Study Of Art – The Technicians

Andrea del Castagno. 1390—1457.

Paolo Uccello (Doni). 1397?—1475.

Francesco Pesellino. 1422—1457.

Antonio del Pollajuolo. 1429?—1498.

Piero del Pollajuolo. 1443-1496.

Andrea del Verocchio. 1435—1488.

Andrea del Castagno was of peasant birth and very poor. He shows a rude strength in the figures of unbeautiful but vigorous reality in his Crucifixion and the Last Supper in the convent of S. Apollonia, now a museum of his work. He was nicknamed Impiccati, Andrea of the Gallows, because of the effigies of the Albizzi and Peruzzi rebels which he painted on the outer wall of the Bargello in 1435 at the order of the Signory. He decorated a hall in the Villa Pandolfini at Legnaia, and in 1455 painted in the Duomo the equestrian figure of Niccolo da Tolentino.

Paolo di Doni was apprenticed as a boy of ten to Ghiberti. He is best known for his unremitting study of the laws of perspective, exclaiming when urged to rest, ” Oh, what a delightful thing is this perspective.” His early battle pieces, painted for the Medici and Bartolini palaces, show his endeavors and explain the warning of his friend Donatello, ” Paolo, in your passion for perspective you are forgetting the substance for the shadow.” His studies, however, justified themselves in the work of others, if not in his own. His equestrian portrait of Sir John Hawkwood (1435) is still to be seen in the cathedral. In the cloister of S. Maria Novella he painted (1446—1448) in tones of green the Deluge and other scenes in which his interest in linear perspective, study of the nude, and fondness for animals and birds (whence his name Uccello, bird) are all set forth.

Francesco Pesellino was a pupil of Filippo Lippi, employed by him and Fra Angelico to paint their predellas. Much of his work consists of such little scenes, including the story of Griselda on a cassone or wedding chest, now in Bergamo. His most important altarpiece is the Trinity.

The Pollajuoli brothers, Antonio and Piero, were trained in the shop of their father, a goldsmith, and Antonio became the best metal worker in Florence. Piero studied painting with Andrea del Castagno. They were the first Italian artists to practice dissection, and among the first to use oil instead of tempera in their paintings, though not the same medium as that used by the Van Eycks. A St. Sebastian now in London is an example of these innovations. A St. Christopher by Piero is now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York. Much of their work was unbeautiful, but their studies and experiments made possible the art of later and more talented men.

Andrea del Verocchio, born in Florence, was also goldsmith, sculptor, and painter. He was the great teacher of his time. Leonardo and Lorenzo di Credi were his most intimate pupils, and Perugino spent some time in his studio. The Baptism of Christ is the only painting undoubtedly his. Many sculptures in bronze by him are of great excellence. (See Chapter V, p. 197.) He died in Venice in 1488, just before the completion of his great equestrian statue of Colleoni.


No. 136. Farinata degli Uberti. Convent S. Apollonia, Florence.

Fresco transferred to canvas, figure over life size. One of the series of nine distinguished men and women, painted by Andrea del Castagno in the hall of the Villa Pandolfini, decorated in the Renaissance manner with classical festoons and pilasters.

Farinata degli Uberti, a Ghibelline leader of the thirteenth century, was exiled from Florence, his palace razed to the ground, and building on its site forbidden. At the battle of Monte Aperto he was the victorious leader against the Guelfs. To the proposal to destroy Florence he alone stood opposed, and by his patriotism saved the city that had exiled him. (Dante, Inferno, Canto X.).

Notice the artist’s interest in metal working, his archaeological interest in the costume of two centuries earlier. The figure is so painted as to stand from the wall in full relief. What of character study is there in face and pose? Compare with the paintings being done by Fra Angelico at this time in San Marco, for technical skill, for decorative value. Which way lies progress?

No. 137. Battle of Sant’ Egidio.

National Gallery, London.

Tempera on wood, 6 by 10 feet, restored by Bugiardini in the sixteenth century.

One of a series of four battle pieces painted by Uccello for the Bartolini family. Two others are in the Uffizi and the Louvre. It represents a battle fought in 1416 by Carlo Malatesta of Rimini, who appears on the white horse in the center.

