Utama The 100 Most Influential Painters & Sculptors of the Renaissance (The Britannica Guide to the World's..

The 100 Most Influential Painters & Sculptors of the Renaissance (The Britannica Guide to the World's Most Influential People)

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Published in 2010 by Britannica Educational Publishing
(a trademark of Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.)
in association with Rosen Educational Services, LLC
29 East 21st Street, New York, NY 10010.
Copyright © 2010 Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica,
and the Thistle logo are registered trademarks of Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. All
rights reserved.
Rosen Educational Services materials copyright © 2010 Rosen Educational Services, LLC.
All rights reserved.
Distributed exclusively by Rosen Educational Services.
For a listing of additional Britannica Educational Publishing titles, call toll free (800) 237-9932.
First Edition
Britannica Educational Publishing
Michael I. Levy: Executive Editor
Marilyn L. Barton: Senior Coordinator, Production Control
Steven Bosco: Director, Editorial Technologies
Lisa S. Braucher: Senior Producer and Data Editor
Yvette Charboneau: Senior Copy Editor
Kathy Nakamura: Manager, Media Acquisition
Kathleen Kuiper: Manager, Arts and Culture
Rosen Educational Services
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Introduction by Janey Levy
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The 100 most influential painters & sculptors of the Renaissance / edited by Kathleen
Kuiper.—1st ed.
p. cm.—(The Britannica guide to the world’s most influential people)
“In association with Britannica Educational Publishing, Rosen Educational Services.”
Includes index.
ISBN 978-1-61530-043-3 (eBook)
1. Painting, Renaissance—Juvenile literature. 2. Sculpture, Renaissance—Juvenile literature. 3.
Painters—Europe—Biography—Juvenile literature. 4. Sculptors Painters—Europe—
Biography—Juvenile literature. I. Kuiper, Kathleen. II. Title: One hundred most influential
painters & sculptors of the Renaissance.
ND170.A14 2010
709.02'4—dc22
2009023697

On the cover: Self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci, one of the most influential artists of the
Renaissance or any other period. Stuart Gregory/Photographer’s Choice RF/Getty Images
Photo Credits: p; p. 8, 355, 357, 359 © www.istockphoto.com.

CONTENTS
Introduction
Claus Sluter
Jacopo della Quercia
Robert Campin
Lorenzo Ghiberti
Donatello
Jan van Eyck
Il Pisanello
Francesco Squarcione
Paolo Uccello
Rogier van der Weyden
Luca della Robbia
Fra Angelico
Jacopo Bellini
Masaccio
Fra Filippo Lippi
and Filippino Lippi
Domenico Veneziano
Dirck Bouts
Antonio Vivarini
Piero della Francesca
Andrea del Castagno
Jean Fouquet
Alessio Baldovinetti
Gentile Bellini
Antonello da Messina
Giovanni Bellini
Carlo Crivelli
Desiderio da Settignano
Nuno Gonçalves
Hans Memling
Cosmè Tura
Andrea Mantegna
Pollaiuolo Brothers

8
17
20
22
23
31
36
40
43
45
48
52
53
62
63
69
75
77
78
80
85
87
88
90
92
93
98
100
101
102
106
107
118

73

115

119

Michael Pacher
Andrea del Verrocchio
Melozzo da Forlì
Bartolomé Bermejo
Hugo van der Goes
Sandro Botticelli
Martin Schongauer
Luca Signorelli
Domenico Ghirlandaio
Hiëronymus Bosch
Perugino
Ercole de’ Roberti
Leonardo da Vinci
Vittore Carpaccio
Gerard David
Piero di Cosimo
Quentin Massys
Andrea Sansovino
Albrecht Dürer
Fra Bartolommeo
Lucas Cranach the Elder
Michelangelo
Giorgione
Il Sodoma
Jan Gossart
Albrecht Altdorfer
Matthias Grünewald
Lorenzo Lotto
Giovanni
Girolamo Savoldo
Franciabigio
Raphael
Hans Baldung
Jean Clouet
Sebastiano del Piombo
Andrea del Sarto
Dosso Dossi

120
121
126
127
129
131
143
145
147
152
156
161
162
171
172
174
175
177
179
188
190
194
211
218
220
223
224
228
230
231
232
244
246
247
248
253

133
235

Alonso Berruguete
Titian
Lucas van Leyden
Jean Cousin the Elder and
Jean Cousin the Younger
Giulio Romano
Jacopo da Pontormo
Correggio
Rosso Fiorentino
Jan van Scorel
Hans Holbein the Younger
Paris Bordone
Benvenuto Cellini
Parmigianino
Il Bronzino
Francesco Primaticcio
Niccolò dell’Abate
Daniele da Volterra
Giorgio Vasari
François Clouet
Jacopo Bassano
Tintoretto
Pieter Bruegel the Elder
Giuseppe Arcimboldo
Pellegrino Tibaldi
Paolo Veronese
Giambologna
Sofonisba Anguissola
Germain Pilon
Federico Zuccaro
El Greco
Nicholas Hilliard
Lavinia Fontana
Glossary
For Further Reading
Index

254
255
271
273
276
278
279
282
284
285
291
292
296
299
301
302
304
306
308
310
312
321
328
329
330
335
337
339
340
342
351
353
355
357
359

267

289

326

INTRODUCTION

7

Introduction

O

7

ne of the best known and most celebrated of all
periods in history, the Renaissance was a time of
momentous change in European art and civilization, representing a transition from the medieval world to the
modern one. In fact, when historians speak of early modern Europe, they are referring to the period encompassed
by the Renaissance.
For most people, the idea of the Renaissance is tightly
bound with Italy, and fully two-thirds of the painters and
sculptors surveyed in this book are Italian. Yet the
Renaissance was hardly confined to Italy. One has only to
think of some of the most famous and familiar names of
the period: Albrecht Dürer and Hans Holbein the
Younger (Germany), or Hiëronymus Bosch and Pieter
Bruegel the Elder (the Netherlands). These and other
great artists from France, Spain, and England are among
those treated here.
Still, the Renaissance remains closely identified with
Italy, and part of the reason for this rests on the term’s
inception and original meaning. As is often the case with
periods of art history, the Renaissance received its name
from scholars of a later time. The term “Renaissance,”
which literally means “rebirth,” was first employed in the
late 18th century, when it was used to describe the reappearance of Classical (ancient Greek and Roman)
architectural forms in 16th-century Italian buildings.
(Interestingly, it was French, not Italian, art historians who
coined the term.) Over time, the term came to be applied
not only to architecture but also to painting, sculpture,
metalwork, ivory carving, and other art forms.
Generally speaking, scholars consider the Renaissance
to cover the period in Europe from about 1400 to around
1600, although those dates are not hard and fast. Precise
dates vary among regions and among art forms. Within
the period of the Renaissance, art historians recognize
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The 100 Most Influential Painters
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& Sculptors of the Renaissance

three primary divisions. The early Renaissance extends
from about 1420 to 1495. The High Renaissance covers a
much shorter span of time—from 1495 to 1520. Late
Renaissance painting and the style known as Mannerism
comprise the remainder of the period.
Of course, it would be a mistake to believe the early
Renaissance represented a sudden and complete break
with previous art styles, mysteriously springing into being
fully formed, like Athena from the brow of Zeus. Although
the Renaissance was an era of far-reaching transformations, it nonetheless rests firmly on foundations that date
back to earlier centuries.
Perhaps the element that stands out most widely and
clearly in Renaissance art, and sets it apart from medieval
art, is its emphasis on humanity and the human realm.
This is not to say that the religious subjects that dominated earlier art disappeared from Renaissance art; that
was hardly the case. However, the figures in Renaissance
religious art—no matter how idealized they might be—
were not the two-dimensional, sometimes ethereal and
abstract figures of medieval art, but solid human figures
who occupied three-dimensional space and were placed
firmly on Earth.
Godly themes and earthly representation meld in
the art of Fra Angelico, a 15th-century Dominican friar
and painter who incorporated both religious attitude and
Classical influences into his work. Sharply drawn and delineated human figures adorn his many altarpieces and frescoes.
Angelico’s influence reportedly extended throughout his
native Florence, to amateurs and respected masters alike.
The accomplished painter Fra Filippo Lippi, who was in
great demand in the mid-1400s, is said to have borrowed
heavily from Fra Angelico, mimicking the latter’s style but
infusing it with his own techniques and narrative spirit.

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Introduction

7

In addition, the creators of religious Renaissance art
expressed drama and emotion in human terms. Beyond
this development of more human qualities in religious
art, the Renaissance also saw the growth of art categories
that had little place in the medieval world—including portraits that were independent artworks and not secondary
elements in religious images, subjects from Classical
mythology, landscapes, and genre painting (scenes of daily
life). One of the Renaissance’s most important and beloved
painters, Sandro Botticelli, was adept at both the period’s
firmly entrenched religious and the emerging secular
aspects. In fact, many art scholars believe Botticelli’s historical canvases are equal or superior to the devotional
pieces he was commissioned to create for a number of
Florentine churches. He also was frequently called upon
to paint portraits of his patrons, who were members of the
infamous Medici family. Botticelli was even know to serve
both masters at once; three patriarchs of the Medici clan
are depicted as the Magi (the kings who paid homage to
Jesus at his birth) in one of the master’s most famous
works, Adoration of the Magi, which adorned the chapel at
Santa Maria Novella.
Confidence in human intellectual and creative ability
and in the human capacity to understand and control the
natural world, along with an increasing sense of individualism, marked the Renaissance throughout Europe. These
developments were manifestations of the Renaissance
intellectual movement known as humanism. Nineteenthcentury German scholars coined the term to describe the
Renaissance emphasis on Classical studies. However,
although “humanism” may be a 19th-century invention,
it’s based on the word used in 15th-century Italy to describe
a teacher of the humanities—umanista (plural: umanisti).
That word in turn derives from studia humanitatis, the term

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& Sculptors of the Renaissance

applied to the course of Classical studies that included
Classical Latin, Greek, grammar, poetry, rhetoric, history,
and moral philosophy.
Humanism emphasized the fullest possible development of human virtue, including qualities such as
understanding, compassion, mercy, fortitude, judgment,
eloquence, and love of honour. It stressed a life of involvement in the world as well as one of contemplation. In
humanist thought, people were the centre of the universe,
possessed of personal freedom and an intelligence capable
of understanding the world and accomplishing whatever
they set their minds to. At the heart of humanism was
belief in human dignity and individualism.
Humanism’s beliefs gave rise to the notion of the uomo
universale (universal man), known today as the Renaissance
man. This was someone who was a master in all areas of
knowledge, in physical skills, in social accomplishments,
and in the arts. The idea originated in the writings of Leon
Battista Alberti (1404–72), whose books on art theory
did much to shape Renaissance art and elevate the artist’s
status from craftsman to intellectual. Alberti was, in fact,
a prime example of the uomo universale—he was not only
a scholar but also an architect, painter, classicist, poet,
scientist, and mathematician.
Alberti’s 1435 book On Painting laid out the rules for
depicting a three-dimensional scene on a two-dimensional
surface. This is known as perspective, a technique that
makes paintings more vibrantly alive and that had been a
particular forte of Paolo Uccello. His experiments with
various forms of perspective—showing an almost analytical, mathematic obsession with the style—are
credited with ushering in the common use of this most
crucial Renaissance artistic component. It is believed
that Uccello’s perspective studies made an impression

