Masolino (1383 probably 1447), called da Panicale from the place of his birth, was sculptor as well as painter. His works give evidence of a careful observation of nature, are truthful in drawing and modelling, and show a knowledge of linear perspective. They possess a certain dramatic grouping of figures. His costumes are evidently realistic studies from those of his time. He is the natural precursor of Masaccio.
There has been much controversy among critics regarding the works attributed to Masolino. Those only which are absolutely beyond dispute, because signed by the painter, are:
Frescoes on the walls of the church of Castiglione d’ Olona, near Milan. In the choir of this church are pictures representing scenes in the Lives of the Virgin, St. Laurence, and St. Stephen, while in the Baptistery are scenes in the Life of St. John and figures of the four Evangelists.
In the famous series of frescoes in Brancacci Chapel, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence, are three, ” Healing of the Cripple,” “Raising of Tabitha,” ” Fall of Adam and Eve,” which the chief weight of authority to-day attributes to Masolino, although some careful critics (notably Crowe and Cavalcaselle) refuse to acknowledge them as his.
In a chapel of San Clemente, Rome, are frescoes representing scenes in the Lives of St. Clement and St. Catherine of Alexandria, etc., which were formerly attributed to Masaccio, and which are now recognized as being the work of Masolino.
Masaccio (Tommaso Guidi, 1401-1428), the greatest master in the history of modern art after Giotto, was born in San Giovanni, in the Val d’ Arno. The name Masaccio, which means Slovenly Tom, was given him on account of his careless personal habits. When a young boy. Masaccio came to Florence, where he made careful studies of the sculptures by Lorenzo Ghiberti on the bronze gates of the Baptistery. He was enrolled in the city guild of painters in 1424 ; and there is an old story, never disproved, that he died by poison in Rome in 1428.
During his short life Masaccio made an almost phenomenal advance in painting ; an advance that can be satisfactorily explained only by the theory that Masolino painted the three frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel, above spoken of, and thus was Masaccio’s teacher.
Characteristics. The conventionalities that had hitherto clung to all pictured works were wholly dropped by Masaccio. His drawing of the human figure (tested by several nude figures in his pictures) is masterly. He puts animation and variety of expression into both figures and faces.
In his work real life for the first time becomes the serious subject. The incident illustrated is simply a pretext for the portrayal of reality. While Giotto sought for the best means of telling the story selected as his subject, Masaccio sought, seemingly, a fitting incident which, as a theme, would enable him to portray most forcibly the characters he chose to represent. As a general thing there are only a few people in his principal group, but many others are standing about, each of whom possesses distinct personality.
This study of individual character appears in the work of no earlier master, and was of great importance in the evolution of Italian painting. It marks the beginning of the tendency towards the predominance of the artistic treatment
of a picture over its subject, and its inevitable end was to throw out the purely devotional aim which had before characterized painting. Masaccio made a great advance in both linear and aërial perspective; his figures are placed firmly on different planes in the same composition. His color is agreeable and harmonious.
His only authentic works are:
FRESCOES. ” Expulsion from Paradise,” “The Tribute Money,” ” Peter Baptizing the People ” (in which is the celebrated naked
youth trembling with the cold), ” Preaching of Peter,” ” Peter and John Healing the Sick,” ” Peter and John Distributing Alms,” ” Resurrection of the Child by Peter” (begun by Masaccio). Brancacci Chapel, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence.
Masaccio’s early death prevented his completion of the last painting, and it was finished by Filippino Lippi.
These frescoes were studied by the greatest masters of the Renaissance Leonardo da Vinci, Michael Angelo, and Raphael.
Another almost obliterated fresco by Masaccio is in the cloisters of Santa Maria del Carmine.
Benozzo Gozzoli (14201498) was a pupil of Fra Angelico, whom he assisted in his work in the Cathedral at Orvieto, and whose style of painting he at first quite faithfully followed.
His early pictures show much of the tender grace and ideal beauty of Angelico. Later he was influenced by the works of Masaccio, and, turning wholly from the ideality of his former master, seems to have revelled in the study of nature and real life. His landscape backgrounds are filled with villas, trees, vines, fruit, and flowers, and are animated with herds of cattle, deer, hares, dogs, and birds.
He loved to tell stories by his pictures, and introduced many portraits, some of which are admirably treated ; in-deed, so close to nature is much of his painting of portrait heads, that by some writers he has been called the ” Florentine Holbein.”
His drawing is, however, sometimes very careless, and there is a striking inequality of merit in his works. Most important works :
Gozzoli’s first style of painting may be seen in figures of apostles and martyrs included in the Fra Angelico frescoes in the Cathedral at Orvieto.
A charming altar-piece in the National Gallery, London, reminds one of Angelico.
