Part 2 out of 2
were drawn from living models; the S. Catherine on the right is very
The Belle Arti also possesses a _Deposition from the Cross_, which
Fra Bartolommeo had sketched out and left uncoloured at Pian di
Mugnone. In 1519 Fra Paolo finished it, and it presents the usual
disparity between the composition and colouring, the former being good,
the latter weak and crude. His best known works are a Nativity in the
Palazzo Borghese, a _Madonna and Child with S. John Baptist_ in
the Sciarra Colonna, also in Rome; a _Madonna and Child with S.
John_ in the Corsini Gallery, Florence, and another of the same
subject in the Antinori Palace. He painted also at San Gimignano, Pian
di Mugnone, and Pistoja, and died of sunstroke in 1547.
He had as a follower a Suor Plautilla Nelli, born 1523, daughter of a
noble Florentine, Piero di Luca Nelli. She took the vows at the age of
fourteen, in the convent of S. Caterina di Siena, in Via Larga (now
Cavour), Florence. Her sister, Suor Petronilla, in the same convent,
was a writer, and her life of Savonarola is still extant. Suor
Plautilla taught herself to paint. Legend says, that in order to study
the nude for a Christ, she drew from the corpse of a nun--which might
account for the weak stiffness of her design. Fra Paolo, though there
is no record of his having taught her, left her as a legacy the designs
and cartoons of Fra Bartolommeo, one of which, the _Pieta_, she
has evidently made use of in the painting in the Belle Arti. The
grouping is that of the _Pieta_ of Fra Bartolommeo, now in the
Pitti, of which she must have had the original sketch, for she has put
in the two saints in the background, which have been painted out in
that of the Frate, but we will give her the entire credit of the
colouring, which is extremely crude; the contrasting blues and yellows
are in inharmonious tones, the shading harsh, and the whole picture
wanting in chiaroscuro. The Corsini Gallery, Florence, has a _Virgin
and Child_ by her.
The scholars of Mariotto Albertinelli were much more important in the
annals of art, the principal ones being Bugiardini, Francia Bigio,
Visino, and Innocenza d' Imola.
Giuliano Bugiardini should be called the assistant rather than the
scholar of Albertinelli, being older than his master. He was born in
1471 in a suburb outside the Via Faenza, Florence, and was placed in
the shop of Domenico Ghirlandajo, where his acquaintance with
Michelangelo--begun in the Medici Gardens--ripened into intimacy, and
he was employed by him in the Sistine Chapel. Giuliano had that happily
constructed mind which, with an ineffable content in its own works,
will pass through life perfectly happy in the feeling that in reaching
mediocrity it has achieved success. Not only wanting talent to produce
better works, he lacked also the faculty of perceiving where his own
were faulty, and having a great aptitude for copying the works of
others, he felt himself as great as the original artists. Michelangelo
was always amused with his naive self-conceit, and kept up a friendship
with him for many years. He even went so far as to sit to Bugiardini
for his likeness, at the request of Ottaviano de' Medici. Giuliano,
having painted and talked nonsense for two hours, at last exclaimed, to
his sitter's great relief, "Now, Michelangelo, come and look at
yourself; I have caught your very expression." But what was
Michelangelo's horror to see himself depicted with eyes which were
neither straight nor a pair! The worthy artist looked from his work to
the original, and declared he could see no difference between them, on
which Michelangelo, shrugging his shoulders, said, "It must be a defect
of nature," and bade his friend go on with it. This charming portrait
was presented to Ottaviano de' Medici, with that of _Pope Clement
VII._, copied from Sebastian del Piombo, and is now in the Louvre.
Bugiardini's works always take the style of other masters. There is a
_Madonna_ in the Uffizi, and one in the Leipsic Museum, both in
Leonardo's style, with his defects exaggerated. The former is a sickly
woman in a sentimental attitude, the child rather heavy, the colouring
is bright and well fused; he has evidently adopted the method which he
had seen Albertinelli use in his studio.
During a stay in Bologna he painted a _Madonna and Saints_ as an
altar-piece for the church of S. Francesco, besides a _Marriage of S.
Catherine_, now in the Bologna Pinacoteca. The composition of this
is not without merit; the child Jesus seated on his mother's knees,
gives the ring to S. Catherine, little S. John stands at the Virgin's
feet, S. Anthony on her left. The colouring is less pleasing, the flesh
tints too red and raw.
A round picture in the Zambeccari Gallery, Bologna, shows him in
Michelangelo's style. The Virgin is reading on a wooded bank, but looks
up to see the infant Christ greet the approaching S. John Baptist; this
is carefully, if rather hardly, painted. The lights in the Saviour's
hair have been touched in with gold. The time of his stay in Bologna is
uncertain, but in 1525 he was in Florence, and drawing designs for the
Ringhiera with Andrea del Sarto. There is a document in the archives,
proving that on October 5th, 1526 Bugiardini was paid twenty florins in
gold for his share of the work. He obtained some rank as a portrait
painter, in spite of his failure in that of Michelangelo; and had
commissions from many of the celebrities of Florence. It was in
original composition that his powers failed him. Messer Palla Rucellai
ordered a picture from him of the _Martyrdom of S. Catherine_,
which he began with the intention of making it a very fine work indeed.
He spent several years in representing the wheels, the lightnings and
fires in a sufficiently terrible aspect, but had to beg Michelangelo's
assistance in drawing the men who were to be killed by those heavenly
flames; his design was to have a row of soldiers in the foreground, all
knocked down in different attitudes. His friend took up the charcoal
and sketched in a splendid group of agonised nude figures; but these
were beyond his power to shade and colour, and Tribolo made him a set
of models in clay, in the attitudes given by Michelangelo, and from
these he finished the work; but the great master's hand was never
apparent in it. Bugiardini died at the age of seventy-five.
Of Francesco Bigi, commonly called Francia Bigio or Franciabigio, so
much is said in the following life of Andrea del Sarto, that a slight
sketch will suffice here. He was the son of Cristofano, and was born in
1482. His early studies were made in the Brancacci Chapel, and the
Papal Hall--where he drew from the cartoons in 1505-6, and the studio
of Mariotto Albertinelli, from which he passed to his partnership with
Andrea del Sarto in 1509. Thus it is that his first style was marked by
the influence of Mariotto and Fra Bartolommeo, while in his later works
he approximated more to Andrea del Sarto.
Two of his early paintings were placed in the church of S. Piero
Maggiore, one a _Virgin and Child_ of great beauty. The infant
clasps its arms round its mother's neck--a charming attitude--which
suggests a playful effort to hide from the young S. John, who is
running towards him, by nestling closer to the dearer resting place.
The picture is now in the Uffizi and has been long known as
_Raphael's Madonna del Pozzo_. [Footnote: Crowe and Cavalcaselle,
_History of Painting_, vol. iii. chap. xv. p. 501.] No greater
testimony to Francia Bigio's excellence can be given than the frequency
of his works being mistaken for those of Raphael, but the influence of
his contemporaries was always strong upon him. The _Annunciation_,
painted for the same church, is also described by Vasari as a carefully
designed work, though somewhat feeble in manner. The angel is lightly
poised in air, the Virgin kneeling before a foreshortened building. The
picture was lost sight of in the demolition of the church, but Crowe
and Cavalcaselle [Footnote: Crowe and Cavalcaselle, _History of
Painting_, Vol. iii. p. 500.] believe they have discovered it in a
picture at Turin, the authorship of which is avowedly doubtful. They
mention, however, a celestial group of the Eternal Father in a cherub-
peopled cloud, sending his blessing in the form of a dove, with a ray
of glory. Surely if this be the one described by Vasari [Footnote:
Vasari, vol. iii. p. 336] so minutely, he would not have omitted a part
of the subject so important to the picture.
In 1509 we may presumably date the partnership with Andrea del Sarto,
that being about the time when they began to work together in the
Scalzo. Francia Bigio painted some frescoes in the church of S. Giobbe,
behind the Servite Monastery. A _Visitation_ was in a tabernacle
at the corner of the church, and subjects from Job's life on a pilaster
within it: these have long ago disappeared. The altar-piece of the
_Madonna and Job_, which he painted in oil for the same church,
has been more fortunate, as it still exists in the Tuscan School in the
Uffizi. Though much injured, it shows his earlier style. The _Calumny
of Apelles_ in the same gallery is a curious picture. It is hard and
dull in colouring, the prevailing tone being a heavy drab; there are
several nude figures, of doubtful forms as to beauty of drawing, the
flesh is painted in a smooth glazed style, without relief or
Francia Bigio shines more in fresco than in oil; his hardness is less
apparent, and he gains in freedom and brilliance of colouring in the
more congenial medium. The finest of his frescoes is, unfortunately,
spoiled by his own hand, and remains as a memorial of his genius and
hasty temper. I allude to the _Sposalizio_ (A.D. 1513) in the
courtyard of the Servite church, where Andrea did his series of
frescoes from the life of Filippo Benizzi. The composition is grand and
carefully thought out, the colouring bright and pleasing; perhaps in
emulating Andrea's luxurious style of drapery he has gone a little too
far, and crowded the folds. The bridegroom is a noble figure, and shows
in his face his gladness in the blossoming rod. A man in the foreground
breaks a stick across his knees. The commentators of Vasari have taken
this to emblematize the Roman Catholic legend of the Virgin having
given rods to each of her suitors, and chosen him whose rod blossomed.
Graceful women surround the Virgin, but there is perhaps a too marked
sentimentality about these which suggests a striving after Raphael's
style. There is, however, a great touch of nature in a mother with a
naughty child, who sits crying on the ground, much to the mother's
distress. Francia Bigio commenced this in Andrea's absence in France,
which so excited his former comrade's emulation that he did his
_Visitation_ in great haste, to get it uncovered as soon as
Francia Bigio's. In fact, Andrea's works were ready by the date of the
annual festa of the Servites, and the monks, being anxious to uncover
all the new frescoes for that day, took upon them to remove the
mattings from that of Francia Bigio as well, without his permission,
for he wished to give a few more finishing touches. So angry was he, on
arriving in the cloister, to see a crowd of people admiring his work in
what he felt to be an imperfect condition, that in an excess of rage he
mounted on the scaffolding which still remained, and, seizing a hammer,
beat the head of the Madonna to pieces, and ruined the nude figure
breaking the rod. The monks hastened to the scene in an uproar of
remonstrance, the frantic artist's destructive hand was stayed by the
bystanders, but so deep was his displeasure that he refused to restore
the picture, and no other hand having touched it, the fresco remains to
this day a fine work mutilated. It shows him artistically in his very
best, and morally, at his worst, phase. In 1518, while Andrea was in
France, the monks of the Scalzo employed Francia Bigio to fill two
compartments in their pretty little cloister, where Andrea had
commenced his _Life of S. John Baptist_. These are spoken of more
at length in the life of that master, who on his return took the work
again in his own hands. In 1521 Bigio competed with Andrea and
Pontormo, in the Medici Villa at Poggio a Cajano; Andrea's _Casar
receiving Tribute_ occupies one wall of the hall, and Francia
Bigio's _Triumph of Cicero_ another. The subjects were selected by
the historian, Messer Paolo Giovio, Bishop of Nocera; it only remained
for the artists to make the most of the chosen themes. Francia Bigio
filled his background with a careful architectural perspective, and a
crowd of muscular Romans are grouped before it. This also was left
unfinished at the Pope's death, and Allori completed it in 1582.
Francia Bigio, however, did many of the gilded decorations of the hall.
In the Dresden Gallery is a work, Scenes from the Life of David, signed
A. S., MDXXIII., and his monogram, a painting very much in the style of
Andrea del Sarto's _Life of Joseph_. Reumont [Footnote: Life of
Andrea del Sarto, p. 138 et seq.] claims it as the joint work of Andrea
and Francia Bigio, founding his opinion on the letters A. S. before the
date; but the letters mean only _Anno salutis_, and are used in
very many of Francia Bigio's signed paintings. He had the commission
from Gio Maria Benintendi in 1523. It is one of those curious pictures
which have many scenes in one--a style which militates greatly against
artistic unity. On the right is David's palace, on the left Uriah's;
David is at his door watching Bathsheba and her maidens bathing. In the
centre is the siege of Rabbah; another well-draped group represents
David receiving Uriah's homage. In the foreground David gives wine to
Uriah at a banquet. There is careful painting and ingenious
composition, but a less finished manner of colouring than in Andrea's
Joseph, which was painted about the same time for Pier Borgherini.