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Introduction

7

on the likes of fellow artists such as Piero della Francesca
and, perhaps the best-known Italian uomo universale,
Leonardo da Vinci.
As an inventor, musician, writer, scientist, and engineer as well as a painter, Leonardo was indeed a Renaissance
man. Labeled by author Giorgio Vasari as the “founder of
the High Renaissance,” Leonardo was a master of perspective and composition. Masquerading as a simple portrait,
his Mona Lisa is actually a complex study of favourite
Renaissance themes—the human figure (the smiling, enigmatic woman in the foreground) and nature (the rolling
hills and wandering river of the landscaped background).
Another multifaceted artist, Michelangelo worked as
a sculptor, painter, architect, poet, and fortification
designer. First and foremost a sculptor, as well as a disavowed acolyte of Leonardo, Michelangelo transformed
static marble into detailed human bodies in motion. The
technique and mastery of anatomy he used in sculpting
translated beautifully onto the ceiling of the Sistine
Chapel—where he visually retold the biblical story of
Genesis instead of simply portraying the twelve apostles,
as he’d been contracted to do.
Meanwhile, in Northern Europe, early Renaissance
artists were less preoccupied with Classical antiquity than
their Italian contemporaries. Their works do reveal, however, the humanist’s profound and abiding interest in
humanity and the human realm. In the late 14th and early
15th centuries, innovative sculptor Claus Sluter fashioned
figures of unprecedented monumentality whose faces and
gestures expressed deeply felt human emotions. One of
Sluter’s patrons was Philip the Bold, duke of Burgundy
and ruler of the Low Countries. In Northern Europe,
Philip and his successors played the same important role
as art patrons that the Medici did in Italy.

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The 100 Most Influential Painters
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& Sculptors of the Renaissance

Around the same time Sluter was working, painter
Robert Campin created works whose subject matter was
traditionally religious but whose style was decidedly not.
He placed his heavy, solid figures in three-dimensional
space and set the scenes in ordinary settings familiar to
the emerging middle class, filled with carefully observed
details of daily life.
Jan van Eyck, often hailed as the founder of Flemish
painting, perfected the newly developed technique of oil
painting at a time when Italian painters were still using
medieval tempera (ground pigments mixed with egg yolk).
Using this technique, he depicted a world of extraordinary detail, rich colour, and brilliant luminosity. He was
also the first Flemish painter to sign his works—an expression of the artist’s new status in the Renaissance, which
he carried even further by adding an aristocratic motto to
some paintings.
A contemporary of van Eyck’s, Rogier van der Weyden
produced paintings that explored with great subtlety not
so much the physical as the emotional world. At the end
of the 15th century, Hans Memling, a German painter
working in the Low Countries, produced portraits of
extraordinary sensitivity and observation. His religious
paintings, though popular at the time and widely imitated,
are usually viewed today as unexceptional.
Working in Germany in the late 15th and early 16th
centuries, Albrecht Dürer was one of the giants of the
Renaissance, perhaps closer to the ideal of the uomo universale than any other Northern artist. Exceptionally
talented, he produced paintings, prints, and drawings of a
wide range of subjects, including carefully observed and
detailed studies of the natural world.
After his death in the second half of the 16th century,
the painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder was mourned by one

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Introduction

7

of his friends as “the most perfect painter of his age.” His
works covered a wide range of subject matter, but he is
perhaps best known today for his paintings that exemplify
the humanist’s interest in humans and their world. He
painted numerous scenes of daily life—but not the life of
the nobles or even that of the merchant middle class.
Rather, he portrayed the daily life of peasants and villagers; the effect was almost like an anthropologist studying a
culture. Bruegel also created paintings that gave visual
form to popular sayings found in The Netherlands Proverbs.
What follows will provide more detailed narratives of
the artists mentioned here, as well as dozens more. The
accounts of their lives and works will offer greater insight
into the complex and fascinating period known as the
Renaissance.

15

7 Claus Sluter

7

Claus Sluter
(b. c. 1340/50, Haarlem?, Holland [now in the Netherlands]—d.
between Sept. 24, 1405, and Jan. 30, 1406, Dijon, Burgundy [now
in France])

A

n influential master of early Netherlandish sculpture,
Claus Sluter moved beyond the dominant French
taste of the time and into highly individual monumental,
naturalistic forms. His works infuse realism with spirituality and monumental grandeur. His influence was extensive
among both painters and sculptors of 15th-century northern Europe.
Sluter, whose first name appears variously as Claus,
Claes, or Klaas, is known through his works rather than
accounts of his person. He is thought to be the Claes de
Slutere van Herlam (Haarlem) who was listed in the records
of the stonemasons’ guild in Brussels about 1379. From
ducal archives he is known to have entered in 1385 the service of Philip II the Bold, duke of Burgundy, who was ruler
of the Netherlands and regent of France in the last decades
of the century. Philip founded the Carthusian monastery
of Champmol at Dijon in 1383 and made its chapel a dynastic mausoleum adorned with sculpture by Sluter.
All of the surviving sculpture known to be by Sluter
was made for Philip. Two compositions are still to be
found at the site of Champmol. The figures on the central pillar that divided the portal of the chapel show the
duke and duchess presented by their patron saints John
the Baptist and Catherine to the Virgin and Child. The
Well of Moses in the cloister consists of the remains of a
wellhead that had been surmounted by a group showing
the Calvary of Christ. The other extant work is the duke’s
own tomb, which once stood in the chapel at Champmol
but which has been reassembled in the Museum of Fine
Arts in Dijon.
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& Sculptors of the Renaissance

The archives in Dijon provide some information on
Sluter’s sculptural commissions. In 1389 he succeeded Jean
de Marville as chief sculptor to the duke, and in that year
he began carving the portal sculptures, which had been
planned as early as 1386. He replaced the portal’s damaged
central canopy, and by 1391 had completed the statues of
the Virgin and Child and the two saints. By 1393 the statue
of the duchess was completed, and it is presumed that the
duke’s statue also was finished by then. In 1395 he began
the Calvary group for the cloister.
In 1396 Sluter brought to Dijon his nephew Claus de
Werve and sculptors from Brussels to assist in his numerous ducal commissions. The architectural portion of the
duke’s tomb had been completed by 1389, but only two
mourning figures of the sculptural composition were ready
when the duke died in 1404. Philip’s son, Duke John the
Fearless, contracted in 1404 for the completion of his
father’s tomb within four years, but Sluter’s nephew did
not finish it until 1410, and he used it as the model for Duke
John’s own tomb. Many of the mourning figures around the
base are copies of what must be Sluter’s work, though the
problem of establishing his exact contribution is difficult
because the two tombs were disassembled in the French
Revolution and extensively restored from 1818 to 1823.
Sluter, an innovator in art, moved beyond the prevailing French taste for graceful figures, delicate and elegant
movement, and fluid falls of drapery. In his handling of
mass, he also moved beyond the concern with expressive
volumes visible in the sculptures of André Beauneveu, an
eminent contemporary who worked for Philip’s brother
Jean, Duke de Berry. The grandeur of Sluter’s forms can
only be paralleled in Flemish painting (by the van Eycks
and Robert Campin) or in Italian sculpture (by Jacopo
della Quercia and Donatello) several decades later.

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Claus Sluter

7

The portal of the Champmol chapel is now somewhat
damaged. The Virgin’s sceptre is missing, as are the angels,
once the object of the child’s gaze, holding symbols of
the Passion. This work, though begun by Marville, must
have been redesigned by Sluter, who set the figures
strongly before an architecture with which they seem
intentionally not closely aligned, the doorway becoming
a background for the adoring couple of Duke Philip and
his wife. This transforms traditional portal design into a
pictorial form in which architecture has become a foil,
the framework for a figured triptych. Projecting canopies
and jutting corbels carved with figures, deep undercuttings, and swirling draperies aid Sluter’s dynamic
naturalism. This is a weighty, massive art of dominantly
large, balanced forms.
The six-sided Well of Moses, now lacking its crowning
Calvary group, which made the whole a symbol of the
“fountain of life,” presents six life-sized prophets holding
books, scrolls, or both. The figures, beginning with Moses,
proceed counterclockwise to David, Jeremiah, Zechariah,
Daniel, and Isaiah. Moses was placed directly below the
face of Christ, and the location of Zechariah, father of
John the Baptist, was at Jesus’ back, as befits a precursor.
Zechariah looks down sadly as Daniel vigorously points to
his prophecy. On the other side of Daniel, and serving to
balance Daniel’s passionate temperament, is the calm
reflective Isaiah. This juxtaposition reveals Sluter’s use of
alternating naturalistic balances. The head and torso fragment of Christ from the Calvary reveal a power and
intensity of restrained expression that conveys overwhelming grandeur. Suffering and resignation are mingled,
a result of the way the brow is knitted, though the lower
part of the face, narrow and emaciated, is calm and without muscular stress. The Well of Moses was originally

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The 100 Most Influential Painters
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& Sculptors of the Renaissance

painted in several colours by Jean Malouel, painter to the
duke, and gilded by Hermann of Cologne. The figures of
the composition dominate the architectural framework
but also reinforce the feeling of support that the structure
provides through their largeness of movement.
Sluter’s latest preserved work, the tomb of Philip the
Bold, was first commissioned from Jean de Marville, who
is responsible only for the arcaded gallery below the sepulchral slab of black marble from Dinant. Forty figures,
each about 16 inches (41 cm) high and either designed or
executed by Sluter, made up the mourning procession.
Not all the figures are still in position at the tomb; three
are lost, three are in the Cleveland Museum of Art, and
one is in a French private collection. They served as models for Sluter’s nephew Claus de Werve, Juan de la Huerta,
and other artists for sculptured tombs in France and
beyond its borders. Sluter did not invent the mourning
procession nor did he design the setting. But he conceived
of the figures as mourners, of whom no two are alike; some
are openly expressing their sorrow, others are containing
their grief, but all are robed in heavy wool, draping garments that occasionally veil a bowed head and face to
convey a hidden mourning. Spiritualist and naturalist in
one, Sluter epitomized in sculpture the growing awareness
of an individualized nature with discoverable laws and an
enduring grandeur.

Jacopo della Quercia
(b. c. 1374, Siena [Italy]—d. Oct. 20, 1438, Bologna, Papal States)

della Quercia was one of the most original Italian
J acopo
sculptors of the early 15th century. His innovative work
influenced a number of Italian artists, including Francesco
di Giorgio, Niccolò dell’Arca, and Michelangelo.

