I have seen a Dead Christ wrought in foreshortening by the hand of the same man, in which, although the whole picture is not more than one braccio in height, there is an effect of infinite length, executed with facility and with judgment. By his hand, also, are some apartments and loggie in the house of the Marchesino Ostanesia in the same city, wherein there are many pictures wrought by him that show mastery and very great power in the foreshortening of the figures. And without the Porta Vercellina, near the Castle, in certain stables now ruined and destroyed, he painted some grooms currying horses, among which there was one so lifelike and so well wrought, that another horse thinking it a real one, lashed out at it repeatedly with its hooves.

But to return to Piero della Francesca; his work in Rome finished, he returned to the Borgo, where his mother had just died; and on the inner side of the central door of the Pieve he painted two saints in fresco, which are held to be very beautiful. In the Convent of the Friars of St. Augustine he painted the panel of the high altar, which was a thing much extolled; and he wrought in fresco a Madonna della Misericordia for a company, or rather, as they call it, a confraternity; with a Resurrection of Christ in the Palazzo de' Conservadori, which is held the best of all the works that are in the said city, and the best that he ever made. In company with Domenico da Vinezia, he painted the beginning of a work on the vaulting of the Sacristy of Santa Maria at Loreto; but they left it unfinished from fear of plague, and it was afterwards completed by Luca da Cortona, [Signorelli] a disciple of Piero, as will be told in the proper place.

Going from Loreto to Arezzo, Piero painted for Luigi Bacci, a citizen of Arezzo, the Chapel of the high altar of San Francesco, belonging to that family, the vaulting of which had been already begun by Lorenzo di Bicci. In this work there are Stories of the Cross, from that wherein the sons of Adam are burying him and placing under his tongue the seed of the tree from which there came the wood for the said Cross, down to the Exaltation of the Cross itself performed by the Emperor Heraclius, who, walking barefoot and carrying it on his shoulder, is entering with it into Jerusalem. Here there are many beautiful conceptions and attitudes worthy to be extolled; such as, for example, the garments of the women of the Queen of Sheba, executed in a sweet and novel manner; many most lifelike portraits from nature of ancient persons; a row of Corinthian columns, divinely well proportioned; and a peasant who, leaning with his hands on his spade, stands listening to the words of St. Helena,while the three Crosses are being disinterred,with so great attention, that it would not be possible to improve it. Very well wrought, also, is the dead body that is restored to life at the touch of the Cross, together with the joy of St. Helena and the marveling of the bystanders, who are kneeling in adoration. But above every other consideration, whether of imagination or of art, is his painting of Night, with an angel in foreshortening who is flying with his head downwards, bringing the sign of victory to Constantine, who is sleeping in a pavilion, guarded by a chamberlain and some men-at-arms who are seen dimly through the darkness of the night; and with his own light the angel illuminates the pavilion, the men-at-arms, and all the surroundings. This is done with very great thought, for Piero gives us to know in this darkness how important it is to copy things as they are and to ever take them from the true model; which he did so well that he enabled the moderns to attain, by following him, to that supreme perfection wherein art is seen in our own time. In this same story he represented most successfully in a battle fear , animosity, dexterity, vehemence, and all the other emotions that can be imagined in men who are fighting, and likewise all the incidents of battle, together with an almost incredible carnage, what with the wounded, the fallen, and the dead.

In these Piero counterfeited in fresco the glittering of their arms, for which he deserves no less praise than he does for the flight and submersion of Maxentius painted on the other wall, wherein he made a group of horses in foreshortening, so marvelously executed that they can be truly called too beautiful and too excellent for those times. In the same story he made a man, half nude and half-clothed in the dress of a Saracen, riding a lean horse, which reveals a very great mastery of anatomy, a science little known in his age. For this work, therefore, he well deserved to be richly rewarded by Luigi Bacci, whom he portrayed there in the scene of the beheading of a King, together with Carlo and others of his brothers and many Aretines who were then distinguished in letters; and to be loved and revered ever after wards, as he was, in that city, which he had made so illustrious with his works. In the Vescovado of the same city, also, he made a St. Mary Magdalene in fresco beside the door of the sacristy; and for the Company of the Nunziata he painted the banner that is carried in processions. At the head of a cloister at Santa Maria delle Grazie, without that district, he painted St. Donatus in his robes, seated in a chair drawn in perspective, together with certain boys; and in a niche high, up on a wall of St. Bernard, for the Monks of Monte Oliveto, he made a St. Vincent, which is much esteemed by craftsmen. In a chapel at Sargiano, a seat of the Frati Zoccolanti di S. Francesco, without Arezzo, he painted a very beautiful Christ praying by night in the Garden.

In Perugia, also, he wrought many works that are still to be seen in that city; as, for example, a panel in tempera in the Church of the Nuns of St. Anthony of Padua, containing a Madonna with the Child in her lap, St. Francis, St. Elizabeth, St. John the Baptist, and St. Anthony of Padua. Above these is a most beautiful Annunciation, with an Angel that seems truly to have come out of Heaven; and, what is more, a row of columns diminishing in perspective, which is indeed beautiful. In the predella there are scenes with little figures, representing St. Anthony restoring a boy to life; St. Elizabeth saving a child that has fallen into a well; and St. Francis receiving the Stigmata. In St. Ciriaco at Ancona, on the altar of St. Giuseppe, he painted a most beautiful scene of the Marriage of Our Lady. Piero, as it has been said, was a very zealous student of art, and gave no little attention to perspective; and he had a very good know ledge of Euclid, insomuch that he understood all the best curves drawn in regular bodies better than any other geometrician, and the clearest elucidations of these matters that we have are from his hand. Now Maestro Luca dal Borgo, a friar of St. Francis, who wrote about the regular geometrical bodies, was his pupil; and when Piero, after having written many books, grew old and finally died, the said Maestro Luca, claiming the authorship of these books, had them printed as his own, for they had fallen into his hands after the death of Piero.

Piero was much given to making models in clay, on which he spread wet draperies with an infinity of folds, in order to make use of them for drawing. A disciple of Piero was Lorentino d' Angelo of Arezzo, who made many pictures in Arezzo, imitating his manner, and completed those that Piero, overtaken by death, left unfinished. Near the St. Donatus that Piero wrought in the Madonna delle Grazie, Lorentino painted in fresco some stories of St. Donatus, with very many works in many other places both in that city and in the district, partly because he would never stay idle, and partly to assist his family, which was then very poor. In the said Church of the Grazie the same man painted a scene wherein Pope Sixtus IV, between the Cardinal of Mantua and Cardinal Piccolomini (who was afterwards Pope Pius III), is granting an indulgence to that place; in which scene Lorentino portrayed from the life, on their knees, Tommaso Marzi, Piero Traditi, Donato Rosselli, and Giuliano Nardi, all citizens of Arezzo and Wardens of Works for that building. In the hall of the Palazzo de' Priori, moreover, he portrayed from the life Cardinal Galeotto da Pietramala, Bishop Guglielmino degli Ubertini, and Messer Angelo Albergotti, Doctor of Laws; and he made many other works, which are scattered throughout that city.

It is said that once, when the Carnival was close at hand, the children of Lorentino kept beseeching him to kill a pig, as it is the custom to do in that district; and that, since he had not the means to buy one, they would say, "What will you do about buying a pig, father, if you have no money?" To which Lorentino would answer, "Some Saint will help us." But when he had said this many times and the season was passing by without any pig appearing, they had lost hope, when at length there arrived a peasant from the Pieve a Quarto, who wished to have a St. Martin painted in fulfillment of a vow, but had no means of paying for the picture save a pig, which was worth five lire. This man, coming to Lorentino, told him that he wished to have the St. Martin painted, but that he had no means of payment save the pig. Whereupon they came to an agreement, and Lorentino painted him the Saint, while the peasant brought him the pig; and so the Saint provided the pig for the poor children of this painter.

Another disciple of Piero was Pietro da Castel della Pieve [Pietro Perugino], who painted an arch above St. Agostino, and a St. Urban for the Nuns of Santa Caterina in Arezzo, which has been thrown to the ground in rebuilding the church. His pupil, likewise, was Luca Signorelli of Cortona, who did him more honor than all the others. Piero Borghese, whose pictures date about the year 1458, became blind through an attack of catarrh at the age of sixty, and lived thus up to the eighty-sixth year of his life. He left very great possessions in the Borgo, with some houses that he had built himself, which were burnt and destroyed in the strife of factions in the year 1536. He was honorably buried by his fellow-citizens in the principal church, which formerly belonged to the Order of Camaldoli, and is now the Vescovado. Piero's books are for the most part in the library of Frederick II, Duke of Urbino, and they are such that they have deservedly acquired for him the name of the best geometrician of his time.

 

 

 

FRA ANGELICO (circa 1400-1455)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists





FRA GIOVANNI ANGELICO DA FIESOLE, who was known in the world as Guido, was no less excellent as painter and illuminator than he was up right as churchman, and for both one and the other of these reasons he deserves that most honorable record should be made of him. This man, although he could have lived in the world with the greatest comfort fort, and could have gained whatever he wished, besides what he possessed , by means of those arts, of which he had a very good knowledge even in his youth, yet resolved, for his own peace and satisfaction, being by nature serious and upright, and above all in order to save his soul, to take the vows of the Order of Preaching Friars; for the reason that, although it is possible to serve God in all walks of life, nevertheless it appears to some men that they can gain salvation in monasteries better than in the world. Now in proportion as this plan succeeds happily for good men, so, on the contrary, it has a truly miserable and unhappy issue for a man who takes the vows with some other end in view.

There are some choral books illuminated by the hand of Fra Giovanni in his Convent of San Marco in Florence, so beautiful that words are not able to describe them; and similar to these are some others that he left in San Domenico da Fiesole, wrought with incredible diligence. It is true, indeed, that in making these he was assisted by an elder brother, who was likewise an illuminator and well practiced in painting. One of the first works in painting wrought by this good father was a panel in the Certosa of Florence, which was placed in the principal chapel (belonging to Cardinal Acciaiuoli); in which panel is a Madonna with the Child in her arms, and with certain very beautiful angels at her feet, sounding instruments and singing; at the sides are St. Laurence, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Zanobius, and St. Benedict; and in the predella are little stories of these Saints, wrought in little figures with infinite diligence. In the cross of the said chapel are two other panels by the hand of the same man; one containing the Coronation of Our Lady, and the other a Madonna with two saints, wrought with most beautiful ultramarine blues. Afterwards, in the tramezzo of Santa Maria Novella, beside the door opposite to the choir, he painted in fresco St. Dominic, St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Peter Martyr; and some little scenes in the Chapel of the Coronation of Our Lady in the said tramezzo. On canvas, fixed to the doors that closed the old organ, he painted an Annunciation, which is now in the convent, opposite to the door of the lower dormitory, between one cloister and the other.

This father was so greatly beloved for his merits by Cosimo de' Medici, that, after completing the construction of the Church and Convent of San Marco, he caused him to paint the whole Passion of Jesus Christ on a wall in the chapterhouse; and on one side all the Saints who have been heads and founders of religious bodies, mourning and weeping at the foot of the Cross, and on the other side S. Mark the Evangelist beside the Mother of the Son of God, who has swooned at the sight of the Savior of the world Crucified, while round her are the Maries, all grieving and supporting her, with San Cosimo and San Damiano. It is said that in the figure of San Cosimo Fra Giovanni portrayed from the life Nanni d' Antonio di Banco, a sculptor and his friend. Below this work, in a frieze above the paneling, he made a tree with St. Dominic at the foot of it, and, in certain medallions encircled by the branches, all the Popes, Cardinals, Bishops, Saints, and Masters of Theology whom his Order of Preaching Friars had produced up to that time. In this work he made many portraits traits from nature, being assisted by the friars, who sent for them to various places; and they were the following: St. Dominic in the middle, grasping the branches of the tree; Pope Innocent V. a Frenchman: the Blessed Ugone, first Cardinal of that Order; the Blessed Paolo, Florentine and Patriarch; San Antonino, Archbishop of Florence; the Blessed Giordano, a German, and the second General of that Order; the Blessed Niccolo, the Blessed Remigio, a Florentine; and the martyr Boninsegno, a Florentine; all these are on the right hand. On the left are Benedict II of Treviso; Giandomenico, a Florentine Cardinal; Pietro da Palude, Patriarch of Jerusalem; Alberto Magno, a German; the Blessed Raimondo di Catalonia, third General of the Order; the Blessed Chiaro, a Florentine tine, and Provincial of Rome; S. Vincenzio di Valenza; and the Blessed Bernardo, a Florentine. All these heads are truly gracious and very beautiful. Then, over certain lunettes in the first cloister, he made many very beautiful figures in fresco, and a Crucifix with S. Dominic at the foot, which is much extolled; and in the dormitory, besides many other things throughout the cells and on the surface of the walls, he painted a story from the New Testament, of a beauty beyond the power of words to describe. Particularly beautiful and marvelous is the panel of the high altar of that church; for, besides the fact that the Madonna rouses all who see her to devotion by her simplicity, and that the Saints that surround her are like her in this, the predella, in which there are stories of the martyrdom of San Cosimo, San Damiano. and others, is so well painted, that one cannot imagine it possible ever to see a work executed with greater diligence, or little figures more delicate or better conceived than these are.

In San Domenico da Fiesole, likewise, he painted the panel of the high altar, which has been retouched by other masters and injured, perchance because it appeared to be spoiling. But the predella and the Ciborium of the Sacrament have remained in better preservation; and the innumerable little figures that are to be seen there, in a Celestial Glory, are so beautiful, that they appear truly to belong to Paradise, nor can any man who approaches them ever have his fill of gazing on them. In a chapel of the same church is a panel by his hand, containing the Annunciation of Our Lady by the Angel Gabriel, with features in profile, so devout, so delicate, and so well executed, that they appear truly to have been made rather in Paradise than by the hand of man; and in the landscape at the back are Adam and Eve, because of whom the Redeemer was born from the Virgin. In the predella, also, there are some very beautiful little scenes.

But superior to all the other works that Fra Giovanni made, and the one wherein he surpassed himself and gave supreme proof of his talent and of his knowledge of art, was a panel that is beside the door of the same church, on the heft hand as one enters, wherein Jesus Christ is crowning Our Lady in the midst of a choir of angels and among an infinite multitude of saints, both male and female, so many in number, so well wrought, and with such variety in the attitudes and in the expressions of the heads, that incredible pleasure and sweetness are felt in gazing at them; nay, one is persuaded that those blessed spirits cannot look otherwise in Heaven, or, to speak more exactly, could not if they had bodies; for not only are all these saints, both male and female, full of life and sweet and delicate in expression, but the whole coloring of that work appears to be by the hand of a saint or an angel like themselves; wherefore it was with very good reason that this excellent monk was ever called Fra Giovanni Angelico. Moreover, the stories of the Madonna and of St. Dominic in the predella are divine in their own kind; and I, for one, can declare with truth that I never see this work without thinking it something new, and that I never leave it sated.

In the Chapel of the Nunziata in Florence which Piero di Cosimo de' Medici caused to be built, he painted the doors of the press (in which the silver is kept) with little figures executed with much diligence. This father painted so many pictures, now to be found in the houses of Florentine citizens, that I sometimes stand marveling how one single man could execute so much work to such perfection, even in the space of many years. The Very Reverend Don Vincenzio Borghini, Director of the Hospital of the Innocenti, has a very beautiful little Madonna by the hand of this father; and Bartolommeo Gondi, as devoted a lover of these arts as any gentleman that one could think of, has a large picture, a small one, and a Crucifix, all by the same hand. The pictures that are in the arch over the door of San Domenico are also by the same man; and in the Sacristy of Santa Trinita there is a panel containing a Deposition from the Cross, into which he put so great diligence, that it can be numbered among the best works that he ever made. In San Francesco, without the Porta a San Miniato, there is an Annunciation; and in Santa Maria Novella, besides the works already named, he painted with little scenes the Paschal candle and some Reliquaries which are placed on the altar in the most solemn ceremonies.

Over a door of the cloister of the Badia in the same city he painted a St. Benedict, who is making a sign enjoining silence. For the Linen manufacturers he painted a panel that is in the Office of their Guild; and in Cortona he painted a little arch over the door of the church of his order, and likewise the panel of the high altar. At Orvieto, on a part of the vaulting of the Chapel of the Madonna in the Duomo, he began certain prophets, which were finished afterwards by Luca da Cortona [Signorelli]. For the Company of the Temple in Florence he painted a Dead Christ on a panel; and in the Church of the Monks of the Angeli he made a Paradise and a Hell with little figures, wherein he showed fine judgment by making the blessed very beautiful and full of jubilation and celestial gladness, and the damned all ready for the pains of Hell, in various most woeful attitudes,a nd bearing the stamp of their sins and unworthiness on their faces. The blessed are seen entering the gate of Paradise in celestial dance, and the damned are being dragged by demons to the eternal pains of Hell. This work is in the aforesaid church, on the right hand as one goes towards the high altar, where the priest sits when Mass is sung. For the Nuns of San Piero Martier--who now live in the Monastery of Santa Felice in Piazza, which used to belong to the Order of Camaldoli--he painted a panel with Our Lady, St. John the Baptist, St. Dominic, St. Thomas, and St. Peter Martyr, and a number of little figures. And in the tramezzo of Santa Maria Nuova there may also be seen a panel by his hand.

These many labors having made the name of Fra Giovanni illustrious throughout all Italy, Pope Nicholas V sent for him and caused him to adorn that chapel of his Palace in Rome wherein the Pope hears Mass with a Deposition from the Cross and some very beautiful stories of S. Laurence, and also to illuminate some books, which are most beautiful. In the Minerva he painted the panel of the high altar, and an annunciation that is now set up against a wall beside the principal chapel. He also painted for the said Pope in the Palace the Chapel of the Sacrament, which was afterwards destroyed by Paul III in the making of a staircase through it. In that work, which was an excellent example of his manner, he had wrought in fresco some scenes from the life of Jesus Christ, and he had made therein many portraits from life of distinguished persons of those times, which would probably now be lost if Giovio had not caused the following among them to be preserved for his museum, namely, Pope Nicholas V; the Emperor Frederick, who came to Italy at that time; Frate Antonino, who was afterwards Archbishop of Florence; Biondo da Forli; and Ferrante of Arragon. Now Fra Giovanni appeared to the Pope to be, as indeed he was, a person of most holy life, peaceful and modest; and, since the Archbishopric of Florence was at that time vacant, the Pope had judged him worthy of that rank; but the said friar, hearing this, implored His Holiness to find another man, for the reason that he did not feel himself fitted for ruling others, whereas his Order containeda brother most learned and well able to govern, a God-fearing man and afriend of the poor, on whom that dignity would be conferred much more fittingly than on himself.

The Pope, hearing this and remembering that what he said was true, granted him the favor willingly; and thus the Archbishopric of Florence was given to Frate Antonino of the Order of Preaching Friars, a man truly very famous both for sanctity and for learning, and of such a character, in short, that he was deservedly canonized in our own day by Adrian VI. Great excellence was that of Fra Giovanni, and a thing truly very rare, to resign a dignity and honor and charge so important, offered to himself by a Supreme Pontiff, in favor of the man whom he, with his singleness of eye and sincerity of heart, judged to be much more worthy of it than himself. Let the churchmen of our own times learn from this holy man not to take upon themselves charges that they cannot worthily carry out, and to yield them to those who are most worthy of them. Would to God, to return to Fra Giovanni (and may this be said without offense to the upright among them), that all churchmen would spend their time as did this truly angelic father, seeing that he spent every minute of his life in the service of God and in benefiting both the world and his neighbor. And what can or ought to be desired more than to gain the kingdom of Heaven by living a life of holiness, and to win eternal fame in the world by laboring virtuously? And in truth a talent so extraordinary and so supreme as that of Fra Giovanni could not and should not descend on any save a man of most holy life, for the reason that those who work at religious and holy subjects should be religious and holy men; for it is seen, when such works are executed by persons of little faith who have little esteem for religion, that they often arouse in men's minds evil appetites and licentious desires; whence there comes blame for the evil in their works, with praise for the art and ability that they show.

Now I would not have any man deceive him self by considering the rude and inept as holy, and the beautiful and excellent as licentious; as some do, who, seeing figures of women or of youths adorned with loveliness and beauty beyond the ordinary, straight-way censure them and judge them licentious, not perceiving that they are very wrong to condemn the good judgment of the painter, who holds the Saints, both male and female, who are celestial, to be as much more beautiful than mortal man as Heaven is superior to earthly beauty and to the works of human hands; and, what is worse, they reveal the unsoundness and corruption of their own minds by drawing evil and impure desires out of works from which, if they were lovers of purity, as they seek by their misguided zeal to prove themselves to be, they would gain a desire to attain to Heaven and to make themselves acceptable to the Creator of all things, in whom, as most perfect and most beautiful, all perfection and beauty have their source. What would such men do if they found themselves, or rather, what are we to believe that they do when they actually find themselves, in places containing living beauty, accompanied by licentious ways, honey-sweet words, movements full of grace, and eyes that ravish all but the stoutest of hearts, if the very image of beauty, nay, its mere shadow, moves them so profoundly? However, I would not have any believe that I approve of those figures that are painted in churches in a state of almost complete nudity, for in these cases it is seen that the painter has not shown the consideration that was due to the place; because, even although a man has to show how much he knows, he should proceed with due regard for circumstances and pay respect to persons, times, and places.

Fra Giovanni was a man of great simplicity, and most holy in his ways; and his goodness may be perceived from this, that, Pope Nicholas V wishing one morning to entertain him at table, he had scruples of conscience about eating meat without leave from his Prior, forgetting about the authority of the Pontiff. He shunned the affairs of the world; and, living a pure and holy life, he was as much the friend of the poor as I believe his soul to be now the friend of Heaven. He was continually laboring at his painting, and he would never paint anything save Saints. He might have been rich, but to this he gave no thought; nay, he used to say that true riches consist only in being content with little. He might have ruled many, but he would not, saying that it was less fatiguing and less misleading to obey others. He had the option of obtaining dignities both among the friars and in the world, but he despised them, declaring that he sought no other dignity save that of seeking to avoid Hell and draw near to Paradise. And what dignity, in truth, can be compared to that which all churchmen, nay, all men, should seek, and which is to be found only in God and in a life of virtue? He was most kindly and temperate; and he lived chastely and with drew himself from the snares of the world, being wont very often to say that he who pursued such an art had need of quiet and of a life free from cares, and that he whose work is connected with Christ must ever live with Christ. He was never seen in anger among his fellow-friars, which is a very notable thing, and almost impossible, it seems to me, to believe; and it was his custom to admonish his friends with a simple smile. With incredible sweetness, if any sought for works from him, he would say that they had only to gain the consent of the Prior, and that then he would not fail them. In short, this never to be sufficiently extolled father was most humble and modest in all his works and his discourse, and facile and devout in his pictures; and the Saints that he painted have more the air and likeness of Saints than those of any other man.It was his custom never to retouch or improve any of his pictures, but toleave them ever in the state to which he had first broughtthem; believing, so he used to say, that this was the will of God. Some say that Fra Giovanni would never have taken his brushes in his handwithout first offering a prayer. He never painted a Crucifix without the tears stream ing down his cheeks; wherefore in the countenances andattitudes of his figures one can recognize the goodness, nobility, and sincerity of his mind towards the Christian religion.

He died in 1455 at the age of sixty-eight, and left disciples in Benozzo, a Florentine, who ever imitated his manner, and Zanobi Strozzi, who painted pictures and panels throughout all Florence for the houses of citizens, and particularly a panel that is now in the tramezzo of Santa Maria Novella, beside that by Fra Giovanni, and one in San Benedetto, a monastery of the Monks of Camaldoli without the Porta a Pinti, now in ruins. The latter panel is at present in the little Church of San Michele in the Monastery of the Angeli, before one enters the principal church, set up against the wall on the right as one approaches the altar. There is also a panel in the Chapel of the Nasi in Santa Lucia, and another in San Romeo; and in the guardaroba of the Duke there is the portrait of Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici, with that of Bartolommeo Valori, in one and the same picture by the hand of the same man. Another disciple of Fra Giovanni was Gentile da Fabriano, as was also Domenico di Michelino, who painted the panel for the altar of St. Zanobius in San Apollinare at Florence, and many other pictures.

Fra Giovanni was buried by his fellow-friars in the Minerva [Santa Maria Sopra Minerva] in Rome, near the lateral door beside the sacristy, in a round tomb of marble, with himself, portrayed from nature, lying thereon. The following epitaph may be read, carved in the marble:

NON MIHI SIT LAUDI, QUOD ERAM VELUT ALTER APELLES,

SED QUOD LUCRA TUIS OMNIA, CHRISTE, DABAM;

ALTERA NAM TERRIS OPERA EXTANT, ALTERA CAELO.

URBS ME JOANNEM FLOS TULIT ETRURIAE.

In Santa Maria del Fiore are two very large books illuminated divinely well by the hand of Fra Giovanni, which are held in great veneration and richly adorned, nor are they ever seen save on days of the highest solemnity.
A celebrated and famous illuminator at the same time as Fra Giovanni was one Attavante, a Florentine, of whom I know no other name. This man, among many other works, illuminated a Silius Italicus, which is now in San Giovanni e Polo in Venice; of which work I will not with hold certain particulars, both because they are worthy of the attention of craftsmen, and because, to my knowledge, no other work by this master is to be found; nor should I know even of this one, had it not been for the affection borne to these noble arts by the Very Reverend Maestro Cosimo Bartoli, a gentleman of Florence, who gave me information about it, to the end that the talent of Attavante might not remain, as it were, buried out of sight.

In the said book, then, the figure of Silius hason the head a helmet with a crest of gold and a chaplet of laurel; he iswearing a blue cuirass picked out with gold in the ancient manner, while he is holding a book in his right hand, and the left he has on a short sword. Over the cuirass he has a red chlamys, fastened in front with a knot, and fringed with gold, which hangs down from his shoulders. The inside of this chlamys is seen to be of changing colors and embroidered with gold. His buskins are yellow, and he is standing on his right foot in a niche. The next figure in this work represents Scipio Africanus. He is wearing a yellow cuirass, and his sword-belt and sleeves, which are blue in color, are all embroidered with gold. On his head he has a helmet with two little wings and a fish by way of crest. The young man's countenance is fair and very beautiful; and he is raising his right arm proudly, holding in that hand a naked sword, while in the left hand he has the scabbard, which is red and embroidered with gold. The hose are green in color and plain; and the chlamys, which is blue, has a red lining with a fringe of gold all round, and it is fastened at the throat, leaving the front quite open, and falling behind with beautiful grace. This young man, who stands in a niche of mixed green and grey marble, with blue buskins embroidered with gold, is looking with indescribable fierceness at Hannibal, who faces him on the opposite page of the book.

This figure of Hannibal is that of a man about thirty-six years of age; he is frowning, with two furrows in his brow expressive of impatience and anger, and he, too, is looking fixedly at Scipio. On his head he has a yellow helmet, with a green and yellow dragon for crest and a serpent for chaplet. He is standing on his left foot and raising his right arm, with which he holds the shaft of an ancient javelin, or rather, of a little partisan. His cuirass is blue, his sword-belt partly blue and partly yellow, his sleeves of changing blue and red, and his buskins yellow. His chlamys, of changing red and yellow, is fastened on the right shoulder and lined with green; and, holding his left hand on his sword, he is standing in a niche of varicolored marbles, yellow, white, and changing. On another page is Pope Nicholas V, portrayed from the life, with a mantle of changing purple and red and all embroidered with gold. He is without a beard and in full profile, and he is looking towards the beginning of the book, which is opposite to him; and he is pointing to it with his right hand, as though in a marvel. The niche is green, white, and red.

Then in the border there are certain little half-length figures in an ornament composed of ovals and circles, and other things of that kind, together with an infinite number of little birds and children, so well wrought that nothing more could be desired. Close to this, in like manner, are Hanno the Carthaginian, Hasdrubal, Laelius, Massinissa, C. Salinator, Nero, Sempronius, M. Marcellus, Q. Fabius, the other Scipio, and Vibius. At the end of the book there is seen a Mars in an antique chariot drawn by two reddish horses. On his head he has a helmet of red and gold, with two little wings; on his left arm he has an antique shield, which he holds before him, and in his right hand a naked sword. He is standing on his left foot only, holding the other in the air. He has a cuirass in the antique manner, all red and gold, as are his hose and his buskins. His chlamys is blue without, and within all green and embroidered with gold. The chariot is covered with red cloth embroidered with gold, with a border of ermine all round; and it stands in a verdant and flowery champaign country, surrounded by cliffs and rocks; while landscapes and cities are seen in the distance, with a sky of a most marvelous blue. On the opposite page is a young Neptune, whose clothing is in the shape of a shirt, embroidered all round with the color formed from terretta verde. The flesh color is very pale. In his right hand he is holding a little trident, and with his left he is raising his dress. He is standing with both feet on the chariot, which has a covering of red, embroidered with gold and fringed all round with sable. This chariot has four wheels, like that of Mars, but it is drawn by four dolphins, and accompanied by three sea-nymphs, two boys, and a great number of fishes, all wrought with a watercolor similar to the terretta, and very beautiful in expression. After these is seen Carthage in despair, in the form of a woman standing upright with disheveled hair. Her upper garment is green, and it is open from the waist downwards, being lined with red cloth embroidered in gold; and through this opening there may be seen another garment, delicate and of changing purple and white color. The sleeves are red and gold, with certain puffs and floating folds made by the upper garment, and she is stretching out her left hand towards Rome, who is opposite to her, as though saying, "What is thy wish? I have my answer ready;" and in her right hand she holds a naked sword, with an air of frenzy. Her buskins are blue, and she is standing on a rock in the middle of the sea, surrounded by a very beautiful sky.

Rome is a maiden as beautiful as it is possible for man to imagine, with disheveled hair and certain tresses wrought with infinite grace. Her clothing is pure red, with only an embroidered border at the foot; the lining of her robe is yellow, and the garment beneath, which is seen through the opening, is of changing purple and white. Her buskins are green; in her right hand she has a scepter, in her left a globe; and she, too, is standing on a rock, in the midst of a sky that could not be more beautiful than it is. Now, although I have striven to the best of my power to show with what great art these figures were wrought by Attavante, let no one believe that I have said more than a very small part of what might be said about their beauty, seeing that, considering the time, there are no better examples of illumination to be seen, nor any work wrought with more invention, judgment, and design; and the colors, above all, could not be more beautiful or laid in their places more delicately, so perfect is their grace.

 

 

 

LEON BATTISTA ALBERTI (1404-1472)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists



VERY GREAT is the advantage bestowed by learning,without exception, on all those craftsmen who take delight in it, but particularly on sculptors, painters, and architects, for it opens up the way to invention in all the works that are made; not to mention that a man cannot have a perfect judgment, be his natural gifts what they may, if he is deprived of the complemental advantage of being assisted by learning. For who does not know that it is necessary, in choosing sites for buildings, to show enlightenment in the avoidance of danger from pestiferous winds, insalubrious air, and the smells and vapors of impure and unwholesome waters? Who is ignorant that a man must be able, in whatever work he is seeking to carry out, to reject or adopt everything for himself after mature consideration, without having to depend on help from another man's theory? For theory, when a separated from practice, is generally of very little use; but when the two chance to come together, there is nothing that is more helpful to our life, both because art becomes much richer and more perfect by the aid of science, and because the counsels and the writings of learned craftsmen have in themselves greater efficacy and greater credit than the words or works of those who know nothing but mere practice, whether they do it well or ill. And that all this is true is seen manifestly in Leon Batista Alberti, who, having studied the Latin tongue, and having given attention to architecture, to perspective, and to painting, left behind him books written in such a manner, that, since not one of our modern craftsmen has been able to expound these matters in writing, although very many of them in his own country have excelled him in working, it is generally believed; such is the influence of his writings over the pens and speech of the learned;that he was superior to all those who were actually superior to him in work. Wherefore, with regard to name and fame, it is seen from experience that writings have greater power and longer life than anything else; for books go every where with ease, and everywhere they command belief, if only they be truthful and not full of lies. It is no marvel, then, if the famous Leon Batista is known more for his writings than for the work of his hands.

This man, born in Florence of the most noble family of the Alberti, of which we have spoken in another place, devoted himself not only to studying geography and the proportions of antiquities, but also to writing, to which he was much inclined, much more than to working. He was excellent in arithmetic and geometry, and he wrote ten books on architecture in the Latin tongue, which were published by him in 1481, and may now be read in a translation in the Florentine tongue made by the Reverend Maestro Cosimo Bartoli, Provost of S. Giovanni in Florence. He wrote three books on painting, now translated into the Tuscan tongue by Messer Lodovico Domenichi; he composed a treatise on traction and on the rules for measuring heights, as well as the books on the "Vita Civile," and some erotic works in prose and verse; and he was the first who tried to reduce Italian verse to the measure of the Latin, as is seen in the following epistle by his pen:

Questa per estrema miserabile pistola mando

A te, Che spregi miseramente noi.



Arriving at Rome in the time of Nicholas V, who had turned the whole of Rome upside down with his manner of building, Leon Batista, through the agency of Biondo da Forli, who was much his friend, became intimate with that Pope, who had previously carried out all his building after the advice of Bernardo Rossellino, a sculptor and architect of Florence, as will be told in the Life of his brother Antonio. This man, having put his hand to restoring the Pope's Palace and to certain works in S. Maria Maggiore, thenceforward, according to the will of the Pope, ever sought the advice of Leon Batista. Wherefore, using one of them as adviser and the other as executor, the Pope carried out many useful and praiseworthy works, such as the restoring of the conduit of the Acqua Vergine, which was in ruins; and there was made the fountain on the Piazza de' Trevi, with those marble ornaments that are seen there, on which are the arms of that Pontiff and of the Roman people.

Afterwards, having gone to Signor Sigismondo Malatesti of Rimini, he made for him the model of the Church of S. Francesco, and in particular that of the facade, which was made of marble; and likewise the side facing towards the south, which was built with very great arches and with tombs for the illustrious men of that city. In short, he brought that building to such a form that in point of solidity it is one of the most famous temples in Italy. Within it are six most beautiful chapels, one of which, dedicated to S. Jerome, is very ornate; and in it are preserved many relics brought from Jerusalem. In the same chapel are the tombs of the said Signor Sigismondo and of his wife, constructed very richly of marble in the year 1450; on one there is the portrait of Sigismondo himself, and in another part of the work there is that of Leon Batista.

After this, in the year 1457, when the very useful method of printing books was discovered by Johann Gutenberg the German, Leon Batista, working on similar lines, discovered a way of tracing natural perspectives and of effecting the diminution of figures by means of an instrument, and likewise the method of enlarging small things and reproducing them on a greater scale; all ingenious inventions, useful to art and very beautiful.

In Leon Batista's time Giovanni di Paolo Rucellai wished to build the principal facade of S. Maria Novella entirely of marble at his own expense, and he spoke of this to Leon Batista, who was very much his friend; and having received from him not only counsel, but the actual model, Giovanni resolved to have the work executed at all costs, in order to leave it behind him as a memorial of himself. A beginning having been made, therefore, it was finished in the year 1477, to the great satisfaction of all the city, which was pleased with the whole work, but particularly with the door, from which it is seen that Leon Batista took more than ordinary pains. For Cosimo Rucellal, likewise, he made the design for the palace which that man built in the street which is called La Vigna, and that for the loggia which is opposite to it. In the latter, having turned his arches over columns close together, both in the front and at the ends, since he wished to adhere to this plan and not to make one single arch, he had a certain space left over on each side; wherefore he was forced to make certain projections at the inner corners. And then, when he wished to turn the arch of the inner vaulting, having seen that he could not give it the shape of a half-circle, which would have been flat and awkward, he resolved to turn certain small arches at the corners from one projection to another; and this lack of judgment in design gives us to know clearly that practice is necessary as well as science, for the judgment can never become perfect unless science attains to experience by actual work.

It is said that the same man made the design for the house and garden of these Rucellai in the Via della Scala. This house is built with much judgment and very commodious, for, besides many other conveniences, it has two loggie, one facing south and the other west, both very beautiful, and made without arches on the columns, which is the true and proper method that the ancients used, for the reason that the architraves which are placed on the capitals of the columns lie level, whereas a four-sided thing like a curving arch cannot rest on a round column without the corners jutting out over space. The good method, therefore, demands that architraves should rest on columns, and that, when arches are to be turned, piasters and not columns should be made. For the same Rucellai Leon Batista made a chapel in the same manner in S. Pancrazio, which rests on great architraves placed on two columns and two pilasters, piercing the wall of the church below; which is a difficult thing, but safe; wherefore this work is one of the best that this architect ever made. In the middle of this chapel is a tomb of marble, wrought very well in the form of a rather long oval, and similar, as may be read on it, to the Sepulchre of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem.

About the same time Lodovico Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua, wished to build the tribune and the principal chapel in the Nunziata, the Church of the Servi in Florence, after the design and model of Leon Batista; and pulling down a square chapel, old, not very large, and painted in the ancient manner, which stood at the head of the church, he built the said tribune in the bizarre and difficult form of a round temple surrounded by nine chapels, all curving in a round arch, and each within in the shape of a niche. Now, since the arches of the said chapels rest on the pilasters in front, the result is that the stone dressings of the arches, inclining towards the wall, tend to draw ever backwards in order to meet the said wall, which turns in the opposite direction according to the shape of the tribune; wherefore, when the said arches of the chapels are looked at from the side, it appears that they are falling backwards, and that they are clumsy, as indeed they are, although the proportions are correct, and the difficulties of the method must be remembered.

Truly it would have been better if Leon Batista had avoided this method for, although there is some credit for the difficulty of its execution, it is clumsy both in great things and in small, and it cannot have a good result. And that this is true of great things is proved by the great arch in front, which forms the entrance to the said tribune; for, although it is very beauti ful on the outer side, on the inner side, where it has to follow the curve of the chapel, which is round, it appears to be falling backwards and to be extremely clumsy. This Leon Batista would perhaps not have done, if, in addition to science and theory, he had possessed practical experience in working; for another man would have avoided this difficulty, and would have Father aimed at grace and greater beauty for the edifice. The whole work is otherwise in itself very beautiful, bizarre, and diffi cult; and nothing save great courage could have enabled Leon Batista to vault that tribune in those times in the manner that he did. Being then summoned by the same Marquis Lodovico to Mantua, Leon Batista made for him the models of the Church of S. Andrea and of some other works ; and on the road leading from Mantua to Padua there may be seen certain temples built after his manner. Many of the designs and models of Leon Batista were carried into execution by Salvestro Fancelli, a passing good architect and sculptor of Florence, who, according to the desire of the said Leon Batista, executed with judgment and extra ordinary diligence all the works that he undertook in Florence. For those in Mantua he employed one Luca, a Florentine, who, living ever afterwards in that city and dying there, left his name--so Filarete tells us--to the family of the Luchi, which is still there today. It was no small good fortune for him to have friends who understood him and were able and willing to serve him, because architects cannot be always standing over their work, and it is of the greatest use to them to have a faithful and loving assistant; and if any man ever knew it, I know it very well by long experience.

In painting Leon Batista did not do great or very beautiful works, for the few by his hand that are to be seen do not show much perfection; nor is this to be wondered at, seeing that he devoted himself more to his studies than to draughtsmanship. Yet he could express his conceptions well enough in drawing, as may be seen from some sketches by his hand that are in our book, in which there are drawn the Bridge of S. Angelo and the covering that was made for it with his design in the form of a loggia, for protection from the sun in summer and from the rain and wind in winter. This work he was commissioned to execute by Pope Nicholas V, who had intended to carry out many similar works through out the whole of Rome; but death intervened to hinder him. There is a work of Leon Batista's in a little Chapel of Our Lady on the abutment of the Ponte alla Carraja in Florence, namely, an altar predella, containing three little scenes with some perspectives, which he was much more able to describe with the pen than to paint with the brush. In the house of the Palla Rucellai family, also in Florence, there is a portrait of himself made with a mirror ; and a panel with rather large figures in chiaroscuro. He also made a picture of Venice in perspective, with S. Marco, but the figures therein were executed by other masters; and this is one of the best examples of his painting that there are to be seen.

Leon Batista was a person of most honest and laudable ways, the friend of men of talent, and very open and courteous to all; and he lived honorably and like a gentleman--which he was--through the whole course of his life. Finally, having reached a mature enough age, he passed content and tranquil to a better life, leaving a most honorable name behind him.

 

 

 

LAZZARO VASARI

Vasari's Lives of the Artist


TRULY GREAT is the pleasure of those who find one of their ancestors and of their own family to have been distinguished and famous in some profession, whether that of arms, or of letters, or of painting, or any other noble calling whatsoever; and those men who find some honorable mention of one of their forefathers in history, if they gain nothing else thereby, have an incitement to virtue and a bridle to restrain them from doing anything unworthy of a family which has produced illustrious and very famous men. How great is this pleasure, as I said at the beginning, I have experienced for myself in finding that one among my ancestors, Lazzaro Vasari, was famous as a painter in his day not only in his native place, but throughout all Tuscany; and that certainly not without reason, as I could clearly prove, if it were permissible for me to speak as freely of him as I have spoken of others. But, since I was born of his blood, it might be readily believed that I had exceeded all due bounds in praising him ; wherefore, leaving on one side the merits of the man himself and of the family, I will simply tell what I cannot and should not under any circumstances withhold, if I would not fall short of the truth, on which all history hangs.

Lazzaro Vasari, then, a painter of Arezzo, was very much the friend of Piero della Francesca of Borgo a San Sepolcro, and ever held acquiantance with him while Piero was working, as it has been said, in Arezzo. And, as it often comes to pass, this friendship brought him nothing but advantage, for the reason that, whereas Lazzaro had formerly devoted himself only to making little figures for certain works according to the custom of those times, he was persuaded by Piero della Francesca to set himself to do bigger things. His first work in fresco was a S. Vincent in S. Domenico at Arezzo, in the second chapel on the left as one enters the church ; and at his feet he painted himself and his young son Giorgio kneeling, clothed in honourable costumes of those times, and recom mending themselves to the Saint, because the boy had inadvertently cut his face with a knife. Although there is no inscription on this work, yet certain memories of old men belonging to our house, and the fact that it contains the Vasari arms, enable us to attribute it to him without a doubt. Of this there must certainly have been some record in that convent, but their papers and everything else have been destroyed many times by soldiers, and I do not marvel at the lack of records. The manner of Lazzaro was so similar to that of Piero Borghese, that very little difference could be seen between one and the other. Now it was very much the custom at that time to paint various things, such as the quarterings of arms, on the caparisons of horses, according to the rank of those who bore them ; and in this work Lazzaro was an excellent master, and the rather as it was his province to make very graceful little figures, which were very well suited to such caparisons. Lazzaro wrought for Niccolo Piccino and for his soldiers and captains many things full of stories and arms, which were held in great price, with so much profit for himself, that the gains that he drew from this work enabled him to recall to Arezzo many of his brothers, who were living at Cortona and working at the manufacture of earthenware vases. He also brought into his house his nephew, Luca Signorelli of Cortona, his sister's son, whom he placed, by reason of his good intelligence, with Piero Borghese, to the end that he might learn the art of painting; which he contrived to do very well, as will be told in the proper place.

Lazzaro, then, devoting himself continually to the study of art, became every day more excellent, as is shown by some very good drawings by his hand that are in our book. And because he took much pleasure in depicting certain natural effects full of emotions, in which he expressed very well weeping, laughing, crying, fear, trembling, and the like, his pictures are mostly full of such inventions; as may be seen in a little chapel painted in fresco by his hand in San Gimignano at Arezzo, where there is a Crucifix, with the Madonna, St. John, and the Magdalene at the foot of the Cross, in various attitudes, and weeping so naturally, that they acquired credit and fame for him among his fellow-citizens. For the Company of San Antonio, in the same city, he painted a cloth banner that is borne in processions, on which he wrought Jesus Christ at the Column, naked and bound and so lifelike, that He appears to be trembling, and, with His shoulders all drawn together, to be enduring with incredible humility and patience the blows that two Jews are giving Him. One of these, firmly planted on his feet, is plying his scourge with both his hands, turning his back towards Christ in an attitude full of cruelty. The other is seen in profile, raising himself on tip-toe; and grasping the scourge with his hands, and gnashing his teeth, he is wielding it with so great rage that words are powerless to express it. Both these men Lazzaro painted with their garments torn, the better to reveal the nude, contenting himself with covering after a fashion their private and less honorable parts. This work painted on cloth has lasted all these years--which truly makes me marvel--right up to our own day; and by reason of its beauty and excellence the men of that Company caused a copy to be made of it by the French Prior, as we will relate in the proper place.

At Perugia, also, Lazzaro wrought some stories of the Madonna, with a Crucifix, in a chapel beside the Sacristy of the Church of the Servi. In the Pieve of Montepulciano he executed a predella with little figures, and at Castiglione Aretino he painted a panel in distemper in S. Francesco; together with many other works, which, for the sake of brevity, I refrain from describing, more particularly many chests that are in the houses of citizens, which he painted with little figures. In the Palace of the Guelphs in Florence, among the ancient arms, there may be seen some caparisons wrought very well by him. He also painted a banner for the Company of San Sebastiano; containing the said Saint at the column, with certain angels crowning him ; but it is now spoilt and all eaten away by time.

In Lazzaro's time there was one who made glass windows in Arezzo, Fabiano Sassoli, a young Aretine of great excellence in that profession, as is proved by those of his works that are in the Vescovado, the Abbey, the Pieve, and other places in that city; but he knew little of design, and he was very far from reaching the excellence of those that Parri Spinelli made. Wherefore he determined that, even as he knew well how to fire, to put together, and to mount the glass, so he would make some work that should also be passing good with regard to the painting; and he caused Lazzaro to execute for him two cartoons of his own invention, in order to make two windows for the Madonna delle Grazie. Having obtained these from Lazzaro, who was his friend and a courteous craftsman, he made the said windows, which turned out so beautiful and so well wrought that there are not many to which they have to give precedence. In one there is a very beautiful Madonna ; and in the other, which is by far the better of the two, there is the Resurrection of Christ, with an armed man in foreshortening in front of the Sepulchre; and it is a marvel, considering the small size of the window and consequently of the picture, how those figures can appear so large in so small a space. Many other things could I tell of Lazzaro, who was a very good draughtsman, as may be seen from certain drawings in our book; but I think it best for me to pass them by.

Lazzaro was a pleasant person and very witty in his speech; and although he was much given to pleasure, nevertheless he never strayed from the path of right living. His life lasted seventy-two years, and he left a son called Giorgio, who occupied himself continually with the ancient Aretine vases of terracotta; and at the time when Messer Gentile of Urbino, Bishop of Arezzo, was dwelling in that city, Giorgio rediscovered the method of giving red and black colors to terracotta vases, such as those that the ancient Aretines made up to the time of King Porsena. Being a most industrious person, he made large vases with the potter's wheel, one braccio and a half in height, which are still to be seen in his house. Men say that while searching for vases in a place where he thought that the ancients had worked, he found three arches of their ancient furnaces three braccia below the surface in a field of clay near the bridge at Calciarella, a place called by that name ; and round these he found some of the mixture for making the vases, and many broken ones, with four that were whole. These last were given by Giorgio, through the mediation of the Bishop, to the Magnificent Lorenzo de' Medici on his visiting Arezzo; wherefore they were the source and origin of his entering into the service of that most exalted family, in which he remained ever afterwards. Giorgio worked very well in relief, as may be seen from some heads by his hand that are in his house. He had live sons, who all followed the same calling ; two of them, Lazzaro and Bernardo, were good craftsmen, of whom the latter died very young in Rome ; and in truth, by reason of his intelligence, which is known to have been dexterous and ready, if death had not snatched him so prematurely from his house, he would have brought honour to his native place.

The elder Lazzaro died in 1452, and his son, Giorgio, died in 1484 at the age of sixty-eight ; and both were buried in the Pieve of Arezzo at the foot of their own Chapel of San Giorgio, where the following verses were set up after a time in praise of Lazzaro:

ARETII EXULTET TELLUS CLARISSIMA ; NAMQUE EST

REBUS IN ANGUSTIS, IN TENUIQUE LABOR.

VIX OPERUM ISTIUS PARTES COGNOSCERE POSSIS:

MYRMECIDES TACEAT ; CALLICRATES SILEAT.

Finally, the last Giorgio Vasari, writer of this history, in gratitude for the benefits for which he has to thank in great measure the excellence of his ancestors, having received the principal chapel of the said Pieve as a gift from his fellow citizens and from the Wardens of Works and Canons, as was told in the Life of Pietro Laurati, and having brought it to the condition that has been described, has made a new tomb in the middle of the choir, which is behind the altar; and in this he has laid the bones of the said Lazzaro the elder and Giorgio the elder, having re moved them from their former resting-place, and likewise those of all the other members of the said family, both male and female; and thus he has made a new burial-place for all the descendants of the house of Vasari. In like manner, the body of his mother (who died in Florence in the year 1557), after having remained for some years in S. Croce, has been deposited by him in the said tomb, according to her own desire, together with Antonio, her husband and his father, who died of plague at the end of the year 1527. In the predella that is below the panel of the said altar there are portraits from nature, made by the said Giorgio, of Lazzaro, of the elder Giorgio, his grandfather, of his father Antonio, and of his mother Monna Maddalena de' Tacci. And let this be the end of the Life of Lazzaro Vasari, painter of Arezzo.

 

 

 

ANTONELLO DA MESSINA (ca. 1430-1479)

Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists



WHEN I CONSIDER within my own mind the various qualities of the benefits and advantages that have been conferred on the art of painting by many masters who have followed the second manner, I cannot do otherwise than call them, by reason of their efforts, truly industrious and excellent, because they sought above all to bring painting to a better condition, without thinking of discomfort, expense, or any particular interest of their own. They continued, then, to employ no other method of coloring save that of distemper for panels and for canvases, which method had been introduced by Cimabue in the year 1250, when he was working with those Greeks, and had been afterwards followed by Giotto and by the others of whom we have spoken up to the present; and they were still adhering to the same manner of working, although the craftsmen recognized clearly that pictures in distemper were wanting in a certain softness and liveliness, which, if they could be obtained, would be likely to give more grace to their designs, loveliness to their coloring, and greater facility in blending the colors together; for they had ever been wont to hatch their works merely with the point of the brush. But although many had made investigations and sought for something of the sort, yet no one had found any good method, either by the use of liquid varnish or by the mixture of other kinds of colors with the distemper.

Among many who made trial of these and other similar expedients, but all in vain, were Alesso Baldovinetti, Pesello, and many others, not one of whom succeeded in giving to his works the beauty and excellence that he had imagined. And even if they had found what they were seeking, they still lacked the method of making their figures on panel adhere as well as those painted on walls, and also that of making them so that they could be washed without destroying the colors, and would endure any shock in handling. These matters a great number of craftsmen had discussed many times in common, but without result.

This same desire was felt by many lofty minds that were devoted to painting beyond the bounds of Italy--namely, by all the painters of France, Spain, Germany, and other countries. Now, while matters stood thus, it came to pass that, while working in Flanders, Johann of Bruges [Jan van Eyck], a painter much esteemed in those parts by reason of the great mastery that he had acquired in his profession, set himself to make trial of various sorts of colors, and, as one who took delight in alchemy, to prepare many kinds of oil for making varnishes and other things dear to men of inventive brain, as he was. Now, on one occasion, having tken very great pains with the painting of a panel, and having brought it to completion with much diligence, he gave it the varnish and put it to dry in the sun, as was the custom. But, either because the heat was too violent, or perchance because the wood was badly joined together or not seasoned well enough, the said panel opened out at the joinings in a ruinous fashion. Whereupon Johann, seeing the harm that the heat of the sun had done to it, determined to bring it about that the sun should never again do such great damage to his works.