His later method of work is seen in frescoes in the chapel of the
Riccardi Palace (formerly the palace of the Medici), Florence. A very important series of frescoes is in the chapel of Sant’
Agostino, San Gemignano ; also in the monasteries of San
Francesco and San Fortunato, Montefalco.
Most important of all are his frescoes in the Campo Santo at Pisa. These (twenty-two in number) comprise a series of scenes from the Old Testament, beginning with Noah and ending with Joseph. The artist thronged these pictures with spirited figures, using for backgrounds landscapes and masses of architecture ; and, by the overflowing life of the scenes, he causes the beholder almost to forget the Bible incidents portrayed.
Fra Filippo Lippi (about 1406-r469), the monk to whose name so much of romance and scandal clings, was influenced by both Fra Angelico and Masaccio, and blended the ideal of the one with the real of the other. He is by no means so noted as Angelico or Masaccio. His works are easily recognizable.
Characteristics. His pictures are not marked by any especial devotional feeling, but are attractive on account of a certain stately composition, pleasing human faces, and a fine golden color.
The type of his heads is peculiar ; the faces are short and broad, with very wide jaws, and are marked by a grave but decidedly youthful expression. His Madonnas usually wear a peculiar, delicate, filmy headdress, which was an adornment of the Florentine ladies of his time.
His angels are lusty, merry-faced boys.
Most important works :
Frescoes representing scenes in Lives of St. Stephen and St. John the Baptist. Choir of Cathedral, Prato.
FRESCOES (much injured). Choir of Cathedral, Spoleto. Altar-pieces. Academy and Uffizi Gallery, Florence ; Louvre, Paris ; Berlin Museum ; National Gallery, London.
Sandro Botticelli (Alessandro Filipepi, 1447–1510), called Botticelli from the name of a goldsmith to whose service he was bound when a boy, was a pupil of Fra Filippo Lippi, and is one of the most important among the fifteenth-century painters.
Before him the old masters had drawn the inspiration for their works from the Bible ; the great mass of pictures had been painted in the service of the church. Botticelli’s nature was imaginative ; he delighted in myths, fables, and poetry, and freely introduced into his painting all kinds of fanciful creations.
Others were beginning to widen a little the field of art, but Botticelli was the first to step boldly forth and make his painting a means for the delight of the secular as well as the religious world. He was a leader in the great movement in the history of art in Florence that led to the protest made by Savonarola against the “corrupting influence,” as he called it, of profane pictures,” and became an ardent disciple of this great prophet. When Savonarola demanded that bonfires should be made of these “profane” works of art, Botticelli contributed many of his pictures to the burning pile.
Character of Painting. While Masaccio had taken a long step in advance of former artists by making man rather than events the chief centre of interest in his works, Botticelli pictured not merely man himself but also his very inner feelings. We see this particularly in his sad-faced Madonnas, whose expression seems born of a prophetic sorrow, which is sometimes further denoted by the introduction of the crown of thorns into the picture ; it is also seen in the eager, sympathetic countenances of those who surround her.
He created a type of face and figure that is most easily recognizable. His figures are unusually tall and graceful, often shown through almost transparent garments; the limbs are slender, the hands long and nervous. His faces are long and thin, with prominent, rounded chins and very full lips.
His style of painting shows early training in the gold-smith’s shop ; he loved to elaborate with gold-painted embroideries and jewelry, and even gilded the lights upon the heavy locks of hair.
His coloring is uneven, but often most agreeable ; his fanciful pictures are sometimes happily weird in color.
His representation of figures in motion is far beyond any-thing that preceded him and has never been excelled. Most important works :
Three large frescoes. ” History of Moses,” “Christ in the Wilderness,” and “Destruction of Korah” Sistine Chapel, Vatican, Rome.
” Allegory of Spring.” Academy, Florence.
Calumny” (painted after Lucian’s description of the picture by Apelles; see page 10), ” Birth of Venus,” ” Judith with Head of Holofernes,” ” Coronation of the Virgin,” “Adoration of the Magi.” Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
Pallas (or Minerva) leading captive, Savage Ignorance.” Pitti Palace. This picture was discovered in 1895 (see Frontispiece).
“Madonna, Child, and St. John,” ” The Magnificat.” Louvre, Paris.
“Venus,” ” Madonna.” Berlin Museum. Here also are Botticelli’s famous illustrations of Dante’s Divina Commedia. ” Madonnas,” ” Mars and Venus.” National Gallery, London.
Ghirlandajo (Domenico Bigordi, 1449-1494), whose artist-name means garland-maker, and signifies his father’s occupation, is an eminent painter; he, Botticelli, and Filippino Lippi form a remarkable trio whose influence hastened the coming of the High Renaissance.