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Jacopo della Quercia

7

Jacopo came from a family of craftsmen; his father,
Piero d’Angelo, was also a sculptor, and his brother Priamo
was a painter. In 1401 Jacopo participated in the competition for the bronze doors of the baptistery in Florence,
which was won by Lorenzo Ghiberti. About 1406 Jacopo
carved the tomb of Ilaria del Carretto in the Cathedral of
Lucca. The effigy and sarcophagus alone survive. In 1408, at
Ferrara, he made the statue of the Virgin and Child, which
still exists in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. A year later
he received the commission for the Fonte Gaia in the Piazza
del Campo at Siena, now replaced by a copy; the original is
in the loggia of the town hall. The scheme of this celebrated
and highly original fountain seems to have been repeatedly
modified, the most effective work being done between 1414
and 1419. At the same time, Jacopo was working on the
statue of an apostle for the exterior of the cathedral at
Lucca, the Trenta altar for the Church of San Frediano
in Lucca, and tomb slabs for Lorenzo Trenta and his wife.
In 1417 he undertook the creation of two gilt bronze
reliefs for the baptismal font in San Giovanni in Siena.
Being a dilatory artist, he completed only the Zacharias in
the Temple, the second being assigned to Donatello. Jacopo’s
main work is the sculpture around the portal of San
Petronio at Bologna. The 10 scenes from Genesis, including The Creation of Eve, five scenes from the early life of
Christ, the reliefs of prophets, and the statues of the Virgin
and Child with Saints Petronius and Ambrose give a sense
of depth often seen in the paintings of Masaccio.
In 1435 Jacopo was appointed superintending architect
of Siena Cathedral, for which he was employed on the decoration (unfinished) of the Cappella Casini. His innovative
sculptural style found no immediate followers in Siena,
Bologna, or Lucca, but it later became a profound influence on Michelangelo.

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& Sculptors of the Renaissance

Robert Campin
(b. c. 1378, Tournai, France—d. April 26, 1444, Tournai)

O

ne of the earliest and greatest masters of Flemish
painting was Robert Campin. He has been identified
with the Master of Flémalle on stylistic and other grounds.
Characterized by a naturalistic conception of form and a
poetic representation of the objects of daily life, Campin’s
work marks the break with the prevailing International
Gothic style and prefigures the achievements of Jan van
Eyck and the painters of the Northern Renaissance.
Documents show that Campin was established as a
master painter in Tournai in 1406. Two pupils are mentioned as entering his studio in 1427—Rogelet de la Pasture
(generally identified with the great Rogier van der Weyden)
and Jacques Daret. The only documented work by Jacques
Daret, an altarpiece executed for the Abbey of St. Vaast
near Arras, shows close stylistic analogies with works by
van der Weyden on one hand and works earlier in style by
the Master of Flémalle on the other. Both seem to proceed from common models, for they obviously are not
copies of one another. As the Tournai records give the
name of Campin as master of both Daret and van der
Weyden, it has been generally assumed that the Master of
Flémalle may be reasonably identified with Campin. Some
scholars, however, have stylistically considered the works
ascribed to the Master of Flémalle as early works by van
der Weyden himself.
Campin’s art is indebted to that of manuscript illumination, but his work displays greater powers of observation
and ability to render plastic forms than is found in contemporary manuscript illumination. One of his
masterpieces is the Mérode Altarpiece (c. 1428), a triptych
of the Annunciation with the donors and St. Joseph on the
wings. The Virgin is portrayed in a setting of bourgeois
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Robert Campin

7

realism in which interior furnishings are rendered with
the frank and loving attention to detail that was to become
a characteristic tradition of Flemish art. Another important work, at the Städelsches Kunstinstitut in Frankfurt
am Main, consists of two wings of an altarpiece dating c.
1440 that are said to have come from the Abbey of Flémalle.
They depict the Virgin and Child and St. Veronica (with
Trinity on the reverse). Among other works generally
ascribed to Campin are the Virgin and Child Before a
Firescreen and a double portrait at the National Gallery,
London, a Nativity at Dijon (dated c. 1430), and the Werl
Altarpiece (1438) in the Prado, Madrid.

Lorenzo Ghiberti
(b. c. 1378, Pelago [Italy]—d. Dec. 1, 1455, Florence)

T

he early Italian Renaissance sculptor Lorenzo
Ghiberti is best known for his doors for the baptistery of Florence Cathedral (Gates of Paradise; 1425–52),
which are considered one of the greatest masterpieces of
Italian art in the Quattrocento. His other works include
three bronze statues for Or San Michele (1416–25) and the
reliefs for Siena Cathedral (1417–27). Ghiberti also wrote I
Commentarii, three treatises on art history and theory from
antiquity to his time.
Ghiberti’s mother had married Cione Ghiberti in 1370,
and they lived in Pelago, near Florence. At some point she
went to Florence and lived there as the common-law wife
of a goldsmith named Bartolo di Michele. They were married in 1406 after Cione died, and it was in their home that
Lorenzo Ghiberti spent his youth. It is not certain which
man was Ghiberti’s father, for he claimed each as his father
at separate times. But throughout his early years, Lorenzo
considered himself Bartolo’s son, and it was Bartolo who
trained the boy as a goldsmith. Ghiberti also received
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training as a painter; as he reported in the autobiographical part of his writings, he left Florence in 1400 with a
painter to work in the town of Pesaro for its ruler,
Sigismondo Malatesta.
Ghiberti returned quickly to his home city when he
heard, in 1401, that a competition was being held for the
commission to make a pair of bronze doors for the baptistery of the cathedral of Florence. He and six other artists
were given the task of representing the biblical scene of
Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac in a bronze relief of quatrefoil
shape, following the tradition of the first set of doors

Isaac, Jacob, and Esau, gilded bronze relief panel from the east doors (Gates of
Paradise) of the Baptistery of San Giovanni in Florence, by Lorenzo Ghiberti,
1425–52. SCALA/Art Resource, New York

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produced by Andrea Pisano (1330–36). The entry panels of
Ghiberti and of Filippo Brunelleschi are the sole survivors
of the contest. Ghiberti’s panels displayed a graceful and
lively composition executed with a mastery of the goldsmith’s art. In 1402 Ghiberti was chosen to make the doors
by a large panel of judges; their decision brought immediate and lasting recognition and prominence to the young
artist. The contract was signed in 1403 with Bartolo di
Michele’s workshop—overnight the most prestigious in
Florence—and in 1407 Ghiberti legally took over the
commission.
The work on the doors lasted until 1424, but Ghiberti
did not devote himself to this alone. He created designs
for the stained-glass windows in the cathedral; he regularly
served as architectural consultant to the cathedral building supervisors, although it is unlikely that he actually
collaborated with Brunelleschi on the construction of the
dome as he later claimed. The Arte dei Mercanti di
Calimala, the guild of the merchant bankers, gave him
another commission, about 1412, to make a larger than
life-size bronze statue of their patron saint, John the
Baptist, for a niche on the outside of the guilds’ communal
building, Or San Michele. The job was a bold undertaking.
As well as Ghiberti’s first departure from goldsmith-scale
work it was, in fact, the first large bronze in Florence.
Ghiberti successfully finished the St. John in 1416, adding
gilding in the following year. The technical achievement
and the modernity of its style brought Ghiberti commissions for two similarly large bronze figures for guild niches
at Or San Michele: the St. Matthew in 1419 for the bankers’
guild and the St. Stephen for the wool guild in 1425.
These last two commissions brought Ghiberti into
open competition with the newly prominent younger
sculptors Donatello and Nanni di Banco, who had made

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stone statues for Or San Michele after Ghiberti’s first figure there. Ghiberti’s St. John still followed many of the
conventions of the Gothic tradition. It combined smallscale details with a larger-than-life scale that made the
figure appear overwhelmed by the drapery. Donatello’s St.
Mark and St. George and Nanni di Banco’s St. Philip and
Four Crowned Saints were as large as Ghiberti’s figure but
were designed with monumental proportions to match
their scale. The boldness and strength of the weighty new
Classical figures constituted a challenge for Ghiberti, but
he met it with success in his next sculptures, and maintained his preeminent position as a leading artist in
Florence.
The teens and ’20s were years of flourishing expansion
for Ghiberti and his firm. He had completed a great deal of
the modelling and casting of the panels for the baptistery
doors by 1413, and he was in control of a smoothly functioning workshop with many assistants. In 1417 Ghiberti
was asked to make two bronze reliefs for the baptismal font
of the cathedral in Siena. He was so busy that he finished
them, under pressure from the Sienese authorities, 10 years
later. In 1419, when Pope Martin V was in Florence, Ghiberti
was called on as a goldsmith to fashion a morse and mitre
for the pontiff. Unfortunately, these pieces, like other
examples of Ghiberti’s art in rare stones and precious metals, have disappeared. During these years, too, Lorenzo
found a wife—Marsilia, the 16-year-old daughter of
Bartolomeo di Luca, a wool carder. She soon bore him two
sons: Tommaso was born in 1417 and Vittorio the next year.
His sons later joined Ghiberti in his business, and Vittorio
continued its operation after his father’s death.
Ghiberti’s artistic success also had its financial rewards.
A surviving tax return of 1427 lists property in Florence,
land out of town, and a substantial amount of money
invested in government bonds to his credit. Over the
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Bronze doors from the north side of the baptistery of San Giovanni in Florence,
by Lorenzo Ghiberti, c. 1403–24. Alinari/Art Resource, New York
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years, his real estate and monetary holdings continued to
grow. In addition to being well paid, Ghiberti was a businessman who managed his affairs shrewdly. He was a
well-to-do member of Florentine society and a rich man
among the artists of his time.
Ghiberti was actively involved with and interested in
other artists and their work. Some (Donatello, Paolo
Uccello, Michelozzo, Benozzo Gozzoli) had worked for a
time in his workshop as young assistants. Ghiberti’s association with the painter Fra Angelico is documented:
Ghiberti designed the frame for his Linaiuoli Altarpiece.
In his commentaries, Ghiberti exaggerates only a bit when
he proudly claims that “few important things were done in
our city which were not devised or designed by my hand.”
Among his undocumented works may be noted some halfdozen floor tombs and sarcophagi, but the vast extent to
which Ghiberti’s providing of designs and models influenced Florentine art is hard to measure. He appears to
have shared his knowledge and talent generously and
freely. Long before the completion of his second pair of
doors (the Gates of Paradise) in 1452, the fund of figures
and models assembled in connection with this work, which
the public saw only later, was open to painters of frescoes
in the Chiostro Verde (Green Cloister) of Santissima
Annunziata and the sculptor Luca della Robbia, who was
working on a marble singing gallery for the cathedral.
Naturally, the impact of the Gates increased after they
were installed.
When he was 45 years old, Ghiberti finished the first
doors. They are the effort of more than 20 years of work
and the major sculptural complex of the International
Gothic style in Italy. They show some changes in the latest
parts, however, to a more Classical style that emphasizes
the bodies of figures more than the elegant draperies that

