AT LENGTH, after the Lives of many craftsmen who have been excellent, some in coloring, some in drawing, and others in invention, we have come to the most excellent Andrea del Sarto, in whose single person nature and art demonstrated all that painting can achieve by means of draughtsmanship, coloring, and invention, insomuch that, if Andrea had possessed a little more fire and boldness of spirit, to correspond to his profound genius and judgment in his art, without a doubt he would have had no equal. But a certain timidity of spirit and a sort of humility and simplicity in his nature made it impossible that there should be seen in him that glowing ardour and that boldness which, added to his other qualities, would have made him truly divine in painting; for which reason he lacked those adornments and that grandeur and abundance of manners which have been seen n many other painters. His figures, however, for all their simplicity and purity, are well conceived, free from errors, and absolutely perfect in every respect. The expressions of his heads, both in children and in women, are gracious and natural, and those of men, both young and old, admirable in their vivacity and animation; his draperies are beautiful to a marvel, and his nudes very well conceived. And although his drawing is simple, all that he colored is rare and truly divine.
Andrea was born in Florence, in the year 1478, to a father who was all his life a tailor; whence he was always called Andrea del Sarto by everyone. Having come to the age of seven, he was taken away from his reading and writing school and apprenticed to the goldsmith's craft. But in this he was always much more willing to practise his hand in drawing, to which he was drawn by a natural inclination, than in using the tools for working in silver or gold; whence it came to pass that Gian Barile, a painter of Florence, but one of gross and vulgar taste, having seen the boy's good manner of drawing, took him under his protection, and, making him abandon his work as goldsmith, directed him to the art of painting. Andrea, beginning with much delight to practise it, recognized that nature had created him for that profession; and in a very short space of time, therefore, he was doing such things with colors as filled Gian Barile and the other craftsmen in the city with marvel. Now after three years, through continual study, he had acquired an excellent master over his work, and Gian Barile saw that by persisting in his studies the boy was likely to achieve an extraordinary success. Having therefore spoken of him to Piero di Cosimo, who was held at that time to be one of the best painters in Florence, he placed Andrea with Piero. And Andrea, as one full of desire to learn, labored and studied without ceasing; while nature, which had created him to be a painter, so wrought in him, that he handled and managed his colors with as much grace as if he had been working for fifty years. Wherefore Piero conceived an extraordinary love for him, feeling marvellous pleasure in hearing that when Andrea had any time to himself, particularly on feast-days, he would spend the whole day in company with other young men, drawing in the Sala del Papa, wherein were the cartoons of Michelagnolo and Leonardo da Vinci, and that, young as he was, he surpassed all the other draughtsmen, both native and foreign, who were always competing there with one another.
Among these young men, there was one who pleased Andrea more than any other with his nature and conversation, namely, the painter Franciabigio; and Franciabigio, likewise, was attracted by Andrea. Having become friends, therefore, Andrea said to Franciabigio that he could no longer endure the caprices of Piero, who was now old, and that for this reason he wished to take a room for himself. Hearing this, Franciabigio, who was obliged to do the same thing because his master Mariotto Albertinelli had abandoned the art of painting, said to his companion Andrea that he also was in need of a room, and that it would be to the advantage of both of them if they were to join forces. Having therefore taken a room on the Piazza del Grano, they executed many works in company; among others, the curtains that cover the panel pictures on the high altar of the Servi; for which they received the com- mission from a sacristan very closely related to Franciabigio. On one of those curtains, that which faces the choir, they painted the Annunciation of the Virgin ; and on the other, which is in front, a Deposition of Christ from the Cross, like that of the panel picture which was there, painted by Filippo and Pietro Perugino.
The men of that company in Florence which is called the Company of the Scalzo used to assemble at the head of the Via Larga, above the houses of the Magnificent Ottaviano de' Medici, and opposite to the garden of S. Marco, in a building dedicated to S. John the Baptist, which had been built in those days by a number of Florentine craftsmen, who had made there, among other things, an entrance-court of masonry with a loggia which rested on some columns of no great size. And some of them, perceiving that Andrea was on the way to becoming known as an excellent painter, and being richer in spirit than in pocket, determined that he should paint round that cloister twelve pictures in chiaroscuro that is to say, in fresco with terretta containing twelve scenes from the life of S. John the Baptist. Whereupon, setting his hand to this, he painted in the first the scene of S. John baptizing Christ, with much diligence and great excellence of manner, whereby he gained credit, honour, and fame to such an extent, that many persons turned to him with commissions for works, as to one whom they thought to be destined in time to reach that honorable goal which was foreshadowed by his extraordinary beginnings in his profession.
Among other works that he made in that first manner, he painted a picture which is now in the house of Filippo Spini, held in great veneration in memory of so able a craftsman. And not long after this he was commissioned to paint for a chapel in S. Gallo, the Church of the Eremite Observantines of the Order of S. Augustine, without the Porta a S. Gallo, a panel-picture of Christ appearing in the garden to Mary Magdalene in the form of a gardener; which work, what with the coloring and a certain quality of softness and harmony, is sweetness itself, and so well executed, that it led to his painting two others not long afterwards for the same church, as will be related below. This panel is now in S. Jacopo tra Fossi, on the Canto degli Alberti, together with the two others.
After these works, Andrea and Franciabigio, leaving the Piazza del Grano, took new rooms in the Sapienza, near the Convent of the Nunziata; whence it came about that Andrea and Jacopo Sansovino, who was then a young man and was working at sculpture in the same place under his master Andrea Contucci, formed so warm and so strait a friendship together, that neither by day nor by night were they ever separated one from another. Their discussions were for the most part on the difficulties of art, so that it is no marvel that both of them should have afterwards become most excellent, as is now being shown of Andrea and as will be related in the proper place of Jacopo.
There was at this same time in the Convent of the Servi, selling the candles at the counter, a friar called Fra Mariano dal Canto alia Macine, who was also sacristan; and he heard everyone extolling Andrea mightily and saying that he was by way of making marvellous proficience in painting. Whereupon he planned to fulfil a desire of his own without much expense; and so, approaching Andrea, who was a mild and guileless fellow, on the side of his honour, he began to persuade him under the cloak of friendship that he wished to help him in a matter which would bring him honor and profit and would make him known in such a manner, that he would never be poor any more. Now many years before, as has been related above, Alesso Baldovinetti had painted a Nativity of Christ in the first cloister of the Servi, on the wall that has the Annunciation behind it; and in the same cloister, on the other side, Cosimo Rosselli had begun a scene of S. Filippo, the founder of that Servite Order, assuming the habit. But Cosimo had not carried that scene to completion, because death came upon him at the very moment when he was working at it.
The friar, then, being very eager to see the rest finished, thought of serving his own ends by making Andrea and Franciabigio, who, from being friends, had become rivals in art, compete with one another, each doing part of the work. This, besides effecting his purpose very well, would make the expense less and their efforts greater. Thereupon, revealing his mind to Andrea, he persuaded him to undertake that enterprise, by pointing out to him that since it was a public and much frequented place, he would become known on account of such a work no less by foreigners than by the Florentines; that he should not look for any payment in return, or even for an invitation to undertake it, but should rather pray to be allowed to do it; and that if he were not willing to set to work, there was Franciabigio, who, in order to make himself known, had offered to accept it and to leave the matter of payment to him. These incitements did much to make Andrea resolve to undertake the work, and the rather as he was a man of little spirit; and the last reference to Franciabigio induced him to make up his mind completety and to come to an agreement, in the form of a written con- tract, with regard to the whole work, on the terms that no one else should have a hand in it. The friar, then, having thus pledged him and given him money, demanded that he should begin by continuing the life of S. Filippo, without receiving more than ten ducats from him in payment of each scene; and he told Andrea that he was giving him even that out of his own pocket, and was doing it more for the benefit and advantage of the painter than through any want or need of the convent.