Like Botticelli, Ghirlandajo learned the goldsmith’s trade which, at this period, was more closely allied to the fine arts than ever before or since.
He was much honored by his contemporaries, and his work was in great demand.
For three years he was the master of Michael Angelo. Characteristics. The composition of his frescoes is similar to that of Masaccio.
He represented few people taking active part in the principal scene, but grouped about them many others. These on-lookers, or bystanders, are often portraits of men and women who lived contemporary with the artist, so that we see represented in his pictures the life of Florence at its most brilliant time. So true is the portraiture that we feel certain that these stately gowned men and these dignified, fascinating women in their rich brocaded costumes, relieved against masses of Florentine architecture, have lived and acted. They make a deeper impression upon us than does the sacred scene which is the subject of the picture.
The portrait is a prominent characteristic of Ghirlandajo’s work.
His drawing is good, and treatment of drapery simple and free.
His color is generally very warm, and his easel pictures, particularly, are sometimes too brilliant in reds and yellows.
Most important works :
FRESCO. ” Calling of Peter and Andrew.” Sistine Chapel, Vatican, Rome.
Large series of frescoes representing scenes in Lives of the Virgin and St. John the Baptist. Santa Maria Novella, Florence. Series of frescoes representing scenes in Life of St. Francis of
Assisi. Sassetti Chapel, Santa Trinita, Florence.
Decorative frescoes. Palazzo Vecchio, Florence.
Fresco. ” Last Supper.” Ognissanti, Florence.
Madonna and Saints.” Academy, Florence.
Adoration of the Magi,” ” Madonna and Saints.” Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
Visitation.” Louvre, Paris.
Filippino Lippi (1457-1504), son of Fra Filippo Lippi and pupil of Botticelli, has the honor of having completed the series of frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel, Florence, begun by Masolino and carried on by Masaccio. He ranks with Botticelli and Ghirlandajo in importance.
Characteristics. His works are noted for high sentiment, grace, and beauty, rather than for strength of conception or rendering. He, however, easily assimilated the qualities of other artists ; therefore his work differs at various periods of his life. His early work in the Brancacci Chapel resembles Masaccio’s, while it is sometimes difficult to distinguish some of his later painting from that of Botticelli. He, however, lacks the nervous energy seen in much of Botticelli’s work.
His faces are particularly sweet and charming.
He delighted to embellish his figures, in easel pictures especially, with varied draperies, headdresses, etc.
The many accessories 1 of his pictures are painted with peculiar facility.
Most important works :
FRESCOES. ” Peter in Prison Visited by Paul,” ” Liberation of Peter by the Angel,” Martyrdom of Peter.”
” Resurrection of the Child by Peter ” (finished by Lippi). Brancacci Chapel, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence.
FRESCOES. Scenes in Lives of St. John and St. Philip. Chapel
of Filippo Strozzi, Santa Maria Novella, Florence. FRESCOES. Caraffa Chapel, Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome. ” Madonna Appearing to St. Bernard.” Badia, Florence.
” Madonna and Saints,” ” Adoration of the Magi.” Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
” Madonna with Saints Jerome and Dominick,” “Adoration of the Magi.” National Gallery, London.
Cosimo Roselli (1439-1507), pupil of Botticelli, painted frescoes composed after the manner of Masaccio.
His works are inferior to those of Masaccio and Lippi, yet there are many strong heads in them.
His figures are pleasing and the costumes are treated with considerable skill.
He used much gold. Most important works :
FRESCOES. ” Passage of Red Sea,” “Moses Giving Tables of Law,” ” Last Supper,” “Sermon on the Mount.” Sistine Chapel, Vatican, Rome.
FRESCO. ” Removal of Sacramental Cup.” Sant’ Ambrogio, Florence.
” Coronation of the Virgin.” Santa Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi, Florence.
Piero di Cosimo (1462-1521), pupil of Cosimo Roselli, after whom he was named, discarded fresco painting for tempera, and almost set aside religious subjects for mythological, so much fonder was he of the latter.
He was a painter of great originality, was the first real landscapist among the Florentines, and placed some of his mythical scenes in the midst of truly delightful landscapes. He painted the background in Cosimo Roselli’s fresco, ” Sermon on the Mount,” in the Sistine Chapel, Rome.
He was also a portrait painter of considerable note.
Representative works :
” Marriage of St. Catherine.” Foundling Hospital, Florence. “Virgin with Saints,” also three mythological pictures of the ” History of Perseus.” Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
” Death of Procris.” National Gallery, London.
” Venus, Cupid, and Mars.” Berlin Museum.
