Painter/Artist: Paolo Uccello

Florentine School. Paolo di Dono, called Uccello from his fondness for birds. An enthusiastic student of perspective.


THE ROUT AT SAN ROMANO Till lately called ” The Battle of St. Egidio.” Two other pictures of the same dimensions and dealing with other incidents in the same battle are in Paris (Louvre, 1273) and Florence (Uffizi, 52), and were painted about the year 1456 for the decoration of the new palace of Cosimo de’ Medici at Florence. They originally formed a single composition, though not a continuous picture, being divided from one another by pilasters. The painting, now in the National Gallery, formed the left-hand compartment of this triple piece; it represents Niccolo Maurucci da Tolentino, the leader of the Florentine forces, directing the attack against the Sienese at San Romano in 1432. He is represented on horseback fully armed, except for his helmet, with the baton of command in his right hand. He wears on his head a rich cappuccio or head-dress of gold and purple damask, while his basinet, covered with purple velvet, is carried by his helmetbearer,who rides byhis side-an obvious device of the painter to obtain an occasion for a portrait. Above the figure of Tolentino waves his standard powdered with his impresa, the ” Groppo di Solomone,” a knot of curious and intricate form.

“The battle-piece in the Uffizi formed the second or central picture of the composition; it does not contain any portrait, but represents the encounter between the forces of the Florentines and the Sienese at the moment when the Sienese turn in retreat. In the middle distance some of their bowmen are seen attempting to cover their retreat as they ride over the hill against a body of Florentine soldiers, who approach from the other side of the hill. The foreground–as in the first picture-is strewn with the bodies of knights and horses and splintered fragments of lances. This panel is signed: ‘ Pavli Ucieli opus ‘ on a scroll on a shield lying in the left-hand corner.

“The third or right-hand panel, now at the Louvre, represents Michelotto da Cottignola leading on his squadron to attack the Sienese in the rear. His men have not yet begun the attack, and neither broken arms nor shields strew the foreground as in the other pictures. Michelotto, like Tolentino, wears a huge cappuccio of damask.” (From an article by H. P. Horne in the Monthly Review.)

Purchased from the Lombardi-Baldi Collection in Florence in 1857.


A MIDNIGHT HUNT From either side of the foreground a numerous company of horsemen and footmen with long staves accompanied by greyhounds are driving deer in the centre into the depth of a forest of oak trees. The edge of the waning moon is indicated in a small patch of dark sky above the trees in the centre, and the light comes from behind us on the left, presumably torchlight.