Andrea, therefore, pursuing that work with the utmost diligence, like one who thought more of honor than of profit, after no long time completely finished the first three scenes and unveiled them. One was the scene of S. Filippo, now a friar, clothing the naked. In another he is shown rebuking certain gamesters, who blasphemed God and laughed at S. Filippo, mocking at his admonition, when suddenly there comes a lightning-flash from Heaven, which, striking a tree under the shade of which they were sheltering, kills two of them and throws the rest into an incredible panic. Some, with their hands to their heads, cast themselvesforward in dismay; others, crying aloud in their terror, turn to flight; a woman, beside herself with fear at the sound of the thunder, is running away so naturally that she appears to be truly alive; and a horse, breaking loose amid this uproar and confusion, reveals with his leaps and fearsome movements what fear and terror are caused by things so sudden and so unexpected. In all this one can see how carefully Andrea looked to variety of incident in the representation of such events, with a forethought truly beautiful and most necessary for one who practises painting. In the third he painted the scene of S. Filippo delivering a woman from evil spirits, with all the most characteristic considerations that could be imagined in such an action. All these scenes brought extraordinary fame and honor to Andrea; and thus encouraged, he went on to paint two other scenes in the same cloister. On one wall is S. Filippo lying dead, with his friars about him making lamentation; and in addition there is a dead child, who, touching the bier on which S. Filippo lies, comes to life again, so that he is first seen dead, and then revived and restored to life, and all with a very beautiful, natural, and appropriate effect. In the last picture on that side he represented the friars placing the garments of S. Filippo on the heads of certain children ; and there he made a portrait of Andrea della Robbia, the sculptor, in an old man clothed in red, who comes forward, stooping, with a staff in his hand. There, too, he portrayed Luca, his son; even as in the other scene mentioned above, in which S. Filippo lies dead, he made a portrait of another son of Andrea, named Girolamo, a sculptor and very much his friend, who died not long since in France.
Having thus finished that side of the cloister, and considering that if the honor was great, the payment was small, Andrea resolved to give up the rest of the work, however much the friar might complain. But the latter would not release him from his bond without Andrea first promising that he would paint two other scenes, at his own leisure and convenience, however, and with an increase of payment; and thus they came to terms.
Having come into greater repute by reason of these works, Andrea received commissions for many pictures and works of importance; among others, one from the General of the Monks of Vallombrosa, for painting an arch of the vaulting, with a Last Supper on the front wall, in the Refectory of the Monastery of S. Salvi, without the Porta alia Croce. In four medallions on that vault he painted four figures, S. Benedict, S. Giovanni Gualberto, S. Salvi the Bishop, and S. Bernardo degli Uberti of Florence, a friar of that Order and a Cardinal; and in the centre he made a medallion containing three faces, which are one and the same, to represent the Trinity. All this was very well executed for a work in fresco, and Andrea, therefore, came to be valued at his true worth in the art of painting. Whereupon he was commissioned at the instance of Baccio d' Agnolo to paint in fresco, in a close on the steep path of Orsanmichele, which leads to the Mercato Nuovo, the Annunciation still to be seen there, executed on a minute scale, which brought him but little praise; and this may have been because Andrea, who worked well without over-exerting himself or forcing his powers, is believed to have tried in this work to force himself and to paint with too much care.
As for the many pictures that he executed after this for Florence, it would take too long to try to speak of them all; and I will only say that among the most distinguished may be numbered the one that is now in the apartment of Baccio Barbadori, containing a full-length Madonna with a Child in her arms, S. Anne, and S. Joseph, all painted in a beautiful manner and held very dear by Baccio. He made one, likewise well worthy of praise, which is now in the possession of Lorenzo di Domenico Borghini, and another of Our Lady for Leonardo del Giocondo, which at the present day is in the hands of Piero, the son of Leonardo. For Carlo Ginori he painted two of no great size, which were bought afterwards by the Magnificent Ottaviano de' Medici ; and one of these is now in his most beautiful villa of Campi, while the other, together with many other modern pictures executed by the most excellent masters, is in the apartment of the worthy son of so great a father, Signer Bernardetto, who not only esteems and honours the works of famous craftsmen, but is also in his every action a truly generous and magnificent nobleman.
Meanwhile the Servite friar had allotted to Franciabigio one of the scenes in the above-mentioned cloister; but that master had not yet finished making the screen, when Andrea, becoming apprehensive, since it seemed to him that Franciabigio was an abler and more dexterous master than himself in the handling of colors in fresco, executed, as it were out of rivalry, the cartoons for his two scenes, which he intended to paint on the angle between the side door of S. Bastiano and the smaller door that leads from the cloister into the Nunziata. Having made the cartoons, he set to work in fresco; and in the first scene he painted the Nativity of Our Lady, a composition of figures beautifully proportioned and grouped with great grace in a room, wherein some women who are friends and relatives of the newly delivered mother, having come to visit her, are standing about her, all clothed in such garments as were customary at that time, and other women of lower degree, gathered around the fire, are washing the new born babe, while others are preparing the swathing bands and doing other similar services. Among them is a little boy, full of life, who is warming himself at the fire, with an old man resting in a very natural attitude on a couch, and likewise some women carrying food to the mother who is in bed, with movements truly lifelike and appropriate. And all these figures, together with some little boys who are hovering in the air and scattering flowers, are most carefully considered in their expressions, their draperies, and every other respect, and so soft in color, that the figures appear to be of flesh and everything else rather real than painted.
In the other scene Andrea painted the three Magi from the East, who, guided by the Star, went to adore the Infant Jesus Christ. He represented them dismounted, as though they were near their destination; and that because there was only the space embracing the two doors to separate them from the Nativity of Christ which may be seen there, by the hand of Alesso Baldovinetti. In this scene Andrea painted the Court of those three Kings coming behind them, with baggage, much equipment, and many people following in their train, among whom, in a corner, are three persons portrayed from life and wearing the Florentine dress, one being Jacopo Sansovino, a full-length figure looking straight at the spectator, while another, with an arm in foreshortening, who is leaning against him and making a sign, is Andrea, the master of the work, and a third head, seen in profile behind Jacopo, is that of Ajolle, the musician. There are, in addition, some little boys who are climbing on the walls, in order to be able to see the magnificent procession and the fantastic animals that those three Kings have brought with them. This scene is quite equal in excellence to that mentioned above; nay, in both the one and the other he surpassed himself, not to speak of Franciabigio, who also finished his.
At this same time Andrea painted for the Abbey of S. Godenzo, a benefice belonging to the same friars, a panel which was held to be very well executed. And for the Friars of S. Gallo he made a panel picture of Our Lady receiving the Annunciation from the Angel, wherein may be seen a very pleasing harmony of coloring, while the heads of some Angels accompanying Gabriel show a sweet gradation of tints and a perfectly executed beauty of expression in their features; and the predella below this picture was painted by Jacopo da Pontormo, who was a disciple of Andrea at that time, and gave proofs at that early age that he was destined to produce afterwards those beautiful works which he actually did execute in Florence with his own hand, although in the end he became one might say another painter, as will be related in his Life.
Andrea then painted for Zanobi Girolami a picture with figures of no great size, wherein was a story of Joseph, the son of Jacob, which was finished by him with unremitting diligence, and therefore held to be a very beautiful painting. Not long after this, he undertook to execute for the men of the Company of S. Maria della Neve, situated behind the Nunnery of S. Ambrogio, a little panel with three figures Our Lady, S. John the Baptist, and S. Ambrogio; which work, when finished, was placed in due time on the altar of that Company.
Meanwhile, thanks to his talent, Andrea had become intimate with Giovanni Gaddi, afterwards appointed Clerk of the Chamber, who, always delighting in the arts of design, was then keeping Jacopo Sansovino continually at work. Being pleased, therefore, with the manner of Andrea, he caused him to paint a picture of Our Lady for himself, which was very beautiful, for Andrea painted various patterns and other ingenious devices round it, so that it was considered to be the most beautiful work that he had executed up to that time. After this he made for Giovanni di Paolo, the mercer, another picture of Our Lady, which, being truly lovely, gave infinite pleasure to all who saw it. And for Andrea Santini he executed another, containing Our Lady, Christ, S. John, and S. Joseph, all wrought with such diligence that the painting has always been esteemed in Florence as worthy of great praise.