And so, being disgusted no less with his varnish than with working in distemper, he began to look for a method of making a varnish that should dry in the shade, without putting his pictures in the sun. Wherefore, after he had made many experiments with substances both pure and mixed together, he found at length that linseed oil and oil of nuts dried more readily than all the others that he had tried. These, then, boiled together with other mixtures of his, gave him that varnish that he--nay, all the painters of the world--had long desired. Afterwards, having made experiments with many other substances, he saw that mixing the olors with those oils gave them a very solid consistency, not only securing the work, when dried, from all danger from water, but also making the color so brilliant as to give it lustre by itself without varnish; and what appeared most marvellous to him was this,that it could be blended infinitely better than distemper. Rejoicing greatly over such a discovery, as was only reasonable, Johann made a beginning with many works and filled all those parts with them, with incredible pleasure for others and very great profit for himself; and, assisted by experience from day to day, he kept on ever making greater and better works.

The fame of this invention soon spread not only through Flanders, but to Italy and many other parts of the world, and great desire was aroused in other artists to know how he brought his works to such perfection. And seeing his pictures, and not knowing how they were done, finally they were obliged to give him great praise, while at the same time they envied him with a virtuous envy, especially because for a time he would not let any one see him work, or teach any one his secret. But when he was grown old he at last favoured Roger of Bruges, his pupil, with the knowledge, who passed it on to his disciple Ausse [Hans Memling?] and to the others whom we have mentioned in speaking of coloring in oil with regard to painting. But although the merchants bought the paintings and sent them to princes and other great personages to their great profit, the thing was not known beyond Flanders; and although these pictures had a very pungent odor given to them by the mixture of colors and oils, particularly when they were new, so that it would seem the secret might have been discovered; but for many years it was not.

It came about then that some Florentines who traded between Flanders and Naples sent a picture by Johann containing many figures painted in oil to King Alfonso I of Naples, and the picture pleasing him from the beauty of the figures and the new method of colouring, all the painters in the kingdom came together to see it, and it was highly praised by all. Now there was a one Antonello da Messina, a man of an acute mind and well skilled in his art, who had studied drawing [disegno] in Rome for many years and afterwards retired to Palermo, where he had worked for many years, and finally came back to Messina his native place, where he had confirmed by his works the good opinion that his countrymen had of his excellent ability in painting. This man, then, going once on some business of his own from Sicily to Naples, heard that the said King Alfonso had received from Flanders the aforesaid panel by the hand of Johann of Bruges, painted in oil in such a manner that it could be washed, would endure any shock, and was in every way perfect. Thereupon, having contrived to obtain a view of it, he was so strongly impressed by the liveliness of the colors and by the beauty and harmony of that painting, that he put on one side all other business an every thought and went off to Flanders.

Having arrived in Bruges, he became very intimate with the said Johann, making him presents of many drawings in the Italian manner and other things, insomuch that the latter, moved by this and by the respect shown by Antonello, and being now old, was content that he should see his method of coloring in oil; wherefore Antonello did not depart from that place until he had gained a thorough knowledge of that way of coloring, which he desired so greatly to know. And no long time after, Johann having died, Antonello returned from Flanders in order to revisit his native country and to communicate to all Italy a secret so useful, beautiful, and advantageous. Then, having stayed a few months in Messina, he went to Venice, where, being a man much given to pleasure and very licentious, he resolved to take up his abode and finish his life, having found there a mode of living exactly suited to his taste. And so, putting himself to work, he made there many pictures in oil according to the rules that he had learned in Flanders; these are scattered throughout the houses of noblemen in that city, where they were held in great esteem by reason of the novelty of the work. He made many others, also, which were sent to various places. Finally, having acquired fame and great repute there, he was commissioned to paint a panel that was destined for San Cassiano, a parish church in that city. This panel was wrought by Antonio with all his knowledge and with no sparing of time; and when he finished, by reason of the novelty of the coloring and the beauty of the figures, which he had made with good design, it was much commended and held in very great price. And afterwards, when men heard of the new secret that he had brought from Flanders to that city, he was ever loved and cherised by the magnificent noblemen of Venice throughout the whole course of his life.

Among the other painters of name who were then in Venice, the chief was a Master Domenico. He received Antonello when he came to Venice with as much attention and courtesy as if he were a very dear friend. For this reason Antonello, who would not be beaten in courtesy, by Master Domenico, after a few months taught him the secret of coloring in oil. NOthing could have been dearer to Domenico than this extraordinary courtesy and friendliness; and well might he hold it dear, since it caused him, as he had foreseen, to be greatly honored ever afterwards in his native city. Grossly decieved, in truth, are those who think that, while they grudge to others even those things that cost them nothing, they should be served by all for the sake of their sweet smile, as the saying goes. The courtesies of Maestro Domenico Viniziano wrested from the hands of Antonello that which he had won for himself with so much fatigue and labor, and which he would probably have refused to hand over to any other even for a large sum of money. But since, with regard to Maestro Domenico, we will mention in due time all that he wrought in Florence, and who were the men with whom he generously shared the secret that he had received as a courteous gift from another, let us pass on to Antonello.

After the panel for San Cassiano, he made many pictures and portraits for various Venetian noblemen. Messer Bernardo Vecchietti, the Florentine, has a painting by his hand of St. Francis and St. Dominic, both in the one picture, and very beautiful. Then, after receiving a commission from the Signoria to paint certain scenes in their Palace (which they had refused to give to Francesco di Monsignore of Verona, although he had been greatly favored by the Duke of Mantua), he fell sick of a pleurisy and died at the age of forty-nine, without having set a hand to the work. he was greatly honored in his obsequies by the craftsmen, by reason of the gift bestowed by him on art in the form of the new manner of coloring, as the following epitaph testifies:


D.O. M.
ANTONIUS PICTOR, PRAEXIPUUM MESSANAE SUAE ET SICILIAE TOTIUS
ORNAMENTUM, HAC HUMO CONTEGITUR. NON SOLUM SUIS PICTURS, IN
QUIBUS SINGULARE ARTIFICIUM ET VENUSTAS FUIT, SED ET QUOD
COLORIBUS OLEO MISCENDIS SPLENDOREM ET PERPETUITATEM
PRIMUS ITALICAE CONTULIT, SUMMO SEMPER ARTIFICIUM
STUDIO CELEBRATUS.


The death of Antonello was a great grief to his many friends, and particularly to the sculptor Andrea Riccio, who wrought the nude marble statues of Adam and Eve, held to be very beautiful, which are seen in the courtyard of the Palace of the Signoria in Venice. Such was the end of Antonello, to whom our craftsmen should certainly feel no less indebted for having brought the method of coloring in oil into Italy than they should to Johann of Bruges for having discovered it in Flanders. Both of them benefited and enriched the art; for it is by means of this invention that craftsmen have since become so excellent, that they have been able to make their figures all but alive. Their services should be all the more valued, inasmuch as there is no writer to be found who attributes this manner of coloring to the ancients; and if it could be known for certain that it did not exist among them, this age would surpass all the excellence of the ancients by virtue of this perfection. Since, however, even as nothing is said that has not been said before, so perchance nothing is done that has not been done before, I will let this pass without saying more; and praising consummately those who, in addition to draughtsmanship, are ever adding something to art, I will proceed to write of others.

 

 

 

ALESSO BALDOVINETTI (ca. 1425-1499)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists



So great an attraction has the noble art of painting, that many eminent men have deserted the callings in which they might have become very rich, and, drawn by their inclination against the wishes of their parents, have followed the promptings of their nature and devoted themselves to painting, to sculpture, or to some similar pursuit. And, to tell the truth, if a man estimates riches at their true worth and no higher, and regards excellence as the end of all his actions, he acquires treasures very different from silver and gold; not to mention that he is never afraid of those things that rob us in a moment of those earthly riches, which are foolishly esteemed by men at more than their true valude. Recognizing this, Alesso Baldovinetti, drawn by a natural inclination, abandoned commerce--in which his relatives had ever occupied themselves, insomuch that by practising it honorably they had acquired riches and lived like noble citizens--and devoted himself to painting, in which he showed a peculiar ability to counterfeit very well the objects of nature, as may be seen in the pictures by his hand.

This man, while still very young, and almost against the wish of his father, who would have liked him to give his attention to commerce, devoted himself to drawing; and in a short time he made so much progress therein, that his father was content to allow him to follow the inclination of his nature. The first work that Alesso executed in fresco was in Santa Maria Nuova, on the front wall of the Chapel of San Gilio, which was much extolled at that time, because, among other things, it contained a Sant'Egidio that was held to be a very beautiful figure. In like manner he painted in Santa Trinita the chapel in fresco and the chief panel in distemper, for Messer Gherardo and Messer Bongianni Gianfigliazzi, most honorable and wealthy gentlemen of Florence. In this chapel Alesso painted some scenes from the Old Testament, which he first sketched in fresco and then finished on the dry, tempering his colors with yolk of egg mingled with a liquid varnish prepared over a fire. This vehicle, he thought, would preserve the paintings from the damp; but it was so strong that where it was laid on too thickly the work has peeled off in many places; and thus, whereas he thought he had found a rare and very beautiful secret, he was deceived in his hopes.

He drew many portraits from nature, and in the scene of the Queen of Sheba going to hear the wisdom of Solomon, which he painted in the aforesaid chapel, he portrayed the Magnificent Lorenzo de'Medici, father of Pope Leo X, and Lorenzo della Volpaia, a most excellent maker of clocks and a very fine astrologer, who was the man who made for the said Lorenzo de'Medici the very beautiful clock that the Lord Duke Cosimo now has in his palace; in which clock all th wheels of the planets are perpetually moving, which is a rare thing, and the first that was ever made in this manner. In the scene opposite to that one Alesso portrayed Luigi Guicciardini the elder, Luca Pitti, Diotisalvi Neroni, and Giuliano de'Medici, father of Pope Clement VII; and beside the stone pilaster he painted Gherardo Gianfigliazzi the elder, the Chevalier Messer Bongianni, who is wearing a blue robe, with a chain round his neck, and Jacopo and Giovanni, both of the same family. Near these are Filippo Strozzi the elder and the astrologer Messer Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli. On the vaulting are four patriarchs, and on the panel is the Trinity, with San Giovanni Gualberto kneeling, and another Saint. All these portraits are very easily recognized from their similarity to those that are seen in other works, particularly in the houses of their descendants, whether in gesso or in painting. Alesso gave much time to this work, because he was very patient and liked to execute his works at his ease and convenience.

He drew very well, as may be seen from a mule drawn from nature in our book, wherein the curves of the hair over the whole body are done with much patience and with beautiful grace. Alesso was very diligent in his works, and he strove to be an imitator of all the minute details that Mother Nature creates. He had a manner somewhat dry and harsh, particularly in draperies. He took much delight in making landscapes, copying them from the life of nature exactly as they are; wherefore there are seen in his pictures streams, bridges, rocks, herbs, fruits, roads, fields, cities, castles, sand, and an infinity of other things of the kind. In Ss Annunziata at Florence, in the court, exactly behind the wall where the Annunciation itself is painted, he painted a scene in fresco, retouched on the dry, in which there is a Nativity of Christ, wrought with so great labor and diligence that one could count the stalks and knots of the straw in a hut that is there; and he also counterfeited there the ruin of a house with the stones mouldering, all eaten away and consumed by rain and frost, and a thick ivy root that covers a part of the wall, wherein it is to be observed that with great patience he made the outer side of the leaves of one shade of green, and the under side of another, as Nature does, neither more nor less; and, in addition to the shepherds, he made a serpent, or rather, a grass-snake, crawling up a wall, which is most life-like.

It is said that Alesso took great pains to discover the true method of making mosaic, but that he never succeeded in anything that he wanted to do, until at length he came across a German who was going to Rome to obtain some indulgences. This man he took into his house, and he gained from him a complete knowledge of the method and the rules for executing mosaic, insomuch that afterwards, having set himself boldly to work, he made some angels holding the head of Christ over the bronze doors of San Giovanni, in the arches on the inner side. His good method of working becoming known by reason of this work, he was commissioned by the Consuls of the Guild of the Merchants to clean and renovate all the vaulting of that church, which had been wrought, as has been said, by Andrea Tafi; for it had been spoilt in many places, and was in need of being renewed and restored. This he did with love and diligence, availing himself for that purpose of a wooden staging made for him by Cecca, who was the best architect of that age. Alesso taught the craft of mosaic to Domenico Ghirlandajo, who portrayed him afterwards near himself in the Chapel of the Tornabuoni in Santa Maria Novella, in the scene where Joachim is driven from the Temple, in the form of a clean-shaven old man with a red cap on his head.

Alesso lived eighty years, and when he began to draw near to old age, as one who wished to be able to attend with a quiet mind to the studies of his profession, he retired to the Hospital of San Paolo, as many men are wont to do. And perhaps to the end that he might be received more willingly and better treated (or it may have been by chance), he had a great chest carried into his rooms in the said hospital, giving out that it contained a good sum of money. Wherefore the Director and the other officials of the hospital, believing this to be true, and knowing that he had bequeathed to the hospital all that might be found after his death, showed him all the attention in the world. But on the death of Alesso, there was nothing found in it save drawings, portraits on paper, and a little book that explained the preparation of the stones and stucco for mosaic and the method of using them. Nor was it any marvel, so men said, that no money was found there, because he was so open-handed that he had nothing that did not belong as much to his friends as to himself.

A disciple of Alesso was the Florentine Graffione, who wrought in fresco, over the door of the Innocenti, that figure of God the Father and those angels that are still there. It is said that the Magnificent Lorenzo de'Medici, conversing one day with Graffione, who was an original, said to him, "I wish to have all the ribs of the inner cupola adorned with mosaic and stucco work"; and that Graffione replied, "You have not the masters." To which Lorenzo answered, "We have enough money to make some." Graffione instantly retorted, "Ah, Lorenzo, 'tis not the money that makes the masters, but the masters that make the money." This man was a bizarre and fantastic person. In his house he would never eat off any tablecloth save his own cartoons, and he slept in no other bed than a chest filled with straw, without sheets.

But to return to Alesso: he took leave of his art and of his life in 1448, [SIC] and he was honorably buried by his relatives and fellow-citizens.

 

 

 

BELLANO DA PADOVA: BARTOLOMMEO BELLANO (1435-1496/97)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists



SO GREAT IS THE EFFECT of counterfeiting anything with love and diligence, that very often, when the manner of any master of these our arts has been well imitated by those who take delight in his works, the imitation resembles the thing imitated so closely, that no difference is discerned save by those who have a sharpmess of eye beyond the ordinary; and it rarely comes to pass that a loving disciple fails to learn, at least in great measure, the manner of his master.

Bellano da Padova strove with so great diligence to countefeit the manner and the method of Donato [Donatello] in sculpture, particularly in bronze, that in his native city of Padua he was left the heir to the excellence of the Florentine Donatello; and to this witness is borne by his works in the Santo, which nearly every man that has not a complete knowledge of the matter attributes to Donato, so that every day many are deceived, if they are not informed of the truth. This man, then, fired by the great praise that he heard given to Donato, the sculptor of Florence, who was then working in Padua, and by a desire for those profits that come into the hands of good craftsmen through the excellence of their works, placed himself under Donato in order to learn sculpture, and devoted himself to it in such a manner, that, with the aid of so great a master, he finally achieved his purpose; wherefore, before Donatello had finished his works and departed from Padua, Vellano had made such great progress in the art that great expectations were already entertained about him, and he inspired such confidence in his master as to induce him (and that rightly) to leave his pupil all the equipment, designs, and models for the scenes in bronze that were to be made round the choir of the Santo in that city.

This was the reason why, when Donato departed, as has been said, the commission for the whole of that work was publicly given to Bellano in his native city, to his very great honor. Whereupon he made all the scenes in bronze that are on the outer side of the choir of the Santo, wherein, among others, there is the scene of Samson embracing the column and destroying the temple of the Philistines, in which one sees the fragments of the ruin building duly falling, and the death of so many people, not to mention a great diversity of attitudes among them as they die, some through the ruins, and some through fear; and all this Vellano represented marvellously. In the same place are certain works in wax and the models for these scenes, and likewise some bronze candelabra wrought by the same man with much judgment and invention. From what we see, this craftsman appears to have had a very great desire to attain to the standard of Donatello; but he did not succeed, for he aimed too high in a most difficult art.

Bellano also took delight in architecture, and was more than passing good in that profession; wherefore, having gone to Rome in the year 1464, at the time of Pope Paul the Venetian, for which Pontiff Giuliano da Maiano was architect in the building of the Vatican, he too was employed in many things; and by his hand, among other works that he made, are the arms of that Pontiff which are seen there with his name beside them. he also wrought many of the ornaments of the Palace of San Marco for the same Pope, whose head, by the hand of Bellano, is at the top of the staircase. For that building the same man designed stupendous courtyard, with a commodious and elegant flight of steps, but the death of the Pontiff intervened to hinder the completion of the whole. The while that he stayed in Rome, Bellano made many small things in marble and in bronze for the said Pope and for others, but I have not been able to find them. In Perugia the same master made a bronze statue larger than life, in which he portrayed the said Pope from nature, seated in his pontifical robes; and at the foot of this he placed his name and the year when it was made. This figure is in a niche of several kinds of stone, wrought with much diligence, without the door of San Lorenzo, which is the Duomo of that city. The same man made many medals, some of which are still to be seen, particularly that of the aforesaid Pope, and those of Antonio Rosello of Arezzo and Batista Platina, both Secretaries to that Pontiff.

Having returned after these works to Padua with a very good name, Bellano was held in esteem not only in his native city, but in all Lombardy and in the March of Treviso, both because up to that time there had been no craftsmen of excellence in those parts, and because he had very great skill in the founding of metals. Afterwards, when Bellano was already old, the Signoria of Venice determined to have an equestrian statue of Bartolommeo da Bergamo made in bronze; and they allotted the horse to Andrea del Verrocchio of Florence, and the figure to Bellano. On hearing this, Andrea, who thought that the whole work should fall to him, knowing himself to be, as indeed he was, a better master than Bellano, flew into such a rage that he broke up and destroyed the whole model fo the horse that he had already finished, and went off to Florence. But after a time, being recalled by the Signoria, who gave him the whole work to do, he returned once more to finish it; at which Bellano felt so much displeasure that he departed from Venice, without saying a word or expressing his resentment in any manner, and returned to Padua, where he afterwards lived in honor for the rest of his life, contenting himself with the works that he had made and with being loved and honored, as he ever was, in his native place. He died at the age of ninety-two, and was buried in the Santo with that distinction which his excellence, having honored both himself and his country, had deserved. His portrait was sent to me from Padua by certain friends of mine, who had it, so they told me, from the very learned and very reverend Cardinal Bembo, whose love of our arts was no less remarkable than his supremacy over all other men of our age in all the rarest qualities and gifts both of mind and body.

 

 

 

FRA FILIPPO LIPPI (1406-1469)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists





Fra FILIPPO DI TOMMASO LIPPI, a Carmelite, was born in Florence in a street called Ardiglione, below the Canto alla Cuculia and behind the Convent of the Carmelites. By the death of his father Tommaso he was left a poor little orphan at the age of two, with no one to take care of him, for his mother had also died not long after giving him birth. He was left, therefore, in the charge of one Mona Lapaccia, his aunt, sister of his father, who brought him up with very great inconvenience to herself; and when he was eight years of age and she could no longer support him, she made him a friar in the aforesaid Convent of the Carmine. Living there, in proportion as he showed himself dexterous and ingenious in the use of his hands, so was he dull and incapable of making any progress in the learning of letters, so that he would never apply his intelligence to them or regard them as anything save his enemies. This boy, who was called by his secular name of Filippo, was kept with others in the novitiate under the discipline of the schoolmaster, in order to see what he could do; but in place of studying he would never do anything save deface his own books and those of the others with caricatures. Whereupon the Prior resolved to give him every opportunity and convenience for learn ing to paint.

There was then in the Carmine a chapel that had been newly painted by Masaccio, which, being very beautiful, pleased Fra Filippo so greatly that he would haunt it every day for his recreation; and continually practicing there in company with many young men, who were ever drawing in it, he surpassed the others by a great measure in dexterity and knowledge, insomuch that it was held certain that in time he would do something marvelous. Nay, not merely in his maturity, but even in his early childhood, he executed so many works worthy of praise that it was a miracle. It was no long time before he wrought in terra-verde in the cloister, close to the Consecration painted by Masaccio, a Pope confirming the Rule of the Carmelites; and he painted pictures in fresco on various walls in many parts of the church, particularly a S. John the Baptist with some scenes from his life. And thus, making progress every day, he had learnt the manner of Masaccio very well, so that he made his works so similar to those of the other that many said that the spirit of Masaccio had entered into the body of Fra Filippo. On a pilaster in the church, close to the organ, he made a figure of S. Marziale which brought him infinite fame, for it could bear comparison with the works that Masaccio had painted. Wherefore, hearing himself so greatly praised by the voices of all, at the age of seventeen he boldly threw off his monastic habit.

Now, chancing to be in the Marches of Ancona, he was disporting himself one day with some of his friends in a little boat on the sea, when they were all captured together by the Moorish galleys that were scouring those parts, and taken to Barbary, where each of them was put in chains and held as a slave; and thus he remained in great misery for eighteen months. But one day, seeing that he was thrown much into contact with his master, there came to him the opportunity and the whim to make a portrait of him; whereupon, taking a piece of dead coal from the fire, with this he portrayed him at full length on a white wall in his Moorish costume. When this was reported by the other slaves to the master (for it appeared a miracle to them all, since drawing and painting were not known in these parts), it brought about his liberation from the chains in which he had been held for so long. Truly glorious was it for this art to have caused one to whom the power of condemnation and punishment was granted by law, to do the very opposite—nay, in place of inflicting pains and death, to consent to show friendliness and grant liberty! After having wrought some works in color or his master, he was brought safely to Naples, where he painted for King Alfonso, then Duke of Calabria, a panel in distemper for the Chapel of the Castle, where the guard-room now is.

After this there came upon him a desire to return to Florence, where he remained for some months. There he wrought a very beautiful panel for the high-altar of the Nuns of S. Ambrogio, which made him very dear to Cosimo de' Medici, who became very much his friend for this reason. He also painted a panel for the Chapter-house of S. Croce, and another that was placed in the chapel of the house of the Medici, on which he painted the Nativity of Christ. For the wife of the said Cosimo, likewise, he painted a panel with the same Nativity of Christ and with S. John the Baptist, which was to be placed in the Hermitage of Camaldoli, in one of the hermits' cells, dedicated to S. John the Baptist, which she had caused to be built in proof of her devotion. And he painted some little scenes that were sent by Cosimo as a gift to Pope Eugenius IV, the Venetian; wherefore Fra Filippo acquired great favor with that Pope by reason of this work.

It is said that he was so amorous, that, if he saw any women who pleased him, and if they were to be won, he would give all his possessions to win them; and if he could in no way do this, he would paint their portraits and cool the flame of his love by reasoning with himself. So much a slave was he to this appetite, that when he was in this humor he gave little or no attention to the works that he had undertaken; where fore on one occasion Cosimo de' Medici, having commissioned him to paint a picture, shut him up in his own house, in order that he might not go out and waste his time; but after staying there for two whole days, being driven forth by his amorous—nay, beastly— passion, one night he cut some ropes out of his bed-sheets with a pair of scissors and let himself down from a window, and then abandoned himself for many days to his pleasures. Thereupon, since he could not be found, Cosimo sent out to look for him, and finally brought him back to his labor; and thenceforward Cosimo gave him liberty to go out when he pleased, repenting greatly that he had previously shut him up, when he thought of his madness and of the danger that he might run. For this reason he strove to keep a hold on him for the future by kindnesses; and so he was served by Filippo with greater readiness, and was wont to say that the virtues of rare minds were celestial beings, and not slavish hacks.

For the Church of S. Maria Primerana, on the Piazza of Fiesole, he painted a panel containing the Annunciation of Our Lady by the Angel, which shows very great diligence, and there is such beauty in the figure of the Angel that it appears truly a celestial thing. For the Nuns of the Murate he painted two panels: one, containing an Annunciation, is placed on the high-altar; and the other is on an altar in the same church, and contains stories of S. Benedict and S. Bernard. In the Palace of the Signoria he painted an Annunciation on a panel, which is over a door; and over another door in the said Palace he also painted a S. Bernard. For the Sacristy of S. Spirito in Florence he executed a panel with the Madonna surrounded by angels, and with saints on either side— a rare work, which has ever been held in the greatest veneration by the masters of these our arts. In the Chapel of the Wardens of Works in S. Lorenzo he wrought a panel with another Annunciation.; with one for the Della Stufa Chapel, which he did not finish.

For a chapel in S. Apostolo, in the same city, he painted a panel with some figures round a Madonna. In Arezzo, by order of Messer Carlo Marsuppini, he painted the panel of the Chapel of S. Bernardo for the Monks of Monte Olive to, depicting therein the Coronation of Our Lady, sur rounded by many saints; which picture has remained so fresh, that it appears to have been made by the hand of Fra Filippo at the present day. It was then that he was told by the aforesaid Messer Carlo to give attention to the painting of the hands, seeing that his works were much criticized in this respect; wherefore from that day onwards, in painting hands, Fra Filippo covered the greater part of them with draperies or with some other contrivance, in order to avoid the aforesaid criticism. In this work he portrayed the said Messer Carlo from the life.

For the Nuns of Annalena in Florence he painted a Manger on a panel; and some of his pictures are still to be seen in Padua. He sent two little scenes with small figures, painted by his hand, to Cardinal Barbo in Rome; these were very excellently wrought, and executed with great diligence. Truly marvelous was the grace with which he painted, and very perfect the harmony that he gave to his works, for which he has been ever esteemed by craftsmen and honored by our modern masters with consummate praise; nay, so long as the voracity of time allows his many excellent labors to live, he will be held in veneration by every age. In Prato, near Florence, where he had some relatives, he stayed for many months, executing many works throughout that whole district in company with Fra Diamante, a friar of the Carmine, who had been his comrade in the novitiate. After this, having been commissioned by the Nuns of S. Margherita to paint the panel of their high-altar, he was working at this when there came before his eyes a daughter of Francesco Buti, a citizen of Florence, who was living there as a ward or as a novice. Having set eyes on Lucrezia (for this was the name of the girl), who was very beautiful and graceful, Fra Filippo contrived to persuade the nuns to allow him to make a portrait of her for a figure of Our Lady in the work that he was doing for them. With this opportunity he became even more enamored of her, and then wrought upon her so mightily, what with one thing and another, that he stole her away from the nuns and took her off on the very day when she was going to see the Girdle of Our Lady, an honored relic of that township, being exposed to view. Whereupon the nuns were greatly disgraced by such an event, and her father, Francesco, who never smiled again, made every effort to recover her; but she, either through fear or for some other reason, refused to come back—nay, she insisted on staying with Filippo, to whom she bore a male child, who was also called Filippo, and who became, like his father, a very excellent and famous painter.

In San Domenico, in the aforesaid Prato, there are two of his panels; and in the tramezzo of the Church of S. Francesco there is a Madonna, in the removing of which from the place where it was at first, it was cut out from the wall on which it was painted, in order not to spoil it, and bound round with wood, and then transported to that wall of the church where it is still to be seen to-day. In a courtyard of the Ceppo of Francesco di Marco, over a well, there is a little panel by the hand of the same man, containing the portrait of the said Francesco di Marco, the creator and founder of that holy place. In the Pieve of the said t ownship, on a little panel over the side-door as one ascends the steps, he painted the Death of St. Bernard, by the touch of whose bier many cripples are being restored to health. In this picture are friars bewailing the death of their master, and it is a marvelous thing to see the beautiful expression of the sadness of lamentation in the heads, counterfeited with great art and resemblance to nature. Here there are draperies in the form of friars' gowns with most beautiful folds, which deserve infinite praise for their good design, coloring, and composition; not to mention the grace and proportion that are seen in the said work, which was executed with the greatest delicacy by the hand of Fra Filippo.

The Wardens of Works for the said Pieve, in order to have some memorial of him, commissioned him to paint the Chapel of the High-Altar in that place; and he gave great proof of his worth in that work, which, besides its general excellence and masterliness, contains most admirable draperies and heads. He made the figures therein larger than life, thus introducing to our modern craftsmen the method of giving grandeur to the manner of our own day. There are certain figures with garments little used in those times, whereby he began to incite the minds of men to depart from that simplicity which should be called rather old-fashioned than ancient. In the same work are the stories of St. Stephen (the titular Saint of the said Pieve), distributed over the wall on the right hand- namely, the Disputation, the Stoning, and the Death of that Protomartyr, in whose face, as he disputes with the Jews, Filippo depicted so much zeal and so much fervor, that it is a difficult thing to imagine it, and much more to express it; and in the faces and the various attitudes of the Jews he revealed their hatred, disdain, and anger at seeing them selves overcome by him. Even more clearly did he make manifest the brutality and rage of those who are slaying him with stones, which they have grasped, some large, some small, with a horrible gnashing of teeth, and with gestures wholly cruel and enraged. None the less, amid so terrible an onslaught, St. Stephen, raising his countenance with great calmness to Heaven, is seen making supplication to the Eternal Father with the warmest love and fervor for the very men who are slaying him. All these conceptions are truly very beautiful, and serve to show to others how great is the value of invention and of knowing how to express emotions in pictures; and this he remembered so well, that in those who are burying S. Stephen he made gestures so dolorous, and some faces so afflicted and broken with weeping, that it is scarcely possible to look at them without being moved.

On the other side he painted the Birth of St. John the Baptist, the Preaching, the Baptism, the Feast of Herod, and the Beheading of the Saint. Here, in his countenance as he is preaching, there is seen the Divine Spirit; with various emotions in the multitude that is listening, joy and sorrow both in the women and in the men, who are all hanging intently on the teaching of St. John. In the Baptism are seen beauty and goodness; and, in the Feast of Herod, the majesty of the banquet, the dexterity of Herodias, the astonishment of the company, and their immeasurable grief when the severed head is presented in the charger. Round the banqueting-table are seen innumer able figures with very beautiful attitudes, and with good execution both in the draperies and in the expressions of the faces. Among these, with a mirror, he portrayed himself dressed in the black habit of a prelate; and he made a portrait of his disciple Fra Diamante among those who are bewailing St. Stephen. This work is in truth the most excellent of all his paintings, both for the reasons mentioned above, and because he made the figures somewhat larger than life, which encouraged those who came after him to give grandeur to their manner. So greatly was he esteemed for his excellent gifts, that many circumstances in his life that were worthy of blame were passed over in consideration of the eminence of his great talents. In this work he portrayed Messer Carlo, the natural son of Cosimo de' Medici, who was then Provost of that church, which received great benefactions from him and from his house.

In the year 1463, when he had finished this work, he painted a panel in tempera, containing a very beautiful Annunciation, for the Church of San Jacopo in Pistoia, by order of Messer Jacopo Bellucci, of whom he made therein a most vivid portrait from the life. In the house of Pulidoro Bracciolini there is a picture by his hand of the Birth of Our Lady; and in the Hall of the Tribunal of Eight in Florence he painted in distemper a Madonna with the Child in her arms, on a lunette. In the house of Lodovico Capponi there is another picture with a very beautiful Madonna; and in the hands of Bernardo Veechietti, a gentleman of Florence and a man of a culture and excellence beyond my power of expression, there is a little picture by the hand of the same man, containing a very beautiful St. Augustine engaged in his studies. Even better is a St. Jerome in Penitence, of the same size, in the guardaroba of Duke Cosimo; for if Fra Filippo was a rare master in all his pictures, he surpassed himself in the small ones, to which he gave such grace and beauty that nothing could be better, as may be seen in the predelle of all the panels that he painted. In short, he was such that none surpassed him i n his own times, and few in our own; and Michelagnolo has not only always extolled him, but has imitated him in many things.

For the Church of San Domenico Vecchio in Perugia, also, he painted a panel that was afterwards placed on the high-altar, containing a Madonna, St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Louis, and St. Anthony the Abbot. Messer Alessandro degli Alessandri, a Chevalier of that day and a friend of Filippo, caused him to paint a panel for the church of his villa at Vincigliata on the hill of Fiesole, containing a St. Laurence and other Saints, among whom he portrayed Alessandro and two sons of his. Fra Filippo was much the friend of gay spirits, and he ever lived a joyous life. He taught the art of painting to Fra Diamante, who executed many pictures in the Carmine at Prato; and he did himself great credit by the close imitation of his master's manner, for he attained to the greatest perfection. Sandro Botticelli, Pesello, and Jacopo del Sellaio of Florence worked with Fra Filippo in their youth (the last-named painted two panels in San Friano, and one wrought in distemper in the Carmine), with a great number of other masters, to whom he ever taught the art with great friendliness. He lived honorably by his labors, spending extraordinary sums on the pleasures of love, in which he continued to take delight right up to the end of his life. He was requested by the Commune of Spoleto, through the mediation of Cosimo de' Medici, to paint the chapel in their principal church (dedicated to Our Lady), which he brought very nearly to completion, working in company with Fra Diamante, when death intervened to prevent him from finishing it. Some say, indeed, that in consequence of his great inclination for his blissful amours some relations of the lady that he loved had him poisoned.

Fra Filippo finished the course of his life in 1438, at the age of fifty- seven, and left a will entrusting to Fra Diamante his son Filippo, a little boy of ten years of age, who learnt the art of painting from his guardian. Fra Diamante returned with him to Florence, carrying away three hundred ducats, which remained to be received from the Commune of Spoleto for the work done; with these he bought some property for himself, giving but a little share to the boy. Filippo was placed with Sandro Botticelli, who was then held a very good master; and the old man was buried in a tomb of red and white marble, which the people of Spoleto caused to be erected in the church that he had been painting.

His death grieved many friends, particularly Cosimo de' Medici, as well as Pope Eugenius, who offered in his lifetime to give him a dispensation, so that he might make Lucrezia, the daughter of Francesco Buti, his legitimate wife; but this he refused to do, wishing to have complete liberty for himself and his appetites. While Sixtus IV was alive, Lorenzo de' Medici became ambassador to the Florentines, and made the journey to Spoleto, in order to demand from that community the body of Fra Filippo, to the end that it might be laid in Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence; but their answer to him was that they were lacking in ornaments, and above all in distinguished men, for which reason they demanded Filippo from him as a favor in order to honor themselves, adding that since there was a vast number of famous men in Florence, nay, almost a superfluity, he should consent to do without this one; and more than this he could not obtain. It is true, indeed, that afterwards, having determined to do honor to him in the best way that he could, he sent his son Filippino to Rome to paint a chapel for the Cardinal of Naples; and Filippino, passing through Spoleto, caused a tomb of marble to be erected for him at the commission of Lorenzo, beneath the organ and ever the sacristy, on which he spent one hundred ducats of gold, which were paid by Nofri Tornabuoni, master of the bank of the Medici; and Lorenzo also caused Messer Angelo Poliziano to write the following epigram, which is carved on the said tomb in antique lettering:

CONDITUS HIC EGO SUM PICTURAE FAMA PHILIPPOS;

NULLI IGNOTA MEAE EST GRATIA MIRA MANUS.

ARTIFICES POTUI DIGITIS ANIMARE COLORES,

SPERATAQUE ANIMOS FALLERE VOCE DIU.

IPSA MEIS STUPUIT NATURA EXPRESSA FIGURIS,

MEQUE SUIS FASSA EST ARTIRUS ESSE PAREM.

MARMOREO TUMULO MEDICES LAURENTIUS HIC ME

CONDIDIT; ANTE HUMILI PULVERE TECTUS ERAM.

Fra Filippo was a very good draughtsman, as may be seen in our book of drawings by the most famous painters, particularly in some wherein the panel of S. Spirito is drawn, with others showing the chapel in Prato.

 

 

 

LIVES OF PAOLO ROMANO AND MAESTRO MINO, [MINO DEL REGNO, OR MINO DEL REAME] SCULPTORS
and CHIMENTI CAMICIA, ARCHITECT

Vasari's Lives of the Artists





WE HAVE NOW TO SPEAK of Paolo Romano and Mino del Regno, who were contemporaries and of the same profession, but very different in character and in knowledge of art, for Paolo was modest and quite able, and Mino much less able, but so presumptuous and arrogant, that he was not only overbearing in his actions, but also with his speech exalted his own works beyond all due measure. When Pope Pius II gave a commission for a figure to the Roman sculptor Paolo, Mino tormented and persecuted him out of envy so greatly, that Paolo, who was a good and most modest man, was forced to show resentment. Whereupon Mino, falling into a rage with Paolo, offered to bet a thousand ducats that he would make a figure better than Paolo's; and this he said with the greatest presumption and effrontery, knowing the nature of Paolo, who disliked any annoyance, and believing that he would not accept such a challenge. But Paolo accepted the invitation, and Mino, half repentant, bet a hundred ducats merely to save his honor. The figures finished, the victory was given to Paolo as a rare and excellent master, which he was; and Mino was scorned as the sort of craftsman whose words were worth more than his works.

By the hand of Mino are certain works in marble at Naples, and a tomb at Monte Cassino, a seat of the Black Friars in the kingdom of Naples; the S. Peter and the S. Paul that are at the foot of the steps of S. Pietro in Rome, and the tomb of Pope Paul II in S. Pietro. The figure that Paolo made in competition with Mino was the S. Paul that is to be seen on a marble base at the head of the Ponte S. Angelo, which stood unnoticed for a long time in front of the Chapel of Sixtus IV. It afterwards came to pass that one day Pope Clement VII observed this figure, which pleased him greatly, for he was a man of knowledge and judgment in such matters; wherefore he determined to have a S. Peter made of the same size, and also, after removing two little chapels of marble, dedicated to those Apostles, which stood at the head of the Ponte S. Angelo and obstructed the view of the Castle, to put these two statues in their place.

It may be read in the work of Antonio Filarete that Paolo was not only a sculptor but also an able goldsmith, and that he wrought part of the twelve Apostles in silver which stood, before the sack of Rome, over the altar of the Papal Chapel. Part of the work of these statues was done by Niccol6 della Guardia and Pietro Paolo da Todi, disciples of Paolo, who were afterwards passing good masters in sculpture, as is seen from the tombs of Pope Pius II and Pope Pius III, on which the said Pontiffs are portrayed from nature. By the hand of the same men are medals of three Emperors and other great persons. The said Paolo made a statue of an armed man on horseback, which is now on the ground in S. Pietro, near the Chapel of S. Andrea. A pupil of Paolo was the Roman Gian Cristoforo, who was an able sculptor ; and there are certain works by his hand in S. Maria Trastevere and in other places.

Chimenti Camicia, of whose origin nothing is known save that he was a Florentine, was employed in the service of the King of Hungary, for whom he made palaces, gardens, fountains, churches, fortresses, and many other buildings of importance, with ornaments, carvings, decorated ceilings, and other things of the kind, which were executed with much diligence by Baccio Cellini. After these works, drawn by love for his country, Chimenti returned to Florence, whence he sent to Baccio (who remained there), as presents for the King, certain pictures by the hand of Berto Linaiuolo, which were held very beautiful in Hungary and much extolled by that King. This Berto (of whom I will not refrain from making this record as well), after having painted many pictures in a beautiful manner, which are in the houses of many citizens, died at the very height of his powers, cutting short the great expectations that had been formed of him. But to return to Chimenti; he had not been long in Florence when he returned to Hungary, where he continued to serve the King; but while he was journeying on the Danube in order to give designs for mills, in consequence of fatigue he was seized by a sickness, which carried him off in a few days to the other life. The works of these masters date about the year 1470.

About the same time, during the pontificate of Pope Sixtus IV, there lived in Rome one Baccio Pintelli, a Florentine, who was rewarded for the great skill that he had in architecture by being employed by that Pope in all his building enterprises. With his design, then, were built the Church and Convent of S. Maria del Popolo, and certain highly ornate chapels therein, particularly that of Domenico della Rovere, Cardinal of San Clemente and nephew of that Pope. The same Pontiff erected a palace in Borgo Vecchio after the design of Baccio, which was then held to be a very beautiful and well-planned edifice. The same master built the Great Library under the apartments of Niccola, and that chapel in the Palace that is called the Sistine, which is adorned with beautiful paintings. He also rebuilt the structure of the new Hospital of S. Spirito in Sassia (which was burnt down almost to the foundations in the year 1471), adding to it a very long loggia and all the useful conveniences that could be desired. Within the hospital, along its whole length, he caused scenes to be painted from the life of Pope Sixtus, from his birth up to the completion of that building nay, up to the end of his life. He also made the bridge that is called the Ponte Sisto, from the name of that Pontiff; this was held to be an excellent work, because Baccio built it with such stout piers and with the weight so well distributed, that it is very strong and very well founded. In the year of the Jubilee of 1475, likewise, he built many new little churches throughout Rome, which are recognized by the arms of Pope Sixtus in particular, S. Apostolo, S. Pietro in Vincula, and S. Sisto. For Cardinal Guglielmo, Bishop of Ostia, he made the model of his church, with that of the facade and of the steps, in the manner wherein they are seen today. Many declare that the design of the Church of S. Pietro a Montorio in Rome was by the hand of Baccio, but I cannot say with truth that I have found this to be so. This church was built at the expense of the King of Portugal, almost at the same time that the Spanish nation had the Church of S. Jacopo erected in Rome.

The talent of Baccio was so highly esteemed by that Pontiff, that he would never have done anything in the way of building without his counsel; wherefore, in the year 1480, hearing that the Church and Convent of S. Francesco at Assisi were threatening to fall, he sent Baccio thither; and he, making a very stout counterfort on the side of the plain, rendered that marvellous fabric perfectly secure. On one buttress he placed a statue of that Pontiff, who, not many years before, had caused to be made in that same convent many apartments, in the form of chambers and halls, which are known not only by their magnificence but also by the arms of the said Pope that are seen in them. In the courtyard there is one coat of arms much larger than the others, with some Latin verses in praise of Pope Sixtus IV, who gave many proofs that he held that holy place in great veneration.

 

 

 

ANDREA DAL CASTAGNO (c.1423-1457) and DOMENICO VENEZIANO (c.1400-1461)

Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists




HOW REPREHENSIBLE is the vice of envy, which should never exist in anyone, when found in a man of excellence, and how wicked and horrible a thing it is to seek under the guise of a feigned friendship to extinguish not only the fame and glory of another but his very life, I truly believe it to be impossible to express with words, for the wickedness of the act overcomes all power and force of speech, however eloquent. For this reason, without enlarging further on this subject, I will only say that in such men there dwells a spirit not merely inhuman and savage but wholly cruel and devilish, and so far removed from any sort of virtue that they are no longer men or even animals, and do not deserve to live. For even as emulation and rivalry, when men seek by honest endeavour to vanquish and surpass those greater than themselves in order to acquire glory and honor, are things worthy to be praised and to be held in esteem as necessary and useful to the world, so, on the contrary, the wickedness of envy deserves a proportionately greater meed of blame and vituperation, when, being unable to endure the honor and esteem of others, it sets to work to deprive of life those whom it cannot despoil of glory; as did that miserable Andrea dal Castagno, who was truly great and excellent in painting and design, but even more notable for the rancour and envy that he bore towards other painters, insomuch that with the blackness of his crime he concealed and obscured the splendour of his talents.

This man, having been born at a small village called Castagno in Mugello, in the territory of Florence, took that name as his own surname when he came to live in Florence, which came about in the following manner. Having been left without a father in his earliest childhood, he was adopted by an uncle, who employed him for many years in watching his herds, since he saw him to be very ready and alert, and so masterful, that he could look after not only his cattle but the pastures and every- thing else that touched his own interest. Now, while he was following this calling, it came to pass one day that he chanced to seek shelter from the rain in a place wherein one of those local painters, who work for small prices, was painting a shrine for a peasant. Whereupon Andrea, who had never seen anything of the kind before, was seized by a sudden marvel and began to look most intently at the work and to study its manner ; and there came to him on the spot a very great desire and so violent a love for that art, that without losing time he began to scratch drawings of animals and figures on walls and stones with pieces of charcoal or with the point of his knife, in so masterly a manner that it caused no small marvel to all who saw them. The fame of this new study of Andrea's then began to spread among the peasants; whereupon, as his good fortune would have it, the matter coming to the ears of a Floren- tine gentleman named Bernardetto de' Medici, whose possessions were in that district, he expressed a wish to know the boy; and finally, having seen him and having heard him discourse with great readiness, he asked him whether he would like to learn the art of painting. Andrea answered that nothing could happen to him that would be more welcome or more pleasing than this, and Bernardetto took the boy with him to Florence, to the end that he might become perfect in that art, and set him to work with one of those masters who were then esteemed the best.

Thereupon Andrea, following the art of painting and devoting himself heart and soul to its studies, displayed very great intelligence in the difficulties of that art, above all in draughtsmanship. But he was not so successful in the colouring of his works, which he made somewhat crude and harsh, thus impairing to a great extent their excellence and grace, and depriving them, above all, of a certain quality of loveliness, which is not found in his colouring. He showed very great boldness in the movements of his figures and much vehemence in the heads both of men and of women, making them grave in aspect and excellent in draughtsmanship. There are works colored in fresco, painted by his hand in his early youth, in the cloister of S. Miniato al Monte as one descends from the church to go into the convent, including a story of S. Miniato and S. Cresci leaving their father and mother. In S. Bene- detto, a most beautiful monastery without the Porta a Pinti, both in a cloister and in the church, there were many pictures by the hand of Andrea, of which there is no need to make mention, since they were thrown to the ground in the siege of Florence. Within the city, in the first cloister of the Monastery of the Monks of the Angeli, opposite to the principal door, he painted the Crucifix that is still there to-day, with the Madonna, S. John, S. Benedict, and S. Romualdo ; and at the head of the cloister, which is above the garden, he made another like it, only varying the heads and a few other details. In S. Trinita, beside the Chapel of Maestro Luca, he painted a S. Andrew. In a hall at Legnaia he painted many illustrious men for Pandolfo Pandolfini ; and a standard to be borne in processions, which is held very beautiful, for the Company of the Evangelist.

In certain chapels of the Church of the Servi in the said city he wrought three flat niches in fresco. In one of these, that of S. Giuliano, there are scenes from the life of that Saint, with a good number of figures, and a dog in foreshortening that was much extolled. Above this, in the chapel dedicated to S. Girolamo, he painted that Saint shaven and wasted away, with good design and great diligence. Over this he painted a Trinity, with a Crucifix so well foreshortened that Andrea deserves to be greatly extolled for it, seeing that he executed the foreshortenings with a much better and more modern manner than the others before him had shown; but this picture, having been afterwards covered with a panel by the family of the Montaguti, can no longer be seen. In the third, which is beside the one below the organ, and which was erected by Messer Orlando de' Medici, he painted Lazarus, Martha, and the Magdalene. For the Nuns of S. Giuliano, over their door, he made a Crucifix in fresco, with a Madonna, a S. Dominic, a S. Julian, and a S. John; which picture, one of the best that Andrea ever made, is universally praised by all craftsmen.

In the Chapel of the Cavalcanti in S. Croce he painted a S. John the Baptist and a S. Francis, which are held to be very good figures. (But what caused all the craftsmen to marvel was a very beautiful picture in fresco that he made at the head of the new cloister of the said convent, opposite to the door, of Christ being scourged at the Column, wherein he painted a loggia with columns in perspective, and groined vaulting with diminishing lines, and walls inlaid in a pattern of mandorle, with so much art and so much diligence, that he showed tliat he had no less knowledge of the difficulties of perspective than he had of design in painting"^ In the same scene there are beautiful and most animated attitudes in those who are scourging Christ, showing hatred and rage in their faces as clearly as Jesus Christ is showing patience and humility. In the body of Christ, which is bound tightly with ropes to the Column, it appears that Andrea tried to demonstrate the suffering of the flesh, while the Divinity concealed in that body maintains a certain noble splendour, which seems to be moving Pilate, who is seated among his councillors, to seek to find some means of liberating Him. In short, this picture is such that, if the little care that has been taken of it had not allowed it to be scratched and spoilt by children and simpletons, who have scratched all the heads and the arms and almost the entire persons of the Jews, as though they would thus take vengeance on them for the wrongs of Our Lord, it would certainly be the most beautiful of all the works of Andrea. And if Nature had given grace of colouring to this craftsman, even as she gave him invention and design, he would have been held truly marvellous.

In S. Maria del Fiore he painted the image of Niccold da Tolentino on horseback ; and while he was working at this a boy who was passing shook his ladder, whereupon he flew into such a rage, like the brutal man that he was, that he jumped down and ran after him as far as the Canto de' Pazzi.j In the cemetery of S. Maria Nuova, also, below the Ossa, he painted a S. Andrew, which gave so much satisfaction that he was afterwards commissioned to paint the Last Supper of Christ with His

Apostles in the refectory, where the nurses and other attendants have their meals. Having acquired favour through this work with the house of Portinari and with the Director of the hospital, he was appointed to paint a part of the principal chapel, of which another part was allotted to Alesso Baldovinetti, and the third to the then greatly celebrated painter Domenico da Venezia, who had been summoned to Florence by reason of the new method that he knew of painting in oil. Now, while each of them applied himself to his part of the work, Andrea was very envious of Domenico, because, while knowing himself to be superior to the other in design, he was much displeased that the Venetian, although a foreigner, should be welcomed and entertained by the citizens ; wherefore anger and disdain moved him so strongly, that he began to think whether he could not in one way or another remove him from his path. Andrea was no less crafty in dissimulation than he was excellent in painting, being cheerful of countenance at his pleasure, ready of speech, fiery in spirit, and as resolute in every bodily action as he was in mind ; he felt towards others as he did towards Domenico, and, if he saw some error in the works of other craftsmen, he was wont to mark it secretly with his nail. And in his youth, when his works were criticized in any respect, he would give the critics to know by means of blows and insults that he was ever able and willing to take revenge in one way or another for any affront.

But let us say something of Domenico, before we come to the work of the said chapel. Before coming to Florence, Domenico had painted some pictures with much grace in the Sacristy of S. Maria at Loreto, in com- pany with Piero della Francesca; which pictures, besides what he had wrought in other places (such as an apartment in the house of the Baglioni in Perugia, which is now in ruins), had made his fame known in Florence. Being summoned to that city, before doing anything else, he painted a Madonna in the midst of some saints, in fresco, in a shrine on the Canto de' Carnesecchi, at the corner of two streets, of which one leads to the new Piazza di S. Maria Novella and the other to the old. This work, being approved and greatly extolled by the citizens and by the craftsmen of those times, caused even greater disdain and envy to blaze up in the accursed mind of Andrea against poor Domenico ; wherefore Andrea, having determined to effect by deceit and treachery what he could not carry out openly without manifest peril to himself, pretended to be very much the friend of Domenico, who, being a good and affectionate fellow, fond of singing and devoted to playing on the lute, received him as a friend very willingly, thinking Andrea to be a clever and amusing person. And so, continuing this friendship, so true on one side and so false on the other, they would come together every night to make merry and to serenade their mistresses ; and this gave great delight to Domenico, who, loving Andrea sincerely, taught him the [ method of colouring in oil, which as yet was not known in Tuscany.

Andrea, then (to take events in their due order), working on his wall in the Chapel of S. Maria Nuova, painted an Annunciation, which is held very beautiful, for in that work he painted the Angel in the air, which had never been done up to that time. But a much more beautiful work is held to be that wherein he made the Madonna ascending the steps of the Temple, on which he depicted many beggars, and one among them hitting another on the head with a pitcher; and not only that figure but all the others are wondrously beautiful, for he wrought them with much care and love, out of rivalry with Domenico. There is seen, also, in the middle of a square, an octagonal temple drawn in perspective, standing by itself and full of pilasters and niches, with the f a9ade very richly adorned with figures painted to look like marble. Round the square are various very beautiful buildings ; and on one side of these there falls the shadow of the temple, caused by the light of the sun a beautiful conception, carried out with great ingenuity and art.