The Pollajuoli Brothers, Antonio and Pietro (14291498) (14431498 ?), carried on several arts, being goldsmiths and sculptors as well as painters. Their pictures are filled with costly jewelled ornaments and embossed articles of various kinds, and their figures are exceedingly sculpturesque.
Vasari reports the brothers to have been the first artists who practised dissection in the study of anatomy. They were also the first Florentine artists who practised oil painting. Antonio is the more noted painter, still it is often difficult to distinguish the work of one brother from that of the other.
Representative works :
Pictures. Uffizi and Pitti Galleries, and Academy, Florence. ” Annunciation.” Berlin Museum.
” Martyrdom of St. Sebastian. National Gallery, London. This has been called the first oil painting executed in Italy. Although it is not tempera, yet it is not oil painting as practised by the Van Eycks, nor by Leonardo da Vinci, who painted soon afterward.
Luca Signorelli (1441-1523), though born in Cortona, within the precincts of Umbria, was educated in the Florentine School, to which his works belong.
He was unequal ; his paintings, especially in fresco, are fine, and worthy of study, while most of his easel pictures are decidedly inferior.
He loved best to paint the naked, human figure strong, muscular, and violent in action, and his work of this kind, full of bold foreshortenings, won the highest admiration of his great successor, Michael Angelo, and greatly influenced him in his work in the Sistine Chapel of the Vatican. Indeed, Signorelli’s contribution to the world of art is the human figure, used as a means of decoration. For the face he did not care, nor for color, nor for accessories, therefore we find little in his work that can be called beautiful or charming.
Most important works :
Frescoes in chapel of St. Brizio. Cathedral, Orvieto. These complete the series begun by Fra Angelico. The chief of them are “Preaching of Antichrist,” ” Resurrection of the Dead,” “Hell,” and ” Paradise.” It is very interesting here to note the difference between the works of these two artists. On the ceiling are the quiet, purely devout figures of Angelico, drawn and painted with all his accustomed delicacy of finish, while spread over the walls below are the passionate, vehement figures, boldly drawn and broadly painted by Signorelli. In no other place can be seen a like contrast of conception and execution.
FRESCOES. Convent of Mont’ Oliveto, near Sienna, and in Palazzo Petrucci, Sienna.
FRESCO. ” History of Moses.” Sistine Chapel, Vatican, Rome. Altar-pieces by Signorelli are in churches in Cortona, Arezzo, and Perugia.
Easel pictures. Uffizi and Pitti Galleries, Florence ; Berlin Museum ; Louvre, Paris ; National Gallery, London.
Andrea Verrocchio (14351488) was, according to Vasari, “a goldsmith, a master in perspective, a sculptor, a carver in wood, a painter, and a musician.” Science seems to have been more of a passion with him than art ; he was a better sculptor than painter, yet critics of to-day yield him a higher place as painter than has been given him hitherto. He was the teacher of Leonardo da Vinci, and his influence is seen in that great painter’s peculiar landscape backgrounds, the twilight effect of light, and the individual type of face which has become so inseparably connected with his work and that of his school.
This type is seen in the face of Verrocchio’s bronze ” David ” now in the Bargello, Florence, and Vasari tells of some drawings by him in his own possession which exhibited the same individual forms and expression.
Some eminent critics have advanced the opinion that there was a mutual influence exerted by Verrocchio and Leonardo, and that the master’s work was much modified by the spirit and genius of his gifted pupil.
Only one existing picture, and this a much injured one, is surely Verrocchio’s “The Baptism of our Saviour,” now in the Academy, Florence, the angel nearest the foreground of which is said to have been painted by Leonardo. Tradition says that when Verrocchio saw this figure, so superior to his own, he renounced painting and gave himself up to sculpture.
The character of background and the twilight effect of this picture are forerunners of much that charms us in Leonardo’s “Mona ‘Lisa.”
Lorenzo di Credi (1459-1537), pupil of Verrocchio, is decidedly inferior to Leonardo, yet there are such points of similarity that critics have sometimes found it difficult to distinguish with absolute certainty between the early works of the two. Their later work differs widely.
Characteristics. Subjects religious and limited to Holy Families, Annunciations, etc.
These are usually placed in landscapes with architectural backgrounds.
The type of his Madonnas is gentle and graceful, with faces shaped like those of Leonardo, but the expression is rather insipid. His attitudes are often affected.
His children are apt to be fat and clumsy.
Representative works :
Madonna and Child with St. John.” Borghese Gallery, Rome. ” Nativity.” Academy, Florence.
Annunciation,” ” Holy Family.” Uffizi Gallery, Florence. Virgin Adoring Child.” Old Pinacothek, Munich.
“Virgin and Child with Saints.” Louvre, Paris.
” Madonna and Child,” ” Virgin Adoring Child.” National Gallery, London.