Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Perugino, Pietro

The Virgin and Child with Angels
oil on wood
127 x 64 cm
The National Gallery, London, UK

Perugino, byname of Pietro di Cristoforo Vannucci   (c. 1450 - 1523), Italian Renaissance painter of the Umbria school. His work anticipated High Renaissance ideals in its compositional clarity, sense of spaciousness, and economy of formal elements. He was one of the earliest Italian practitioners of oil painting. Raphael was his most famous pupil.

He was born Pietro Vannucci in Citta della Pieve, Umbria; his nickname characterizes him as from Perugia, the chief city of Umbria. He most likely began to study painting in Perugia, in local workshops. He apprenticed in the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio alongside Leonardo da Vinci, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Filippino Lippi and others. He may have learned perspective from Piero della Francesca.

In 1479 Perugino was summoned to Rome by Pope Sixtus IV to help decorate the Sistine Chapel. He is recorded in the 1481 contract for the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel (along with Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Cosimo Rosselli), where his Christ Handing the Keys to St Peter demonstrates his qualities of simplicity, order and clearly articulated composition. He seems to have been the leader of the team. Some of his work in the Sistine Chapel was destroyed to make room for Michelangelo's Last Judgment.

After the completion of the Sistine Chapel work in 1486 Perugino, then aged forty, left Rome and by autumn was in Florence. In 1506 Perugino retired to Perugia, since his style was now hopelessly outmoded in Florence, where, however, it had served to counter-balance the confusion of late Quattrocento style.
In 1523 he died of the plague. Like other plague victims, he was hastily buried in an unconsecrated field, the precise spot now unknown. According to a historian, Perugino had very little religion, and openly doubted the soul's immortality.