Like Ridolfo Ghirlandajo, Francia Bigio fell off in his later style,
partly because his ambition failed him, and also because he began to
look on art as a means of livelihood--a motive which is certain death
to high art.
He was especially celebrated as a portrait painter, several of his
works having been attributed to Raphael. Among these are one at the
Louvre and one at the Pitti Palace, both portraits of a youth in tunic
and black cap, with long hair flowing over his shoulders; one in the
National Gallery, formerly in Mr. Fuller Maitland's collection; the
portrait of a jeweller, dated A. S., MDXVI. in Lord Yarborough's
gallery; that in the Berlin Museum, of a man sitting at a desk, dated
1522; and the likeness of Pier Francesco de Medici at Windsor--all of
which bear Francia Bigio's monogram, often with the letters A. S.
(_Anno salutis_) before the date. He died on January 14th, 1525.
RIDOLFO (DI DOMENICO) BIGORDI, called GHIRLANDAJO, &c., was born on the
4th of January, 1483. Although not strictly a scholar, he is one of Fra
Bartolommeo's principal followers. When quite a child he lost his
father, the famous Domenico, who died of fever, on January 11th, 1494;
his mother and uncle Benedetto only lived a few years after; and
Ridolfo, with his three sisters and two brothers, was left to the
guardianship of his uncle Davide.
Ridolfo was the only one who chose the family profession, and he became
the fourth painter of the name of Ghirlandajo.
Davide was not a perfect artist, although a good mosaicist, as his
works in the cathedrals of Orvieto, Siena, and Florence show, but he
was for many years Ridolfo's only instructor. As the boy grew up
Ridolfo frequented those public schools of art before spoken of, the
Brancacci Chapel, and the study of the cartoons in the Papal Hall. Here
he secured the friendship not only of Granacci and Pier di Cosimo, but
of Raphael himself, with whom he visited Fra Bartolommeo in his
Raphael permitted Ridolfo to assist him in a Madonna for Siena, and
tried to persuade him to accompany him to Rome; but Ridolfo, like a
true Florentine, declined to go "beyond sight of the Duomo."
His first great picture was done in 1504 for the church of San Gallo.
The subject was _Christ Searing His Cross_. His uncle Benedetto
had laboured on a similar picture, now in the Louvre, but Ridolfo's is
a great improvement on this; the composition is well balanced, full of
force and animation, the weeping figures of the Maries and the
solicitude of S. Veronica are very lifelike, although he has not
entirely abolished his uncle's coarseness in the scowling, low-typed
men. The Christ and the Virgin are, on the contrary, so refined as to
induce the supposition that this force of contrast was intentional; the
landscape is rather hard and crude in tone, the flesh tints smooth, and
the handling similar to that of Credi.
The original is now in Palazzo Antinori, Florence, but a replica, in
which he was assisted by Michele, his favourite pupil and adopted son,
is in Santo Spirito.
Vasari speaks of a _Nativity_, painted for the Cistercian monks of
Cestello; a beautiful composition, in which the Madonna adores the holy
child, S. Joseph standing near her; S. Francis and S. Jerome kneel in
adoration; the landscape was sketched from the hills near "La Vernia,"
where S. Francis received the stigmata.
Maselli says the picture was lost when the monastery changed hands, but
Messrs. Crowe and Cavalcaselle [Footnote: History of fainting, vol. in.
chap. xvi. pp. 523, 524.] believe they have found it in the Hermitage
at S. Petersburg, under Granacci's name. It is possible that the
favourite pupil of his father and Ridolfo's own friend may have
assisted him. The landscape is Raphaelesque, and might mark the time
when that master and Fra Bartolommeo influenced his style. His best
manner approached so nearly to that of the Frate, that had he continued
he would have very nearly rivalled his excellence.
His two masterpieces are now in the Uffizi; they were painted for the
Brotherhood of S. Zenobio, 1510, to stand one on each side of
Albertinelli's _Annunciation_. One is _S. Zenobio_ (the first
bishop and patron saint of Florence) _restoring a dead child to
life_; the other the _Funeral Procession of the Saint passing the
Baptistery_, where an elm tree, which had been withered, put forth
fresh leaves as the coffin of the bishop touched it. A marble column,
with a bronze tree in relief on it, stands on the spot as a memorial of
this miracle. In these two works Ridolfo Ghirlandajo proved the power
which was in him, but they are the culmination of his art; he never
surpassed, or indeed equalled them again. His richness of colouring and
deep relief equalled that of the Frate, the animation and expression
rivalled Andrea del Sarto. In the first picture, the eagerness of the
crowd, the intense feeling of the mother, in whom grief for the dead
child seems almost greater than the hope of his resuscitation, the
sturdy, solid character of the Florentines of the Republic, are all
given with a masterly hand, while a rich blending of colour fuses the
animated crowd in a harmonious unison. In the latter, grandeur and
dignity mark the group of ecclesiastics which surrounds the
archbishop's bier, the full solid falls of their drapery show that he
had well studied his father's works.
Ridolfo's brothers became monks, Don Bartolommeo lived in the
Camaldoline Monastery of the Angeli, which Ridolfo beautified with many
works. Paolo Uccelli had adorned the Loggia with frescoed stories from
the life of S. Benedict. Ridolfo added two to the series. In one the
Saint is at table with two angels, waiting for S. Romano to send his
bread from the grotto, but the devil has cut the cord and taken it.
Another is _S, Benedict investing a youth with the habit of the
order_. In the church of the same monastery he painted a beautiful
_Madonna and Child, with Angels_, above the holy water vase, and
_S. Romualdo with the Camaldolese Hermitage in his Hand_, in a
lunette in the cloister. All these were done as a brotherly gift, and
after they were finished, the abbot, Don Andrea Dossi, gave him a
commission to paint a _Last Supper_ in the refectory, which he
did, placing the portrait of the abbot in the corner.
Ridolfo, like his father, regarded art rather as a means of livelihood
than with any aesthetic feelings, and this is probably the reason of
his never attaining true excellence. His "bottega" was really a shop
where any one might order a work of art, or of artisanship, and he gave
as much attention to painting a banner for a procession as to composing
an altar-piece. He had a great many assistants, whom he called on for
help in various undertakings. They assisted him to prepare the Medici
Halls for the reception of Pope Leo X., and later for the marriages of
Giuliano and Lorenzo, not disdaining to paint scenes for the dramas
which were then given. He painted banners, and designed costumes for
the processions of the "potenze," a festive company, the origin of
which is uncertain, but dating certainly from the Middle Ages. Each
quarter of the city had an emperor, lords, and dignitaries, each of
whom carried his banner or emblazonment. Grand processions,
tournaments, and feasts were held once a year, on S. John's Day, by the
Having assisted at the triumphs and marriages of the Medici princes, he
also furnished the funeral pomp and magnificence on the deaths of the
brothers, that of Giuliano occurring in 1516, of Lorenzo 1519.
Lucratively it answered his purpose; the Medici gave him great honour;
he was well paid by them, and got the commission to decorate the Chapel
of the Palazzo Vecchio--a very good specimen of his fresco painting, in
which he never reached his father's excellence, although in oil he far
surpassed him. The chapel is small; the groined roof is covered with
emblematical designs on a blue ground, a Trinity in the midst with
angels bearing symbols of the passions around. The apostles and
evangelists surround this, and the principal wall has a larger fresco
of the _Annunciation_--a rather conventional rendering.
Commissions flowed in on him to such a degree, that although he had
fifteen children, he lived to amass money and lands, to see his
daughters well married, and his sons prosperous merchants trading to
distant lands. He died on the 6th of June, 1561, and lies with his
forefathers in the church of S. Maria Novella.
ANDREA DEL SARTO.
YOUTH AND EARLY WORKS.
Andrea Del Sarto is a curious instance of the vital power of art,
which, like a flower forcing its way to the light through walls or
rocks, will find expression in spite of obstacles.
Andrea the painter, "senza errori," was an artist in spite of lowering
home influences, of want of encouragement in his patrons--for his
greatest works only brought the smallest remuneration--and even in
spite of his own nature, which was material, wanting in high aims, and
deficient in ideality; yet his name lives for ever as a great master,
and his works rank close to those of the leaders of the Renaissance.
In looking at them one sighs even in the midst of admiration, thinking
that if the hand which produced them had been guided by a spark of
divine genius instead of the finest talent, what glorious works they
would have been! The truth is that Andrea's was a receptive, rather
than an original and productive mind. His art was more imitative than
spontaneous, and this forms perhaps the difference between talent and
genius. The art of his time sunk into his mind, and was reproduced. He
lived precisely at the time of the culmination of art, when all the
highest masters were bringing forth their grandest works; therefore he
could not do otherwise than to follow the best examples.
He gathered the experience of all--the force of Michelangelo, the
handling of Leonardo, the sentiment of Raphael, so blending them as to
form a style seemingly his own, and in execution following closely on
In Giotto's or Masaccio's case the master created the art; in Andrea's
it was the art of the age which made the artist.
The question of Andrea del Sarto's birth is a mooted one. Biadi dates
it 1478, but the register he quotes is both vague and doubtful. He also
tells a curious story of his Flemish origin. Signor Milanesi has
deduced, from the archives of Florence, an authentic pedigree from
which we learn that his remote ancestors were peasants, first at
Buiano, near Fiesole, and later at S. Ilario, near Montereggi. His
grandfather, Francesco, being a linen weaver, came to live nearer
Florence; his father, Agnolo, son of Francesco, followed the trade of a
tailor--hence Andrea's sobriquet, "del Sarto"--he took a house in Via
Gualfonda, in Florence, about 1487, with his wife Constanza, and here
Andrea was born, he being the eldest of a family of five--three girls
and two boys. From the tax papers of a few years later it is proved
that Andrea was born in 1487. His full name is Andrea d'Agnolo di
Francesco. It is by mistake that he has been called Vannucchi.
His parents were young, his father being only twenty-seven years of age
at Andrea's birth. They lived at that time in Val Fonda, where
Albertinelli had his shop, but in 1504 they removed to the popolo, or
parish, of S. Paolo. Boys were not allowed to be idle in those days,
but were apprenticed at an early age; thus Andrea, like most artists of
his time, was bound to a goldsmith. It would be interesting to
investigate the great influence of the guild of goldsmiths on the art
of the Renaissance. The reason why youths who showed a talent for
design were entered in that guild is easy to assign--it was one of the
"greater" guilds, that of the painters being a lesser one, and merged
in the "Arte degli Speziali." At seven years old he left the school
where he had learned to read and write, and entered his very youthful
apprenticeship; but he showed so much more aptitude for the designing
than for the executive part of his profession that _Giovanni
Barile_, who frequented the bottega, was induced to counsel his
being trained especially as a painter, offering himself as instructor.
If Andrea, a contadino by birth, an artisan by education, was not
originally of the most refined nature, his artistic training did not go
far towards refining him. Giovanni Barile was a coarse painter and a
rough man; he had, however, generosity enough to see that the boy was
worthy of better teaching, and got him entered in the bottega of Piero
di Cosimo, who had attained a good rank as a colourist, his
eccentricities possibly adding to his reputation.
Accordingly in 1498, Andrea being then eleven years of age, a life of
earnest study began. Piero di Cosimo, odd and misanthropic as he was,
had yet a true appreciation of talent, and showed an earnest interest
in his pupil, giving him--with plenty of queer treatment--a thorough
training. "He was not allowed to make a line which was not perfect"
[Footnote: Rosini, _Storia della Pittura_, chap. xvii. p. 40.]
while in Piero's school. But excellent as his art teaching may have
been, the boy's morale could not have been raised more here than under
the rough but good-natured Barile. We have seen Piero di Cosimo in his
youth, the serious, absent young man, who never joked with his juniors
in Cosimo Roselli's shop; we see him now, with his youthful oddities
hardened into eccentricities, and his reserve deepened to misanthropy.