Study the arrangement of the picture, the background, the rows of lances. Cf. 14, the Battle of Issus. Notice the figures and weapons on the ground, introducing linear perspective, the motion of the galloping horses, the interest in costume. What is wrong with this picture? Consider it as tapestry.

No. 138. Portraits of Giotto and Uccello.

Louvre, Paris.

Uccello painted on a long panel five distinguished artists, Giotto as one who had given light and new life to painting, Brunellesco for architecture, Donatello for sculpture, Manetti for mathematics, and himself for perspective and animals.

Contrast his study of a man whom he had never seen with his own face. Which is the more interesting? Study Uccello’s interpretation of the two.

No. 165. Miracle of St. Anthony.

Academy, Florence.

Tempera on wood, about ten inches high. One of three predella panels painted by Pesellino for an altar-piece by Filippo Lippi. St. Anthony from the pulpit directs the search for the heart of the dead usurer, which is found in another room in a chest of silver. Painted with miniature-like finish.

Study costumes, attitudes, arrangement of figures, the perspective of door and desk. Compare with work of Filippo Lippi and Fra Angelico.

No. 166. The Trinity.

National Gallery, London.

Tempera on wood, figures nearly life size. Ordered for S. Trinità shortly before the death of Pesellino and probably finished by his assistant Piero di Lorenzo.

This manner of representing the Trinity is found in German art. Cf. D 363, 403. Compare Italian examples of the theme. Study the faces, the modeling of the form, the subordination of the landscape. Compare with other work of the period (1452-1457).

No. 187. Hercules overcoming the Hydra.

Uffizi, Florence.

Eight inches high. Another small panel, Hercules and Antus, by Antonio is also in the Uffizi.

Recall the story of the Hydra, the classical representations of Hercules. Study the body, its modeling, the tenseness of the muscles, the sense of vigorous movement soon to take place. Notice the decorative quality in this little panel, the repetition of the curve in the heads and tail of the monster, in the lion skin worn by Hercules, in the windings of the river through the landscape. What evidences of training in metal working? Might this be cast in bronze? In a bas-relief or in the round? Might it be made a large picture?

No. 188. Portrait of Galeazzo Maria Sforza. Uffizi, Florence.

A much restored painting by Piero, life size. The subject was the son and successor of the famous general Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, reigning 1466-1476. (Symonds, Age of the Despots, 163-167.) Painted in 1471, during the visit paid to Lorenzo de’ Medici.

No. 190. Portrait of a Gentleman.

Uffizi, Florence.

Attributed by some critics to Antonio, but now generally considered the work of Piero.

Compare the two as to technical skill, minuteness of finish, attention to details of dress, portrayal of character, pictorial effect.

No. 189. Prudence.

Uffizi, Florence.

One of a series of seven panels, with life size figures of the Virtues, painted for the Mercatanzia or Chamber of Commerce by the Pollajuoli brothers and Botticelli.

Study the balance of the picture, the foreshortening,the proportions of the figure, the draperies. Notice the symbolism of the serpent and the mirror; the use of the latter for the study of reflections. Consider the relation of character study and symbolism in presenting such an abstract theme.

No. 191. Baptism of Christ.

No. 192. Angels.

Academy, Florence.

Painted partly in tempera, partly in oil. The only unquestioned painting by Verocchio. Figures four feet in height.

Ordered by the Vallombrosan monks at S. Salvi. Vasari says that one of the angels was painted by Leonardo da Vinci, then a pupil of Verocchio’s studio. Modern investigation shows that both angels and the Christ figure are painted in oil, the medium used by Leonardo. The influence of pupil upon master is suggested by M. Muntz. This picture should be studied in connection with Verocchio’s sculpture, B 491-496, ch. V, pp. 196-199, and with Leonardo’s work, C 1-21, Handbook of Later Italian Art, pp. 13-30.

Compare with Giotto’s Baptism, 62, point by point. Study the composition of this picture, the landscape, the modeling of the figures, the draperies. What reminders of Verocchio’s interest as a bronze worker are there? Study the faces. Verocchio and Leonardo have a distinct facial type. Study to form an independent judgment on the work to be attributed to Leonardo, comparing the angels with each other and with the standing figures; the Christ and John with each other.