Gothic Era








  Pisanello (Antonio Pisano)

(b Pisa or Verona, by 1395; d ?c. Oct 1455).

Italian painter, draughtsman and medallist. His richly decorative frescoes, courtly and elegant painted portraits and highly original portrait medals made him one of the most popular artists of the day. He travelled extensively and worked for several Italian courts, at Mantua, Ferrara, Pavia, Milan and Naples. Many of his paintings have been lost or damaged, making a reconstruction of his career difficult. He is now better known as a medallist. 

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)


born c. 1395, Pisa [Italy]
died 1455

original name Antonio Pisano Italian medalist and painter, a major exponent of the International Gothic style. His early work suggests that he was the pupil of Stefano da Zevio, a Veronese artist. (He was wrongly called Vittore by Giorgio Vasarí, and only in 1907 was his personal name verified as Antonio.)

Pisanello collaborated with Gentile da Fabriano on frescoes in the Doges' Palace in Venice (c. 1415–22) and in St. John Lateran in Rome (after 1427). After Gentile's death, Pisanello probably completed the Roman frescoes, known only through drawings, which show Gentile'sgreat influence over the young Pisanello. His only surviving frescoes are an Annunciation at the tomb of Niccolò di Brenzoni in San Fermo in Verona (c. 1423–24) and the legend of St. George in the Pellegrini Chapel in San Anastasia, Verona (c. 1433–38). These works are characterized by the curvilinear design, calligraphic draperies, and decorative detail typical of the International Gothic style from which Pisanello never completely freed himself. Even a mature work such as his “St. Eustace” (National Gallery, London) is encrusted with rich detail that tends to work against spatial clarity. The “Madonna with SS. Anthony and George” (National Gallery) displays a simpler conception. It is dominated by the monumental figures of thetwo saints and the bust of the Virgin in a mandorla, or almond-shaped aureole.

Pisanello's fame and his importance in court circles rested more upon his medals than upon his painting. They are thought to have resulted from his study of ancient Greek andRoman numismatic portraits. He had virtually no recent predecessors, and, with him, the art reached its highest point. His work includes the medal of the Greek emperor JohnVIII Palaeologus (1438), the wedding medal of Lionello d'Este(1444), Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta (1445), and the medal of Alfonso of Aragon (1448), generally cited as his most successful work in the genre. Most of Pisanello's painted portraits, such as the “Margherita Gonzaga” (c. 1438; Louvre, Paris), and “Lionello d'Este” (c. 1440; Accademia Carrara, Bergamo), show the sitter in profile (a convention of Pisanello's portrait medals) against a background of delicate, colourful flowers and butterflies.

Pisanello's drawings have been preserved in the Codex Vallardi (Louvre, Paris). This is the only instance in which thedrawings of a 15th-century workshop have been preserved virtually intact. They are of unique value, therefore, for the study of the style and techniques of draftsmanship of the period. Pisanello uses a large variety of techniques and materials to produce masterful drawings (some coloured) of animals, plants, costume design, and perspective studies. His drawings of various views of horses are particularly well known. He was one of the first 15th-century artists to draw from life instead of adhering to the medieval tradition of copying the drawings of others. The drawings reveal Pisanello's breadth of interest and his sensitive eye. They combine delicately rendered Early Renaissance naturalism with the beauty of Late Gothic line and are one of his most important contributions to the history of art.


The Virgin and Child with Saints George and Anthony Abbot
mid 1400s
National Gallery, London



Madonna with a Quail
Museo di Castelvecchio, Verona


Portrait of Leonello d’Este
Accademia Carrara, Bergamo

Portrait of a Princess of the House of Este
Musee du Louvre, Paris


Saint George and the Princess of Trebizond
Pellegrini Chapel, Sant'Anastasia, Verona


Portrait of Emperor Sigismund of Luxembourg
c. 1433
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Discuss Art

Please note: site admin does not answer any questions. This is our readers discussion only.

| privacy