The Early Renaissance

(Renaissance  Art Map)


Gentile Bellini



Ercole de' Roberti

Vittore Carpaccio

Francesco del Cossa

Paolo Uccello

Vincenzo Foppa

Andrea del Verrocchio



The Triumph of Caesar: Warriors Carring Trophies


When visiting Mantua in 1494, the great Giovanni de' Medici, the future Pope Leo X, expressed his admiration for the camera picta (painted room) and the decorated apartments in the Gonzagas' palace. The frescos of the socalled Camera degli Sposi (1471-74) and the nine canvases depicting the Triumphs of Caesar (c. 1484-95) were considered to be central to the role played by Mantegna and the Mantuan circle in paving the way for the "modern manner". When Mantegna was appointed court painter at Mantua in 1460, he entered one of the key centres of humanist culture. His greatest contribution to that culture was the Camera degli Sposi, where he painted a series of frescos to glorify his patrons, the Marquis Ludovico II Gonzaga and his wife. The frescos depict group portraits of the Gonzaga family, scenes from court life, and images from classical mythology. Motifs from classical architecture and bust medallions of the Caesars were included - creating a clear visual link between the Gonzagas and the great figures of the Roman Empire.


Camera degli Sposi
Palazzo Ducale at Mantua



Ceiling Oculu


1473; fresco; Camera degli Sposi, Castello di San Giorgio, Mantua, Italy.

The oculus is in the centre of the ribbed vault of the Camera degli Sposi, a room 8 metres (26 feet) long, rebuilt to allow
Mantegna's sequence of frescos to unfold. The paintings celebrate and glorify the family of the Marquis of Mantua, Ludovico Gonzaga II (1447-78). The space is transformed into a pavilion, with a series of pilasters appearing to support the dome. The oculus, or painted opening, shows a summer sky. The painted architecture and the iconography, in which traditions of courtly painting, antiquarian decoration, and experimentation have been combined, make this room an undisputed Renaissance masterpiece. The oculus is about one-quarter of the size of the room and is surrounded by a foreshortened marble balcony, with a decorative garland below.