Maestro Domenico, on his part, painting in oil, represented Joachim visiting his consort S. Anna, and below this the Birth of Our Lady, wherein he depicted a very ornate chamber, and a boy beating very gracefully with a hammer on the door of the said chamber. Beneath this he painted the Marriage of the Virgin, with a good number of portraits from the life, among which are those of Messer Bernardetto de' Medici, Constable of the Florentines, wearing a large red barret-cap ; Bernardo Guadagni, who was Gonfalonier; Folco Portinari, and others of that family. He also painted a dwarf breaking a staff, very life-like, and some women wearing garments customary in those times, lovely and graceful beyond belief. But this work remained unfinished, for reasons that will be told below.

Meanwhile Andrea had painted in oil on his wall the Death of Our Lady, in which, both by reason of his rivalry with Domenico and in order to make himself known for the able master that he truly was, he wrought in foreshortening, with incredible diligence, a bier containing the dead Virgin, which appears to be three braccia in length, although it is not more than one and a half. Round her are the Apostles, wrought in such a manner, that, although there is seen in their faces their joy at seeing their Madonna borne to Heaven by Jesus Christ, there is also seen in them their bitter sorrow at being left on earth without her. Among the Apostles are some angels holding burning lights, with beautiful expressions in their faces, and so well executed that it is seen that he was as well able to manage oil-colours as his rival Domenico. In these pic- tures Andrea made portraits from life of Messer Rinaldo degli Albizzi, Puccio Pucci, and Falganaccio, who brought about the liberation of Cosimo de' Medici, together with Federigo Malevolti, who held the keys of the Alberghetto. In like manner he portrayed Messer Bernardo di Domenico della Volta, Director of that hospital, who is kneeling and appears to be alive ; and in a medallion at the beginning of the work he painted himself with the face of Judas Iscariot, whom he resembled both in appearance and in deed.

Now Andrea, having carried this work very nearly to completion, being blinded by envy of the praises that he heard given to the talent of Domenico, determined to remove him from his path ; and after having thought of many expedients, he put one of them into execution in the following manner. One summer evening, according to his custom, Domenico took his lute and went forth from S. Maria Nuova, leaving Andrea in his room drawing, for he had refused to accept the invitation to take his recreation with Domenico, under the pretext of having to do certain drawings of importance. Domenico therefore went to take his pleasure by himself, and Andrea set himself to wait for him in hiding behind a street corner ]; and when Domenico, on his way home, came up to him, he crushed his lute and his stomach at one and the same time with certain pieces of lead, and then, thinking that he had not yet finished him off, beat him grievously on the head with the same weapons; and finally, leaving him on the ground, he returned to his room in S. Maria Nuova, where he put the door ajar and sat down to his drawing in the manner that he had been left by Domenico. Meanwhile an uproar had arisen, and the servants, hearing of the matter, ran to call Andrea and to give the bad news to the murderer and traitor himself, who, running to where the others were standing round Domenico, was not to be consoled, and kept crying out: "Alas, my brother ! Alas, my brother !" Finally Domenico expired in his arms; nor could it be discovered, for all the diligence that was used, who had murdered him; and if Andrea had not revealed the truth in confession on his deathbed, it would not be known now.)

In S. Miniato fra le Torri in Florence Andrea painted a panel containing the Assumption of Our Lady, with two figures ; and in a shrine in the Nave a Lanchetta, without the Porta alia Croce, he painted a Madonna. In the house of the Carducci, now belonging to the Pan- dolfini, the same man depicted certain famous men, some from imagination and some portrayed from life, among whom are Filippo Spano degli Scolari, Dante, Petrarca, Boccaccio, and others. At Scarperia in Mugello, over the door of the Vicar's Palace, he painted a very beautiful nude figure of Charity, which has since been ruined. In the year 1478, when Giuliano de' Medici was killed and his brother Lorenzo wounded in S. Maria del Fiore by the family of the Pazzi and their adherents and fellow-conspirators, it was ordained by the Signoria that all those who had shared in the plot should be painted as traitors on the wall of the Palace of the Podesta. This work was offered to Andrea, and he, as a servant and debtor of the house of Medici, accepted it very willingly, and, taking it in hand, executed it so beautifully that it was a miracle. It would not be possible to express how much art and judgment were to be seen in those figures, which were for the most part portraits from life, and which were hung up by the feet in strange attitudes, all varied and very beautiful. This work, which pleased the whole city and particularly all who had understanding in the art of painting, brought it about that from that time onwards he was called no longer Andrea dal Castagno but Andrea degl' Impiccati.

Andrea lived in honorable style, and since he spent his money freely, particularly on dress and on maintaining a fine household, he left little property when he passed to the other life at the age of seventy-one. But since the crime that he had committed against Domenico, who loved him so, became known a short time after his death, it was with shameful obsequies that he was buried in S. Maria Nuova, where, at the age of fifty-six, the unhappy Domenico had also been buried. The work begun by the latter in S. Maria Nuova remained unfinished, nor did he ever complete it, as he had done the panel of the high altar in S. Lucia de' Bardi, wherein he executed with much diligence a Madonna with the Child in her arms, S. John the Baptist, S. Nicholas, S. Francis, and S. Lucia ; which panel he had brought to perfect completion a little before he was murdered.

Disciples of Andrea were Jacopo del Corso, who was a passing good master, Pisanello, Marchino, Piero del Pollaiuolo, and Giovanni da Rovezzano.

 

 

 

GENTILE DA FABRIANO (ca. 1370-1427) and
ANTONIO PISANELLO of Verona (1395-1455)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists



VERY GREAT is the advantage enjoyed by one who follows in the steps of a predecessor who has gained honor and fame by means of some rare talent, for the reason that, if only he follows to some extent the path prepared by his master, he seldom fails to arrive without much fatigue at an honorable goal; where, if he had to reach it by himself, he would have need of a much longer time and far greater labors. The truth of this could be seen, ready for the finger to point to, as the saying is, among many other examples, in that of Pisano, or rather, Pisanello, a painter of Verona, who, having spent many years in Florence with Andrea del Castagno, and having finished his works after his death, acquired so much credit by means of Andrea's name, that Pope Martin V, coming to Florence, took him in his train to Rome, where he caused him to paint some scenes in fresco in San Giovanni Laterano, which are very lovely and beautiful beyond belief, because he used there a great abundance of a sort of ultramarine blue given to him by the said Pope, which was so beautiful in color that it has never yet been equalled.

In competition with Pisanello, below the aforesaid scenes, certain others were painted by Gentile da Fabriano; of which Platina makes mention in his Life of Pope Martin, saying that when that Pontiff had caused the pavement, the ceiling, and the roof of San Giovanni Laterano to be reconstructed, Gentile da Fabriano painted many pictures there, and, among other figures between the windows, in terretta and in chiaroscuro, certain prophets, which are held to be the best paintings in the whole of the work. The same Gentile executed an infinite number of works in the Marches, particularly in Agobbio, where some of them are still to be seen, and likewise throughout the whole state of Urbino.

He worked in San Giovanni at Siena; and in the Sacristy of Santa Trinita in Florence he painted the Story of the Magi on a panel, in which he portrayed himself from life. In San Niccolo, near the Porta a San Miniato, for the family of the Quaratesi, he painted the panel of the high altar, which appears to me without a doubt the best of all the works that I have seen by his hand, for, not to mention the Madonna surrounded by many saints, all well wrought, the predella of the said panel, full of scenes with little figures from the life of St. Nicholas, could not be more beautiful or executed better than it is. In Santa Maria Nuova in Rome, in a little arch over the tomb of the Florentine Cardinal Adimari, Archbishop of Pisa, which is beside that of Pope Gregory IX, he painted the Madonna with the Child in her arms, between St. Benedict and St. Joseph. This work was held in esteem by the divine Michelangelo, who was wont to say, speaking of Gentile, that his hand in painting was similar to his name. The same master executed a very beautiful panel in San Domenico in Perugia; and in San Agostino at Bari he painted a Crucifix outlined in the wood, with three very beautiful half-length figures, which are over the door of the choir.

But to return to Vittore [sic, Antonio] Pisano; the account that has been given of him above was written by us, with nothing more, when this our book was printed for the first time, because we had not then received that information and knowledge of the works of this excellent craftsman which we have since gained from notices supplied by that very reverend and most learned Father, Fra Marco de'Medici of Verona, of the Order of Preaching Friars, and from the narrative of Biondo da Forli, where he speaks of Verona in his "Italian Illustrata." Vittore was equal in excellence to any painter of his age; and to this, not to speak of the works enumerated above, most ample testimony is borne by many others that are seen in his most noble city of Verona, although many are almost eaten away by time.

And because he took particular delight in depicting animals, he painted in the Chapel of the Pellegrini family, in the Church of S. Anastasia at Verona, a St. Eustace caressing a dog spotted with white and tan, which, with its feet raised and leaning against the leg of the said Saint, is turning its head backwards as though it had heard some noise; and it is making this movement with so great vivacity, that a live dog could not do it better. Beneath this figure there is seen painted the name of Pisano, who used to call himself sometimes Pisano, and sometimes Pisanello, as may be seen from the pictures and the medals by his hand. After the said figure of St. Eustace, which is truly very beautiful and one of the best that this craftsman ever wrought, he painted the whole outer wall of the same chapel; and on the other side he made a St. George clad in white armour made of silver, as was the custom in that age not only with him but with all the other painters. This St. George, wishing to replace his sword in the scabbard after slaying the Dragon, is raising his right hand, which holds the sword, the point of which is already in the scabbard, and is lowering the left hand, to the end that the increased distance may make it easier for him to sheathe the sword, which is long; and this he is doing with so much grace and with so beautiful a manner, that nothing better could be seen.

Michele San Michele of Verona, architect to the most illustrious Signoria of Venice, and a man with a very wide knowledge of these fine arts, was often seen during his life contemplating these works of Vittore [sic, Antonio] in a marvel, and then heard to say that there was little to be seen that was better than the St. Eustace, the dog, and the St. George described above. Over the arch of the said chapel is painted the scene when St. George, having slain the Dragon, is liberating the King's daughter, who is seen near the Saint, clad in a long dress after the custom of those times. Marvellous, likewise, in this part of the work, is the figure of the same St. George, who, armed as above, and about to remount his horse, is standing with his face and person turned towards the spectator, and is seen, with one foot in the stirrup and his left hand on the saddle, almost in the act of leaping on to the horse, which has its hindquarters towards the spectator, so that the whole animal, being foreshortened, is seen very well, although in a small space. In a word, it is impossible to contemplate without infinite marvel--nay, amazement--a work executed with such extraordinary design, grace, and judgment.

The same Pisano painted a picture in San Fermo Maggiore at Verona (a church of the Conventual Friars of S. Francis), in the Chapel of the Brenzoni, on the left as one enters by the principal door of the said church, over the tomb of the Resurrection of Our Lord, wrought in sculpture and very beautiful for those times; he painted, I say, as an ornament for that work, the Virgin receiving the Annunciation from the Angel, which two figures, picked out with gold according to the use of those times, are very beautiful, as are certain very well drawn buildings, as well as some little animals and birds scattered throughout the work, which are as natural and lifelike as it is possible to imagine. The same Vittore [sic, Antonio] cast in medallions innumerable portraits of Princes and other persons of his time, from which there have since been made many portraits in painting. And Monsignor Giovio, speaking of Vittore Pisano in an Italian letter written to the Lord Duke Cosimo, which may be read in print together with many others, says the following words:

"This man was also very excellent in the work of low-relief, which is esteemed very difficult among craftsmen, because it is the mean between the flat surface of painting and the roundness of statuary. For this reason there are seen many highly esteemed medals of great Princes by his hand, made in a large form, and in the same proportions as that reverse of the horse clad in armor that Guidi has sent me. Of these I have that of the great King Alfonso with his hair long, with a captain's helmet on the reverse; that of Pope Martin, with the arms of the house of Colonna as the reverse; that of the Sultan Mahomet (who took Constantinople), showing him on horseback in Turkish dress, with a scourge in his hand; Sigismondo Malatesta, with Madonna Isotta of Rimini on the reverse; and that of Niccolo Piccinino, wearing a large oblong cap on his head, with the said reverse sent to me by Guidi, which I am returning. Besides these, I have also a very beautiful medal of John Palaeologus, Emperor of Constantinople, with that bizarre Greek cap which the Emperors used to wear. This was made by Pisano in Florence, at the time of the Council of Eugenius, at which the aforesaid Emperor was present; and it has on the reverse the Cross of Christ, sustained by two hands--namely, the Latin and the Greek."

So far Giovio, and still further. Vittore also made medals with portraits of Fiippo de' Medici, Archbishop of Pisa, Braccio da Montone, Giovan Galeazzo Visconti, Carlo Malatesta, Lord of Rimini, Giovan Caracciolo, Grand Seneschal of Naples, Borso and Ercole D'Este, and many other nobles and men distinguished in arms and in letters. By reason of his fame and reputation in that art, this master gained the honour of being celebrated by very great men and rare writers; for, besides what Biondo wrote of him, as has been said, he was much extolled in a Latin poem by the elder Guerino, his compatriot and a very great scholar and writer of those times; of which poem, called, from the surname of its subject, "Il Pisano del Guerino" honourable mention is made by Biondo. He was also celebrated by the elder Strozzi, Tito Vespasiano, father of the other Strozzi, both of whom were very rare poets in the Latin tongue. The father honored the memory of Vittore Pisano with a very beautiful epigram, which is in print with the others. Such are the fruits that are borne by a worthy life.

Some say that when he was learning art in Florence in his youth, he painted in the old Church of the Temple, which stood where the old Citadel now is, the stories of that pilgrim who was going to San Jacopo di Galizia, when the daughter of his host put a silver cup into his wallet, to the end that he might be punished as a robber; but he was rescued by San Jacopo, who brought him back home in safety. In this Pisano gave promise of becoming, as he did, an excellent painter. Finally, having come to a good old age, he passed to a better life. And Gentile, after making many works in Citta di Castello, became palsied, and was reduced to such a state that he could no longer do anything good; and at length, wasted away by old age, and having lived eighty years, he died. The portrait of Pisano I have not been able to find in any place whatsoever. Both these painters drew very well, as may be seen in our book.

 

 

 

PESELLO (1367-1446) and FRANCESCO PESELLI (PESELLINO) (1422-1457)
PAINTERS OF FLORENCE

Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists



IT IS RARELY WONT to happen that the disciples of the best masters, if they observe their precepts, fail to become very excellent, or, if they do not actually surpass them, at least to equal them and to make themselves in every way like them. For the burning zeal of imitation, with assiduity in studying, has power to make them equal the talent of those who show them the true method of working; wherefore the disciples become such that they afterwards compete with their masters, and even find it easy to outstrip them, because it is always but little labor to add to what has been discovered by others. That this is true is proved by Francesco di Pesello, who imitated the manner of Fra Filippo so well that he would have surpassed him by a long way, if death had not cut him off so prematurely. It is also known that Pesello imitated the manner of Andrea dal Castagno; and he took so much pleasure in counterfeiting animals, of which he kept some of all sorts alive in his house, and made them so lifelike and vivacious, that there was no one in his time who equalled him in this branch of his profession. He worked up to the age of thirty under the discipline of Andrea, learning from him, and became a very good master. Wherefore, having given good proof of his knowledge, he was commissioned by the Signoria of Florence to paint a panel in distemper of the Magi bringing offerings to Christ, which was placed half-way up the staircase of their Palace, and acquired great fame for Pesello, above all because he had made certain portraits therein, including that of Donato Acciaiuoli. In S. Croce, also, in the Chapel of the Cavalcanti, below the Annunciation of Donato, he painted a predella with little figures, containing stories of S. Nicholas.

In the house of the Medici he adorned some panelling very beautifully with animals, and certain coffers with little scenes of jousts on horseback. And in the same house there are seen to this day certain canvases by his hand, representing lions pressing against a grating, which appear absolutely alive; and he made others on the outside, together with one fighting with a serpent; and on another canvas he painted an ox, a fox, and other animals, very animated and vivacious. In the Chapel of the Alessandri, in S. Piero Maggiore, he made four little scenes with little figures of S. Peter, of S. Paul, of S. Zanobi restoring to life the son of the widow, and of S. Benedict. In S. Maria Maggiore in the same city of Florence, in the Chapel of the Orlandini, he made a Madonna and two other very beautiful figures. For the children of the Company of S. Giorgio he painted a Crucifix, S. Jerome, and S. Francis; and he made an Annunciation on a panel in the Church of S. Giorgio. In the Church of S. Jacopo at Pistoia he painted a Trinity, S. Zeno, and S. James; and throughout the houses of citizens in Florence there are many pictures, both round and square, by the hand of the same man.

Pesello was a temperate and gentle person; and whenever it was in his power to assist his friends, he would do it very lovingly and willingly. He married young, and had a son named Francesco, known as Pesellino, who became a painter, following very closely in the steps of Fra Filippo. From what is known of this man, it is clear that if he had lived longer he would have done much more than he did, for he was a zealous student of his art, and would draw all day and night without ceasing. In the Chapel of the Noviciate in S. Croce, below the panel by Fra Filippo, there is still seen a most marvellous predella with little figures, which appear to be by the hand of Fra Filippo. He made many little pictures with small figures throughout Florence, where, having acquired a great name, he died at the age of thirty-one; to the great grief of Pesello, who followed him after no long time, at the age of seventy-seven.

 

 

 

BENOZZO GOZZOLI (circa 1420-1497)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists




HE WHO PURSUES the path of excellence in his labors, although it is, as men say, both stony and full of thorns, finds himself finally at the end of the ascent on a broad plain, with all the blessings that he has desired. And as he looks downwards and sees the difficult and perilous way that he has come, he thanks God for having brought him out safely, and with the greatest contentment he blesses those labors that he has just been finding so burdensome. And so, recompensed for his past sufferings by the gladness of the happy present, he labors without fatigue, in order to demonstrate to all who see him how heat, cold, sweat, hunger, thirst, and all the other discomforts that are endured in the acquiring of excellence, deliver men from poverty, and bring them to that secure and tranquil state in which, with so much contentment, Benozzo Gozzoli enjoyed repose from his labors. This man was a disciple of Fra Giovanni Angelico, by whom he was loved with good reason; and by all who knew him he was held to be a practiced master, very rich in invention, and very productive in the painting of animals, perspectives, landscapes, and ornaments. He wrought so many works in his day that he showed that he cared little for other delights; and although, in comparison with many who surpassed him in design, he was not very excellent, yet in this great mass of work he surpassed all the painters of his age, for in such a multitude of pictures he succeeded in making some that were good. In his youth he painted a panel for the altar of the Company of San Marco in Florence, and, in San Friano, a picture of the passing of St. Jerome, which has been spoilt in restoring the facade of the church along the street. In the Chapel of the Palace of the Medici he painted the Story of the Magi in fresco. In the Araceli at Rome, in the Chapel of the Cesarini, he painted the stories of St. Anthony of Padua, wherein he made portraits from life of Cardinal Giuliano Cesarini and Antonio Colonna. In the Conti Tower, likewise, over a door under which one passes, he made in fresco a Madonna with many saints; and in a chapel in Santa Maria Maggiore, on the right hand as one enters the church by the principal door, he painted many figures in fresco, which are passing good. ************* After returning from Rome to Florence, Benozzo went to Pisa, where he worked in the cemetery called the Camposanto, which is beside the Duomo, covering the surface of a wall that runs the whole length of the building with stories from the Old Testament, wherein he showed very great invention. And this may be said to be a truly tremendous work, seeing that it contains all the stories of the Creation of the world from one day to another. After this came Noahs Ark and the inundation of the Flood represented with very beautiful composition and n abundance of figures. Then there follow the building of the proud Tower of Nimrod, the burning of Sodom and the other neighboring cities, and the stories of Abraham, wherein there are some very beautiful effects to be observed, for the reason that, although Benozzo was not remarkable for the drawing of figures, yet he showed his art effectually in the Sacrifice of Isaac, for there he painted an ass foreshortened in such a manner that it seems to turn to either side, which is held something very beautiful. After this comes the Birth of Moses, together with all those signs and prodigies that were seen, up to the time when he led his people out of Egypt and fed them for so many years in the desert. To these he added all the stories of the Hebrews up to the time of David and his son Solomon; and in this work Benozzo displayed a spirit truly more than bold, for, whereas so great an enterprise might very well have daunted a legion of painters, he alone wrought the whole and brought it to perfection. Wherefore, having thus acquired very great fame, he won the honor of having the following epigram placed in the middle of the work:

QUID SPECTAS VLUCRES, PISCES, ET MONSTRA FERARUM,
ET VIRIDES SILVAS AETHEREASQE DOMOS,
ET PUEROS, JUVENES, MATRES, CANOSQUE PARETES,
QUEIS SEMPER VIVUM SPIRAT IN ORE DECUS?
NON HAEC TAM VARIIS FINXIT SIMULACRA FIGURIS
NATURA, INGENIO FOETIBUS APTA SUO;
O SUPERI, VIVOS FUDITE IN ORA SONOS.


Throughout this whole work there are scattered innumerable portraits from the life; but, since we have not knowledge of them all, I will mention only those that I have recognized as important, and those that i know by means of some record. In the scene of the Queen of Sheba going to visit Solomon there is the portrait of Marsilio Ficino among certain prelates, with those of Argiropolo, a very learned Greek, and of Batista Platina, whom he had previously portrayed in Rome; while he himself is on horseback, in the form of an old man shaven and wearing a black cap, in the fold of which there is a white paper, perchance as a sign, or because he intended to write his own name thereon.

In the same city of Pisa, for the Nuns of San Benedetto a Ripa dArno, he painted all the stories of the life of that Saint; and in the building of the Company of the Florentines, which then stood where the Monastery of San Vito now is, he wrought the panel and many other pictures. In the Duomo, behind the chair of the Archbishop, he painted a St. Thomas Aquinas on a little panel in distemper, with an infinite number of learned men disputing over his works, among whom there is a portrait of Pope Sixtus IV, together with a number of Cardinals and many Chiefs and Generals of various Orders. This is the best and most highly finished work that Benozzo ever made. In Santa Caterina, a seat of the Preaching Friars of the same city, he executed two panels in distemper, which are known very well by the manner; and he also painted another in the Church of San Niccola, with two in Santa Croce without Pisa. In his youth, Benozzo also painted the altar of San Sebastiano in the Pieve of San Gimignano, opposite to the principal chapel; and in the Hall of the Council there are some figures, partly by his hand, and partly old works restored by him. For the Monks of Monte Oliveto, in the same territory, he painted a Crucifix and other pictures; but the best work that he made in that place was the principal chapel of San Agostino, where he painted stories of St. Augustine in fresco, from his conversion to his death; of the whole of which work I have the design by his hand in my book, together with many drawings of the aforesaid scenes in the Camposanto of Pisa. In Volterra, likewise, he executed certain works, of which there is no need to make mention.

Now, while Benozzo was working in Rome, there was another painter there called Melozzo, who came from Forli; and many who know no more than this, having found the name of Melozzo written and having compared the dates, have believed that Melozzo stands for Benozzo; but they are mistaken, for the said painter was one who lived at the same time and was a very zealous student of the problems of art, devoting particular diligence and study to the making of foreshortenings, as may be seen in San Apostolo at Rome, in the tribune of the high altar, where, in a frieze drawn in perspective, as an ornament for that work, there are some figures picking grapes, with a cask, which show no little of the good. But this is seen more clearly in the Ascension of Jesus Christ, in the midst of a choir of angels who are leading him up to Heaven, wherein the figure of Christ is so well foreshortened that it seems to be piercing the ceiling, and the same is true of the angels, who are circling with various movements through the spacious sky. The Apostles, likewise, who are on the earth below, are so well foreshortened in their various attitudes that the work brought him much praise, as it still does, from the craftsmen, who have learnt much from his labors. He was also a great master of perspective, as is demonstrated by the buildings painted in this work, which he executed at the commission of Cardinal Riario, nephew of Pope Sixtus IV, by whom he was richly rewarded.

But to return to Benozzo: wasted away at last by length of years and by his labors, he went to his true rest, in the city of Pisa, at the age of seventy-eight, while dwelling in a little house that he had bought in Carraia di San Francesco during his long sojourn there. This house he left at his death to his daughter; and, mourned by the whole city, he was honorably buried in the Camposanto, with the following epitaph, which is still to be read there:

HIC TUMULUS EST BENOTII FLORENTINI, QUI PROXIME HAS PINXIT
HISTORIAS. HUNC SIBI PISANOR. DONAVIT HUMANITAS,
MCCCCLXXVIII.

Benozzo ever lived the well-ordered life of a true Christian, spending all his years in honorable labor. For this and for his good manner and qualities he was long looked upon with favor in that city. The disciples whom he left behind him were Zanobi Machiavelli, a Florentine, and others of whom there is no need to make further record.

 

 

 

The Life of Francesco di Giorgio Martini(1439-1502)
and the Life of Lorenzo Vecchietto (ca. 1412-1480)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists



Francesco di Giorgio of Siena, who was an excellent sculptor and architect, made the two bronze angels that are on the high altar of the Duomo in that city. These were truly very beautiful pieces of casting, and he finished them afterwards by himself with the greatest diligence that it is possible to imagine. This he could do very conveniently, for he was endowed with good means as well as with a rare intelligence; wherefore he would work when he felt inclined, not through greed of gain, but for his own pleasure and in order to leave some honorable memorial behind him. He also gave attention to painting and executed some pictures, but these did not equal his sculptures. He had very good judgment in architecture, and proved that he had a very good knowledge of that profession; and to this ample testimony is borne by the palace that he built for Duke Federigo Feltro at Urbino, which is commodiously arranged and beautifully planned, while the bizarre staircases are well conceived and more pleasing than any others that had been made up to his time. The halls are large and magnificent, and the apartments are conveniently distributed and handsome beyond belief. In a word, the whole of that palace is as beautiful and as well built as any other that has been erected down to our own day.

Francesco was a very able engineer, particularly in connection with military engines, as he showed in a frieze tht he painted with his own hand in the said palace at Urbino, which is all full of rare things of that kind for the purposes of war. He also filled some books with designs of such instruments; and the Lord Duke Cosimo de'Medici has the best of these among his greatest treasures. The same man was so zealous a student of the warlike machines and instruments of the ancients, and spent so much time in investigating the plans of the ancient amphitheatres and other things of that kind, that he was thereby prevented from giving equal attention to sculpture; but these studies brought him and still bring him no less honor than sculpture could have gained for him. For all these reasons he was so dear to the said Duke Federigo, whose portrait he made both on medals and in painting, that when he returned to his native city of Siena he found his honors were equal to his profits.

For Pope Pius II he made all the designs and models of the Palace and Vescovado of Pienza, the native place of the said Pope, which was raised by him to the position of a city, and called Pienza after himself, in place of its former name of Corsignano. These buildings were as magnificent and handsome as they could be for that place; and he did the same for the general form and the fortifications of the said city, together with the palace and loggia built for the same Pontiff. Wherefore he ever lived in honor, and was rewarded with the supreme magistracy of the Signoria in his native city; but finally, having reached the age of forty-seven, he died. His works date about 1480. He left behind him his companion and very dear friend, Jacopo Cozzerello, who devoted himself to sculpture and to architecture, making some figures of wood in Siena, and a work of architecture without the Porta a Tufi--namely, Santa Maria Maddalena, which remained unfinished by reason of his death. To him we are also indebted for the portrait of the aforesaid Francesco, which he made with his own hand; to which Francesco much gratitude is due for his having facilitated the art of architecture, and for his having rendered it greater services than any other man had done from the time of Filippo di Ser Brunellesco to his own.

A Sienese and also a much extolled sculptor was Lorenzo, the son of Piero Vecchietti, who, having first been a highly esteemed goldsmith, finally devoted himself to sculpture and to casting in bronze; which arts he studied so zealously that he became excellent in them, and was commissioned to make a tabernacle in bronze for the high altar of the Duomo in his native city of Siena, together with the marble ornaments that are still seen therein. This casting, which is admirable, acquired very great fame and repute for him by reason of the proportion and grace that it shows in all its parts; and whosoever observes this work well can see that the design is good, and that the craftsman was a man of judgment and of practised ability.

For the Chapel of the Painters of Siena, in the great Hospital of the Scala, the same man made a beautiful metal casting of a nude Christ, of the size of life and holding the Cross in His hand; which work was finished with a love and diligence worthy of the beautiful success of the casting. In the pilgrim's hall in the same place there is a scene painted in colors by Lorenzo. Over the door of San Giovanni he painted an arch with figures wrought in fresco; and in like manner, since the baptismal font was not finished, he wrought for it certain little figures in bronze, besides finishing, also in bronze, a scene formerly begun by Donatello. In this place two scenes in bronze had been already wrought by Jacopo della Fonte [Jacopo della Quercia], whose manner Lorenzo ever imitated as closely as he was able. This Lorenzo brought the said baptismal font to perfect completion, adding to it some bronze figures, formerly cast by Donatello but entirely finished by himself, which are held to be very beautiful.

For the Loggia of the Ufficiali [The officials of the Mercanzia] in Banchi Lorenzo made two life-size figures in marble of St. Peter and St. Paul, wrought with consummate grace and executed with fine mastery. He disposed the works that he made in such a manner that he deserves as much praise for them after death as he did when alive. He was a melancholic and solitary person, ever lost in contemplation; which was perchance the reason that he did not live longer, for he passed to the other life at the age of fifty-eight. His works date to about the year 1482.

 

 

 

GALASSO GALASSI (FERRARESE) (Active, 1450-1488)
PAINTER

Vasari's Lives of the Artists


WHEN FOREIGNERS come to do work in a city in which there are no craftsmen of excellence, there is always some man whose intelligence is afterwards stirred to strive to learn that same art, and to bring it about that from that time onwards there should be no need for strangers to come and embellish his city and carry away her wealth, which he now labors to deserve by his own ability, seeking to acquire for himself those riches that seemed to him too splendid to be given to foreigners. This was made clearly manifest by Galasso Ferrarese, who, seeing Piero dal Borgo a San Sepolcro rewarded by the Duke of Ferrara for the works that he executed, and also honorably received in Ferrara, was incited so strongly by such an example, after Piero's departure, to devote himself to painting, that he acquired the name of a good and excellent master in Ferrara. Besides this, he was held in all the greater favor in that place for having gone to Venice and there learnt the method of painting in oil, which he brought to his native place, for he afterwards made an infinity of figures in that manner, which are scattered about in many churches throughout Ferrara.

Next, having gone to Bologna, whither he was summoned by certain Dominican friars, he painted in oil a chapel in S. Domenico; and so his fame increased, together with his credit. After this he paintedmany pictures in fresco in S. Maria del Monte, a seat of the Black Friars without Bologna, beyond the Porta di S. Mammolo; and the whole church of the Casa di Mezzo, on the same road, was likewise painted by his hand with works in fresco, in which he depicted the stories of the Old Testament.

His life was ever most praiseworthy, and he showed himself very courteous and agreeable; which arose from his being used to live and dwell more out of his native place than in it. It is true, indeed, that through his being somewhat irregular in his way of living, his life did not last long; for he left it at the age of about fifty, to go to that life which has no end. After his death he was honored by a friend with the following epitaph:

GALASSUS FERRARIENSIS.

SUM TANTO STUDIO NATURAM IMITATUS ET ARTE
DUM PINGO RERUM QU^E GREAT ILLA PARENS ;

HMC UT SEPE QUIDEM NON PICTA PUTAVERIT A ME,
A SE CREDIDERIT SED GENERATA MAGIS.

In these same times lived Cosine, also of Ferrara. Works by his hand that are to be seen are a chapel in S. Domenico in the said city, and two folding-doors that close the organ in the Duomo. This man was better as a draughtsman than as a painter; indeed, from what I have been able to gather, he does not seem to have painted much.

 

 

 

ANTONIO (1427-1479) and BERNARDO (1409-1464) ROSSELLINO

Vasari's Lives of the Artists


IT HAS EVER BEEN a truly laudable and virtuous thing to be modest and to be adorned with that gentleness and those rare qualities that are easily recognized in the honorable actions of the sculptor Antonio Rossellino, who put so much grace into his art that he was esteemed by all who knew him as something much more than man, and adored almost as a saint, for those supreme virtues that were united to his talent. Antonio was called Rossellino dal Proconsolo, because he ever had his shop in a part of Florence called by that name, He showed such sweetness and delicacy in his works, with a finish and a refinement so perfect, that his manner may be rightly called the true one and truly modern.

For the Palace of the Medici he made the marble fountain that is in the second court; in which fountain are certain children opening the mouths of dolphins that pour out water; and the whole is finished with consummate grace and with a most diligent manner. In the Church of Santa Croce, near the holy-water basin, he made a tomb for Francesco Nori, with a Madonna in low-relief above it; and another Madonna in the house of the Tornabuoni, together with many other things sent to various foreign parts, such as a tomb of marble for Lyons in France.

At San Miniato al Monte, a monastery of White Friars without the walls of Florence, he was commissioned to make the tomb of the Cardinal of Portugal, which was executed by him so marvelously and with such great diligence and art, that no craftsman can ever expect to be able to see any work likely to surpass it in any respect whatsoever with regard to finish or grace. And in truth, if one examines it, it appears not merely difficult but impossible for it to have been executed so well; for certain angels in the work reveal such grace, beauty, and art in their expressions and their draperies, that they appear not merely made of marble but absolutely alive. One of these is holding the crown of chastity of that Cardinal, who is said to have died celibate; the other bears the palm of victory, which he had won from the world. Among the many most masterly things that are there, one is an arch of grey-stone supporting a looped-back curtain of marble, which is so highly-finished that, what with the white of the marble and the grey of the stone, it appears more like real cloth than like marble. On the sarcophagus are some truly very beautiful boys and the dead man himself, with a Madonna, very well wrought, in a medallion. The sarcophagus has the shape of one made of porphyry which is in the Piazza della Ritonda in Rome.

This tomb of the Cardinal was erected in 1459; and its form, with the architecture of the chapel, gave so much satisfaction to the Duke of Malfi, nephew of Pope Pius II, that he had another made in Naples by the hand of the same master for his wife, similar to the other in every respect save in the figure of the dead. For this, moreover, Antonio made a panel containing the Nativity of Christ and the Manger, with a choir of angels over the hut, dancing and singing with open mouths, in such a manner, that he truly seems to have given them all possible movement and expression short of breath itself, and that with so much grace and so high a finish, that iron tools and manUs intelligence could effect nothing more in marble. Wherefore his works have been much esteemed by Michelagnolo and by all the rest of the supremely excellent craftsmen. In the Pieve of Empoli he made a St. Sebastian of marble, which is held to be a very beautiful work; and of this we have a drawing by his hand in our book, together with others of all the architecture and the figures in the said chapel in San Miniato al Monte, and likewise his own portrait.

Antonio finally died in Florence at the age of forty-six, leaving a brother called Bernardo, an architect and sculptor, who made a marble tomb in Santa Croce for Messer Lionardo Bruni of Arezzo, who wrote the History of Florence and was a very learned man, as all the world knows. This Bernardo was much esteemed for his knowledge of architecture by Pope Nichols V, who loved him dearly and made use of him in very many works that he carried out in his pontificated, of which he would have executed even more if death had not intervened to hinder the works that he had in mind. He caused him, therefore, according to the account of Giannozzo Manetti, to reconstruct the Piazza of Fabriano, in the year when he spent some months there by reason of the plague; and whereas it was narrow and badly designed, he enlarged it and brought it to a good shape, surrounding it with a row of shops, which were useful, very commodious, and very beautiful.

After this he restored and founded anew the Church of San Francesco in the same district, which was going to ruin. At Gualdo he rebuilt the Church of San Benedetto; almost anew, it may be said, for he added to it good and beautiful buildings. At Assisi he made new and stout foundations and a new roof for the Church of San Francesco, which was ruined in certain parts and threatened to go to ruin in certain others. At Civitavecchia he built many beautiful and magnificent edifices. At Civita Castellana he rebuilt more than a third part of the walls in a good form. At Narni he rebuilt the fortress, enlarging it with good and beautiful walls. At Orvieto he made a great fortress with a most beautiful palace--a work of great cost and no less magnificence. At Spoleto, likewise, he enlarged and strengthened the fortress, making within it dwellings so beautiful, so commodious, and so well conceived, that nothing better could be seen. He restored the baths of Viterbo at great expense and in a truly royal spirit, making certain dwellings there that would have been worthy not merely of the invalids who went to bathe there every day, but of the greatest of Princes. All these works were executed by the said Pontiff without the city of Rome, from the designs of Bernardo.

In Rome he restored, and in many places renewed, the walls of the city, which were for the greater part in ruins; adding to them certain towers, and enclosing within these some new fortifications that he built without the Castle of SantUAngelo, with many apartments and decorations that he made within. The said Pontiff also had a project in his mind, of which he brought the greater part nearly to completion, of restoring or rebuilding, according as it might be necessary, the forty Churches of the Stations formerly instituted by the Saint, Pope Gregory I, who received the surname of Great. Thus he restored Santa Maria Trastevere, Santa Prassedia, San Teodoro, San Pietro in Vincula, and many other minor churches. But it was with much greater zeal, adornment, and diligence that he did this for six of the seven greater and principal churches--namely, San Giovanni Laterano, Santa Maria Maggiore, Santo Stefano in Celio Monte, Sant'Apostolo, San Paolo, and San Lorenzo extra muros. I say nothing of San Pietro, for of this he made an undertaking by itself.

The same Pope was minded to make the whole of the Vatican into a separate city, in the form of a fortress; and for this he was designing three roads that should lead to San Pietro, situated, I believe, where the Borgo Vecchio and the Borgo Nuovo now are; and on both sides of these roads he meant to build loggie, with very commodious shops, keeping the nobler and richer trades separate from the humbler, and grouping each in a street by itself. He had already built the Great Round Tower, which is still called the Torrione di Niccola. Over these shops and loggie were to be erected magnificent and commodious houses, built in a very beautiful and very practical style of architecture, and designed in such a manner as to be sheltered and protected from all the pestiferous winds of Rome, and freed from all the inconveniences of water and garbage likely to generate unhealthy exhalations. All this the said Pontiff would have finished if he had been granted a little longer life, for he had a great and resolute spirit, and an understanding so profound, that he gave as much guidance and direction to the craftsmen as they gave to him. When this is so, and when the patron has knowledge of his own and capacity enough to take an immediate resolution, great enterprises can be easily brought to completion; whereas an irresolute and incapable man, wavering between yes and no in a sea of conflicting designs and opinions, very often lets time slip past unprofitably without doing anything. But of this design of Nicholas there is no need to say any more, since it was not carried into effect.

Besides this, he wished to build the Papal Palace with so much magnificence and grandeur, and with so many conveniences and such loveliness, that it might be in all respects the greatest and most beautiful edifice in Christendom; and he intended that it should not only serve for the person of the Supreme Pontiff, the Chief of all Christians, and for the sacred college of Cardinals, who, being his counselors and assistants, had always to be about him, but also that it should provide accommodation for the transaction of all the business, resolutions, and judicial affairs of the Court; so that the grouping together of all the offices and courts would have produced great magnificence, and, if such a word may be used in such a context, an effect of incredible pomp. What is infinitely more, it was meant for the reception of all Emperors, Kings, Dukes, and other Christian Princes who might, either on affairs of their own or out of devotion, visit that most holy apostolic seat.

It is incredible, but he proposed to make there a theatre for the crowning of the Pontiffs, with gardens, loggie, aqueducts, fountains, chapels, libraries, and a most beautiful building set apart for the Conclave. In short, this edifice--I know not whether I should call it palace, or castle, or city--would have been the most superb work that had ever been made, so far as is known, from the Creation of the world to our own day. What great glory it would have been for the Holy Roman Church to see the Supreme Pontiff, her Chief, gather together, as into the most famous and most holy of monasteries, all those ministers of God who dwell in the city of Rome, to live there, as it were in a new earthly Paradise, a celestial, angelic, and most holy life, giving an example to all Christendom, and awakening the minds of the infidels to the true worship of God and of the Blessed Jesus Christ! But this great work remained unfinished--nay, scarcely begun--by reason of the death of that Pontiff; and the little that was carried out is known by his arms, or the device that he used as his arms, namely, tow keys crossed on a field of red. The fifth of the five works that the same Pope intended to execute was the Church of San Pietro, which he had proposed to make so vast, so rich, and so ornate, that it is better to be silent than to attempt to speak of it, because I could not describe even the least part of it, and the rather as the model was afterwards destroyed, and others have been made by other architects. If any man wishes to gain a full knowledge of the grand conception of Pope Nicholas V in this matter, let him read what Giannozzo Manetti, a noble and learned citizen of Florence, has written with the most minute detail in the Life of the said Pontiff, who availed himself in all the aforesaid designs, as has been said, as well as in his others, of the intelligence and great industry of Bernardo Rossellino.

Antonio, brother of Bernardo (to return at length to the point whence, with so fair an occasion, I digressed), wrought his sculptures about the year 1490; and since the more menUs works display diligence and difficulties the more they are admired, and these two characteristics are particularly noticeable in AntonioUs works, he deserves fame and honor as a most illustrious example from which modern sculptors have been able to learn how those statues should be made that are to secure the greatest praise and fame by reason of their difficulties. For after Donatello he did most towards adding a certain finish and refinement to the art of sculpture, seeking to give such depth and roundness to his figures that they appear wholly round and finished, a quality which had not been seen to such perfection in sculpture up to that time; and since he first introduced it, in the ages after his and in our own it appears a marvel.

 

 

 

Desiderio da Settignano (1428-1464)
Vasari's Lives of the Artists



Very great is the obligation that is owed to Heaven and to Nature by those who bring their works to birth without effort and with a certain grace which others cannot give to their creations, either by study or by imitation. It is a truly celestial gift, which pours down on these works in such a manner, that they ever have about them a loveliness and a charm which attract not only those who are versed in that calling, but also many others who do not belong to the profession. And this springs from facility in the production of the good, which presents no crudeness or harsheness to the eye, such as is often shown by works wrought with labor and difficulty; and this grace and simplicity, which give universal pleasure and are recognized by all, are seen in all the works made by Desiderio.

Of this man, some say that he came from Settignano, a place two miles distant from Florence, while certain others hold him to be a Florentine; but this matters nothing, the distance between the one place and the other being so small. he was an imitator of the manner of Donatello, although he had a natural gift of imparting very great grace and loveliness to his heads; and in the expressions of his women and children there is seen a delicate, sweet, and charming manner, produced as much by nature, which had inclined him to this, as by the zeal with which he had practised his intelligence in the art. In his youth he wrought the base of Donatello's David, which is in the Duke's Palace in Florence, making on it in marble certain very beautiful harpies, and some vine-tendrils in bronze, very graceful and well conceived. On the facade of the house of the Gianfigliazzi he made a large and very beautiful coat of arms, with a lion; besides other works in stone, which are in the same city. For the Chapel of th Brancacci in the Carmine, he made an angel of wood; and he finished with marble the Chapel of the Sacrament in San Lorenzo, carrying it to complete perfection with much diligence. There was in it a child of marble in the round, which ws removed and is now set up on the altar at the festivals of the Nativity of Christ, as an admirable work; and in place of this Baccio da Montelupo made another, also of marble, which stands permanently over the Tabernacle of the Sacrament.

In Santa Maria Novella he made a marble tomb for the Blessed Villana, with certain graceful little angels, and portrayed her there from nature in such a manner that she appears not dead but asleep; and for the Nuns of the Murate he wrought a little Madonna with a lovely and graceful manner, in a tabernacle standing on a column, insomuch that both of these works are very highly esteemed and very greatly prized. In San Pietro Maggiore, also, he made the Tabernacle fo the Sacrament in marble with his usual diligence; and although there were no figures in this work, yet it shows a beautiful manner and infinite grace, like his other works. And he portrayed from the life, likewise in marble, the head of Marietta degli Strozzi, who was so beautiful that the work turned out very excellent.

In Santa Croce he made a tomb for Messer Carlo Marsuppini of Arezzo, which not only amazed the craftsmen and the people of understanding who saw it at that time, but still fills with marvel all who see it at the present day; for on the sacrophagus he wrought some foliage, which, although somewhat stiff and dry, was held--since but few antiquities had been discovered up to that time--to be something very beautiful. Among other parts of the said work are seen certain wings, acting as ornaments for a shell at the foo of the sacrophagus,w hich seem to e made not of marble but of feathers--difficult things to imitate in marble, seeing that the chisel is not able to counterfeit hair and feathers. There is a large shell of marble, more real than if it were an actual shell. There are also some children and some angels, executed with a beautiful and lively manner; and consummate excellence and art are likewise seen in the figure of the dead, portrayed from nature on the sarcophagus, and in a Madonna in low relief on a medaillion, wrought after the manner of Donatello with judgment and most admirable grace; as are many other works he made in low relief on marble, some of which are in the guardaroba of the Lord Duke Cosimo, and in particular a medaillion with the head of our Lord Jesus Christ and with that of John the Baptist as a boy. At the foot of the tomb of the said Messer Carlo he laid a large stone in memory of Messer Giorgio, a famous Doctor, and Secretary to the Signoria of Florence, with a very beautiful portrait in low relief of Messer Giorgio, clad in his Doctor's robes according to the use of those times.

If death had not snatch so prematurely from the world a spirit which worked so nobly, he would have done so much later on by means of experience and study, that he would have outstripped in art all those whom he had surpassed in grace. Death cut the thread of his life at the age of twenty-eight, which caused great grief to those who were looking forward to seeing so great an intellect attain to perfection in old age; and hey were left in the deepest dismay at such a loss. He was followed by his relatives and by many friends to the Church of the Servi; and a vast number of epigrams and sonnets continued for a long time to be placed on his tomb, of which I have contented myself with including only the following:


COME VIDE NATURA
DAR DESIDERIO AI FREDDI MARMI VITA,
E POTER LA SCULTURA
AGGUAGLIAR SUA BELLEZZA ALMA A INFINITA,
SI FERMO SBIGOTTITA
E DISSE: OMAI SARA MIA GLORIA OSCURA.
E PIENA D'ALTO SDEGNO
TRONCO LA VITA A COSI BELL'INGEGNO.
MA IN VAN; CHE SE COSTUI
DIE VITA ETERNA AI MARMI, E I MARMI A LUI.


The sculptures of Desiderio date about 1485. He left unfinished a figure of St. Mary Magdalene in Penitence, which was afterwards completed by Benedetto da Maiano, and is now in Santa Trinita in Florence, on the right hand as one enters the church; and the beauty of this figure is beyond the power of words to express. In our book are certain very beautiful pen drawings by Desiderio; and his portrait was obtained from some of his relatives in Settignano.


 

 

 

MINO DA FIESOLE (1429 - 1484)
SCULPTOR

Vasari's Lives of the Artists


WHEN OUR CRAFTSMEN seek to do no more in the works that they execute than to imitate the manner of their masters, or that of some other man of excellence whose method of working pleases them, either in the attitudes of the figures, or in the expressions of the heads, or in the folds of the draperies, and when they study these things only, they may with time and diligence come to make them exactly the same, but they cannot by these means alone attain to perfection in their art, seeing that it is clearly evident that one who ever walks behind rarely comes to the front, since the imitation of nature becomes fixed in the manner of a craftsman who has developed that manner out of long practice. For imitation is a definite art of copying what you represent exactly after the model of the most beautiful things of nature, which you must take pure and free from the manner of your master or that of others, who also reduce to a manner the things that they take from nature. And although it may appear that the imitations made by excellent craftsmen are natural objects, or absolutely similar, it is not possible with all the diligence in the world to make them so similar that they shall be like nature herself, or even, by selecting the best, to compose a body so perfect as to make art excel nature.

Now, if this is so, it follows that only objects taken from nature can make pictures and sculptures perfect, and that if a man studies closely only the manner of other craftsmen, and not bodies and objects of nature, it is inevitable that he should make works inferior both to nature and to those of the man whose manner he adopts. Where- fore it has been seen in the case of many of our craftsmen, who have refused to study anything save the works of their masters, leaving nature on one side, that they have failed to gain any real knowledge of them or to surpass their masters, but have done very great injury to their own powers; whereas, if they had studied the manner of their masters and the objects of nature together, they would have produced much greater fruits in their works than they did. This is seen in the works of the sculptor Mino da Fiesole, who, having an intelligence capable of achieving whatsoever he wished, was so captivated by the manner of his master Desiderio da Settignano, by reason of the beautiful grace that he gave to the heads of women, children, and every other kind of figure, which appeared to Mino's judgment to be superior to nature, that he practised and studied it alone, abandoning natural objects and thinking them useless; wherefore he had more grace than solid grounding in his art.

It was on the hill of Fiesole, a very ancient city near Florence, that there was born the sculptor Mino di Giovanni, who, having been apprenticed to the craft of stone cutting under Desiderio da Settignano, a young man excellent in sculpture, showed so much inclination to his master's art, that, while he was labouring at the hewing of stones, he learnt to copy in clay the works that Desiderio had made in marble ; and this he did so well that his master, seeing that he was likely to make progress in that art, brought him forward and set him to work on his own figures in marble, in which he sought with very great attention to reproduce the model before him. Nor did he continue long at this before he became passing skilful in that calling; at which Desiderio was greatly pleased, and still more pleased was Mino by the loving-kindness of his master, seeing that Desiderio was ever ready to teach him how to avoid the errors that can be committed in that art. Now, while he was on the way to becoming excellent in his profession, his ill luck would have it that Desiderio should pass to a better life, and this loss was a very great blow to Mino, who departed from Florence, almost in despair, and went to Rome. There, assisting masters who were then executing works in marble, such as tombs of Cardinals, which were placed in S. Pietro, although they have since been thrown to the ground in the building of the new church, he became known as a very experienced and capable master; and he was commissioned by Cardinal Guglielmo Destovilla, who was pleased with his manner, to make the marble altar where lies the body of S. Jerome, in the Church of S. Maria Maggiore, together with scenes in low relief from his life, which he executed to perfection, with a portrait of that Cardinal.

Afterwards, when Pope Paul II, the Venetian, was erecting his Palace of S. Marco, Mino was employed thereon in making certain coats of arms. After the death of that Pope, Mino was commissioned to make his tomb, which he delivered finished and erected in S. Pietro in the space of two years. This tomb was then held to be the richest, both in ornaments and in figures, that had ever been made for any Pontiff; but it was thrown to the ground by Bramante in the demolition of S. Pietro, and remained there buried among the rubbish for some years, until 1547, when certain Venetians had it rebuilt in the old S. Pietro, against a wall near the Chapel of Pope Innocent. And although some believe that this tomb is by the hand of Mino del Reame, yet, notwithstanding that these two masters lived almost at the same time, it is without doubt by the hand of Mino da Fiesole. It is true, indeed, that the said Mino del Reame made some little figures on the base, which can be recognized; if in truth his name was Mino, and not, as some maintain, Dino.

