1902 Encyclopedia > Andrea del Verrocchio

Andrea del Verrocchio
Italian artist of the Florentine school
(1435-88)




ANDREA DEL VERROCCHIO (1435-1488), one of the most distinguished Florentine artists of the 15th century, equally famed as a goldsmith, sculptor, and painter, was born at Florence in 1435. He was the son of Michele di Francesco de' Cioni, and took his name from his master, the goldsmith Giuliano Verrocchi. Except through his works, little is known of his life. As a painter he occupies an important position from the fact that Leonardo da Vinci and Lorenzo di Credi worked for many years in his bottega as pupils and assistants. Only one existing painting can be attributed with absolute certainty to Verrocchio's hand, the celebrated Baptism of Christ, originally painted for the monks of Vallombrosa, and now in the academy of Flor-ence. The figures of Christ and the Baptist are executed with great vigour and refinement of touch, but are rather hard and angular in style. As Vasari says, Verrocchio " ebbe la maniera alquanto dura e crudetta." The two angels are of a much more graceful cast; the face of one is of especial beauty, and Vasari is probably right in say-ing that this head was painted by the young Leonardo. Other pictures from Verrocchio's bottega probably exist, as, for example, two in the National Gallery of London wrongly attributed to Ant. Pollaiuolo—Tobias and the Angel (No. 781) and the very lovely Madonna and Angels (No. 296), both very brilliant and jewel-like in colour. One of the angel faces in the latter picture strongly recalls the expres-sion of Leonardo's heads, while the whole scheme of pure glowing colour closely resembles that employed by Di Credi in his graceful but slightly weak pictures of the Madonna and Child. This exquisite painting, one of the gems of the National Gallery, may possibly have been painted from Verrocchio's design by Lorenzo di Credi while he was under the immediate influence of his wonderful fellow-pupil Da Vinci.
In examining Verrocchio's work as a sculptor we are on surer ground. One of his earliest works was the beautiful marble medallion of the Madonna, over the tomb of Leonardo Bruni of Arezzo in the church of Santa Croce at Florence, executed some years after Bruni's death (1443). In 1472 Verrocchio completed the fine tomb of Giovanni and Piero de' Medici, between the sacristy and the lady chapel of San Lorenzo at Florence. This con-sists of a great porphyry sarcophagus enriched with magnificent acanthus foliage in bronze. Above it is a graceful open bronze grill, made like a network of cord-age. In 1474 Verrocchio began the monument to Cardinal Forteguerra at the west end of Pistoia cathedraL The kneeling figure of the cardinal was never completed, and now lies in a room of La Sapienza, but the whole design is shown in what is probably Verrocchio's original clay sketch, now in the South Kensington Museum (see

fig.). Though this work was designed by Verrocchio, the actual execution of it was entrusted to his assistant, the Florentine Lorenzetto. In 1476 Verrocchio model-led and cast the fine but too real-istic bronze statue of David, now in the Bargello (Florence) ; and in the following year he completed one of the reliefs of the magnificent silver altar-frontal of the Florentine baptis-tery, that repre-senting the Be-heading of St John. Verrocchio's other works in the pre-cious metals are now lost, but Va-sari records that he made many ela-borate pieces of day sketoh for the mo,lument 0f Cardinal plateandjewellery, Forteguerra, showing the kneeling portrait such as morses for °f the cardinal, which is not in the actual well as monument; a very poor modern figure oc
cupies its place.
copes, as well as a series of silver statues of the Apostles for the pope's chapel in the Vatican. Between 1478 and 1483 he was occupied in making the bronze group of the Unbelief of St Thomas, which still stands in one of the external niches of Or San Michele (Florence). He received 800 florins for these two figures, which are more remarkable for the excellence of their technique than for their sculpturesque beauty. The attitudes are rather rigid, and the faces hard in expression. Verrocchio's chief masterpiece was the colossal bronze equestrian statue of the Venetian general Bartolomeo Colleoni, which stands in the piazza of SS. Giovanni e Paolo at Venice. Verrocchio received the order for this statue in 1479, but had only completed the model when he died in 1488. In spite of his request that the casting || should be entrusted to his pupil Lorenzo di Credi, the work was given to Ales-sandro Leopardi by the Venetian senate, and the statue was gilt and unveiled in J496. There appears to be no doubt that the model was completed by Ver-rocchio himself, and that nothing more than its reproduction in bronze should be attributed to the much feebler hand of Leopardi, who, however, has set his own name alone on the belly-band of the
horse—ALEXANDER _ LEOPARDVS V.
F. OPUS. This is perhaps the noblest equestrian statue in the world, being in some respects superior to the antique bronze of Marcus Aurelius in Borne and to that of Gattamelata at Padua by Donatello. The horse is designed with wonderful nobility and spirit, and the easy pose of the great general, combining perfect Dalance with absolute ease and security in the saddle, is a marvel of sculpturesque ability. Most remarkable skill is shown by the way in which Verrocchio has exaggerated the strongly marked features of the general, so that nothing of its powerful effect is lost by the lofty position of the head.3 According to Vasari, Verrocchio was one of the first sculptors who made a practical use of casts from living and dead subjects. He is said also to have produced plastic works in terra-cotta, wood, and in wax decorated with colour. As a sculptor his chief pupil was Francesco di Simone, the son of that Simone whom Vasari wrongly calls a brother of Donatello. Another pupil was Agnolo di Polo (Paolo), who worked chiefly in terra-cotta.
Verrocchio died in Venice in 1488, and was buried in
the church of St Ambrogio in Florence. (J. H. M.)


Footnotes

See Gay, Cart. Inéd., i. p. 367.
See SCULPTURE, vol. xxi. p. 568, fig







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