Urban Portraits and Figures

The popularity of portrait painting and the ever greater prominence given to patrons and donors of art (even in the cycles of sacred stories such as those painted by Ghirlandaio (1449-94) in the Santa Trinita in Florence) showed man in a new light as master of his natural and historical environment, able to take control of his own fate. Neo-Platonic teaching, which Marsilio Ficino (1433-99) held to be the basis of Christianity, was prominent in Florence during the late 15th century, and led towards the more esoteric and obscure aspects of ancient culture. The growing interest in hieroglyphics, notably in Bologna, Rome, and Venice, was exemplified by the Hypneromachia Poliphili, an illustrated romance published by Aldo Manuzio, in which the gradual achievement of beauty is interpreted as a mystical journey. Repeated attempts were made to reconcile these tendencies with medieval tradition, by emphasizing the continuity between classical culture and Christian truth. Pico della Mirandola (1463-94) was a key figure in this pursuit. The change of focus on to history and the individual favoured the development of a new ideal of the city. Ideas were forwarded by leading theorists, such as Filarete, who outlined a vision for a new city -Sforzinda - in his Trattato, or in the city plans sketched out by Francesco di Giorgio. Biblical themes and classical texts were combined in a new definition of an orderly and functional city, which set out to reflect, in the Aristotelian sense, harmonious cohabitation. These ideals were otten far removed from the reality of city life, but the concepts were rapidly adopted in the figurative arts, where subjects were increasingly placed in urban settings, which were often given the role of protagonist in a narrative. The repertory was vast: the backgrounds to Mantegna's paintings in the Ovetari Chapel in Padua (1453); Perugino's Vision of St Bernard (1493); Gentile Bellini's large canvases of urban ceremonies; the Stories of Saint Ambrose (1489-93) bv Zenale and Butinone in San Pietro in Milan; the Emilian altarpieces by Ercole de' Roberti; and the fresco cycles dedicated to the Stories of St Ursula (1490-95) and St George (1502-07) by Vittore Carpaccio. The Sistine Chapel and its pictorial splendours may be thought of as the ideal celestial city. Theatre and festivals aroused interest, too, as seen in Leonardo's efforts in the staging of games for Ludovico il Moro, and in the public demand for a true Vitruvian theatre to be created in the palace of Cardinal Riario. This taste for scenography entered figurative art at various levels, and is evident in the secular Ferrarese cycle painted by Cosme Tura (c.1430-95), Francesco del Cossa (c.1436-78), and Ercole d'Antonio de' Roberti (1448-96) at the Schifanoia Palace. The sacred cycle of the Life of the Virgin and the Passion of Christ by Rogier van der Weyden (1400-64), displays a pictorial transposition of rhythms and contexts that enlivened sacred painting. Due to the traditional tastes of art patrons in the Po Valley, and the ongoing construction of medieval cathedrals that began in the previous century, Gothic culture retained its vitality, especially in southern Italy. It was evident in the work of Paolo Uccello (1396-1475) and of Andrea del Castagno (1419-57) on the mosaics of St Mark's in Venice. Through looking at the works of artists such as Giacomo Jaquerio, Pisanello, and Jacopo Bellini it is clear that the artistic climate of the Renaissance was still evolving. The stylistic trends introduced during the mid-15th century by Mantegna, Vincenzo Foppa, and Giovanni Bellini (c.1432-1516), among others, continued stylistic trends started by earlier generations of artists, notably the feeling for atmospheric colour and light, which glorified antiquity and illustrated a reverence for and interest in nature. The dramatic intensity of Donatello's sculptures in Padua had considerable influence at this time. A realistic style that harked back to traditional values was taking shape in Lombardy, involving an effective and invigorating sense of history, while, elsewhere, artists such as Bellini and Giorgione (c.1477—1510) portrayed man in an ideal, naturalistic environment. Signs of a broader, encompassing trend were appearing, in what was to become the modern manner. The presence of Leonardo Da Vinci in the Po Valley encouraged the continuing progress of this style during the last two decades of the century. At the same time, many of the great workshops were
establishing interaction with one another, including the Florentine schools of Verrocchio, the della Robbia family of sculptors, and the schools of Fontainebleau.
The second half of the 15th century was also distinguished by the great pictorial experiments of Piero della Francesca (c.1410-92), who worked between his native town of Sansepolcro and the sophisticated Adriatic courts of Urbino and Rimini. His theory of perspective, as set out in his De Prospectiva Pingendi, found expression in works bearing great significance, from The Legend of the True Cross (c. 1452—57), which decorates the chancel of San Francesco in Arezzo to The Flagellation of Christ at Urbino. In Piero's work, time and space attained absolute definition: they were harmoniously calculated in every smallest detail, but always with a mystery in the gestures and expressions of the figures.



See also COLLECTION: Ghirlandaio


born 1449, Florence
died Jan. 11, 1494, Florence

Ghirlandajo also spelled Ghirlandaio, original name Domenico Di Tommaso Bigordi early Renaissance painter of the Florentine school noted for his detailed narrative frescoes, which include many portraits of leading citizens in contemporary dress.

Domenico was the son of a goldsmith, and his nickname “Ghirlandajo” was derived from his father's skill in making garlands. Domenico probably began as an apprentice in his father's shop, but almost nothing is known about his training as a painter or the beginnings of his career. The earliest works attributed to him, dating from the early 1470s, show strong influence from the frescoes of Andrea del Castagno, who died when Ghirlandajo was about eight years old. Giorgio Vasari, the biographer of Renaissance artists, recorded in hisLives (1550) that Ghirlandajo was a pupil of the Florentine painter Alesso Baldovinetti, but Baldovinetti was only four orfive years older than Ghirlandajo himself. He worked in fresco on large wall surfaces in preference to smaller scale paintings executed on wood panels, although he used them for the altarpieces that were the centrepieces of the fresco cycles in his major undertakings. He never experimented with oil painting, although most Florentine painters of his generation began to use it exclusively in the last quarter of the 15th century.

The village church of Cercina, near Florence, has a fresco of three saints, now thought to be Ghirlandajo's earliest work, but there is general agreement that some frescoes in the church of Ognissanti in Florence, almost certainly dating from around 1472–73, show his style at its earliest developed stage. One of them represents the “Pietà” and depicts several members of the Vespucci family as mourners, thus already introducing Ghirlandajo's characteristic combination of portrait figures in contemporary dress with a specifically religious subject. Something of the passion for minute detail shown by the early Flemish painters can be found in Ghirlandajo's work at this period; his fresco “St. Jerome in His Study,” also in Ognissanti and dated 1480, may even be an enlarged version in fresco of an oil painting by the Flemish painter Janvan Eyck, which had found its way to Florence. The “St. Jerome” fresco is particularly important because it is a companion piece to one of “St. Augustine” by Ghirlandajo's Florentine contemporary Sandro Botticelli; the difference between the two frescoes reveals Ghirlandajo's rather pedestrian and anecdotal style.