But to return to our craftsman; having acquired a good name in Rome by the said tomb, by the sarcophagus that he made for the Minerva, on which he placed a marble statue of Francesco Tornabuoni from nature, which is held very beautiful, and by other works, it was not long before he returned to Fiesole with a good sum of money saved, and took a wife. And no long time after this, working for the Nuns of the Murate, he made a marble tabernacle in half-relief to contain the Sacrament, which was brought to perfection by him with all the diligence in his power. This he had not yet fixed into its place, when the Nuns of S. Ambrogio who desired to have an ornament made, similar in design but richer in adornment, to contain that most holy relic, the Miracle of the Sacrament hearing of the ability of Mino, commissioned him to execute that work, which he finished with so great diligence that those nuns, being satisfied with him, gave him all that he asked as the price of the work. And a little after this he undertook, at the instance of Messer Dietisalvi Neroni, to make a little panel with figures of Our Lady with the Child in her arms, and S. Laurence on one side and S. Leonard on the other, in half-relief, which was intended for the priests or chapter of S. Lorenzo; but it has remained in the Sacristy of the Badia of Florence. For those monks he made a marble medallion containing a Madonna in relief with the Child in her arms, which they placed over the principal door of entrance into the church; and since it gave great satisfaction to all, he received a commission for a tomb for the Magnificent Chevalier, Messer Bernardo de' Giugni, who, having been an honorable man of high repute, rightly received this memorial from his brothers. On this tomb, besides the sarcophagus and the portrait from nature of the dead man, Mino executed a figure of Justice, which resembles the manner of Desiderio closely, save only that its draperies are a little too full of detail in the carving.

This work induced the Abbot and Monks of the Badia of Florence, in which place the said tomb was erected, to entrust Mino with the making of one for Count Ugo, son of the Marquis Uberto of Magdeburg, who bequeathed great wealth and many privileges to that abbey. And so, desiring to honor him as much as they could, they caused Mino to make a tomb of Carrara marble, which was the most beautiful work that Mino ever made; for in it there are some boys, upholding the arms of that Count, who are standing in very spirited attitudes, with a childish grace; and besides the figure of the dead Count, with his likeness, which he made on the sarcophagus, in the middle of the wall above the bier there is a figure of Charity, with certain children, wrought with much diligence and very well in harmony with the whole. The same is seen in a Madonna with the Child in her arms, in a lunette, which Mino made as much like the manner of Desiderio as he could ; and if he had assisted his methods of work by studying from the life, there is no doubt that he would have made very great progress in his art. This tomb, with all its expenses, cost 1,600 lire, and he finished it in 1481, thereby acquiring much honor, and obtaining a commission to make a tomb for Lionardo Salutati, Bishop of Fiesole, in the Vescovado of that place, in a chapel near the principal chapel, on the right hand as one goes up; on which tomb he portrayed him in his episcopal robes, as lifelike as possible. For the same Bishop he made a head of Christ in marble, life-size and very well wrought, which was left among other bequests to the Hospital of the Innocenti; and at the present day the Very Reverend Don Vincenzio Borghini, Prior of that hospital, holds it among his most precious examples of these arts, in which he takes a delight beyond my power to express in words.

In the Pieve of Prato Mino made a pulpit entirely of marble, in which there are stories of Our Lady, executed with much diligence and put together so well, that the work appears all of one piece. This pulpit stands over one corner of the choir, almost in the middle of the church, above certain ornaments made under the direction of the same Mino. He also made portraits of Piero di Lorenzo de' Medici and his wife, marvellously lifelike and true to nature. These two heads stood for many years over two doors in Piero' s apartment in the house of the Medici, each in a lunette; afterwards they were removed, with the portraits of many other illustrious men of that house, to the guardaroba of the Lord Duke Cosimo. Mino also made a Madonna hi marble, which is now in the Audience Chamber of the Guild of the Masters in Wood and Stone; and to Perugia, for Messer Baglione Ribi, he sent a marble panel, which was placed in the Chapel of the Sacrament in S. Pietro, the work being in the form of a tabernacle, with S. John on one side and S. Jerome on the other good figures in half relief. The Tabernacle of the Sacrament in the Duomo of Volterra is likewise by his hand, with the two angels standing one on either side of it, so well and so diligently executed that this work is deservedly praised by all craftsmen.

Finally, attempting one day to move certain stones, and not having the needful assistance at hand, Mino fatigued himself so greatly that he was seized by pleurisy and died of it; and he was honorably buried by his friends and relatives in the Canon's house at Fiesole in the year 1486. The portrait of Mino is in our book of drawings, but I do not know by whose hand; it was given to me together with some drawings made with blacklead by Mino himself, which have no little beauty.

 

 

 

LORENZO COSTA (circa 1460-1535)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists




ALTHOUGH MEN HAVE EVER practiced the arts of design more in Tuscany than in any other province of Italy, and perhaps of Europe, yet it is none the less true that in every age there has arisen in the other provinces some genius who has proved himself rare and excellent in the same professions, as has been shown up to the present in many of the Lives, and will be demonstrated even more in those that are to follow. It is true, indeed, that where there are no studies, and where men are not disposed by custom to learn, they are not able to advance so rapidly or to become so excellent as they do in those places where craftsmen are forever practicing and studying in competition. But as soon as one or two make a beginning, it seems always to come to pass that many others--such is the fore of excellence--strive to follow them, with honor both for themselves and for their countries.

Lorenzo Costa of Ferrara, being inclined by nature to the art of painting, and hearing that Fra Filippo, Benozzo, and others were celebrated and highly esteemed in Tuscany, betook himself to Florence in order to study their works; and on his arrival, finding that their manner pleased him greatly, he stayed there many months, striving to imitate them to the best of his power, particularly in drawing from nature. In this he succeeded so happily, that, after returning to his own country, although his manner was a little dry and hard, he made many praise-worthy works there; as may be seen from the choir of the Church of San Domenico in Ferrara, wrought entirely by his hand, from which it is evident that he used great diligence in his art and put much labor into his works. In the guardaroba of the Lord Duke of Ferrara there are seen portraits from life in many pictures by his hand, which are very well wrought and very lifelike. In the houses of noblemen, likewise, there are works by his hand which are held in great veneration.

In the Church of San Domenico at Ravenna, in the Chapel of San Sebastiano, he painted the panel in oil and certain scenes in fresco, which were much extolled. Being next summoned to Bologna, he painted a panel in the Chapel of the Mariscotti in San Petronio, representing St. Sebastian bound to the column and pierced with arrows, with many other figures, which was the best work in distemper that had been made up to that time in the city. By his hand, also, was the panel of St. Jerome in the Chapel of the Castelli, and likewise that of St. Vincent, wrought in like manner in distemper, which is in the Chapel of the riffoni; the predella of this he caused to be painted by a pupil of his, who acquitted himself much better than the master did in the panel, as will be told in the proper place. In the same city, and in the same church, Lorenzo painted a panel for the Chapel of the Rossi, with Our Lady, St. James, St. George, St. Sebastian, and St. Jerome; which work is better and sweeter in manner than any other that he ever made.

Afterwards, having entered the service of Signor Francesco Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua, Lorenzo painted many scenes for him, partly in gouache and partly in oil, in an apartment in the Palace of San Sebastiano. In one is the Marchioness Isabella, portrayed from life, accompanied by many ladies who are singing various parts and making a sweet harmony. In another is the Goddess Latona, who is transforming certain peasants nto frogs, according to the fable. In the third is the Marquis Francesco, led by Hercules along the path of virtue upon the summit of a mountain consecrated in Eternity. In another picture the same Marquis is seen triumphant on a pedestal, with a staff in his hand; and round him are many nobles and retainers with standards in their hands, all rejoicing and full of jubilation at his greatness, among whom there is an infinite number of portraits from the life. And in the great hall, where the triumphal processions by the hand of Mantegna now are, he painted two pictures, one at each end. In the first, which is in gouache, are many naked figures lighting fires and making sacrifices to Hercules; and in this is a portrait from life of the Marquis, with his three sons, Federigo, Ercole, and Ferrante, who afterwards became very great and very illustrious lords; and there are likewise some portraits of great ladies. In the other, which was painted in oil many years after the first, and which was one of the last works that Lorenzo executed, is the Marquis Federigo, grown to mans estate, with a staff in his hand, as General of Holy Church under Leo X; and round him are many lords portrayed by Costa from life.

In Bologna, in the Palace of Messer Giovanni Bentivogli, the same man painted certain rooms in competition with many other masters; but of these, since they were thrown to the ground in the d estruction of that palace, no further mention will be made. But I will not forbear to say that, of the works that he executed for the Bentivogli, only one remained standing--namely, the chapel that he painted for Messer Giovannin in San Jacopo, wherein he wrought two scenes of triumphal processions, which are held very beautiful, with many portraits. In the year 1497, also, for Jacopo Chedini, he painted a panel for the chapel in San Giovanni in Monte, in which he wished to be buried after death; in this he made a Madonna, St. John the Evangelist, St. Augustine, and other saints. On a panel in San Francesco he painted a Nativity, St. James, and St. Anthony of Padua. In San Pietro he made a most beautiful beginning in a chapel for Domenico Garganelli, a gentleman of Bologna; but, whatever may have been the reason, after making some figures on the ceiling, he left it unfinished, nay, scarcely begun.

In Mantua, besides the works that he executed there for the Marquis, of which we have spoken above, he painted a Madonna on a panel for San Silvestro; and on one side, St. Sylvester recommending the people of that city to her, and, on the other, St. Sebastian, St. Paul, St. Elizabeth, and St. Jerome. It is reported that the said panel was placed in that church after the death of Costa, who, having finished his life in Mantua, in which city his descendants have lived ever since, wished to have a burial-place in that church both for himself and for his successors.

The same man made many other pictures, of which nothing more will be said, for it is enough to have recorded the best. His portrait I received in Mantua from Fermo Ghisoni, an excellent painter, who assured me that it was by the hand of Costa, who was a passing good draughtsman, as may be seen from a pen drawing on a parchment in our book, wherein is the Judgment of Solomon, with a St. Jerome in chiaroscuro, which are both very well wrought.

Disciples of Lorenzo were Ercole da Ferrara, his compatriot, whose Life will be written below, and Lodovico Malino, likewise of Ferrara, by whom there are many works in his native city and in other laces; but the best that he made was a panel which is in the Church of San Francesco in Bologna, in a chapel near the principal door, representing Jesus Christ at the the age of twelve disputing with the Doctors in the Temple. The elder Dosso of Ferrara, of whose works mention will be made in the proper place, also learnt his first principles from Costa. And this is as much as I have been able to gather about the life and works of Lorenzo Costa of Ferrara.

 

 

 

ERCOLE ROBERTI/Ercole Ferrarese (1456-1496)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists




ALTHOUGH, long before Lorenzo Costa died, his disciple Ercole Ferrarese was in very good repute and was invited to work in many places, he would never abandon his master (a thing which is rarely wont to happen), and was content to work with him for meager gains and praise, rather than labor by himself for greater profit and credit. For this gratitude, in view of its rarity among the men of today, all the more praise is due to Ercole, who, knowing himself to be indebted to Lorenzo, put aside all thought of his own interest in favor of his master's wishes, and was like a brother or a son to him up to the end of his life. Ercole, then, who was a better draughtsman than Costa, painted, below the panel executed by Lorenzo in the Chapel of San Vincenzio in San Petronio, certain scenes in tempera with little figures, so well and with so beautiful and good a manner, that it is scarcely possible to see anything better, or to imagine the labor and diligence that Ercole put into the work; and thus the predella is a much better painting than the panel. Both were wrought at one and the same time during the life of Costa.

After his master's death, Ercole was employed by Domenico Garganelli to finish that chapel in San Petronio which Lorenzo, as has been said above, had begun, completing only a small part. Ercole, to whom the said Domenico was giving four ducats a month for this, with his own expenses and those of a boy, and all the colors that were to be used for the painting, set himself to work and finished the whole in such a manner, that he surpassed his master by a long way both in drawing and coloring as well as in invention. In the first part, or rather, wall, is the Crucifixion of Christ, wrought with much judgment: for besides the Christ, who is seen there already dead, he represented very well the tumult of the Jews who have come to see the Messiah on the Cross, among whom there is a marvelous variety of heads, whereby it is seen that Ercole sought with very great pains to make them so different one from another that they should not resemble each other in any respect.

There are also some figures bursting into tears of sorrow, which demonstrate clearly enough how much he sought to imitate reality. There is the swooning of the Madonna, which is most moving; but much more so are the Maries, who are facing her, for they are seen full of compassion and with an aspect so heavy with sorrow, that it is almost impossible to imagine it, at seeing that which mankind holds most dear dead before their eyes, and themselves in danger of losing the second. Among other notable things in this work is Longinus on horseback, riding a lean beast, which is foreshortened and in very strong relief; and in him we see the impiety that made him pierce the side of Christ, and the penitence and conversion that followed from his enlightenment. He gave strange attitudes, likewise, to the figures of certain soldiers who are playing for the raiment of Christ, with bizarre expressions of countenance and fanciful garments. Well wrought, too, with beautiful invention, are the Thieves on the Cross. And since Ercole took much delight in making foreshortenings, which, if well conceived, are very beautiful, he made in that work a soldier on a horse, which, rearing its forelegs on high, stands out in such a manner that it appears to be in relief; and as the wind is bending a banner that the soldier holds in his hand, he is making a most beautiful effort to hold it up. He also made a S. John, flying away wrapped in a sheet. In like manner, the soldiers that are in this work are very well wrought, with more natural and appropriate movements than had been seen in any other figures up to that time; and all these attitudes and gestures, which could scarcely be better done, show that Ercole had a very great intelligence and took great pains with his art.

On the wall opposite to this one the same man painted the Passing of Our Lady, who is surrounded by the Apostles in very beautiful attitudes, among whom are six figures portrayed so well from life, that those who knew them declare that these are most vivid likenesses. In the same work he also made his own portrait, and that of Domenico Garganelli, the owner of the chapel, who, when it was finished, moved by the love that he bore to Ercole and by the praises that he heard given to the work, bestowed upon him a thousand lire in Bolognese currency. It is said that Ercole spent twelve years in laboring at this work; seven in executing it in fresco, and five in retouching it on the dry. It is true, indeed, that during this time he painted some other works; and in particular, so far as is known, the predella of the high altar of San Giovanni in Monte, in which he wrought three scenes of the Passion of Christ.

Ercole was eccentric in character, particularly in his custom of refusing to let any man, whether painter or not, see him at work; wherefore he was greatly hated in Bologna by the painters of that city, who have ever borne an envious hatred to the strangers who have been summoned to work there; nay, they sometimes show the same among themselves out of rivalry with each other, although this may be said to be the particular vice of the professors of these our arts in every place. Certain Bolognese painters, then, having come to an agreement one day with a carpenter, shut themselves up by his help in the church, close to the chapel where Ercole was working; and when night came, breaking into it by force, they did not content themselves with seeing the work, which should have sufficed them, but carried off all his cartoons, sketches, and designs, and every other thing of value that was there. At this Ercole fell into such disdain that when the work was finished he departed Bologna, without stopping another day there, taking with him Duca Tagliapietra, a sculptor of much renown , who carved the very beautiful foliage in marble which is in the parapet in front of the chapel wherein Ercole painted the said work, and who afterwards made all the stone windows of the Ducal Palace at Ferrara, which are most beautiful. Ercole, therefore , weary at length of living away from home, remained ever after in company with this man in Ferrara, and made many works in that city.

Ercole had an extraordinary love of wine, and his frequent drunkenness did much to shorten his life, which he had enjoyed without any accident up to the age of forty, when he was smitten one day by apoplexy, which made an end of him in a short time. He left a pupil, the painter Guido Bolognese, who, in 1491, as may be seen from the place where he put his name, under the portico of San Pietro at Bologna, painted a Crucifixion in fresco, with the Maries, the Thieves, horses, and other passing good figures. And desiring very greatly to become esteemed in that city, as his master had been, he studied so zealously and subjected himself to so many hardships that he died at the age of thirty-five. If Guido had set himself to learn his art in his childhood, and not, as he did, at the age of eighteen, he would not only have equaled his master without difficulty, but would even have surpassed him by a great measure. In our book there are drawings by the hands of Ercole and Guido, very well wrought, and executed with grace and in a good manner.

 

 

 

JACOPO (c. 1400-c. 1461),
GIOVANNI (c. 1428-1516),
and GENTILE BELLINI (c.1426-1507) of Venice

Vasari's Lives of the Artists




ENTERPRISES that are founded on excellence, although their beginnings often appear humble and mean, keep climbing higher step by step, nor do they ever halt or take rest until they have reached the supreme heights of glory: as could be clearly seen from the poor and humble beginning of the house of the Bellini, and from the rank to which it afterwards rose by means of painting. Jacopo Bellini, a painter of Venice, having been a disciple of Gentile da Fabriano, worked in competition with that Domenico who taught the method of coloring in oil to Andrea dal Castagno; but, although he labored greatly to become excellent in that art, he did not acquire fame therein until after the departure of Domenico [Domenico Veneziano] from Venice. Then, finding himself in that city without any competitor to equal him, he kept growing in credit and fame, and became so excellent that he was the greatest and most renowned man in his profession. And to the end that the name which he had acquired in painting might not only be maintained in his house and for his descendants, but might grow greater, there were born to him two sons of good and beautiful intelligence, strongly inclined to the art: one was Giovanni, and the other Gentile, to whom he gave that name in tender memory of Gentile da Fabriano, who had been his master and like a loving father to him. Now, when the said two sons had grown to a certain age, Jacopo himself with all diligence taught them the rudiments of drawing; but no long time passed before both one and the other surpassed his father by a great measure, whereat he rejoiced greatly, ever encouraging them and showing them that he desired them to do as the Tuscans did, who gloried among themselves in making efforts to outstrip each other, according as one after another took up the art: even so should Giovanni vanquish himself, and Gentile should vanquish them both, and so on in succession.

The first works that brought fame to Jacopo were the portraits of Giorgio Cornaro and of Caterina, Queen of Cyprus; a panel which he sent to Verona, containing the Passion of Christ, with many figures, among which he portrayed himself from the life; and a picture of the Story of the Cross, which is said to be in the Scuola of San Giovanni Evangelista. All these works and many others were painted by Jacopo with the aid of his sons; and the last-named picture was painted on canvas, as it has been almost always the custom to do in that city, where they rarely paint, as is done elsewhere, on panels of the wood of that tree that is called by many oppio and by some gattice. This wood, which grows mostly beside rivers or other waters, is very soft, and admirable for painting on, for it holds very firmly when joined together with carpenters' glue. But in Venice they make no panels, and, if they do make a few, they use no other wood than that of the fir, of which that city has a great abundance by reason of the River Adige, which brings a very great quantity of it from Germany, not to mention that no small amount comes from Sclavonia. It is much the custom in Venice, then, to paint on canvas, either because it does not split and does not grow worm-eaten, or because it enables pictures to be made of any size that is desired, or because, as was said elsewhere, they can be sent easily and conveniently wherever they are wanted, with very little expense and labor. Be the reason what it may, Jacopo and Gentile, as was said above, made their first works on canvas.

To the last-named Story of the Cross Gentile afterwards added by himself seven other pictures, or rather, eight, inwhich he painted the miracle of the Cross of Christ, which the said Scuola preserves as a relic; which miracle was as follows. The said Cross was thrown, I know not by what chance, from the Ponte della Paglia into the Canal, and, by reason of the reverence that many bore to the piece of the Cross of Christ that it contained, they threw themselves into the water to recover it; but it was the will of God that no one should be worthy to succeed in grasping it save the Prior of that Scuola. Gentile, therefore,representing this story, drew in perspective, along the Grand Canal, manyhouses, the Ponte della Paglia, the Piazza di San Marco, and a long procession of men and women walking behind the clergy; also many who have leapt into the water, others in the act of leaping, many half immersed, and others in other very beautiful actions and attitudes; and finally he painted the said Prior recovering the Cross. Truly great were the labor and diligence of Gentile in this work, considering the infinite number of people, the many portraits from life, the diminution of the figures in the distance, and particularly the portraits of almost all the men who then belonged to that Scuola, or rather, Confraternity. Last comes the picture of the replacing of the said Cross, wrought with many beautiful conceptions. All these scenes, painted on the aforesaid canvases, acquired a very great name for Gentile.

Afterwards, Jacopo withdrew to work entirely by himself, as did his two sons, each of them devoting himself to his own studies in the art. Of Jacopo I will make no further mention, seeing that his works were nothing out of the ordinary in comparison with those of his sons, and because he died not long after his sons withdrew themselves from him; and I judge it much better to speak at some length only of Giovanni and Gentile. I will not, indeed, forbear to say that although these brothers retired to live each by himself, nevertheless they had so much respect for each other, and both had such reverence for their father, that each, extolling the other, ever held himself inferior in merit; and thus they sought modestly to surpass one another no less in goodness and courtesy than in the excellence of their art.

The first works of Giovanni were some portraits from the life, which gave much satisfaction, and particularly that of Doge Loredano, although some say that this was a portrait of Giovanni Mozzenigo, brother of that Piero who was Doge many years before Loredano. Giovanni then painted a panel for the altar of Santa Caterina da Siena in the Church of San Giovanni, in which picture,a rather large one, he painted Our Lady seated, with the Child in her arms, and St. Dominic, St. Jerome, St. Catherine, St. Ursula, and two other Virgins; and at the feet of the Madonna he made three boys standing, who are singing from a book, a very beautiful group. Above this he made the inner part of a vault in a building, which is very beautiful. This work was one of the best that had been made in Venice up to that time. For the altar of San Giobbe in the Church of that Saint, the same man painted a panel with good design and most beautiful coloring, in the middle of which he made the Madonna with the Child in her arms, seated on a throne slightly raised from the ground, with nude figures of St. Job and St. Sebastian, beside whom are St. Dominic, St. Francis, St. John, and St. Augustine; and below are three boys, sounding instruments with much grace. This picture was not only praised then, when it was seen as new, but it has likewise been extolled ever afterwards as a very beautiful work.

Certain noblemen, moved by the great praises won by these works, began to suggest that it would be a fine thing, in view of the presence of such rare masters, to have the Hall of the Great Council adorned with stories , in which there should be depicted the glories and the magnificence of their marvelous city,her great deeds, her exploits in war, her enter prises, and other things of that kind, worthy to be perpetuated by painting. in the memory of those who should come after,to the end that there might be added, to the profit and pleasure drawn from the reading of history, entertainment both for the eye and for the intellect, from seeing the images of so many illustrious lords wrought by the most skillful hands, and the glorious works of so many noblemen right worthy of eternal memory and fame. And so Giovanni and Gentile, who kept on making progress from day to day, received the commission for this work by order of those who governed the city, who commanded them to make a beginning as soon as possible. But it must be remarked that Antonio Viniziano had made a beginning long before with the painting of the same Hall, as was said in his Life, and had already finished a large scene, when he was forced by the envy of certain malignant spirits to depart and to leave that most honorable enterprise without carrying it on further.

Now Gentile, either because he had more experience and greater skill in painting on canvas than in fresco, or for some other reason, whatever it may have been, contrived without difficulty to obtain leave to execute that work not in fresco but on canvas. And thus, setting to work, in the first scene he made the Pope presenting a wax candle to the Doge, that he might bear it in the solemn processions which were to take place; in which picture Gentile painted the whole exterior of San Marco, and made the said Pope standing in his pontifical robes, with many prelates behind him, and the Doge likewise standing, accompanied by many Senators. In another part he represented the Emperor Barbarossa; first, when he is receiving the Venetian envoys in friendly fashion, and then, when he is preparing for war, in great disdain; in which scene are very beautiful perspectives, with innumerable able portraits from the life, executed with very good grace and amid a vast number of figures. In the following scene he painted the Pope exhorting the Doge and the Signori of Venice to equip thirty galleys at their common expense, to go out to battle against Frederick Barbarossa. This Pope is seated in his rochet on the pontifical chair, with the Doge beside him and many Senators at his feet. In this part, also, Gentile painted the Piazza and the facade of San Marco, and the sea, but in another manner, with so great a multitude of men that it is truly a marvel. Then in another part the same Pope, standing in his pontifical robes, is giving his benediction to the Doge, who appears to be setting out for the fray, armed, and with many soldiers at his back; behind the Doge are seen innumerable noblemen in a long procession, and in the same part are the Palace and San Marco, drawn in perspective.

This is one of the best works that there are to be seen by the hand of Gentile, although there appears to be more invention in that other which represents a naval battle, because it contains an infinite number of galleys fighting together and an incredible multitude of men, and because, in short, he showed clearly therein that he had no less knowledge of naval warfare than of his own art of painting. And indeed, all that Gentile executed in this work,the crowd of galleys engaged in battle; the soldiers fighting; the boats duly diminishing in perspective; the finely ordered combat; the soldiers furiously striving, defending, and striking; the wounded dying in various manners; the cleaving of the water by the galleys; the confusion of the waves; and all the kinds of naval armament; all this vast diversity of subjects, I say, cannot but serve to prove the great spirit, art, invention, and judgment of Gentile, each detail being most excellently wrought in itself, as well as the composition of the whole. In another scene he made the Doge returning with the victory so much desired, and the Pope receiving him with open arms, and giving him a ring of gold wherewith to espouse the sea, as his successors have done and still do every year, as a sign of the true and perpetual dominion that they deservedly hold over it. In this part there is Otto, son of Frederick Barbarossa, portrayed from the life, and kneeling before the Pope; and as behind the Doge there are many armed soldiers, so behind the Pope there are many Cardinals and noblemen. In this scene only the poops of the galleys appear; and on the Admiral's galley is seated a Victory painted to look like gold, with a crown on her head and a scepter in her hand.

The scenes that were to occupy the other parts of the Hall were entrusted to Giovanni, the brother of Gentile; but since the order of the stories that he painted there is connected with those executed in great part, but not finished, by Vivarino, it is necessary to say something of the latter. That part of the Hall which was not done by Gentile was given partly to Giovanni and partly to the said Vivarino, to the end that rivalry might induce each man to do his best. Vivarino, then, putting his hand to the part that belonged to him, painted, beside the last scene of Gentile, the aforesaid Otto offering to the Pope and to the Venetians to go to conclude peace between them and his father Frederick; and, having obtained this, he is dismissed on oath and goes his way. In this first part, besides other things, which are all worthy of consideration, Vivarino painted an open temple in beautiful perspective, with steps and many figures. Before the Pope, who is seated and surrounded by many Senators, is the said Otto on his knees, binding himself by an oath. Beside this scene, he painted the arrival of Otto before his father, who is receiving him gladly; with buildings wrought most beautifully in per perspective, Barbarossa on his throne, and his son kneeling and taking his hand, accompanied by many Venetian noblemen, who are portrayed from the life so finely that it is clear that he imitated nature very well. Poor Vivarino would have completed the remainder of his part with great honor to himself, but, having died, as it pleased God, from exhaustion and through being of a weakly habit of body, he carried it no further, nay, even what he had done was not wholly finished, and it was necessary for Giovanni Bellini to retouch it in certain places.

Meanwhile, Giovanni had also made a beginning with four scenes, which follow in due order those mentioned above. In the first he painted the said Pope in San Marco,which church he portrayed exactly as it stood,presenting his foot to Frederick Barbarossa to kiss; but this first picture of Giovanni's , whatever may have been the reason , was rendered much more lifelike and incomparably better by the most excel lent Tiziano. However, continuing his scenes, Giovanni made in the next the Pope saying Mass in San Marco, and afterwards, between the said Emperor and the Doge, granting plenary and perpetual indulgence to all who should visit the said Church of San Marco at certain times, particularly at that of the Ascension of Our Lord. There he depicted the interior of that church, with the said Pope in his pontifical robes at the head of the steps that issue from the choir, surrounded by many Cardinals and noblemen,a vast group, which makes this a crowded, rich, and beautiful scene. In the one below this the Pope is seen in his rochet, presenting a canopy to the Doge, after having given another to the Emperor and keeping two for himself. In the last that Giovanni painted are seen Pope Alexander, the Emperor, and the Doge arriving in Rome, without the gates of which the Pope is presented by the clergy and by the people of Rome with eight standards of various colors and eight silver trumpets, which he gives to the Doge, that he and his successors may have them for insignia. Here Giovanni painted Rome in somewhat distant perspective, a great number of horses, and an infinity of foot soldiers, with many banners and other signs of rejoicing on the Castle of SantU Angelo. And since these works of Giovanni, which are truly very beautiful, gave infinite satisfaction, arrangements were just being made to give him the commission to paint all the rest of that Hall, when, being now old, he died.

Up to the present we have spoken of nothing save the Hall, in order not to interrupt the sequence of the scenes; but now we must turn back a little and say that there are many other works to be seen by the hand of the same man. One is a panel which is now on the high altar of San Domenico in Pesaro. In the Church of San Zaccheria in Venice, in the Chapel of San Girolamo, there is a panel of Our Lady and many saints, executed with great diligence, with a building painted with much judgment ; and in the same city, in the Sacristy of the Friars Minor, called the "Ca Grande," there is another by the same man's hand, wrought with beautiful design and a good manner. There is likewise one in San Michele di Murano, a monastery of Monks of Camaldoli; and in the old Church of San Francesco della Vigna, a seat of the Frati del Zoccolo, there was a picture of a Dead Christ, so beautiful that it was highly extolled before Louis XI, King of France, whereupon he demanded it from its owners with great insistence, so that they were forced, although very unwillingly, to gratify his wish. In its place there was put another with the name of The same Giovanni, but not so beautiful or so well executed as the first; and some believe that this substitute was wrought for the most part by Girolamo Moretto, a pupil of Giovanni. The Confraternity of San Girolamo also possesses a work with little figures by the same Bellini, which is much extolled. And in the house of Messer Giorgio Cornaro there is a picture, likewise very beautiful, containing Christ, Cleophas, and Luke.

In the aforesaid Hall he also painted, though not at the same time, a scene of the Venetians summoning forth from the Monastery of the Carita a Pope--I know not which--who, having fled to Venice, had secretly served for a long time as cook to the monks of that monastery; in which scene there are many portraits from the life, and other very beautiful figures. No long time after, certain portraits were taken to Turkey by an ambassador as presents for the Grand Turk, which caused such astonish and marvel to that Emperor, that, although pictures are forbidden among that people by the Mahometan law, nevertheless he accepted them with great good-will, praising the art and the craftsman without ceasing; and what is more, he demanded that the master of the work should be sent to him. Whereupon the Senate, considering that Giovanni had reached an age when he could ill endure hardships, not to mention that they did not wish to deprive their own city of so great a man, particularly because he was then engaged on the aforesaid Hall of the Great Council, determined to send his brother Gentile, believing that he would do as well as Giovanni.

Therefore, having caused Gentile to make his preparations, they brought him safely in their own galleys to Constantinople, where, after being presented by the Commissioner of the Signoria to Mahomet, he was received very willingly and treated with much favor as something new, above all after he had given that Prince a most lovely picture, which he greatly admired, being well-nigh unable to believe that a mortal man had within himself so much divinity, so to speak, as to be able to represent the objects of nature so vividly. Gentile had been there no long time when he portrayed the Emperor Mahomet from the life so well, that it was held a miracle. That Emperor, after having seen many specimens of his art, asked Gentile whether he had the courage to paint his own portrait; and Gentile, having answered "Yes," did not allow many days to pass before he had made his own portrait with a mirror, with such resemblance that it appeared alive.

This he brought to the Sultan, who marveled so greatly thereat, that he could not but think that he had some divine spirit within him; and if it had not been that the exercise of this art, as has been said, is forbidden by law among the Turks, that Emperor would never have allowed Gentile to go. But either in fear of murmurings, or for some other reason, one day he summoned him to his presence, and after first causing him to be thanked for the courtesy that he had shown, and then praising him in marvelous fashion as a man of the greatest excellence, he bade him demand whatever favor he wished, for it would be granted to him with out fail. Gentile, like the modest and upright man that he was, asked for nothing save a letter of recommendation to the most Serene Senate and the most Illustrious Signoria of Venice, his native city. This was written in the warmest possible terms, and afterwards he was dismissed with honorable gifts and with the dignity of Chevalier. Among other things given to him at parting by that Sovereign, in addition to many privileges, there was placed round his neck a chain wrought in the Turkish manner, equal in weight to 250 gold crowns, which is still in the hands of his heirs in Venice.



Departing from Constantinople, Gentile returned after a most prosperous voyage to Venice, where he was received with gladness by his brother Giovanni and by almost the whole city, all men rejoicing at the honors paid to his talent by Mahomet. Afterwards, on going to make his reverence to the Doge and the Signoria, he was received very warmly, and commended for having given great satisfaction to that Emperor according to their desire. And to the end that he might see in what great account they held the letters in which that Prince had recommended mended him, they decreed him a provision of 200 crowns a year, which was paid to him for the rest of his life. Gentile made but few works after his return; finally, having almost reached the age of eighty, and having executed the aforesaid works and many others, he passed to the other life, and was given honorable burial by his brother Giovanni in San Giovanni e Paolo, in the year 1501.

Giovanni, thus bereft of Gentile, whom he had ever loved most tenderly, went on doing a little work, although he was old, to pass the time. And having devoted himself to making portraits from the life, he introduced into Venice the fashion that everyone of a certain rank should have his portrait painted either by him or by some other master; wherefore in all the houses of Venice there are many portraits, and in many gentlemen's houses one may see their fathers and grandfathers, up to the fourth generation, and in some of the more noble they go still farther back,a fashion which has ever been truly worthy of the greatest praise, and existed even among the ancients. Who does not feel infinite pleasure and contentment, to say nothing of the honor and adornment that they confer, at seeing the images of his ancestors, particularly if they have been famous and illustrious for their part in governing their republics, for noble deeds performed in peace or in war, or for learning or any other notable and distinguished talent? And to what other end, as has been said in another place, did the ancients set up images of their great men in public places, with honorable inscriptions, than to kindle in the minds of their successors a love of excellence and of glory?

For Messer Pietro Bembo, then, before he went to live with Pope Leo X, Giovanni made a portrait of the lady that he loved, so lifelike that, even as Simone Sanese had been celebrated in the past by the Florentine Petrarca, so was Giovanni deservedly celebrated in his verses by this Venetian, as in the following sonnet:

O imagine mia celeste e pura,


where, at the beginning of the second quatrain, he says,

Credo che'1 mio Bellin con la figura,

with what follows. And what greater reward can our craftsmen desire for their labors than that of being celebrated by the pens of illustrious poets, as that most excellent Tiziano has been by the very learned Messer Giovanni della Casa, in that sonnet which begins-

Ben veggio, Tiziano, in forme nuove,

and in that other-

Son queste, Amor, le vaghe treccie bionde.


But to return to the works of Giovanni,that is, to his principal works, for it would take too long to try to make mention of all the pictures and portraits that are in the houses of gentlemen in Venice and in other parts of that country. In Rimini, for Signor Sigismondo Malatesta, he made a large picture containing a Pieta, supported by two little boys, which is now in S. Francesco in that city. And among other portraits he made one of Bartolommeo da Liviano, Captain of the Venetians.

Giovanni had many disciples, for he was ever most willing to teach anyone. Among them, now sixty years ago, was Jacopo da Montagna, who imitated his manner closely, in so far as is shown by his works, which are to be seen in Padua and in Venice. But the man who imitated him most faithfully and did him the greatest honor was Rondinello da Ravenna, of whom Giovanni availed himself much in all his works. This master painted a panel in San Domenico at Ravenna, and another in the Duomo, which is held a very beautiful example of that manner. But the work that surpassed all his others was that which he made in the Church of San Giovanni Battista, a seat of the Carmelite Friars, in the same city; in which picture, besides Our Lady, he made a very beautiful head in a figure of San Alberto, a friar of that Order, and the whole figure is much extolled. A pupil of Giovanni's, also, although he gained but little thereby, was Benedetto Coda of Ferrara, who dwelt in Rimini, where he made many pictures, leaving behind him a son named Bartolommeo, who did the same. It is said that Giorgione da Castelfranco,/b> also pursued his first studies of art under Giovanni, and likewise many others, both from the territory of Treviso and from Lombardy, of whom there is no need to make record.

Finally, having lived ninety years, Giovanni passed from this life, overcome by old age, leaving an eternal memorial of his name in the works that he had made both in his native city of Venice and abroad; and he was honorably buried in the same church and in the same tomb in which he had laid his brother Gentile to rest. Nor were there wanting in Venice men who sought to honor him when dead with sonnets and epigrams, even as he, when alive, had honored both himself and his country. About the same time that these Bellini were alive, or a little before, many pictures were painted in Venice by Giacomo Marzone, who, among other things, painted one in the Chapel of the Assumption in Santa Lena, namely, the Virgin with a palm, St. Benedict, St. Helen, and St. John; but in the old manner , with the figures on tip-toe, as was the custom of those painters who lived in the time of Bartolommeo da Bergamo.

 

 

 

COSIMO ROSSELLI (1439-1507)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists




MANY men take an unholy delight in covering others with ridicule and scorn,a delight which generally turns to their own confusion, as it came to pass in the case of Cosimo Rosselli, who threw back on their own heads the ridicule of those who sought to vilify his labors. This Cosimo, although he was not one of the rarest or most excellent painters of his time, nevertheless made works that were passing good. In his youth he painted a panel in the Church of S. Ambrogio in Florence , which is on the right hand as one enters the church; and three figures over an arch for the Nuns of S. Jacopo delle Murate. In the Church of' the Servi, also in Florence, he painted the panel of the Chapel of S. Barbara; and in the first court, before one enters into the church, he wrought in fresco the story of the Blessed Filippo taking the Habit of Our Lady. For the Monks of Cestello he painted the panel of their high altar, with another in a chapel in the same church; and likewise that one which is in a little church above the Bernardino, beside the entrance to Cestello. He painted a standard for the children of the Company of the said Bernardino, and likewise that of the Company of S. Giorgio, on which there is an Annunciation.

For the aforesaid Nuns of S. Ambrogio he painted the Chapel of the Miracle of the Sacrament, which is a passing good work, and is held the best of his in Florence; in this he counterfeited a procession on the piazza of that church, with the Bishop bearing the Tabernacle of the said Miracle, accompanied by the clergy and by an infinity of citizens and women in costumes of those times. Here, among many others, is a portrait from life of Pico della Mirandola, so excellently wrought that it appears not a portrait but a living man. In the Church of San Martino in Lucca, by the entrance into the church through the lesser door of the principal facade, on the right hand, he painted a scene of Nicodemus making the statue of the Holy Cross, and then that statue being brought by sea in a boat and by land to Lucca. In this work are many portraits, and in particular that of Paolo Guinigi, which he copied from one done in clay by Jacopo della Fonte[Jacopo della Quercia] when the latter made the tomb of Paolo's wife. In San Marco at Florence, in the Chapel of the Cloth Weavers, he painted a panel with the Holy Cross in the middle, and, at the sides, St. Mark, St. John the Evangelist, St. Antonino, Archbishop of Florence, and other figures.

Being afterwards summoned, with the other painters, to execute the work that Pope Sixtus IV had undertaken in the Chapel of the Palace, he labored there in company with Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio , the Abbot of San Clemente, Luca da Cortona, and Pietro Perugino, and painted three scenes with his own hand, wherein he depicted the Submersion of Pharaoh in the Red Sea, the Preaching of Christ to the people on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias, and the Last Supper of the Apostles with the Savior. In this last scene he made an octagonal table drawn in perspective, with the ceiling above it likewise octagonal, the eight angles of which he foreshortened so well as to show that he had as good a knowledge of this art as any of the others. It is said that the Pope had offered a prize, which was to be given to the man who, in the judgment of the Pontiff himself, should turn out to have done the best work in these pictures.

The scenes finished, therefore, His Holiness went to see them; and each of the painters had done his utmost to merit the said prize and honor. Cosimo, feeling himself weak in invention and draughtsmanship, had sought to conceal his shortcomings by covering his work with the finest ultramarine blues and other lively colors, and had illuminated his scenes with a plentiful amount of gold, so that there was no tree, or plant, or drapery, or cloud, that was not thus illuminated; for he was convinced that the Pope, like a man who knew little of that art, must therefore give him the prize of victory. When the day arrived on which the works of all were to be unveiled, that of Cosimo was seen with the rest, and was scorned and ridiculed with much laughter and jeering by all the other craftsmen, who all mocked him instead of having compassion on him. But the scorners turned out to be the scorned, for, as Cosimo had foreseen, those colors at the first glance so dazzled the eyes of the Pope, who had little knowledge of such things, although he took no little delight in them, that he judged the work of Cosimo to be much better than that of the others. And so, causing the prize to be given to him, he bade all the others cover their pictures with the best blues that could be found, and to pick them out with gold, to the end that they might be similar to those of Cosimo in coloring and in richness. Whereupon the poor painters, in despair at having to satisfy the small intelligence of the Holy Father, set themselves to spoil all the good work that they had done; and Cosimo laughed at the men who had just been laughing at his methods.

Afterwards, returning to Florence with some money, he set himself to work as usual, living much at his ease, and having as his companion that Piero, his disciple, who was ever called Piero di Cosimo, and who assisted him in his labors in the Sistine Chapel at Rome, and painted there, besides other things, a landscape in the picture of the Preaching of Christ, which landscape is held to be the best thing there. Andrea di Cosimo also worked with him, occupying himself much with grotesques. Finally, having reached the age of sixty-eight, Cosimo died in the year 1484, wasted away by a long infirmity; and he was buried in Santa Croce by the Company of Bernardino.

Cosimo took so much delight in alchemy that he wasted therein all that he possessed, as all do who meddle with it, insomuch that it swallowed up all his means and finally reduced him from easy circumstances to the greatest poverty. He was a very good draughtsman, as may be seen in our book, not only from the drawing of the aforesaid story of the Preaching which he painted in the Sistine Chapel, but also from many others made with the style and in chiaroscuro. And in the said book we have his portrait by the hand of Agnolo di Donnino, a painter who was much his friend. This Agnolo showed great diligence in his works, as may be seen, not to mention his drawings, in the loggia of the Hospital of Bonifazio, where, upon the corbel of a vault, there is a Trinity in fresco by his hand; and beside the door of the said hospital, where the foundlings now live, there are certain beggars painted by the same man , with the Director receiving them, all very well wrought, and likewise certain women. This man spent his life laboring and wasting all his time over drawings, without putting them into execution; and at length he died as poor as he could well be. But to return to Cosimo; he left only one son, who was a builder and a passing good architect.

 

 

 

IL CECCA (Francesco d'Angelo) (1446-1488)
Vasari's Lives of the Artists




IF necessity had not forced men to exercise their ingenuity for their own advantage and convenience , architecture would not have become so excellent and so marvelous in the minds and in the works of those who have practiced it in order to acquire profit and fame, gaining that great honor which is paid to them every day by all who have knowledge of the good. It was necessity that first gave rise to buildings; necessity that created ornaments for them; necessity that led to the various Orders, the statues, the gardens, the baths, and all those other sumptuous adjuncts which all desire but few possess; and it was necessity that excited rivalry and competition in the minds of men with regard not only to buildings, but also to their accessories. For this reason craftsmen have been forced to display industry in inventing appliances for traction, and in making engines of war, waterworks, and all those devices and contrivances which, under the name of mechanical and architectural inventions, confer beauty and convenience on the world, discomfiting their enemies and assisting their friends. And whenever a man has been able to make such things better than his fellows, he has not only raised himself beyond all the anxieties of want, but has also been consummately extolled and prized by all other men.

This was the case in the time of our fathers with the Florentine Cecca, into whose hands there came many highly honorable works in his day; and in these he acquitted himself so well, toiling in the service of his country with economy and with great satisfaction to his fellow-citizens, that his ingenious and industrious labors have made him famous and illustrious among the number of distinguished and renowned craftsmen. It is said that in his youth Cecca was a very good carpenter, and that he had concentrated all his powers on seeking to solve the difficulties connected with engines, and how to make machines for assaulting walls in war,scaling-ladders for climbing into cities, battering-rams for breaching fortifications, defenses for protecting soldiers in the attack, and everything that could injure his enemies and assist his friends--wherefore, being a person of the greatest utility to his country, he well deserved the permanent provision that the Signoria of Florence gave him. For this reason, when there was no war going on, he would go through the whole territory inspecting the fortresses and the walls of cities and townships, and, if any were weak, he would provide them with designs for ramparts and everything else that was wanting.

It is said that the Clouds which were borne in procession throughout Florence on the festival of St. John,things truly most ingenious and beautiful, were invented by Cecca, who was much employed in such matters at that time, when the city was greatly given to holding festivals. In truth, although such festivals and representations have now fallen almost entirely out of use, they were very beautiful spectacles, and they were celebrated not only by the Companies, or rather, Confraternities, but also in the private houses of gentlemen, who were wont to form certain associations and societies, and to meet together at certain times to make merry; and among them there were ever many courtly craftsmen, who, besides being fanciful and amusing, served to make the preparations for such festivals. Among others, four most solemn public spectacles took place almost every year, one for each quarter of the city, with the exception of that of San Giovanni, for the festival of which a most solemn procession was held, as will be told. The quarter of Santa Maria Novella kept the feast of Santą Ignazio; Santa Croce, that of St. Bartholomew, called San Baccio; Santo Spirito, that of the Holy Spirit; and the Carmine, those of the Ascension of Our Lord and of the Assumption of Our Lady.

This festival of the Ascension, for of the others of importance an account has been or will be given, was very beautiful, seeing that Christ was uplifted on a cloud covered with angels from a Mount very well made of wood, and was borne upwards to a Heaven, leaving the Apostles on the Mount; and the whole was so well contrived that it was a marvel, above all because the said Heaven was somewhat larger than that of Santa Felice in Piazza, although the machinery was almost the same. And since the said Church of the Carmine, where this representation used to take place, is no little broader and higher than that of Santa Felice, in addition to the part that supported Christ another Heaven was sometimes erected, according as it was thought advisable, over the chief tribune, wherein were certain great wheels made in the shape of reels, which, from the centers to the edges, moved in most beautiful order ten circles standing for the ten Heavens, which were all full of little lights representing the stars, contained in little copper lamps hanging on pivots, so that when the wheels revolved they remained upright, in the manner of certain lanterns that are now universally used by all. From this Heaven, which was truly a very beautiful thing, there issued two stout ropes fastened to the staging or tramezzo which is in the said church, and over which the representation took place.

To these ropes were attached by each end of a so-called brace-fastening, two little bronze pulleys which supported an iron upright fixed into a level platform, on which stood two angels fastened by their girdles. These angels were kept upright by a counterpoise of lead which they had under their feet, and by another that was under the platform on which they stood; and this also served to make them balanced one with another. The whole was covered with a quantity of cotton-wool, very well arranged in the form of a cloud, which was full of cherubim and seraphim, and similar kinds of angels, varied in color and very well contrived. These angels, when a little rope was unwound from the Heaven above, came down the two larger ropes on to the said tramezzo, where the representation took place, and announced to Christ that He was to ascend into Heaven, and performed their other functions. And since the iron to which they were bound by the girdle was fixed to the platform on which they stood, in such a way that they could turn round and round, they could make obeisance and turn about both when they had come forth and when they were returning according as was necessary; wherefore in reascending they turned towards the Heaven, and were then drawn up again as they had come down.

These machines and inventions are said to have been Cecca's, for, although Filippo Brunelleschi had made similar things long before, many additions were made to them with great judgment by Cecca; and it was from these that the thought came to the same man to make those Clouds which were borne in procession through the city every year on St. John's Eve, and the other beautiful things that were made. And this was his charge, because, as it has been said, he was a servant of the public. Now with this occasion it will not be out of place to describe some of the features of the said festival and procession, to the end that some memory of them may descend to posterity, seeing that they have now for the most part fallen into disuse. First, then, the Piazza di San Giovanni was all covered over with blue cloth, on which were sewn many large lilies of yellow cloth; and in the middle on certain circles also of cloth, and ten braccia in diameter, were the arms of the People and Commune of Florence, with those of the Captain of the Guelph party and others; and all around, from the borders of the said canopy, which covered the whole piazza, vast as it is, there hung great banners also of cloth, painted with various devices, with the arms of magisterial bodies and guilds, and with many lions, which form one of the emblems of the city. This canopy, or rather , awning, made thus, was about twenty braccia off the ground, and was supported by very strong ropes fastened to a number of irons, which are still to be seen round the Church of San Giovanni, on the facade of Santa Maria del Fiore and on the houses that surround the said piazza on every side. Between one rope and another ran cords that likewise supported the awning, which was so well strengthened throughout, par particularly at the edges, with ropes, cords, linings, double widths of cloth, and hems of sacking, that it is impossible to imagine anything better. What is more, everything was arranged so well and with such great diligence, that although the awning was often swelled out and shaken by the wind, which is always very powerful in that place, as everyone knows, yet it was never disturbed or damaged in any way whatever.

This awning was made of five pieces, to the end that it might be easier to handle, but, when set into place, they were all joined and fastened and sewn together in such a manner that it appeared like one whole. Three pieces covered the piazza and the space that is between San Giovanni and Santa Maria del Fiore; and in the middle piece, in a straight line between the principal doors, were the aforesaid circles containing the arms of the Commune. And the remaining two pieces covered the sides,one towards the Misericordia, and the other towards the Canon's house and the Office of Works of San Giovanni.

The Clouds, which were made of various kinds and with diverse inventions by the Companies, were generally fashioned in the following manner. A square framework was made of planks, about two braccia in height, with four stout legs at the corners, contrived after the manner of the trestles of a table, and fastened together with crosspieces. On this framework two panels were laid crosswise, each one braccio wide, with a hole in the middle half a braccio in diameter, in which was fixed a high pole, whereon there was placed a mandorla all covered with cotton-wool, cherubim, lights, and other ornaments, and within this, on a horizontal bar of iron, there sat or stood, according as might be desired, a person representing that Saint whom the particular Company principally honored as their peculiar patron and protector,to be exact, a Christ, or a Madonna , or a St. John, or some other,and the draperies of this figure covered the iron bar in such a manner that it could not be seen. Round the same pole, lower down, below the mandorla, there radiated four or five iron bars in the manner of the branches of a tree, and at the end of each, attached likewise with irons, stood a little boy dressed like an angel. These boys could move round and round at pleasure on the iron brackets on which their feet rested, for the brackets hung on hinges. And with similar branches there were sometimes made two or three tiers of angels or of saints, according to the nature of the subjects to be represented.

The whole of this structure, with the pole and the iron bars (which some times represented a lily, sometimes a tree, and often a cloud or some other similar thing), was covered with cotton-wool, and, as has been said, with cherubim seraphim, golden stars, and other suchlike ornaments. Within were porters or peasants, who carried it on their shoulders, placing them selves round the wooden base that we have called the framework, in which, below the places where the weight rested on their shoulders, were fixed cushions of leather stuffed with down, or cotton-wool, or some other soft and yielding material. All the machinery, steps, and other things were covered, as has been said above, with cotton-wool, which made a beautiful effect; and all these contrivances were called Clouds. Behind them came troops of men on horseback and foot-soldiers of various sorts, according to the nature of the story to be represented, even as in our own day they go behind the cars or other things that are used in place of the said Clouds. Of the form of the latter I have some designs in my book of drawings, very well done by the hand of Cecca , which are truly ingenious and full of beautiful conceptions.

It was from the plans of the same man that those saints were made that went or were carried in processions, either dead or tortured in various ways, for some appeared to be transfixed by a lance or a sword, others had a dagger in the throat, and others had other suchlike weapons in their bodies. With regard to this, it is very well known today that it is done with a sword, lance, or dagger broken in half, the pieces of which are held firmly opposite to one another on either side by iron rings, after taking away the proportionate amount that has to appear to be fixed in the person of the sufferer; wherefore I will say no more about them , save that they seem for the most part to have been invented by Cecca.

The giants, likewise, that went about in the said festival, were made in the following manner. Certain men who were very skillful at walking on stilts, or, as they are called in other parts, on wooden legs, had some made five or six braccia high, and, having dressed and decked them with great masks and other ornaments in the way of draperies, and imitations of armor, so that they seemed to have the members and heads of giants, they mounted them and walked dexterously along, appearing truly to be giants. In front of them, however, they had a man who carried a pike, on which the giant leant with one hand, but in such a fashion that the pike appeared to be his own weapon, whether mace, lance, or a great bell-clapper, such as Morgante is said by the poets of romance to have been wont to carry. And even as there were giants, so there were also giantesses, which produced a truly beautiful and marvelous effect.