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enfold them. Ghiberti created expressive, strong faces based
on examples he knew of ancient Roman art—portrait
busts and carved sarcophagi. Because of the success of the
first doors, a contract was soon signed with the Calimala
for a second pair, but the political and financial fortunes of
the city and the guild did not permit work to get under
way for about five years.
Following the completion of the first doors, Ghiberti
embarked on a decade of intense exploration of new ways
of forming pictorial space and making gracefully active
and lifelike figures. His works of the late 1420s show him
able to make space increasingly intelligible in a series of
clearly receding planes; using shallow relief, Ghiberti
depicted volumes of bodies and deep architectural spaces.
Examples of these are the reliefs in Siena; the Dati Tomb
(the bronze plaque for the floor tomb of the Dominican
general Leonardo Dati); and the two shrines in Florence,
Cassa di S. Zenobius (a bronze casket with relief panels of
stories from the saint’s life) and Shrine of Saints Protus,
Hyacinth, and Nemesius (a bronze container for the relics
of three martyrs).
It is likely that at this time Ghiberti encountered Leon
Battista Alberti, a young humanist scholar, who, inspired
by the new art in Florence, was composing theoretical
treatises on the visual arts. Their mutual belief that beauty
was synonymous with the conception they shared of
antique art makes it difficult to know whether or not
Alberti’s ideas in De pictura (On Painting) precede the three
panels of the second door (Isaac, Joseph, and Solomon),
which are the visual equivalent of those ideas. The beauty
of antique art meant for both Alberti and Ghiberti an idealization of nature; capturing its essence meant revealing
life by depicting movement, life’s most salient visible characteristic. For the representation of a realistic spatial

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setting for these naturalistic figures, Alberti’s treatise sets
forth a perspective system for projecting such spaces onto
the picture plane of a painting or bas-relief. Ghiberti’s
three panels seem an embodiment of the humanist’s formulations for Renaissance pictorial art, and it is clear that
any assessment of his art must account for the incorporation of the new theory as well as for the beauty and charm
of these works. Ghiberti was himself so proud that he
claimed to have made, in all, 10 panels, “. . . architectural
settings in the relation with which the eye measures them,
and real to such a degree that . . . one sees the figures which
are near appear larger, and those that are far off smaller, as
reality shows it.”
Ghiberti’s writings, I Commentarii (probably completed around 1447), shed more light on his humanist
interests.The commentaries are composed of three books.
The first, a history of art in ancient times, is Ghiberti’s
digest of writings of Latin authors on the subject. In it he
reveals his belief that the inseparability of practice and
theory is responsible for the excellence of ancient art. In
the second book, which records the art of the immediate
past, Ghiberti expresses his admiration for certain Sienese
painters and for a late 14th-century northern goldsmith
named Gusmin, who is known only through Ghiberti’s
pages. This book includes an autobiography, in which
Ghiberti establishes his place in the history of art. The last
book was apparently more theoretical, but in the surviving manuscript it is fragmentary. The commentaries
demonstrate Ghiberti’s confidence in his position as an
important leader in the Florentine Renaissance—one
interested in recapturing the art of the ancients and studying it as a humanist scholar would, and one who developed
a new style, all’antica, in which he freely created art works
with a grace and beauty that have been found winning
since their invention.
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Donatello
(b. c. 1386, Florence [Italy]—d. Dec. 13, 1466, Florence)

D

onatello was a master sculptor who worked in both
marble and bronze. He is one of the greatest of all
Italian Renaissance artists.
A good deal is known about Donatello’s life and career,
but little is known about his character and personality, and
what is known is not wholly reliable. He never married, and
he seems to have been a man of simple tastes. Patrons often
found him hard to deal with in a day when artists’ working
conditions were regulated by guild rules. Donatello seemingly demanded a measure of artistic freedom. Although
he knew a number of humanists well, the artist was not a
cultured intellectual. His humanist friends attest that he
was a connoisseur of ancient art. The inscriptions and signatures on his works are among the earliest examples of
the revival of Classical Roman lettering. He had a more
detailed and wide-ranging knowledge of ancient sculpture
than any other artist of his day. His work was inspired by
ancient visual examples, which he often daringly transformed. Though he was traditionally viewed as essentially a
realist, later research indicates he was much more.

Early Career
Donatello (diminutive of Donnato) was the son of Niccolò
di Betto Bardi, a Florentine wool carder. It is not known
how he began his career, but it seems likely that he learned
stone carving from one of the sculptors working for the
cathedral of Florence about 1400. Some time between
1404 and 1407, he became a member of the workshop of
Lorenzo Ghiberti, a sculptor in bronze who in 1402 had
won the competition for the doors of the Florentine baptistery. Donatello’s earliest work of which there is certain
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knowledge, a marble statue of David, shows an artistic
debt to Ghiberti, who was then the leading Florentine
exponent of International Gothic, a style of graceful,
softly curved lines strongly influenced by northern
European art.
The full power of Donatello first appeared in two marble statues, St. Mark and St. George (both completed c. 1415),
for niches on the exterior of Or San Michele, the church
of Florentine guilds. Here, for the first time since Classical
antiquity and in striking contrast to medieval art, the
human body is rendered as a self-activating, functional
organism, and the human personality is shown with a confidence in its own worth. The same qualities came
increasingly to the fore in a series of five prophet statues
that Donatello did beginning in 1416 for the niches of the
campanile, the bell tower of the cathedral. These works,
with their highly individual features inspired by ancient
Roman portrait busts, are so different from the traditional
images of Old Testament prophets that by the end of the
15th century they could be mistaken for portrait statues.
Donatello continued to explore the pictorial possibilities of sculpture begun by Ghiberti on the baptistery doors
in his marble reliefs of the 1420s and early 1430s. The most
highly developed of these are The Ascension, with Christ
Giving the Keys to St. Peter, which is so delicately carved
that its full beauty can be seen only in a strongly raking
light; and the Feast of Herod (1433–35), with its perspective
background. Meanwhile, Donatello had also become a
major sculptor in bronze. His earliest such work was the
more than life-size statue of St. Louis of Toulouse (c. 1423)
for a niche at Or San Michele. Donatello had been commissioned to do not only the statue but the niche and its
framework. The niche may have been a collaboration with
Michelozzo, a sculptor and architect with whom he
entered into a limited partnership. Michelozzo was
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responsible for the architectural framework and the decorative sculpture.
The architecture of these partnership projects resembles that of Brunelleschi and differs sharply from that of
comparable works done by Donatello alone in the 1430s.
All of his work done alone shows an unorthodox ornamental vocabulary drawn from both Classical and medieval
sources and an un-Brunelleschian tendency to blur the
distinction between the architectural and the sculptural
elements. Both the Annunciation tabernacle in Santa
Croce and the Cantoria (the singer’s pulpit) in the Duomo
show a vastly increased repertory of forms derived from
ancient art, the harvest of Donatello’s long stay in Rome
(1430–33). His departure from the standards of Brunelleschi
produced an estrangement between the two old friends
that was never repaired.
During his partnership with Michelozzo, Donatello
carried out independent commissions of pure sculpture,
including several works of bronze for the baptismal font
of San Giovanni in Siena. The earliest and most important of these was the Feast of Herod (1423–27), an intensely
dramatic relief with an architectural background that
first displayed Donatello’s command of scientific linear
perspective, which Brunelleschi had invented only a few
years earlier. To the Siena font Donatello also contributed two statuettes of Virtues, austerely beautiful figures
whose style points toward the Virgin and angel of the
Santa Croce Annunciation, and three nude putti, or child
angels. These putti, evidently influenced by Etruscan
bronze figurines, prepared the way for the bronze David,
the first large-scale, free-standing nude statue of the
Renaissance. Well-proportioned and superbly poised, it
was conceived independently of any architectural setting. Its harmonious calm makes it the most Classical of
Donatello’s works.
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Whether the David was commissioned by the Medici
or not, Donatello worked for them (1433–43), producing
sculptural decoration for the old sacristy in San Lorenzo,
the Medici church. Works there included 10 large reliefs
in coloured stucco and two sets of small bronze doors,
which showed paired saints and apostles disputing with
each other in vivid and even violent fashion.

Paduan Period
In 1443 Donatello was lured to Padua by a commission for a
bronze equestrian statue of a famous Venetian condottiere,
Erasmo da Narmi, popularly called Gattamelata (“The
Honeyed Cat”), who had died shortly before. Such a project was unprecedented—indeed, scandalous—for since the
days of the Roman Empire bronze equestrian monuments
had been the sole prerogative of rulers. The execution of
the monument was plagued by delays. Donatello did most
of the work between 1447 and 1450, yet the statue was not
placed on its pedestal until 1453. It portrays Gattamelata
in pseudo-Classical armour calmly astride his mount, the
baton of command in his raised right hand. The head is an
idealized portrait with intellectual power and Roman
nobility. This statue was the ancestor of all the equestrian
monuments erected since. Its fame, enhanced by the controversy, spread far and wide. Even before it was on public
view, the king of Naples wanted Donatello to do the same
kind of equestrian statue for him.
In the early 1450s, Donatello undertook some important works for the Paduan Church of San Antonio: a
splendidly expressive bronze crucifix and a new high altar,
the most ambitious of its kind, unequaled in 15th-century
Europe. Its richly decorated architectural framework of
marble and limestone contains seven life-size bronze statues, 21 bronze reliefs of various sizes, and a large limestone
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relief, Entombment of Christ. The housing was destroyed a
century later, and the present arrangement, dating from
1895, is wrong both aesthetically and historically.
Donatello’s mastery in handling large numbers of figures
(one relief has more than 100) anticipates the compositional principles of the High Renaissance.
Donatello was apparently inactive during the last three
years at Padua, clearly passing through a crisis that prevented him from working. He was later quoted as saying
that he almost died “among those frogs in Padua.” In 1456
the Florentine physician Giovanni Chellini noted in his
account book that he had successfully treated the master
for a protracted illness. Donatello completed only two
works between 1450 and 1455: the wooden statue St. John
the Baptist in Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice, shortly
before his return to Florence; and an even more extraordinary figure of Mary Magdalen in the Florentine baptistery.
Both works show new insight into psychological reality;
Donatello’s formerly powerful bodies have become withered and spidery, overwhelmed, as it were, by emotional
tensions within.

Late Florentine Period
During Donatello’s stay in Padua, a new generation of
sculptors who excelled in the sensuous treatment of marble surfaces had arisen in Florence. Thus Donatello’s
wooden figures must have been a shock. With the change
in Florentine taste, all of Donatello’s important commissions came from outside Florence. They included the
dramatic bronze group Judith and Holofernes and a bronze
statue of St. John the Baptist for Siena Cathedral.
The last years of Donatello’s life were spent designing
twin bronze pulpits for San Lorenzo, and thus, again in
the service of his old patrons the Medici, he died. Covered
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with reliefs showing the passion of Christ, the pulpits are
works of tremendous spiritual depth and complexity.