Ghirlandajo's first major commissioned works were the two frescoes depicting scenes from the life of St. Fina, painted in 1475 in the Chapel of Santa Fina in the Collegiata at San Gimignano, near Florence. Both works derive from Fra FilippoLippi's slightly earlier fresco cycle in the cathedral at Prato and contain a number of portrait heads arranged, rather stiffly, in the symmetrical type of composition that was to become increasingly identified with Ghirlandajo. Even then he was already employing assistants; in his later works he clearly could only complete large commissions in the comparatively short time allotted by the extensive use of highly trained assistants working simultaneously on different parts of the frescoes.

In 1481–82 Ghirlandajo received an important commission inthe Vatican for a fresco, nominally representing the calling of the first Apostles, Peter and Andrew, in the Sistine Chapel. Its style is reminiscent of the frescoes by Masaccio of about 1427, which had been the great innovating works of the early15th century in Florence but by then must have seemed somewhat old-fashioned. The principal feature of this fresco is the group of portraits of the Florentine colony in Rome, who are represented as witnesses of the biblical event. It hasbeen suggested that the inclusion of these Florentines in a fresco painted for the Vatican had political significance, because the Florentine government had recently accused Pope Sixtus IV of complicity in the conspiracy of the Pazzi, another powerful Tuscan banking family, to murder the leading members of the Florentine Medici family.

Ghirlandajo must have used his stay in Rome to study Roman antiquities at first hand, for many details of triumphalarches, ancient sarcophagi, and similar antique elements occur in his works throughout the rest of his career. A sketchbook filled with drawings of such antiquities (now in El Escorial, near Madrid) seems to be the work of a member of his shop.

Late in his short life, Ghirlandajo and his assistants, including his brothers Davide and Benedetto and his brother-in-law Bastiano Mainardi, produced two major frescocycles. The earlier, a series of frescoes and an altarpiece painted in tempera, was executed for the Sassetti Chapel in Santa Trinità in Florence. Commissioned by Francesco Sassetti, an agent of the Medici bank, they were painted between about 1482 and 1485. The six main frescoes represent scenes from the life of St. Francis of Assisi, Sassetti's patron saint. Once more, the frescoes contain many details of the buildings and customs of the period—for example, the original front of the church of Santa Trinità itself—and, in particular, there are numerous portraits of members of the Sassetti family shown together with some ofthe leading members of the Medici family, what may appear to have been a closer intimacy than was actually the case. The altarpiece, dated 1485, contains further evidence of Ghirlandajo's interest in classical antiquity, for it shows the “Adoration of the Shepherds” with a Roman triumphal arch in the background and a Roman sarcophagus in place of the traditional manger. This painting in tempera has several direct references to contemporary Flemish paintings, especially the enormous altarpiece painted in oil by Hugo van der Goes, which had been commissioned in Flanders by Tommaso Portinari, another agent of the Medici bank, and which arrived in Florence in the late 1470s.

Ghirlandajo's last and greatest fresco cycle was painted for another Medici banker, Giovanni Tornabuoni, and represents scenes from the life of the Virgin and of St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of Florence. Ghirlandajo signed the contract on Sept. 1, 1485, for these large frescoes on the walls of the choir of Santa Maria Novella in Florence. The altarpiece was still incomplete when he died, but his assistants, among whom was probably the boy Michelangelo, had completed the frescoes by about 1490. The front panel of the altarpiece(Alte Pinakothek [“Old Gallery”], Munich) was completed by assistants according to Ghirlandajo's design soon after his death in 1494. Even more than in the Sassetti Chapel these narrative scenes contain a wealth of detail showing patricianinteriors and contemporary dress; as a result they are one of the most important sources for current knowledge of the furnishings of a late 15th-century Florentine palace.

The frescoes in Santa Maria Novella are overcrowded with detail, so that the compositions fail to make their full impact.Some of Ghirlandajo's smaller panel paintings, particularly the portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni (1488), have a simplicity that makes them far more striking than the frescoes of Santa Maria Novella. The portrait representing anold man with a strawberry nose with his grandchild (c. 1480–90; Louvre, Paris) is perhaps Ghirlandajo's finest painting, notable for its tenderness and humanity, as well as a simplicity and directness of handling.