Different from these, again, were the little phantoms, for these walked on similar stilts five or six braccia high, without anything save their own proper form, in such a manner that they appeared to be true spirits. They likewise had a man in front of them with a pike to assist them; but it is stated that some actually walked very well at so great a height without leaning on anything whatsoever, and I am sure that he who knows what Florentine brains are will in no way marvel at this. For, not to mention that native of Montughi (near Florence) who has surpassed all the masters that ever lived at climbing and dancing on the rope, whoever knew a man called Ruvidino, who died less than ten years ago, remembers that climbing to any height on a rope or cord, leaping from the walls of Florence to the earth, and walking on stilts much higher than those described above, were as easy to him as it is for an ordinary man to walk on level. Wherefore it is no marvel if the men of those times, who practiced suchlike exercises for money or for other reasons, did what has been related above, and even greater things.

I will not speak of certain waxen candles which used to be painted with various fanciful devices, but so rudely that they have given their name to vulgar painters, insomuch that bad pictures are called "candle puppets "; for it is not worth the trouble. I will only say that at the time of Cecca they fell for the most part into disuse, and that in their place were made the cars that are still used today, in the form of triumphal chariots. The first of these was the car of the Mint, which was brought to that perfection which is still seen every year when it is sent out for the said festival by the Masters and Lords of the Mint, with a S. John on the highest part and with many other angels and saints around and below him, all represented by living persons. Not long ago it was determined that one should be made for every borough that gave an offering of wax, and ten were made, in order to do magnificent honor to that festival; but the plan was carried no further, by reason of events that supervened no long time after. That first car of the Mint, then, was made under the direction of Cecca by Domenico, Marco, and Giuliano del Tasso, who were among the best master-carpenters, both in squared-work and in carving, who were then working in Florence; and in this car, among other things, no small praise is due to the wheels below it, which are pivoted, in order that the structure may be able to turn sharp corners, and may be managed in such a manner as to shake it as little as possible, particularly for the sake of those who stand fastened upon it. The same man made a structure for the cleaning and restoration of the mosaics in the tribune of San Giovanni which could be turned, raised, lowered, and advanced at pleasure, and that with such ease that two men could handle it; which invention gave Cecca very great repute.

When the Florentine army was besieging Piancaldoli, Cecca ingeniously contrived to enable the soldiers to enter it by means of mines, without striking a blow. Afterwards, continuing to follow the same army to certain other strongholds, his evil fortune would have it that he should be killed while attempting to measure certain heights at a difficult point; for when he had put his head out beyond the wall in order to let a plumb-line down, a priest who was with the enemy (who feared the genius of Cecca more than the might of the whole camp) discharged a catapult at him and fixed a great dart in his head, inso much that the poor fellow died on the spot. The fate and the loss of Cecca caused great grief to the whole army and to his fellow-citizens; but since there was no remedy, they sent him back in a coffin to Florence, where his sisters gave him honorable burial in San Piero Scheraggio; and below his portrait in marble there was placed the following epitaph:

FABRUM MAGISTER CICCA, NATUS OPPIDIS VEL OBSIDENDIS VEL TUENDIS,
HIC JACET. VIXIT ANN. XXXXI, MENS. IV, DIES XIV. OBIIT PRO PATRIA
TELO ICTUS. PIAE SORORES MONUMENTUM FECERUNT MCCCCXCLX.

 

 

 

BARTOLOMMEO DELLA GATTA (1435-1496/97)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists




RARELY DOES IT HAPPEN that a man of good character and exemplary life fails to be provided by Heaven with the best of friends and with honorable dwellings, or to be held in veneration when alive by reason of the goodness of his ways, and very greatly regretted when dead by all who knew him, as was Don Bartolommeo della Gatta, Abbot of San Clemente in Arezzo, who was excellent in diverse pursuits and most praiseworthy in all his actions. This man, who was a monk of the Angeli in Florence , a seat of the Order of Camaldoli, was in his youth--perchance for the reasons mentioned above in the Life of Don Lorenzo--a very rare illuminator, and a very able master of design. Of this we have proof in the books that he illuminated for the Monks of SS. Fiore e Lucilla in the Abbey of Arezzo, particularly a missal that was presented to Pope Sixtus, in which, on the first page of the Secret Prayers, there was a very beautiful Passion of Christ. Those are likewise by his hand which are in San Martino, the Duomo of Lucca.

A little while after these works the said Abbey of San Clemente in Arezzo was presented to this father by Mariotto Maldoli of Mezzo, General of the Order of Camaldoli, who belonged to the same family from which sprang that Maldolo who gave the site and lands of Camaldoli, then called Campo di Maldolo, to San Romualdo, the founder of that Order. Don Bartolommeo , in gratitude for that benefice, afterwards executed many works for that General and for his Order. After this there came the plague of 1468, by reason of which the Abbot, like many others, stayed indoors without going about much, and devoted himself to painting large figures; and seeing that he was succeeding as well as he could desire, he began to execute certain works. The first was a San Rocco that he painted on a panel for the Rectors of the Confraternity of Arezzo, which is now in the Audience Chamber where they assemble. This figure is recommending the people of Arezzo to Our Lady, and in this picture he portrayed the Piazza of the said city and the holy house of that Confraternity, with certain gravediggers who are returning from burying the dead. He also painted another San Rocco for the Church of San Pietro, likewise on a panel, wherein he portrayed the city of Arezzo exactly as it stood at that time, when it was very different from what it is today. And he made another, which was much better than the two mentioned above, on a panel which is in the Chapel of the Lippi in the Church of the Pieve of Arezzo; and this S. Rocco is a rare and beautiful figure, almost the best that he ever made, and the head and hands are as beautiful and natural as they could be. In the same city of Arezzo, in San Pietro, a seat of the Servite Friars, he painted an Angel Raphael on a panel; and in the same place he made a portrait of the Blessed Jacopo Filippo of Piacenza.

Afterwards, being summoned to Rome, he painted a scene in the Chapel of Pope Sixtus, in company with Luca da Cortona [Signorelli] and Pietro Perugino. On returning to Arezzo, he painted a St. Jerome in Penitence in the Chapel of the Gozzari in the Vescovado; and this figure, lean and shaven, with the eyes fixed most intently on the Crucifix, and beating his breast, shows very clearly how greatly the passions of love can disturb the chastity even of a body so grievously wasted away. In this work he made an enormous crag, with certain cliffs of rock, among the fissures of which he painted some stories of that Saint, with very graceful little figures. After this, in a chapel in San Agostino, for the Nuns of the Third Order, as they are called, he wrought in fresco a Coronation of Our Lady, which is very well done and much extolled; and below this , in another chapel, a large panel with an Assumption and certain angels beautifully robed in delicate draperies. This panel, for a work made in tempera, is much extolled, and in truth it was wrought with good design and executed with extraordinary diligence. In the lunette that is over the door of the Church of San Donato, in the Fortress of Arezzo, the same man painted in fresco a Madonna with the Child in her arms, Donatus, and San Giovanni Gualberto, all very beautiful figures. In the Abbey of Santa Fiore in the said city, beside the principal door of entrance into the church, there is a chapel painted by his hand, wherein are St. Benedict and other saints, wrought with much grace, good handling, and sweetness.

For Gentile of Urbino, Bishop of Arezzo, who was much his friend, and with whom he almost always lived, he painted a Dead Christ in a chapel in the Palace of the Vescovado; and in a loggia he portrayed the Bishop himself, his vicar, and Ser Matteo Francini, his court notary, who is reading a Bull to him; and there he also made his own portrait and those f certain canons of that city. For the same Bishop he designed a loggia which issues from the Palace and leads to the Vescovado, on the same level with both. In the center of this the Bishop had intended to make place of burial for himself in the form of a chapel, in which he wished to be interred after his death; and he had carried it well on, when he was overtaken by death, and it remained unfinished, for, although he left orders that it should be completed by his successor, nothing more was done, as generally happens with works of this sort which are left by a man, to be finished after his death. For the said Bishop the Abbot painted large and beautiful chapel in the Duomo Vecchio, but, as it had only a short life, there is no need to say more about it.

Besides this, he made works in various places throughout the whole city, such as three figures in the Carmine , and the Chapel of the Nuns of Santa Orsina. At Castiglione Aretino, for the Chapel of the High altar in the Pieve of San Giuliano, he painted a panel in tempera, containing a very beautiful Madonna, St. Julian, and St. Michelangelo--figures very well wrought and executed, particularly St. Julian, who, with is eyes fixed on the Christ lying in the arms of the Madonna, appears to be much afflicted at having killed his father and mother. In a chapel little below this, likewise, is a little door painted by his hand (which formerly belonged to an old organ), wherein there is a St. Michael, which is held to be a marvelous thing, with a child in swaddling-clothes, which appears alive, in the arms of a woman. For the Nuns of the Murate at Arezzo he painted the Chapel of the high altar, a work which is truly much extolled. At Monte San Savino he painted a shrine opposite to the Palace of Cardinal di Monte, which was held very beautiful. And at Borgo San Sepolcro, where there is now the Vescovado, he decorated a chapel, which brought him very great praise and profit.

Don Clemente was a man of very versatile intelligence, and, besides being a great musician, he made organs of lead with his own hand. In San Domenico he made one of cardboard, which has ever remained sweet and good; and in San Clemente there was another, also by his hand, which was placed on high, with the keyboard below on the level of the choir- -truly with very beautiful judgment, since, the place being such that the monks were few, he wished that the organist should sing as well as play. And since this Abbot loved his Order, like a true minister and not a squanderer of the things of God, he enriched that place greatly with buildings and pictures, particularly by rebuilding the principal chapel of his church and painting the whole of it; and in two niches, one on either side of it, he painted a St. Rocco and a St. Bartholomew, which were ruined together with the church.

But to return to the Abbot, who was a good and worthy church man. He left a disciple in painting named Maestro Lappoli, an Aretine, who was an able and practiced painter, as is shown by the works from his hand which are in S. Agostino, in the Chapel of San Sebastiano, where there is that Saint wrought in relief by the same man, with figures round him, in painting, of San Biagio, San Rocco, San Antonio of Padua, and San Bernardino; while on the arch of the chapel is an Annunciation, and on the vaulting are the four Evangelists, wrought in fresco with a high finish. By the hand of the same man , in another chapel on the left hand as one enters the said church by the side-door, is a Nativity in fresco, with the Madonna receiving the Annunciation from the Angel, in the figure of which Angel he portrayed Giuliano Bacci, then a young man of very beautiful aspect. Over the said door, on the outer side, he made an Annunciation , with St. Peter on one side and St. Paul on the other, portraying in the face of the Madonna the mother of Messer Pietro Aretino, a very famous poet.

In San Francesco, for the Chapel of San Bernardino, he painted a panel with that Saint, who appears alive, and so beautiful that this is the best figure that he ever made. In the Chapel of the Pietramaleschi in the Vescovado covado he painted a very beautiful Sant' Ignazio on a panel in tempera; and in the Pieve, at the entrance of the upper door which opens on the piazza, a St. Andrew and a St. Sebastian. For the Company of the Trinita, by order of Buoninsegna Buoninsegni of Arezzo, he made a work with beautiful invention, which can be numbered among the best that he ever executed, and this was a Crucifix over an altar, with a St. Martin on one side and a St. Rocco on the other, and two figures kneeling at the foot, one in the form of a poor man, lean, emaciated, and wretchedly clothed, from whom there issued certain rays that shone straight on the wounds of the Savior, while the Saint gazed on him most intently; and the other in the form of a rich man, clothed in purple and fine linen, and all ruddy and cheerful in countenance, whose rays, as he was adoring Christ, although they were issuing from his heart, like those of the poor man, appeared not to shine directly on the wounds of the Crucified Christ, but to stray and spread over certain plains and fields full of grain, green crops, cattle, gardens, and other suchlike things, while some diverged over the sea towards certain boats laden with merchandise; and others, finally, shone on certain moneychangers' tables. All these things were wrought by Matteo with judgment, great mastery, and much diligence; but they were thrown to the ground no long time after in the making of a chapel. Beneath the pulpit of the Pieve the same man made a Christ with the Cross for Messer Leonardo Albergotti.

A disciple of the Abbot of San Clemente, likewise, was a Servite friar of Arezzo, who painted in colors the facade of the house of the Belichini in Arezzo, and two chapels in fresco, one beside the other, in San Pietro. Another disciple of Don Bartolommeo was Domenico Pecori of Arezzo, who made three figures in tempera on a panel at Sargiano, and painted a very beautiful banner in oil, to be carried in processions, for the Company of Santa Maria Maddalena. For Messer Presentino Bisdomini, in the Chapel of San Andrea in the Pieve, he made a picture of Santą Apollonia- -similar to that mentioned above--and he finished many works left incomplete by his master, such as the panel of St. Sebastian and St. Fabiano with the Madonna, in San Pietro, for the family of the Benucci in the Church of San Antonio he painted the panel of the high altar, wherein is a very devout Madonna, with some saints; and since the said Madonna is adoring the Child, whom she has in her lap, he made it appear that a little angel, kneeling behind her, is supporting Our Lord on a cushion, the Madonna not being able to uphold Him because she has her hands clasped in the act of adoration. in the Church of S. Giustino for Messer Antonio Roselli, he painted a chapel with the Magi in fresco; and for the Company of the Madonna, in the Pieve, he painted a very large panel containing a Madonna in the sky, with the people of Arezzo beneath, in which he made many portraits from the life. in this last work he was helped by a Spanish painter, who painted very well in oil and therein gave assistance to Domenico, who had not as much skill in painting in oil as he had in tempera.

With the help of the same man he executed a panel for the Company of the Trinita, containing the Circumcision of Our Lord, which was held a very good work, and a "Noli Me Tangere" in fresco in the garden of Santa Fiore. Finally, he painted a panel with many figures in the Vescovado, for Messer Donato Marinelli, Primicere. This work, which then brought him and still continues to bring him very great honor, shows good invention, good design, and strong relief; and in making it, being now very old, he called in the aid of a Sienese painter, Capanna, a passing good master, who painted so many walls in chiaroscuro and so many panels in Siena, and who, if he had lived longer, would have done himself much credit in his art, in so far as one may judge from the little that he executed. Domenico wrought for the Confraternity of Arezzo a baldacchino painted in oil, a rich and costly work, which was lent not many years ago for the holding of a representation in San Francesco at the festival of St. John and St. Paul, to adorn a Paradise near the roof of the church. A fire breaking out in consequence of the great quantity of lights, this work was burnt, together with the man who was representing God the Father, who, being fastened, could not escape, as the angels did, and many church-hangings were destroyed, while great harm came to the spectators, who, terrified by the fire, struggled furiously to fly from the church, everyone seeking to be the first, so that about eighty were trampled down in the press, which was something very pitiful. This baldacchino was afterwards reconstructed with greater richness, and painted by Giorgio Vasari. Domenico then devoted himself to the making of glass windows, and there were three by his hand in the Vescovado, which were ruined by the artillery in the wars.

Another pupil of the same master was the painter Angelo di Lorentino , who was a man of passing good ability. He painted the arch over the door of San Domenico, and if he had received assistance he would have become a very good master. The Abbot died at the age of eighty-three, l eaving unfinished the Temple of the Madonna delle Lacrime, for which he had made a model; it was afterwards completed by various masters. He deserves praise, then, as illuminator, architect, painter, and musician. He was given burial by his monks in his Abbey of San Clemente, and his works have ever been so highly esteemed in the said city that the following verses may be read over his tomb:

PINGEBAT DOCTE ZEUSIS, CONDEBAT ET AEDES
NICON, PAN CAPRIPES, FISTULA PRIMA TUA EST.
NON TAMEN EX VOBIS MECUM CERTAVERIT ULLUS;
QUAE TRES FECISTIS, UNICUS HAEC FACIO.

He died in 1461, having added to the art of illumination that beauty which is seen in all his works, as some drawings by his hand can bear witness which are in our book. His method of working was afterwards imitated by Girolamo Padovano in some books that he illuminated for Santa Maria Nuova in Florence; by Gherardo, a Florentine illuminator; (and by Attavante,) who was also called Vante, of whom we have spoken in another place, particularly with regard to those of his works which are in Venice; with respect to which I included word for word a note sent to me by certain gentlemen of Venice, contenting myself, in order to recompense them for the great pains that they had taken to discover all that is to be read there, with relating the whole as they wrote it, since I had no personal knowledge of these works on which to form a judgment of my own.

 

 

 

GHERARDO (1445-1497)
ILLUMINATOR OF FLORENCE

Vasari's Lives of the Artists


IT IS CERTAIN that among all the enduring works that are made in colors there is none that resists the assault of wind and water better than mosaic. And well was this known hi his day to the elder Lorenzo de' Medici of Florence, who, like a man of spirit given to investigating the memorials of the ancients, sought to bring back into use what had been hidden for many years, and, since he took great delight in pictures and sculptures, could not fail to take delight also in mosaic. Wherefore, seeing that Gherardo, an illuminator of that time and a man of inquiring brain, was investigating the difficulties of that calling, he showed him great favour, as one who ever assisted those in whom he saw some germ of spirit and intellect. Placing him, therefore, in the company of Domenico del Ghirlandajo, he obtained for him from the Wardens of Works of S. Maria del Fiore a commission for decorating the chapels of the transepts, beginning with that of the Sacrament, wherein lies the body of S. Zanobi. Whereupon Gherardo, growing ever in keenness of intelligence, would have executed most marvellous works in company with Domenico, if death had not intervened, as may be judged from the beginning of that chapel, which remained unfinished.

Gherardo, in addition to his mosaics, was a most delicate illuminator, and he also made large figures on walls. Without the Porta alia Croce there is a shrine in fresco by his hand, and there is another in Florence, much extolled, at the head of the Via Larga. On the fagade of the Church of S. Gilio at S. Maria Nuova, beneath the stories painted by Lorenzo di Bicci, wherein is the consecration of that church by Pope Martin V, Gherardo depicted the same Pope conferring the monk's habit and many privileges on the Director of the Hospital. In this scene there were far fewer figures than it appeared to require, because it was cut in half by a shrine containing a Madonna, which has been removed recently by Don Isidoro Montaguto, the present Director of that place, in the reconstructing of a principal door for the building; and Francesco Brini, a young painter of Florence, has been commissioned to paint the rest of the scene. But to return to Gherardo; it would scarcely have been possible for even a well-practised master to accomplish without great fatigue and diligence what he did in that work, which is wrought most excellently in fresco. For the church of the same hospital Gherardo illuminated an infinite number of books, with some for S. Maria del Fiore in Florence, and certain others for Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary. These last, on the death of the said King, together with some by the hand of Vante and of other masters who worked for that King in Florence, were purchased and taken over by the Magnificent Lorenzo de' Medici, who placed them among those so greatly celebrated which were being collected for the formation of the library afterwards built by Pope Clement VII, which is now being thrown open to the public by order of Duke Cosimo.

Having thus developed, as has been related, from a master of illumination into a painter, in addition to the said works, he made some great figures in a large cartoon for the Evangelists that he had to make in mosaic in the Chapel of S. Zanobi. But before the Magnificent Lorenzo de' Medici had obtained for him the commission for the said chapel, wishing to show that he understood the art of mosaic, and that he could work without a companion, he made a life-size head of S. Zanobi, which remained in S. Maria del Fiore, and on days of the highest solemnity it is set up on the altar of the said Saint, or in some other place, as a rare thing.

The while that Gherardo was laboring at these things, there were brought to Florence certain prints in the German manner wrought by Martin and by Albrecht Duerer; whereupon, being much pleased with that sort of engraving, he set himself to work with the graver and copied some of those plates very well, as may be seen from certain examples that are in our book, together with some drawings by the same man's hand. Gherardo painted many pictures which were sent abroad, one of which is in the Chapel of S. Caterina da Siena in the Church of S. Dom- enico at Bologna, containing a very good painting of S. Catherine. And in S. Marco at Florence, over the table of Pardons, he painted a lunette full of very graceful figures. But the more he satisfied others the less did he satisfy himself in any of his works, with the exception of mosaic, in which sort of painting he was rather the rival than the companion of Domenico Ghirlandajo; and if he had lived longer he would have become most excellent in that art, for he was very willing to take pains with it, and he had discovered the greater part of its best secrets.

Some declare that Attavante, otherwise Vante, an illuminator of Florence, of whom we have spoken above in more than one place, was a disciple of Gherardo, as was Stefano, likewise a Florentine illuminator; but I hold it as certain, considering that both lived at the same time, that Attavante was rather the friend, companion, and contemporary of Gherardo than his disciple. Gherardo died well advanced in years, leaving everything that he used in his art to his disciple Stefano, who, devoting himself no long time after to architecture, abandoned the art of illuminating, and handed over all his appliances in connection with that profession to the elder Boccardino, who illuminated the greater part of the books that are in the Badia of Florence. Gherardo died at the age of sixty-three, and his works date about the year of our salvation 1470.

 

 

 

DOMENICO GHIRLANDAIO (circa 1446-1490)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists











DOMENICO DI TOMMASO DEL GHIRLANDAJO, who, from his talent and from the greatness and the vast number of his works, may be called one of the most important and most excellent masters of his age, was made by nature to be a painter ; and for this reason, in spite of the opposition of those who had charge of him (which often nips the finest fruits of our intellects in the bud by occupying them with work for which they are not suited, and by diverting them from that to which nature inclines them), he followed his natural instinct, secured very great honour for himself and profit for his art and for his kindred, and became the great delight of his age. He was apprenticed by his father to his own art of goldsmith, in which Tommaso was a master more than passing good, for it was he who made the greater part of the silver votive offerings that were formerly preserved in the press of the Nunziata, and the silver lamps of the chapel, which were all destroyed in the siege of the city in the year 1529. Tommaso was the first who invented and put into execution those ornaments worn on the head by the girls of Florence, which are called ghirlande; whence he gained the name of Ghirlandajo, not only because he was their first inventor, but also because he made an infinite number of them, of a beauty so rare that none appeared to please save such as came out of his shop.

Being thus apprenticed to the goldsmith's art, but taking no pleasure therein, he was ever occupied in drawing. Endowed by nature with a perfect spirit and with an admirable and judicious taste in painting, although he was a goldsmith in his boyhood, yet, by devoting himself ever to design, he became so quick, so ready, and so facile, that many say that while he^ was working as a goldsmith he would draw a portrait of all who passed the shop, producing a likeness in a second ; and of this we still have proof in an infinite number of portraits in his works, which show a most lifelike resemblance.

His first pictures were in the Chapel of the Vespucci in Ognissanti, where there is a Dead Christ with some saints, and a Misericordia over an arch, in which is the portrait of Amerigo Vespucci, who made the voyages to the Indies; and in the refectory of that place he painted a Last Supper in fresco. In S. Croce, on the right hand of the entrance into the church, he painted the Story of S. Paulino ; wherefore, having acquired very great fame and coming into much credit, he painted a chapel in S. Trinita for Francesco Sassetti, with stories of S. Francis. This work was admirably executed by him, and wrought with grace, lovingness, and a high finish ; and he counterfeited and portrayed therein the Ponte a S. Trinita, with the Palace of the Spini. On the first wall he depicted the story of S. Francis appearing in the air and restoring the child to life ; and here, in those women who see him being restored to life after their sorrow for his death as they bear him to the grave there are seen gladness and marvel at his resurrection. He also counterfeited the friars issuing from the church behind the Cross, together with some grave- diggers, to bury him, all wrought very naturally; and there are likewise other figures marvelling at that event which give no little pleasure to the eye, among which are portraits of Maso degli Albizzi, Messer Agnolo Acciaiuoli, and Messer Palla Strozzi, eminent citizens often cited in the history of the city. On another wall he painted S. Francis, in the presence of the vicar, renouncing his inheritance from his father, Pietro Bernardone, and assuming the habit of sackcloth, which he is girding round him with the cord. On the middle wall he is shown going to Rome and having his Rule confirmed by Pope Honorius, and presenting roses in January to that Pontiff. In this scene he depicted the Hall of the Consistory, with Cardinals seated around, and certain steps ascending to it, furnishing the flight of steps with a balustrade, and painting there some half- length figures portrayed from the life, among which is the portrait of the elder Lorenzo de' Medici, the Magnificent; and there he also painted S. Francis receiving the Stigmata.

In the last he made the Saint dead, with his friars mourning for him, among whom is one friar kissing his hands an effect that could not be rendered better in painting; not to mention that a Bishop in full robes, with spectacles on his nose, is chanting the prayers for the dead so vividly, that only the lack of sound shows him to be painted. In one of two pictures that are on either side of the panel he portrayed Francesco Sassetti on his knees, and in the other his wife, Monna Nera, with their children (but these last are in the aforesaid scene of the child being restored to life), and with certain beautiful maidens of the same family, whose names I have not been able to discover, all in the costumes and fashions of that age, which gives no little pleasure. Besides this, he made four Sibyls on the vaulting, and an ornament above the arch on the front wall without the chapel, contain- ing the scene of the Tiburtine Sibyl making the Emperor Octavian adore Christ, which is executed in a masterly manner for a work in fresco, with much vivacity and loveliness in the colours. To this work he added a panel wrought in distemper, also by his hand, containing a Nativity of Christ that should amaze any person of understanding, wherein he portrayed himself and made certain heads of shepherds, which are held to be something divine. Of this Sibyl and of other parts of this work there are some very beautiful drawings in our book, made in chiaroscuro, and in particular the view in perspective of the Ponte a S. Trinita.

For the Frati Ingesuati he painted a panel for their high altar, with certain Saints kneeling namely, S. Giusto, Bishop of Volterra, who was the titular Saint of that church; S. Zanobi, Bishop of Florence; an Angel Raphael; a S. Michael, clad in most beautiful armor; and other saints. (For this work Domenico truly deserves praise, for he was the first who began to counterfeit with colors certain trimmings and ornaments of gold, which had not been done up to that time ; and he swept away in great measure those borders of gilding that were made with mordant or with bole, which were more suitable for church-hangings than for the work of good masters.) More beautiful than all the other figures is the Madonna, who has the Child in her arms and four little angels round her. This panel, which is wrought as well as any work in distemper could be, was then placed in the church of those friars without the Porta a Pinti; but since that building, as will be told elsewhere, was destroyed, it is now in the Church of S. Giovannino, within the Porta S. Piero Gattolini, where there is the Convent of the aforesaid Ingesuati.

In the Church of Cestello he painted a panel afterwards finished by his brothers David and Benedetto containing the Visitation of Our Lady, with certain most charming and beautiful heads of women. In the Church of the Innocenti he painted the Story of the Magi on a panel in distemper, which is much extolled. In this are heads most beautiful in expression and varied in features, both young and old; and in the head of Our Lady, in particular, are seen all the dignity, beauty, and grace that art can give to the Mother of the Son of God. On the tramezzo * of the Church of S. Marco there is another panel, with a Last Supper in the guest room, both executed with diligence; and in the house of Giovanni Tornabuoni there is' a round picture with the Story of the Magi, wrought with diligence. In the Little Hospital, for the elder Lorenzo de' Medici, he painted the story of Vulcan, in which many nude figures are at work with hammers making thunderbolts for Jove. And in the Church of Ognissanti in Florence, in competition with Sandro di Botticello, he painted a S. Jerome in fresco (which is now beside the door that leads to the choir), surrounding him with an infinite number of instruments and books, such as are used by the learned. The friars having occasion to remove the choir from the place where it stood, this picture, together with that of Sandro di Botticello, has been bound round with irons and transported without injury into the middle of the j church, at the very time when these Lives are being printed for the 11 second time. He also painted the arch over the door of S. Maria Ughi, and a little shrine for the Guild of Linen Manufacturers, and likewise a very beautiful S. George, slaying the Dragon, in the same Church of Ognissanti. And in truth he had a very good knowledge of the method of painting on walls, which he did with very great facility, although he was scrupulously careful in the composition of his works.

Being then summoned to Rome by Pope Sixtus IV to paint his chapel, in company with other masters, he painted there Christ calling Peter and Andrew from their nets, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the greater part of which has since been spoilt in consequence of being over the door, on which it became necessary to replace an architrave that had fallen down. There was living in Rome at this same time Francesco Tornabuoni, a rich and honoured merchant, much the friend of Domenico. This man, whose wife had died in childbirth, as is told in the Life of Andrea Verrocchio, desiring to honor her as became their noble station, had caused a tomb to be made for her in the Minerva; and he also wished Domenico to paint the whole wall against which this tomb stood, and likewise to make for it a little panel in distemper. On that wall, there- fore, he painted four stories two of S. John the Baptist and two of the Madonna which brought him truly great praise at that time. And Francesco took so much pleasure in his dealings with Domenico, that, when the latter returned to Florence rich in honor and in gains, Francesco recommended him by letters to his relative Giovanni, telling him how well the painter had served him in that work, and how well satisfied the Pope had been with his pictures. Hearing this, Giovanni began to contemplate employing him on some magnificent work, such as would honour his own memory and bring fame and profit to Domenico.

Now it chanced that the principal chapel of S. Maria Novella (a convent of Preaching Friars), formerly painted by Andrea Orcagna, was injured in many parts by rain in consequence of the roof of the vaulting being badly covered. For this reason many citizens had wished to restore it, or rather, to have it painted anew; but the owners, who belonged to the family of the Ricci, had never consented to this, being unable to bear so great an expense themselves, and unwilling to allow others to do so, lest they should lose the rights of ownership and the distinction of the arms handed down to them by their ancestors. Giovanni, then, being desirous that Domenico should make him his memorial there, set to work in this matter, trying various ways; and finally he promised the Ricci to bear the whole expense himself, to give them some sort of recompense, and to have their arms placed in the most conspicuous and honorable place in that chapel. And so they came to an agreement, making a contract in the form of a very precise instrument according to the terms described above. Giovanni allotted this work to Domenico, with the same subjects as were painted there before; and they agreed that the price should be 1,200 gold ducats of full weight, with 200 more in the event of the work giving satisfaction to Giovanni. Thereupon Domenico put his hand to the work and laboured without ceasing for four years until he had finished it which was in 1485 to the very great satisfaction and contentment of Giovanni, who, while admitting that he had been well served, and confessing ingenuously that Domenico had earned the additional 200 ducats, said that he would be pleased if he would be satisfied with the original price. And Domenico, who esteemed glory and honor much more than riches, immediately let him off all the rest, declaring that he set much greater store on having given him satisfaction than on the matter of complete payment.

Giovanni afterwards caused two large coats of arms to be made of stone one for the Tornaquinci and the other for the Tornabuoni and placed on the pilasters without the chapel, and in the arch he placed other arms belonging to that family, which is divided into various names and various arms namely, in addition to the two already mentioned, those of the Ghiachinotti, Popoleschi, Marabottini, and Cardinali. And afterwards, when Domenico painted the altar panel, he caused to be placed in the gilt ornament, under an arch, as a finishing touch to that panel, a very beautiful Tabernacle of the Sacrament, on the frontal of which he made a little shield a quarter of a braccio in length, containing the arms of the said owners that is, the Ricci. And a fine jest it was at the opening of the chapel, for these Ricci looked for their arms with much ado, and finally, not being able to find them, went off to the Tribunal of Eight, contract in hand. Whereupon the Tornabuoni showed that these arms had been placed in the most conspicuous and most honorable part of the work; and although the others exclaimed that they were invisible, they were told that they were in the wrong, and that they must be content, since the Tornabuoni had caused them to be placed in so honorable a position as the neighbourhood of the most Holy Sacrament. And so it was decided by that tribunal that they should be left untouched, as they may be seen today. Now, if this should appear to anyone to be outside the scope of the Life that I have to write, let him not be vexed, for it all flowed naturally from the tip of my pen. And it should serve, if for nothing else, at least to show how easily poverty falls a prey to riches, and how riches, if accompanied by discretion, achieve without censure anything that a man desires.

But to return to the beautiful works of Domenico; in that chapel, first of all, are the four Evangelists on the vaulting, larger than life ; and, on the window-wall, stories of S. Dominic, S. Peter Martyr, S. John going into the Desert, the Madonna receiving the Annunciation from the Angel, and many patron saints of Florence on their knees above the window; while at the foot, on the right hand, is a portrait from life of Giovanni Tornabuoni, with one of his wife on the left, which are both said to be very lifelike. On the right hand wall are seven scenes six below, in compartments as large as the wall allows, and the last above, twice as broad as any of the others and bounded by the arch of the vaulting; and on the left hand wall are also seven scenes from the life of S. John the Baptist. The first on the right hand wall is the Expulsion of Joachim from the Temple, wherein patience is depicted in his countenance, with that contempt and hatred in the faces of the others which the Jews felt for those who came to the Temple without having children. In this scene, in the part near the window, are four men portrayed from life, one of whom, old, shaven, and wearing a red cap, is Alesso Baldovinetti, Domenico's master in painting and in mosaic. Another, bare- headed, who is holding one hand on his side and is wearing a red mantle, with a blue garment below, is Domenico himself, the master of the work, who portrayed himself in a mirror. The one who has long black locks and thick lips is Bastiano da San Gimignano, his disciple and brother-in- law; and the last, who has his back turned, with a little cap on his head, is the painter David Ghirlandajo, his brother. All these are said, by those who knew them, to be truly vivid and lifelike portraits.

In the second scene is the Nativity of Our Lady, executed with great diligence, and, among other notable things that he painted therein, there is in the building (drawn in perspective) a window that gives light to the room, which deceives all who see it. Besides this, while S. Anna is in bed, and certain ladies are visiting her, he painted some women washing the Madonna with great care one is getting ready the water, another is preparing the swaddling clothes, a third is busy with some service, a fourth with another, and, while each is attending to her own duty, another woman is holding the little child in her arms and making her laugh by smiling at her, with a womanly grace truly worthy of such a work ; besides many other expressions that are in each figure. In the third, which is above the first, is the Madonna ascending the steps of the Temple, with a building which recedes from the eye correctly enough, in addition to a nude figure that brought him praise at that time, when few were to be seen, although it had not that complete perfection which is shown by those painted in our own day, for those masters were not as excellent as ours. Next to this is the Marriage of Our Lady, wherein he represented the unbridled rage of those who are breaking their rods because they do not blossom like that of Joseph; and this scene has an abundance of figures in an appropriate building. In the fifth are seen the Magi arriving in Bethlehem with a great number of men, horses, and dromedaries, and a variety of other things a scene truly well composed.

Next to this is the sixth, showing the impious cruelty practised by Herod against the Innocents, wherein there is seen a most beautiful combat between women and soldiers, with horses that are striking and driving them about; and in truth this is the best of all the stories that are to be seen by his hand, for it is executed with judgment, intelligence, and great art. There may be seen therein the impious resolution of those who, at the command of Herod, without regard for the mothers, are slaying those poor infants, among which is one, still clinging to the breast, that is dying from wounds received in its throat, so that it is sucking, not to say drinking, as much blood as milk from that breast an effect truly natural, and, being wrought in such a manner as it is, able to kindle a spark of pity in the coldest heart. There is also a soldier who has seized a child by force, and while he runs off with it, pressing it against his breast to kill it, the mother is seen hanging from his hair in the utmost fury, and forcing him to bend his back in the form of an arch, so that three very beautiful effects are shown among them one in the death of the child, which is seen expiring; the second in the impious rage of the soldier, who, feeling himself drawn backwards so strangely, is shown in the act of avenging himself on the child; and the third is that the mother, seeing the death of her babe, is seeking with fury, grief, and disdain to prevent the villain from going off scathless; and the whole is truly more the work of a philosopher admirable in judgment than of painter. There are many other emotions depicted, which will demonstrate to him who studies them that this man was without doubt an excellent master in this time.

Above this, in the seventh scene, which embraces the space of two, and is bounded by the arch of the vaulting, are the Death and the Assumption of Our Lady, with an infinite number of angels, and innumerable figures, landscapes, and other ornaments, of which he used to paint an abundance in his facile and practised manner. On the other wall are stories of S. John, and in the first is Zacharias sacrificing in the Temple, when the Angel appears to him and makes him dumb for his unbelief. In this scene, showing how sacrifices in temples are ever attended by a throng of the most distinguished men, and wishing to make it as honorable as he was able, he portrayed a good number of the Florentine citizens who then governed that State, particularly all those of the house of Tornabuoni, both young and old. Besides this, in order to show that his age was rich in every sort of talent, above all in learning, he made a group of four half-length figures conversing together at the foot of the scene, representing the most learned men then to be found in Florence. The first of these, who is wearing the dress of a Canon, is Messer Marsilio Ficino; the second, in a red mantle, with a black band round his neck, is Cristofano Landino; the figure turning towards him is Demetrius the Greek; and he who is standing between them, with one hand slightly raised, is Messer Angelo Poliziano; and all are very lifelike and vivacious. In the second scene, next to this, there follows the Visitation of Our Lady to S. Elizabeth, with a company of many women dressed in costumes of those times, among whom is a portrait of Ginevra de' Benci, then a most beautiful maiden.

In the third, above the first, is the birth of S. John, wherein there is a very beautiful scene, for while S. Elizabeth is lying in bed, and certain neighbours come to see her, and the nurse is seated suckling the infant, one woman is joyfully demanding it from her, that she may show to the others what an unexampled feat the mistress of the house has performed in her old age. Finally, there is a woman, who is very beautiful, bringing fruits and flasks from the country, according to the Florentine custom. In the fourth scene, next to this, is Zacharias, still dumb, marvelling but with undaunted heart that this child should have been born to him; and while they keep asking him about the name, he is writing on his knee, with his eyes fixed on his son, whom a woman who has knelt down before him is holding reverently in her arms, and he is tracing with his pen on the paper, "John shall be his name," to the no little marvel of many other figures, who appear to be in doubt whether the thing be true or not. There follows in the fifth his preaching to the multitude, in which scene there is shown that attention which the populace ever gives when hearing new things, particularly in the heads of the Scribes, who, while listening to John, appear from a certain expression of countenance to be deriding his law, and even to hate it; and there are seen many men and women, variously attired, both standing and seated. In the sixth S. John is seen baptizing Christ, in whose reverent expression Domenico showed very clearly the faith that should be placed in such a Sacrament. And since this did not fail to achieve a very great effect, he depicted many already naked and barefooted, waiting to be baptized, and revealing faith and willingness carved hi their faces; and one among them, who is taking off his shoe, personifies readiness itself. In the last, which is in the arch next to the vaulting, are the sumptuous Feast of Herod and the Dance of Herodias, with an infinite number of servants perform- ing various services in that scene; not to mention the grandeur of an edifice drawn in perspective, which proves the talent of Domenico no less clearly than do the other pictures.

The panel, which stands by itself, he executed in distemper, as he did the other figures in the six pictures. Besides the Madonna, who is seated in the sky with the Child in her arms, and the other saints who are round her, there are S. Laurence and S. Stephen, who are absolutely alive, with S. Vincent and S. Peter Martyr, who lack nothing save speech. It is true that a part of this panel remained unfinished in consequence of his death ; but he had carried it so far on that there was nothing left to complete save certain figures on the back, where there is the Resurrection of Christ, with three figures in the other pictures, and the whole was afterwards finished by Benedetto and David Ghirlandajo, his brothers. This chapel was held to be a very beautiful work, grand, ornate, and lovely, through the vivacity of the colours, through the masterly finish in their application on the walls, and because very little retouching was done on the dry, not to mention the invention and the composition of the subjects . And in truth Domenico deserves the greatest praise on all accounts, particularly for the liveliness of the heads, which, being portrayed from nature, present to every eye most lifelike effigies of many distinguished persons. >P>For the same Giovanni Tornabuoni, at his Villa of Casso Maccherelli, which stands on the River Terzolle at no great distance from the city, he painted a chapel which has since been half destroyed through being too near to the river; but the paintings, although they have been un- covered for many years, continually washed by rain and scorched by the sun, have remained so fresh that one might think they had been covered so great is the value of working in fresco, when the work is done with care and judgment and not retouched on the dry. He also made many figures of Florentine Saints, with most beautiful adornments, in that hall of the Palace of the Signoria which contains the marvellous clock of Lorenzo della Volpaia. And so great was his love of working and of giving satisfaction to all, that he commanded his lads to accept any work that might be brought to his shop, even hoops for women's baskets,; saying that if they would not do them he would paint them himself, to the end that none might leave the shop unsatisfied. But when household cares fell upon him he was troubled, and he therefore laid the charge of all expenditure on his brother David, saying to him, "Leave me to work, and do thou provide, for now that I have begun to understand the methods of this art, it grieves me that they will not commission me to paint the whole circuit of the walls of the city of Florence with stories"; thus revealing a spirit absolutely invincible and resolute in every action.

For S. Martino in Lucca he painted S. Peter and S. Paul on a panel. In the Abbey of Settimo, without Florence, he painted the wall of the principal chapel in fresco, with two panels in distemper in the tramezzo* of the church. In Florence, also, he executed many pictures, round, square, and of other kinds, which can only be seen in the houses of individual citizens. In Pisa he painted the recess behind the high- altar of the Duomo, and he worked in many parts of that city, painting, for example, on the front wall of the Office of Works, a scene of King Charles, portrayed from life, making supplication for Pisa; and two panels in distemper, that of the high altar and another, for the Frati Gesuati in S. Girolamo. In that place there is also a picture of S. Rocco and S. Sebastian by the hand of the same man, which was given by one or other of the Medici to those fathers, who have therefore added to it the arms of Pope Leo X.

He is said to have been so accurate in draughtsmanship, that, when making drawings of the antiquities of Rome, such as arches, baths, columns, colossea, obelisks, amphitheatres, and aqueducts, he would work with the eye alone, without rule, compasses, or measurements; and after he had made them, on being measured, they were found absolutely correct, as if he had used measurements. He drew the Colosseum by the eye, placing at the foot of it a figure standing upright, from the proportions of which the whole edifice could be measured; this was tried by some masters after his death, and found quite correct.

Over a door of the cemetery of S. Maria Nuova he painted a S. Michael in fresco, clad in armor which reflects the light most beautifully a thing seldom done before his day. At the Abbey of Passignano, a seat of the Monks of Vallombrosa, he wrought certain works in company with his brother David and Bastiano da San Gimignano. Here the two others, finding themselves poorly fed by the monks before the arrival of Domenico, complained to the Abbot, praying him to have them better served, since it was not right that they should be treated like bricklayers' laborers. This the Abbot promised to do, saying in excuse that it was due more to the ignorance of the monks who looked after strangers than to malice. Domenico arrived, but everything continued just the same; whereupon David, seeking out the Abbot once again, declared with due apologies that he was not doing this for his own sake but on account of the merits and talents of his brother. But the Abbot, like the ignorant man that he was, made no other answer. That evening, then, when they had sat down to supper, up came the stranger's steward with a board covered with bowls and messes only fit for a hangman, exactly the same as before. Thereupon David, flying into a rage, upset the soup over the friar, and, seizing the loaf that was on the table, fell upon him with it and belabored him in such a manner that he was carried away to his cell more dead than alive. The Abbot, who was already in bed, got up and ran to the noise, believing that the monastery was tumbling down; and finding the friar in a sorry plight, he began to upbraid David. Enraged by this, David bade him be gone out of his sight, saying that the talent of Domenico was worth more than all the pigs of Abbots like him that had ever lived in that monastery. Whereupon the Abbot, seeing himself in the wrong, did his utmost from that time onwards to treat them like the important men that they were.

This work finished, Domenico returned to Florence, where he painted a panel for Signor di Carpi, sending another to Rimini for Signor Carlo Malatesta, who had it placed in his chapel in S. Domenico. The latter panel was in distemper, with three very beautiful figures, and with little scenes below ; and behind were figures painted to look like bronze, with very great design and art. Besides these, he painted two panels for the Abbey of S. Giusto, a seat of the Order of Camaldoli, without Volterra ; these panels, which are wondrously beautiful, he executed at the order of the Magnificent Lorenzo de' Medici, for the reason that the abbey was then held "in commendam" by his son Cardinal Giovanni de' Medici, who was afterwards Pope Leo. This abbey was restored not many years ago by the Very Reverend Messer Giovan Batista Bava of Volterra, who likewise held it "in commendam," to the said Congregation of Camaldoli.

Being then summoned to Siena through the agency of the Magnificent Lorenzo de' Medici, Domenico undertook to adorn the facade of the Duomo with mosaics, Lorenzo acting as surety for him in this work to the extent of 20,000 ducats. And he began the work with much confidence and a better manner, but, being overtaken by death, he left it unfinished ; even as, by reason of the death of the aforesaid Magnificent Lorenzo, there remained unfinished at Florence the Chapel of S. Zanobi, on which Domenico had begun to work in mosaic in company with the illuminator Gherardo. By the hand of Domenico is a very beautiful Annunciation in mosaic that is to be seen over that side door of S. Maria del Fiore which leads to the Servi; and nothing better than this has yet been seen among the works of our modern masters of mosaic. Domenico used to say that painting was mere drawing, and that the true painting for eternity was mosaic.

A pupil of his, who lived with him in order to learn, was Bastiano Mainardi da San Gimignano, who became a very able master of his manner in fresco; wherefore he went with Domenico to San Gimignano, where they painted in company the Chapel of S. Fina, which is a beautiful work. Now the faithful and willing service of Bastiano, who acquitted himself very well, induced Domenico to judge him worthy to have a sister of his own for wife; and so their friendship was changed into relationship a proof of liberality worthy of a loving master, who was pleased to reward the proficiency that his disciple had acquired by labouring at his art. Domenico caused the said Bastiano to paint a Madonna ascending into Heaven in the Chapel of the Baroncelli and Bandini in S. Croce (although he made the cartoon himself), with S. Thomas below receiving the Girdle a beautiful work in fresco. In Siena, in an apartment of the Palace of the Spannocchi, Domenico and Bastiano together painted many scenes in distemper, with little figures ; and in Pisa, in addition to the aforesaid recess in the Duomo, they filled the whole arch of that chapel with angels, besides painting the folding doors that close the organ, and beginning to overlay the ceiling with gold. Afterwards, just when Domenico was about to put his hand to some very great works both in Pisa and in Siena, he fell sick of a most grievous putrid fever, which cut short his life in five days. As he lay ill, the Tornabuoni sent him a hundred ducats of gold as a gift, proving their regard and particular friendship for Domenico in return for his unceasing labours in the service of Giovanni and of his house. Domenico lived forty-four years, and he was buried with beautiful obsequies in S. Maria Novella by his brothers David and Benedetto and his son Ridolfo, amid much weeping and sorrowful regrets. The loss of so great a man was a great grief to his friends; and many excellent foreign painters, hearing that he was dead, wrote to his relatives lamenting his most untimely death. The disciples that he left were David and Benedetto Ghirlandajo, Bastiano Mainardi da San Gimignano, the Florentine Michelagnolo Buonarroti, Francesco Granaccio, Niccold Cieco, Jacopo del Tedesco, Jacopo dell' Indaco, Baldino Baldinelli, and other masters, all Florentines. He died in 1495.

Domenico enriched the art of painting by working in mosaic with a manner more modern than was shown by any of the innumerable Tuscans who essayed it, as is proved by the works that he wrought, few though they may be. Wherefore he has deserved to be held in honour and esteem for such rich and undying benefits to art, and to be celebrated with extraordinary praises after his death.

 

 

 

ANTONIO (1429-1498) and PIERO POLLAIUOLO (1443-1496)
PAINTERS and SCULPTORS OF FLORENCE

Vasari's Lives of the Artists


MANY MEN BEGIN in a humble spirit with unimportant works, who, gaining courage from proficiency, grow also in power and ability, in such a manner that they aspire to greater undertakings and almost reach Heaven with their beautiful thoughts. Raised by fortune, they very often chance upon some liberal Prince, who, finding himself well served by them, is forced to remunerate their labors so richly that their descen- dants derive great benefits and advantages from them. Wherefore such men walk through this life to the end with so much glory, that they leave marvellous memorials of themselves to the world, as did Antonio and Piero del Pollaiuolo, who were greatly esteemed in their day for the rare acquirements that they had made with their industry and labour.

These men were born in the city of Florence, one no long time after the other [sic], from a father of humble station and no great wealth, who, recognizing by many signs the good and acute intelligence of his sons, but not having the means to educate them in letters, apprenticed Antonio to the goldsmith's art under Bartoluccio Ghiberti, a very excellent master in that calling at that time; and Piero he placed under Andrea dal Castagno, who was then the best painter in Florence, to learn painting. Antonio, then, being pushed on by Bartoluccio, not only learnt to set jewels and to fire enamels on silver, but was also held the best master of the tools of that art. Wherefore Lorenzo Ghiberti, who was then working on the doors of S. Giovanni, having observed the manner of Antonio, called him into that work in company with many other young men, and set him to labor on one of the festoons which he then had in hand. On this Antonio made a quail which is still in existence, so beautiful and so perfect that it lacks nothing but the power of flight. Antonio, therefore, had not spent many weeks over this work before he was known as the best, both in design and in patient execution, of all those who were working there, and as more gifted and more diligent than any other. Whereupon, growing ever both in ability and in fame, he left Bartoluccio and Lorenzo, and opened a fine and magnificent goldsmith's shop for himself in the Mercato Nuovo in that city. And for many years he followed that art, never ceasing to make new designs, and executing in relief wax candles and other things of fancy, which in a short time caused him to be held as he was the first master of his calling.

There lived at the same time another goldsmith called Maso Finiguerra, who had an extraordinary fame, and deservedly, since there had never been seen any master of engraving and of niello who could make so great a number of figures as he could, whether in a small or in a large space; as is still proved by certain paxes in the Church of S. Giovanni in Florence, wrought by him with most minutely elaborated stories from the Passion of Christ. This man drew very well and in abundance, and in our book are many of his drawings of figures, both draped and nude, and scenes done in watercolor. In competition with him Antonio executed certain scenes, in which he equalled him in diligence and surpassed him in design; wherefore the Consuls of the Guild of Merchants, seeing the excellence of Antonio, and remembering that there were certain scenes in silver to be wrought for the altar of S. Giovanni, such as it had ever been the custom for various masters to make at different times, determined among themselves that Antonio also should make some. This came to pass; and his works turned out so excellent, that they are recognized as the best among them all. These were the Feast of Herod and the Dance of Herodias; but more beautiful than anything else was the S. John that is in the middle of the altar, a work wrought wholly with the chasing-tool, and much extolled. For this reason he was commissioned by the said Consuls to make the candelabra of silver, each three braccia in height, and the Cross in proportion; which work he brought to such perfection, with such an abundance of carving, that it has ever been esteemed a marvellous thing both by foreigners and by his countrymen. In this calling he took infinite pains, both with the works that he executed in gold and with those in enamel and silver. Among these are some very beautiful paxes in S. Giovanni, colored by the action of fire, which are such that they could be scarcely improved with the brush; and some of his marvellous enamels may be seen in other churches in Florence, Rome, and other parts of Italy.

He taught this art to the Florentine Mazzingo and to Giuliano del Facchino, both passing good masters, and to Giovanni Turini of Siena, who surpassed these his companions considerably in that profession, in which, from Antonio di Salvi who made many good works, such as a large silver Cross for the Badia of Florence, and other things to our own day, there has been nothing done than can be held in particular account. But of his works and of those of the Pollaiuoli many have been destroyed and melted down to meet the necessities of the city in times of war.