All these works acquired such a name for Andrea in his city, that among the many, both young and old, who were painting at that time, he was considered one of the most excellent who were handling brushes and colors. Wherefore he found himself not only honored, but even, although he exacted the most paltry prices for his labors, in a condition to do something to help and support his family, and also to shelter himself from the annoyances and anxieties which afflict those of us who live in poverty. But he became enamoured of a young woman, and a little time afterwards, when she had been left a widow, he took her for his wife; and then he had more than enough to do for the rest of his life, and much more trouble than he had suffered in the past, for the reason that, in addition to the labors and annoyances that such entanglements generally involve, he undertook others into the bargain, such as that of letting himself be harassed now by jealousy, now by one thing, and now by another.
But to return to the works of his hand, which were as rare as they were numerous: after those of which mention has been made above, he painted for a friar of S. Croce, of the Order of Minorites, who was then Governor of the Nunnery of S. Francesco in Via Pentolini, and delighted much in paintings, a panel-picture destined for the Church of those Nuns, of Our Lady standing on high upon an octagonal pedestal, at the corners of which are seated some Harpies, as it were in adoration of the Virgin; and she, using one hand to uphold her Son, who is clasping her most tenderly round the neck with His arms, in a very beautiful attitude, is holding a closed book in the other hand and gazing on two little naked boys, who, while helping her to stand upright, serve as ornaments about her person. This Madonna has on her right a beautifully painted S. Francis, in whose face may be seen the goodness and simplicity that truly belonged to that saintly man; besides which, the feet are marvellous, and so are the draperies, because Andrea always rounded off his figures with a very rich flow of folds and with certain most delicate curves, in such a way as to reveal the nude below. On her left hand she has a S. John the Evangelist, represented as a young man and in the act of writing his Gospel, in a very beautiful manner. In this work, moreover, over the building and the figures, is a film of transparent clouds, which appear to be really moving. This picture, among all Andrea's works, is held at the present day to be one of singular and truly rare beauty. For the joiner Nizza, also, he made a picture of Our Lady, which was considered to be no less beautiful than any of his other works.
After this, the Guild of Merchants determined to have some triumphal chariots made of wood after the manner of those of the ancient Romans, to the end that these might be drawn in procession on the morning of S. John's day, in place of certain altar cloths and wax tapers which the cities and townships carry in token of tribute, passing before the Duke and the chief magistrates; and out of ten that were made at that time, Andrea painted some with scenes in oils and in chiaroscuro, which were much extolled. But although it was proposed that some should be made every year, until such time as every city and district had one of its own, which would have produced a show of extraordinary magnificence, nevertheless this custom was abandoned in the year 1527.
Now, while Andrea was adorning his city with these and other works, and his name was growing greater every day, the men of the Company of the Scalzo resolved that he should finish the work in their cloister, which he had formerly begun by painting the scene of the Baptism of Christ. Having resumed that work, therefore, more willingly, he executed two scenes there, with two very beautiful figures of Charity and Justice to adorn the door that leads into the building of the Company. In one of these scenes he represented S. John preaching to the multitude in a spirited attitude, lean in person, as befitted the life that he was leading, and with an expression of countenance filled with inspiration and thoughtfulness. Marvellous, likewise, are the variety and the vivacity of his hearers, some being shown in admiration, and all in astonishment, at hearing that new message and a doctrine so singular and never heard before. Even more did Andrea exert his genius in painting the same John baptizing with water a vast number of people, some of whom are stripping off their clothes, some receiving the baptism, and others, naked, waiting for him to finish baptizing those who are before them. In all of them Andrea showed a vivid emotion, with a burning desire in the gestures of those who are eager to be purified of their sins; not to mention that all the figures are so well executed in that chiaroscuro, that the whole has the appearance of a real and most lifelike scene in marble.
I will not refrain from saying that while Andrea was employed on these and other pictures, there appeared certain copper engravings by Albrecht Duerer, and Andrea made use of them, taking some of the figures and transforming them into his manner. And this has caused some people, while not saying that it is a bad thing for a man to make adroit use of the good work of others, to believe that Andrea had not much invention.
At that time there came to Baccio Bandinelli, then a draughtsman of great repute, a desire to learn to paint in oils. Whereupon, knowing that no man in Florence knew how to do that better than our Andrea, he commissioned him to paint his portrait, which was a good likeness of him at that age, as may be seen even yet; and thus, by watching him paint that work and others, he saw his method of coloring, although afterwards, either by reason of the difficulty or from lack of inclination, he did not pursue the use of colors, finding more satisfaction in sculpture.
Andrea executed for Alessandro Corsini a picture of a Madonna seated on the ground with a Child in her arms, surrounded by many little boys, which was finished with beautiful art and with very pleasing color; and for a mercer, much his friend, who kept a shop in Rome, he made a most beautiful head. Giovan Battista Puccini of Florence, likewise, taking extraordinary pleasure in the manner of Andrea, commissioned him to paint a picture of Our Lady for sending into France; but it proved to be so fine that he kept it for himself, and would by no means send it. However, having been asked, while transacting the affairs of his business in France, to undertake to send choice paintings to that country, he caused Andrea to paint a picture of a Dead Christ surrounded by some Angels, who were supporting Him and contemplating with gestures of sorrow and compassion their Maker sunk to such a pass through the sins of the world. This work, when finished, gave such universal satisfaction, that Andrea, urged by many entreaties, had it engraved in Rome by the Venetian Agostino; but it did not succeed very well, and he would never again give any of his works to be engraved. But to return to the picture: it gave no less satisfaction in France, whither it was sent, than it had done in Florence, insomuch that the King, kindled with even greater desi; which was the reason that Andrea, encouraged by his friends, resolved to go in a short time to France.
But meanwhile the Florentines, hearing in the year 1515 that Pope Leo X wished to grace his native city with his presence, ordained for his reception extraordinary festivities and a sumptuous and magnificent spectacle, with so many arches, facades, temples, colossal figures, and other statues and ornaments, that there had never been seen up to that time anything richer, more gorgeous, or more beautiful; for there was then flourishing in that city a greater abundance of fine and exalted intellects than had ever been known at any other period. At the entrance of the Porta di S. Piero Gattolini, Jacopo di Sandro, in company with Baccio da Montelupo, made an arch covered with historical scenes. Giuliano del Tasso made another at S. Felice in Piazza, with some statues and the obelisk of Romulus at S. Trinita', and Trajan's Column in the Mercato Nuovo. In the Piazza de' Signori, Antonio, the brother of Giuliano da San Gallo, erected an octagonal temple, and Baccio Bandinelli made a Giant for the Loggia. Between the Badia and the Palace of the Podesta there was an arch erected by Granaccio and Aristotele da San Gallo, and II Rosso made another on the Canto de' Bischeri with a very beautiful design and a variety of figures. But what was admired more than everything else was the facade of S. Maria del Fiore, made of wood, and so well decorated with various scenes in chiaroscuro by our Andrea, that nothing more could have been desired. The architecture of this work was by Jacopo Sansovino, as were some scenes in low-relief and many figures carved in the round; and it was declared by the Pope that this structure which was designed by Lorenzo de' Medici, father of that Pontiff, when he was alive could not have been more beautiful, even if it had been of marble.
The same Jacopo made a horse similar to the one in Rome, which was held to be a miracle of beauty, on the Piazza di S. Maria Novella. An endless number of ornaments, also, were executed for the Sala del Papa in the Via della Scala, and that street was half filled with most beautiful scenes wrought by the hands of many craftsmen, but designed for the most part by Baccio Bandinelli. Wherefore, when Leo entered Florence, on the third day of September in the same year, this spectacle was pronounced to be the grandest that had ever been devised, and the most beautiful.