Ghirlandajo never received a major commission from the Medici family or from any other leading patrons. In the late 19th century, however, because of the high degree of realismin his work, he was ranked as a leading Florentine painter of the 15th century. Although during much of the 20th century the greater imaginative power of Botticelli or Filippino Lippi made Ghirlandajo's paintings seem dull, since the 1960s the honesty and truth of his works have brought him back into critical favour.

Ghirlandajo's son, Ridolfo, was also a noted painter. Among his best-known works are a pair representing scenes from the life of St. Zenobius (1517; Academy Gallery, Florence).

Peter J. Murray



See also COLLECTION: Ercole de' Roberti


Ercole de' Roberti

born c. 1450, , Ferrara, Papal States
died 1496, Ferrara

Italian painter of the Ferrarese school whose work is characterized by a highly personal style of sensibility anddeep pathos.

Roberti is believed to have studied with Cosmè Tura, a court painter to theEste family of Ferrara, and he is knownto have studied with Tura's student Francesco del Cossa. Although his early paintings are influenced by the styles of both Tura and Cossa, he distinguished his work by exaggerating the emotional quality of his painting, often at the expense of technical expertise. Later works show Roberti to have achieved seriousness and intensity of emotion without sacrificing technique.

In 1470 Roberti worked with Cossa on a series of frescoes at the Palazzo Schifanoia in Ferrara. Scholars also believe heassisted Cossa in painting altarpieces in the Church of San Petronio in Bologna. During that five-year period, Roberti and Cossa are believed to have worked together on a predella, now in the Vatican Museum.

Roberti worked in Cossa's workshop until the master's death in 1478. From 1479 to 1486 he ran his own workshop in Ferrara, but he left the city to complete works begun by Cossa and to execute new commissions in other cities. Around 1480 Roberti painted the famous profile portrait of “Ginevra Bentivoglio” (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.). The large church work thought to have been executed solely by Roberti, “The Madonna and Child with Saints” (1480), is now known as the Ravenna Altarpiece and is in the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan.

Roberti was appointed by Duke Ercole I to replace Tura as court painter in 1486. His ability as a portraitist is evident thereafter in the many paintings of the members of this family that he completed. A predella, with scenes of the Passion, for the altar of the church of San Giovanni in Monte, Bologna, is also thought by most critics to be by Roberti; three of its panels remain: the “Pietà” (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool), the “Harvest of the Manna” (National Gallery, London), and the “Way of the Cross” (Gemäldegalerie, Dresden, Ger.).

Roberti's work is characterized by bright, metallic colours, sinuous lines, and an open conception of space. His dynamicfigurative compositions are marked by an exceptional intensity of feeling.


See also COLLECTION: Vittore Carpaccio


Vittore Carpaccio

born c. 1460, Venice [Italy]
died 1525/26, Venice

greatest early Renaissance narrative painter of the Venetian school.

Carpaccio may have been a pupil of Lazzaro Bastiani, but the dominant influences on his early work were those of Gentile Bellini and Antonello da Messina. About 1490 he began painting a cycle of scenes from the legend of St. Ursula for the Scuola di Santa Orsola, now in the Accademia in Venice. In these works he emerged as a mature artist of originality, revealing a gift for organization, narrative skill, and a command of light. The genre scene of the Dream of St. Ursula has been especially praised for its wealth of naturalistic detail.

Carpaccio's later career can be charted in terms of three further narrative cycles. The first of these survives intact in the Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni, in Venice, and involve scenes from the life of St. Jerome; dating from 1502, these paintings represent the climax of Carpaccio's art. A cycle of scenes from the life of the Virgin, executed after 1504 for the Scuola degli Albanesi, is now scattered. Also dispersed is the cycle of scenes from the life of St. Stephen, painted between 1511 and 1520, that is stylistically reminiscent of his earlier works. In 1510 he executed the great altarpiece of the Presentation in the Temple for San Giobbe (now in the Accademia, Venice). His last dated works are two organ shutters for the Duomo at Capodistria (1523).

Carpaccio's precise rendering of architecture and the luminous atmosphere of his paintings were praised by the 19th-century English critic John Ruskin. Carpaccio's panoramic depictions of pageants, processions, and other public gatherings are notable for their wealth of realistic detail, sunny colouring, and dramatic narratives. His incorporation of realistic figures into an orderly and coherent perspectival space made him a predecessor of the Venetian painters of vedute (“townscapes”).