Jan van Eyck
(b. before 1395, Maaseik, Bishopric of Liège, Holy Roman Empire
[now in Belgium]—d. before July 9, 1441, Bruges)

F

lemish painter Jan van Eyck is notable for having perfected the newly developed technique of oil painting.
His naturalistic panel paintings, mostly portraits and religious subjects, made extensive use of disguised religious
symbols. His masterpiece is the altarpiece in the cathedral
at Ghent, the Adoration of the Lamb (1432; also called Ghent
Altarpiece).
Jan van Eyck must have been born before 1395, for in
October 1422 he is recorded as the varlet de chambre et peintre (“honorary equerry and painter”) of John of Bavaria,
count of Holland. He continued to work in the palace of
The Hague until the count’s death in 1425 and then settled
briefly in Bruges before he was summoned, that summer,
to Lille to serve Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy, the
most powerful ruler and foremost patron of the arts in
Flanders. Jan remained in the duke’s employ until his
death. On behalf of his sponsor he undertook a number of
secret missions during the next decade, of which the most
notable were two journeys to the Iberian Peninsula, the
first in 1427 to try to contract a marriage for Philip with
Isabella of Spain, and a more successful trip in 1428–29 to
seek the hand of Isabella of Portugal. As a confidant of
Philip, Jan may have participated directly in these marriage negotiations, but he also was charged to present the
duke with a portrait of the intended.
In 1431 Jan purchased a house in Bruges and, about the
same time, married a woman named Margaret, about
whom little more is known than that she was born in 1406
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and was to bear him at least two children. Residing in
Bruges, Jan continued to paint, and in 1436 he again made
a secret voyage for Philip. After his death in 1441, he was
buried in the Church of Saint-Donatian, in Bruges.
Securely attributed paintings survive only from the
last decade of Jan’s career; therefore, his artistic origins
and early development must be deduced from his mature
work. Traditionally, Jan has been acclaimed the founder of
Flemish painting, and scholars have sought his artistic
roots in the last great phase of medieval manuscript illumination. It is clear that the naturalism and elegant
composition of Jan’s later painting owe much to such early
15th-century illuminators as the anonymous Boucicaut
Master and Pol, Herman, and Jehanequin de Limburg (the
“Limburg Brothers”), who worked for the Burgundian
dukes. A document of 1439 reports that Jan van Eyck paid
an illuminator for preparing a book for the duke; but central to the discussion of his ties to manuscript illustration
has been the attribution to Jan of several miniatures, identified as Hand G, in a problematic prayer book known as
the Turin-Milan Hours. So long as these “Eyckian” miniatures were dated in the 1420s or even earlier, Jan’s
authorship seemed indubitable; but recent investigations
strongly indicate that these miniatures were painted at
least 20 years later and, hence, that they are by an imitator.
With the elimination of the Turin-Milan Hours from Jan
van Eyck’s early oeuvre, his connections with International
Gothic style illumination appear to have been less direct
than had been thought.
Certainly as important for Jan’s artistic formation were
the panel paintings of Robert Campin (c. 1378–1444), a
Tournai painter whose important role in the history of
Flemish art has only recently been reestablished. Jan must
have met Campin at least once, when he was feted by the
Tournai painter’s guild in 1427, and from Campin’s art he
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seems to have learned the bold realism, the method of disguised symbolism, and perhaps the luminous oil technique
that became so characteristic of his own style. In contrast
to Campin, who was a Tournai burgher, Jan was a learned
master at work in a busy court, and he signed his paintings,
the first Flemish artist to do so. The majority of Jan’s panels present the proud inscription “IOHANNES DE
EYCK,” and several bear his aristocratic motto, “Als ik
kan” (“As best I can”). It is small wonder that Campin’s
reputation faded and his influence on Jan was forgotten,
and it is of little surprise that many of Campin’s achievements were credited to the younger master.
Despite Jan van Eyck’s having signed 9 paintings and
dated 10, the establishment of his oeuvre and the reconstruction of its chronology present problems. The major
difficulty is that Jan’s masterpiece, the Adoration of the
Lamb altarpiece, has a probably reliable inscription that
introduces another painter, Hubert van Eyck, as its principal master. (Hubert van Eyck is believed to have been Jan’s
brother.) This has caused art historians to turn to less
ambitious but more secure works to plot Jan’s development, including, most notably: the Portrait of a Young Man
(Leal Souvenir) of 1432, the wedding portrait Giovanni
Arnolfini and Giovanna Cenami of 1434, the Madonna with
Canon van der Paele of 1434–36, the triptych Madonna and
Child with Saints of 1437, and the panels of St. Barbara and
the Madonna at the Fountain, dated, respectively, 1437 and
1439. Although they fall within a brief span of seven years,
these paintings present a consistent development in which
Jan moved from the heavy, sculptural realism associated
with Robert Campin to a more delicate, rather precious,
pictorial style.
On stylistic grounds there seems little difficulty in
placing the Ghent Altarpiece at the head of this development as indicated by the date 1432 in the inscription, but
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the question of Hubert’s participation in this great work
has yet to be completely resolved. The inscription itself is
definite about this point: “The painter Hubert van Eyck,
greater than whom no one was found, began [this work];
and Jan, his brother, second in art [carried] through the
task . . .” On the basis of this claim, art historians have
attempted to distinguish Hubert’s contribution to the
Ghent Altarpiece and have even assigned to him certain of
the more archaic “Eyckian” paintings, including The
Annunciation and The Three Marys at the Tomb.
The confusion concerning Jan’s relationship to Hubert,
the doubt about his activities as an illuminator, and the
reemergence of Robert Campin as a preeminent master
do not diminish the achievement and significance of Jan
van Eyck. He may not have invented oil painting as early
writers asserted, but he perfected the technique to mirror
the textures, light, and spatial effects of nature. The realism of his paintings—admired as early as 1449 by the
Italian humanist Cyriacus D’Ancona, who observed that
the works seemed to have been produced “not by the artifice of human hands but by all-bearing nature herself ”—has
never been surpassed. For Jan, as for Campin, naturalism
was not merely a technical tour de force, however. For
him, nature embodied God, and so he filled his paintings
with religious symbols disguised as everyday objects. Even
the light that so naturally illuminates Jan van Eyck’s landscapes and interiors is a metaphor of the Divine.
Because of the refinement of his technique and the
abstruseness of his symbolic programs, the successors of
Jan van Eyck borrowed only selectively from his art.
Campin’s foremost student, Rogier van der Weyden, tempered his master’s homey realism with Eyckian grace and
delicacy. In fact, at the end of his career, Campin himself
succumbed somewhat to Jan’s courtly style. Even Petrus
Christus, who may have been apprenticed in Jan’s atelier
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and who finished the Virgin and Child, with Saints and
Donor after Jan’s death, quickly abandoned the intricacies
of Jan’s style under the influence of van der Weyden.
During the last third of the century, the Netherlandish
painters Hugo van der Goes and Justus van Gent revived
the Eyckian heritage, but, when such early 16th-century
Flemish masters as Quentin Massys and Jan Gossart
turned to Jan’s work, they produced pious copies that had
little impact on their original creations. In Germany and
France the influence of Jan van Eyck was overshadowed
by the more accessible styles of Campin and van der
Weyden, and only in the Iberian Peninsula—which Jan
had visited twice—did his art dominate. In Italy his greatness was recognized by Cyriacus and by the humanist
Bartolomeo Facio, who lists Jan, together with van der
Weyden and the Italian artists Il Pisanello and Gentile da
Fabriano, as one of the leading painters of the period. But
Renaissance artists, as painters elsewhere, found him easier to admire than to imitate.
Interest in his painting and acknowledgment of his
prodigious technical accomplishment have remained high.
Jan’s works have been copied frequently and have been
avidly collected. He is referred to in the Treaty of Versailles,
which specifies the return of the Ghent Altarpiece to
Belgium before peace with Germany could be concluded
after the end of World War I.

Il Pisanello
(b. c. 1395, Pisa [Italy]—d. 1455)

A

ntonio Pisano, known as Il Pisanello, was an Italian
medalist and painter and a major exponent of a style
known as International Gothic because it was unusually
common to several countries. It was characterized by a
delicate naturalism. Pisanello’s early work suggests that he
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Madonna with SS. Anthony and George, painting by Pisanello, after 1422;
in the National Gallery, London. Courtesy of the trustees of the National
Gallery, London; photograph, J.R. Freeman & Co. Ltd Photograph,
J.R. Freeman & Co. Ltd.
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was the pupil of Stefano da Zevio, a Veronese artist. (He
was wrongly identified as “Vittore Pisano” by Giorgio
Vasari, and only in 1907 was his personal name verified as
Antonio.)
Pisanello collaborated with Gentile da Fabriano on
frescoes in the Doges’ Palace in Venice (c. 1415–22) and in
St. John Lateran in Rome (after 1427). After Gentile’s
death, Pisanello probably completed the Roman frescoes,
known only through drawings, which show Gentile’s great
influence over the young Pisanello. Until 1969, when layers of plaster were removed from the walls of the Sala del
Pisanello in Mantua’s Palazzo Ducale to reveal a series of
Pisanello’s frescoes depicting scenes of war and chivalry,
his only surviving frescoes were thought to have been an
Annunciation at the tomb of Niccolò di Brenzoni in San
Fermo (c. 1423–24) and the legend of St. George in the
Pellegrini Chapel in San Anastasia (c. 1433–38), both in
Verona. These works are characterized by the curvilinear
design, calligraphic draperies, and decorative detail typical of the International Gothic style that Pisanello used
throughout his career. Even a mature work such as his St.
Eustace is encrusted with rich detail that tends to work
against spatial clarity. The Madonna with SS. Anthony and
George displays a simpler conception. It is dominated by
the monumental figures of the two saints and the bust of
the Virgin in a mandorla, or almond-shaped aureole.
Pisanello’s fame and his importance in court circles
rested more upon his medals than upon his painting. They
are thought to have resulted from his study of ancient
Greek and Roman numismatic portraits. He had virtually
no recent predecessors, and, with him, the art reached its
highest point. His work includes the medal of the Greek
emperor John VIII Palaeologus (1438), the wedding medal
of Lionello d’Este (1444), Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta

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(1445), and the medal of Alfonso of Aragon (1448), generally cited as his most successful work in the genre. Most
of Pisanello’s painted portraits, such as the Margherita
Gonzaga (c. 1438), and Lionello d’Este (c. 1440), show the sitter in profile—a convention of Pisanello’s portrait
medals—against a background of delicate, colourful flowers and butterflies.
Pisanello’s drawings have been preserved in the Codex
Vallardi. This is the only instance in which the drawings of
a 15th-century workshop have been preserved virtually
intact. They are of unique value, therefore, for the study of
the style and techniques of draftsmanship of the period.
Pisanello uses a large variety of techniques and materials
to produce masterful drawings (some coloured) of animals,
plants, costume design, and perspective studies. His drawings of various views of horses are particularly well known.
He was one of the first 15th-century artists to draw from
life instead of adhering to the medieval tradition of copying the drawings of others. These drawings reveal
Pisanello’s breadth of interest and his sensitive eye. They
combine delicately rendered early Renaissance naturalism
with the beauty of late Gothic line and are one of his most
important contributions to the history of art.