But to return now to Andrea: being again requested to make another picture for the King of France, in a short time he finished one wherein he painted a very beautiful Madonna, which was sent off immediately, the merchants receiving for it four times as much as they had paid. Now at that very time Pier Francesco Borgherini had caused to be made by Baccio d' Agnolo some panelling, chests, chairs, and a bed, all carved in walnut wood, for the furnishing of an apartment; wherefore, to the end that the paintings therein might be equal in excellence to the rest of the work, he commissioned Andrea to paint part of the scenes on these with figures of no great size, representing the acts of Joseph the son of Jacob, in competition with some of great beauty that had been executed by Granaccio and Jacopo da Pontormo. Andrea, then, devoting an extraordinary amount of time and diligence to the work, strove to bring it about that they should prove to be more perfect than those of the others mentioned above; in which he succeeded to a marvel, for in the variety of events happening in the stories he showed how great was his worth in the art of painting. So excellent were those scenes, that an attempt was made by Giovan Battista della Palla, on account of the siege of Florence, to remove them from the places where they were fixed, in order to send them to the King of France; but, since they were fixed in such a way that it would have meant spoiling the whole work, they were left where they were, together with a picture of Our Lady, which is held to be a very choice work.
After this Andrea executed a head of Christ, now kept by the Servite Friars on the altar of the Nunziata, of such beauty, that I for my part do not know whether any more beautiful image of the head of Christ could be conceived by the intellect of man. For the chapels in the Church of S. Gallo, without the Porta S. Gallo, there had been painted, in addition to the two panel pictures by Andrea, a number of others, which were not equal to his; wherefore, since there was a commission to be given for another, those friars contrived to persuade the owner of the chapel to give it to Andrea; and he, beginning it immediately, made therein four figures standing, engaged in a disputation about the Trinity. One of these is S. Augustine, who, robed as a Bishop and truly African in aspect, is moving impetuously towards S. Peter Martyr, who is holding up an open book in a proud and sublime attitude: and the head and figure of the latter are much extolled. Beside him is a S. Francis holding a book in one hand and pressing the other against his breast; and he appears to be expressing with his lips a glowing ardour that makes him almost melt away in the heat of the discussion. There is also a S. Laurence, who, being young, is listening, and seems to be yielding to the authority of the others.
Below them are two figures kneeling, one a Magdalene with most beautiful draperies, whose countenance is a portrait of Andrea's wife; for in no place did he paint a woman's features without copying them from her, and if perchance it happened at times that he took them from other women, yet, from his being used to see her continually, and from the circumstance that he had drawn her so often, and, what is more, had her impressed on his mind, it came about that almost all the heads of women that he made resembled her. The other kneeling figure is a S. Sebastian, who, being naked, shows his back, which appears to all who see it to be not painted, but of living flesh. And indeed, among so many works in oils, this was held by craftsmen to be the best, for the reason that there may be seen in it signs of careful consideration in the proportions of the figures, and much order in the method, with a sense of fitness in the expressions of the faces, the heads of the young showing sweetness of expression, those of the old hardness, and those of middle age a kind of blend that inclines both to the first and to the second. In a word, this panel is most beautiful in all its parts; and it is now to be found in S. Jacopo tra Fossi on the Canto degli Alberti, together with others by the hand of the same master.
While Andrea was living poorly enough in Florence, engaged in these works, but without bettering himself a whit, the two pictures that he had sent to France had been duly considered in that country by King Francis I; and among many others which had been sent from Rome, from Venice, and from Lombardy, they had been judged to be by far the best. The King therefore praising them mightily, it was remarked to him that it would be an easy matter to persuade Andrea to come to France to serve his Majesty; which news was so agreeable to the King, that he gave orders that all that was necessary should be done, and that money for the journey should be paid to Andrea in Florence. Andrea then set out for France with a glad heart, taking with him his assistant Andrea Sguazzella; and, having arrived at last at the Court, they were received by the King with great kindness and rejoicing. Before the very day of his arrival had passed by, Andrea proved for himself how great were the courtesy and the liberality of that magnanimous King, receiving presents of money and rich and honorable garments. Beginning to work soon afterwards, he became so dear to the King and to all the Court, that he was treated lovingly by everyone, and it appeared to him that his departure from his country had brought him from one extreme of wretchedness to the other extreme of bliss. Among his first works was a portrait from life of the Dauphin, the son of the King, born only a few months before, and still in swaddling clothes; and when he took this to the King, he received a present of three hundred gold crowns.
Then, continuing to work, he painted for the King a figure of Charity, which was considered a very rare work and was held by that Sovereign in the estimation that it deserved. After that, his Majesty granted him a liberal allowance and did all that he could to induce Andrea to stay willingly with him, promising him that he should never want for anything; and this because he liked Andrea's resoluteness in his work, and also the character of the man, who was contented with everything. Moreover, giving great satisfaction to the whole Court, he executed many pictures and various other works; and if he had kept in mind the condition from which he had escaped and the place to which fortune had brought him, there is no doubt that he would have risen to say nothing of riches to a most honorable rank. But one day, when he was at work on a S. Jerome in Penitence for the mother of the King, there came to him some letters from Florence, written by his wife; and he began, whatever may have been the reason, to think of departing. He sought leave, therefore, from the King, saying that he wished to go to Florence, but would return without fail to his Majesty after settling some affairs; and he would bring his wife with him, in order to live more at his ease in France, and would come back laden with pictures and sculptures of value. The King, trusting in him, gave him money for that purpose; and Andrea swore on the Testament to return to him in a few months.
Thus, then, he arrived in Florence, and for several months blissfully took his joy of his fair lady, his friends, and the city. And finally, the time at which he was to return having passed by, he found in the end that what with building, taking his pleasure, and doing no work, he had squandered all his money and likewise that of the King. Even so he wished to return, but he was more influenced by the sighs and prayers of his wife than by his own necessities and the pledge given to the King, so that, in order to please his wife, he did not go back; at which the King fell into such disdain, that for a long time he would never again look with a favorable eye on any painter from Florence, and he swore that if Andrea ever came into his hands he would give him a very different kind of welcome, with no regard whatever for his abilities. And thus Andrea, remaining in Florence, and sinking from the highest rung of the ladder to the very lowest, lived and passed the time as best he could.
After Andrea's departure to France, the men of the Scalzo, thinking that he would never return, had entrusted all the rest of the work in their cloister to Franciabigio, who had already executed two scenes there, when, seeing Andrea back in Florence, they persuaded him to set his hand to the work once more; and he, continuing it, painted four scenes, one beside another. In the first is S. John taken before Herod. In the second are the Feast and the Dance of Herodias, with figures very well grouped and appropriate. In the third is the Beheading of S. John, wherein the minister of justice, a half-nude figure, is beautifully drawn, as are all the others. In the fourth Herodias is presenting the head; and here there are figures expressing their astonishment, which are wrought with most beautiful thought and care. These scenes have been for some time the study and school of many young men who are now excellent in our arts.
In a shrine without the Porta a Pinti, at a corner where the road turns towards the Ingesuati, he painted in fresco a Madonna seated with a Child in her arms, and a little S. John who is smiling, a figure wrought with extraordinary art and with such perfect execution, that it is much extolled for its beauty and vivacity; and the head of the Madonna is a portrait of his wife from nature. This shrine, on account of the incredible beauty of the painting, which is truly marvellous, was left standing in 1530, when, because of the siege of Florence, the aforesaid Convent of the Ingesuati was pulled down, together with many other very beautiful buildings.
About the same time the elder Bartolommeo Panciatichi, who was carrying on a great mercantile business in France, desiring to leave a memorial of himself in Lyons, ordered Baccio d'Agnolo to have a panel painted for him by Andrea, and to send it to him there; saying that he wanted the subject to be the Assumption of Our Lady, with the Apostles about the tomb. This work, then, Andrea carried almost to completion; but since the wood of the panel split apart several times, he would sometimes work at it, and sometimes leave it alone, so that at his death it remained not quite finished. Afterwards it was placed by the younger Bartolommeo Panciatichi in his house, as a work truly worthy of praise on account of the beautiful figures of the Apostles; not to speak of the Madonna, who is surrounded by a choir of little boys standing, while certain others are supporting her and bearing her upwards with extraordinary grace. And in the foreground of the panel, among the Apostles, is a portrait of Andrea, so natural that it seems to be alive. It is now at the villa of the Baroncelli, a little distance from Florence, in a small church built by Piero Salviati near his villa to do honor to the picture.