No woman's hand softened and refined his house, no cleansing broom was
allowed within his door, and no gardener's hand cleared the weeds or
pruned the vines in his garden. He so believed in nature unassisted
that he took his meals without the intervention of a cook. When the
fire was lighted to boil his size or glue he would cook fifty or sixty
eggs and set them apart in a basket, to which he had recourse when the
pangs of hunger compelled him. All this was morally very bad for a boy
so young. And then woe betide the poor little fellow if he whistled,
sneezed, or made any other noise! his nervous master would be out of
temper for a day afterwards. On wet days Piero was merrier, for he
would watch the drops splashing into the pools, and laugh as if they
were fairies. Sometimes he would take Andrea for a walk, and all at
once stop and gaze at a heap of rubbish, or mark of damp on a lichened
wall, picturing all kinds of monsters and weird scenes in its
No doubt he was literally carrying out Leonardo da Vinci's advice,
headed, in his treatise, "A new Art of Invention." "Look at some old
wall covered with dirt, or the odd appearance of some old streaked
stones; you may discover several things like landscapes, battles,
clouds, humorous faces, &c., to furnish the mind with new designs."
[Footnote: Leonardo da Vinci, _Treatise on Painting_.] Cosimo's
mind being fantastic, the pictures he saw were incomparably grotesque.
He delighted in drawing sea monsters, dragons, wonderful adventures,
and heathen scenes; in fact the boy could have learned neither
Christian art nor manners from him. He learned how to use his brush,
however, and, leaving Piero to his minotaurs and dragons, went off at
every spare hour to study at more congenial shrines. He copied Masaccio
at the Brancacci Chapel, and drew so earnestly from the cartoons in the
Hall of the Pope that his achievements reached the ears of Piero
himself, who was not sorry that his pupil surpassed the rest, and gave
him more time for study away from the bottega. Rosini tells us that
"Fra Bartolommeo taught him the first steps." [Footnote: _Storia
della Pittura_, chap, xxvii. p. 2.] The influence of the Frate may
have reached him in two ways. It is not unlikely that Piero di Cosimo
kept up an interest in his old fellow-pupil; and then again, as Andrea
lived in Val Fonda, it is probable he often visited Albertinelli's
studio in that street, and the friendship with Francia Bigio began
before the cartoons of Michelangelo ripened there.
The evidence of style goes to show that the works of Albertinelli and
Fra Bartolommeo influenced him more than those of Piero. Yet though his
sphere was devotional, it was "impelled more by a material sense of
beauty than by the deep religious feeling which inspired the Frate."
As time went on the youth in strange old Piero's studio became more
famous than his master, and felt that he could do greater things away
from the stiff method which cramped him, and the whimsicalities which
annoyed him. His friend, Francia Bigio, Mariotto's pupil, having just
then lost his master, who was giving more attention to his father-in-
law's business of innkeeper than his own, was willing to enter into
partnership, and the two youths began life together in 1509 or 1510, in
a room near the Piazza del Grano, in the first house in Via del Moro,
which still remains in its old state.
The first bit of patronage recorded is the commission for the frescoes
in the Scalzo; that they had work before is proved by the words in the
contract of the Barefoot Friars, "dettero ad Andrea pittore
_celeberrimo_ il dipingere nel Chiosto." The "celebrated"
presupposes works already done.
The Scalzo was a name given to the "Compagnia dei Disciplinati di S.
Giovanni Battista," because they went barefoot when they carried the
cross in their processions. They lived in a convent in Via Larga (now
Cavour), opposite San Marco. A new cloister had been erected there--an
elegant little cortile, thirty-eight feet by thirty-two, adorned with
lovely Corinthian pillars--and the Brethren were anxious to fill the
lunettes of the arches with frescoes at the least possible expense,
wisely judging that a young artist on his way to fame would be the best
The frescoes, of which there would be twelve large, and four small ones
in the upright spaces by the doors, were to be done in "terretta," or
brown earth, and to be paid fifty-six lire (eight scudi) for the large,
and twenty-one lire (three scudi) each for the lesser frescoes. The
small ones were four figures of the Virtues, _Faith_, _Hope_,
_Justice_, and _Charity_. _Hope_ is exquisitely expressed, and
_Charity_ a charming group, the children most tenderly drawn. The
subjects, though not all finished till many years later, stand now in the
following order; the second row of figures, with the dates, show the
order in which they were painted:--
1. Gabriel appearing to Zacharias Andrea del Sarto 9 1523.
2. Visitation Andrea del Sarto 10 1523.
3. Birth of S. John Andrea del Sarto 4 1514.
4. Zacharias blessing John before going Francia Bigio.
to the desert
5. S. John meets the Virgin and Infant Francia Bigio.
6. Baptism of Christ Andrea del Sarto 1 1509.
7. Preaching of S. John Andrea del Sarto 2 1514.
8. Baptism of the Gentiles Andrea del Sarto 3 1514.
9. S. John bound in the presence of Herod Andrea del Sarto 5 1522.
10. Dance of Herodias Andrea del Sarto 6 1522.
11. Beheading of S. John Andrea del Sarto 7 1522.
12. Herodias receives the head of S. John Andrea del Sarto 8 1522.
Of these, No. 6 was the first executed, and it is probable that Francia
Bigio assisted him, for it has not the finished drawing nor careful
handling of any of Andrea's other frescoes. Possibly this is the cause
of the partners never working together afterwards, each taking his own
subjects and signing his own name. The composition, in the _Baptism
of Christ_, is not original, being very similar to that of
Verocchio's, especially in the two angels kneeling on the left bank;
the landscape and figures, however, are far in advance of that master.
It will be well to speak of the whole set of frescoes in this place,
for although they belong to different times and styles, they are a
complete work, and might be taken almost as an epitome of Andrea's
career; from the one above mentioned in which Piero de Cosimo's
influence is apparent, to the Nos. 7 and 8, which very nearly approach
Michelangelo's power and freedom.
In No. 1 the expression of muteness about the mouth of Zacharias, as he
stands by the altar, is wonderfully given; you feel sure he could not
speak if he would. The other figures are superfluous to the motive,
though adding grandeur to the work as a whole.
In composition Andrea differs widely from Fra Bartolommeo. The latter
delighted in building up a single form, every figure in the whole
picture adding its hue and weight to perfect this pyramid or circle.
Andrea spreads his figures more widely; he likes a double composition,
dividing his pictures into two separate groups, connected by one
central figure, or divided entirely. This is seen in Nos. 3, 10 and 12,
which are all double groupings, the last completely divided in the
centre by a table and an archway behind it. Nos. 7 and 9 are pyramidal
compositions. The _Preaching of S. John_ is one of the best works,
and shows his most forcible style. S. John on a rock stands like a
pillar in the centre, the hearers are dressed in the "lucco" (a
Florentine cloak of the 15th century), the grouping following the lines
of the landscape. At the back Jesus kneels on a rising ground. Vasari
says the figures are from Albrecht Durer, whose works had made a great
impression on the southern world of art; but it is more probable that
they only show his influence, for the dress and style are Florentine.
No. 8, the _Baptism of the Gentiles_, is another of his best
style, and is, in the drawing of the nude figures, almost
Michelangelesque in power. This is one of his favourite "echo"
subjects, a group in the background of _John answering the Pharisees
_forming an echo to the principal subject. The muscular life of the
spirited crowd of nude figures is beautifully contrasted by the
graceful draped forms in the background. One of the baptized is the
same child whom he had modelled in the _Madonna_ of S. Francisco.
Nos. 4 and 5 are by Francia Bigio, and were done during Andrea's
absence in France, showing that he had so far learned from his friend
as almost to rival him in power. The subjects, although not scriptural,
are conjecturally true.
In the _Zacharias blessing John before he goes to the Desert_, the
sitting figure of S. Elizabeth and the kneeling one of the child are
very lovely; the action of Zacharias is not so well defined, the great
force in the uplifted arm betokens anger more than blessing. The
grouping follows the lines of a flight of steps in the background, and
The same form of composition is apparent in the next group (No. 5),
only the lines form an angle receding from the one just mentioned. The
Virgin is charmingly posed and draped, the children less pleasing.
This elegant little cloister is a true shrine of art, although the
frescoes are all in monochrome. So much were they admired at the time,
that an order was issued prohibiting artists to copy them without the
permission of Duke Cosimo. Cardinal Carlo de' Medici had them covered
with curtains, [Footnote: Richa, _Delle Chiese_] but, in spite of
care, they are very much injured, the under parts almost lost. The
precaution of covering the cloister with a glass roof has only been
taken in modern times, and too late.
Andrea's next patrons were the Eremite monks of S. Agostino, at San
Gallo, who ordered of him two pictures for their church. In 1511 he
painted _Christ appearing to Mary Magdalen_, and an _Annunciation_ in
1512. The former is said to have had much softness and delicacy, the
latter is to be seen in the Hall of Mars at the Pitti, and is a very
pleasing picture. The Virgin kneels at her prayer desk, S. Joseph behind
her--a rather unusual rendering of the subject--her attitude is graceful
and decorous, the angel calm and gentle, floats in mid air, two other
angels stand on the left. The colouring is varied in the extreme, and the
lights well defined.
These two pictures, and the _Disputa_, painted later, were removed
to the church of S. Jacopo tra Fossi, when the convent was demolished
in 1529. They were still there in 1677, when Bocchi wrote his _Bellezze
di Firenze_, but the _Christ appearing to Mary Magdalen_ is said to be
now in the church of the Covoni in the Casentino.
THE SERVITE CLOISTER.
The next great works were the frescoes in the Court of S. Annunziata,
if indeed they were not carried on simultaneously with those in the
Scalzo. This famous series of Andrea's works was obtained by cunning,
and painted in emulation. While the two partners, who had differed from
the beginning, and had since become rivals, were engaged in the Scalzo,
a certain astute Fra Mariano, the keeper of the wax candle stores at
the Servite Convent--to which the church of the S. Annunziata belonged
--had watched well those two young painters. Fra Mariano understood
human nature, as priests often do; he had seen the envious rivalship
growing between them, as the friends, who should have worked together,
took separate compartments, and cast jealous criticising glances on
each other's designs and method of work. Having ambition of his own, he
knew how to work on that of others to further his own aspirations,
which were, to be considered a patron of art and a benefactor to his
Reading Andrea's heart, he played on all his strongest feelings, placed
before him the glory he would win by covering the lunettes of the
arches in the court of the fine church with frescoes which would carry
his name down to posterity; he said that any other artist would pay
much to obtain leave to paint upon historical walls like those, and how
they would all envy the man who should obtain the coveted honour! Then,
with a half-whispered hint that for one, Francia Bigio was dying to get
the commission for nothing, the wily Frate went his way victorious.
Andrea, scorning to make any pecuniary bargain, only stipulated that no
one else should paint in that courtyard, and forthwith began the
_Stories from the Life of S. Filippo Benizzi_, having only old
Alesso Baldovinetti's _Nativity_, and Cosimo Roselli's _Miracle
of S. Filippo_, as foils to his own. These two works were on the
walls on each side of the church door; there were therefore three
entire sides of the cloister to cover, excepting only the entrance into
the courtyard from the Piazza, and no doubt he felt like Ghirlandajo,
when "he wished he had the entire circuit of the city walls to paint."
On the 16th of June, 1511, he began to paint with such vigour that in a
few months the first three were uncovered.
1. _S. Philip at Viterbo with the Court, dressing a naked leper in
his own cloak_.
2. _S. Philip going from Bologna to Modena_. He rebukes some
gamblers, telling them the vengeance of God is near. A sudden
thunderstorm and lightning destroy them, thus fulfilling the
prediction. There is a great deal of fine action in this composition;
the horror and disbelief struggling in the faces of the men, and the
stormy landscape are all well rendered. A horse leaps away with strong,
terrified action, there is a masterly grasp of his vivid subject, and a
rugged strength in the execution which gives great life to it.