Francesco Squarcione
(b. c. 1395, Padua [Italy]—d. after 1468, Padua)

E

arly Renaissance painter Francesco Squarcione
founded the Paduan school of art. He is known for
being the teacher of Andrea Mantegna and other noteworthy painters.
Squarcione was the son of a notary of Padua. From an
early age he began to collect and draw copies of ancient
sculptures. According to the 16th-century historian

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Bernardino Scardeone, who is the main source of information on Squarcione, he traveled widely in search of
these objects and may have even visited Greece. After
returning to Padua, he began teaching, taking his first student in 1431. He was associated in 1434 with the influential
Tuscan painter Fra Filippo Lippi during the latter’s stay
in Padua. In 1440 Squarcione purchased a house in which
he displayed his collection of antique sculptures and
architectural fragments. Squarcione’s two extant panel
paintings, a Madonna and Child in Berlin and the polyptych St. Jerome and Saints (1449–52) in the Civic Museum
of Padua, show the influence of the Florentine early
Renaissance style, especially that of the sculptor Donatello,
who worked in Padua from 1443 to 1453. The only record
of Squarcione’s mature style is contained in a cycle of frescoes of scenes from the life of St. Francis on the exterior
of San Francesco at Padua (c. 1452–66). Such compositions
as can be reconstructed confirm the traditional view of
Squarcione as one of the channels through which the early
Renaissance style of Florence diffused in Padua.
More significant than his painting, however, was his
establishment of a private school, a place for learning that
differed from the traditional workshop and apprenticeship. According to Scardeone, Squarcione had 137 pupils.
One of the noteworthy features of his school was his inclination to adopt the more skilled students and enlist them
in painting for him. Among the artists he taught or influenced were Mantegna and Marco Zoppo (both of whom
he adopted and both of whom rejected his authority),
Giorgio Schiavone, and Cosmè Tura. Squarcione’s school
was renowned as one of the most advanced in the area,
although later scholars credit his students rather than
Squarcione with innovation. The claim that he was one of
the first to understand linear perspective has also been
challenged and seems unlikely.
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7 Paolo Uccello

7

Paolo Uccello
(b. 1397, Pratovecchio, near Florence [Italy]—d. Dec. 10, 1475,
Florence)

T

he work of Florentine painter Paolo Uccello represents a unique attempt to reconcile two distinct
artistic styles—the essentially decorative late Gothic and
the new heroic style of the early Renaissance. Probably his
most famous paintings are three panels representing The
Battle of San Romano (c. 1456). His careful and sophisticated
perspective studies are clearly evident in The Flood
(1447–48).

Apprenticeship and Early Work
By the time Paolo Uccello, born Paolo di Dono, was 10
years old he was already an apprentice in the workshop of
the sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti, who was then at work on
what became one of the masterpieces of Renaissance art—
the bronze doors for the baptistery of the Florence
Cathedral. In 1414 Uccello joined the confraternity of
painters (Compagnia di San Luca), and in the following
year he became a member of the Arte dei Medici e degli
Speziali, the official guild in Florence to which painters
belonged. Though Uccello must by then have been established as an independent painter, nothing of his work from
this time remains, and there is no definite indication of his
early training as a painter, except that he was a member of
the workshop of Ghiberti, where many of the outstanding
artists of the time were trained.
Uccello’s earliest, and now badly damaged, frescoes are
in the Chiostro Verde (the Green Cloister, so called because
of the green cast of the frescoes that covered its walls) of
Santa Maria Novella. They represent episodes from the
Creation. These frescoes, marked with a pervasive concern
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for elegant linear forms and insistent, stylized patterning
of landscape features, are consistent with the late Gothic
tradition that was still predominant at the beginning of
the 15th century in Florentine studios.
From 1425 to 1431, Uccello worked in Venice as a master mosaicist. All his work in Venice has been lost, however.
Uccello may have been induced to return to Florence by
the commission for a series of frescoes in the cloister of
San Miniato al Monte depicting scenes from monastic legends. While the figural formulations of these ruinous
frescoes still closely approximate those of the Santa Maria
Novella cycle, there is also a fascination with the novel
perspective schemes that had appeared in Florence during
Uccello’s Venetian sojourn and with a simplified and more
monumental treatment of forms deriving from the recent
sculpture of Donatello and Nanni di Banco.

Later Years
In 1436 in the Florence Cathedral, Uccello completed a
monochrome fresco of an equestrian monument to Sir
John Hawkwood, an English mercenary who had commanded Florentine troops at the end of the 14th century.
In the Hawkwood fresco, a single-point perspective
scheme, a fully sculptural treatment of the horse and rider,
and a sense of controlled potential energy within the figure all indicate Uccello’s desire to assimilate the new style
of the Renaissance that had blossomed in Florence since
his birth. Following the Hawkwood monument, in 1443
Uccello completed four heads of prophets around a colossal clock on the interior of the west facade of the cathedral;
between 1443 and 1445 he contributed the designs for two
stained-glass windows in the cupola.
After a brief trip to Padua in 1447, Uccello returned to
the Chiostro Verde of Santa Maria Novella. In a fresco
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illustrating the Flood and the recession of the water,
Uccello presented two separate scenes united by a rapidly
receding perspective scheme that reflected the influence
of Donatello’s contemporary reliefs in Padua. Human
forms in The Flood, especially the nudes, were reminiscent
of figures in Masaccio’s frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel
(c. 1427), perhaps the most influential of all paintings of
the early Renaissance. More than any other painting
by Uccello, The Flood illustrates the artist’s love for
perspective.
Perhaps Uccello’s most famous paintings are three
panels representing the Battle of San Romano, now in the
Louvre, Paris; the National Gallery, London; and the
Uffizi, Florence. These panels represent the victory in 1432
of Florentine forces under Niccolò da Tolentino over the
troops of their archrival, Siena. There are Renaissance elements, such as a sculptural treatment of forms and
fragments of a broken perspective scheme in this work,
but the bright handling of colour and the elaborate decorative patterns of the figures and landscape are indebted
to the Gothic style. The older style continued to be used
through the 15th century in Florence to enrich the environments of the new princes of the day, such as the Medici,
who acquired all three of the panels representing the
Battle of San Romano.
Uccello is justly famous for his careful and sophisticated perspective studies in the underdrawing (sinopia)
for his last fresco, The Nativity, formerly in San Martino
della Scala in Florence, and in three drawings universally
attributed to him that are now in the Uffizi. These drawings indicate a meticulous, analytic mind, keenly interested
in the application of scientific laws to the reconstruction
of objects in a three-dimensional space. In these studies
he was probably assisted by a noted mathematician, Paolo
Toscanelli. Uccello’s perspective studies were to influence
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the Renaissance art treatises of artists such as Piero della
Francesca, Leonardo da Vinci, and Albrecht Dürer. Uccello
apparently led an increasingly reclusive existence during
his last years.

Assessment
Uccello was long thought to be significant primarily for
his role in establishing new means of rendering perspective that became a major component of the Renaissance
style. The 16th-century biographer Giorgio Vasari said
that Uccello was “intoxicated” by perspective. Later historians found the unique charm and decorative genius
evinced by his compositions to be an even more important contribution.

Rogier van der Weyden
(b. 1399/1400, Tournai, France—d. June 18, 1464, Brussels)

R

ogier van der Weyden (French: Rogier de la Pasture)
was a Flemish painter who, with the possible exception of Jan van Eyck, was the most influential northern
European artist of his time. Though most of his work was
religious, he produced secular paintings (now lost) and
some sensitive portraits.
Rogier van der Weyden was the son of a master cutler,
and his childhood must have been spent in the comfortable surroundings of the rising class of merchants and
craftsmen. He may even have acquired a university education, for in 1426 he was honoured by the city as “Maistre
(Master) Rogier de la Pasture” and began his painting
career only the next year at the rather advanced age of 27.
It was then, on March 5, 1427, that van der Weyden enrolled
as an apprentice in the workshop of Robert Campin, the
foremost painter in Tournai and dean of the painters’ guild.
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Van der Weyden remained in Campin’s atelier for five
years, becoming an independent master of the guild on
Aug. 1, 1432. From Campin, he learned the ponderous,
detailed realism that characterizes his earliest paintings,
and so alike, in fact, are the styles of these two masters
that connoisseurs still do not agree on the attribution of
certain works. But the theory that the entire sequence of
paintings credited to Campin (who, like van der Weyden,
did not sign his panels) are actually from the brush of the
young van der Weyden cannot be maintained. Careful
study of secure works by van der Weyden and by his colleague in Campin’s workshop, Jacques Daret, permit
scholars to reestablish a basic series of works by the older
master and to distinguish the style of these from that of
van der Weyden.
Campin was not the only source of inspiration in van
der Weyden’s art. Jan van Eyck, the great painter from
Bruges, also profoundly affected the developing artist,
introducing elegance and subtle visual refinements into
the bolder, Campinesque components of such early paintings by van der Weyden as St. Luke Painting the Virgin.
Although as an apprentice van der Weyden must certainly
have met Jan van Eyck when the latter visited Tournai in
1427, it was more likely in Bruges, where van der Weyden
may have resided between 1432 and 1435, that he became
thoroughly acquainted with van Eyck’s style.
By 1435, van der Weyden, now a mature master, settled
in Brussels, the native city of his wife, Elizabeth Goffaert,
whom he had married in 1426. The next year he was
appointed city painter; and it was from this time that he
began to use the Flemish translation of his name (van der
Weyden). He remained in Brussels the rest of his life,
although he never completely severed his ties with Tournai.
He was commissioned to paint a mural (now destroyed)
for the town hall of Brussels showing famous historical
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examples of the administration of justice. During this
same period, around 1435–40, he completed the celebrated
panel of the Descent from the Cross for the chapel of the
Archers’ Guild of Louvain. In this deposition there is evident a tendency to reduce the setting of a scene to a
shallow, shrinelike enclosure and to orchestrate a rich
diversity of emotions.
These devotional qualities are even more striking in
van der Weyden’s works of the 1440s such as the twin
Granada-Miraflores altarpieces and the Last Judgment
Polyptych in Beaune, France (Hôtel-Dieu). In these the
settings are stark, the figures are delicate Gothic types,
and the action, though stilled, is exquisitely expressive.
The removal of van der Weyden’s art from concern with
outward appearances and his return to medieval conventions is surprising; for it was during this decade that his
international reputation was secured and commissions
increased from noblemen such as Philip the Good, duke
of Burgundy, and his powerful chancellor, Nicolas Rolin.
Van der Weyden may well have also been influenced by the
writings of Thomas à Kempis, the most popular theologian of the era, whose “practical mysticism,” like van der
Weyden’s painting, stressed empathetic response to episodes from the lives of Mary, Christ, and the saints.
Perhaps as an extension of a journey to install the Last
Judgment Altarpiece in Rolin’s chapel at Beaune or possibly to obtain a plenary indulgence for his daughter
Margaret, one of van der Weyden’s four children, who had
died that year, the renowned painter visited Rome during
the Jubilee of 1450. He was warmly received in Italy. Praise
from the humanist Bartolomeo Fazio and the eminent
theologian Nicholas of Cusa is recorded; van der Weyden
also received commissions from the powerful Este family
of Ferrara and the Medici of Florence. He painted a portrait of Francesco d’Este (originally thought to be Leonello
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d’Este), and his painting of the Madonna and Child that
still remains in Florence (Uffizi) bears the arms and patron
saints of the Medici.
While on his pilgrimage, van der Weyden apparently
tutored Italian masters in painting with oils, a technique
in which Flemish painters of the time were particularly
adept. He also seems to have learned a great deal from
what he viewed. Although he was primarily attracted to
the conservative painters Gentile da Fabriano and Fra
Angelico, whose medievalizing styles paralleled his own,
van der Weyden was also acquainted with more progressive trends. In the St. John Altarpiece and the Seven
Sacraments triptych, executed between 1451 and 1455,
shortly after van der Weyden’s return north, his characteristic austerity was tempered by his recollection of the
more robust Italian styles. In both, the panels are unified
from a single point of view. Despite this enrichment, however, van der Weyden’s conceptions remained essentially
iconic. He pushed the figures into the foreground and isolated them from their surroundings as subjects for
devotion.
The last 15 years of his life brought van der Weyden the
rewards due an internationally famous painter and exemplary citizen. He received numerous commissions, which
he carried out with the assistance of a large workshop that
included his own son Peter and his successor as city painter,
Vranck van der Stockt, a mediocre imitator. Even before
his death, however, van der Weyden’s impact extended far
beyond his immediate associates. The influence of his
expressive but technically less intricate style eclipsed that
of both Campin and van Eyck. Every Flemish painter of
the succeeding generation—Petrus Christus, Dirck Bouts,
Hugo van der Goes, and Hans Memling (who may have
studied in van der Weyden’s atelier)—depended on his
formulations; during the 16th century, his ideas were
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transformed and revitalized by Quentin Massys and
Bernard van Orley. Van der Weyden’s art was also a vehicle
for transporting the Flemish style throughout Europe,
and during the second half of the 15th century his influence dominated painting in France, Germany, and Spain.
Nevertheless, van der Weyden’s fame quickly waned,
and no painting by him had been signed or dated. By the
end of the 16th century the biographer Carel van Mander
had referred mistakenly to two Rogiers in Het Schilderboek
(1603; “Book of Painters”), and by the middle of the 19th
century his fame and art had all but been forgotten. Only
through a meticulous evaluation of the documents have
scholars since then been able to reconstruct van der
Weyden’s work and to restore the reputation of one of
15th-century Flanders’ leading masters.