For this reason, recognizing that this art gave no long life to the labors of its craftsmen, and desiring to gain a more lasting memory, Antonio resolved to pursue it no longer. And so, his brother Piero being a painter, he associated himself with him in order to learn the methods of handling and using colors; but it appeared to him an art so different from the goldsmith's, that, if he had not been so hasty in resolving to abandon his own art entirely, it might well have been that he would never have brought himself to turn to the other. However, spurred by fear of shame rather than by hope of profit, in a few months he acquired a practical knowledge of coloring and became an excellent master. He associated himself entirely with Piero, and they made many pictures in company ; among others, since they took great delight in colour, a panel in oil in S. Miniato al Monte without Florence, for the Cardinal of Portugal. On this panel, which was placed on the altar of his chapel, they painted S. James the Apostle, S. Eustace, and S. Vincent, which have been much extolled. Piero, in particular, painted certain prophets on the wall in oil (a method that he had learnt from Andrea dal Castagno), in the corners of the angles below the architrave, where the lunettes of the arches run; and in one of the lunettes he painted the Virgin receiving the Annunciation, with three figures. For the Capitani di Parte he painted a Madonna with the Child in her arms in a lunette, with a frieze of seraphim all round, also wrought in oil.

They also painted in oil, on canvas, on a pilaster of S. Michele in Orto, an Angel Raphael with Tobias; and they made certain Virtues in the Mercatanzia of Florence, in the very place where that Tribunal holds its sittings. In the Proconsulate Antonio made portraits from life of Messer Poggio, Secretary to the Signoria of Florence, who continued the History of Florence after Messer Leonardo d'Arezzo, and of Messer Giannozzo Manetti, a man of no small learning and repute, in the same place where other masters some time before had made portraits of Zanobi da Strada, a poet of Florence, Donato Acciaiuoli, and others. In the Chapel of the Pucci, in S. Sebastiano de' Servi, he painted the panel of the altar, which is a rare and excellent work, containing marvellous horses, nudes, and very beautiful figures in foreshortening, and S. Sebastian himself portrayed from life namely, from Gino di Lodovico Capponi. This work received greater praise than any other that Antonio ever made, since, seeking to imitate nature to the utmost of his power, he showed in one of the archers, who is resting his cross-bow against his chest and bending down to the ground in order to load it, all the force that a man of strong arm can exert in loading that weapon, for we see his veins and muscles swelling, and the man himself holding his breath in order to gain more strength. Nor is this the only figure wrought with careful consideration, for all the others in their various attitudes also demonstrate clearly enough the thought and the intelligence that he put into this work, which was certainly appreciated by Antonio Pucci, who gave him 300 crowns for it, declaring that he was barely paying him for the colors. It was finished in the year 1475.

Gaining courage from this, therefore, he painted at S. Miniato fra le Torri, without the Gate, a S. Cristopher ten braccia in height, a very beautiful work executed in a modern manner, the figure being better proportioned than any other of that size that had been made up to that time. He then made a Crucifix with S. Antonino, on canvas, which was placed in the chapel of that Saint in S. Marco. In the Palace of the Signoria of Florence, at the Porta della Catena, he made a S. John the Baptist; and in the house of the Medici he painted for the elder Lorenzo three figures of Hercules in three pictures, each five braccia in height. The first of these, which is slaying Antaeus, is a very beautiful figure, in which the strength of Hercules as he crushes the other is seen most vividly, for the muscles and nerves of that figure are all strained in the struggle to destroy Antaeus. The head of Hercules shows the gnashing of the teeth so well in harmony with the other parts, that even the toes of his feet are raised in the effort. Nor did he take less pains with Antaeus, who, crushed in the arms of Hercules, is seen sinking and losing all his strength, and giving up his breath through his open mouth. The second Hercules, who is slaying the Lion, has the left knee pressed against its chest, and, setting his teeth and extending his arms, and grasping the Lion's jaws with both his hands, he is opening them and rending them asunder by main force, although the beast is tearing his arms grievously with its claws in self-defence. The third picture, wherein Hercules is slaying the Hydra, is something truly marvellous, particularly the serpent, which he made so lively and so natural in coloring that nothing could be made more lifelike. In that beast are seen venom, fire, ferocity, rage, and such vivacity, that he deserves to be celebrated and to be closely imitated in this by all good craftsmen.

For the Company of S. Angelo in Arezzo he executed an oil painting on cloth, with a Crucifix on one side, and on the other S. Michael in combat with the Dragon, as beautiful as any work that there is to be seen by his hand; for the figure of S. Michael, who is bravely confronting the Dragon, setting his teeth and knitting his brows, truly seems to have descended from Heaven in order to effect the vengeance of God against the pride of Lucifer, and it is indeed a marvellous work. He had a more modern grasp of the nude than the masters before his day, and he dissected many bodies in order to study their anatomy. He was the first to demonstrate the method of searching out the muscles, in order that they might have their due form and place in his figures, and he engraved on copper a battle of nude figures all girt round with a chain; and after this one he made other engravings, with much better workmanship than had been shown by the other masters who had lived before him.

For these reasons, then, he became famous among craftsmen, and after the death of Pope Sixtus IV he was summoned by his successor, Pope Innocent, to Rome, where he made a tomb of metal for the said Innocent, wherein he portrayed him from nature, seated in the attitude of giving the Benediction; and this was placed in S. Pietro. That of the said Pope Sixtus, which was finished at very great cost, was placed in the chapel that is called by the name of that Pontiff. It stands quite by itself, with very rich adornments, and on it there lies an excellent figure of the Pope ; and the tomb of Innocent stands in S. Pietro, beside the chapel that contains the Lance of Christ. It is said that the same man designed the Palace of the Belvedere for the said Pope Innocent, although, since he had little experience of building, it was erected by others. Finally, after becoming rich, these two brothers died almost at the same time in 1498, and were buried by their relatives in S. Pietro in Vincula; and in memory of them, beside the middle door, on the left as one enters into the church, there were placed two medallions of marble with their portraits and with the following epitaph:

ANTONIUS PULLARIUS PATRIA FLORENTINUS, PICTOR INSIGNIS, QUI DUORUM PONTIF. XISTI ET INNOCENTII ^EREA MONIMENTA MIRO OPIFIC. EXPRESSIT, RE FAMIL. COMPOSITA EX TEST. HIC SE CUM PETRO FRATRE CONDI VOLUIT. VIX. AN. LXXII. OBIIT ANNO SAL. MUD.
The same man made a very beautiful battle of nude figures in low relief and of metal, which went to Spain; of this every craftsman in Florence has a plaster cast. And after his death there were found the design and model that he had made at the command of Lodovico Sforza for the equestrian statue of Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, of which design there are two forms in our book; in one the Duke has Verona beneath him, and in the other he is on a pedestal covered with battle pieces, in full armor, and forcing his horse to leap on a man in armour. But the reason why he did not put these designs into execution I have not yet been able to discover. The same man made some very beautiful medals; among others, one representing the conspiracy of the Pazzi, containing on one side the heads of Lorenzo and Giuliano de* Medici, and on the reverse the choir of S. Maria del Fiore, with the whole event exactly as it happened. He also made the medals of certain Pontiffs, and many other things that are known to craftsmen.
Antonio was seventy-two years of age when he died, and Piero sixty-five. The former left many disciples, among whom was Andrea Sansovino. Antonio had a most fortunate life in his day, finding rich Pontiffs, and his own city at the height of its greatness and delighting in talent, wherefore he was much esteemed; whereas, if he had chanced to live in an unfavorable age, he would not have produced such fruits as he did, since troublous times are deadly enemies to the sciences in which men labor and take delight.

For S. Giovanni in Florence, after the design of this man, there were made two dalmatics, a chasuble, and a cope, of double brocade, all woven in one piece without a single seam ; and for these, as borders and ornaments, there were embroidered the stories of the life of S. John, with most delicate workmanship and art, by Paolo da Verona, a divine master of that profession and rare in intelligence beyond all others, who executed the figures no less well with the needle than Antonio would have done them with his brush; wherefore we owe no small obliga- tion to the one for his design and to the other for his patience in em- broidering it. This work took twenty-six years to complete; but of these embroideries, which, being made with the close stitch, are not only more durable but also seem like a real painting done with the brush, the good method is now all but lost, since we now use a more open stitch, which is less durable and less lovely to the eye.


 

 

 

SANDRO BOTTICELLI (1447-1510)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists









At the same time with the elder Lorenzo'de Medici, the Magnificent, which was truly a golden age for men of intellect, there also flourished one Alessandro, called Sandro after our custom, and surnamed Di Botticello for a reason that we shall see below. This man was the son of Mariano Filipeppi, a citizen of Florence, who brought him up with care, and had him instructed in all those things that are usually taught to children before they are old enough to be apprenticed to some calling. But although he found it easy to learn whatever he wished, nevertheless he was ever restless, nor was he contented with any form of learning, whether reading, writing, or arithmetic, insomuch that his father, eary of the vagaries of his son's brain, in despair apprenticed him as a goldsmith with a boon-companion of his own, called Botticello, no mean master of that art in his day.

Now in that age there was a very close connection--nay, almost a constant communication--between the goldsmiths and the painters; wherefore Sandro, who was a ready fellow and had devoted himself wholly to design, became enamored ob painting, and determined to devote himself to that. For this reason he spoke out his mind freely to his father, who, recognizing the inclination of his brain, took him to Fra Filippo of the Carmine, a most excellent painter of that time, with whom he placed him to learn the art, according to Sandro's own desire. Thereupon, devoting himself heart and soul to that art, Sandro followed and imitated his master so well that Fra Filippo, growing to love him, taught him very thoroughly, so that he soon rose to such a rank as none would have expected for him.

While still quite young, he painted a figure of Fortitude in the Mercatanzia of Florence, among the pictures of Virtues that were wrought by Antonio and Piero del Pollaiuolo. For the Chapel of the Bardi in S. Spirito at Florence he painted a panel, wrought with diligence and brought to a fine completion, which contains certain olive-trees and palms executed with consummate lovingness. He painted a panel for the Convertite Nuns, and another for those of S. Barnaba. In the tramezzo of the Ognissanti, by the dooor that leads into the choir, he painted for the Vespucci a S. Augustine in fresco, with which he took very great pains, seeking to surpass all the painters of his time, and particularly Domenico Ghirlandaio, who had made a S. Jerome on the other side; and this work won very great praise, for in the head of that Saint he depicted the profound meditation and acute subtlety that are found in men of wisdom who are ever concentrated on the investigation of the highest and most difficult matters. This picture, as was said in the Life of Ghirlandaio has this year (1564) been removed safe and sound from its original position.

Having thus come into credit and reputation, he was commissioned by the Guild of Porta Santa Maria to paint in s. Marco a panel with the Coronation of Our Lady and a choir of angels, which he designed and executed very well. He made many works in the hour of the Medici for the elder Lorenzo, particularly a Pallas on a devie of great branches, which spouted forth fire: this he painted of the size of life, as he did a S. Sebastian. In S. Maria Maggiore in Florence, beside the Chapel of the Panciatichi, there is a very beautiful Pieta' with little figures. For various houses throughout the city he painted round pictures, and many female nudes, of which there are still two at Castello, a villa of Duke Cosimo's; one representing the birth of Venus, with those Winds and Zephyrs that bring her to the earth, with the Cupids; and likewise another Venus, whom the Graces are covering with flowers as a symbol of spring; and all this he is seen to have expressed very gracefully. Round an apartment of the house of Giovanni Vespucci, now belonging to Piero Salviati, in the Via de'Servi, he made many pictures wich were enclosed by frames of walnut-wood, by way of ornament and panelling, with many most lively and beautiful figures.

In the house of the Pucci, likewise, he painted with little figures Boccaccio's tale of Nastagio degli Onesti in four square pictures of most charming and beautiful workmanship, and the Epiphany in a round picture. For a chapel in the Monastery of Cestello he painted an Annunciation on a panel. Near the side-door of S. Pietro Maggiore, for Matteo Palmieri, he painted a panel with an infinite number of figures--namely, the Assumption of Our Lady, with the Zones of Heaven as they are represented, and the Patriarchs, the Prophets, the Apostles, the Evangelists, the Martyrs, the Confessors, the Doctors, the Virgins, and the Hierarchies; all from the design given to him by Matteo, who was a learned and able man. This work he painted with mastery and consummate diligence; and at the foot is a portrait of Matteo on his knees, with that of his wife. But for all that the work is most beautiful, and should have silenced envy, nevertheless there were certain malignant slanderers who, not being able to do it any other damange, said that both Matteo and Sandro had committed therein the grievous sin of heresy. As to whether this be true or false, I cannot be expected to judge; it is enough that the figures painted therein by Sandro are truly worthy of praise, by reason of the pains that he took in drawing the zones of Heaven and in the distribution of figures, angels, foreshortenings, and views, all varied in diverse ways, the whole being executed with good design.

At this time Sandro was commissioned to paint a little panel with figures three-quarters of a braccio in length, which was placed between two doors in the principal facade of S. Maria Novella, on the left as one enters the church by the door of the center. It contains the Adoration of the Magi, and wonderful feeling is seen in the first old man, who, kissing the foot of Our Lord, and melting with tenderness, shows very clearly that he was achieved the end of his long journey. The figure of this King is an actual portrait of the elder Cosimo de'Medici, the most lifelike and most natural that is to be found of him in our own day. The second, who is Giuliano de'Medici, father of Pope Clement VII, is seen devoutly doing reveence to the Child was a most intent expression, and presenting Him with his offering. The third, also on his knees, appears to be adoring Him and giving Him thanks, while confessing that He is the true Messiah; this is Giovanni, son of Cosimo.

It is not possible to describe the beauty that Sandro depicted in the heads that are therein seen, which are drawn in various attitudes, some in full face, some in profile, some in three-quarter face, others bending down, and others, again, in various manners; with different expressions for the young and the old, and with all the bizarre effects that reveal to us the perfection of his skill; and he distinguished the Courts of the three Kings one from another, insomuch that one can see which are the retainers of each. This is truly a most admirable work, and executed so beautifully, whether in coloring, drawing, or composition, that every craftsman at the present day stands in a marvel thereat. And at that time it brought him such great fame, both in Florence and abroad, that Pope Sixtus IV, having accomplished the building of the chapel of his palace in Rome, and wishing to have it painted, ordained that he should be made head of that work; whereupon he painted therein with his own hand the following scenes--namely, the Temptation of Christ by the Devil, Moses slaying the Egyptian, Moses receiving drink from the daughters of Jethro the Midianite, and likewise fire descending from Heaven on the sacrifice of the sons of Aaron, with certain Sanctified Popes in the niches above the scenes. Having therefore acquired still greater fame and reputation among the great number of competitors who worked with him, both Florentines and ment of other cities, he received from the Pope a good sum of money, the whole of which he consumed and squandered in a moment during his residence in Rome, where he lived in haphazard fashion, as was his wont.

Having at the same time finished and unveiled the part that had been assigned to him, he returned immediately to Florence, where, being a man of inquiring maind, he made a commentary on part of Dante, illustrated the Inferno, and printed it; on which he wasted much of his time, bringing infinite disorder into his life by neglicting his work. He also printed many of the drawings that he had made, but in a bad manner, for the engraving was poorly done. The best of these that is to be seen by his hand is the Triumph of the Faith effected by Fra Girolamo Savonarola of Ferrara, of whose sect he was so ardent a partisan that he was thereby induced to desert his painting, and, having no income to live on, fell into very great distress. For this reason, persisting in his attachement to that party, and becoming a Piagnone [Mourner, or Weeper] (as the members of the sect were then called), he abandoned his work; wherefore he ended in his old age by finding himself so poor, that if Lorenzo de'Medici, for whom, besides many other things, he had done some work at the little hospital in the district of Volterra, had not succoured him the while that he lived, as did afterwards his friends and many excellent men who loved him for his talent, he would have almost died of hunger.

In S. Francesco, without the Porta a San Miniato, there is a Madonna in a round picture by the hand of Sandro, with some angels of the size of life, which was held a very beautiful work. Sandra was a man of very pleasant humor, often playing tricks on his disciples and his friends; wherefore it is related that once, when a pupil of his who was called Biagio had made a round picture exactly like the one mentioned above, in order to sell it, Sandro sold it for six florins of gold to a citizen; then, finding Biagio, he said to him, "At last I have sold this thy picture; so this evening it must be hung on high, where it will be seen better, and in the morning though must go to the house of the citizen who has bought, and bring him here, that he may see it in good light in its proper place; and then he will pay thee the money." "Oh, my master," said Biagio,"how well you have done." Then, going ino the shop, he hung the picture at a good height, and went off. Meanwhile Sandro and Jacopo, who was another of his disciples, made eight caps of paper, like those worn by citizens, and fixed them with white wax on the heads of the eight angels that surrounded the Madonna in the said picture. Now, in the morning, up comes Biagio with his citizen, who had bought the picture and was in the secret. They entered the shop, and Biagio, looking up, saw his Madonna seated, not among his angels, but among the Signoria of Florence, with all those caps. Thereupon he was just about to begin to make an outcry and to excuse himself to the man who had bought it, when, seeing, that the other, instead of complaining, was actually praising the picture, he kept silent himself. Finally, going with the citizen to his house, Biagio received his payment of six florins, the price for which his master had sold the picture; and then, returning to the shop just as Sandro and Jacopo had removed the paper caps, he saw his angels as true angels, and not as citizens in their caps. All in amaze, and not knowing what to say, he turned at last to Sandro and said: "Master, I know not whether I am dreaming, or whether this is true. When I came here before, these angels had red caps on their heads, and now they have not; what does that mean?" "Thou art out of thy wits, Biagio," said Sandro; "this money has turned thy head. If it were so, thinkest thou that the citizen would have bought the picture?" "It is true", replied Biagio, "that he said nothing to me about it, but for all that it seemed to me strange." Finally, all the other lads gathered around him and wrought on him to believe that it had been a fit of giddiness.

Another time a cloth-weaver came to live in a house next to Sandro's, and erected no less than eight looms, which, when at work, not only deafened poor Sandro with the noise of the treadles and the movement of the frames, but shook his whole house, the walls of which were no stronger than they should be, so that what with the one thing and the other he could not work or even stay at home. Time after time he besought his neighbor to put an end to this annoyance, but the other said that he both would and could do what he pleased in his own house; whereupon Sandro, in disdain, balanced on the top of his own wall, which was higher than his neighbor's and not very strong, an enormous stone, more than enough to fill a wagon, which threatened to fall at the slightest shaking of the wall and to shatter the roof, ceilings, webs, and looms of his neighbor, who, terrified by this danger, ran to Sandro, but was answered in his very own words--namely, that he both could and would do whatever he please in his own house. Nor could he get any other answer out of him, so that he was forced to come to a reasonable ageement and to be a good neighbor to Sandro.

It is also related that Sandro, for a jest, accused a friend of his own of heresy before his vicar, and the friend, on appearing, asked who the accuser was and what the accusation; and having been told that it was Sandro, who had charged him with holding the opinion of the Epicureans, and believing that the soul dies with the body, he insisted on being confronted with the accuser before the judge. Sandro therefore appeared, and the other said: "It is true that I hold this opinion with regard to this man's soul, for he is an animal. Nay, does it not seem to you that he is the heretic, since without a scrap of learning, and scarcely knowing how to read, he plays the commentator to Dante and takes his name in vain?"

It is also said that he had a surpassing love for all whom he saw to be zealous students of art; and that he earned much, but wasted everything through negligence and lack of management. Finally, having grown old and useless, and being forced to walk with crutches, without which he could not stand upright, he died, infirm and decrepit, at the age of seventy-eight, and was buried in Ognissanti at Florence in the year 1515.

In the guardaroba of the Lord Duke Cosimo there are two very beautiful heads of women in profile by his hand, one of which is said to be the mistress of Giuliano de'Medici, brother of Lorenzo, and the other Madonna Lucrezia de'Tornabuoni, wife of the said Lorenzo. In the same place, likewise by the hand of Sandro, is a Bacchus who is raising a cask with both his hands, and putting it to his mouth--a very graceful figure. And in the Duomo of Pisa he began an Assumption, with a choir of angels, in the Chapel of the Impagliata; but afterwards, being displeased with it, he left it unfinished. In S. Francesco at Montevarchi he painted the panel of the high altar; and in the Pieve of Empoli, on the same side as the S. Sebastian of Rossellino, he made two angels. He was among the first to discover the method of decorating standrds and other sorts of hangings with the so-called inlaid work, to the end that the colors might not fade and might show the tint of the cloth on either side. By his hand, and made thus, is the baldacchino of Orsanmichele, covered with beautiful and varied figures of Our Lady; which proves how much better such a method preserves the cloth than does the use of mordants, which eat it away and make its life but short, although, being less costly, mordants are now used more than anything else.

Sandro's drawings were extraordinarily good, and so many, that for some time after his death all the craftsmen strove to obtain some of them; and we have some in our book, made with great mastery and judgment. His scenes abounded with figures, as may be seen from the embroidered border of the Cross that the Friars of S. Maria Novella carry in processions, all made from his design. Great was the praise, then, that Sandro deserved for all the pictures that he chose to make with diligence and love, as he did the aforesaid panel of the Magi in s. Maria Novella, which is marvellous. Very beautiful, too, is a little round picture by his hand that is seen in the apartment of the Prior of the Angeli in Florence, in which the figures are small but very graceful and wrought with beautiful consideration. Of the same size as the aforesaid panel of the Magi, and by the same man's hand, is a picture in the possession of Messer Fabio Segni, a gentleman of Florence, in which there is painted the Calumny of Apelles, as beautiful as any picture could be. Under this panel, which Sandro himself presented to Antonio Segni, who was much his friend, there may now by read the following verses, written by the said Messer Fabio:

INDICIO QUEMQUAM NE FALSO LEDERE TENTENT
TERRARUM REGES, PARVA TABELLA MONET.
HUIC SIMILEM AEGYPTI REGI DONAVIT APPELLES;
REX FUIT ET DIGNUS MUNERE, MUNUS EO.

 

 

 

BENEDETTO DA MAIANO (1442-1497)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists



BENEDETTO DA MAIANO, a sculptor of Florence, who was in his earliest years a wood carver, was held the most able master of all who were then handling the tools of that profession; and he was particularly excellent as a craftsman in that form of work which, as has been said elsewhere, was introduced at the time of Filippo Brunelleschi and Paolo Uccello--namely, the inlaying of pieces of wood tinted with various colors, in order to make views in perspective, foliage, and many other diverse things of fancy. In this craft, then, Benedetto da Maiano was in his youth the best master that there was to be found, as is clearly demonstrated by many works of his that are to be seen in various parts of Florence, particularly by all the presses in the Sacristy of Santa Maria del Fiore, the greater part of which he finished after the death of his uncle Giuliano; these are full of figures executed in inlaid work, foliage, and other devices, all wrought with great expense and craftsmanship.

Having gained a very great name through the novelty of this art, he made many works, which were sent to diverse places and to various Princes; and among others King Alfonso of Naples had the furniture for a study, made under the direction of Giuliano, uncle of Benedetto, who was serving that King as architect. Benedetto himself went to join him there; but, being displeased with the position, he returned to Florence, where, no long time after, he made for Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary, who had many Florentines in his court and took delight in all rare works, a pair of coffers inlaid in wood with difficult and most beautiful craftsmanship. He then determined, being invited with great favor by that King, to consent to go thither at all costs; and so, having packed up his coffers and embarked with them on board ship, he set off for Hungary.

There, after doing obeisance to that King, by whom he was received most graciously, he sent for the said coffers and had them unpacked in the presence of the monarch, who was very eager to see them; whereupon he saw that the damp from the water and the exhalations from the sea had so softened the glue, that, on the opening of the waxed cloths, almost all the pieces which had been attached to the coffers fell to the ground. Whether Benedetto, therefore, in the presence of so many nobles, stood in dumb amazement, everyone may judge for himself. However, putting the work together as well as he was able, he contrived to leave the King well enough satisfied; but in spite of this he took an aversion to that craft and could no longer endure it, through the shame that it had brought upon him.

And so, casting off all timidity, he devoted himself to sculpture, in which art he had already worked at Loreto while living with his uncle Giuliano, making a lavatory [ie, wash basin] with certain angels of marble for the sacristy. Laboring at this art, before he left Hungary he gave that King to know that if he had been put to shame at the beginning, the fault had lain with that craft, which was a mean one, and not with his intellect, which was rare and exalted. Having therefore made in those parts certain works both in clay and in marble, which gave great pleasure to that King, he returned to Florence; and he had no sooner arrived there than he was commissioned by the Signori to make the marble ornament for the door of their Audience Chamber.

For this he made some boys supporting with their arms certain festoons, all very beautiful; but the most beautiful part of the work was the figure in he middle, two braccia in height, of a young St. John, which is held to be a thing of rare excellence. And to the end that the whole work might be by his own hand, he made by himself the wood-work that closes the said door, and executed a figure with inlaid woods on either part of it, that is, Dante on one and Petrarca on the other; which two figures are enough to show to any man who may have seen no other work of that kind by the hand of Benedetto, how rare and excellent a master he was of that craft. This Audience Chamber has been painted in our own day by Francesco Salviati at the command of Lord Duke Cosimo, as will be told in the proper place.

In Santa Maria Novella at Florence, where Filippino painted the chapel, Benedetto afterwards made a tomb of black marble, with a Madonna and certain angels in a medallion, with much diligence, for the elder Filippo Strozzi, whose portrait, which he made there in marble, is now in the Strozzi Palace. The same Benedetto was commissioned by the elder Lorenzo de'Medici to make in Santa Maria del Fiore a portrait of the Florentine painter Giotto, which he placed over the epitaph, of which enough has been said above in the Life of Giotto himself. This piece of marble sculpture is held to be passing good.

Having afterwards gone to Naples by reason of the death of his uncle Giuliano, who heir he was, Benedetto, besides certain works that he executed for that King, made a marble panel of the the Count of Terranuova in the Monastery of the Monks of Monte Oliveto, containing an Annunciation with certain saints, and surrounded by very beautiful boys, who are supporting some festoons; and in the predella of the said work he made many low relief carvings in a good manner. In Faenza he made a very beautiful tomb of marble for the body of St. Savino, and on this he wrought six scenes in low relief from the life of that Saint, with much invention and design both in the buildings and in the figures; insomuch that both from this work and from others by his hand he was recognized as a man excellent in sculpture. Wherefore, before he left Romagna, he was commissioned to make a portrait of Galeotto Malatesta. He also made one, I know not whether before this or after, of Henry VII, King of England, after a drawing on paper that he had received from some Florentine merchants. The studies for these two portraits, together with many other things, were found in his house after his death.

Having finally returned to Florence, he made in Santa Croce, for Pietro Mellini, a citizen of Florence and a very rich merchant at that time, the marble pulpit that is seen there, which is held to be a very rare thing and more beautiful than any other that has ever been executed in that manner, since the marble figures that are to be seen therein, in the stories of St. Francis, are wrought with so great excellence and diligence that nothing more could be looked for in marble. For with great art Benedetto carved there trees, rocks, houses, views in perspective, and certain things in marvelously bold relief; not to mention a projection on the ground below the said pulpit, which serves as a tombstone, wrought with so much design that it is not possible to praise it enough. It is said that in making this work he had some difficulty with the Wardens of Works of Santa Croce, because, while he wished to erect the said pulpit against a column that sustains some of the arches which support the roof, and to perforate that column in order to accommodate the steps and the entrance to the pulpit, they would not consent, fearing lest it might be so weakened by the hollow required for the steps as to collapse under the weight above, with great damage to a part of that church. But Mellini having guaranteed that the work would be finished without any injury to the church, they finally consent. Having, therefore, bound the outer side of the column with bands of bronze (the part, namely, from the pulpit downwards, which is covered with hard stone), Benedetto made within it the steps for ascending to the pulpit, and in proportion as he hollowed it out within, so did he strengthen the outer side with the said hard stone, in the manner that is still to be seen. And he brought this work to perfection to the amazement of all who see it, showing in each part and in the whole together the utmost excellence that could be desired in such a work.

Many declare that the elder Filippo Strozzi, when intending to build his palace, sought the advice of Benedetto, who made him a model, according to which it was begun, although it was afterwards carried on and finished by Cronaca on the death of Benedetto. The latter, having acquired enough to live upon, would do no more works in marble after those described above, save that he finished in Santa Trinita the St. Mary Magdalene begun by Desiderio da Settignano, and made the Crucifix that is over the altar of Santa Maria del Fiore, with certain others like it.

As for architecture, although he put his hand to but few works, yet in these he showed no less judgment than in sculpture; particularly in three ceilings which were made at very great expense, under his guidance and direction, in the Palace of the Sigornia at Florence. The first of these was the ceiling of the hall that is now called the Sala deUDugento, over which it was proposed to make, not a similar hall, but two apartments, that is, a hall and an audience chamber, so that it was necessary to make a wall, and no light one either, containing a marble door of reasonable thickness; wherefore, for the execution of such a work, there was need of intelligence and judgment no less than those possessed by Benedetto.

Benedetto, then, in order not to diminish the said hall and yet divide the space above into two, went to work in the following manner. On a beam one braccio in thickness, and as long as the whole breadth of the hall, he laid another consisting of two pieces, in such a manner that it projected with its thickness to the height of two-thirds of a braccio. At the ends, these two beams, bound and secured together very firmly, gave a height of two braccia at the edge of the wall on each side; and the said two ends were grooved with a claw-shaped cut, in such a way that there could be laid upon them an arch of half a braccio in thickness, made of two layers of bricks, with its flanks resting on the principal walls. These two beams, then, were dove-tailed together with tenon and mortise, and so firmly bound and united with good banks of iron, that out of two there was made one single beam.

Besides this, having made the said arch, and wishing that these timbers of the ceiling should have nothing more to sustain than the wall under the arch, and that the arch itself should sustain he rest, he also attached to this arch two great supports of iron, which, being firmly bolted to the said beams below, upheld and still uphold them; while, even if they were not to suffice by themselves, the arch would be able--by means of the said supports which encircle the beams, one on one side of the marble door and one on the other--to support a weight much greater than that of the partition wall, which is made of bricks and half a braccio in thickness. What is more, he had the bricks in the said wall laid on edge and in the manner of an arch, so that the pressure came against the solid part, at the corners, and the whole was thus more stable. In this manner, by means of the good judgment of Benedetto, the said Sala de'Dugento remained as large as before, and over the same space, with a partition wall between, were made the hall that is called the Sala dell'Orivolo and the Audience Chamber wherein is the Triumph of Camillus, painted by the hand of Salviati. The soffit of this ceiling was richly wrought and carved by Marco del Tasso and his brothers, Domenico and Giuliano, who likewise executed that of the Sala dell'Orivolo and that of the Audience Chamber. And since the said marble door had been made double by Benedetto, on the arch of the inner door--we have already spoken of the outer one--he wrought a seated figure of Justice in marble, with the globe of the world in one hand and a sword in the other; and round the arch run the following words:

DILIGITE JUSTITIAM QUI JUDICATIS TERRAM

The whole of this work was executed with marvelous diligence and art.
For the church of the Madonna delle Grazie, which is a little distance outside the city of Arezzo, the same man made a portico with a flight of steps in front of the door. In making the portico he placed the arches on the columns, and right round alongside the roof he made an architrave, frieze, and great cornice; and in the latter, by way of drip, he placed a garland of rosettes carved in grey stone, which jut out to the extent of one braccio and a third, insomuch that between the projection of the front of the cyma above to the dentils and ovoli below the drip there is a space of two braccia and a half, which, with the half braccio added by the tiles, makes a projecting roof all round of three braccia in width, beautiful, rich, useful, and ingenious.

In this work there is a contrivance worthy to be well considered by craftsmen, for, wishing to give this roof all that projection without modillions or corbels to support it, he made the slabs, on which the rosettes are carved, so built into the solid wall; wherefore, being thus counterpoised, they were able to support the rest and all that was laid upon them, as they have done up to the present day, without any danger to that building. And since he did not wish this roof to appear to be made, as it was, of pieces, he surrounded it all, piece by piece, with a molding made of sections well dovetailed and let into one another, which served as a ground to the garland of rosettes; and this united the whole work together in such a manner that all who see it judge it to be of one piece. In the same place he had a flat ceiling made of gilded rosettes, which is much extolled.

Now Benedetto had bought a farm outside of Prato, on the road from the Porta Fiorentina in he direction of Florence, and no more than half a mile from that place. On the main road, beside the gate, he built a most beautiful little chapel, with a niche in which he placed a Madonna with the Child in her arms, so well wrought in terracotta, that even as it is, with no color, it is as beautiful as if it were of marble. So are two angels that are above by way of ornament, each with a candelabrum in his hand. On the predella of the altar there is a Pieta with Our Lady and St. John, made of marble and very beautiful. At his death he left in his house many things begun both in clay and in certain drawings in our book. Finally he died in 1498, at the age of fifty-four, and was honorably buried in San Lorenzo; and he left directions that all of his property, after the death of certain of his relatives, should go to the Company of the Bigallo.

While Benedetto in his youth was working as a joiner and at the inlaying of wood, he had among his rivals Baccio Cellini, piper to the Signoria of Florence, who made many very beautiful inlaid works in ivory, and among others an octagon of figures in ivory, outlined in black and marvelously beautiful, which is in the guardaroba of the Duke. In like manner, Girolamo della Cecca, a pupil of Baccio and likewise piper to the Signoria, also executed many inlaid works at that same time. A contemporary of these was David Pistoiese, who made a St. John the Evangelist of inlaid work at the entrance to the choir of San Giovanni Evangelista in Pistoia--a work more notable for great diligence in execution than for any great design. There was also Geri Aretino, who wrought the choir and the pulpit of Sant'Agostino at Arezzo with figures and views in perspective, likewise of inlaid wood. This Geri was a very fanciful man, and he made with wooden pipes an organ most perfect in sweetness and softness, which is still at the present day over the door of the Sacristy of the Vescovado at Arezzo, with its original goodness as sound as ever--a work worthy of marvel, and first put into execution by him.

But not one of these men, nor any other, was as excellent by a great measure as was Benedetto; therefore he deserves to be ever numbered with praise among the best craftsmen of his professions.

 

 

 

ANDREA DEL VERROCCHIO (1435-1488)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists



ANDREA DEL VERROCCHIO, a Florentine, was in his day a goldsmith, a master of perspective, a sculptor, a wood-carver, a painter, and a musician; but in the arts of sculpture and painting, to tell the truth, he had a manner somewhat hard and crude, as one who acquired it rather by infinite study than by the facility of a natural gift. Even if he had been as poor in this facility as he was rich in the study and dilitence that exalted him, he would have been most excellent in those arts, which, for their highest perfection, require a union of study and natural power. If either of these is wanting, a man rarely attains to the first rank; but study will do a great deal, and thus Andrea, who had it in greater abundance than any other craftsman whatsoever, is counted among the rare and excellent masters of our arts.

In his youth he applied himself to the sciences, particularly to geometry. Among many other things that he made while working at the goldsmith's art were certain buttons for copes, which are in S. Maria del Fiore at Florence; and he also made larger works, particularly a cup, full of animals, foliage, and other bizarre fancies, which is known to all goldsmiths, and casts are taken of it; and likewise another, on which there is a very beautiful dance of little children. Having given a proof of his powers in these two works, he was commissioned by the Guild of Merchants to make two scenes in silver for the ends of the altar of S. Giovanni, from which, when put into execution, he acquired very great praise and fame.

There were wanting at this time in Rome some of those large figures of the Apostles which generally stood on the altar of the Chapel of the Pope, as well as certain other works in silver that had been destroyed; wherefore Pope Sixtus sent for Andrea and with great favor commissioned him to do all that was necessary in this matter, and he brought the whole to perfection with much diligence and judgment. Meanwhile, perciving that the many antique statues and other things that were being found in Rome were held in very great esteem, insomuch that the famous bronze horse was set up by the Pope at S. Giovanni Laterano, and that even the fragments--not to speak of complete works--which were being discovered every day, were prized, Andrea determined to devote himself to sculpture. And so, completely abandoning the goldsmith's art, he set himself to cast some little figures in bronze, which were greatly extolled. Thereupon, growing in courage, he began to work in marble. Now in those days the wife of Francesco Tornabuoni had died in childbirth, and her husband, who had loved her much, and wished to honor her in death to the utmost of his power, entrusted the making of a tomb for her to Andrea, who carved on a slab over a sarcophagus of marble the lady herself, her delivery, and her passing to the other life; and beside this he made three figures of Virtues, which were held very beautiful, for the first work that he had executed in marble; and this tomb was set up in the Minerva.

Having then returned to Florence with money, fame, and honor, he was commissioned to make a David of bronze, two braccia and a half in height, which, when finished, was placed in the Palace, with great credit to himself, at the head of the staircase, where the Catena was. The while that he was executing the said statue, he also made that Madonna of marble which is over the tomb of Messer Lionardo Bruni of Arezzo in S. Croce; this he wrought, when still quite young, for Bernardo Rossellino, architect and sculptor, who executed the whole of that work in marble, as has been said. The same Andrea made a half-length Madonna in half-relief, with the Child in her arms, in a marble panel, which was formerly in the house of the Medici, and is now placed, as a very beautiful thing, over a door in the apartment of the Duchess of Florence. He also made two heads of metal, likewise in half-relief; one of Alexander the Great, in profile, and the other a fanciful portrait of Darius; each being a separate work by itself, with variety in the crests, armor, and everything else. Both these heads were sent to Hungary by the elder Lorenzo de'Medici, the Magnificent, to King Matthias Corvinus, together with many other things, as will be told in the proper place.

Having acquired the name of an excellent master by means of these works, above all through many works in metal, in which he took much delight, he made a tomb of bronze in S. Lorenzo, wholly in the round, for Giovanni and Pietro di Cosimo de'Medici, with a sarcophagus of porphyry supported by four corner-pieces of bronze, with twisted foliage very well wrought and finished with the greatest diligence. This tomb stands between the Chapel of the Sacrament and the Sacristy, and no work could be better done, whether wrought in bronze or cast; above all since at the same time he showed therein his talent in architecture, for he placed the said tomb within the embrasure of a window which is about five braccia in breadth and ten in height, and set it on a base that divides the said Chapel of the Sacrament from the old Sacristy. And over the sarcophagus, to fill up the embrasure right up to the vaulting, he made a grating of bronze ropes in a pattern of mandorle, most natural, and adorned in certain places with festoons and other beautiful things of fancy, all remarkable and executed with much mastery, judgment, and invention.

Now Donatello had made for the Tribunal of Six of the Mercanzia that marble shrine which is now opposite to S. Michael, in the Oratory of Orsamichele, and for this there was to have been made a S. Thomas in bronze, feeling for the wound in the side of Christ; but at that time nothing more was done, for some of the men who had charge of this wished to have it made by Donatello, and others favored Lorenzo Ghiberti. Matters stood thus as long as Donatello and Ghiberti were alive; but finally the said two statues were entrusted to Andrea, who, having made the models and moulds, cast them; and they came out so solid, complete, and well made, that it was a most beautiful casting. Thereupon, setting himself to polish and finish them, he brought them to that perfection which is seen at the present day, which could not be greater than it is, for in S. Thomas we see incredulity and a too great anxiety to assure himself of the truth, and at the same time the love that makes him lay his hand in a most beautiful manner on the side of Christ; and in Christ Himself, who is raising one arm and opening His raiment and with a most spontaneous gesture, and dispelling the doubts of His incredulous disciple, there are all the grace and divinity; so to speak, that art can give to any figure. Andrea clothed both these figures in most beautiful and well-arranged draperies, which give us to know that he understood that art no less than did Donato, Lorenzo, and the others who had lived before him; wherefore this work well deserved to be set up in a shrine made by Donatello, and to be ever afterwards held in the greatest pride and esteem.



NOW THE FAME of Andrea could not go further or grow greater in that profession, and he, as a man who was not content with being excellent in one thing only, but desired to become the same in others as well by means of study, turned his mind to painting, and so made the cartoons for a battle of nude figures, very well drawn with the pen, to be afterwards painted in colors on a wall. He also made the cartoons for some historical pictures, and afterwards began to put them in execution in colors; but for some reason, whatever it may have been, they remained unfinished. There are some drawings by his hand in our book, made with much patience and very great judgment, among which are certain heads of women, beautiful in expression and in the adornment of the hair, which Leonardo da Vinci was ever imitating for their beauty. In our book, also, are two horses with the due measures and protractors for reproducing them on a larger scale from a smaller, so that there may be no errors in the proportions; and there is in my possession a horse's head of terracotta in relief, copied from the antique, which is a rare work. The Very Reverend Don Vincenzio Borghini has some of his drawings in his book, of which we have spoken above; among others, a design for a tomb made by him in Venice for a Doge, a scene of the Adoration of Christ by the Magi, and the head of a woman painted on paper with the utmost delicacy. He also made for Lorenzo de'Medici, for the fountain of his Villa at Careggi, a boy of bronze squeezing a fish, which the Lord Duke Cosimo has caused to be placed, as may be seen at the present day, on the fountain that is in the courtyard of his Palace; which boy is truly marvelous.

Afterwards, the building of the Cupola of S. Maria del Fiore having been finished, it was resolved, after much discussion, that there should be made the copper ball which, according to the instructions left by Filippo Brunelleschi, was to be placed on the summit of that ediice. Whereupon the task was given to Andrea, who made the ball four braccia high, and, placing it on a knob secured it in such a manner that afterwards the cross could be safely erected upon it; and the whole work, when finished, was put into position with very great rejoicing and delight among the people. Truly great were the ingenuity and diligence that had to be used in making it, to the end that it might be possible, as it is, to enter it from below, and also in securing it with good fastenings, lest the winds do it damage.

Andrea was never at rest, but was ever laboring at some work either in painting or in sculpture; and sometimes he would change from one to another, in order to avoid growing weary of working always at the same thing, as many do. Wherefore, although he did not put the aforesaid cartoons into execution, yet he did paint certain pictures: among others, a panel for the nuns of San Domenico in Florence, wherein it appeared to him that he had acquitted himself very well; when, no long time after, he painted another in San Salvi for the monks of Vallombrosa, containg the Baptism of Christ by St. John. In this work he was assisted by Leonardo da Vinci, his disciple, then quite young, who painted therein an angel with his own hand, which was much better than the others parts of the work; and for that reason Andrea resolved never again to touch a bruch, since Leonardo, young as he was, had acquited himself in that art much better than he had done.

Now Cosimo de'Medici, having received many antiquities from Rome, had caused to be set up within the door of his garden, or rather, courtyard, which opens on the Via de'Ginori, a very beautiful Marsyas of white marble, bound to a tree trunk and ready to be flayed; and his grandson Lorenzo, into whose hands there had come the torso and head of another Marsyas, made of red stone, very ancient, and much more beautiful than the first, wished to set it beside the other, but could not because it was so imperfect.

 

 

 

ANDREA MANTEGNA (1431-1506)
PAINTER OF MANTUA

Vasari's Lives of the Artists





HOW GREAT is the effect of reward on talent is known to him who labors valiantly and receives a certain measure of recompense, for he feels neither discomfort, nor hardship, nor fatigue, when he expects honor and reward for them; nay, what is more, they render his talent every day more renowned and illustrious. It is true, indeed, that there is not always found one to recognize, esteem, and remunerate it as that of Andrea Mantegna was recognized. This man was born from very humble stock in the district of Mantua; and, although as a boy he was occupied in grazing herds, he was so greatly exalted by destiny and by his merit that he attained to the honorable rank of Chevalier, as will be told in the proper place. When almost full grown he was taken to the city, where he applied himself to painting under Jacopo Squarcione, a painter of Padua, who as it is written in a Latin letter from Messer Girolamo Campagnola to Messer Leonico Timeo, a Greek philosopher, wherein he gives him information about certain old painters who served the family of Carrara, Lords of Padua took him into his house, and a little time afterwards, having recognized the beauty of his intelligence, adopted him as his son. Now this Squarcione knew that he himself was not the most able painter in the world; wherefore, to the end that Andrea might learn more than he himself knew, he made him practise much on casts taken from ancient statues and on pictures painted upon canvas which he caused to be brought from diverse places, particularly from Tuscany and from Rome. By these and other methods, therefore, Andrea learnt not a little in his youth; and the competition of Marco Zoppo of Bologna, Dario da Treviso, and Niccolo Pizzolo of Padua, disciples of his master and adoptive father, was of no small assistance to him, and a stimulus to his studies.

Now after Andrea, who was then no more than seventeen years of age, had painted the panel of the high altar of S. Sofia in Padua, which appears wrought by a mature and well-practised master, and not by a youth, Squarcione was commissioned to paint the Chapel of S. Cristofano, which is in the Church of the Eremite Friars of S. Agostino in Padua; and he gave the work to the said Niccolo Pizzolo and to Andrea. Niccolo made therein a God the Father seated in Majesty between the Doctors of the Church, and these paintings were afterwards held to be in no way inferior to those that Andrea executed there. And in truth, if Niccolo, whose works were few, but all good, had taken as much delight in painting as he did in arms, he would have become excellent, and might perchance have lived much longer than he did; for he was ever under arms and had many enemies, and one day, when returning from work, he was attacked and slain by treachery. Niccolo left no other works that I know of, save another God the Father in the Chapel of Urbano Perfetto.* [* This seems to be a printer's or copyist's error for Prefetto.]

Andrea, thus left alone in the said chapel, painted the four Evangelists, which were held very beautiful. By reason of this and other works Andrea began to be watched with great expectation, and with hopes that he would attain to that success to which he actually did attain; wherefore Jacopo Bellini, the Venetian painter, father of Gentile and Giovanni, and rival of Squarcione, contrived to get him to marry his daughter, the sister of Gentile. Hearing this, Squarcione fell into such disdain against Andrea that they were enemies ever afterwards; and in proportion as Squarcione had formerly been ever praising the works of Andrea, so from that day onward did he ever decry them in public. Above all did he censure without reserve the pictures that Andrea had made in the said Chapel of S. Cristofano, saying that they were worthless, because in making them he had imitated the ancient works in marble, from which it is not possible to learn painting perfectly, for the reason that stone is ever from its very essence hard, and never has that tender softness that is found in flesh and in things of nature, which are pliant and move in various ways; adding that Andrea would have made those figures much better, and that they would have been more perfect, if he had given them the colour of marble and not such a quantity of colors, because his pictures resembled not living figures but ancient statues of marble or other suchlike things. This censure piqued the mind of Andrea; but, on the other hand, it was of great service to him, for, recognizing that Squarcione was in great measure speaking the truth, he set himself to portray living people, and made so much progress in this art, that, in a scene which still remained to be painted in the said chapel, he showed that he could wrest the good from living and natural objects no less than from those wrought by art. But for all this Andrea was ever of the opinion that the good ancient statues were more perfect and had greater beauty in their various parts than is shown by nature, since, as he judged and seemed to see from those statues, the excellent masters of old had wrested from living people all the perfection of nature, which rarely assembles and unites all possible beauty into one single body, so that it is necessary to take one part from one body and another part from another.

In addition to this, it appeared to him that the statues were more complete and more thorough in the muscles, veins, nerves, and other particulars, which nature, covering their sharpness somewhat with the tenderness and softness of flesh, sometimes makes less evident, save perchance in the body of an old man or in one greatly emaciated; but such bodies, for other reasons, are avoided by craftsmen. And that he was greatly enamored of this opinion is recognized from his works, in which, in truth, the manner is seen to be somewhat hard and sometimes suggesting stone rather than living flesh. Be this as it may, in this last scene, which gave infinite satisfaction, Andrea portrayed Squarcione in an ugly and corpulent figure, lance and sword in hand. In the same work he portrayed the Florentine Noferi, son of Messer Palla Strozzi, Messer Girolamo della Valle, a most excellent physician, Messer Bonifazio Fuzimeliga, Doctor of Laws, Niccolo', goldsmith to Pope Innocent VIII, and Baldassarre da Leccio, all very much his friends, whom he represented clad in white armor, burnished and resplendent, as real armor is, and truly with a beautiful manner. He also portrayed there the Chevalier Messer Bonramino, and a certain Bishop of Hungary, a man wholly witless, who would wander about Rome all day, and then at night would lie down to sleep like a beast in a stable; and he made a portrait of Marsilio Pazzo in the person of the executioner who is cutting off the head of S. James, together with one of himself. This work, in short, by reason of its excellence, brought him a very great name.

The while that he was working on this chapel, he also painted a panel, which was placed on the altar of S. Luca in S. Giustina, and afterwards he wrought in fresco the arch that is over the door of S. Antonino, on which he wrote his name. In Verona he painted a panel for the altar of S. Cristofano and S. Antonio, and he made some figures at the corner of the Piazza, della Paglia. In S. Maria in Organo, for the Monks of Monte Oliveto, he painted the panel of the high altar, which is most beautiful, and likewise that of S. Zeno. And among other things that he wrought while living in Verona and sent to various places, one, which came into the hands of an Abbot of the Abbey of Fiesole, his friend and relative, was a picture containing a half-length Madonna with the Child in her arms, and certain heads of angels singing, wrought with admirable grace; which picture, now to be seen in the library of that place, has been held from that time to our own to be a rare thing.

Now, the while that he lived in Mantua, he had labored much in the service of the Marquis Lodovico Gonzaga, and that lord, who always showed no little esteem and favor towards the talent of Andrea, caused him to paint a little panel for the Chapel of the Castle of Mantua; in which panel there are scenes with figures not very large but most beautiful. In the same place are many figures foreshortened from below upwards, which are greatly extolled, for although his treatment of the draperies was somewhat hard and precise, and his manner rather dry, yet everything there is seen to have been wrought with much art and diligence. For the same Marquis, in a hall of the Palace of S. Sebastiano in Mantua, he painted the Triumph of Caesar, which is the best thing that he ever executed. In this work we see, grouped with most beautiful design in the triumph, the ornate and lovely car, the man who is vituperating the triumphant Caesar, and the relatives, the perfumes, the incense, the sacrifices, the priests, the bulls crowned for the sacrifice, the prisoners, the booty won by the soldiers, the ranks of the squadrons, the elephants, the spoils, the victories, the cities and fortresses counterfeited in various cars, with an infinity of trophies borne on spears, and a variety of helmets and body armor, headdresses, and ornaments and vases innumerable; and in the multitude of spectators is a woman holding the hand of a boy, who, having pierced his foot with a thorn, is showing it, weeping, to his mother, in a graceful and very lifelike manner. Andrea, as I may have pointed out elsewhere, had a good and beautiful idea in this scene, for, having set the plane on which the figures stood higher than the level of the eye, he placed the feet of the foremost on the outer edge and outline of that plane, making the others recede inwards little by little, so that their feet and legs were lost to sight in the proportion required by the point of view; and so, too, with the spoils, vases, and other instruments and ornaments, of which he showed only the lower part, concealing the upper, as was required by the rules of perspective; which same consideration was also observed with much diligence by Andrea degli Impiccati* [* Andrea dal Castagno.] in the Last Supper, which is in the Refectory of S. Maria Nuova. Wherefore it is seen that in that age these able masters set about investigating with much subtlety, and imitating with great labor, the true properties of natural objects. And this whole work, to put it briefly, is as beautiful and as well wrought as it could be; so that if the Marquis loved Andrea before, he loved and honored him much more ever afterwards.