At the head of the garden of the Servi, in two angles, Andrea painted two scenes of Christ's Vineyard, one showing the planting, staking, and binding of the vines, and then the husbandman summoning to the labor those who were standing idle, among whom is one who, being asked whether he wishes to join the work, sits rubbing his hands and pondering whether he will go among the other laborers, exactly as those idle fellows do who have but little mind to work. Even more beautiful is the other scene, wherein the same husbandman is causing them to be paid, while they murmur and complain, and one among them, who is counting over his money by himself, wholly intent on examining his share, seems absolutely alive, as also does the steward who is paying out the wages. These scenes are in chiaroscuro, and executed with extraordinary mastery in fresco. After them he painted a Pieta, colored in fresco, which is very beautiful, in a niche at the head of a staircase in the noviciate of the same convent. He also painted another Pieta' in a little picture in oils, in addition to a Nativity, for the room in that convent wherein the General, Angelo Aretino, once lived.
The same master painted for Zanobi Bracci, who much desired to have some work by his hand, for one of his apartments, a picture of Our Lady, in which she is on her knees, leaning against a rock, and contemplating Christ, who lies on a heap of drapery and looks up at her, smiling; while a S. John, who stands there, is making a sign to the Madonna, as if to say that her Child is the true Son of God. Behind these figures is a S. Joseph with his head resting on his hands, which are lying on a rock; and he appears to be filled with joy at seeing the human race become divine through that Birth.
Cardinal Giulio de' Medici having been commissioned by Pope Leo to see to the adorning with stucco and paintings of the ceiling in the Great Hall of Poggio a Caiano, a palatial villa of the Medici family, situated between Pistoia and Florence, the charge of arranging for that work and of paying out the money was given to the Magnificent Ottaviano de' Medici, as to a person who, not falling short of the standard of his ancestors, was well informed in such matters and a loving friend to all the masters of our arts, and delighted more than any other man to have his dwellings adorned with the works of the most excellent. Ottaviano ordained, therefore, although the commission for the whole work had already been given to Franciabigio, that he should have only a third, Andrea another, and Jacopo da Pontormo the last. But it was found impossible, for all the efforts that the Magnificent Ottaviano made to urge them on, and for all the money that he offered and even paid to them, to get the work brought to completion; and Andrea alone finished with great diligence a scene on one wall, representing Caesar being presented with tribute of all kinds of animals.
The drawing for this work is in our book, with many others by his hand; it is in chiaroscuro, and is the most finished that he ever made. In this picture Andrea, in order to surpass Franciabigio and Jacopo, subjected himself to unexampled labor, drawing in it a magnificent perspective view and a very masterly flight of steps, which formed the ascent to the throne of Caesar. And these steps he adorned with very well-designed statues, not being content with having proved the beauty of his genius in the variety of figures that are carrying on their backs all those different animals, such as the figure of an Indian who is wearing a yellow coat, and carrying on his shoulders a cage drawn in perspective with some parrots both within it and without, the whole being rarely beautiful; and such, also, as some who are leading Indian goats, lions, giraffes, panthers, lynxes, and apes, with Moors and other lovely things of fancy, all grouped in a beautiful manner and executed divinely well in fresco. On these steps, also, he made a dwarf seated and holding a box containing a chameleon, which is so well executed in all the deformity of its fantastic shape, that it is impossible to imagine more beautiful proportions than those that he gave it. But, as has been said, this work remained unfinished, on account of the death of Pope Leo; and although Duke Alessandro de' Medici had a great desire that Jacopo da Pontormo should finish it, he was not able to prevail on him to put his hand to it. And in truth it suffered a very grievous wrong in the failure to complete it, seeing that the hall, for one in a villa, is the most beautiful in the world.
After returning to Florence, Andrea painted a picture with a nude half-length figure of S. John the Baptist, a very beautiful thing, which he executed at the commission of Giovan Maria Benintendi, who presented it afterwards to the Lord Duke Cosimo.
While affairs were proceeding in this manner, Andrea, remembering sometimes his connection with France, sighed from his heart: and if he had hoped to find pardon for the fault he had committed, there is no doubt that he would have gone back. Indeed, to try his fortune, he sought to see whether his talents might be helpful to him in the matter. Thus he painted a picture of a half-naked S. John the Baptist, meaning to send it to the Grand Master of France, to the end that he might occupy himself with restoring the painter to the favor of the King. However, whatever may have been the reason, he never sent it after all, but sold it to the Magnificent Ottaviano de' Medici, who always valued it much as long as he lived, even as he did two pictures of Our Lady executed for him by Andrea in one and the same manner, which are in his house at the present day. Not long afterwards he was commissioned by Zanobi Bracci to paint a picture for Monsignore di San Biause,* [* Jacques de Beaune.] which he executed with all possible diligence, hoping that it might enable him to regain the favor of King Francis, to whose service he desired to return. He also executed for Lorenzo Jacopi a picture of much greater size than was usual, containing a Madonna seated with the Child in her arms, accompanied by two other figures that are seated on some steps; and the whole, both in drawing and in coloring, is similar to his other works. He painted for Giovanni d'Agostino Dini, likewise, a picture of Our Lady, which is now much esteemed for its beauty; and he made so good a portrait from life of Cosimo Lapi, that it seems absolutely alive.
Afterwards, in the year 1523, the plague came to Florence and also to some places in the surrounding country; and Andrea, in order to avoid that pestilence and also to do some work, went at the instance of Antonio Brancacci to the Mugello to paint a panel for the Nuns of S. Piero a Luco, of the Order of Camaldoli, taking with him his wife and a step- daughter, together with his wife's sister and an assistant. Living quietly there, then, he set his hand to the work. And since those venerable ladies showed more and more kindness and courtesy every day to his wife, to himself, and to the whole party, he applied himself with the greatest possible willingness to executing that panel, in which he painted a Dead Christ mourned by Our Lady, S. John the Evangelist, and the Magdalene, figures so lifelike, that they appear truly to have spirit and breath. In S. John may be seen the loving tenderness of that Apostle, with affection in the tears of the Magdalene, and bitter sorrow in the face and whole attitude of the Madonna, whose aspect, as she gazes on Christ, who seems to be truly a real corpse and in relief, is so pitiful, that she fills with helpless awe and bewilderment the minds of S. Peter and S. Paul, who are contemplating the Dead Saviour of the World in the lap of His mother. From these marvellous conceptions it is clear how much Andrea delighted in finish and perfection of art; and to tell the truth, this panel has given more fame to that convent than all the buildings and all the other costly works, however magnificent and extraordinary, that have been executed there.
This picture finished, Andrea, seeing that the danger of the plague was not yet past, stayed some weeks more in the same place, where he was so well received and treated with such kindness. During that time, in order not to be idle, he painted not only a Visitation of Our Lady to S. Elizabeth, which is in the church, on the right hand above the Manger, serving as a crown to a little ancient panel, but also, on a canvas of no great size, a most beautiful head of Christ, somewhat similar to that on the altar of the Nunziata, but not so finished. This head, which may in truth be numbered among the better works that issued from the hands of Andrea, is now in the Monastery of the Monks of the Angeli at Florence, in the possession of that very reverend father, Don Antonio da Pisa, who loves not only the men of excellence in our arts, but every man of talent without exception. From this picture several copies have been taken, for Don Silvano Razzi entrusted it to the painter Zanobi Poggini, to the end that he might make a copy for Bartolommeo Gondi, who had asked him for one, and some others were made, which are held in vast veneration in Florence.
In this manner, then, Andrea passed without danger the time of the plague, and those nuns received from the genius of that great man such a work as can bear comparison with the most excellent pictures that have been painted in our day; wherefore it is no marvel that Ramazzotto, the captain of mercenaries of Scaricalasino, sought to obtain it on several occasions during the siege of Florence, in order to send it to his chapel in S. Michele in Bosco at Bologna.