Luca della Robbia
(b. 1399/1400, Florence [Italy]—d. Feb. 10, 1482)

T

he sculptor Luca della Robbia was a pioneer of
Florentine Renaissance style and the founder of a
family studio primarily associated with the production of
works in enameled terra-cotta. Before developing the process with which his family name came to be associated,
Luca apparently practiced his art solely in marble.
In 1431 he began what is probably his most important
work, the Cantoria, or “singing gallery,” that was originally
over the door of the northern sacristy of the Cathedral of
Florence. Taken down in 1688 and reassembled in the Opera
del Duomo Museum, it consists of 10 figurated reliefs: two
groups of singing boys; trumpeters; choral dancers; and
children playing on various musical instruments. The panels owe their great popularity to the innocence and
naturalism with which the children are portrayed. The
most important of Luca’s other works in marble are a
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tabernacle carved for the Chapel of San Luca in the Santa
Maria Nuova Hospital in Florence (1441), and the tomb of
Benozzo Federighi, bishop of Fiesole (1454–57).
The earliest documented work in polychrome enameled terra-cotta, executed wholly in that medium, is a
lunette of the Resurrection over the door of the northern
sacristy of the cathedral (1442–45). According to Luca’s
contemporary, the writer Giorgio Vasari, the glaze with
which Luca covered his terra-cotta sculptures consisted of
a mixture of tin, litharge antimony, and other minerals. The
Resurrection lunette in the cathedral was followed by a corresponding relief of the Ascension over the southern
sacristy door, in which a wider range of colour is employed.
Of the many decorative schemes for which enameled
terra-cotta was employed by Luca della Robbia, some of
the most important are the roundels of Apostles in Filippo
Brunelleschi’s Pazzi Chapel in Florence (soon after 1443);
the roof of Michelozzo’s Chapel of the Crucifix in San
Miniato al Monte, Florence (c. 1448); and a lunette over
the entrance of San Domenico at Urbino (c. 1449). Luca’s
last major work in this medium is an altarpiece in the
Palazzo Vescovile at Pescia (after 1472). There are also
many notable works by Luca outside Italy.

Fra Angelico
(b. c. 1400, Vicchio, Republic of Florence [Italy]—d. Feb. 18,
1455, Rome)

O

ne of the greatest painters of the 15th century, Fra
Angelico created works within the framework of the
early Renaissance style that embody a serene religious
attitude and reflect a strong Classical influence. A great
number of works executed during his career are altarpieces
and frescoes created for the church and the priory of San
Marco in Florence while he was in residence there.
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San Domenico Period
Baptized Guido di Pietro, Angelico appeared in a document of 1417 as a lay painter. Later, between the years 1420
and 1422, he became a Dominican friar and resided in the
priory of San Domenico at Fiesole, there taking the name
of Fra Giovanni da Fiesole. At Fiesole he was probably
influenced by the teachings of Giovanni Dominici, the
militant leader of the reformed Dominicans; the writings
of Dominici defended traditional spirituality against the
onslaught of humanism. Angelico was also influenced by
his fellow friar St. Antoninus Pierozzi, who became the
archbishop of Florence when Fra Angelico refused the
post and who may have consolidated Angelico’s faith. It is
believed that Antoninus also may have inspired some of
Angelico’s compositions.
According to the painter and biographer Giorgio
Vasari, Angelico was trained by the greatest painter and
miniaturist of the Gothic tradition, Lorenzo Monaco,
whose influence may be seen in the clear, painstaking delicacy of execution and the vibrant luminosity that seem to
spiritualize the figures in Angelico’s paintings. These qualities are notably apparent in two small altarpieces, Madonna
of the Star and The Annunciation.
Angelico’s Deposition for Santa Trinità in Florence was
once attributed to Monaco, who had begun it before he
died in 1425. Monaco had divided it into a triptych and
executed the pinnacles. Angelico, however, made it a unified altarpiece with a vast landscape dominated by a
varicoloured hill town. It is perhaps an imaginative evocation of Cortona, where Fra Angelico spent some time and
where some of his important works are to be found.
Against that background are sharply outlined human figures in interconnected groups; their features are so
delicately traced that attempts have been made to identify
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them as portraits. These arrangements of figures attest to
Angelico’s deep knowledge of the formalism that characterized the art of the early Renaissance.
Two strands were interwoven in Angelico’s life at
Fiesole: the pious life of a friar and continuous activity as
a painter. Vasari described him as “saintly and excellent,”
and, not long after his death, he was called angelico
(“angelic”) because of his moral virtues. This subsequently
became the name by which he is best known, often preceded by the word beato (“blessed”).
Angelico knew and followed closely the new artistic
trends of his time, above all the representation of space by
means of perspective. In works such as the large Last
Judgment and The Coronation of the Virgin, for example, the
human figures receding toward the rear themselves create
a feeling of space similar to that in the paintings of
Angelico’s great Florentine contemporary Masaccio. The
earliest work by Angelico that can be dated with certainty
is a triptych of huge dimensions that he painted for the
linen merchants’ guild (or Arte dei Linaiuoli; hence its
name, the Linaiuoli Altarpiece); it is dated July 11, 1433.
Enclosed in a marble shrine designed by the Florentine
sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti, this altarpiece represents the
Virgin and Son facing forward, monumentally, and, surrounding them in a minor key, charming angels, developing
the motif of the Madonna of the Star. The group has affinities with the Florentine Maestà (i.e., Madonna and Child
Enthroned in Majesty) of the 14th century, but the influence of Masaccio may be seen in the formalism of the
construction and in the innovative use of light and colour.
Angelico finished the work with a predella, or narrow strip
of paintings along the bottom of the altarpiece; this group
of paintings includes The Adoration of the Magi and The
Martyrdom of St. Mark, which are lucid and compact in
their narrative and have a strictly defined perspective, a
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technique that is even more effective in the small painting
depicting the naming of John the Baptist.
In the early 1430s, Angelico was commissioned to paint
the Deposition for the sacristy of the Church of Santa
Trinità as a companion piece to Gentile da Fabriano’s
Adoration of the Magi. As mentioned earlier, Angelico took
over this painting after the death of Lorenzo Monaco in
1425. In Angelico’s painting, the dead Christ is gently lowered from the cross and is mourned in silent grief by the
Virgin Mary and a group of women on the left of the composition. On the right, a group of men clothed in
contemporary Florentine dress stand in mute contemplation. One of these figures might be the portrait of Palla
Strozzi, the patron of the chapel and of the altarpiece.
Strozzi, who was at the time one of the richest men in
Europe and a rival to Cosimo de’ Medici, was exiled in
1434. The altarpiece might have been finished after his
exile, possibly about 1440. The Deposition is one of the first
paintings in the Italian Renaissance to depict figures in a
receding landscape rather than in a space set as a foreground stage. In the background, Angelico depicted the
city of Jerusalem.
Also in the 1430s, Angelico painted one of the most
inspired works of the Florentine Renaissance, The
Annunciation, an altarpiece significantly superior to his
two other paintings on the same subject. It shows the
Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve being driven out by
the Angel yet also under the sway of the radiant messenger and pure maiden who are portrayed in the space of a
Renaissance-style portico. The predella is skillfully
divided into stories of the Virgin Mary, naturalistically
portrayed—especially the Visitation, which has a realistic panorama. Angelico always followed reality closely,
even when he used a miniaturist technique. Occasionally,
he resorted to medieval techniques, such as a gold
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background, in deference to the taste of those who commissioned the work, but his figures still emerge quite
distinctly from the panels, in the Renaissance manner,
revealing the painter’s increasingly sure and harmonious
pictorial idiom. Angelico’s Annalena Altarpiece, also of
the 1430s, is, so far as is known, the first sacra conversazione
(i.e., “sacred conversation,” a representation of the Holy
Family) of the Renaissance.

