May 22, 2017

Master of the Masters

Andrea del Verrocchio

(pron “ver-OH-kee-oh”)

Born Andrea di Michele di Francesco de’ Cioni, he was trained under a master goldsmith, Giuliano Verrocchio, from whom Andrea took the name, which translates to “true eyes.” He grew up with Lorenzo d’Medici (aka, Lorenzo the Magnificent) as a close friend. Although a bachelor for life, he lived with and supported his sister and her children.

For quite some time, Verrocchio was considered to be one of the most important artists in Florence. Lorenzo and Piero de’Medici were Verrocchio’s chief patrons who paid handsomely for Andrea’s works of art. The Medici supporters also contributed dearly toward a very successful school of art, run of course, by Verrocchio himself. It has since become argued among critics as to which paintings were actually created by Verrocchio, and which were created by his students. This has caused some turmoil in the valuations of certain individual works of art today.

LOCAL LEGEND: When Master Verrocchio saw the first complete painting from his student Leonardo da Vinci, he was so taken aback by its perfect beauty and by the raw talent, skill and genius of this young Leonardo, that he vowed he would never pick up a brush ever again!

Some of his students grew to altogether new heights of fame, glory and wealth. His stand-out students include Pietro Perugino (who trained Raphael), Lorenzo di Credi (who shaped da Vinci’s early work, then later was influenced BY da Vinci), Domenico Ghirlandaio (who later taught the Renaissance Grand Masters Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, and Michelangelo).

As a sculptor, Andrea designed the funerary monument of Cosimo de’Medici and the crypts of Piero and Giovanni de’ Medici. Today they can all be seen in the Medici Chapel (Capella di Medici) in Florence. In 1468, Verrocchio accepted the task of creating the Ball for the top of the Duomo. This process involved soldering together many sheets of copper, hammering them into place, then gilting them with gold. The Ball was struck by lightning in 1601 and quickly repaired by 1602. [The cross on top of the Ball was created by someone else.]

Verrocchio died while working on a statue of General Bartolomeo Colioni in Venice. He never saw its completion. The statue was eventually finished by Alessandro Leopardi and stands in the Campo SS Giovanni e Paolo in Venice where you will find it today.

Which Angel is which?
One day, while Verrocchio was painting his “Baptism of Christ” he asked one of his students to paint one of the angels, while Andrea painted the other one. Can you tell which was painted by his student? Clue: this student was a young Leonardo da Vinci, who’s angel has a more ethereal beauty then Verrocchios more earhtly-looking angel.

For more stories of the Renaissance Giants, read the book “FLORENCE Gems & Giants” available now on Amazon.