What is more, he became so famous thereby that Pope Innocent VIII, hearing of his excellence in painting and of the other good qualities wherewith he was so marvellously endowed, sent for him, even as he was sending for many others, to the end that he might adorn with his pictures the walls of the Belvedere, the building of which had just been finished. Having gone to Rome, then, greatly favored and recommended by the Marquis, who made him a Chevalier in order to honor him the more, he was received lovingly by that Pontiff and straightway commissioned to paint a little chapel that is in the said place. This he executed with diligence and love, and with such minuteness that the vaulting and the walls appear rather illuminated than painted ; and the largest figures that are therein, which he painted in fresco like the others, are over the altar, representing the Baptism of Christ by S. John, with many people around, who are showing by taking off their clothes that they wish to be baptized. Among these is one who, seeking to draw off a stocking that has stuck to his leg through sweat, has crossed that leg over the other and is drawing the stocking off inside out, with such great effort and difficulty, that both are seen clearly in his face; which bizarre fancy caused marvel to all who saw it in those times. It is said that this Pope, by reason of his many affairs, did not pay Mantegna as often as he would have liked, and that therefore, while painting certain Virtues in terretta in that work, he made a figure of Discretion among the rest, whereupon the Pope, having gone one day to see the work, asked Andrea what figure that was; to which Andrea answered that it was Discretion; and the Pope added: "If thou wouldst have her suitably accompanied, put Patience beside her." The painter understood what the meaning of the Holy Father was, and he never said another word. The work finished, the Pope sent him back to the Duke with much favor and honorable rewards.

The while that Andrea was working in Rome, he painted, besides the said chapel, a little picture of the Madonna with the Child sleeping in her arms; and within certain caverns in the landscape, which is a mountain, he made some stone-cutters quarrying stone for various purposes, all wrought with such delicacy and such great patience, that it does not seem possible for such good work to be done with the thin point of a brush. This picture is now in the possession of the most Illustrious Lord, Don Francesco Medici, Prince of Florence, who holds it among his dearest treasures.

In our book is a drawing by the hand of Andrea on a half-sheet of royal folio, finished in chiaroscuro, wherein is a Judith who is putting the head of Holofernes into the wallet of her Moorish slave-girl; which chiaroscuro is executed in a manner no longer used, for he left the paper white to serve for the light in place of white lead, and that so delicately that the separate hairs and other minute details are seen therein, no less than if they had been wrought with much diligence by the brush; wherefore in a certain sense this may be called rather a work in color than a drawing. The same man, like Pollaiuolo, delighted in engraving on copper; and, among other things, he made engravings of his own Triumphs, which were then held in great account, since nothing better had been seen.

One of the last works that he executed was a panel picture for S. Maria della Vittoria, a church built after the direction and design of Andrea by the Marquis Francesco, in memory of the victory that he gained on the River Taro, when he was General of the Venetian forces against the French. In this panel, which was wrought in distemper and placed on the high altar, there is painted the Madonna with the Child seated on a pedestal; and below are S. Michelagnolo, S. Anna, and Joachim, who are presenting the Marquis who is portrayed from life so well that he appears alive to the Madonna, who is offering him her hand. Which picture, even as it gave and still continues to give universal pleasure, also satisfied the Marquis so well that he rewarded most liberally the talent and labor of Andrea, who, having been remunerated by Princes for all his works, was able to maintain his rank of Chevalier most honorably up to the end of his life.

Andrea had competitors in Lorenzo da Lendinara who was held in Padua to be an excellent painter, and who also wrought some things in terracotta for the Church of S. Antonio and in certain others of no great worth. He was ever the friend of Dario da Treviso and Marco Zoppo of Bologna, since he had been brought up with them under the discipline of Squarcione. For the Friars Minor of Padua this Marco painted a loggia which serves as their chapterhouse; and at Pesaro he painted a panel that is now in the new Church of S. Giovanni Evangelista; besides portraying in a picture Guidobaldo da Montefeltro, at the time when he was Captain of the Florentines. A friend of Mantegna's, likewise, was Stefano, a painter of Ferrara, whose works were few but passing good; and by his hand is the adornment of the sarcophagus of S. Anthony to be seen in Padua, with the Virgin Mary, that is called the Vergine del Pilastro.

But to return to Andrea himself; he built a very beautiful house in Mantua for his own use, which he adorned with paintings and enjoyed while he lived. Finally he died in 1517, at the age of sixty-six, and was buried with honorable obsequies in S. Andrea; and on his tomb, over which stands his portrait in bronze, there was placed the following epitaph:

ESSE PAREM HUNG NORIS, SI NON PRjEPONIS, APELIT,
jENEA MANTINE^E QUI SIMULACRA VIDES.

Andrea was so kindly and praiseworthy in all his actions, that his memory will ever live, not only in his own country, but in the whole world; wherefore he well deserved, no less for the sweetness of his ways than for his excellence in painting, to be celebrated by Ariosto at the beginning of his thirty-third canto, where he numbers him among the most illustrious painters of his time, saying:

Leonardo, Andrea Mantegna, Gian Bellino.

This master showed painters a much better method of foreshortening figures from below upwards, which was truly a difficult and ingenious invention; and he also took delight, as has been said, in engraving figures on copper for printing, a method of truly rare value, by means of which the world has been able to see not only the Bacchanalia, the Battle of Marine Monsters, the Deposition from the Cross, the Burial of Christ, and His Resurrection, with Longinus and S. Andrew, works by Mantegna himself, but also the manners of all the craftsmen who have ever lived.

 

 

 

FILIPPO LIPPI, CALLED FILIPPINO (1457-1504)
PAINTER OF FLORENCE

Vasari's Lives of the Artists


THERE WAS AT THIS SAME TIME in Florence a painter of most beautiful intelligence and most lovely invention, namely, Filippo, son of Fra Filippo of the Carmine, who, following in the steps of his dead father in the art of painting, was brought up and instructed, being still very young, by Sandro Botticelli, notwithstanding that his father had com- mended him on his deathbed to Fra Diamante, who was much his friend nay, almost his brother. Such was the intelligence of Filippo, and so abundant his invention in painting, and so bizarre and new were his ornaments, that he was the first who showed to the moderns the new method of giving variety to vestments, and embellished and adorned his figures with the girt-up garments of antiquity. He was also the first to bring to light grotesques, in imitation of the antique, and he executed them on friezes in terretta or in colors, with more design and grace than the men before him had shown; wherefore it was a marvellous thing to see the strange fancies that he expressed in painting. What is more, he never executed a single work in which he did not avail himself with great diligence of Roman antiquities, such as vases, buskins, trophies, banners, helmet-crests, adornments of temples, ornamental head-dresses, strange kinds of draperies, armor, scimitars, swords, togas, mantles, and such a variety of other beautiful things, that we owe him a very great and perpetual obligation, seeing that he added beauty and adornment to art in this respect.

In his earliest youth he completed the Chapel of the Brancacci in the Carmine at Florence, begun by Masolino, and left not wholly finished by Masaccio on account of his death. Filippo, therefore, gave it its final perfection with his own hand, and executed what was lacking in one scene, wherein S. Peter and S. Paul are restoring to life the nephew of the Emperor. In the nude figure of this boy he portrayed the painter Francesco Granacci, then a youth; and he also made portraits of the Chevalier, Messer Tommaso Soderini, Piero Guicciardini, father of Messer Francesco the historian, Piero del Pugliese, and the poet Luigi Pulci; likewise Antonio Pollaiuolo, and himself as a youth, as he then was, which he never did again throughout the whole of his life, so that it has not been possible to find a portrait of him at a more mature age. In the scene following this he portrayed Sandro Botticelli, his master, and many other friends and people of importance; among others, the broker Raggio, a man of great intelligence and wit, who executed in relief on a conch the whole Inferno of Dante, with all the circles and divisions of the pits and the nethermost well in their exact proportions, and all the figures and details that were most ingeniously imagined and described by that great poet; which conch was held in those times to be a marvellous thing.

Next, in the Chapel of Francesco del Pugliese at Campora, a seat of the Monks of the Badia, without Florence, he painted a panel in distemper of S. Bernard, to whom Our Lady is appearing with certain angels, while he is writing in a wood; which picture is held to be admirable in certain, respects, such as rocks, books, herbage, and similar things, that he painted therein, besides the portrait from life of Francesco himself, so excellent that he seems to lack nothing save speech. This panel was removed from that place on account of the siege, and placed for safety in the Sacristy of the Badia of Florence. In S. Spirito in the same city, for Tanai de' Nerli, he painted a panel with Our Lady, S. Martin, S. Nicholas, and S. Catherine; with a panel in the Chapel of the Rucellai in S. Pancrazio, and a Crucifix and two figures on a ground of gold in S. Raffaello. In front of the Sacristy of S. Francesco, without the Porta a S. Miniato, he made a God the Father, with a number of children. At Palco, a seat of the Frati del Zoccolo, without Prato, he painted a panel; and in the Audience Chamber of the Priori in that territory he executed a little panel containing the Madonna, S. Stephen, and S. John the Baptist, which has been much extolled. On the Canto al Mercatale, also in Prato, in a shrine opposite to the Nuns of S. Margherita, and near some houses belonging to them, he painted in fresco a very beautiful Madonna, with a choir of seraphim, on a ground of dazzling light. In this work, among other things, he showed art and beautiful judgment in a dragon that is at the feet of S. Margaret, which is so strange and horrible, that it is revealed to us as a true fount of venom, fire, and death; and the whole of the rest of the work is so fresh and vivacious in colouring, that it deserves infinite praise.

He also wrought certain things in Lucca, particularly a panel in a chapel of the Church of S. Ponziano, which belongs to the Monks of Monte Oliveto; in the centre of which chapel there is a niche containing a very beautiful S. Anthony in relief by the hand of Andrea Sansovino, a most excellent sculptor. Being invited to go to Hungary by King Matthias, Filippo refused, but made up for this by painting two very beautiful panels for that King in Florence, and sending them to him; and in one of these he made a portrait of the King, taken from his likeness on medals. He also sent certain works to Genoa; and beside the Chapel of the High Altar in S. Domenico at Bologna, on the left hand, he painted a S. Sebastian on a panel, which was a thing worthy of much praise. For Tanai de' Nerli he executed another panel in S. Salvadore, without Florence; and for his friend Piero del Pugliese he painted a scene with little figures, executed with so much art and diligence that when another citizen besought him to make a second like it, he refused, saying that it was not possible to do it.

After these things he executed a very great work in Rome for the Neapolitan Cardinal, Olivieri Caraffa, at the request of the elder Lorenzo de' Medici, who was a friend of that Cardinal. While going thither for that purpose, he passed through Spoleto at the wish of Lorenzo, in order to give directions for the making of a marble tomb for his father Fra Filippo at the expense of Lorenzo, who had not been able to obtain his body from the people of Spoleto for removal to Florence. Filippo, therefore, made a beautiful design for the said tomb, and Lorenzo had it erected after that design (as has been told in another place), sumptuous and beautiful. Afterwards, having arrived in Rome, Filippo painted a chapel in the Church of the Minerva for the said Cardinal Caraffa, depicting therein scenes from the life of S. Thomas Aquinas, and certain most beautiful poetical compositions ingeniously imagined by himself, for he had a nature ever inclined to this. In the scene, then, wherein Faith has taken Infidelity captive, there are all the heretics and infidels. Hope has likewise overcome Despair, and so, too, there are many other Virtues that have subjugated the Vice that is their opposite. In a disputation is S. Thomas defending the Church "ex cathedra" against a school of heretics, and holding vanquished beneath him Sabellius, Arius, Averroes, and others, all clothed in graceful garments ; of which scene we have in our book of drawings the original design by Filippo's own hand, with certain others by the same man, wrought with such mastery that they could not be bettered. There, too, is the scene when, as S. Thomas is praying, the Crucifix says to him, "Bene scripsisti de me, Thoma "; while a companion of the Saint, hearing that Crucifix thus speaking, is standing amazed and almost beside himself. In the panel is the Virgin receiving the Annunciation from Gabriel; and on the main wall there is her Assumption into Heaven, with the twelve Apostles round the sepulchre. The whole of this work was held, as it still is, to be very excellent and wrought perfectly for a work in fresco. It con- tains a portrait from life of the said Cardinal Olivieri Caraffa, Bishop of Ostia, who was buried in this chapel in the year 1511, and afterwards removed to the Piscopio in Naples.

Having returned to Florence, Filippo undertook to paint at his leisure the Chapel of the elder Filippo Strozzi in S. Maria Novella, and he actually began it; but, having finished the ceiling, he was compelled to return to Rome, where he wrought a tomb with stucco work for the said Cardinal, and decorated with gesso a little chapel beside that tomb in a part of the same Church of the Minerva, together with certain figures, some of which were executed by his disciple, Raffaellino del Garbo. The chapel described above was valued by Maestro Lanzilago of Padua and by the Roman Antonio, known as Antoniasso, two of the best painters that were then in Rome, at 2,000 ducats of gold, without the cost of the blues and of the assistants. Having received this sum, Filippo returned to Florence, where he finished the aforesaid Chapel of the Strozzi, which was executed so well, and with so much art and design, that it causes all who see it to marvel, by reason of the novelty and variety of the bizarre things that are seen therein armed men, temples, vases, helmet crests, armor, trophies, spears, banners, garments, buskins, headdresses, sacerdotal vestments, and other things all executed in so beautiful a manner that they deserve the highest commendation. In this work there is the scene of Drusiana being restored to life by S. John the Evangelist, wherein we see most admirably expressed the marvel of the bystanders at beholding a man restore life to a dead woman by a mere sign of the cross; and the greatest amazement of all is seen in a priest, or rather philosopher, whichever he may be, who is clothed in ancient fashion and has a vase in his hand. In the same scene, likewise, among a number of women draped in various manners, there is a little boy, who, terrified by a small spaniel spotted with red, which has seized him with its teeth by one of his swathingbands, is running round his mother and hiding himself among her clothes, and appears to be as much afraid of being bitten by the dog as his mother is awestruck and filled with a certain horror at the resurrection of Drusiana. Next to this, in the scene where S. John himself is being boiled in oil, we see the wrath of the judge, who is giving orders for the fire to be increased, and the flames reflected on the face of the man who is blowing at them; and all the figures are painted in beautiful and varied attitudes.

On the other side is S. Philip in the Temple of Mars, compelling the serpent, which has slain the son of the King with its stench, to come forth from below the altar. In certain steps the painter depicted the hole through which the serpent issued from beneath the altar, and so well did he paint the cleft in one of the steps, that one evening one of Filippo's lads, wishing to hide something, I know not what, from the sight of someone who was knocking for admittance, ran up in haste in order to conceal it in the hole, being wholly deceived by it. Filippo also showed so much art in the serpent, that its venom, fetid breath, and fire, appear rather real than painted. Greatly extolled, too, is his invention in the scene of the Crucifixion of that Saint, for he imagined to himself, so it appears, that the Saint was stretched on the cross while it lay on the ground, and that ropes and cords are wound round certain fragments of antiquities, pieces of pillars, and bases, and pulled by certain ministers. On the other side the weight of the said cross and of the Saint who is stretched nude thereon is supported by two men, on the one hand by a man with a ladder, with which he is propping it up, and on the other hand by another with a pole, upholding it, while two others, setting a lever against the base and stem of the cross, are balancing its weight and seeking to place it in the hole made in the ground, wherein it had to stand upright. But why say more? It would not be possible for the work to be better either in invention or in drawing, or in any other respect whatsoever of industry or art. Besides this, it contains many grotesques and other things wrought in chiaroscuro to resemble marble, executed in strange fashion with invention and most beautiful drawing.

For the Frati Scopetini, also, at S. Donate, without Florence, which is called Scopeto and is now in ruins, he painted a panel with the Magi presenting their offerings to Christ, finished with great diligence, wherein he portrayed the elder Pier Francesco de' Medici, son of Lorenzo di Bicci, in the figure of an astrologer who is holding a quadrant in his hand, and likewise Giovanni, father of Signer Giovanni de' Medici, and another Pier Francesco, brother of that Signer Giovanni, and other people of distinction. In this work are Moors, Indians, costumes of strange shapes, and a most bizarre hut. In a loggia at Poggio a Cajano he began a Sacrifice in fresco for Lorenzo de' Medici, but it remained unfinished. And for the Nunnery of S. Geronimo, above the Costa di S. Giorgio in Florence, he began the panel of the high altar, which was brought nearly to completion after his death by the Spaniard Alonzo Berughetta, but afterwards wholly finished by other painters, Alonzo having gone to Spain. In the Palazzo della Signoria he painted the panel of the hall where the Council of Eight held their sittings, and he made the design for another large panel, with its ornament, for the Sala del Consiglio; which design his death prevented him from beginning to put into execution, although the ornament was carved; which ornament is now in the possession of Maestro Baccio Baldini, a most excellent physician of Florence, and a lover of every sort of talent. For the Church of the Badia of Florence he made a very beautiful S. Jerome; and he began a Deposition from the Cross for the high altar of the Friars of the Nunziata, but only finished the figures in the upper half of the picture, for, being overcome by a most cruel fever and by that contraction of the throat that is commonly known as quinsy, he died in a few days at the age of forty-five.

Thereupon, having ever been courteous, affable, and kindly, he was lamented by all those who had known him, and particularly by the youth of his noble native city, who, in their public festivals, masques, and other spectacles, ever availed themselves, to their great satisfaction, of the ingenuity and invention of Filippo, who has never had an equal in things of that kind. Nay, he was so excellent in all his actions, that he blotted out the stain (if stain it was) left to him by his father blotted it out, I say, not only by the excellence of his art, wherein he was inferior to no man of his time, but also by the modesty and regularity of his life, and, above all, by his courtesy and amiability ; and how great are the force and power of such qualities to conciliate the minds of all men without exception, is only known to those who either have experienced or are experiencing it. Filippo was buried by his sons in S. Michele Bisdomini [Visdomini] , on April 13, 1505; and while he was being borne to his tomb all the shops in the Via de' Servi were closed, as is done sometimes for the obsequies of great men.

Among the disciples of Filippo, who all failed by a great measure to equal him, was Raffaellino del Garbo, who made many works, as will be told in the proper place, although he did not justify the opinions and hopes that were conceived of him while Filippo was alive and Raffaellino himself still a young man. The fruits, indeed, are not always equal to the blossoms that are seen in the spring. Nor did any great success come to Niccolo Zoccolo, otherwise known as Niccolo Cartoni, who was likewise a disciple of Filippo, and painted at Arezzo the wall that is over the altar of S. Giovanni Decollate; a little panel, passing well done, in S. Agnesa; a panel over a lavatory in the Abbey of S. Fiora, containing a Christ who is asking for water from the woman of Samaria; and many other works, which, since they were commonplace, are not mentioned.

 

 

 

BERNARDINO PINTURICCHIO
PAINTER OF PERUGIA

Vasari's Lives of the Artists


EVEN AS MANY are assisted by fortune without being endowed with much talent, so, on the contrary, there is an infinite number of able men who are persecuted by an adverse and hostile fortune; whence it is clearly manifest that she acknowledges as her children those who depend upon her without the aid of any talent, since it pleases her to exalt by her favor certain men who would never be known through their own merit; which is seen in Pinturicchio of Perugia, who, although he made many works and was assisted by various helpers, nevertheless had a much greater name than his works deserved. However, he was a man who had much practice in large works, and ever kept many assistants to aid him in his labors. Now, having worked at many things in his early youth under his master Pietro da Perugia,* [* Pietro Perugino] receiving a third of all that was earned, he was summoned to Siena by Cardinal Francesco Piccolomini to paint the library made by Pope Pius II in the Duomo of that city. It is true, indeed, that the sketches and cartoons for all the scenes that he painted there were by the hand of Raffaello da Urbino, then a youth, who had been his companion and fellow disciple under the same Pietro, whose manner the said Raffaello had mastered very well. One of these cartoons is still to be seen at the present day in Siena, and some of the sketches, by the hand of Raffaello, are in our book.

Now the stories in this work, wherein Pinturicchio was aided by many pupils and assistants, all of the school of Pietro, were divided into ten pictures. In the first is painted the scene when the said Pope Pius II was born to Silvio Piccolomini and Vittoria, and was called Eneas, in the year 1405, in Valdorcia, at the township of Corsignano, which is now called Pienza after the name of that Pope, who afterwards enriched it with buildings and made it a city ; and in this picture are portraits from nature of the said Silvio and Vittoria. In the same is the scene when, in company with Cardinal Domenico of Capranica, he is crossing the Alps, which are covered with ice and snow, on his way to the Council of Bale. In the second the Council is sending Eneas on many embassies --namely, to Argentina (three times), to Trent, to Constance, to Frankfurt, and to Savoy. In the third is the sending of the same ^Eneas by the Antipope Felix as ambassador to the Emperor Frederick III, with whom the ready intelligence, the eloquence, and the grace of Eneas found so much favor that he was given the poet's crown of laurel by Frederick himself, who made him his Protonotary, received him into the number of his friends, and appointed him his First Secretary. In the fourth he is sent by Frederick to Eugenius IV, by whom he was made Bishop of Trieste, and then Archbishop of Siena, his native city. In the fifth scene the same Emperor, who is about to come to Italy to receive the crown of Empire, is sending Eneas to Telamone, a port of the people of Siena, to meet his wife, Leonora, who was coming from Portugal. In the sixth Eneas is going to Calistus IV,* [* This seems to be an error for Calistus III.] at the bidding of the said Emperor, to induce him to make war against the Turks ; and in this part, Siena being harassed by the Count of Pittigliano and by others at the instigation of King Alfonso of Naples, that Pontiff is sending him to treat for peace. This effected, war is planned against the Orientals; and he, having returned to Rome, is made a Cardinal by the said Pontiff. In the seventh, Calistus being dead, Eneas is seen being created Supreme Pontiff, and called Pius II.

In the eighth the Pope goes to Mantua for the Council about the expedition against the Turks, where the Marquis Lodovico receives him with most splendid pomp and incredible magnificence. In the ninth the same Pope is placing in the catalogue of saints or, as the saying is, canonizing Catherine of Siena, a holy woman and nun of the Preaching Order. In the tenth and last, while preparing a vast expedition against the Turks with the help and favor of all the Christian Princes, Pope Pius dies at Ancona; and a hermit of the Hermitage of Camaldoli, a holy man, sees the soul of the said Pontiff being borne by Angels into Heaven at the very moment of his death, as may also be read. Afterwards, in the same picture, the body of the same Pope is seen being borne from Ancona to Rome by a vast and honourable company of lords and prelates, who are lamenting the death of so great a man and so rare and holy a Pontiff. The whole of this work is full of portraits from the life, so numerous that it would be a long story to recount their names; and it is all painted with the finest and most lively colors, and wrought with various ornaments of gold, and with very well designed partitions in the ceiling. Below each scene is a Latin inscription, which describes what is contained therein. In the centre of this library the said Cardinal Francesco Piccolomini, nephew of the Pope, placed the three Graces of marble, ancient and most beautiful, which are still there, and which were the first antiquities to be held in price in those times. This library, wherein are all the books left by the said Pius II, was scarcely finished, when the same Cardinal Francesco, nephew of the aforesaid Pontiff, Pius II, was created Pope, choosing the name of Pius III in memory of his uncle. Over the door of that library, which opens into the Duomo, the same Pinturicchio painted in a very large scene, occupying the whole extent of the wall, the Coronation of the said Pope Pius III, with many portraits from life; and beneath it may be read these words:

PIUS III SENENSIS, PII SECUNDI NEPOS, MDIII, SEPTEMBRIS XXI, APERTIS
ELECTUS SUFFRAGIIS, OCTAVO OCTOBRIS CORONATUS EST.

When Pinturicchio was working with Pietro Perugino and painting at Rome in the time of Pope Sixtus, he had also been in the service of Domenico della Rovere, Cardinal of San Clemente; wherefore the said Cardinal, having built a very beautiful palace in the Borgo Vecchio, charged Pinturicchio to paint the whole of it, and to make on the facade the coat of arms of Pope Sixtus, with two little boys as supporters. The same master executed certain works for Sciarra Colonna in the Palace of S. Apostolo; and no long time after namely, in the year 1484 Innocent VIII, the Genoese, caused him to paint certain halls and loggie in the Palace of the Belvedere, where, among other things, by order of that Pope, he painted a loggia full of landscapes, depicting therein Rome, Milan, Genoa, Florence, Venice, and Naples, after the manner of the Flemings; and this, being a thing not customary at that time, gave no little satisfaction. In the same place, over the principal door of entrance, he painted a Madonna in fresco. In S. Pietro, in the chapel that contains the Lance which pierced the side of Christ, he painted a panel in distemper, with the Madonna larger than life, for the said Innocent VIII; and he painted two chapels in the Church of S. Maria del Popolo, one for the aforesaid Domenico della Rovere, Cardinal of San Clemente, who was afterwards buried therein, and the other for Cardinal Innocenzio Cibo, wherein he also was afterwards buried; and in each of these chapels he portrayed the Cardinal who had caused him to paint it. In the Palace of the Pope he painted certain rooms that look out upon the courtyard of S. Pietro, the ceilings and paintings of which were renovated a few years ago by Pope Pius IV. In the same palace Alexander VI caused Pinturicchio to paint all the rooms that he occupied, together with the whole of the Borgia Tower, wherein he wrought stories of the liberal arts in one room, besides decorating all the ceilings with stucco and gold; but, since they did not then know the method of stucco work that is now in use, the aforesaid ornaments are for the most part ruined. Over the door of an apartment in the said palace he portrayed the Signora Giulia Farnese in the countenance of a Madonna, and, in the same picture, the head of Pope Alexander in a figure that is adoring her.

Bernardino was much given to making gilt ornaments in relief for his pictures, to satisfy people who had little understanding of his art with the more showy lustre that this gave them, which is a most barbarous thing in painting. Having then executed a story of S. Catherine in the said apartments, he depicted the arches of Rome in relief and the figures in painting, insomuch that, the figures being in the foreground and the buildings in the background, the things that should recede stand out more prominently than those that should strike the eye as the larger a very grave heresy in our art.

In the Castello di S. Angelo he painted a vast number of rooms with grotesques; and in the Great Tower, in the garden below, he painted stories of Pope Alexander, with portraits of the Catholic Queen, Isabella ; Niccolo Orsino, Count of Pittigliano; Gianjacomo Trivulzi, and many other relatives and friends of the said Pope, in particular Caesar Borgia and his brother and sisters, with many talented men of those times. At Monte Oliveto in Naples, in the Chapel of Paolo Tolosa, there is a panel with an Assumption by the hand of Pinturicchio. This master made an infinite number of other works throughout all Italy, which, since they are of no great excellence, and wrought in a superficial manner, I will pass over in silence. Pinturicchio used to say that a painter could only give the greatest relief to his figures when he had it in himself, without owing anything to principles or to others. He also made works in Perugia, but these were few. In the Araceli he painted the Chapel of S. Bernardino ; and in S. Maria del Popolo, where, as we have said, he painted the two chapels, he made the four Doctors of the Church on the vaulting of the principal chapel.

Afterwards, having reached the age of fifty-nine, he was commissioned to paint the Nativity of Our Lady on a panel in S. Francesco at Siena. To this he set his hand, and the friars assigned to him a room to live in, which they gave to him, as he wished, empty and stripped of everything, save only a huge old chest, which appeared to them too awkward to remove. But Pinturicchio, like the strange and whimsical man that he was, made such an outcry at this, and repeated it so often, that finally in despair the friars set themselves to carry it away. Now their good fortune was such, that in removing it there was broken a plank which contained 500 Roman ducats of gold; at which Pinturicchio was so displeased, and felt so aggrieved at the good luck of those poor friars, that it can hardly be imagined nay, he took it so much to heart, being unable to get it out of his thoughts, that it was the death of him. His pictures date about the year 1513.

A companion and friend of Pinturicchio, although he was a much older man, was Benedetto Buonfiglio, a painter of Perugia, who executed many works in company with other masters in the Papal Palace at Rome. In the Chapel of the Signoria in Perugia, his native city, he painted scenes from the life of S. Ercolano, Bishop and Protector of that city, and in the same place certain miracles wrought by S. Louis. In S. Domenico he painted the story of the Magi on a panel in distemper, and many saints on another. In the Church of S. Bernardino he painted a Christ in the sky, with S. Bernardino himself, and a multitude below. In short, this master was in no little repute in his native city before Pietro Perugino had come to be known.

Another friend of Pinturicchio, associated with him in not a few of his works, was Gerino Pistoiese, who was held to be a diligent colorist and a faithful imitator of the manner of Pietro Perugino, with whom he worked nearly up to his death. He did little work in his native city of Pistoia; but for the Company of the Buon Gesu' in Borgo San Sepolcro he painted a Circumcision in oil on a panel, which is passing good. In the Pieve of the same place he painted a chapel in fresco; and on the bank of the Tiber, on the road that leads to Anghiari, he painted another chapel, also in fresco, for the Commune. And he painted still another chapel in the same place, in S. Lorenzo, an abbey of the Monks of Camaldoli. By reason of all these works he made so long a stay in the Borgo that he almost adopted it as his home. He was a sorry fellow in matters of art, laboring with the greatest difficulty, and toiling with such pains at the execution of a work, that it was a torture to him.

At this same time there was a painter in the city of Foligno, Niccolo Alunno, who was held to be excellent, for it was little the custom before Pietro Perugino's day to paint in oil, and many were held to be able men who did not afterwards justify this opinion. Niccolo therefore gave no little satisfaction with his works, since, although he only painted in distemper, he portrayed the heads of his figures from life, so that they appeared alive, and his manner won considerable praise. In S. Agostino at Foligno there is a panel by his hand with a Nativity of Christ, and a predella with little figures. At Assisi he painted a banner that is borne in processions, besides the panel of the high altar in the Duomo, and another panel in S. Francesco. But the best painting that Niccolo ever did was in a chapel in the Duomo, where, among other things, there is a Pieta', with two angels who are holding two torches and weeping so naturally, that I do not believe that any other painter, however excellent, would have been able to do much better. In the same place he also painted the facade of S. Maria degli Angeli, besides many other works of which there is no need to make mention, it being enough to have touched on the best. And let this be the end of the Life of Pinturicchio, who, besides his other qualities, gave no little satisfaction to many princes and lords because he finished and delivered his works quickly, which is their pleasure, although such works are perchance less excellent than those that are made slowly and deliberately.

 

 

 

FRANCESCO FRANCIA (1450-1517)
GOLDSMITH and PAINTER OF BOLOGNA

Vasari's Lives of the Artists


FRANCESCO FRANCIA, who was born in Bologna in the year 1450, of parents who were artisans, but honest and worthy enough, was apprenticed in his earliest boyhood to the goldsmith's art, in which calling he worked with intelligence and spirit; and as he grew up he became so well-proportioned in person and appearance, and so sweet and pleasant in manner and speech, that he was able to keep the most melancholy of men cheerful and free from care with his talk; for which reason he was beloved not only by all those who knew him, but also by many Italian princes and other lords. While working as a goldsmith, then, he gave attention to design, in which he took so much pleasure, that his mind began to aspire to higher things, and he made very great progress therein, as may be seen from many works in silver that he executed in his native city of Bologna, and particularly from certain most excellent works in niello. In this manner of work he often put twenty most beautiful and well-proportioned little figures within a space no higher than the breadth of two fingers and not much more in length. He also enamelled many works in silver, which were destroyed at the time of the ruin and exile of the Bentivogli. In a word, he did everything that can be done in that art better than any other man.

But that in which he delighted above all, and in which he was truly excellent, was the making of dies for medals, wherein he was the rarest master of his day, as may be seen in some that he made with a most lifelike head of Pope Julius II, which bear comparison with those of Caradosso; not to mention that he made medals of Signer Giovanni Bentivogli, in which he appears alive, and of an infinite number of princes, who would stop in Bologna on their way through the city, whereupon he would make their portraits in wax for medals, and afterwards, having finished the matrices of the dies, he would send them; for which, besides immortal fame, he also received very rich presents. As long as he lived he was ever Master of the Mint in Bologna, for which he made the stamps of all the dies, both under the rule of the Bentivogli and also during the lifetime of Pope Julius, after their departure, as is proved by the coins struck by that Pope on his entrance into the city, which had on one side his head portrayed from life, and on the other these word: BONONIA PER JULIUM A TYRANNO LiBERATA. So excellent was he held in this profession, that he continued to make the dies for the coinage down to the time of Pope Leo; and the impressions of his dies are so greatly prized, and those who have some hold them in such esteem, that money cannot buy them.

Now it came to pass that Francia, being desirous of greater glory, and having known Andrea Mantegna and many other painters who had gained wealth and honors by their art, determined to try whether he could succeed in that part of painting which had to do with color; his drawing was already such that it could well bear comparison with theirs. Thereupon, having made arrangements to try his hand, he painted certain portraits and some little things, keeping in his house for many months men of that profession to teach him the means and methods of coloring, insomuch that, having very good judgment, he soon acquired the needful practice. The first work that he made was a panel of no great size for Messer Bartolommeo* Felicini [* The text says " Messer Bart. ..." ], who placed it in the Misericordia, a church without Bologna; in which panel there is a Madonna seated on a throne, with many other figures, and the said Messer Bartolommeo portrayed from life. This work, which was wrought in oil with the greatest diligence, was painted by him in the year 1490; and it gave such satisfaction in Bologna, that Messer Giovanni Bentivogli, desiring to honor his own chapel, which was in S. Jacopo in that city, with works by this new painter, commissioned him to paint a panel with the Madonna in the sky, two figures on either side of her, and two angels below sounding instruments; which work was so well executed by Francia, that he won from Messer Giovanni, besides praise, a most honorable present. Wherefore Monsignore de' Bentivogli, impressed by this work, caused him to paint a panel containing the Nativity of Christ, which was much extolled, for the high altar of the Misericordia; wherein, besides the design, which is not otherwise than beautiful, the invention and the coloring are worthy of nothing but praise. In this work he made a portrait of Monsignore de' Bentivogli from the life (a very good likeness, so it is said by those who knew him), clothed in that very pilgrim's dress in which he returned from Jerusalem. He also painted a panel in the Church of the Nunziata, without the Porta di S. Mammolo, representing the Madonna receiving the Annunciation from the Angel, with two figures on either side, which is held to be a very well executed work.

Now that Francia's works had spread his fame abroad, even as his painting in oil had brought him both profit and repute, so he determined to try whether he would succeed as well at working in fresco. Messer Giovanni Bentivogli had caused his palace to be painted by diverse masters of Ferrara and Bologna, and by certain others from Modena; but, having seen Francia's experiments in fresco, he determined that this master should paint a scene on one wall of an apartment that he occupied for his own use. There Francia painted the camp of Holofernes, guarded by various sentinels both on foot and on horseback, who were keeping watch over the pavilions; and the while that they were intent on something else, the sleeping Holofernes was seen surprised by a woman clothed in widow's garments, who, with her left hand, was holding his hair, which was wet with the heat of wine and sleep, and with her right hand she was striking the blow to slay her enemy, the while that an old wrinkled handmaid, with the true air of a most faithful slave, and with her eyes fixed on those of her Judith in order to encourage her, was bending down and holding a basket near the ground, to receive therein the head of the slumbering lover. This scene was one of the most beautiful and most masterly that Francia ever painted, but it was thrown to the ground in the destruction of that edifice at the time of the expulsion of the Bentivogli, together with another scene over that same apartment, colored to look like bronze, and representing a disputation of philosophers, which was excellently wrought, with his conception very well expressed. These works brought it about that he was loved and honored by Messer Giovanni and all the members of his house, and, after them, by all the city.

In the Chapel of S. Cecilia, which is attached to the Church of S. Jacopo, he painted two scenes wrought in fresco, in one of which he made the Marriage of Our Lady with Joseph, and in the other the Death of S. Cecilia a work held in great esteem by the people of Bologna. And, indeed, Francia gained such mastery and such confidence from seeing his works advancing towards the perfection that he desired, that he executed many pictures, of which I will make no mention, it being enough for me to point out, to all who may wish to see his works, only the best and most notable. Nor did his painting hinder him from carrying on both the Mint and his other work of making medals, as he had done from the beginning. Francia, so it is said, felt the greatest sorrow at the departure of Messer Giovanni Bentivogli, for he had received such great benefits from Messer Giovanni, that it caused him infinite grief; however, like the prudent and orderly man that he was, he kept at his work. After his parting from his patron, he painted three panels that went to Modena, in one of which there was the Baptism of Christ by S. John; in the second, a very beautiful Annunciation; and in the last, which was placed in the Church of the Frati dell' Osservanza, a Madonna in the sky with many figures.

The fame of so excellent a master being spread abroad by means of so many works, the cities contended with one another to obtain his pictures. Whereupon he painted a panel for the Black Friars of S. Giovanni in Parma, containing a Dead Christ in the lap of Our Lady, surrounded by many figures ; which panel was universally held to be a most beautiful work ; and the same friars, therefore, thinking that they had been well served, induced him to make another for a house of theirs at Reggio in Lombardy, wherein he painted a Madonna with many figures. At Cesena, likewise for the church of these friars, he executed another panel, painting therein the Circumcision of Christ, with lovely coloring. Nor would the people of Ferrara consent to be left behind by their neighbors; nay, having determined to adorn their Duomo with works by Francia, they commissioned him to paint a panel, on which he made a great number of figures; and they named it the panel of Ognissanti. He painted one in S. Lorenzo at Bologna, with a Madonna, a figure on either side, and two children below, which was much extolled; and scarcely had he finished this when he had to make another in S. Giobbe, representing a Crucifixion, with that Saint kneeling at the foot of the Cross, and two figures at the sides.

So widely had the fame and the works of this craftsman spread throughout Lombardy, that even from Tuscany men sent for something by his hand, as they did from Lucca, whither there went a panel con- taining a S. Anne and a Madonna, with many other figures, and a Dead Christ above in the lap of His Mother; which work is set up in the Church of S. Fridiano, and is held in great price by the people of Lucca. For the Church of the Nunziata in Bologna he painted two other panels, which were wrought with much diligence; and in the Misericordia, likewise, without the Porta a Stra Castione, at the request of a lady of the Manzuoli family, he painted another, wherein he depicted the Madonna with the Child in her arms, S. George, S. John the Baptist, S. Stephen, and S. Augustine, with an angel below, who has his hands clasped with such grace, that he appears truly to belong to Paradise. He executed another for the Company of S. Francesco in the same city, and likewise one for the Company of S. Gieronimo. He lived in close intimacy with Messer Polo Zambeccaro, who, being much his friend, and wishing to have some memorial of him, caused him to paint a rather large picture of the Nativity of Christ, which is one of the most celebrated works that he ever made; and for this reason Messer Polo commissioned him to paint at his villa two figures in fresco, which are very beautiful. He also executed a most charming scene in fresco in the house of Messer Gieronimo Bolognino, with many varied and very beautiful figures.

All these works together had won him such veneration in that city, that he was held in the light of a god; and what made this infinitely greater was that the Duke of Urbino caused him to paint a set of horse's caparisons, in which he made a vast forest of trees that had caught fire, from which there were issuing great numbers of all sorts of animals, both of the air and of the earth, and certain figures a terrible, awful, and truly beautiful thing, which was held in no little esteem by reason of the time spent in painting the plumage of the birds, and the various sorts of terrestrial animals, to say nothing of the diversity of foliage and the variety of branches that were seen in the different trees. For this work Francia was rewarded with gifts of great value as a recompense for his labors, not to mention that the Duke ever held himself indebted to him for the praises that he received for it. Duke Guido Baldo, also, has in his guardaroba a picture of the Roman Lucretia, which he esteems very highly, by the same man's hand, together with many other pictures, of which mention will be made when the time comes.

After these things he painted a panel for the altar of the Madonna in SS. Vitale e Agricola; in which panel are two very beautiful angels, who are playing on the lute. I will not enumerate the pictures that are scattered throughout Bologna in the houses of gentlemen of that city, and still less the infinite number of portraits that he made from life, for it would be too wearisome. Let it be enough to say that while he was living in such glory and enjoying the fruits of his labors in peace, Raffaello da Urbino was in Rome, and all day long there flocked round him many strangers, among them many gentlemen of Bologna, eager to see his works. And since it generally comes to pass that every man extols most willingly the intellects of his native place, these Bolognese began to praise the works, the life, and the talents of Francia in the presence of Raffaello, and they established such a friendship between them with these words, that Francia and Raffaello sent letters of greeting to each other. And Francia, hearing such great praise spoken of the divine pictures of Raffaello, desired to see his works; but he was now old, and too fond of his comfortable life in Bologna.

Now after this it came about that Raffaello painted in Rome for Cardinal Santi Quattro, of the Pucci family, a panel picture of S. Cecilia, which had to be sent to Bologna to be placed in a chapel of S. Giovanni in Monte, where there is the tomb of the Blessed Elena dall' Olio. This he packed up and addressed to Francia, who, as his friend, was to have it placed on the altar of that chapel, with the ornament, just as he had prepared it himself. Right readily did Francia accept this charge, which gave him a chance of seeing a work by Raffaello, as he had so much desired. And having opened the letter that Raffaello had written to him, in which he besought Francia, if there were any scratch in the work, to put it right, and likewise, as a friend, to correct any error that he might notice, with the greatest joy he had the said panel taken from its case into a good light. But such was the amazement that it caused him, and so great his marvel, that, recognizing his own error and the foolish presumption of his own rash confidence, he took it greatly to heart, and in a very short time died of grief.

Raffaello's panel was divine, not so much painted as alive, and so well wrought and colored by him, that among all the beautiful pictures that he painted while he lived, although they are all miraculous, it could well be called most rare. Wherefore Francia, half dead with terror at the beauty of the picture, which lay before his eyes challenging comparison with those by his own hand that he saw around him, felt all confounded, and had it placed with great diligence in that chapel of S. Giovanni in Monte for which it was destined; and taking to his bed in a few days almost beside himself, thinking that he was now almost of no account in his art in comparison with the opinion held both by himself and by others, he died of grief and melancholy, so some believe, overtaken by the same fate, through contemplating too attentively that most lifelike picture of Raffaello's, as befell Fivizzano from feasting his eyes with his own beautiful Death, about which the following epigram was written:

Me veram pictor divinus mente recepit ;

Admota est operi deinde perita manus.
Dumque opere in facto defigit lumina pictor,

Intentus nimium, palluit et moritur.
Viva igitur sum mors, non mortua mortis imago,

Si fungor quo mors fungitur officio.

However, certain others say that his death was so sudden, that from many symptoms it appeared to be due rather to poison or apoplexy than to anything else. Francia was a prudent man, most regular in his way of life, and very robust. After his death, in the year 1518, he was honorably buried by his sons in Bologna.


 

 

 

PIETRO PERUGINO (c.1445-1523)

Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists


How great a benefit poverty may be to men of genius, and how potent a force it may be to make them become excellent nay, perfect in the exercise of any faculty whatsoever, can be seen clearly enough in the actions of Pietro Perugino, who, flying from the extremity of distress at Perugia, and betaking himself to Florence in the desire to attain to some distinction by means of his talent, remained for many months without any other bed than a miserable chest to sleep in, turning night into day, and devoting himself with the greatest ardour to the unceasing study of his profession. And, having made a habit of this, he knew no other pleasure than to labour continually at his art, and to be for ever painting ; for with the fear of poverty constantly before his eyes, he would do for gain such work as he would probably not have looked at if he had possessed the wherewithal to live. Riches, indeed, might perchance have closed the path on which his talent should advance towards excellence, no less effectually than poverty opened it to him, while necessity spurred him on in his desire to rise from so low and miserable a condition, if not to supreme eminence, at least to a rank in which he might have the means of life. For this reason he never took heed of cold, of hunger, of hardship, of discomfort, of fatigue, or of ridicule, if only he might one day live in ease and repose ; ever saying, as it were by way of proverb, that after bad weather there must come the good, and that during the good men build the houses that are to shelter them when there is need.

But in order that the rise of this craftsman may be better known, let me begin with his origin, and relate that, according to common report, there was born in the city of Perugia, to a poor man of Castello della Pieve, named Cristofano, a son who was baptized with the name of Pietro. This son, brought up amid misery and distress, was given by his father as a shop-boy to a painter of Perugia, who was no great master of his profession, but held in great veneration both the art and the men who were excellent therein; nor did he ever cease to tell Pietro how much gain and honour painting brought to those who practised it well, and he would urge the boy to the study of that art by recounting to him the rewards won by ancient and modern masters; wherefore he fired his mind in such a manner, that Pietro took it into his head to try, if only fortune would assist him, to become one of these. For this reason he was often wont to ask any man whom he knew to have seen the world, in what part the best craftsmen in that calling were formed ; particularly his master, who always gave him one and the same answer namely, that it was in Florence more than in any other place that men became perfect in all the arts, especially in painting, since in that city men are spurred by three things. The first is censure, which is uttered freely and by many, seeing that the air of that city makes men's intellects so free by nature, that they do not content themselves, like a flock of sheep, with mediocre works, but ever consider them with regard to the honor of the good and the beautiful rather than out of respect for the craftsman.

The second is that, if a man wishes to live there, he must be industrious, which is naught else than to say that he must continually exercise his intelligence and his judgment, must be ready and adroit in his affairs, and, finally, must know how to make money, seeing that the territory of Florence is not so wide or abundant as to enable her to support at little cost all who live there, as can be done in countries that are rich enough. The third, which is perchance no less potent than the others, is an eager desire for glory and honor, which is generated mightily by that air in the men of all professions; and this desire, in all persons of spirit, will not let them stay content with being equal, much less inferior, to those whom they see to be men like themselves, although they may recognize them as masters nay, it forces them very often to desire their own advancement so eagerly, that, if they are not kindly or wise by nature, they turn out evil-speakers, ungrateful, and unthankful for benefits. It is true, indeed, that when a man has learnt there as much as suffices him, he must, if he wishes to do more than live from day to day like an animal, and desires to become rich, take his departure from that place and find a sale abroad for the excellence of his works and for the repute conferred on him by that city, as the doctors do with the fame derived from their studies^ For Florence treats her craftsmen as time treats its own works, which, when perfected, it destroys and consumes little by little.

Moved by these counsels, therefore, and by the persuasions of many others, Pietro came to Florence, minded to become excellent; and well did he succeed, for the reason that in those times works in his manner were held in very great price. He studied under the discipline of Andrea Verrocchio, and his first figures were painted without the Porta a Prato, in the Nunnery of S. Martino, now in ruins by reason of the wars. In Camaldoli he made a S. Jerome on a wall, which was then much esteemed by the Florentines and celebrated with great praise, for the reason that he made that Saint old, lean, and emaciated, with his eyes fixed on the Crucifix, and so wasted away, that he seems like an anatomical model, as may be seen from a copy of that picture which is in the hands of the aforesaid Bartolommeo Gondi. In a few years, then, he came into such credit, that his works filled not only Florence and all Italy, but also France, Spain, and many other countries to which they were sent. Wherefore, his paintings being held in very great price and repute, merchants began to buy them up wholesale and to send them abroad to various countries, to their own great gain and profit.

For the Nuns of S. Chiara he painted a Dead Christ on a panel, with such lovely and novel coloring, that he made the craftsmen believe that he would become excellent and marvellous. In this work there are seen some most beautiful heads of old men, and likewise certain figures of the Maries, who, having ceased to weep, are contemplating the Dead Jesus with extraordinary awe and love; not to mention that he made therein a landscape that was then held most beautiful, because the true method of making them, such as it appeared later, had not yet been seen. It is said that Francesco del Pugliese offered to give to the aforesaid nuns three times as much money as they had paid to Pietro, and to have a similar one made for them by the same man's hand, but that they would not consent, because Pietro said that he did not believe he could equal it. There were also many things by the hand of Pietro in the Convent of the Frati Gesuati, without the Porta a Pinti; and since the said church and convent are now in ruins, I do not wish, with this occasion, and before I proceed further with this Life, to grudge the labour of giving some little account of them. This church, then, the architect of which was Antonio di Giorgio of Settignano, was forty braccia long and twenty wide. At the upper end one ascended by four treads, or rather steps, to a platform six braccia in extent, on which stood the high altar, with many ornaments carved in stone; and on the said altar was a panel with a rich ornament, by the hand, as has been related, of Domenico Ghirlandajo.

In the center of the church was a partition wall, with a door wrought in open-work from the middle upwards, on either side of which was an altar, while over either altar, as will be told, there stood a panel by the hand of Pietro Perugino. Over the said door was a most beautiful Crucifix by the hand of Benedetto da Maiano, with a Madonna on one side and a S. John on the other, both in relief. Before the said platform of the high altar, and against the said partition wall, was a choir of the Doric Order, very well wrought in walnut wood; and over the principal door of the church there was another choir, which rested on well-strengthened woodwork, with the under part forming a ceiling, or rather soffit, beautifully partitioned, and with a row of balusters acting as parapet to the front of the choir, which faced towards the high altar. This choir was very convenient to the friars of that convent for holding their night services, for saying their individual prayers, and likewise for weekdays. Over the principal door of the church which was made with most beautiful ornaments of stone, and had a portico in front raised on columns, which made a covered way as far as the door of the convent was a lunette with a very beautiful figure of S. Giusto, the Bishop, and an angel on either side, by the hand of the illuminator Gherardo; and this because that church was dedicated to the said S. Giusto, and within it those friars preserved a relic of that Saint that is, an arm.

At the entrance of the convent was a little cloister of exactly the same size as the church namely, forty braccia long and twenty wide with arches and vaulting going right round and supported by columns of stone, thus making a spacious and most commodious loggia on every side. In the center of the court of this cloister, which was all neatly paved with squared stone, was a very beautiful well, with a loggia above, which likewise rested on columns of stone, and made a rich and beautiful ornament. In this cloister were the chapterhouse of the friars, the side door of entrance into the church, and the stairs that ascended to the dormitory and other rooms for the use of the friars. On the farther side of this cloister, in a straight line with the principal door of the convent, was a passage as long as the chapterhouse and the steward's room put together, leading into another cloister larger and more beautiful than the first; and the whole of this straight line that is, the forty braccia of the loggia of the first cloister, the passage, and the line of the second cloister made a very long enfilade, more beautiful than words can tell, and the rather as from that farther cloister, in the same straight line, there issued a gardenwalk two hundred braccia in length; and all this, as one came from the principal door of the convent, made a marvellous view. In the said second cloister was a refectory, sixty braccia long and eighteen wide, with all those well-appointed rooms, and, as the friars call them, offices, which were required in such a convent. Over this was a dormitory in the shape of a T, one part of which namely, the principal part in the direct line, which was sixty braccia long was double that is to say, it had cells on either side, and at the upper end, in a space of fifteen braccia, was an oratory, over the altar of which there was a panel by the hand of Pietro Perugino; and over the door of this oratory was another work by the same man's hand, in fresco, as will be told. And on the same floor, above the chapterhouse, was a large room where those fathers worked at making glass windows, with the little furnaces and other conveniences that were necessary for such an industry; and since while Pietro lived he made the cartoons for many of their works, those that they executed in his time were all excellent. Then the garden of this convent was so beautiful and so well kept, and the vines were trained round the cloister and in every place with such good order, that nothing better could be seen in the neighborhood of Florence. In like manner the room wherein they distilled scented waters and medicines, as was their custom, had all the best conveniences that could possibly be imagined. In short, that convent was one of the most beautiful and best appointed that there were in the State of Florence; and it is for this reason that I have wished to make this record of it, and the rather as the greater part of the pictures that were therein were by the hand of our Pietro Perugino.

Returning at length to this Pietro, I have to say that of the works that he made in the said convent none have been preserved save the panels, since those executed in fresco were thrown to the ground, together with the whole of that building, by reason of the siege of Florence, when the panels were carried to the Porta a S. Pier Gattolini, where a home was given to those friars in the Church and Convent of S. Giovannino. Now the two panels on the aforesaid partition-wall were by the hand of Pietro; and in one was Christ in the Garden, with the Apostles sleeping, in whom Pietro showed how well sleep can prevail over pains and discomforts, having represented them asleep in attitudes of perfect ease. In the other he made a Pieta' that is, Christ in the lap of Our Lady surrounded by four figures no less excellent than any others in his manner; and, to mention only one thing, he made the Dead Christ all stiffened, as if He had been so long on the Cross that the length of time and the cold had reduced Him to this; wherefore he painted Him supported by John and the Magdalene, all sorrowful and weeping. In another panel he painted the Crucifixion, with the Magdalene, and, at the foot of the Cross, S. Jerome, S. John the Baptist, and the Blessed Giovanni Colombini, founder of that Order; all with infinite diligence .These three panels have suffered considerably, and they are all cracked in the dark parts and where there are shadows; and this comes to pass when the first coat of color, which is laid on the ground (for three coats of colour are used, one over the other) , is worked on before it is thoroughly dry; wherefore afterwards, with time, in the drying, they draw through their thickness and come to have the strength to make those cracks; which Pietro could not know, seeing that in his time they were only just beginning to paint well in oil.