Years at the Priory of San Marco
Angelico remained in the Fiesole priory until 1439, when
he entered the priory of San Marco in Florence. There he
worked mostly on frescoes. San Marco had been transferred from the Sylvestrine monks to the Dominicans in
1436, and the rebuilding of the church and its spacious
priory began about 1438, from designs by the Florentine
architect and sculptor Michelozzo. The construction was
generously subsidized by the Medici family. Angelico was
commissioned about 1438 by Cosimo de’ Medici the Elder
to execute the altarpiece, for which he again painted a
sacra conversazione. When the church was consecrated at
Epiphany in 1443, the altarpiece must have dominated the
place of worship. Angelico portrayed the Virgin and Child
raised high on a throne, with saints on either side receding
into space; among them are the two patron saints of the
Medici, Cosmas and Damian. This work, one of the most
compelling Fra Angelico created, ends in a dense grove of
cypresses, palms, and pines against a deep but toneless sky.
His figures seem cleansed of any human passion and appear
to have supreme serenity of spirit. A predella, showing
eight little legends of the two Medicean saints separated
by a Pietà (Virgin Mary holding the body of Christ), completed the work. These paintings are now scattered among
various museums.
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The Annunciation, fresco by Fra Angelico, 1438–45; in the Museum of San
Marco, Florence. SCALA/Art Resource, New York

On the walls of the priory of San Marco in Florence
are the paintings that mark the high point of Angelico’s
career. In the chapter hall, he executed a large Crucifixion
that seems akin to the “Moralities” of the 14th century,
which urged detachment from worldly vanities and salvation through Christ alone. In addition to the three
crucified figures against the sky, Angelico painted groups
of ritual figures, rhythmically arranged, with a chorus of
martyrs, founders of religious orders, hermits, and defenders of the Dominican order (whose genealogical tree is
depicted beneath this striking scene), as well as the two
Medicean saints. Thus, in the comprehensiveness of this

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work, Fra Angelico developed a concept that was barely
suggested in his earlier altarpieces.
He portrayed the exaltation of the Redeemer in many
other paintings in the priory’s first cloister and in its cells.
In one corridor he executed an Annunciation that broadened the pattern of his earlier one in Cortona. In the cells,
he proclaimed devotion to Christ crucified in at least 20
examples, all related to monastic life. The pictorial work
in these narrow spaces is intricate, probably the work of
numerous hands directed by the master, including Benozzo
Gozzoli, the greatest of Fra Angelico’s disciples, and
Zanobi Strozzi, another pupil better known as a miniaturist, as well as his earliest collaborator, Battista Sanguigni.
The hand of Fra Angelico himself is identifiable in the first
10 cells on the eastern side. Three subjects merit particular attention: a Resurrection, a coronation of the Virgin,
and, especially, a gentle Annunciation, presented on a bare
white gallery, with St. Peter Martyr in prayer, timidly facing the group, his coloured habit contrasting with the
delicate two tones of pink in the garments of the Virgin
and the Angel. The cells, originally hidden from public
view because of monastic vows of reclusion, reveal the
secret joy of the painter-friar in creating figures of purity
to move his fellow friars to meditation and prayer. The
images in these paintings are the lyrical expressions of a
painter who was also their prior.

Roman Period
At the end of 1446, Fra Angelico was called to Rome by
Pope Eugene IV, and he remained there until about 1450.
In the summer of 1447, however, he had undertaken to
decorate the chapel of San Brizio in the cathedral of
Orvieto. Angelico’s assistants, above all Gozzoli, worked

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closely with him on two canvases, crowded with figures, in
this chapel. These canvases, of Christ the Judge amid the
hierarchy of angels and the chorus of the prophets, respectively, were only partially executed by Angelico; they were
continued more than 50 years later by Luca Signorelli.
In Rome the frescoes that Angelico executed in a
chapel of St. Peter’s (c. 1446–47), in the chapel of the
Sacrament in the Vatican (not before 1447), and in the
studio of Pope Nicholas V (1449) have all been destroyed.
But the Vatican still possesses his decorative painting for
the Chapel of Niccolò V. There he painted scenes from
the lives of Saints Stephen and Lawrence, along with figures of the Evangelists and saints, repeating some of the
patterns of the predella on his altarpiece of San Marco.
The consecration scene of St. Stephen and that of St.
Lawrence are both set in solemn cathedral interiors, and
the almsgiving of St. Lawrence is set against the background of a temple. In this scene particularly, Angelico
imbued the poor and afflicted who surround the deaconsaint with a serenity that purifies them and illuminates
them with an inner light, rendering them equals of the
blessed figures on the altarpieces. At the same time, the
organization of these works and the rendering of architecture in them mark the culmination of his development
as a Renaissance artist.
About 1450 Fra Angelico returned to Florence, where,
still a friar, he became prior of the priory of San Domenico
in Fiesole (1450–c. June 1452). His most notable work of
this time was the cycle of 35 paintings of scenes from the
life of Christ and other subjects for the doors of a silver
chest in the sanctuary of the Church of Santissima
Annunziata in Florence. These works, which have been
extensively repainted, are probably distant echoes of the
destroyed paintings in the Chapel of Niccolò V. Although

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the authenticity of these works is disputed, the Massacre
of the Innocents, Flight into Egypt, and Presentation in the
Temple seem to be Angelico’s because of the bright spontaneity of the slender figures, as well as the spatiality of
the surroundings and the landscape. Such traits derived
from the artist’s vast experience in mural painting. In
most of these little pictures, however, there is a kind of
disconnectedness and weariness, indicating the hand of
pupils whose art was a far cry from Fra Angelico’s ineffable poetry. There is still a certain monumental tone in the
late altarpiece he executed in the monastery of Bosco ai
Frati in the Mugello. With the completion of this altarpiece and several other minor works, Fra Angelico’s fertile
artistic labours drew to a close.
In 1453 or 1454 Fra Angelico again went to Rome, where
he died in the Dominican priory in which he had stayed
during his first visit to that city. He was buried in the
nearby church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, where his
tomb remains an object of veneration.

Assessment
In addition to the influence he had on his followers, Fra
Angelico exerted a significant influence in Florence,
especially between 1440 and 1450, even on such an accomplished master as Fra Filippo Lippi. As a friar, Fra Angelico
was lauded in writings of the 15th century and later, some
of which bestowed a legendary halo on him. As a painter,
he was acclaimed as early as 1438 by the contemporary
painter Domenico Veneziano. Vasari, in his section on
Angelico in Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors,
and Architects, was largely inaccurate in his biographical
data but correctly situated Fra Angelico in the framework
of the Renaissance.

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Jacopo Bellini
(b. c. 1400, Venice [Italy]—d. c. 1470, Venice)

T

he painter responsible for introducing the principles
of Florentine early Renaissance art into Venice was
Jacopo Bellini. He was trained under the Umbrian artist
Gentile da Fabriano, and in 1423 he had accompanied his
master to Florence. There the progress made in fidelity to
nature and in mastery of Classic grace by such masters as
Donatello and Ghiberti, Masaccio and Paolo Uccello
offered Jacopo further inspiration.
By 1429 Jacopo was settled at Venice and had established himself as the city’s most important painter. The
use of gold pigment in highlights of such works as his
Madonna (c. 1438) shows that Jacopo long retained elements derived from Byzantine art, while the Child’s rich
robes and the patterned background of angels reveal his
continued interest in the higher decorative style in which
he was trained, conventionally called International
Gothic. The modeling of the figures, the confident rendering of folds of cloth, and the accurate perspective,
however, indicate an excellent understanding of the progressive art of 15th-century Florence. In the life-sized
Crucifixion the spare and sombre scene strictly conforms
to the Florentine Renaissance style of Masaccio and repudiates the rich colouring and courtly grace of Bellini’s
earlier known works.
More important than his paintings are his two books
of drawings (c. 1450). The Louvre in Paris and the British
Museum in London each own one of these sketchbooks.
The drawings depict a great variety of scenes, and artists
used them as models for compositions well into the 16th
century. In such drawings as the Nativity, the Flagellation,
and St. John the Baptist Preaching, Jacopo experimented

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with linear perspective and was among the first to make
figures diminish in space using rules of perspective formerly applied only to depictions of architecture. The
Crucifixion is among Jacopo’s boldest compositional experiments. Possibly for the first time in art, the three crosses
are viewed at an angle instead of frontally, and the soldiers’
backs are turned to the viewer, lending a spontaneity and
immediacy rare in Italian art of the time. Jacopo’s great
influence upon Venetian art was heightened through the
work of his sons, Gentile and Giovanni, and his son-in-law,
Andrea Mantegna, all of whom were prominent painters
in the vicinity of Venice.

Masaccio
(b. Dec. 21, 1401, Castel San Giovanni [now San Giovanni Valdarno,
near Florence, Italy]—d. autumn 1428, Rome)

M

asaccio was a Florentine painter of the early
Renaissance noted particularly for his frescoes in
the Brancacci Chapel of the Church of Santa Maria del
Carmine in Florence (c. 1427), which remained influential
throughout the Renaissance. Masaccio’s art eventually
helped create many of the major conceptual and stylistic
foundations of Western painting. His use of light and
shadow, the solidity and realism of his figures, and the
use of the perspective in his paintings were entirely different from the work of the medieval and late Gothic
artists who preceded him. The feeling of space and depth
found in his frescoes and the naturalness and humanity
of the religious figures he painted greatly influenced the
Renaissance painters who followed him. In the span of
only six years, he radically transformed Florentine painting. Seldom has such a brief life been so important to the
history of art.

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Early Life and Works
Masaccio, as Tommaso di Giovanni di Simone Guidi
became known, did not become an artist by inheriting his
father’s trade, as was typical in the Renaissance. His father
was a notary, but Masaccio’s paternal grandfather was a
maker of chests (cassoni), which were often painted. It was
perhaps through his grandfather’s connection with artists
that he became one.
From his birthdate in 1401 until Jan. 7, 1422, absolutely
nothing is known about Masaccio. On the latter date he
entered the Florentine Arte dei Medici e Speziali, the
guild to which painters belonged. It is safe to assume that
by his matriculation, he was already a full-fledged painter
ready to supervise his own workshop. Where he had been
between his birth and his 21st year, the painter or painters
with whom he apprenticed, all that and more, remains,
like so much about him, a tantalizing mystery.
Masaccio’s earliest extant work is a small triptych
dated April 23, 1422, or about three months after he matriculated in the Florentine guild. This triptych, consisting of
the Madonna enthroned, two adoring angels, and saints,
was painted for the Church of San Giovenale in the town
of Cascia, near San Giovanni Valdarno, and is now in the
Uffizi Gallery in Florence. It displays an acute knowledge
of Florentine painting, but its eclectic style is strongly
influenced by Giotto and Andrea Orcagna. The triptych,
nonetheless, is a powerfully impressive demonstration of
the skill of the young, but already highly accomplished,
artist. Masaccio’s forms are startlingly direct and massive.
The triptych’s tight, spare composition and the unidealized and vigorous portrayal of the plain Madonna and
Child at its centre does not in the least resemble contemporary Florentine painting. The figures do, however, reveal
a complete understanding of the revolutionary art of
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Donatello, the founder of the Florentine Renaissance
sculptural style, whose early works Masaccio studied with
care. Donatello’s realistic sculptures taught Masaccio how
to render and articulate the human body and provide it
with gestural and emotional expression.
Masaccio’s next important work was a sizable, multipaneled altarpiece for the Church of Santa Maria del
Carmine at Pisa in 1426. Unfortunately, the Pisa Altarpiece
was dismantled in the 18th century and many of its parts
lost, but 13 sections of it have been rediscovered and identified in museums and private collections. The altarpiece’s
images, which include the Madonna and Child originally at
its centre, amplify the direct, realistic character of the
1422 triptych. Ensconced in a massive throne inspired by
Classical architecture, the Madonna is viewed from below
and seems to tower over the spectator. The contrast
between the bright lighting on her right side and the deep
shadow on her left impart an unprecedented sense of volume and depth to the figure.
Originally placed beneath the Madonna, the rectangular panel depicting the Adoration of the Magi is notable for
its realistic figures, which include portraits, most likely
those of the donor and his family. Like the Madonna and
Child, the Adoration is notable for its deep, vibrant hues so
different from the pre