On his return to Florence, Andrea executed for Beccuccio da Gambassi, the glass-blower, who was very much his friend, a panel picture of Our Lady in the sky with the Child in her arms, and four figures below, S. John the Baptist, S. Mary Magdalene, S. Sebastian, and S. Rocco; and in the predella he made portraits from nature, which are most lifelike, of Beccuccio and his wife. This panel is now at Gambassi, a township in Valdelsa, between Volterra and Florence. For a chapel in the villa of Zanobi Bracci at Rovezzano, he painted a most beautiful picture of Our Lady suckling a Child, with a Joseph, all executed with such diligence that they stand out from the panel, so strong is the relief; and this picture is now in the house of M. Antonio Bracci, the son of that Zanobi. About the same time, also, and in the above-mentioned cloister of the Scalzo, Andrea painted two other scenes, in one of which he depicted Zacharias offering sacrifice and being made dumb by the Angel appearing to him, while in the other is the Visitation of Our Lady, beautiful to a marvel.
Now Federigo II, Duke of Mantua, in passing through Florence on his way to make obeisance to Clement VII, saw over a door in the house of the Medici that portrait of Pope Leo between Cardinal Giulio de' Medici and Cardinal de' Rossi, which the most excellent Raffaello da Urbino had formerly painted; and being extraordinarily pleased with it, he resolved, being a man who delighted in pictures of such beauty, to make it his own. And so, when he was in Rome and the moment seemed to him to have come, he asked for it as a present from Pope Clement, who courteously granted his request. Thereupon orders were sent to Florence to Ottaviano de' Medici, under whose care and government were Ippolito and Alessandro, that he should have it packed up and taken to Mantua. This matter was very displeasing to the Magnificent Ottaviano, who would never have consented to deprive Florence of such a picture, and he marvelled that the Pope should have given it up so readily. However, he answered that he would not fail to satisfy the Duke; but that, since the frame was bad, he was having a new one made, and when it had been gilt he would send the picture with every possible precaution to Mantua. This done, Messer Ottaviano, in order to "save both the goat and the cabbage," as the saying goes, sent privately for Andrea and told him how the matter stood, and how there was no way out of it but to make an exact copy of the picture with the greatest care and send it to the Duke, secretly retaining the one by the hand of Raffaello. Andrea, then, having promised to do all in his power and knowledge, caused a panel to be made similar in size and in every respect, and painted it secretly in the house of Messer Ottaviano.
And to such purpose did he labor, that when it was finished even Messer Ottaviano, for all his understanding in matters of art, could not tell the one from the other, nor distinguish the real and true picture from the copy; especially as Andrea had counterfeited even the spots of dirt, exactly as they were in the original. And so, after they had hidden the picture of Raffaello, they sent the one by the hand of Andrea, in a similar frame, to Mantua; at which the Duke was completely satisfied, and above all because the painter Giulio Romano, a disciple of Raffaello, had praised it, failing to detect the trick. This Giulio would always have been of the same opinion, and would have believed it to be by the hand of Raffaello, but for the arrival in Mantua of Giorgio Vasari, who, having been as it were the adoptive child of Messer Ottaviano, and having seen Andrea at work on that picture, revealed the truth. For Giulio making much of Vasari, and showing him, after many antiquities and paintings, that picture of Raffaello's, as the best work that was there, Giorgio said to him, "A beautiful work it is, but in no way by the hand of Raffaello." "What?" answered Giulio. "Should I not know it, when I recognize the very strokes that I made with my own brush?" "You have forgotten them," said Giorgio, "for this picture is by the hand of Andrea del Sarto; and to prove it, there is a sign (to which he pointed) that was made in Florence, because when the two were together they could not be distinguished." Hearing this, Giulio had the picture turned round, and saw the mark; at which he shrugged his shoulders and said these words, "I value it no less than if it were by the hand of Raffaello nay, even more, for it is something out of the course of nature that a man of excellence should imitate the manner of another so well, and should make a copy so like. It is enough that it should be known that Andrea's genius was as valiant in double harness as in single." Thus, then, by the wise judgment of Messer Ottaviano, satisfaction was given to the Duke without depriving Florence of so choice a work, which, having been presented to him afterwards by Duke Alessandro, he kept in his possession for many years; and finally he gave it to Duke Cosimo, who has it in his guardaroba together with many other famous pictures.
While Andrea was making this copy, he also painted for the same Messer Ottaviano a picture with only the head of Cardinal Giulio de' Medici, who afterwards became Pope Clement; and this head, which was similar to that by Raffaello, and very beautiful, was presented eventually by Messer Ottaviano to old Bishop de' Marzi.
Not long after, Messer Baldo Magini of Prato desiring to have a most beautiful panel picture painted for the Madonna delle Carcere in his native city, for which he had already caused a very handsome ornament of marble to be made, one of the many painters proposed to him was Andrea. Wherefore Messer Baldo, having more inclination for him than for any of the others, although he had no great understanding in such a matter, had almost given him to believe that he and no other should do the work, when a certain Niccolo Soggi of Sansovino, who had some interest at Prato, was suggested to Messer Baldo for the undertaking, and assisted to such purpose by the assertion that there was not a better master to be found, that the work was given to him. Meanwhile, Andrea's supporters sending for him, he, holding it as settled that the work was to be his, went off to Prato with Domenico Puligo and other painters who were his friends. Arriving there, he found that Niccolo not only had persuaded Messer Baldo to change his mind, but also was bold and shameless enough to say to him in the presence of Messer Baldo that he would compete with Andrea for a bet of any sum of money in painting something, the winner to take the whole. Andrea, who knew what Niccolo was worth, answered, although he was generally a man of little spirit, "Here is my assistant, who has not been long in our art. If you will bet with him, I will put down the money for him; but with me you shall have no bet for any money in the world, seeing that, if I were to beat you, it would do me no honor, and if I were to lose, it would be the greatest possible disgrace." And, saying to Messer Baldo that he should give the work to Niccolo, because he would execute it in such a manner as would please the folk that went to market, he returned to Florence.
There he was commissioned to paint a panel for Pisa, divided into five pictures, which were afterwards placed round the Madonna of S. Agnese, beside the walls of that city, between the old Citadel and the Duomo. Making one figure, then, in each picture, he painted in two of them S. John the Baptist and S. Peter, one on either side of the Madonna that works miracles; and in the others are S. Catharine the Martyr, S. Agnese, and S. Margaret, each a figure by itself, and all so beautiful as to fill with marvel anyone who beholds them, and considered to be the most gracious and lovely women that he ever painted.
M. Jacopo, a Servite friar, in releasing and absolving a woman from a vow, had told her that she must have a figure of Our Lady painted over the outer side of that lateral door of the Nunziata which leads into the cloister; and therefore, finding Andrea, he said to him that he had this money to spend, and that although it was not much it seemed to him right, since the other works executed by Andrea in that place had brought him such fame, that he and no other should paint this one as well. Andrea, who was nothing if not an amiable man, moved by the persuasions of the friar and by his own desire for profit and glory, answered that he would do it willingly; and shortly afterwards, putting his hand to the work, he painted in fresco a most beautiful Madonna seated with her Son in her arms, and S. Joseph leaning on a sack, with his eyes fixed upon an open book. And of such a kind was this work, in draughtsmanship, grace, and beauty of colouring, as well as in vivacity and relief, that it proved that he outstripped and surpassed by a great measure all the painters who had worked up to that time. Such, indeed, is this picture, that by its own merit and without praise from any other quarter it makes itself clearly known as amazing and most rare.
There was wanting only one scene in the cloister of the Scalzo for it to be completely finished; wherefore Andrea, who had added grandeur to his manner after having seen the figures that Michelagnolo had begun and partly finished for the Sacristy of S. Lorenzo, set his hand to executing this last scene. In this, giving the final proof of his improvement, he painted the Birth of S. John the Baptist, with figures that were very beautiful and much better and stronger in relief than the others made by him before in the same place. Most beautiful, among others in this work, are a woman who is carrying the new-born babe to the bed on which lies S. Elizabeth, who is likewise a most lovely figure, and Zacharias, who is writing on a paper that he has placed on his knee, holding it with one hand and with the other writing the name of his son, and all with such vivacity, that he lacks nothing save the breath of life. Most beautiful, also, is an old woman who is seated on a stool, smiling with gladness at the delivery of the other aged woman, and revealing in her attitude and expression all that would be seen in a living person after such an event.