See also COLLECTION: Francesco del Cossa


Francesco del Cossa

born 1436, Ferrara, Duchy of Ferrara
died 1478, Bologna, Emilia

early Renaissance painter of the Ferrarese school who, through his seven years' residence in Bologna, exercised a profound influence on the course of Bolognese painting. Cossa'sstyle is characterized by stiff, heavy drapery folds and a sharply linear rendering of complex surfaces.

In his best-known work, the frescoes in the Schifanoia Palaceat Ferrara (probably commissioned in 1469), Cossa developed a personal style of great coherence and vitality. Illustrating a humanist program, these frescoes represent in three tiers allegorical scenes, astrological symbols of the months, and scenes representing the daily life of Borso d'Este, the ruler of Ferrara. Cossa was solely responsible for the frescoes representing March, April, and May on the east wall.

A polyptych that Cossa painted for the Griffoni altar in S. Petronio at Bologna has been disassembled. The later panels(c. 1474), now in the Brera, Milan, are Cossa's most successful panel paintings.


See also COLLECTION: Paolo Uccello


Paolo Uccello

born 1397, Pratovecchio, near Florence
died Dec. 10, 1475, Florence

original name Paolo Di Dono Florentine painter whose work attempted uniquely to reconcile two distinct artistic styles—the essentiallydecorative late Gothic and the new heroic style of the early Renaissance. Probably his most famous paintings are three panels representing “The Battle of San Romano” (c. 1456). His careful and sophisticated perspective studies are clearly evident in “The Flood” (1447–48).

Apprenticeship and early work.

By the time Paolo was 10 years old he was already an apprentice in the workshop of the sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti, who was then at work on what became one of the masterpieces of Renaissance art—the bronze doors for the Baptistery of the Florence cathedral, which consist of 28 panels illustrating New Testament scenes of the life of Christ. In 1414 Uccello joined the confraternity of painters (Compagnia di San Luca), and in the following year he became a member of the Arte dei Medici e degli Speziali, the official guild in Florence to which painters belonged. Though Uccello must by then have been established as an independent painter, nothing of his work from this time remains, and there is no definite indication of his early training as a painter, except that he was a member of the workshop of Ghiberti, where many of the outstanding artists of the time were trained.

Uccello's earliest, and now badly damaged, frescoes are in the Chiostro Verde (the Green Cloister, so called because of the green cast of the frescoes that covered its walls) of Santa Maria Novella; they represent episodes from the Creation. These frescoes, marked with a pervasive concern for elegant linear forms and insistent, stylized patterning of landscape features, are consistent with the late Gothic tradition that was still predominant at the beginning of the 15th century in Florentine studios.

From 1425 to 1431, Uccello worked in Venice as a master mosaicist. All his work in Venice has been lost, however. Uccello may have been induced to return to Florence by thecommission for a series of frescoes in the cloister of San Miniato al Monte depicting scenes from monastic legends. While the figural formulations of these ruinous frescoes still closely approximate those of the Santa Maria Novella cycle, there is also a fascination with the novel perspective schemes that had appeared in Florence during Uccello's Venetian sojourn and with a simplified and more monumental treatment of forms deriving from the recent sculpture of Donatello and Nanni di Banco.

Later years.

In 1436 in the Florence cathedral, Uccello completed a monochrome fresco of an equestrian monument to Sir John Hawkwood, an English mercenary who had commanded Florentine troops at the end of the 14th century. In the Hawkwood fresco, a single-point perspective scheme, a fully sculptural treatment of the horse and rider, and a sense of controlled potential energy within the figure all indicate Uccello's desire to assimilate the new style of the Renaissance that had blossomed in Florence since his birth. Following the Hawkwood monument, in 1443 Uccello completed four heads of prophets around a colossal clock on the interior of the west facade of the cathedral; between 1443 and 1445 he contributed the designs for two stained-glass windows in the cupola.

After a brief trip to Padua in 1447, Uccello returned to the Chiostro Verde of Santa Maria Novella. In a fresco illustratingthe Flood and the recession, Uccello presented two separate scenes united by a rapidly receding perspective scheme that reflected the influence of Donatello's contemporary reliefs in Padua. Human forms in “The Flood,” especially the nudes, were reminiscent of figures in Masaccio's frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel (c. 1427), perhaps the most influential of all paintings of the early Renaissance, but the explosion of details throughout the narrative again suggests Uccello's Gothic training. More than any other painting by Uccello, “The Flood” indicates the difficulties that he and his contemporaries faced in attempting to graft the rapidly developing heroic style of theRenaissance onto an older, more decorative mode of painting.

