Thursday, June 19, 2014

Verrocchio, Andrea del

Tobias and the Angel
between c.1470-c.1475
egg tempera on poplar wood
83.6 x 66 cm
National Gallery, London, UK

The subject is taken from the apocryphal Book of Tobit. Tobias was sent by his blind father, the merchant Tobit, to collect a debt. It is said that the young Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), who was in Verocchio's workshop around 1470-1477, painted some parts of this painting.

Andrea del Verrocchio (c.1435-1488), born Andrea di Michele di Francesco de' Cioni, was an Italian painter, sculptor, goldsmith, master of an important workshop in Florence, and the teacher of Leonardo da Vinci. He became known by his nickname "Verrocchio" which in Italian means "true eye" a tribute given to him for his artistic achievement. Few paintings are attributed to him with certainty, but a number of important painters were trained at his workshop. His pupils included Leonardo da Vinci and Pietro Perugino, the latter Raphael’s teacher. His greatest importance was as a sculptor and his last work, the equestrian statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni in Venice, is universally accepted as a masterpiece.

Little accurate biographical information is known about Verrocchio. He was the son of a maker of bricks and tiles who later became a tax collector. Financial security always seemed to be a family problem. Never marrying, he supported several of his brothers and sisters.

Initially he was trained as a goldsmith. His first studies in painting date possibly from the mid-1460s. It is assumed that he and Sandro Botticelli worked together under the early Renaissance master Fra Filippo Lippi in Prato, a city near Florence, where Lippi had been commissioned to execute a series of murals for the cathedral.
His rise to artistic prominence, which he owed chiefly to encouragement by Piero de’ Medici and his son Lorenzo, the leading art patrons of Florence, evidently began after the death, in 1466, of Donatello, who had been the Medici favourite.
Besides the paintings and sculptures he produced for the Medici, he designed costumes and decorative armour for their festivals, tournaments, and solemn receptions.

Sandro Botticelli, the major Florentine painter of the late 15th century, and Francesco di Giorgio, the important Sienese artist, clearly oriented themselves toward Verrocchio’s art in certain phases of their development.