Having finished that work, which is certainly well worthy of all praise, he painted for the General of Vallombrosa a panel picture with four very lovely figures, S. John the Baptist, S. Giovanni Gualberto, founder of that Order, S. Michelagnolo, and S. Bernardo, a Cardinal and a monk of the Order, with some little boys in the centre that could not be more vivacious or more beautiful. This panel is at Vallombrosa, on the summit of a rocky height, where certain monks live in some rooms called "the cells," separated from the others, and leading as it were the lives of hermits.
After this he was commissioned by Giuliano Scala to paint a panel- picture, which was to be sent to Serrazzana, of a Madonna seated with the Child in her arms, and two half-length figures from the knees upwards, S. Celso and S. Julia, with S. Onofrio, S. Catharine, S. Benedict, S. Anthony of Padua, S. Peter, and S. Mark; which panel was held to be equal to the other works of Andrea. And in the hands of Giuliano Scala, in place of the balance due to him of a sum of money that he had paid for the owners of that work, there remained a lunette containing an Annunciation, which was to go above the panel, to complete it; and it is now in his chapel in the great tribune round the choir of the Church of the Servi.
The Monks of S. Salvi had let many years pass by without thinking of having a beginning made with their Last Supper, which they had commissioned Andrea to execute at the time when he painted the arch with the four figures; but finally an Abbot, who was a man of judgment and breeding, determined that he should finish that work. Thereupon Andrea, who had already pledged himself to it on a previous occasion, far from making any demur, put his hand to the task, and, working at it one piece at a time when he felt so inclined, finished it in a few months, and that in such a manner, that the work was held to be, as it certainly is, the most spontaneous and the most vivacious in colouring and drawing that he ever made, or that ever could be made. For, among other things, he gave infinite grandeur, majesty, and grace to all the figures, insomuch that I know not what to say of this Last Supper that would not be too little, it being such that whoever sees it is struck with amazement. Wherefore it is no marvel that on account of its excellence it was left standing amid the havoc of the siege of Florence, in the year 1529, at which time the soldiers and destroyers, by command of those in authority, pulled down all the suburbs without the city, and all the monasteries, hospitals, and other buildings. These men, I say, having destroyed the Church and Campanile of S. Salvi, and beginning to throw down part of the convent, had come to the refectory where this Last Supper is, when their leader, seeing so marvellous a painting, of which he may have heard speak, abandoned the undertaking and would not let any more of that place be destroyed, reserving the task until such time as there should be no alternative.
Andrea then painted for the Company of S. Jacopo, called the Nicchio, on a banner for carrying in processions, a S. James fondling a little boy dressed as a Flagellant by stroking him under the chin, with another boy who has a book in his hand, executed with beautiful grace and naturalness. He made a portrait from life of a steward of the Monks of Vallombrosa, who lived almost always in the country on the affairs of his monastery ; and this portrait was placed under a sort of bower, in which he had made pergole and contrivances of his own in various fanciful designs, so that it was buffeted by wind and rain, according to the pleasure of that steward, who was the friend of Andrea. And because, when the work was finished, there were some colours and lime left over, Andrea, taking a tile, called to his wife Lucrezia and said to her: "Come here, for these colors are left over, and I wish to make your portrait, so that all may see how well you have preserved your beauty even at your time of life, and yet may know how your appearance has changed, which will make this one different from your early portraits." But the woman, who may have had something else in her mind, would not stand still; and Andrea, as it were from a feeling that he was near his end, took a mirror and made a portrait of himself on that tile, of such perfection, that it seems alive and as real as nature; and that portrait is in the possession of the same Madonna Lucrezia, who is still living.
He also portrayed a Canon of Pisa, very much his friend; and the portrait, which is lifelike and very beautiful, is still in Pisa. He then began for the Signoria the cartoons for the paintings to be executed on the balustrades of the Ringhiera in the Piazza, with many beautiful things of fancy to represent the quarters of the city, and with the banners of the Consuls of the chief Guilds supported by some little boys, and also ornaments in the form of images of all the virtues, and likewise the most famous mountains and rivers of the dominion of Florence. But this work, thus begun, remained unfinished on account of Andrea's death, as was also the case with a panel although it was all but finished which he painted for the Abbey of the Monks of Vallombrosa at Poppi in the Casentino. In that panel he painted an Assumption of Our Lady, who is surrounded by many little boys, with S. Giovanni Gualberto, S. Bernardo the Cardinal (a monk of their Order, as has been related), S. Catharine, and S. Fedele; and, unfinished as it is, the picture is now in that Abbey of Poppi. The same happened to a panel of no great size, which, when finished, was to have gone to Pisa. But he left completely finished a very beautiful picture which is now in the house of Filippo Salviati, and some others.
About the same time Giovan Battista della Palla, having bought all the sculptures and pictures of note that he could obtain, and causing copies to be made of those that he could not buy, had despoiled Florence of a vast number of choice works, without the least scruple, in order to furnish a suite of rooms for the King of France, which was to be richer in suchlike ornaments than any other in the world. And this man, desiring that Andrea should return to the service and favour of the King, commissioned him to paint two pictures. In one of these Andrea painted Abraham in the act of trying to sacrifice his son; and that with such diligence, that it was judged that up to that time he had never done anything better. Beautifully expressed in the figure of the patriarch was seen that living and steadfast faith which made him ready without a moment of dismay or hesitation to slay his own son. The same Abraham, likewise, could be seen turning his head towards a very beautiful little angel, who appeared to be bidding him stay his hand. I will not describe the attitude, the dress, the footwear, and other details in the painting of that old man, because it is not possible to say enough of them; but this I must say, that the boy Isaac, tender and most beautiful, was to be seen all naked, trembling with the fear of death, and almost dead without having been struck. The same boy had only the neck browned by the heat of the sun, and white as snow those parts that his draperies had covered during the three days' journey. In like manner, the ram among the thorns seemed to be alive, and Isaac's draperies on the ground rather real and natural than painted. And in addition there were some naked servants guarding an ass that was browsing, and a landscape so well represented that the real scene of the event could not have been more beautiful or in any way different. This picture, having been bought by Filippo Strozzi after the death of Andrea and the capture of Battista, was presented by him to Signor Alfonso Davalos, Marchese del Vasto, who had it carried to the island of Ischia, near Naples, and placed in one of his apartments in company with other most noble paintings.
In the other picture Andrea painted a very beautiful Charity, with three little boys; and this was afterwards bought from the wife of Andrea, after his death, by the painter Domenico Conti, who sold it later to Niccolo Antinori, who treasures it as a rare work, as indeed it is.
During this time there came to the Magnificent Ottaviano de' Medici, seeing from that last picture how much Andrea had improved his manner, a desire to have a picture by his hand. Whereupon Andrea, who was eager to serve that lord, to whom he was much indebted, because he had always shown favour to men of lofty intellect, and particularly to painters, executed for him a picture of Our Lady seated on the ground with the Child riding astride on her knees, while He turns His head towards a little S. John supported by an old S. Elizabeth, a figure so natural and so well painted that she appears to be alive, even as every other thing is wrought with incredible diligence, draughtsmanship, and art. Having finished this picture, Andrea carried it to Messer Ottaviano; but since that lord had something else to think about, Florence being then besieged, he told Andrea, while thanking him profoundly and making his excuses, to dispose of it as he thought best. To which Andrea made no reply but this: "The labor was endured for you, and yours the work shall always be." "Sell it," answered Messer Ottaviano, "and use the money, for I know what I am talking about." Andrea then departed and returned to his house, nor would he ever give the picture to anyone, for all the offers that were made to him; but when the siege was raised and the Medici back in Florence, he took it once more to Messer Ottaviano, who accepted it right willingly, thanking him and paying him double. The work is now in the apartment of his wife, Madonna Francesca, sister to the very reverend Salviati, who holds the beautiful pictures left to her by her magnificent consort in no less account than she does the duty of retaining and honouring his friends.
For Giovanni Borgherini Andrea painted another picture almost exactly like the one of Charity mentioned above, containing a Madonna, a little S. John offering to Christ a globe that represents the world, and a very beautiful head of S. Joseph.