Perhaps Uccello's most famous paintings are three panels representing the Battle of San Romano, now in the Louvre, Paris; the National Gallery, London; and the Uffizi, Florence. These panels represent the victory in 1432 of Florentine forces under Niccolò da Tolentino over the troops of their archrival, Siena. There are Renaissance elements, such as a sculpturesque treatment of forms and fragments of a broken perspective scheme in this work, but the bright handling of colour and the elaborate decorative patterns of the figures and landscape are indebted to the Gothic style. The older style continued to be used through the 15th century in Florence to enrich the environments of the new princes of the day, such as the Medici, who acquired all three of the panels representing the Battle of San Romano.

Uccello is justly famous for his careful and sophisticated perspective studies, most clearly visible in “The Flood,” in the underdrawing (sinopia) for his last fresco, “The Nativity,”formerly in San Martino della Scala in Florence, and in three drawings universally attributed to him that are now in the Uffizi. These drawings indicate a meticulous, analytic mind, keenly interested in the application of scientific laws to the reconstruction of objects in a three-dimensional space. In these studies he was probably assisted by a noted mathematician, Paolo Toscanelli. Uccello's perspective studies were to influence the Renaissance art treatises of artists such as Piero della Francesca, Leonardo da Vinci, and Albrecht Durer. Uccello apparently led an increasingly reclusive existence during his last years.


Uccello was long thought to be significant primarily for his role in establishing new means of rendering perspective thatbecame a major component of the Renaissance style. The 16th-century biographer Giorgio Vasari said that Uccello was “intoxicated” by perspective. Later historians found the unique charm and decorative genius evinced by his compositions to be an even more important contribution. Though in ruinous condition, they indicate the immense difficulties faced by artists of his time in taking advantage ofnew developments without giving up the best in traditional art.

John T. Paoletti


See also COLLECTION: Vincenzo Foppa


Vincenzo Foppa

born 1427/30, Brescia, Republic ofVenice [now in Italy]
died 1515/16

Italian painter, leading figure in 15th-century Lombard art, and an artist of exceptional integrity and power.

His earliest dated work is a dramatic painting of the “Three Crosses” (1456). He spent the middle of his life in Pavia in the service of the dukes of Milan, and until the arrival of Leonardo da Vinci he was the most influential painter in the Lombard region. From 1480 he became receptiveto the Renaissance style, influenced by Donato Bramante, Andrea Mantegna, and Leonardo da Vinci. This influence appears in the modeling and perspective of his best-known fresco, “The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian” (1485).


See also COLLECTION: Andrea del Verrocchio


born 1435, Florence [Italy]
died 1488, Venice

15th-century Florentine sculptor and painter and the teacher of Leonardoda Vinci. His equestrian statue ofBartolomeo Colleoni, erected in Venice in 1496, is particularly important.

Early life

Little accurate biographical information is known about Verrocchio. He was the son of Michele di Francesco Cioni, amaker of bricks and tiles who later became a tax collector. Financial security always seemed to be a family problem. Verrocchio had to support several of his brothers and sisters. Never marrying, he later provided for the education and dowries of the daughters of his younger brother Tommaso.

Initially he was trained as a goldsmith. His master has traditionally been recorded as a supposed goldsmith, Giuliano Verrocchi, whose last name Andrea apparently took as his own. Another questionable biographical tradition is that of his apprenticeship under Donatello, the greatest Italian sculptor of the early Renaissance. Since the stylistic affinity of Verrocchio's early sculpture is with the work of Antonio Rossellino rather than Donatello, this liaison seems doubtful.

Verrocchio's first studies in painting date possibly from themid-1460s. He is said to have been a pupil of the Florentine artist Alesso Baldovinetti. But it is assumed that he and Sandro Botticelli worked together under the early Renaissance master Fra Filippo Lippi at Prato, a city near Florence, where Lippi had been commissioned to execute a series of murals for the cathedral.

