Friday, 15 February 2013

Fra Angelico’s Contemporaries.

If Fra Angelico were born about 1400, his birth date would be very close to many illustrious painters. Paolo Uccello (1397-1475), Masaccio (1401-28); then a slightly later generation, Andrea del Castagno (1421-57), and Filippo Lippi (1406-69). A painter who has direct connections with Fra Angelico is Benozzo Gozzoli (c. 1421-97). Gozzoli was the son of the tailor Lese di Sandro, his original name is Benozzo di Lese di Sandro. His father was from a citified branch of a family of farmers. The name Gozzoli, which though absent from the 1550 edition of Vasari's Lives, appeared in that of 1568 comes from the name "Ghozzolo" common in the other branch of the family, the one that had remained in the country. Originally trained as a goldsmith, he worked with Ghiberti on the celebrated Baptistery doors in Florence. Gozzoli is mentioned as a painter in 1444 and subsequently he became Fra Angelico’s assistant in Rome and Orvieto.  His important Florentine commissions include his masterpiece, the Journey of the Magi, for the Medici. The frescoes have an almost fairy-tale look to them, and in their wealth of detail recall such sumptuous altarpieces as Gentile da Fabriano’s The Adoration of the Magi. In 1461 he produced the altar painting of a Sacra Conversazione for the Compagnia delle Purificazione in Florence, which has since been broken up and dispersed. His other important Florentine commission was a cycle of 17 scenes from the life of St Augustine in the choir of Sant'Agostino, San Gimignano (last scene signed and dated 1465).

 Benozzo Gozzoli, Procession of the Youngest King (east wall), 1459-60, Fresco, Chapel, Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Florence.


 Benozzo Gozzoli Procession of the Middle King (south wall), 1459-60, Fresco, Chapel, Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Florence.

Paolo Uccello was a Florentine painter who tried to reconcile two distinct artistic styles - the essentially decorative late Gothic and the new heroic style of the early Renaissance, inherited from Masaccio. Probably his most famous paintings are three panels representing The Rout of San Romano (mid-1450s). His careful and sophisticated perspective studies are clearly evident in The Flood (1447-48). In 1436 the administrators of the Opera del Duomo in Florence commissioned Paolo Uccello to paint a fresco in the Cathedral, a monument commemorating the English soldier of fortune Sir John Hawkwood. Not long after the Monument to Sir John Hawkwood, the Opera del Duomo commissioned from Paolo the designs for three stained-glass windows (the Resurrection, the Birth of Christ and the Annunciation destroyed in 1828) for the oculi of the drum of the dome, as well as the decoration for the clockface on the inner façade of the Cathedral. 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 arch rival, Siena. There are Renaissance elements, such as a sculpturesque 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, which 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 rout of San Romano.

Uccello is justly famous for his careful and sophisticated perspective studies, most clearly visible in The Flood, in the underdrawing (sinopia) for his last fresco, The Nativity, formerly in S. 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 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.

Paolo Uccello, Funerary Monument to Sir John Hawkwood, 1436, Fresco, 820 x 515 cm, Duomo, Florence.

Paolo Uccello Bernardino della Ciarda Thrown off His Horse, 1450s, Tempera on wood, 182 x 220 cm, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.

Paolo Uccello, The Hunt in the Forest, 1460s, Tempera on wood, 65 x 165 cm, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

Paolo Uccello, Scenes from the Life of the Holy Hermits, 1460s, Tempera on canvas, 81 x 110 cm, Galleria dell'Accademia, Florence.

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