There came to Paolo da Terrarossa, a friend to the whole body of painters, who had seen the sketch for the aforesaid Abraham, a wish to have some work by the hand of Andrea. Having therefore asked him for a copy of that Abraham, Andrea willingly obliged him and made a copy of such a kind, that in its minuteness it was by no means inferior to the large original. Wherefore Paolo, well satisfied with it and wishing to pay him, asked him the price, thinking that it would cost him what it was certainly worth; but Andrea asked a mere song, and Paolo, almost ashamed, shrugged his shoulders and gave him all that he claimed. The picture was afterwards sent by him to Naples . . .* [* There is here a gap in the text.] and it is the most beautiful and the most highly honored painting in that place.
During the siege of Florence some captains had fled the city with the paychests; on which account Andrea was asked to paint on the facade of the Palace of the Podesta and in the Piazza not only those captains, but also some citizens who had fled and had been proclaimed outlaws. He said that he would do it; but in order not to acquire, like Andrea dal Castagno, the name of Andrea degl' Impiccati, he gave it out that he was entrusting the work to one of his assistants, called Bernardo del Buda. However, having made a great enclosure, which he himself entered and left by night, he executed those figures in such a manner that they appeared to be the men themselves, real and alive. The soldiers, who were painted on the faade of the old Mercatanzia in the Piazza, near the Condotta, were covered, with whitewash many years ago, that they might be seen no longer; and the citizens, whom he painted entirely with his own hand on the Palace of the Podesta, were destroyed in like manner.
After this, being very intimate in these last years of his life with certain men who governed the Company of S. Sebastiano, which is behind the Servite Convent, Andrea made for them with his own hand a S. Sebastian from the navel upwards, so beautiful that it might well have seemed that these were the last strokes of the brush which he was to make.
The siege being finished, Andrea was waiting for matters to mend, although with little hope that his French project would succeed, since Giovan Battista della Palla had been taken prisoner, when Florence became filled with soldiers and stores from the camp. Among those soldiers were some lansquenets sick of the plague, who brought no little terror into the city and shortly afterwards left it infected. Thereupon, either through this apprehension or through some imprudence in eating after having suffered much privation in the siege, one day Andrea fell grievously ill and took to his bed with death on his brow; and finding no remedy for his illness, and being without much attention for his wife, from fear of the plague, kept as far away from him as she could he died, so it is said, almost without a soul being aware of it; and he was buried by the men of the Scalzo with scant ceremony in the Church of the Servi, near his own house, in the place where the members of that Company are always buried.
The death of Andrea was a very great loss to the city and to art, because up to the age of forty-two, which he attained, he went on always improving from one work to another in such wise that, if he had lived longer, he would have continued to confer benefits on art; for the reason that it is better to go on making progress little by little, advancing with a firm and steady foot through the difficulties of art, than to seek to force one's intellect and nature in a single effort. Nor is there any doubt that if Andrea had stayed in Rome when he went there to see the works of Raffaello and Michelagnolo, and also the statues and ruins of that city, he would have enriched his manner greatly in the composition of scenes, and would one day have given more delicacy and greater force to his figures ; which has never been thoroughly achieved save by one who has been some time in Rome, to study those works in detail and grow familiar with them. Having then from nature a sweet and gracious manner of drawing and great facility and vivacity of colouring, both in fresco work and in oils, it is believed without a doubt that if he had stayed in Rome, he would have surpassed all the craftsmen of his time. But some believe that he was deterred from this by the abundance of works of sculpture and painting, both ancient and modern, that he saw in that city, and by observing the many young men, disciples of Raffaello and of others, resolute in draughtsmanship and working confidently and without effort, whom, like the timid fellow that he was, he did not feel it in him to excel. And so, not trusting himself, he resolved, as the best course for him, to return to Florence ; where, reflecting little by little on what he had seen, he made such proficience that his works have been admired and held in price, and, what is more, imitated more often after his death than during his lifetime. Whoever has some holds them dear, and whoever has consented to sell them has received three times as much as was paid to him, for the reason that he never received anything but small prices for his works, both because he was timid by nature, as has been related, and also because certain master-joiners, who were executing the best works at that time in the houses of citizens, would never allow any commission to be given to Andrea (so as to oblige their friends), save when they knew that he was in great straits, for at such times he would accept any price. But this does not prevent his works from being most rare, or from being held in very great account, and that rightly, since he was one of the best and greatest masters who have lived even to our own day. In our book are many drawings by his hand, all good; but in particular there is one that is altogether beautiful, of the scene that he painted at Poggio, showing the tribute of all the animals from the East being presented to Caesar. This drawing, which is executed in chiaroscuro, is a rare thing, and the most finished that Andrea ever made; for when he drew natural objects for reproduction in his works, he made mere sketches dashed off on the spot, contenting himself with marking the character of the reality; and afterwards, when reproducing them in his works, he brought them to perfection. His drawings, therefore, served him rather as memoranda of what he had seen than as models from which to make exact copies in his pictures.
The disciples of Andrea were innumerable, but they did not all pursue the same course of study under his discipline, for some stayed with him a long time, and some but little; which was the fault, not of Andrea, but of his wife, who, tyrannizing arrogantly over them all, and showing no respect to a single one of them, made all their lives a burden. Among his disciples, then, were Jacopo da Pontormo; Andrea Sguazzella, who adhered to the manner of Andrea and decorated a palace, a work which is much extolled, without the city of Paris in France; Solosmeo; Pier Francesco di Jacopo di Sandro, who has painted three panels that are in S. Spirito; Francesco Salviati; Giorgio Vasari of Arezzo, who was the companion of the aforesaid Salviati, although he did not stay long with Andrea; Jacopo del Conte of Florence; and Nannoccio, who is now in France with Cardinal de Tournon, in the highest credit. In like manner, Jacopo, called Jacone, was a disciple of Andrea and much his friend, and an imitator of his manner. This Jacone, while Andrea was alive, received no little help from him, as is evident in all his works, and particularly in the facade executed for the Chevalier Buondelmonti on the Piazza di S. Trinita.
The heir to Andrea's drawings and other art possessions, after his death, was Domenico Conti, who made little proficience in painting; but one night he was robbed by some men of the same profession, so it is thought of all the drawings, cartoons, and other things that he had from Andrea, nor was it ever discovered who these men were. Now Domenico, as one not ungrateful for the benefits received from his master, and desiring to render to him after his death the honors that he deserved, prevailed upon Raffaello da Montelupo to make for him out of courtesy a very handsome tablet of marble, which was built into a pilaster in the Church of the Servi, with the following epitaph, written for him by the most learned Messer Piero Vettori, then a young man:
ADMIRABILIS INGENII PICTORI, AC VETERIBUS ILLIS OMNIUM JUDICIO
DOMINICUS CONTES DISCIPULUS, PRO LABORIBUS IN SE INSTITUENDO SUSCEPTIS,
GRATO ANIMO POSUIT.
VIXIT ANN. XLII. OB. ANN. MDXXX.
After no long time, certain citizens, Wardens of Works of that church, rather ignorant than hostile to honored memories, so went to work out of anger that the tablet should have been set up in that place without their leave, that they had it removed; nor has it yet been reerected in any other place. Thus, perchance, Fortune sought to show that the power of the Fates prevails not only during our lives, but also over our memorials after death. In spite of them, however, the works and the name of Andrea are likely to live a long time, as are these my writings, I hope, to preserve their memory for many ages.
We must conclude, then, that if Andrea showed poor spirit in the actions of his life, contenting himself with little, this does not mean that in art he was otherwise than exalted in genius, most resolute, and masterly in every sort of labor; and with his works, in addition to the adornment that they confer on the places where they are, he rendered a most valuable service to his fellow craftsmen with regard to manner, drawing, and coloring, and that with fewer errors than any other painter of Florence, for the reason that, as has been said above, he understood very well the management of light and shade and how to make things recede in the darks, and painted his pictures with a sweetness full of vivacity; not to mention that he showed us the method of working in fresco with perfect unity and without doing much retouching on the dry, which makes his every work appear to have been painted in a single day. Wherefore he should serve in every place as an example to Tuscan craftsmen, and receive supreme praise and a palm of honor among the number of their most celebrated champions.
Andrea del Sarto, Autoritratto (1528 circa), Corridoio Vasariano, Firenze