Medici patronage

Verrocchio's most important works were executed in the last two decades of his life. His rise to artistic prominence, which he owed chiefly to encouragement by Piero de' Medici and his son Lorenzo, the leading art patrons of Florence, evidently began only after the death, in 1466, of Donatello, who had been the Medici favourite. Besides the paintings and sculptures Verrocchio produced for the Medici, he designed costumes and decorative armour for their festivals,tournaments, and solemn receptions. Made curator of the collection of antiquities in the Medici palace, he restored many pieces of ancient Roman sculpture, especially portrait busts.

It appears that Verrocchio produced few works for patrons outside of Florence. Though he is said to have worked in Rome for Pope Sixtus IV, among others, there is no documentary trace that he ever left the area around Florence until the early 1480s, when he moved to Venice, where he died within a few years. Even while he was in Venice his Florentine workshop was maintained and directed by his favourite student, Lorenzo di Credi. Di Credi was also the administrator and principal heir of Verrocchio's estate.

Verrocchio's reputation was widespread in the second half of the 15th century and many well-known artists of the Italian Renaissance studied painting and sculpture at his Florentine studio. The most important of his students were Leonardo da Vinci and Perugino, the latter Raphael's teacher.The mural painter Domenico Ghirlandajo, Michelangelo's master, was temporarily in close contact with Verrocchio. Sandro Botticelli, the major Florentine painter of the late 15th century, and Francesco di Giorgio, the important Sienese artist, clearly oriented themselves toward Verrocchio's art in certain phases of their development, as did the prominent Florentine sculptors Benedetto da Maiano and Andrea Sansovino.

The paintings and sculptures

The only surviving painting that according to documentary proof should be by Verrocchio, an altarpiece of the Madonna and Child with Saints in the Donato de' Medici Chapel of the cathedral at Pistoia, was not completed by the master himself. Largely executed by his pupil Lorenzo di Credi, its handling is inconsistent with that of the Baptism of Christ (c. 1470–75; Uffizi, Florence), which has been attributed to Verrocchio ever since it was first mentioned in1550 by the Renaissance biographer Giorgio Vasari (1511–74) in his Vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori, ed architettori italiani… (Lives of the Most Eminent Italian Painters, Sculptors, and Architects…). One of the two angels and part of the distant landscape in the Baptism, however, were certainly painted by his apprentice, the young Leonardo da Vinci. Other paintings ascribed to Verrocchio are the Madonna (Inv. No. 104a) in the Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz of Berlin, the Tobias and the Angel in the National Gallery in London, and the altarpiece in Argiano, with Christ on the Cross between St. Jerome and St. Anthony. After the mid-1470s Verrocchio dedicated himselfprincipally to sculpture, in which he manifested strong personal convictions and an inventive ability.

The sculptural works either recorded to be by Verrocchio oractually extant are few in number. According to his brother Tommaso, Verrocchio was responsible for an inlaid slab (1467) in the Florentine church of San Lorenzo recording the burial place of Cosimo de' Medici, who died in 1464. In 1468 Verrocchio is known to have executed a bronze candlestick(Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam) for the Palazzo della Signoria inFlorence. This work was followed by his first major commission, the tomb of Piero and Giovanni de' Medici in theOld Sacristy of San Lorenzo. Completed in 1472, this sarcophagus, set in an archway, is impressive for its originality of composition and its inspired use of coloured marble and porphyry in conjunction with rich bronze ornamentation.

Verrocchio's earliest surviving example of figurative sculpture is a small bronze statue of David (Bargello, Florence), which is generally dated before 1476. A second bronze figure, the Putto with Dolphin , is important in the development of freestanding Renaissance sculpture for its spiral design, which represents a successful effort to evolve a pose in which all views are of equal significance. It was originally commissioned for a fountain in the Medici villa in Careggi, near Florence. The putto, sometimes called a cupid, is precisely balanced in the projection of its limbs and probably was placed initially on a fountain so that it could beturned by the pressure of streams or jets of water. In the mid-16th century it was reinstalled on top of a fountain designed for the courtyard of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence (the original is now kept in the Palazzo Vecchio museum; the present fountain figure is a copy).