3. _S. Philip exorcises a Girl possessed of a Demon_. Here the
composition is very tender, the mother and father support the sick
girl, and form a very pleasing group; the figures of the spectators are
full of life without exaggeration.
These works have suffered much from exposure, but the colouring is
still good. The praise that Andrea obtained for them was so great that
he followed them up by the two in the next series.
4. _A Child brought to life by touching the bier of S. Philip_.
This is a kind of double composition, the child being represented in a
twofold condition in the foreground, first as dead, and then revived at
the touch of the bier. The grouping around the dead saint is very
suggestive of Ghirlandajo, and shews a deep study of his frescoes in
the Sassetti Chapel. The colouring is peculiarly his own; there is the
mingling of a great variety of bright tints of equal intensity, which
by some necromancy are made to relieve each other, instead of being
relieved by the art of chiaroscuro as in the handling of other masters.
5. _Children healed by the garments of S. Philip_, which are held
by a priest, standing before an altar, the women and their children
kneeling in front of him. The grouping is symmetrical, the figures
lifelike, but not refined, round-cheeked buxom women, and rough, human
men's faces, bespeak Andrea as the painter of reality rather than
ideality; there is vivid life in every attitude, but the life is not
high caste. A fine old man, leaning on his staff, is a portrait of
Andrea della Robbia, whose son Luca stands near.
For all these Fra Mariano paid only ten scudi each, and Andrea, feeling
the remuneration not equal to the merit of the work, would have left
off here, but the Frate held him to his bond. Two more lunettes yet
remained to finish, but as these were of a later date, we will reserve
them for a future chapter. He also painted in the _orto_, or
garden, of the convent, the now perished fresco of the _Parable of
Meanwhile, the rival friends had changed lodgings; they left the Piazza
del Grano, and took rooms in the Sapienza, a street between the Piazza
San Marco and the S. Annunziata. Andrea chose this because it was near
his work, and also because his great friends, Sansovino and Rustici,
already lived there. Commissions began to pour in on him, which he
fulfilled, while still at work at the Servi. Judging from the style of
his early manner, we may date at this time a _Virgin and Child, with
S. John and S. Joseph_, now in the Pitti. It is painted "alla
prima," _i.e._ a quick method of giving the effect in the first
painting,--and is probably the one spoken of by Vasari as painted for
Andrea Santini; it formerly belonged to Francesco Troschi. [Footnote:
_Life of Andrea del Sarto_, vol iii, p. 193.]
A _S. Agnes_, in the palace of the Prince Palatine, at Dusseldorf,
is in this early style. He also painted some frescoes at San Salvi,
_SS. Giovanni Gualberto and Benedict resting on clouds_; they
ornamented the recess where the _Last Supper_ was placed at a
In a narrow alley, behind the church of Or San Michele, is a tabernacle
on the wall beneath an ancient balcony. Here the architect, Baccio
d'Agnolo, commissioned Andrea del Sarto to paint an _Annunciation_. It
is so much injured as to be almost indistinguishable now, but was much
admired at the time, though some say it was too laboured, and so wanting
in ease and grace. [Footnote: Biadi, 26; Vasari, vol. iii, p 189.] It is
more likely that it was one of his early works, and should be classed
before the frescoes of the Scalzo, for it is said that he was living at
the time with his father, whose shop was over the archway, and that he
had adorned the inner walls of the house with two frescoed angels.
[Footnote: _Firenze antica e moderna_ Ed. Flor. 1794, vol. vi, p. 216.]
These have perished completely.
SOCIAL LIFE AND MARRIAGE.
This chapter will speak of the _man_, and not of the
_artist_. As it is now understood that history is not a dry record
of battles and laws, but the story of the inner life of a people, so
the biography of a painter ought not to consist wholly in a list and
description of his works, but a picture of his life and inner mind,
that we may know the character which prompted the works.
First, as to personal appearance. There are two portraits of Andrea del
Sarto in his youth; one in the Duke of Northumberland's collection
represents him as a young man with long hair, and a black cap, writing
at a table. It is painted in a soft, harmonious style, but not masterly
as regards chiaroscuro. It might be by Francia Bigio, as it has
something of the manner of his master, Albertinelli.
Another now in the Uffizi is a most life-like portrait of sombre
colouring, but not highly finished. Here we have the same black cap and
long hair; the dress is a painter's blouse of a blue-grey, which well
brings out the flesh tints. The face is intelligent, but not refined;
the clear dark eyes bespeak the artist spirit, but the full mobile
mouth tells the material nature of the man. In looking at this one can
solve the riddle of the dissonance between his art and his life. As a
young man Andrea was full of spirit; he loved lively society, and knew
almost all the young artists who lived very much as students now. They
met each other in the art schools, and dined and feasted together in
the wine shops. Sometimes they formed private clubs, meeting in certain
rooms for purposes of youthful merriment.
Of this kind was the "Society of the Cauldron" ("Societa del Paiuolo"),
held at the apartment of the eccentric sculptor, Rustici, which was in
the same street as that of Andrea himself.
Sansovino, who also lived near, was not a member of this rollicking
club; he was one of Andrea's more serious friends, and served as
companion when his most exalted moods were upon him. Perhaps Rustici's
rooms did not please Sansovino, for strange inmates were there--a
hedgehog, an eagle, a talking raven, snakes and reptiles, in a kind of
aquarium; besides all these gruesome familiar spirits, Rustici was
addicted to necromancy. The Society of the Cauldron seems only a
natural outgrowth from such a character. It consisted of twelve
members, all artists, goldsmiths, or musicians, each of whom was
allowed to bring four friends to the supper, and bound to provide a
dish. Any two members bringing similar dishes were fined, but the droll
part of it was that the suppers were eaten in a huge cauldron large
enough to put table and chairs into; the handle served as an arched
chandelier, the table was on a lift, and when one course was finished
it disappeared from their midst, and descended to be replenished. As
for the viands, the sculptors displayed their talents in moulding
classical subjects in pastry, and turning boiled fowls into figures of
Ulysses and Laertes. The architects built up temples and palaces of
jellies, cakes, and sausages; the goldsmith, Robetta, produced an anvil
and accoutrements made of a calf's head, the painters treated roast pig
to represent a scullery-maid spinning.
Andrea del Sarto built up the model of the Baptistery with all kinds of
eatables, with a reading desk of veal, and book with letters inlaid
with truffles, at which the choristers were roast thrushes with open
beaks, while the canons were pigeons in red mantles of beetroot--an
idea more droll than reverential.
After this, in 1512, another club, called that of the "Trowel," was
instituted, of which Andrea was not a member, but was chosen as an
associate. The first supper was arranged by Giuliano Bugiardini, and
was held on the _aja_ or threshing floor of S. Maria Nuova, where
the bronze gates of the Baptistery had been cast.
In this no two members were allowed to wear the same style of dress
under penalty of a fine. The members were in two ranks, the "lesser"
and the "greater," a parody on the guilds of the city. They were shown
the plan of a building, and the "greater" members, furnished with
trowels, were obliged to build it in edibles, the "lesser" acting as
hodmen, and bringing materials. Pails of ricotta or goat's milk cheese
served for mortar, grated cheese for sand, sugar plums for gravel,
cakes and pastry for bricks, the basement was of meats, the pillars
fowls or sausages.
Some suppers were classical scenes, others allegorical representations,
always in the same edible form. We can imagine the wit which sparkled
round these strange tables, the jokes of the artists, the songs of the
musicians. Andrea del Sarto is said to have recited an heroi-comic poem
in six cantos called the "Battle of the frogs and mice." Biadi gives it
entire; it seems a kind of satire on Rustici's tastes, with perhaps a
hit at the government, and shows no lack of wit of rather unrefined
style; but the authorship is not proved. Some say Ottaviano de Medici
assisted Andrea in it.
It would have been well for Andrea if this innocent jollity had
sufficed for him, but unfortunately he admired a woman whose beauty was
greater than her merits. Probably he began by mere artistic
appreciation of her personal charms, for she sat to him for the
_Madonna of the Visitation_, which was painted in 1514, two years
before their marriage. This Lucrezia della Fede was the wife of a
hatter who lived in Via San Gallo. Her husband dying after a short
illness, Andrea del Sarto married her, and whatever were her faults,
she retained his life-long love. Biadi and Reumont give the date 26th
of December, 1512, as that of the death of her husband, but Signor
Milanesi, from more authentic sources, proves it to have been in 1516.
A great deal has been said and written of the evil influence this woman
had on him, and his very house bears an inscription recording his fame
together with "affanni domestici," but it would seem that posterity has
taken for truth more than the facts of the time imply. That she was
proud, haughty, exacting, and not of a high moral nature, that she was
selfish, and begrudged his helping his own family, her every action
proves. That her manners were not conciliating to the pupils is
possible, perhaps their manners savoured too much of familiarity for a
woman who believed in her own charms; but that she was faithless, which
her biographers assert on the strength of Vasari's phrase, "that Andrea
was tormented by jealousy," there is literally nothing to show.
In the first place Vasari--who was one of the scholars she offended and
put down--gives vent to his private pique in his first edition, and in
the second, which only contains a slight mention of her, omits almost
all he had previously said. Now, if the first assertions were true why
should he retract them? Secondly, the sixteenth century was an age of
license in writing and speaking, and had any immoralities been laid to
her charge, not a biographer would have scrupled to particularize them;
but no! her name is never mentioned, except with her husband's, even
by her greatest enemies, who say she was as haughty as she was
beautiful. Thirdly, a faithless woman could never have kept her
husband's devoted love, and had she been so, would that affectionate
though exaggerated letter of hers, recalling him from France, have been
written? That a man who thinks his wife the most lovely creature living
may be tormented with jealousy without wrong doing on her part is more
Let us then place Lucrezia's character where it ought to stand in
Andrea del Sarto's life--as a powerful influence, lowering his moral
nature, weaning him from his duties as a son and brother, by fixing all
his care and affection on herself; she, however, not allowing her own
family to be losers by her marriage, although causing him to slight his
own. Even this much-spoken-of neglect of his own family seems disproved
by his will, which, after a very little more than her own dot left to
his wife, makes his brother and niece heirs of all his estate.
Except that she cared more for her own pleasure than his true
advancement, she was not any great hindrance to his artistic career; he
painted an incredible number of pictures, and she was willing to sit
for him over and over again. Indeed if she were his model for all the
Madonnas in which her features are recognisable, she must have had
either inexhaustible patience or great love for the artist.
In fact she was thoroughly selfish; as long as she reaped the benefit
of his work she furthered his art; where she was left out of his
consideration he must be brought back to her side at any sacrifice to
him. This is not the stuff of which an artist's wife ought to be made;
the influence of a strong-willed selfish nature on his weak and
material one was not good, and his _morale_ became lowered.
He felt this deterioration less than his friends felt it for him; even
Vasari says that "though he lived in torment, he yet accounted it a
high pleasure." It was one of those unions in which the man gives
everything, and the woman receives and allows every sacrifice. Her
family were kept at his expense, her daughter loved as his own, and if
she were haughty or exacting, he suffered with a Socratic patience,
thinking life with her a privilege.
It is to be supposed that a member of the societies of the Cauldron and
the Trowel would appreciate good living. He was so devoted to the
pleasures of the table that he went to market himself early every
morning and came home laden with delicacies. [Footnote: Biadi,
_Notixie inedite_, &c., chap. xix. p. 62.] A curious confirmation
of this is to be found in his house, the dining-room of which is
beautifully frescoed, the arched roof in Raphaelesque scrolls and
grotesques; while the lunettes of one wall have two large pictures, one
of a woman roasting birds over a fire, the other of a servant preparing
the table for dinner. This love of good living, however, in the end
shortened his life, according to Biadi.
After his marketing was over he turned his attention to art, going to
his fresco painting followed by his scholars, or superintending their
work in the "bottega." He was always a kind and thorough master, his
manner just and fatherly.