Now, the works of Pietro being much commended by the Florentines, a Prior of the same Convent of the Ingesuati, who took delight in art, caused him to make a Nativity, with the Magi, on a wall in the first cloister, after the manner of a miniature. This he brought to perfect completion with great loveliness and a high finish, and it contained an infinite number of different heads, many of them portrayed from life, among which was the head of Andrea del Verrocchio, his master. In the same court, over the arches of the columns, he made a frieze with heads of the size of life, very well executed, among which was one of the said Prior, so lifelike and wrought in so good a manner, that it was judged by the most experienced craftsmen to be the best thing that Pietro ever made. In the other cloister, over the door that led into the refectory, he was commissioned to paint a scene of Pope Boniface confirming the habit of his Order to the Blessed Giovanni Colombino, wherein he portrayed eight of the aforesaid friars, and made a most beautiful view receding in perspective, which was much extolled, and lightly, since Pietro made a particular profession of this. In another scene below the first he began a Nativity of Christ, with certain angels and shepherds, wrought with the freshest coloring. And in an arch over the door of the aforesaid oratory he made three half-length figures Our Lady, S. Jerome, and the Blessed Giovanni with so beautiful a manner, that this was held to be one of the best mural paintings that Pietro ever wrought.

The said Prior, so I once heard tell, was very excellent at making ultramarine blues, and, therefore, having an abundance of them, he desired that Pietro should use them freely in all the above-mentioned works; but he was nevertheless so mean and suspicious that he would never trust Pietro, and always insisted on being present when he was using blue in the work. Wherefore Pietro, who had an honest and upright nature, and had no desire for another man's goods save in return for his own labor, took the Prior's distrust very ill, and resolved to put him to shame; and so, having taken a basin of water, and having laid on the ground for draperies or for anything else that he wished to paint in blue and white, from time to time he caused the Prior, who turned grudgingly to his little bag, to put some ultramarine into the little vase that contained the tempera-water, and then, setting to work, at every second stroke of the brush Pietro would dip his brush in the basin, so that there remained more in the water than he had used on the picture. The Prior, who saw his little bag becoming empty without much to show for it in the work, kept saying time after time: "Oh, what a quantity of ultramarine this plaster consumes!" " Does it not?" Pietro would answer. After the departure of the Prior, Pietro took the ultramarine from the bottom of the basin, and gave it back to him when he thought the time had come, saying: "Father, this is yours; learn to trust honest men, who never cheat those who trust them, although, if they wished, they could cheat such distrustful persons as yourself."

By reason of these works, then, and many others, Pietro came into such repute that he was almost forced to go to Siena, where he painted a large panel, which was held very beautiful, in S. Francesco; and he painted another in S. Agostino, containing a Crucifix with some saints. A little time after this, for the Church of S. Gallo in Florence, he painted a panel picture of S. Jerome in Penitence, which is now in S. Jacopo tra Fossi, where the aforesaid friars live, near the Canto degli Alberti. He was commissioned to paint a Dead Christ, with the Madonna and S. John, above the steps of the side-door of S. Pietro Maggiore ; and this he wrought in such a manner, that it has been preserved, although exposed to rain and wind, as fresh as if it had only just been finished by Pietro's hand. Truly intelligent was Pietro's understanding of color, both in fresco and in oil; wherefore all experienced craftsmen are indebted to him, for it is through him that they have knowledge of the lights that are seen throughout his works.

In S. Croce, in the same city, he made a Pieta that is, Our Lady with the Dead Christ in her arms and two figures, which are marvellous to behold, not so much for their excellence, as for the fact that they have remained so fresh and vivid in coloring, painted as they are in fresco. He was commissioned by Bernardino de' Rossi, a citizen of Florence, to paint a S. Sebastian to be sent into France, the price agreed on being one hundred gold crowns ; but this work was sold by Bernardino to the King of France for four hundred gold ducats. At Vallombrosa he painted a panel for the high altar; and in the Certosa of Pavia, likewise, he executed a panel for the friars of that place. At the command of Cardinal Caraffa of Naples he painted an Assumption of Our Lady, with the Apostles marvelling round the tomb, for the high altar of the Piscopio; and for Abbot Simone de' Graziani of Borgo a San Sepolcro he executed a large panel, which was painted in Florence, and then borne to S. Gilio in the Borgo on the shoulders of porters, at very great expense. To S. Giovanni in Monte at Bologna he sent a panel with certain figures standing upright, and a Madonna in the sky.

Thereupon the fame of Pietro spread so widely throughout Italy and abroad, that to his great glory he was summoned to Rome by Pope Sixtus IV to work in his chapel in company with the other excellent craftsmen. There, in company with Don Bartolommeo della Gatta, Abbot of S. Clemente at Arezzo, he painted the scene of Christ giving the keys to S. Peter; and likewise the Nativity and Baptism of Christ, and the Birth of Moses, with the daughter of Pharaoh finding him in the little ark. And on the same wall where the altar is he painted a mural picture of the Assumption of Our Lady, with a portrait of Pope Sixtus on his knees. But these works were thrown to the ground in preparing the wall for the Judgment of the divine Michel agnolo, in the time of Pope Paul III. On a vault of the Borgia Tower in the Papal Palace he painted certain stories of Christ, with some foliage in chiaroscuro, which had an extraordinary name for excellence in his time. In S. Marco, likewise in Rome, he painted a story of two martyrs beside the Sacrament one of the best works that he made in Rome. For Sciarra Colonna, also, in the Palace of S. Apostolo, he painted a loggia and certain rooms.

These works brought him a very great sum of money; wherefore, having resolved to remain no longer in Rome, and having departed in good favor with the whole Court, he returned to his native city of Perugia, in many parts of which he executed panels and works in fresco; and, in particular, a panel-picture painted in oils for the Chapel of the Palace of the Signori, containing Our Lady and other saints. In S. Francesco del Monte he painted two chapels in fresco, one with the story of the Magi going to make offering to Christ, and the other with the martyrdom of certain friars of S. Francis, who, going to the Soldan of Babylon, were put to death. In S. Francesco del Convento, likewise, he painted two panels in oil, one with the Resurrection of Christ, and the other with S. John the Baptist and other saints. For the Church of the Servi he also painted two panels, one of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, and in the other, which is beside the sacristy, the Story of the Magi; but, since these are not of the same excellence as the other works of Pietro, it is held to be certain that they are among the first that he made. In the Chapel of the Crocifisso in S. Lorenzo, the Duomo of the same city, there are by the hand of Pietro the Madonna, the other Maries, S. John, S. Laurence, S. James, and other saints. And for the Altar of the Sacrament, where there is preserved the ring with which the Virgin Mary was married, he painted the Marriage of the Virgin.

Afterwards he painted in fresco the whole of the Audience Chamber of the Cambio, adorning the compartments of the vaulting with the seven planets, drawn in certain cars by diverse animals, according to the old usage; on the wall opposite to the door of entrance he painted the Nativity and Resurrection of Christ, with a panel containing S. John the Baptist in the midst of certain other saints. The side-walls he painted in his own manner; one with figures of Fabius Maximus, Socrates, Numa Pompilius, F. Camillus, Pythagoras, Trajan, L. Sicinius, the Spartan Leonidas, E ratius Codes, Fabius, Sempronius, the Athenian Pericles, and Cincinnatus. On the other wall he made the Prophets, Isaiah, Moses, Daniel, David, Jeremiah, and Solomon ; and the Sibyls, the Erythraean, the Libyan, the Tiburtine, the Delphic, and the others. Below each of the said figures he placed, in the form of a written motto, something said by them, and appropriate to that place. And in one of the ornaments he made his own portrait, which appears absolutely alive, and he wrote his own name below it in the following manner:

PETRUS PERUSINUS EGREGIUS PICTOR.

PERDITA SI FUERAT, PINGENDO HIC RETULIT ARTEM

SI NUNQUAM INVENTA ESSEX HACTENUS, IPSE DEBIT.

ANNO D. 1500.

This work, which was very beautiful and more highly extolled than any other that was executed by Pietro in Perugia, is now held in great price by the men of that city in memory of so famous a craftsman of their own country. Afterwards, in the principal chapel of the Church of S. Agostino, the same man executed a large panel standing by itself and surrounded by a rich ornament, with S. John baptizing Christ on the front part, and on the back that is, on the side that faces the choir the Nativity of Christ, with certain saints in the upper parts, and in the predella many scenes wrought very diligently with little figures. And in the Chapel of S. Niccolo, in the said church, he painted a panel for Messer Benedetto Calera.
After this, returning to Florence, he painted a S. Bernard on a panel for the Monks of Cestello, and in the chapterhouse a Crucifix, the Madonna, S. Benedict, S. Bernard, and S. John. And in S. Domenico da Fiesole, in the second chapel on the right hand, he painted a panel containing Our Lady and three figures, among which is a S. Sebastian worthy of the highest praise. Now Pietro had done so much work, and he always had so many works in hand, that he would very often use the same subjects ; and he had reduced the theory of his art to a manner so fixed, that he made all his figures with the same expression. By that time Michelagnolo Buonarroti had already come to the front, and Pietro greatly desired to see his figures, by reason of the praise bestowed on him by craftsmen; and seeing the greatness of his own name, which he had acquired in every place through so grand a beginning, being obscured, he was ever seeking to wound his fellow workers with biting words. For this reason, besides certain insults aimed at him by the craftsmen, he had only himself to blame when Michelagnolo told him in public that he was a clumsy fool at his ait[SIC]. But Pietro being unable to swallow such an affront, they both appeared before the Tribunal of Eight, where Pietro came off with little honor.

Meanwhile the Servite Friars of Florence, wishing to have the altarpiece of their high altar painted by some famous master, had handed it over, by reason of the departure of Leonardo da Vinci, who had gone off to France, to Filippino; but he, when he had finished half of one of two panels that were to adorn the altar, passed from this life to the next; wherefore the friars, by reason of the faith that they had in Pietro, entrusted him with the whole work. In that panel, wherein he was painting the Deposition of Christ from the Cross, Filippino had finished the figures of Nicodemus that are taking Him down; and Pietro continued the lower part with the Swooning of the Madonna, and certain other figures. Now this work was to be composed of two panels, one facing towards the choir of the friars, and the other towards the body of the church, and the Deposition from the Cross was to be placed behind, facing the choir, with the Assumption of Our Lady in front; but Pietro made the latter so commonplace, that the Deposition of Christ was placed in front, and the Assumption on the side of the choir. These panels have now been removed, both one and the other, and replaced by the Tabernacle of the Sacrament; they have been set up over certain other altars in that church, and out of the whole work there only remain six pictures, wherein are some saints painted by Pietro in certain niches. It is said that when the work was unveiled, it received no little censure from all the new craftsmen, particularly because Pietro had availed himself of those figures that he had been wont to use in other pictures; with which his friends twitted him, saying that he had taken no pains, and that he had abandoned the good method of working, either through avarice or to save time. To this Pietro would answer: "I have used the figures that you have at other times praised, and which have given you infinite pleasure; if now they do not please you, and you do not praise them, what can I do?" But they kept assailing him bitterly with sonnets and open insults; whereupon, although now old, he departed from Florence and returned to Perugia.

There he executed certain works in fresco in the Church of S. Severo, a place belonging to the Monks of the Order of Camaldoli, wherein Raffaello da Urbino, when quite young and still the disciple of Pietro, had painted certain figures, as will be told in his Life. Pietro likewise worked at Montone, at La Fratta, and in many other places in the district of Perugia; more particularly in S. Maria degli Angeli at Assisi, where he painted in fresco a Christ on the Cross, with many figures, on the wall at the back of the Chapel of the Madonna, which faces the choir of the monks. And for the high altar of the Church of S. Pietro, an abbey of Black Friars in Perugia, he painted a large panel containing the Ascension, with the Apostles below gazing up to Heaven; in the predella of which panel are three stories, wrought with much diligence namely, that of the Magi, the Baptism of Christ, and His Resurrection. The whole of this picture is seen to be full of beautiful and careful work, insomuch that it is the best of those wrought in oil by the hand of Pietro which are in Perugia. The same man began a work in fresco of no small importance at Castello della Pieve, but did not finish it.

It was ever Pietro's custom on his going and coming between the said Castello and Perugia, like a man who trusted nobody, to carry all the money that he possessed about his person. Wherefore certain men, lying in wait for him at a pass, robbed him, but at his earnest entreaty they spared his life for the love of God; and afterwards, by means of the services of his friends, who were numerous enough, he also recovered a great part of the money that had been taken from him; but none the less he came near dying of vexation. Pietro was a man of very little religion, and he could never be made to believe in the immortality of the soul nay, with words in keeping with his head of granite, he rejected most obstinately every good suggestion. He placed all his hopes in the goods of fortune, and he would have sold his soul for money. He earned great riches; and he both bought and built houses in Florence, and acquired much settled property both at Perugia and at Castello della Pieve. He took a most beautiful young woman to wife, and had children by her; and he delighted so greatly in seeing her wearing beautiful headdresses, both abroad and at home, that it is said that he would often tire her head with his own hand. Finally, having reached the! age of seventy-eight, Pietro finished the course of his life at Castello della Pieve, where he was honorably buried, in the year 1524.

Pietro made many masters in his own manner, and one among them, who was truly most excellent, devoted himself heart and soul to the honorable studies of painting, and surpassed his master by a great measure; and this was the miraculous Raffaello Sanzio of Urbino, who worked for many years under Pietro in company with his father, Giovanni de' Santi. Another disciple of this man was Pinturicchio, a painter of Perugia, who, as it has been said in his Life, ever held to Pietro's manner. His disciple, likewise, was Rocco Zoppo, a painter of Florence, by whose hand is a very beautiful Madonna in a round picture, which is in the possession of Filippo Salviati; although it is true that it was brought to completion by Pietro himself. The same Rocco painted many pictures of Our Lady, and made many portraits, of which there is no need to speak I will only say that in the Sistine Chapel in Rome he painted portraits of Girolamo Riario and of F. Pietro, Cardinal of San Sisto. Another disciple of Pietro was Montevarchi, who painted many pictures in San Giovanni di Valdarno ; more particularly, in the Madonna, the stories of the Miracle of the Milk. He also left many works in Montevarchi, his birth-place. Likewise a pupil of Pietro's, working with him for no little time, was Gerino da Pistoia, of whom there has been mention in the Life of Pintu- ricchio ; and so also was Baccio Ubertino of Florence, who was most diligent both in colouring and in drawing, for which reason Pietro made much use of him. By this man's hand is a drawing in our book, done with the pen, of Christ being scourged at the Column, which is a very lovely thing.

A brother of this Baccio, and likewise a disciple of Pietro, was Fran- cesco, called II Bacchiaccha by way of surname, who was a most diligent master of little figures, as may be seen in many works wrought by him in Florence, above all in the house of Giovan Maria Benintendi and in that of Pier Francesco Borgherini. Bacchiaccha delighted in painting grotesques, wherefore he covered a little cabinet belonging to the Lord Duke Cosimo with animals and rare plants, drawn from nature, which are held very beautiful. Besides this, he made the cartoons for many tapestries, which were afterwards woven in silk by the Flemish master, Giovanni Rosto, for the apartments of his Excellency's Palace. Still another disciple of Pietro was the Spaniard Giovanni, called Lo Spagna by way of surname, who was a better colorist than any of the others whom Pietro left behind him at his death; after which this Giovanni would have settled in Perugia, if the envy of the painters of that city, so hostile to strangers, had not persecuted him in such wise as to force him to retire to Spoleto, where, by reason of his excellence and virtue, he obtained a wife of good family and was made a citizen of that city. He made many works in that place, and likewise in all the other cities of Umbria ; and at Assisi, in the lower Church of S. Francesco, he painted the panel of the Chapel of S. Caterina, for the Spanish Cardinal Egidio, and also one in S. Damiano. In S. Maria degli Angeli, in the little chapel where S. Francis died, he painted some half-length figures of the size of life that is, certain companions of S. Francis and other saints all very lifelike, on either side of a S. Francis in relief.

But the best master among all the aforesaid disciples of Pietro was Andrea Luigi of Assisi, called L' Ingegno, who in his early youth com- peted with Raffaello da Urbino under the discipline of Pietro, who always employed him in the most important pictures that he made; as may be seen in the Audience Chamber of the Cambio in Perugia, where there are some very beautiful figures by his hand; in those that he wrought at Assisi; and, finally, in the Chapel of Pope Sixtus at Rome. In all these works Andrea gave such proof of his worth, that he was expected to surpass his master by a great measure, and so, without a doubt, it would have come to pass ; but fortune, which is almost always pleased to oppose herself to lofty beginnings, did not allow L' Ingegno to reach perfection, for a flux of catarrh fell upon his eyes, whence the poor fellow became wholly blind, to the infinite grief of all who knew him. Hearing of this most pitiful misfortune, Pope Sixtus, like a man who ever loved men of talent, ordained that a yearly provision should be paid to Andrea in Assisi during his lifetime by those who managed the revenues there; and this was done until he died at the age of eighty-six.

Likewise disciples of Pietro, and also natives of Perugia, were Eusebio San Giorgio, who painted the panel of the Magi in S. Agostino; Domenico di Paris, who made many works in Perugia and in the neighbouring townships, being followed by his brother Orazio; and also Gian Niccola, who painted Christ in the Garden on a panel in S. Francesco, the panel of Ognissanti in the Chapel of the Baglioni in S. Domenico, and stories of S. John the Baptist in fresco in the Chapel of the Cambio. Benedetto Caporali, otherwise called Bitti, was also a disciple of Pietro, and there are many pictures by his hand in his native city of Perugia. And he occupied himself so greatly with architecture, that he not only executed many works, but also wrote a commentary on Vitruvius in the manner that all can see, for it is printed; in which studies he was followed by his son Giulio, a painter of Perugia.

But not one out of all these disciples ever equalled Pietro's diligence, or the grace of coloring that he showed in that manner of his own, which pleased his time so much, that many came from France, from Spain, from Germany, and from other lands, to learn it. And a trade was done in his works, as has been said, by many who sent them to diverse places, until there came the manner of Michelagnolo, which, having shown the true and good path to these arts, has brought them to that perfection which will be seen in the Third Part, about to follow, wherein we will treat of the excellence and perfection of art, and show to craftsmen that he who labors and studies continuously, and not in the way of fantasy or caprice, leaves true works behind him and acquires fame, wealth, and friends.

 

 

 

Life of VITTORE CARPACCIO (1455-1523/26)
and of other Venetian and Lombard Painters


Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists


IT IS VERY WELL KNOWN that when some of our craftsmen make a beginning in some province, they are afterwards followed by many, one after another; and very often there is an infinite number of them at one and the same time, for the reason that rivalry, emulation, and the fact that they have been dependent on others, one on one excellent master, and one on another, bring it about that the craftsmen seek with all the greater effort to surpass one another, to the utmost of their ability. And even when many depend on one, no sooner do they separate, either at the death of their master or for some other reason, than they straightway also separate in aim ; whereupon each seeks to prove his own worth, in order to appear better than the rest and a master by himself.

Of many, then, who flourished almost at one and the same time and in one and the same province, and about whom I have not been able to learn and am not able to write every particular, I will give some brief account, to the end that, now that I find myself at the end of the Second Part of this my work, I may not omit some who have labored to leave the world adorned by their works. Of these men, I say, besides having been unable to discover their whole history, I have not even been able to find the portraits, excepting that of Scarpaccia, whom for this reason I have made head of the others. Let my readers therefore accept what I can offer in this connection, seeing that I cannot offer what I would wish. There lived, then, in the March of Treviso and in Lombardy, during a period of many years, Stefano Veronese, Aldigieri da Zevio, Jacopo Davanzo of Bologna, Sebeto da Verona, Jacobello de Flore, Guerriero da Padova, Giusto, Girolamo Campagnola and his son Giulio, and Vincenzio Bresciano; Vittore, Sebastiano,* and Lazzaro * Scarpaccia [It is now generally accepted that these two men are one, under the name of Lazzaro Bastiani], Venetians; Vincenzio Catena, Luigi Vivarini, Giovan Battista da Conigliano, Marco Basarini, Giovanetto Cordegliaghi, II Bassiti, Bartolommeo Vivarini, Giovanni Mansueti, Vittore Bellini, Bartolommeo Montagna of Vicenza, Benedetto Diana, and Giovanni Buonconsigli, with many others, of whom there is no need to make mention here.

To begin with the first, I start by saying that Stefano Veronese, of whom I gave some account in the Life of Agnolo Gaddi, was a painter more than passing good in his day. And when Donatello was working in Padua, as has been already told in his Life, going on one of several occasions to Verona, he was struck with marvel at the works of Stefano, declaring that the pictures which he had made in fresco were the best that had been wrought in those parts up to that time. The first works of this man were in the tramezzo of the Church of S. Antonio at Verona, at the top of a wall on the left, below the curve of a part of the vaulting; and the subjects were a Madonna with the Child in her arms, and S. James and S. Anthony, one on either side of her. This work is held very beautiful in that city even at the present day, by reason of a certain liveliness that is seen in the said figures, particularly in the heads, which are wrought with much grace. In S. Niccolo, a parish church of that city, likewise, he painted a S. Nicholas in fresco, which is very beautiful. On the front of a house in the Via di S. Polo, which leads to the Porta del Vescovo, he painted the Virgin, with certain very beautiful angels and a S. Christopher; and over the wall of the Church of S. Consolata in the Via del Duomo, in a recess made in the wall, he painted a Madonna and certain birds, in particular a peacock, his emblem. In S. Eufemia, a convent of the Eremite Friars of S. Augustine, he painted over the side door a S. Augustine with two other saints, and under the mantle of this S. Augustine are many friars and nuns of his Order; but the most beautiful things in this work are two half-length prophets of the size of life, for the reason that they have the most beautiful and most lifelike heads that Stefano ever made; and the coloring of the whole work, having been executed with diligence, has remained beautiful even to our own day, notwithstanding that it has been much exposed to rain, wind, and frost. If this work had been under cover, it would still be as beautiful and fresh as it issued from his hands, for the reason that Stefano did not retouch it on the dry, but used diligence in executing it well in fresco; as it is, it has suffered a little.

Within the church, in the Chapel of the Sacrament namely, round the Tabernacle he afterwards painted certain angels flying, some of whom are sounding instruments, some singing, and others burning incense before the Sacrament; together with a figure of Jesus Christ, which he painted at the top as a finish to the Tabernacle. Below there are other angels, who are supporting Him, clothed in white garments reaching to their feet, and ending, as it were, in clouds, which was an idea peculiar to Stefano in painting figures of angels, whom he always made most gracious in countenance and very beautiful in expression. In this same work are lifesize figures of S. Augustine and S. Jerome, one on either side; and these are supporting with their hands the Church of God, as if to show that both of them defend Holy Church from heretics with their learning, and support her. On a pilaster of the principal chapel in the same church he painted a S. Eufemia in fresco, with a beautiful and gracious expression of countenance; and there he wrote his own name in letters of gold, perchance since it appeared to him to be, as in fact it is, one of the best pictures that he had made; and according to his custom he painted there a very beautiful peacock, and beside it two lion cubs, which are not very beautiful, because at that time he could not see live ones, as he saw the peacock. He also painted for the same place a panel containing, as was the custom in those times, many half-length figures, such as S. Niccola da Tolentino and others; and he filled the predella with scenes in little figures from the life of that Saint. In S. Fermo, a church in the same city belonging to the Friars of S. Francis, he painted, as an ornament for a Deposition from the Cross on the wall opposite to the side door of entrance, twelve half-length prophets of the size of life, with Adam and Eve lying below them, and his usual peacock, which is almost the hallmark of pictures executed by him.

In Mantua, at the Martello gate of the Church of S. Domenico, the same Stefano painted a most beautiful Madonna; the head of which Madonna, when they had need to build in that place, those fathers placed with care in the tramezzo of the church that is, in the Chapel of S. Orsola, which belongs to the Recuperati family, and contains some pictures in fresco by the hand of the same man. And in the Church of S. Francesco, on the right hand as one enters by the principal door, there is a row of chapels formerly built by the noble Della Ramma family, in one of which are seated figures of the four Evangelists, painted on the vaulting by the hand of Stefano; and behind their shoulders, for a background, he made certain espaliers of roses, with a cane trellis-work in a pattern of mandorle, above which are various trees and other greenery full of birds, particularly of peacocks; and there are also some very beautiful angels. In this same church, on a column on the right hand as one enters, he painted a lifesize figure of S. Mary Magdalene. And in the same city, on the frontal of a door in the street called Rompilanza, he painted in fresco a Madonna with the Child in her arms, and some angels kneeling before her; and the background he made of trees covered with fruit.

These, then, are the works that are found to have been executed by Stefano, although it may well be believed, since his life was not a short one, that he made many others. But even as I have not been able to discover any more of them, so I have failed to find his surname, his father's name, his portrait, or any other particulars. Some declare that before he came to Florence he was a disciple of Maestro Liberale, a painter of Verona; but this matters nothing. It is enough that he learnt all that there was of the good in him from Agnolo Gaddi in Florence.

Of the same city of Verona was Aldigieri da Zevio, who was very much the friend of the Signori della Scala, and who, besides many other works, painted the Great Hall of their Palace (which is now the habitation of the Podesta), depicting therein the War of Jerusalem, according as it is described by Josephus. In this work Aldigieri showed great spirit and judgment, distributing one scene over the walls of that hall on every side, with a single ornament encircling it right round; on the upper part of which ornament, as it were to set it off, he placed a row of medallions, in which it is believed that there are the portraits from life of many distinguished men of those times, particularly of many of those Signori della Scala ; but, since the truth about this is not known, I will say no more of it. I must say, indeed, that Aldigieri showed in this work that he had intelligence, judgment, and invention, seeing that he took into consideration all the things that can be taken into consideration in a serious war. Besides this, the coloring has remained very fresh; and among many portraits 01 men of distinction and learning, there is seen that of Messer Francesco Petrarca.

Jacopo Avanzi, a painter of Bologna, shared the work of this hall with Aldigieri, and below the aforesaid pictures he painted two most beautiful Triumphs, likewise in fresco, with so much art and so good a manner, that Girolamo Campagnola declares that Mantegna used to praise them as pictures of the rarest merit. The same Jacopo, together with Aldigieri and Sebeto da Verona, painted the Chapel of S. Giorgio, which is beside the Church of S. Antonio, in Padua, according to the directions left in the testaments of the Marquesses of Carrara. Jacopo Avanzi painted the upper part; below this were certain stories of S. Lucia, with a Last Supper, by Aldigieri; and Sebeto painted stories of S. John. Afterwards these three masters, having all returned to Verona, joined together to paint a wedding feast, with many portraits and costumes of those times, in the house of the Counts Serenghi. Now the work of Jacopo Avanzi was held to be the best of all; but, since mention has been made of him in the Life of Niccolo d' Arezzo by reason of the works that he made in Bologna in competition with the painters Simone, Cristofano, and Galasso, I will say no more about him in this place.

A man who was held in esteem at Venice about the same time, although he adhered to the Greek manner, was Jacobello de Flore, who made a number of works in that city; in particular, a panel for the Nuns of the Corpus Domini, which stands on the altar of S. Domenico in their church. A competitor of this master was Giromin Morzone, who painted a number of pictures in Venice and in many cities of Lombardy; but, since he held to the old manner and made all his figures on tip-toe, we will say nothing about him, save that there is a panel by his hand, with many saints, on the Altar of the Assumption in the Church of S. Lena.

A much better master than Morzone was Guerriero, a painter of Padua, who, besides many other works, painted the principal chapel of the Eremite Friars of S. Augustine in Padua, and a chapel for the same friars in the first cloister. He also painted a little chapel in the house of the Urban Prefect, and the Hall of the Roman Emperors, where the students go to dance at the time of the Carnival. He also painted in fresco, in the Chapel of the Podesta of the same city, some scenes from the Old Testament.

Giusto, likewise a painter of Padua, painted in the Chapel of S. Giovanni Battista, without the Church of the Vescovado, not only certain scenes from the Old Testament and the New, but also the Revelations of the Apocalypse of S. John the Evangelist; and in the upper part he made a Paradise containing many choirs of angels and other adornments, wrought with beautiful conceptions. In the Church of S. Antonio he painted in fresco the Chapel of S. Luca; and in a chapel in the Church of the Eremite Friars of S. Augustine he painted the liberal arts, with the virtues and vices beside them, and likewise those who have been celebrated for their virtues, and those who have fallen by reason of their vices into the extreme of misery and into the lowest depth of Hell.

There was working in Padua, in this man's time, Stefano, a painter of Ferrara, who, as has been said elsewhere, adorned with various pictures the chapel and the tomb wherein is the body of S. Anthony, and also painted the Virgin Mary that is called the Vergine del Pilastro. Another man who was held in esteem in the same times was Vincenzio, a painter of Brescia, according to the account of Filarete} as was also Girolamo Campagnola, another Paduan painter, and a disciple of Squarcione. Then Giulio, son of Girolamo, made many beautiful works of painting, illumination, and copper-engraving, both in Padua and in other places. In the same city of Padua many things were wrought by Niccolo Moreto, who lived eighty years, and never ceased to exercise his art.

Besides these there were many others, who were connected with Gentile and Giovanni Bellini; but Vittore Scarpaccia [Carpaccio] was truly the first among them who made works of importance. His first works were in the Scuola of S. Orsola, where he painted on canvas the greater part of the stories that are there, representing the life and death of that Saint; the labors of which pictures he contrived to carry out so well and with such great diligence and art, that he acquired thereby the name of a very good and practised master. This, so it is said, was the reason that the people of Milan caused him to paint a panel in distemper with many figures for the Friars Minor, in their Chapel of S. Ambrogio. On the altar of the Risen Christ in the Church of S. Antonio he painted the scene of Christ appearing to the Magdalene and the other Maries, in which he made a very beautiful view in perspective of a landscape receding into the distance; and in another chapel he painted the story of the Martyrs that is, their crucifixion in which work he made more than three hundred figures, what with the large and the small, besides a number of horses and trees, an open Heaven, figures both nude and clothed in diverse attitudes, many foreshortenings, and so many other things, that it can be seen that he did not execute it without extraordinary labor.

For the altar of the Madonna, in the Church of S. Giobbe in Canareio, he painted her presenting the Infant Christ to Simeon, and depicted the Madonna herself standing, and Simeon in his cope between two ministers clothed as Cardinals; behind the Virgin are two women, one of whom has two doves, and below are three boys, who are playing on a lute, a serpent, and a lyre, or rather a viol; and the coloring of the whole panel is very charming and beautiful. And, in truth, Vittore was a very diligent and practised master, and many pictures by his hand that are in Venice, both portraits from life and other kinds, are much esteemed for works wrought in those times. He taught his art to two brothers of his own, who imitated him closely, one being Lazzaro, and the other Sebastiano: and by their hand is a panel on the altar of the Virgin in the Church of the Nuns of the Corpus Domini, showing her seated between S. Catherine and S. Martha, with other female saints, two angels who are sounding instruments, and a very beautiful view of buildings in perspective as a background to the whole work, of which we have the original drawings, by the hand of these men, in our book.

Another passing good painter in the time of these masters was Vincenzio Catena, who occupied himself much more with making portraits from the life than with any other sort of painting; and, in truth, some that are to be seen by his hand are marvellous among others, that of a German of the Fugger family, a man of rank and importance, who was then living in the Fondaco de' Tedeschi at Venice, was painted with great vivacity.

Another man who made many works in Venice, about the same time, was a disciple of Giovanni Bellini, Giovan Battista da Conigliano, by whose hand is a panel on the altar of S. Pietro Martire in the aforesaid Church of the Nuns of the Corpus Domini, containing the said Saint, S. Nicholas, and S. Benedict, with landscapes in perspective, an angel tuning a cithern, and many little figures more than passing good. And if this man had not died young, it may be believed that he would have equalled his master.

The name of a master not otherwise than good, likewise, in the same art and at the same time, was enjoyed by Marco Basarini, who, painting in Venice, where he was born from a Greek father and mother, executed in S. Francesco della Vigna a panel with a Deposition of Christ from the Cross, and another panel in the Church of S. Giobbe, representing Christ in the Garden, and below Him the three Apostles, who are sleeping, and S. Francis, S. Dominic, and two other saints; but what was most praised in this work was a landscape with many little figures wrought with good grace. In that same church the same Marco painted S. Bernardino on a rock, with other saints.

Giovanetto Cordegliaghi made an infinity of devotional pictures in the same city; nay, he scarcely worked at anything else, and, in truth, he had in this sort of painting a very delicate and sweet manner, no little better than that of the aforesaid masters. In S. Pantaleone, in a chapel beside the principal one, this man painted S. Peter making disputation with two other saints, who are wearing most beautiful draperies, and are wrought with a beautiful manner.

Marco Bassiti was in good repute almost at the same time, and by his hand is a large panel in the Church of the Carthusian Monks at Venice, in which he painted Christ between Peter and Andrew on the Sea of Tiberias, with the sons of Zebedee; making therein an arm of the sea, a mountain, and part of a city, with many persons in the form of little figures. Many other works by this man could be enumerated, but let it be enough to have spoken of this one, which is the best.

Bartolommeo Vivarini of Murano also acquitted himself very well in the works that he made, as may be seen, besides many other examples, in the panel that he executed for the altar of S. Luigi in the Church of SS. Giovanni e Polo; in which panel he portrayed the said S. Luigi seated, wearing the cope, with S. Gregory, S. Sebastian, and S. Dominic on one side of him, and on the other side S. Nicholas, S. Jerome, and S. Rocco, and above them half-length figures of other saints.

Another man who executed his pictures very well, taking much delight in counterfeiting things of nature, figures, and distant landscapes, was Giovanni Mansueti, who, imitating the works of Gentile Bellini not a little, made many pictures in Venice. At the upper end of the Audience Chamber of the Scuola of S. Marco he painted a S. Mark preaching on the Piazza; in which picture he painted the facade of the church, and, among the multitude of men and women who are listening to the Saint, Turks, Greeks, and the faces of men of diverse nations, with bizarre costumes. In the same place, in another scene wherein he painted S. Mark healing a sick man, he made a perspective view of two staircases and many loggie. In another picture, near to that one, he made a S. Mark converting an infinite multitude to the faith of Christ; in this he made an open temple, with a Crucifix on an altar, and through- out the whole work there are diverse persons with a beautiful variety of expression, dress, and features.

The work in the same place was continued after him by Vittore Bellini, who made a view of buildings in perspective, which is passing good, in a scene wherein S. Mark is taken prisoner and bound, with a number of figures, in which he imitated his predecessors. After these men came Bartolommeo Montagna of Vicenza, a passing good painter, who lived ever in Venice and made many pictures there; and he painted a panel in the Church of S. Maria d' Art one at Padua. Benedetto Diana, likewise, was a painter no less esteemed than the masters mentioned above, as is proved, to say nothing of his other works, by those from his hand that are in S. Francesco della Vigna at Venice, where, for the altar of S. Giovanni, he painted that Saint standing between two other saints, each of whom has a book in his hand.

Another man who was accounted a good master was Giovanni Buonconsigli, who painted a picture in the Church of SS. Giovanni e Polo for the altar of S. Tommaso d' Aquino, showing that Saint surrounded by many figures, to whom he is reading the Holy Scriptures; and he made therein a perspective view of buildings, which is not otherwise than worthy of praise. There also lived in Venice throughout almost the whole course of his life the Florentine sculptor, Simon Bianco, as did Tullio Lombardo, an excellent master of intaglio.

In Lombardy, likewise, there were excellent sculptors in Bartolommeo Clemente of Reggio and Agostino Busto; and, in intaglio, Jacopo Davanzo of Milan, with Gasparo and Girolamo Misceroni. In Brescia there was a man who was able and masterly at working in fresco, called Vincenzio Verchio, who acquired a very great name in his native place by reason of his beautiful works. The same did Girolamo Romanino, a fine master of design, as is clearly demonstrated by the works made by him in Brescia and in the neighbourhood for many miles around. And not inferior to these nay, even superior was Alessandro Moretto, who was very delicate in his coloring, and much the friend of diligence, as the works made by him demonstrate.

But to return to Verona, in which city there have flourished excellent craftsmen, even as they flourish more than ever today; there, in times past, were excellent masters in Francesco Bonsignori and Francesco Caroto, and afterwards Maestro Zeno of Verona, who painted the panel of S. Marino in Rimini, with two others, all with much diligence. But the man who surpassed all others in making certain marvellous figures from life was II Moro of Verona, or rather, as others called him, Francesco Turbido, by whose hand is a portrait now in the house of Monsignor de' Martini at Venice, of a gentleman of the house of Badovaro, painted in the character of a shepherd; which portrait appears absolutely alive, and can challenge comparison with any of the great number that have been seen in these parts. Battista d' Angelo, son-in-law of this Francesco, is also so lovely in coloring and so masterly in drawing, that he is rather superior than inferior to his father-in-law. But since it is not my intention to speak at present of the living, it must suffice me to have spoken in this place of some with regard to whose lives, as I said at the beginning of this Life, I have not been able to discover every particular with equal minuteness, to the end that their talents and merits may receive from me at least all that little which I, who would fain make it much, am able to give them.

 

 

 

JACOPO L'INDACO (1476-1531)
PAINTER

Vasari's Lives of the Artists


JACOPO, CALLED L'Indaco, who was a disciple of Domenico del Ghirlandajo, and who worked in Rome with Pinturicchio, was a passing good master in his day; and although he did not make many works, yet those that he did make are worthy of commendation. Nor is there any need to marvel that only very few works issued from his hands, for the reason that, being a gay and humorous fellow and a lover of good cheer, he harbored but few thoughts and would never work save when he could not help it; and so he used to say that doing nothing else but labor, without taking a little pleasure in the world, was no life for a Christian. He lived in close intimacy with Michelagnolo, for when that craftsman, supremely excellent beyond all who have ever lived, wished to have some recreation after his studies and his continuous labors of body and mind, no one was more pleasing to him for the purpose or more suited to his humour than this man.

Jacopo worked for many years in Rome, or, to be more precise, he lived many years in Rome, working very little. By his hand, in that city, is the first chapel on the right hand as one enters the Church of S. Agostino by the door of the facade; on the vaulting of which chapel are the Apostles receiving the Holy Spirit, and on the wall below are two stories of Christ in one His taking Peter and Andrew from their nets, and in the other the Feast of Simon and the Magdalene, in which there is a ceiling of planks and beams, counterfeited very well. In the panel of the same chapel, which he painted in oil, is a Dead Christ, wrought and executed with much mastery and diligence. In the Trinita at Rome, likewise, there is a little panel by his hand with the Coronation of Our Lady. But what need is there to say more about this man? What more, indeed, is there to say? It is enough that he loved gossiping as much as he always hated working and painting.

Now seeing that, as has been said, Michelagnolo used to take pleasure in this man's chattering and in the jokes that he was ever making, he kept him almost always at his table; but one day Jacopo wearied him as such fellows more often than not do come to weary their friends and patrons with their incessant babbling, so often ill- timed and senseless; babbling, I call it, for reasonable talk it cannot be called, since for the most part there is neither reason nor judgment in such people and Michelagnolo, who, perchance, had other thoughts in his mind at the time and wished to get rid of him, sent him to buy some figs; and no sooner had Jacopo left the house than Michelagnolo bolted the door behind him, determined not to open to him when he came back. L' Indaco, then, on returning from the market square, perceived, after having knocked at the door for a time in vain, that Michelagnolo did not intend to open to him; whereupon, flying into a rage, he took the figs and the leaves and spread them all over the threshold of the door. This done, he went his way and for many months refused to speak to Michelagnolo; but at last, becoming reconciled with him, he was more his friend than ever. Finally, having reached the age of sixty-eight, he died in Rome.

Not unlike Jacopo was a younger brother of his, whose proper name was Francesco, although he too was afterwards called L' Indaco by way of surname; and he, likewise, was a painter, and more than passing good. He was not unlike Jacopo I mean, in his unwillingness to work (to say the least), and in his love of talking but in one respect he surpassed Jacopo, for he was ever speaking evil of everyone and decrying the works of every craftsman. This man, after having wrought certain things in Montepulciano both in painting and in clay, painted a little panel for the Audience Chamber of the Company of the Nunziata in Arezzo, containing an Annunciation, and a God the Father in Heaven surrounded by many angels in the form of children. And in the same city, on the first occasion when Duke Alessandro went there, he made a most beautiful triumphal arch, with many figures in relief, at the gate of the Palazzo de' Signori; and also, in competition with other painters who executed a number of other works for the entry of the said Duke, the scenery for the representation of a play, which was held to be very beautiful. Afterwards, having gone to Rome at the time when the Emperor Charles V was expected there, he made some figures in clay, and a coat of arms in fresco for the Roman people on the Campidoglio, which was much extolled. But the best work that ever issued from the hands of this master, and the most highly praised, was a little study wrought in stucco for the Duchess Margherita of Austria in the Palace of the Medici at Rome a thing so beautiful and so ornate that there is nothing better to be seen; nor do I believe that it is possible, in a certain sense, to do with silver what L' Indaco did in this work with stucco. From these things it may be judged that if this man had taken pleasure in work and had made use of his intelligence, he would have become excellent.

Francesco drew passing well, but Jacopo much better, as may be seen in our book.

 

 

 

LUCA SIGNORELLI, painter of Cortona (ca. 1450-1523)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists




LUCA SIGNORELLI, an excellent painter, of whom, according to the order of time, we have now to speak, was more famous throughout Italy in his day, and his works were held in greater price than has ever been the case with any other master at any time whatsoever, for the reason that in the works that he executed in painting he showed the true method of making nudes, and how they can be caused, although only with art and difficulty, to appear alive. He was a pupil and disciple of Piero dal Borgo a San Sepolcro, and greatly did he strive in his youth to imitate his master, and eve to surpass him; and the while that he was working with Piero at Arezzo, living in the house of his uncle Lazzaro Vasari, as it has been told, he imitated the manner of the said Piero so well that the one could scarcely be distinguished from the other.

The first works of Luca were in San Lorenzo at Arezzo, where he painted the Chapel of St. Barbara in fresco in the year 1472; and he painted for the Company of Santa Caterina, on cloth and in oil, the banner that is borne in processions, and likewise that of the Trinita, although this does not appear to be by the hand of Luca, but by Piero dal Borgo himself. In Sant'Agostino in the same city he painted the panel of San Niccola da Tolentino, with most beautiful little scenes, executing the work with good drawing and invention; and in the same place, in the Chapel of the Sacrament, he made two angels wrought in fresco. In the Chapel of the Accolti in the Church of San Francesco, for Messer Francesco, Doctor of Laws, he painted a panel in which he portrayed the said Messer Francesco with some of his relatives. In this work is a St. Michael weighing souls, who is admirable; and in him there is seen the knowledge of Luca, both in the splendour of his armour and in the reflected lights, and, in short, throughout the whole work. In his hands he placed a pair of scales, in which are nude figures, very beautifully foreshortened, one going up and the other down; and among other ingenious things that are in this picture is a nude figure most skillfully transformed into a devil, with a lizard licking the blood from a would in its body. Besides this, there is a Madonna with the Child on her lap, with St. Stephen, St. Lawrence, St. Catherine, and two angels, of whom one is playing on a lute and the other on a rebec; and all these figures are draped and adorned so beautifully that it is a marvel. But the most miraculous part of this panel is the predella, which is full of Friars of the said St. Catherine in the form of little figures.

In Perugia, also, he made many works; among others, a panel in the Duomo for Messer Jacopo Vannucci of Cortona, Bishop of that city; in which panel are Our Lady, St. Onofrio, St. Ercolano, St. John the Baptist, and St. Stephen, with a most beautiful angel, who is tuning a lute. At Volterra, over the altar of a Company in the Church of San Francesco, he painted in fresco the Circumcision of Our Lord, which is considered beautiful to a marvel, although the Infant, having been injured by damp, was restored by Sodoma and made much less beautiful than before. And, in truth, it would be sometimes better to leave works half spoilt, when they have been made by men of excellence, rather than to have them retouched by inferior masters. In San Agostino in the same city he painted a panel in distemper, and the predella of little figures, with stories of the Passion of Christ; and this is held to be extraordinarily beautiful. At Santa Maria a Monte he painted a Dead Christ on a panel for the monks of that place; and at Citta di Castello a Nativity of Christ in San Francesco, with a St. Sebastian on another panel in San Domenico. In Santa Margarita, a seat of the Frati del Zoccolo in his native city of Cortona, he painted a Dead Christ, one of the rarest of his works; and for the Company of the Gesue, in the same city, he executed three panels, of which the one that is on the high altar is marvellous, showing Christ administering the Sacrament to the Apostles, and Judas placing the Host into his wallet.

In the Pieve, now called the Vescovado, in the Chapel of the Sacrament, he painted some lifesize prophets in fresco; and round the tabernacle are some angels who are opening out a canopy, with St. Jerome and St. Thomas Aquinas at the sides. For the high altar of the said church he painted a panel with a most beautiful Assumption, and he designed the pictures for the principal round window of the same church; in which pictures were afterwards executed by Stagio Sassoli of Arezzo. In Castiglione Aretino he made a Dead Christ, with the Maries, over the Chapel of the Sacrament; and in San Francesco, at Lucignano, he painted the folding doors of a press, wherein there is a tree of coral surmounted by a cross. At Siena, in the Chapel of San Cristofano in San Agostino, he painted a panel with some saints, in the midst of whom is a St. Christopher in relief.

Having gone from Siena to Florence in order to see both the works of those masters who were then living and those of many already dead, he painted for Lorenzo de'Medici certain nude gods on a canvas, for which he was much commended, and a picture of Our Lady with two littel prophets in terretta, which is now at Castello, a villa of Duke Cosimo. These works, both the one and the other, he presented to the said Lorenzo, who would never be beaten by any man in liberality and magnificence. He also painted a round picture of Our Lady, which is in the Audience Chamber of the Captains of the Guelph party--a very beautiful work.

At Chiusuri in the district of Siena, the principal seat of the Monks of Monte Oliveto, he painted eleven scenes of the life and acts of St. Benedict on one side of the cloister. And from Cortona he sent some of his works to Montepulciano; to Foiano the panel which is on the high altar of the Pieve; and other works to other places in Valdichiana. In the Madonna, the principal church of Orvieto, he finished with his own hand the chapel that Fra Giovanni da Fiesole had formerly begun there; in which chapel he painted all the scenes of the end of the world with bizarre and fantastic invention--angels, demons, ruins, earthquakes, fires, miracles of the Antichrist, and many other similar things besides, such as nudes, foreshortenings, and many beautiful figures; imaging the terror that there shall be on that last and awful day.

By means of this he encouraged all those who have lived after him, insomuch that since then they have found easy the difficulties of that manner; wherefore I do not marvel that the works of Luca were ever very highly extolled by Michaelangelo, nor that in certain parts of his divine Judgement, which he made in the chapel, he should have deigned to avail himself in some measure of the inventions of Luca, as he did in the angels, the demons, the division of the Heavens, and other things, in which Michaelangelo himself imitated Luca's method, as all may see. In this work Luca portrayed himself and many of his friends; Niccolo, Paolo, and Vitelozzo Vitelli, Giovan Paolo and Orazio Baglioni, and others whose names are not known. In the Sacristy of Santa Maria at Loreto he painted in fresco the four Evangelists, the four Doctors, and other saints, all very beautiful; and for this work he was liberally rewarded by Pope Sixtus.

It is said that a son of his, most beautiful in countenance and in person, whom he loved dearly, was killed at Cortona; and that Luca, heart-broken as he was, had him stripped naked, and with the greatest firmness of soul, without lamenting or shedding a tear, portrayed him, to the end that, whenever he might wish, he might be able by means of the work of his own hands to see what nature had given him and adverse fortune had snatched away.

Finally, having executed works for almost every Prince in Italy, and being now old, he returned to Cortona, where, in those last years of his life, he worked more for pleasure than for any other reason, as one who, being used to labor, neither could nor would stay idle. In this his old age, then, he painted a panel for the Nuns of Santa Margherita at Arezzo, and one for the Company of San Girolamo, which was paid for in part by Messer Niccolo Gamurrini, Doctor of Laws and Auditor of the Ruota, who is portrayed from life in that panel, kneeling before the Madonna, to whom he is being presented by a St. Nicholas who is in the same panel; there are also St. Donatus and St. Stephen, and lower down a nude St.Jerome, and a David who is singing to a psaltery; and also two prophets, who, as it appears from the rolls that they have in their hands, are speaking about the Conception. This work was brought from Cortona to Arezzo on the shoulders of the men of that Company; and Luca, old as he was, insisted on coming to set it in place, and partly also in order to revisit his friends and relatives.

And since he lodged in the house of the Vasari, in which I then was, a little boy of eight years old, I remember that the good old man, who was most gracious and courteous, having heard from the master who was teaching me my first letters, that I gave my attention to nothing in lesson-time save to drawing figures, I remember, I say, that he turned to my father Antonio and said to him: "Antonio, if you wish little Giorgio not to become backward, by all means let him learn to draw, for, even were he to devote himself to letters, design cannot be otherwise than helpful, honorable, and advantageous to him, as it is to every gentleman." Then, turning to me, who was standing in front of him, he said: "Mind your lessons, little kinsman." He said many other things about me, which I withhold, for the reason that I know that I have failed by a great measure to justify the opinion which the good old man had of me. And since he heard, as was true, that the blood used to flow from my nose at that age in such quantities that this left me sometimes half dead, with infinite lovingness he bound a jasper round my neck with his own hand; and this memory of Luca will stay forever fixed in my mind. The said panel set in place, he returned to Cortona, accompanied for a great part of the way by many citizens, friends, and relatives, as was due to the excellence of Luca, who always lived rather as a nobleman of rank than as a painter.

About the same time a palace had been built for Cardinal Silvio Passerini of Cortona, half a mile beyond the city, by Benedetto Caporali, a painter of Perugia, who, delighting in architecture, had written a commentary on Vitruvius a short time before; and the said Cardinal determined to have almost the whole of it painted. Wherefore Benedetto, putting his hand to this with the aid of Maso Papacello of Cortona (who was his disciple and had also learnt not a little from Giulio Roman, as will be told), of Tommaso, and of other disciples and lads, did not cease until he had painted it almost all over in fresco. But the Cardinal wishing to have some painting by the hand of Luca as well, he, old as he was, and hindered by palsy, painted in fresco, on the altarwall of the chapel of that palace, the scene of St. John the Baptist baptizing the Savior, but he was not able to finish it completely, for while still working on it he died, having reached the age of eighty-two.

Luca was a man of most excellent character, true and loving with his friends, sweet and amiable in his dealings with every man, and, above all, courteous to all who had need of him, and kindly in teaching his disciples. He lived spendidly, and he took delight in clothing himself well. And for these good qualities he was ever held in the highest veneration both in his own country and abroad.

And so, with the end of this master's life, which was in 1521, we will bring to an end the Second Part of these Lives; concluding with Luca, as the man who, with his profound mastery of design, particularly in nudes, and with his grace in invention and in the composition of scenes, opened to the majority of craftsmen the way to the final perfection of art, to which those men who followed were afterwards enabled to add the crown, of whom we are henceforward to speak.

 

 
     
         
 

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