Verrocchio's reputation as one of the great relief sculptors of the 15th century was clearly established with his cenotaph, or memorial, in the cathedral at Pistoia, to a Tuscan ecclesiastical dignitary, Cardinal Niccolò Forteguerri.Ordered in 1476, the cenotaph was still unfinished when Verrocchio died, and its completion was entrusted first to Lorenzo di Credi, then to Lorenzetti, and finally to a minor Italian Baroque sculptor. Though its effect has been altered by changes and additions foreign to Verrocchio's original design, the Forteguerri cenotaph contains some of the artist's most important relief sculpture. Its scenographic arrangement of the figures into a dramatically unified composition anticipates the theatrical effect of the dynamically composed wall reliefs executed by Baroque sculptors of the 17th century. Another relief dates from 1478/79, when it was decided to extend the silver altar in thebaptistery of the cathedral of Florence, and one of the four supplementary scenes was allotted to Verrocchio. Depicting the Beheading of St. John the Baptist (Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Florence), this work was delivered in 1480. Dating from about 1477/78 is a terra-cotta relief of the Madonna (Bargello, Florence) coming from the Florentinehospital of Santa Maria Nuova.

In the late 1470s Verrocchio produced two portrait sculptures. A penetrating realism distinguishes his terra-cotta bust of Giuliano de' Medici (in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.) from the idealization of the individual that characterizes his marble bust known as Lady with Primroses (Bargello, Florence). The latter work created anew type of Renaissance bust, in which the arms of the sitter are included in the manner of ancient Roman models. This compositional device allows the hands, as well as the face, to express the character and mood of the sitter.

Perhaps the most important work Verrocchio executed in Florence was a bronze group of Christ and St. Thomas commissioned for a niche in the east exterior wall of the Or San Michele in Florence. Executed between 1467 and 1483, the work is remarkable for its technical perfection, highly intellectual sense of compositional design, and understanding of the subtle emotional nature of the subject. In 1483 Verrocchio was commissioned by the Venetian government to undertake a second major work in bronze, a commemorative statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni, a condottiere, or professional soldier, who had been employed by the Venetian republic. At Verrocchio's death the model was not yet cast, and the work of casting and chasing, or polishing, was entrusted to the Venetian sculptor AlessandroLeopardi. It was erected in 1496 in the Campo di Santi Giovanni e Paolo in Venice. The movement of the horse and commanding forward gaze of Colleoni gives the impression that the warrior is riding into battle at the head of his troops, who press behind. This innovative scenographic conception was influential in the development of the equestrian figures executed from the Baroque period of the 17th century to those produced in the 19th century by sculptors of the Romantic style. Besides Donatello's monument to the condottiere Gattamelata (c. 1447–53) at Padua, Verrocchio's Colleoni monument is aesthetically the most important equestrian statue of the Renaissance. Contrived with great technical assurance and modeled with power and sensitivity, it forms a fitting climax to Verrocchio's sculptural career.

Gunter Passavant



Italian family of artists. Primarily painters, the Bellini were arguably the most important of the many families that played so vital a role in shaping the character of Venetian art. They were largely responsible for introducing the Renaissance style into Venetian painting, and, more effectively than the rival Vivarini family, they continued to dominate painting in Venice throughout the second half of the 15th century. The art of Jacopo Bellini, a slightly older contemporary of Antonio Vivarini, is stylistically transitional. In his earlier career it was still strongly reflective of the Late Gothic manner of his master Gentile da Fabriano, but from c. 1440 it was increasingly Renaissance in character. It is not easy to trace Jacopo’s development, and accurately to assess his achievement, since only a small fragment of his painted oeuvre now survives; but two large albums of drawings (London, BM; Paris, Louvre) testify to his capacity for inventiveness and to his involvement with artistic concerns characteristic of the Renaissance.


(b Venice, ?1429; d Venice, 23 Feb 1507).

Painter and draughtsman, son of Jacopo Bellini. An official painter of the Venetian Republic, he was a dominant figure in Venetian art for several decades in the latter half of the 15th century, known particularly for portraits and large narrative paintings in which the city and its inhabitants are depicted in great detail.


Gentile Bellinl
Portrait of Catharina Cornaro, Queen of Cyprus
Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest



Gentile Bellinl

The Blessed Lorenzo Giustiniani
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

Gentile Bellinl

Portrait of Doge Giovanni Mocenigo
c. 1480
Museo Correr, Venice



Gentile Bellinl
Procession in Piazza S. Marco
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice



Gentile Bellinl

Miracle of the Cross at the Bridge of S. Lorenzo
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice



Gentile Bellinl

The Healing of Pietro dei Ludovici
c. 1501
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice




Ercole de' Roberti

Vittore Carpaccio

Francesco del Cossa

Paolo Uccello

Vincenzo Foppa

Andrea del Verrocchio




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