Sometimes he and Sansovino or other friends lounged away an hour in the
neighbouring shop of Nanni Unghero, where their mutual friend, Niccolo
Tribolo, did all the hard work, fetching and carrying blocks and saws
grumblingly. Tribolo often begged Sansovino to take him as his pupil,
which he did afterwards, and he became a famous sculptor. One of
Andrea's acquaintances was Baccio Bandinelli, who, as he thought he
could equal Michelangelo in sculpture, imagined that only a knowledge
of Andrea del Sarto's method of colouring was necessary to enable him
to surpass him in painting. To gain this knowledge he proposed to sit
to Andrea for his portrait. His friend, discovering his motive,
succeeded in frustrating it by mixing a quantity of colours in seeming
confusion on his palette, and yet getting from this chaos exactly the
tints he required. So Baccio never rivalled his friend in colouring
after all, not being able to understand his method.
WORKS IN FLORENCE.
From 1511 to 1514 Andrea was employed on the two last frescoes in the
courtyard of the SS. Annunziata the _Epiphany_ and the _Nativity
of the Virgin_. The sum fixed for these was ninety-eight lire, but
the Servite brothers augmented it by forty-two lire more, seeing the
work was "veramente maravigliosa"; thus these two were paid at the same
rate as the other five of S. Filippo--seventy lire or ten scudi each.
In the _Nativity_, one of the finest of his frescoes, we see his
favourite double grouping, the interest in the mother being kept to one
side, that of the child and its attendants to the other-a balance of
form united by Joachim, a stern, finely moulded figure in the centre.
The attitudes are natural, the draperies free and graceful. Old Vasari
justly remarks "pajono di carne le figure." The woman standing in the
centre of the room is Lucrezia della Fede; this is the first known
likeness of her. There is a richness of colour without impasto, a
modulation of shade giving full relief without startling contrast, a
clear air below and celestial haze in the angel-peopled clouds above.
This might well be classed as on the highest level ever reached in
fresco. Nearly fifty years after it was painted, while Jacopo d'Empoli
was copying this fresco, an old woman came through the courtyard to
mass, and, stopping to watch the young artist at his work, began to
talk of the days of her youth and beauty when she sat for the likeness
of that natural figure in the midst, no doubt sighing as she looked at
the freshness of the fresco, and thought of her many wrinkles and aged
limbs, she being nearly fourscore at the time.
The _Epiphany_ is also a remarkable work, more lively than the
last; it is also less carefully painted, the graceful feminine element
is wanting; there is plenty of activity, a crowded composition, and
richness of colour. Three figures are especially interesting as
likenesses; that of the musician Francesco Ajolle--a great composer of
madrigals, who went to France in 1530, and spent the remainder of his
life there; Sansovino, on the right of Ajolle; and near him Andrea
himself--the same face as the portrait in the Uffizi already spoken of.
The _Madonna del Sacco_, over the door of the entrance to the
church from the cloister, would seem to have been painted in the same
year, 1514, judging from Biadi's extract from the MS. account books of
the Servite Fathers existing in the archives, where is an entry
"Giugno, 1514, ad Andrea del Sarto, per resto della Madonna del Sacco,
lire 56." This term _resto_ (remainder) would imply a previous
payment. The money was a thank-offering from a woman for having been
absolved from a vow by one of the Servite priests. Like all his other
frescoes of this church, Andrea only gained ten scudi for this
masterpiece. The date of MDXXV. and the words "Quem genuit adoravit" on
the pilasters of this work have led most writers to suppose it painted
in that year; but it is probable they were added by a later hand. Biadi
[Footnote: Biadi, _Notizie_, &c., p. 42 note.] says the letters
are of the style of nearly two centuries later, that Andrea would have
signed it, like all his other and works, with his monogram of the
crossed A's (i.e. Andrea d' Agnolo). For charming soft harmonies of
colour, simplicity, and grace of design, this surpasses all his other
frescoes. The Madonna has an imposing grandeur of form, there is a
boyish strength and moulding in the limbs of the child which is very
expressive, the dignity of Joseph and majesty of the Virgin are not to
be surpassed; and yet the whole is given in a space so cramped that all
the figures have to be reclining or sitting.
[Illustration of Monogram]
After this Andrea returned to the Scalzo, the Barefoot Brothers
offering better pay than the Servites. Here he did the allegory of
_Justice_ and the _Sermon of S. John_ in monochrome. In these
he took a fancy to retrograde his style, for they have the rugged force
and angular form that recalls the more stern old Italian masters, or
that Titan of northern art, Albrecht Durer.
Of his works in oil at this era we may class--
1. The _Story of Joseph_, painted for Zanobi Girolami Bracci,
which Borghini judges a beautiful picture. The figures were small, but
the painting highly finished. It came afterwards into the possession of
the Medici family.
2. A _Madonna_, with decorations and models surrounding it like a
frame, was painted for Sansovino's patron, Giovanni Gaddi, afterwards
clerk of the chamber to Ferdinand I. It was existing in the collection
of the Gaddi Pozzi family in Borghini's time.
3. _Annunciation_, for Giovanni di Paolo Merciajo, now in the Hall
of Saturn in the Pitti Palace. It is a pretty composition, the Virgin
sitting, yet half kneeling, the angel on his knees before her. There is
a yellowish light in the sky between two looped dark green curtains;
the angel's yellow robe takes the light beautifully.
4. _Madonna and Child_, in the "Hall of the Education of Jupiter"
in the Pitti Palace, one of his most pleasing groups. This is supposed
by the commentators of Vasari to be the altarpiece painted for Giovanni
di Paolo Merciajo, but Biadi traces it through the possession of
Antonio, son of Zanobi Bracci, to its present possessors. The mistake
arises from Vasari often confusing the names Annunciations and
Assumptions with Madonnas.
5. A _Holy Family_, for Andrea Santini, which awakened great
admiration in Florence. It was in the possession of Signer Alessandro
Curti Lepri, by whose permission Morghen's print was taken.
6. The _Head of our Saviour_, over the altar of the SS.
Annunziata, ordered by the sacristan of the order. A magnificent head,
full of grandeur and expression, and very clear in the flesh tints.
Empoli made several copies of it.
7. The _Madonna di San Francesco_, Andrea's masterpiece among
easel pictures. It was a commission from a monk of the order of
"Minorites of Santa Croce," who was intendant of the nuns of S.
Francesco, and advised them to employ Andrea. In grandiose simplicity
this surpasses Albertinelli's _Visitation_, in soft gradations and
rich mellowness of colour it equals Fra Bartolommeo at his best, for
tenderness in the attitude of the child it is quite Raphaelesque. The
Madonna is standing on a pedestal adorned with sculptured harpies. She
holds the Divine Child in one arm; its little hands are twined tenderly
round her neck, and it seems to be climbing closer to her. The two
children at her feet give a suggestive triangular grouping, while the
dignified figures of S. Francis and S. John the Evangelist form
supports on each side, and rear up a pyramid of beauty. Rosini's term
"soave" just expresses this picture, so fused and soft, rich yet
transparent in the colouring. The olive-brown robe of one saint is
balanced by the rich red of the other. In the Virgin, a deep blue and
mellow orange are combined by a crimson bodice. The price paid to the
painter for this was low because he asked little; but a century or two
later, Ferdinando de' Medici, son of Cosmo III., spent 20,000 scudi to
restore the church, and had a copy of the picture made in return for a
gift of the original, which is now the gem of the Tribune in the
8. The _Disputa, di S. Agostino_ is another masterpiece, showing
as much power as the last-named work displays of softness. It was
painted at the order of the Eremite monks of San Gallo for their church
of San Jacopo tra Fossi, where it was injured by a flood in 1557, and
removed later to the Hall of Saturn in the Pitti Palace. The
composition is level, the four disputing saints standing in a row, the
two listeners, S. Sebastian and Mary Magdalen, kneeling in front. S
Agostino, with fierce vehemence, expounds the mystery of the Trinity;
S. Stephen turns to S. Francesco interrogatively, S. Domenico (whom
Vasari, by the way, calls S. Peter Martyr) has a face full of silent
eloquence--he seems only waiting his turn to speak. In S. Sebastian we
have a good study from the nude, and in Mary Magdalen's kneeling
figure--a charming portrait of Lucrezia--is concentrated the principal
focus of colour.
9. _Four Saints_, SS. Gio. Battista, Gio. Gualberto, S. Michele,
and Bernardo Cardinale, a beautifully-painted picture, once in the
Hermitage of Vallombrosa. There were originally two little angels in
the midst dividing the saints, as in our illustration. When the picture
was transferred to the Gallery of the Belle Arti, where it now is, the
angels were taken out and the divided saints brought into a more
compact group. The angels are in a frame between two frescoed Madonnas
of Fra Bartolommeo.
By this time the fame of Andrea del Sarto, both as a fresco and oil
painter, had risen to the highest point. Michelangelo only echoed the
opinion of others when he said to Raphael, "There is a little fellow in
Florence who will bring the sweat to your brow if ever he is engaged in
great works." His style of composition was important, his figures
varied and life-like, his draperies dignified. "The main excellence,
however, in which Andrea stands unique among his contemporaries rests
in the incomparable blending of colour, in the soft flesh tints, in the
exquisite chiaroscuro, in the transparent clearness even of his deepest
shadows, and in his entirely new manner of perfect modelling."
[Footnote: _Lubke History of Art_, vol. ii. p. 241.] His method,
as shown in an unfinished picture of the _Adoration of the Magi_
in the Guadagni Palace, was to paint on a light ground; the sketch was
a black outline, the features and details not defined, but often
roughly indicated. He finished first the sky and background. The flesh
tints, draperies, &c., were all true in tone from the first laying in.
[Footnote: Eastlake's _Materials for History of Oil Fainting_.] He
did not place shades one over the other, and fuse them together glaze
by glaze as Leonardo did, but used an opaque dead colouring which
allowed of correction; the system was rapid, but deficient in depth and
mellowness; "the lights are fused and bright," but "the shadows, owing
to their viscous consistency, imperfectly fill the outlines."
[Footnote: Crowe and Cavalcaselle, vol. in. chap. xvii. p. 670.] In a
_Holy Family_ in the Louvre, S. Elizabeth's hand is painted across
S. John, and shows the shadow underneath it, being grey at that part.
Though more solid, he could not paint light over dark without injuring
his brilliance of colour.
Albertinelli, on the contrary, when he painted and repainted his
_Annunciation_, washed out the under layer with essential oil
before making his "pentimenti" or corrections, and in this way the
thinness was kept.
In Andrea's early style this thinness is apparent, especially in the
Joseph series, painted for Pier Francesco Borgherini.
Biadi classes Andrea's works in three styles. The first showing the
influence of Piero di Cosimo, the second--to which the best works in
the Servi cloisters belong--is a larger and more natural style, after
the study of Michelangelo and Leonardo.
The third is the natural development in his own practice of a perfect
knowledge of art, and a just appreciation of nature. The _Birth of
the Baptist_ and the _Cenacolo_, of San Salvi, belong to his
last and greatest manner. In 1515 the Florentine artists were employed
on more perishable works than frescoes. Leo X., the Medici Pope who had
been elected in 1513, made his triumphal entry into Florence on the 3rd
of September, 1515, on his way to meet Francis I. of France at Bologna.
All the guilds and ranks of Florence vied with each other to make his
reception as artistic as possible. He and his suite were obliged to
stay three days in the Villa Gianfigliazzi at Marignolle while the
triumphal preparations were being completed. The churches had temporary
_facades_ of splendid architecture in fresco; arches were erected
at the Porta Romana and Piazza San Felice, covered with historical
paintings; Giuliano del Tasso adorned the Ponte Santa Trinita with
statues; Antonio San Gallo made a temple on the Piazza della Signoria,
and Baccio Bandinelli prepared a colossus in the Loggia dei Lanzi.
Various decorations adorned other streets, and Andrea del Sarto
surpassed them all with a _facade_ to the Duomo, painted in
monochrome on wood. His friend Sansovino designed the architecture, and
he painted the sculpture and adornments with such effect that the Pope
declared no work in marble could have been finer.
