Piero di Cosimo  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

"But this habit of intimate observation is only one side of Piero’s nature; hand in hand with it goes a trend towards the fantastic. The same man who observed nature with such a bright and acute eye also listened for the sound of lost melodies, soft and low. Weird beings appeared to him, fantastic yet serious; and the figures of the legends, mounted upon strange animals, glide through space. A fabulous hippogriff carries him into lost worlds of beauty, to Greece, the Orient, and Utopia. “This youth,’ says Vasari, “was blessed by nature with much intelligence and was very different in his strange notions from the other young people who worked at the same time with Cosimo Roselli. Often when he wished to relate something it seemed as if he suddenly no longer knew what he was talking about, and he had to begin anew because his mind had in the meanwhile become occupied with quite different things. At the same time he was so fond of solitude that he only felt comfortable when he could go about alone, devoting himself to fantastic thoughts and building air castles.”’! From this and the succeeding description it is evident that, long before Leonardo, he had followed the advice which the latter gave to young artists in his treatise on painting: “If thou hast a situation to invent, thou canst behold strange things in clouds and weather-beaten walls: beautiful landscapes adorned with mountains, views, cliffs, trees, great plains, valleys, and hills. Thou canst see all kinds of battles there, dramatic positions, strange figures, faces, and clothes. In viewing such walls and mixtures the same thing occurs as in listening to the sound of bells, in the peals of which thou wilt again find every name and every word which thou dost imagine.” "--The History of Painting: From the Fourth to the Early Nineteenth Century (1893/94) by Richard Muther

Related e



Piero di Cosimo (also known as Piero di Lorenzo) (January 2, 1462April 12, 1522) was an Italian painter, known for such works as Perseus Freeing Andromeda (1513).


The son of a Florentine goldsmith, Piero was born in Florence and apprenticed under the artist Cosimo Rosseli, from whom he derived his popular name and whom he assisted in the painting of the Sistine Chapel in 1481.

In the first phase of his career, Piero was influenced by the Netherlandish naturalism of Hugo van der Goes, whose Portinari Triptych (now at the Spedale of Santa Maria Novella in Florence) helped to lead the whole of Florentine painting into new channels. From him, most probably, Cosimo acquired the love of landscape and the intimate knowledge of the growth of flowers and of animal life. The manner of Hugo van der Goes is especially apparent in the Adoration of the Shepherds, at the Berlin Museum.

He journeyed to Rome in 1482 with his master, Rosselli. He proves himself a true child of the Renaissance by depicting subjects of Classical mythology in such pictures as the Venus, Mars, and Cupid, The Death of Procris, the Perseus and Andromeda series, at the Uffizi, and many others. Inspired to the Vitruvius' account of the evolution of man, Piero's mythical compositions show the bizarre presence of hybrid forms of men and animals, or the man learning to use fire and tools. The multitudes of nudes in these works shows the influence of Luca Signorelli on Piero's art.

During his lifetime, Cosimo acquired a reputation for eccentricity—a reputation enhanced and exaggerated by later commentators. Reportedly, he was frightened of thunderstorms, and so pyrophobic that he rarely cooked his food; he lived largely on hard-boiled eggs, which he prepared 50 at a time while boiling glue for his artworks. He also resisted any cleaning of his studio, or trimming of the fruit trees of his orchard; he lived, wrote Vasari, "more like a beast than a man."

If, as Vasari asserts, he spent the last years of his life in gloomy retirement, the change was probably due to Savonarola, under whose influence he turned his attention once more to religious art. The death of his master Roselli may also have had an impact on Piero's morose elder years. The Immaculate Conception with Saints, at the Uffizi, and the Holy Family, at Dresden, best illustrate the religious fervour to which he was stimulated by the stern preacher.

With the exception of the landscape background in Rosselli's fresco of the Sermon on the Mount, in the Sistine Chapel, we have no record of any fresco work from his brush. On the other hand, Piero enjoyed a great reputation as a portrait painter: the most famous of his work is in fact the portrait of a Florentine noblewoman, Simonetta Vespucci, mistress of Giuliano de Medici. According to Vasari Piero excelled in designing pageants and triumphal processions for the pleasure-loving youths of Florence, and gives a vivid description of one such procession at the end of the carnival of 1507, which illustrated the triumph of death. Piero di Cosimo exercised considerable influence upon his fellow pupils Albertinelli and Bartolomeo della Porta, and was the master of Andrea del Sarto.

Giorgio Vasari includes a biography of Piero di Cosimo in his Lives of the Artists.

Vasari gave Piero's date of death as 1521, and this date is still repeated by many sources, including the Encyclopedia Britannica. However, contemporary documents reveal that he died of plague on April 12, 1522.

Selected works

See also


Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Piero di Cosimo" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools