1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Piero di Cosimo

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PIERO DI COSIMO (1462-1521), the name by which the Florentine painter Pietro di Lorenzo is generally known. He was born in Florence about 1462, and worked in the bottega of Cosimo Rosselli (from whom he derived his popular name). Other influences that can be traced in his work are those of Filippino Lippi, Luca Signorelli, and Leonardo da Vinci, and, as has been recently suggested by Professor R. Muther, that of Hugo van der Goes, whose Portinari altar-piece (now at the Spedale of S. Maria Novella in Florence) helped to lead the whole of Florentine painting into new channels. From him, most probably, he acquired the love of landscape and the intimate knowledge of the growth of flowers and of animal life. The influence of Hugo van der Goes is especially apparent in the “Adoration of the Shepherds,” at the Berlin Museum. He had the gift of a fertile fantastic imagination, which, as a result of a journey to Rome in 1482 with his master, Rosselli, became directed towards the myths of classic antiquity. He proves himself a true child of the Renaissance in such pictures as the “Death of Procris,” at the National Gallery, the “Mars and Venus,” at the Berlin Gallery, the “Perseus and Andromeda” series, at the Uffizi in Florence, and the “Hylas and the Nymphs” belonging to Mr Benson. If, as we are told by Vasari, 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 “Immaculate Conception,” 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 Rossell1'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, he enjoyed a great reputation as a portrait painter, though the only known examples that can be definitely ascribed to him are the portrait of a warrior, at the National Gallery, (No. 895), the so-called “Bella Simonetta,” at Chantilly, the portraits of Giuliano di San Gallo and his father, at the Hague, and a head of a youth, at Dulwich. Vasari relates that 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 Bartolommeo della Porta and was the master of Andrea del Sarto. Examples of his work are also to be found at the Louvre in Paris, the Harrach and Liechtenstein collections in Vienna, the Borghese Gallery in Rome, the Spedale degli Innocenti in Florence, and in the collections of Mr John Burke and Colonel Cornwallis West in London. A “Magdalen” from his brush was added to the National Gallery of Rome in 1907.

See Piero di Cosimo, by F. Knapp (Halle, 1899); Piero di Cosimo, by H. Haberfeld (Breslau, 1901).