Andrea lent his talent to another kind of decorative art. The guild of
merchants were desirous of inaugurating a festa for the day of S.
Giovanni, and had ten chariots made from the model of the ancient Roman
ones, to institute chariot races in the piazza. Andrea painted several
of these with historical subjects, but they have long been lost. The
chariot races were revived under the Grand Dukes, but not with any
GOING TO FRANCE.
Meanwhile fate was working Andrea del Sarto on to what might have been
the culminating point of his fame, had not his weakness rendered it a
blot on his honour; i.e. his journey to France. His fame was rising
high; a picture of the _Dead Christ surrounded by Angels_, weeping
over the body they support, having been sent to France, [Footnote: It
was engraved by the Venetian, Agostino, before it went to France; the
engraving is signed 1516. It did not please Andrea, who never allowed
any others to be engraved.] the king was so pleased with it that he
wished another work by the same artist. Andrea painted a very beautiful
_Madonna_, for which, however, he only obtained a quarter of the
price which the king paid to the merchants. The king was so delighted
with it that he sent the artist an invitation to come to Paris in his
employ, promising to pay all his expenses. In the Pitti Palace there is
a portrait of Andrea and his wife, in which he has commemorated the
reception of this letter. He is looking very interested over it, while
his wife has the blankest expression possible.
In the summer of 1518 he started with his pupil, Andrea Sguazzella,
called Nanoccio. Such a journey was in those days considered as little
less than a parting for life. It is plain that Lucrezia's family looked
on her as almost a widow, for they made him sign a deed of
acknowledgement for the 150 florins of her _dote_. Some authors
have taken this document as a proof of their marriage in that year, but
it was merely a precaution against loss by her family; the Italian law
being that the husband is obliged to render the portion obtained with
his wife to her family if she dies without issue, and in case of his
own death, the widow is entitled to it.
He was well received in Paris, and employed immediately on a likeness
of the infant Dauphin Henri II., then only a few months old. For this
he obtained 300 scudi: and a monthly salary was allowed him. What a
mine of gold the French court must have seemed to him after working for
years at large frescoes for ten scudi each!
He did no less than fifty works of art while there, most of which have
been engraved by the best French artists.[Footnote: See _Catalogue of
Royal Pictures in France_, by M. Lepiscie.] The _Carita_ is
signed 1518, and is in Andrea's best style--perhaps with a leaning
towards Michelangelo. The _S. Jerome in Penitence_, which he
painted for the king's mother, and obtained a large price for, cannot
be traced. His life in Paris was a new revelation, and not without its
effect on his character, always alive to substantial pleasure.
The king and his courtiers frequented his atelier, and delighted to
watch him paint, vieing with each other in the richness of their gifts,
among which were splendid brocade dresses and beautiful ornaments and
jewels, in which he longed to adorn his wife. While he was engaged in
painting the _S. Jerome_ for the queen-mother, a letter from
Lucrezia aroused his longings for home to the uttermost; she--the wife
who has been branded by the name of faithless--wrote that she was
disconsolate in his absence, and that if he did not soon return he
would find her dead with grief.
Vasari, quoting this exaggerated letter, says in his first edition that
she only wanted money to give her friends, but this also he retracts in
the second. Whether it expressed her feelings truly or not, the letter
had such an effect on Andrea's mind that he decided to return home at
During Andrea's absence the house in Via S. Sebastiano, behind the
Annunziata, was being prepared under her superintendence and with his
sanction. His scholars had decorated the walls and ceilings with
frescoes, and no doubt Lucrezia was as anxious for him to see the new
house as he was to adorn her with Parisian brocades and jewellery.
Being able to satisfy her ambitious soul, Andrea too readily flung away
all his brilliant prospects to return, and willingly take again the
yoke of the burden of his wife and her family. He made promises that he
would bring her back to Paris with him, and the king in all faith
allowed him to depart, confiding to him large sums of money for the
purchase of works of art to be sent to France.
Sguazzella, wiser than his master, preferred to stay in Paris under the
patronage of Cardinal de Tournon. He painted a great many works, much
in the style of Andrea, but with less excellence. It is possible that
some of M. Lepiscie's long list are, in fact, the work of the pupil
rather than the master. When Benvenuto Cellini went to France in 1537
he lodged in Sguazzella's house, with his three servants and three
horses, at a weekly rate of payment (_a tanto la settimana_).
But to return to Andrea: this is an episode in his life which we would
gladly pass over if it were possible, for it forms the moral blot on a
great artistic career.
Returning home he fell once more under the strong will of his wife, but
with his principles weakened by the effect of a luxury and prosperity
which has always a greater deteriorating effect on a nature such as his
than on a finer mind. Bringing grand ideas from the palaces of the
French nobles, he not only fell in with Lucrezia's plans for
beautifying the new house, but even surpassed her wildest schemes. The
staircase was embellished with rich oaken balustrades, the rooms were
all frescoed. Cupids hide in the Raphaelesque scrolls on the arches,
classic divinities rest on the ceilings, but in the dining room the
homely nature of the man who did his own marketing, creeps out. It is a
charming room, the windows opening on a garden courtyard, where a vine
trellis leads round to what used to be the side door of his studio
which has its entrance in another street.
The roof is vaulted and covered with exquisite decorative frescoes, but
in the lunettes of the two largest arches are the domestic scenes of
cooking and laying the cloth, spoken of at page 90. Two or three of the
up stairs rooms are very fine, especially the one in which Andrea is
said to have died. [Footnote: This description is due to the kindness
of the present resident in the house, who kindly showed it to the
writer, pointing out all the unrestored portions.] It is probable the
furniture matched the style of the rooms, and that much money was spent
on carved chairs and _cassoni_. Certain it is that the King of
France's commissions were unfulfilled, and his money misappropriated.
Andrea would have returned to France, but his wife, who had an Italian
woman's dread of leaving her own country, put every obstacle in his
way, adding entreaties to tears which the uxorious Andrea could not
resist. As usual he tried to please her, and she only cared to please
He fell greatly in the estimation of the King, who was justly angry;
albeit the artist salved his own too easy conscience by sending a few
of his own paintings to Francis I., one of which, the _Sacrifice of
Abraham_, still remains in France, and another a half length figure
of _S. John the Baptist_. The place of this picture is much
disputed; it is said to be at present in the Pitti Palace. Argenville
speaks of it among the French pictures as if it had returned
subsequently to Florence, while Vasari asserts that it never went
there, but was sold to Ottaviano de' Medici. [Footnote: _Life of
Andrea, del Sarto_, vol. in. p. 212.] As Andrea painted no less than
five pictures of this subject, of which Argenville mentions that there
were two in France, one of which was sold to the Grand Duke of Tuscany,
it is probable that the Pitti one is not that painted for Francis I.
ANDREA AND OTTAVIANO DE' MEDICI.
The Medici, always patrons of art, did not neglect to enrich their
palaces with the works of Andrea del Sarto. Ottaviano de' Medici, a
cousin of the reigning branch, was an especial friend of his, from the
time that Andrea began the fresco of _Caesar receiving tribute of
animals_ in the Hall of Poggio a Cajano. The commission came really
from Pope Leo X., who deputed Cardinal Giulio, his cousin, to have the
hall of the favourite family villa adorned with frescoes. He in turn
handed over the direction to Ottaviano, who was a great amateur of art.
It was designed that Andrea del Sarto should cover a third of the Hall,
the other two-thirds being given to Pontormo and Francia Bigio. The
payment of thirty scudi a month was arranged. In this Andrea has shown
his genius in a style entirely new, the composition being crowded, the
perspective intricate, the background a building adorned with statues.
The subject being allegorical, he has given the reins to his fancy and
produced a wonderful assemblage of strange beasts and stranger human
beings, Moors, Indians, and dwarfs. There are giraffes, lions, and all
kinds of animals, which he had an opportunity of studying in the
Serraglio of Florence. The drawing is true and free, the figures and
animals full of life, the colouring as usual well harmonised and
bright. The Pope died about this time in 1522, and the picture was left
to be finished by Allori in 1580.
Ottaviano de' Medici, being a great lover of art, was often a patron on
his own account; for him Andrea painted the _Holy Family_ now in
the Pitti Palace. It is a most charmingly natural group: the Virgin
seated on the ground dances the divine child astride on her knee, he is
turning his head to the infant S. John who struggles to escape from his
mother's arms to get to him. The fresh youth of the Virgin and the
saintly age of S. Elizabeth are well contrasted. By the time this
picture was finished the siege of Florence had begun, and when the
painter took it to Ottaviano, he, having other claims on his means,
excused himself from buying it, and recommended Andrea to offer it
elsewhere. But the artist replied, "I have laboured for you, and the
work shall be always yours." "Sell it and get what you can for it,"
again replied Ottaviano. Andrea carried the painting home again and
would never sell it to any one. A few years after, the siege being
over, and the Medici re-instated, he again took the _Holy Family_
to Ottaviano, who was so delighted that he paid him double the price
Ottaviano also bought from Carlo Ginori a _Madonna_ and _S.
Job_, a nude half figure, which were by Andrea's hand. He it was who
commissioned him to paint the portrait of Cardinal Giulio, afterwards
Pope Clement VII., and it was also at his instance that the imitation
Raphael was painted for the Duke of Mantua. The Duke had set his heart
on obtaining the picture painted by Raphael representing _Leo X.
between the Cardinals Giulio and Rossi_, and got a promise of it as
a gift from Pope Clement. His Holiness wrote to Ottaviano desiring him
to have it sent to Mantua. But Ottaviano, appreciating the treasure as
much as the Duke of Mantua, determined to secure it to the house of
Medici. Under the pretence of having a new frame made he gained time,
and meanwhile employing Andrea del Sarto secretly to make an exact copy
of it, he sent that to the Duke instead of the original. So well had
Andrea imitated the great master's style that every one in Mantua, even
Giulio Romano, Raphael's own scholar, was deceived, and it was only
some years later that George Vasari divulged the secret and showed
Andrea's monogram on the side of the panel beneath the frame. This copy
is now at Naples.
The fresco at Poggio a Cajano abandoned, Andrea returned to the Scalzo,
where he painted the _Dance of Herodias, Martyrdom of S. John
Baptist, Presentation of the Head, Allegory of Hope_, and the
_Apparition of the Angel to Zacharias_. The last was paid for
August 22nd, 1523.
About this time there was a great wedding in Florence. Pier Francesco
Borgherini espoused Margherita Accajuoli, and Salvi, the bridegroom's
father, determined to prepare for his son's bride a wedding chamber
which should be famous in all ages.
Baccio d' Agnolo had carved wonderful coffers, chairs, and bedsteads in
walnut wood. Pontormo painted beautiful cabinets and _cassoni_,
and Granacci, Francesco d' Ubertini Verdi, called Bacchiacca, and
Andrea were all employed on the walls. Andrea furnished two pictures;
the one tells the story of Joseph in Canaan, the other gives his life
in Egypt. The style is that of Piero di Cosimo, but with greater
excellence and more dignified figures. The landscape is highly finished
and minute, and has a part of the story in every nook of it.
The centre group, where Joseph leaves his father and mother to go to
his brethren, is very dignified, although fine enough to be a
miniature. In the second Pharaoh's palace is [Footnote: Reumont
(_Life of Andrea del Sarto_, p. 134) dates these works 1523; the
style, which is very much that of Piero di Cosimo, would seem to place
them earlier.] represented as a medieval Italian castle, the dresses
are all Italian, and as an instance of Andrea's versatility of talent
they are very interesting paintings.
During the siege of Florence, Borgherini was absent, and the picture
dealer, Giovanni Battista della Palla, who prowled like a harpy to
carry off treasures for the King of France, made an effort to obtain
these paintings by inducing the government to confiscate them and sell
them to him. But Margherita was equal to the occasion, and meeting the
despoiler at her door, she poured out such a torrent of indignation,
exhortation, and defiance as drove the broker away crestfallen.
On the Medici's return della Palla was imprisoned as a traitor, and
beheaded at Pisa. The paintings passed into the possession of the
Medici, by purchase, during Andrea's life. [Footnote: Biadi,
_Notizie_, &c., p. 146, note 2.]
THE PLAGUE AND THE SIEGE.
From 1524 to 1528 the plague desolated Italy, never entirely leaving
it. During this time Andrea obtained a commission through Antonio
Brancacci, to paint some pictures in the convent of S. Piero at Luco in
Mugello, where he retired with his wife and her relations, and his
pupil Raffaelo. They spent a very pleasant summer: the nuns made much
of his wife and her sisters, and he passed his time in earnest
painting. The fruits of his labour are a _Pieta_, a _Visitation_, and
a _Head of Christ_--almost a replica of the one in the SS. Annunziata.
The _Pieta_ is full of expression and feeling, but more realistic
and less dignified than that of Fra Bartolommeo, which now hangs on the
same wall of the Hall of Apollo at the Pitti.
In colouring also there is a great contrast between the two, that of
Fra Bartolommeo being deep, rich, and mellow, while Andrea's is more
profuse, diffused, and wanting in depth of shadow.
S. John and the Virgin raise the dead Saviour, the Magdalen and S.
Catherine weep at his feet; S. Peter and S. Paul at the back express
their grief in the manner natural to their characters. S. Peter, in his
vehemence, flings up his arms in a madness of sorrow. S. Paul, with
more dignity, is half stupefied with the intensity of woe.
If those saints had been left in Fra Bartolommeo's _Pieta_, the
two pictures would have had the very same figures, in each: but how
different the composition, feeling, and expression! The Frate's group
is a compact triangle; that of Andrea a scattered arrangement. The
Magdalen of the Frate is overwhelmed with the very excess of love and
grief, all of which is expressed intensely, yet her face is hidden;
that of Andrea is a mere woman dressed in flying scarf and flowing
garments, but with very little soul in her face.
The characteristics of the two painters can be well studied in these
works, so near together, so similar, and yet so different.
For the three works painted at Luco Andrea was paid ninety florins in
gold. The _Pieta_, was bought in later years by the Grand Duke
Leopold, and now adorns the Pitti Palace.
The _Visitation_ was placed in the church of the convent over a
presepio. [Footnote: In 1818 it was restored by Luigi Scotti and sold.]
Biadi gives the following document:--"Io Andrea d'Angiolo del Sarto, a
di 11 Ottobre 1528 ho ricevuto fiorini 80 d' oro di quei larghi
[_i.e._ of two scudi each] della Tavola dell' Altar grande e di
una mezza tavola della Visitazione, da Donna Caterina della Casa
Fiorentina, Badessa di Luco." [Footnote: 2 Vol. in. p, 571, note.]
Andrea was paid ten florins for the _Head of the Saviour_, through
his assistant, Raffaello. This receipt would prove either that he went
to Luco later than 1524, or that he returned there to finish the works
in the year 1528.
On their return to Florence in the autumn Andrea painted a fine work
for his friend, Beccuccio da Gambassi, a glass-worker. It is an
apotheosis of the _Madonna_, with four figures beneath--S. John
Baptist, Mary Magdalen, S. Sebastian, and S. Rocco; not S.
_Onofrio_, as Bottari has named it. The predella, now lost, had
portraits of the patron and his wife. Crowe and Cavalcaselle speak of
six saints in this picture, four standing and two kneeling.
This description seems to point more certainly to the Sarzana
_Madonna_, which is now in the Hall of Apollo, in the Pitti
Palace. That for Beccuccio is described, with the four above-mentioned
saints only, by all the Italian authors.
The tabernacle, at the corner of the convent, outside the Porta Pinti,
Florence, was painted about this time. It is now quite destroyed by age
and weather; a good copy by Empoli, exists, however, in the western
corridor of the Uffizi. It is a charming _Holy Family, with the
infant S. John_,--a sweet laughing face. The Madonna is a portrait
In the siege when the convent of the Ingesuate--at the corner of which
it stood--was razed to the ground, this fresco, although loosened from
the wall, was spared by the soldiers, who had not courage to injure it.
The Grand Duke Cosimo was anxious to have it brought to Florence, and
often came with engineers and architects, but they never hazarded its
removal. [Footnote: Bocchi, _Bellezze di Firenze_, p. 482.]
The Duomo of Pisa has five saints painted by Andrea; they originally
formed one large picture in five compartments, and were painted for the
church of the now suppressed convent of S. Agnes; but in 1618 they were
divided into five pictures, and removed to the Duomo, where _S.
Catherine Martyr_, _S. Margaret_, _S. Peter_, and _S. John the Baptist_
hang on each side of the altar. _S. Agnes_, with her lamb by her
side, is placed on a pilaster towards the southern door. This and _S.
Margaret_ are especially graceful and expressive. There is much of the
feeling of Correggio, but with more natural grace and less voluptuousness.
The cutting and retouching had injured them greatly, but in 1835 Antonio
Garazalli took off the repainting and restored them more delicately.
In 1525 Andrea had a commission to draw cartoons for painting the
balustrade of the Ringhiera--a kind of wide terrace in front of the
Palazzo della Signoria, from which speeches were made to the populace.
His designs were very beautiful and appropriate, the compartments being
emblematical of the different quarters of the city; besides which were
allegories of mountains, rivers, and virtues. The designs were left
unfinished at his death, and the Ringhiera was never painted.
In 1526-7 he worked at the fresco of the _Last Supper_, at S.
Salvi, which was intended to have been done when he began the four
saints there, in 1510, had not some misunderstanding between the rulers
of the order prevented their continuation. [Footnote: Vasari's
_Lives_, vol. iii. p. 224.] Even now he worked in a desultory
manner, doing it bit by bit, but in the end producing a marvellous
The refectory is a long vaulted hall, and the frescoed table, with its
life-size figures, fills the whole arch of the wall opposite the door.
One's natural impulse on entering it is to exclaim, "How life-like!"
There is a great and living animation in the figures; the characters of
the Apostles are written on their expressive faces. Judas is not placed
away alone, as in many renderings of the subject, but is next to
Christ, the contrast of the two faces being thus emphasized by
proximity. S. Peter, though old, has all the vehemence and intensity of
his character. Add to the feeling a brilliancy of colour of which
Andrea alone had the secret, for without deep shadows, and keeping up
the same intensity of tone throughout, he yet obtained great harmony
and full relief where others would have produced a clash and flatness.
Messrs. Crowe and Cavalcaselle say with justice, "From the
contemplation of the _Cena_, at Milan, we should say that the
painter is high bred; looking at that of S. Salvi, that he is
accustomed to lowly company." [Footnote: _Hist. of Painting_, vol.
iii. chap. xvii. p. 574.] But in some subjects a rugged strength is
more important than a high refinement, and in the group of humble
fishermen who formed the first church this is not out of place. If he
could only have spiritualised Christ, nothing would be left to be
Andrea del Sarto was a member of a sacred company called the
"Fraternita del Nicchio," for which he painted a standard to be carried
in their processions. It is now in the Hall of the Old Masters in the
Uffizi, and is a charming group of _S. James, with two children
dressed in white surplices_--the habit of the company. The saint is
caressing one, who kneels at his feet; the other has an open book in
his hand. The draperies are especially graceful, and the expressions
soft and pleasing.
After finishing a portrait of the Intendant of the monks at
Vallombrosa, which the said monk afterwards placed in an arbour covered
with vines, regardless of the injuries of wind and rain--Andrea, having
some colours still left on his palette, took up a tile and called his
wife to sit for her portrait, that all might see how well she had kept
her good looks from her youth; but Lucrezia not being inclined to sit,
he got a mirror and painted _his own portrait_ on the tile
instead. It was one of his later works, and Lucrezia kept it till her
death. It is now in the room of portraits in the Uffizi, but much
blackened by time; probably also from the tile not having been properly
prepared. [Footnote: This portrait is given as a frontispiece.]
The next year or two were taken up in producing a number of large
altar-pieces, and in painting pictures for the dealer, Giovanni
Battista della Palla, who was still intent on supplying the King of
France with Italian works of art. For him he painted a _Sacrifice of
Abraham_, which Vasari thinks one of his most excellent works. The
face of the patriarch is full of faith, and yet self-sacrifice; the
nude figure of Isaac, bronzed in the parts which have been exposed to
the sun, most tenderly expresses a trembling dread, mingled with trust
in his father; the landscape is also very airy and beautiful, and a
characteristic group of a servant and the browsing ass is very
effective in the background.
He also painted a lovely picture of _Charity with three Children_
for Della Palla. Both these works were done with great care, for he
hoped by their means to regain the lost favour of the King of France.
It was too late for this, however; and, as it happened, neither of
these works reached its destination. The siege of Florence took place
about this time (1529); the dealer, Battista della Palla, had his head
cut off in his dungeon at Pisa, and all hope of his mediation with
Francis I. was at an end. The _Charity_ was sold to Domenico
Conti, the painter, after Andrea's death, and thence passed into the
hands of the Antinori family. The _Sacrifice of Abraham_ has had
more vicissitudes. Filippo Strozzi purchased and gave it to the
Marchese del Vasto, who had it in his castle at Ischia many years.
Later it was sent from Florence to Modena in exchange for a Correggio,
and Augustus II. of Saxony becoming its purchaser, placed it in the
This seems to have been a favourite subject with Andrea del Sarto, who
repeated it five times.
1. The one done by himself for the King of France.
2. Also in France, having been purchased from the Grand Duke of
Tuscany. (See Argenville.)
3. The one mentioned above, done for G. B. della Palla.
4. A smaller one, painted for Paolo da Terra Rossa; a fine painting,
for which the artist asked so small a price that the purchaser was
ashamed to pay it. Paolo sent it to Naples.
5. An unfinished painting of _Abraham holding Isaac by the Hand_,
now in the possession of the Zonadari family, who obtained it from the
During the siege, work was found for artists, but of an unpleasant
nature. Andrea was commissioned, in 1530, to paint the effigies of some
traitors on the palace of the Signoria. He dared not refuse, but
remembering that his namesake, Andrea del Castagno, who had been
similarly employed, gained the name of "Andrea degli Impiccati," he was
anxious that the same name should not attach to himself. Accordingly he
had an enclosed platform made, and giving out that his pupil,
Bernardino del Buda, was going to paint the effigies, he worked at them
himself secretly, till, on being uncovered, they seemed to be real
persons writhing on the gibbet.
No trace of them remains now, but the studies are in the collection of
drawings in the Uffizi.
A fine half-length figure of _S. Sebastian_, for the brotherhood
of that name, which had its head-quarters in the street in which Andrea
lived, was almost his last work in Florence.
The siege was now over, but the influx of soldiers from the camp
brought a return of the plague, which awakened great terror in the
city. Andrea's mode of life and love of good living did not conduce to
his safety; he was taken ill suddenly, and gave himself up for lost.
Neither Vasari nor Biadi says he was entirely deserted by his wife;
they only hint that she came to his room as little as she could, having
a great fear of the plague.
It is more than probable that Andrea himself kept her away from him,
for his love was always unselfish, and he thought only of her good.
However this be, he died, aged forty-two, on the 22nd of January, 1531,
and was buried very quietly by the "Brethren of the Scalzo" in the
church of the S. Annunziata. His tomb is beneath the pavement of the
presbytery, on the left hand. His older biographers seem to think this
unostentatious funeral a great slight to his merits, but if there were
any doubts as to his illness being the plague, it would only have been
a natural precaution to avoid spreading contagion by making his
interment quite private.
