1902 Encyclopedia > Alessio Baldovinetti

Alessio Baldovinetti
Italian Florentine painter
(1422-99)




ALESSIO BALDOVINETTI, was a distinguished painter of Florence in the 15th century, whose works have now become very scarce. Hogarth takes him as a type of those obscure artists to whom the affected amateurs of his time were wont to ascribe old paintings—" 'Tis a fine piece of Alessio Baldovinetti, in his third manner." His father, Baldovinetti, belonged to a merchant family of good stand-ing and fortune. Alessio was born in 1422, and took to painting, according to Vasari, against his father's desire. His art was distinguished rather for study than for genius. It represents completely some of the leading characters of the Florentine school in that age. It was an age of diligent schooling and experiment, in which art endeavoured to master more of the parts and details of nature than she had mastered heretofore, and to improve her technical means for their representation. Among the parts of nature especially studied in the 15th century, were landscape and natural history, the particulars of scenery, and the charac-ters of birds, beasts, and plants. Alessio Baldovinetti sur-passed all his contemporaries in attention to these matters. In Vasari's words, you see in his paintings " rivers, bridges, stones, grasses, fruits, roads, fields, cities, castles, arenas, and an infinity of suchlike things." From this quality of his art it has been guessed, without sufficient cause, that he was the pupil of Paolo Uccelli, the first Florentine master who devoted himself to such matters. For the rest, this ex-treme care and minuteness renders his manner somewhat hard. Like many other painters of his time, he treats draperies, hair, and such parts, with a manner that shows the influence of the goldsmith, and is more proper to metal work than to painting. His principal extant works are a nativity in the church of the Annunziati, an altar-piece, No. 24, in the gallery of the Uffizi, and another, No. 2, in the gallery of ancient pictures in the Academy of Arts at Florence. The great work of his life was a series of frescoes from the Old Testament in the chapel of the Gianfigliazzi family in the church of Sta Trinita, containing many in-teresting contemporary portraits; but these were destroyed about 1760. He also designed a likeness of Dante for the cathedral of Florence in 1465. His technical experiments were of the same nature as those made by his contempo- raries—Peselhno, Poliamolo, and Domenico Veniziano, who endeavoured to find out an oil medium at Florence before Antonello da Messina had brought to Venice the secrets of the Flemish practice. Vasari relates how Alessio thought he had made a great discovery with the mixture of yolk of egg and heated vernice liquida, but how the work so painted presently became discoloured. He understood mosaic as well as painting, and between 1481 and 1484 was engaged in repairing ancient mosaics, first in the church of San Miniato, next in the baptistery at Florence. He is said to have instructed Dominico Ghirlandaio (see BIGORDI) in this art. He died on the 29th of August 1499, within two years and a half of the completion of his frescoes in the Gianfigliazzi chapel. (Vasari, ed. Lemonnier, vol. iv. pp. 101-107 ; Crowe and Cavalcasene, Hist, of Painting in Italy, vol. ii. pp. 372-381.) (s. c.)







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