| BENOZZO BOZZOLI: MADONNA AND CHILD
(Berlin: Kaiser Friedrich Museum, 60B. Panel)
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QUID SPECTAS VOLUCRES, PISCES, ET MONSTRA FERARUM,
ET VIRIDES SILVAS ÆTHEREASQUE DOMOS,
ET PUEROS, JUVENES, MATRES, CANOSQUE PARENTES,
QUEIS SEMPER VIVUM SPIRAT IN ORE DECUS?
NON HÆC TAM VARIIS FINXIT SIMULACRA FIGURIS
NATURA, INGENIO FŒTIBUS APTA SUO:
EST OPUS ARTIFICIS: PINXIT VIVA ORA BENOXUS;
O SUPERI, VIVOS FUNDITE IN ORA SONOS.
Throughout this whole work there are scattered innumerable portraits from the life; but, since we have not knowledge of them all, I will mention only those that I have recognized as important, and those that I know by means of some record. In the scene of the Queen of Sheba going to visit Solomon there is the portrait of Marsilio Ficino among certain prelates, with those of Argiropolo, a very learned Greek, and of Batista Platina, whom he had previously portrayed in Rome; while he himself is on horseback, in the form of an old man shaven and wearing a black cap, in the fold of which there is a white paper, perchance as a sign, or because he intended to write his own name thereon.
In the same city of Pisa, for the Nuns of S. Benedetto a Ripa d'Arno, he painted all the stories of the life of that Saint; and in the building of the Company of the Florentines, which then stood where the Monastery of S. Vito now is, he wrought the panel and many other pictures. In the Duomo, behind the chair of the Archbishop, he painted a S. Thomas Aquinas on a little panel in distemper, with an infinite number of learned men disputing over his works, among whom there is a portrait of Pope Sixtus IV, together with a number of Cardinals and many Chiefs and Generals of various Orders. This is the best and most highly finished work that Benozzo ever made. In S. Caterina, a seat of the Preaching Friars in the same city, he executed two panels in distemper, which are known very well by the manner; and he also painted another in the Church of S. Niccola, with two in S. Croce without Pisa.
In his youth, Benozzo also painted the altar of S. Bastiano in the Pieve of San Gimignano, opposite to the principal chapel; and in the Hall of the Council there are some figures, partly by his hand, and partly old works restored by him. For the Monks of Monte Oliveto,[Pg 124] in the same territory, he painted a Crucifix and other pictures; but the best work that he made in that place was in the principal chapel of S. Agostino, where he painted stories of S. Augustine in fresco, from his conversion to his death; of the whole of which work I have the design by his hand in my book, together with many drawings of the aforesaid scenes in the Campo Santo of Pisa. In Volterra, likewise, he executed certain works, of which there is no need to make mention.
Now, while Benozzo was working in Rome, there was another painter there called Melozzo, who came from Forlì; and many who know no more than this, having found the name of Melozzo written and having compared the dates, have believed that Melozzo stands for Benozzo; but they are mistaken, for the said painter was one who lived at the same time and was a very zealous student of the problems of art, devoting particular diligence and study to the making of foreshortenings, as may be seen in S. Apostolo at Rome, in the tribune of the high-altar, where, in a frieze drawn in perspective, as an ornament for that work, there are some figures picking grapes, with a cask, which show no little of the good. But this is seen more clearly in the Ascension of Jesus Christ, in the midst of a choir of angels who are leading him up to Heaven, wherein the figure of Christ is so well foreshortened that it seems to be piercing the ceiling, and the same is true of the angels, who are circling with various movements through the spacious sky. The Apostles, likewise, who are on the earth below, are so well foreshortened in their various attitudes that the work brought him much praise, as it still does, from the craftsmen, who have learnt much from his labours. He was also a great master of perspective, as is demonstrated by the buildings painted in this work, which he executed at the commission of Cardinal Riario, nephew of Pope Sixtus IV, by whom he was richly rewarded.
THE DEATH OF S. AUGUSTINE
(After the fresco by Benozzo Gozzoli. San Gimigano: S. Agostino)
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But to return to Benozzo; wasted away at last by length of years and by his labours, he went to his true rest, in the city of Pisa, at the age of seventy-eight, while dwelling in a little house that he had bought in Carraia di San Francesco during his long sojourn there. This house he left at his death to his daughter; and, mourned by the whole city, he[Pg 125] was honourably buried in the Campo Santo, with the following epitaph, which is still to be read there:
HIC TUMULUS EST BENOTII FLORENTINI, QUI PROXIME HAS PINXIT
HISTORIAS. HUNC SIBI PISANOR. DONAVIT HUMANITAS, MCCCCLXXVIII.
Benozzo ever lived the well-ordered life of a true Christian, spending all his years in honourable labour. For this and for his good manner and qualities he was long looked upon with favour in that city. The disciples whom he left behind him were Zanobi Macchiavelli, a Florentine, and others of whom there is no need to make further record.[Pg 127]