That Andrea had not wholly neglected his own family is proved by his
will, which left his property (after paying back Lucrezia's _dot_
of 100 scudi, and the money for the improvement of the new house in Via
Crocetta for her and her daughter) to his brother Domenico, with the
proviso that after his death half the bequest should be given to
Domenico's daughter as _dot_, the rest to accrue to the hospital
of the Innocenti (Foundlings). [Footnote: Ricordanze nel Archivio del
E. Spedate degli Innocenti di Firenze. Biadi, _Notizie_, p. 127.]
Lucrezia lived to a good old age, being nearly ninety when she died;
she seems to have lived a very quiet life, and to have kept Andrea's
paintings with great care, except a few only which she sold. The house
in Via Crocetta passed many years afterwards into the possession of
another painter, Zuccheri, who embellished the studio front with
reliefs in stone, representing the paraphernalia of an atelier; but it
is Andrea's name which lives in the house, as his memory does in the
hearts of the Florentine people, and his works in the cloisters of the
Florentine churches. The people of the city always seem to claim Del
Sarto as especially their own. He is always _nostro pittore_, or
_nostro maestro_-and indeed as a master of fresco he never was
surpassed. In colouring he was in his way unique; in modelling,
original and graceful; while the transparent clearness of his shadows
and brilliant blending of tints in the lights render his handling
incomparable. A little more refinement and aesthetic feeling would have
placed him on a level with the great leaders of the Renaissance.
SCHOLARS OF ANDREA DEL SARTO.
Andrea's scholars were numerous, though only a few rose to any great
eminence. Of these, JACOPO CARRUCCI, "da Pontormo" (born 1494, died
1557), was by far the most talented. Left an orphan at an early age,
the charge of his sister devolved on him, and he placed her with a
relation while he was pursuing his art training. He studied under a
diversity of masters, including Leonardo da Vinci, Albertinelli, Piero
di Cosimo; and finally, in 1512, he entered Andrea del Sarto's school,
but did not stay long there either. Some say Andrea was jealous of his
success; he, however, had generosity enough to praise and acknowledge
his talent, and to show his appreciation by giving him important work
to do in his own studio.
Pontormo did the predella to Andrea's altar-piece of the
_Annunciation_ for the convent of S. Gallo. His hand is to be seen
also in several of his master's works. He drew public attention first
by painting two figures of _Faith_ and _Charity_ on the escutcheon
of the Medici for Andrea di Cosimo, who had obtained the commission, but
did not feel equal to executing it. Michelangelo, on seeing these figures,
prophesied great things for the youth, who was at that time only nineteen
years of age.
The people of Pontormo, his native town, were so proud of him, that
they sent for him to emblazon the arms of Pope Leo over the gate of
He was next employed by one of the festal companies of the age, called
the Company of the Diamond, to design cars, banners, and costumes for a
triumphal procession in honour of Leo X.'s elevation to the papal
chair; and he organised a very suggestive array of the ages of man,
illustrated historically. He decorated the Papal Hall for Leo X.'s
entrance, and later began to be employed on more serious and lasting
Some good frescoes of his existed in the convent of Santa Caterina, but
were destroyed when the building was reconstructed in 1688.
A very charming fresco of the _Visitation_ still exists in the
court of the SS. Annunziata. It shows him as a good pure colourist, the
flesh tints being especially tender; the composition is lively, full,
In 1518 he painted a fine altar-piece for the church of S. Michele
Visdomini, Florence, by commission of Francesco Pucci. The
_Madonna_, seated, is showing the Child Jesus to S. Joseph, whose
face is most expressive and full of smiling admiration. S. John Baptist
stands near, at the sides are S. John Evangelist, S. James, and S.
Francis, the latter kneeling in ecstatic admiration.
In some cases he was placed in direct competition with his master,
Andrea del Sarto, being employed by Borgherini to paint the coffers and
cabinets in the same room for which Andrea did the _History of
Joseph_; and again later at Poggio a Cajano, where the ends of the
great hall were assigned to him to paint, Andrea and Francia Bigio
taking the larger walls at the sides. On one end he designed an
allegory of _Vertumnus_, with his husbandmen around him busy with
their labours, and on the other _Pomona, Diana, &c_. Perhaps in
these last he has carried his imitation of Andrea del Sarto rather too
far in the matter of draperies, which are too profuse and studied.
Indeed the whole works are overdone; he was so anxious to rival his
master that he forced his invention, altering and labouring till all
spontaneity was taken out of his work. Some of his frescoes were in the
cloister of the Certosa, but they are not fair specimens of his best
style, as they were done when the Florentine artists were smitten with
the mania of imitating Albrecht Durer, and in these he has entirely
followed the harder manner of that artist without obtaining his
strength. The frescoes are all scenes from the _Life of Christ_,
and he spent several years over them; after which he painted an altar-
Giovanni Battista della Palla commissioned him to paint a picture to be
sent to the King of France, and Pontormo returning wisely to his
natural style, painted one of his masterpieces, the _Resurrection of
Lazarus_. The Pitti Palace possesses a curious specimen of his work,
the 11,000 martyrs crucified in a wood in the persecution under the
He rose to renown as a portrait painter, but lost patronage in later
year by his capricious behaviour, refusing to work except for whom and
when he pleased. In company with his favourite pupil, Bronzino, he did
the frescoes in the Loggie of the Medici villa at Careggi; one Loggia
was soon completed, to the great delight of the Duke, but Jacopo shut
himself up in the second and allowed no one to see what he was doing
for five years; when at length he uncovered the frescoes general
disappointment was the result. He pursued much the same line of conduct
in the frescoes of the roof of the Medici Chapel in San Lorenzo. He
kept the chapel closed with walls and planks for eleven years, no one
seeing his progress except some young men who removed one of the
rosettes from the ceiling to peep in on him, but he discovered their
plan, and closed the holes more assiduously than ever. The composition
is as confused as it is diffusive; he tried to embody the whole
teaching of the Bible, but becoming overwhelmed with the vastness of
his subject, fell short even of the excellence of his own previous
works. He died before this work was completed, of hydropsy, and was
buried in the Servite Church.
GIORGIO VASARI, better known as the chronicler of the works of other
artists than for the excellence of his own, was born at Arezzo, 1512--
died at Florence, 1574. His father was a painter, and the family was
connected by ties of relationship with Luca Signorelli of Cortona.
Among the many masters under whom he studied was Andrea del Sarto. He
did not remain long under his tuition, having contrived to offend
Lucrezia in some way. He painted a great many frescoes at Arezzo, where
he lived in his youth with his paternal uncle Don Antonio. Don Miniato
Pitti, prior of the convent of Monte Oliveti, near Siena, next employed
him to adorn the portico of his church. He had the good fortune to
attract the notice of Cardinal Ippolito de' Medici, who took him to
Rome in his suite, where he gained much advantage by the study of the
works of the great masters there. The Medici family, especially Andrea
del Sarto's patron, Ottaviano, were his constant friends: and their
palaces are profusely decorated by him. The Riccardi Palace has a room
with fresco scenes from the life of Casar. While painting these Duke
Alessandro gave him a salary of six crowns a month with a place at his
table, and board for his servant, &c. The palace has several oil
paintings by Vasari, amongst which are portraits of the Duke and his
sister. After the death of Duke Alessandro and Ottaviano he wandered
from city to city, painting so energetically that there are few of the
principal towns which do not possess some of his works, especially
Naples, Pisa, Bologna, and Arezzo. The Palazzo San Giorgio of the
Farnese family, in Rome, has a large hall richly frescoed by Vasari,
but the best of his works are to be seen on the walls of the great hall
of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, where he has illustrated the
battles of the Florentines, and in several other rooms of the same
palace; he having continued all the later years of his life in the
service of Duke Cosimo, by whom the palace was restored and decorated.
His works are too numerous and not sufficiently important to catalogue
or describe, his composition is overcrowded and wanting in perspective.
There is generally a superabundance of flesh; muscular limbs in all
attitudes form a great part of his pictures, but as the flesh tints he
used were wanting in mellowness and shadow, and have turned pink with
age, they compare disadvantageously with those of the more solid
masters who preceded him. After all, Vasari's name and fame rest
principally on the labours of his pen, not those of his brush. His
"_Lives of the Painters,_" although not a model of precision in
facts or chronology, is nevertheless the mine from which all subsequent
art historians quarry to obtain their information.
One of the most valuable books of the day is probably the new edition
of Vasari with corrections and notes taken from the archives by Signer
FRANCESCO ROSSI, DE' SALVIATI (born at Florence, 1510--died at Borne,
1563) was a great friend of Vasari; his real name was Rossi, his father
being a weaver of velvets, but he obtained the name of Salviati from
being the protege of the Cardinal of that name. His first master was
Raffaello del Brescia, but in 1529 he, with his friend Nannoccio,
entered the school of Andrea del Sarto, with whom they stayed during
the siege. Becoming known by some paintings done for the friars of the
Badia, Cardinal Salviati took him into his house, gave him a stipend of
four crowns a month, and an apartment at the Borgo Vecchio, he painting
any works the Cardinal wished. Francesco was not idle, a great number
of frescoes, altar-pieces, and portraits, &c., &c., testifying to his
industry. In his later years he was employed with his friend Vasari in
the Palazzo Vecchio, where he painted the frescoes in the smaller Hall
of Audience. These are principally scenes from the _Life of
Camillus_. The story of the schoolmaster of Falerii is very
spirited, and the _Triumph of Camillus_ varied and pleasing in
colouring. Although melancholy and suspicious, often making enemies and
losing patronage by misunderstandings, Rossi and Vasari were always
faithful to their first boyish friendship, often working together, but
never with any spirit of rivalry. Salviati's style was bold and
spirited; he was rich in invention, but perhaps a little wild in the
matter of draperies and bizarre costumes. His colouring is more
pleasing than that of Vasari, but is diffusive and wanting in depth.
DOMENICO CONTI never became famous, but in spite of want of genius, he
was Andrea's favourite pupil. All his master's designs and cartoons
came into his possession at Andrea's death, but he was unfortunately
robbed of them soon afterwards. The inscription to Andrea del Sarto
which once existed in the church of SS. Annunziata was put up by Conti.
JACOPO DEL CONTE (1510-1598), who in Vasari's time lived in Rome, is
chiefly noted for his likenesses of several pontiffs and personages of
the Papal Court. There are a few altar-pieces by him in Rome, and a
_Deposition_ in the church of the Misericordia in Florence, but he
was almost exclusively a portrait painter.
ANDREA SGUAZZELLA, called NANNOCCIO, remained in France after having
accompanied Andrea del Sarto thither. Cardinal Tournon took him under
his patronage, and he painted a large number of works in the style of
JACOPO, called JACONE, was another of Andrea's favourite disciples. His
frescoes, of which some existed till of late years on the facade of the
Palazzo Buondelmonte, in Florence, were much in Del Sarto's manner. He
assisted his master in a great many of his works, while of his
independent paintings many were sent to France; no doubt some of these,
as well as Sguazzella's, figure under the master's name in that list of
fifty works given by Argenville. He was too idle and fond of pleasure
to rise to eminence, though he did some good frescoes in the Palazzo
Capponi at Florence, and in the Capponi Villa at Montici, and assisted
Jacopo da Pontormo in the Hall of the Medici villa at Careggi. He died
in 1553, in great poverty.
PIER FRANCESCO DI JACOPO DI SANDRO was said to have had some talent. He
and Domenico Conti were employed among others in decorating the court
of the Palazzo Vecchio on the occasion of Cosimo de' Medici's marriage
with Leonora di Toledo. There are some altar-pieces of his in the
church of Santo Spirito, Florence.
SOLOSMEO, RAFFAELLO, and BERNARDINO DEL BUDA were three _garzoni_
in Andrea's studio. They were employed in the subordinate work and
manual labour, but were not trained as artists.
1886. G. GRUYER. Fra Bartolommeo della Porta and M. Albertinelli.
1903. F. KNAPP. Fra Bartolommeo della Porta.
1922. H. GABLENTZ. Fra Bartolommeo.
1902. M. E. JAMES. Fra Bartolommeo.
1899. H. GUINNESS. Andrea del Sarto. (The Great Masters Series.)
1905. MASTERPIECES OF ANDREA DEL SARTO. (Gowan's Art Books.)
1928. F. KNAPP. Andrea del Sarto.
1864-66. CROWE AND CAVALCASELLE. A New History of Painting in Italy
from the 2nd to the 16th Century. Three Volumes.