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Andrea del Sarto Photo

Andrea del Sarto

Florentine High Renaissance painter and draftsman

Born: July 16, 1486 - Florence, Italy
Died: September 29, 1530 - Florence, Italy
Movements and Styles:
High Renaissance
,
Mannerism

Summary of Andrea del Sarto

Del Sarto was the most important Florentine painter of the early 16th century. Associated with religious paintings, and the occasional portrait, his style is revered for the natural poise and grace of his figures and his skill as a colorist. Once the "holy trinity" of Leonardo, Raphael, and Michelangelo had all moved on from Florence (by 1508), del Sarto assumed the mantle of the leading Florentine master (overtaking even Bartolommeo). He modified Leonardo's sfumato technique by introducing a warmer and more vivid range of colours into his palette. Indeed, del Sarto produced a tonal range of color that was unsurpassed and proved a major inspiration on what would soon become known as the Mannerist style.

Accomplishments

  • Del Sarto possessed a comprehensive understanding of the great masters of the day. He learned the rules of balance and harmony from Raphael and the delicate skill of chiaroscuro and sfumato from Leonardo. But to this he brought a spontaneity, especially in his earlier works, to religious figures that are not overtly idealized. His figures were posed in a more naturalistic way and this lent his paintings an added emotional, sometimes even playful, dimension.
  • Very possibly due to his upbringing as the son of a tailor, del Sarto's skill at rendering the color, texture and fall of clothes and drapery was unmatched by any of his contemporaries. His figures and interiors were infused with an intense range of hues that brought a lively animation to his religious vignettes and tableaus. His willingness to bring this decorative element to his work anticipated the rise of Mannerism.
  • Although not a recognized landscapist or portraitist, del Sarto proved highly adept in both mediums. He sometimes set his religious parables against the spectacular backdrop of the Tuscan landscape which he captured to impressive atmospheric effect. In respect of portraiture, meanwhile, he demonstrated his dexterity in this sphere through his rendering of crowd scenes that frequently featured fellow artists (Jacopo Sansovino and musician Francesco de Layolle for instance) and also self-portraits.
  • As del Sarto matured as a painter, his work became more restrained and more idealized. This can be directly attributed to the "Roman influence" that saw him absorb some of the humanist precision of Michelangelo and Raphael's skill at infusing his scenes of assembly with dynamism and movement. Yet del Sarto was above mere imitation and his works always managed to retain both their element of intimacy and their allegiance to Florentine civic pride.

Biography of Andrea del Sarto

Andrea del Sarto Life and Legacy

Remarking on del Sarto's "most spectacular masterpiece", The Last Supper, Giorgio Vasari wrote that the artists "gave such infinite grace, grandeur, and majesty to all the figures" that he did not know how to praise it "without saying too little, it being so fine that whoever sees it is stupefied".

Important Art by Andrea del Sarto

Procession of the Magi / The Journey of the Magi (1511)

This fresco depicts the biblical account of the three Magi arriving at King Herod's palace. The lower foreground, and right side of the painting, are dominated by an animated crowd of foreign merchants carrying exotic goods and animals (including a giraffe visible in the right background). On the left, del Sarto has rendered the edge of Herod's palace with careful foreshortening. One of the unusual things about this fresco is the beautiful Tuscan countryside that forms the painting's backdrop.

This crowd of merchants also features portraits of Sarto's contemporaries, demonstrating thus his skill as a portraitist. On the right, one can observe a portrait of the sculptor Jacopo Sansovino (with whom he worked between 1511-17) standing beside the musician Francesco de Layolle. The painting also includes a self-portrait (visible to the left of Sansovino). A prominent rock in the painting's lower foreground bears the artist's signature which is composed of two interlocking "As".

This fresco is located in the Court of the Servi in the pilgrimage church of Santissima Annunziata in Florence, and forms part of Sarto's first important public commission of 1509. Like his other early works, this painting is infused with a palpable energy and dynamism. The figures are not refined, polished, or idealised, as they would become in his later art; their poses are relaxed and appear quite natural. As the son of a Florentine tailor, Sarto also enjoyed rendering the texture and fall of drapery. Indeed, in this painting each figure is adorned in a different coloured garment which brings an added element of animation the scene.

Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine of Alexandria (1512-13)

Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine of Alexandria (1512-13)

This devotional work is in a style known as Sacra Conversazione (Holy Conversation); a genre of painting that was very popular during the Italian Renaissance. The genre typically depicts the Virgin Mary and the Christ child who is here flanked by two saints, Saint Catherine of Alexandria and Saint Margaret of Antioch (together with her attribute, the sinister dragon she is known for conquering), and the figure of St. John the Baptist as a child in the middle-near foreground (with his attribute of a lamb). The conversion ceremony is being overseen by the Virgin Mary, who enacts a blessing with her right hand, and by Saint Margaret, who watches attentively.

This painting is an early work that displays a number of painterly influences borrowed from del Sarto's contemporaries. To begin with, this panel painting reveals del Sarto's thorough understanding of Leonardo da Vinci's use of chiaroscuro and sfumato while the balance, symmetry, and harmony of the composition carries echoes of Raphael. At the same time, the work exhibits the artist's personal style that was uniquely animated in his early years. The figures are beautiful but not overtly idealized; they exhibit, rather, naturalistic poses that bring an added emotional element to the scene. There is also a sense of playfulness that disrupts the composition's sense of order, and suggests a refreshing degree of confidence in the young artist. Furthermore, the painting is composed of vivid colours; del Sarto's expressive use of intense, saturated hues were unsurpassed in Florentine painting.

Baptism of the People (1517)

Baptism of the People (1517)

This grisaille (grey monochrome) fresco depicts St. John the Baptist in the act of baptising a crowd. It is one of a series of frescoes depicting the life and times of St. John the Baptist in the Chiostro dello Scalzo cloister. Begun around 1511, the work was not completed until 1526, and almost all of the work was completed in del Sarto's own hand. The cycle is considered a masterpiece of Renaissance Art, while K. G. Shearman, Professor of Fine Arts at Harvard University, argued that the frescos read "like an artistic autobiography covering the greater part of his career". Del Sarto's crisp expression of the narrative, his delicate rendering of water and fabrics, as well as his sculptural rendering of the figures, pushed the conventions of monumental fresco painting, and played an important role in the development of Mannerism. The refined forms of the figures also reflect del Sarto's interest in woodcuts by Northern artists such as Martin Schongauer, Albrecht Dürer, and Lucas van Leyden.

Positioned at the very centre of the composition, John the Baptist's right foot is perched on a rock as he pours water from a simple terracotta bowl onto the head of a kneeling figure. He cradles a cane crucifix to the left side of his body. The kneeling figure hugs his own torso as he undergoes his baptism; his feet and right knee are submerged in the river. On either side, figures observe the scene as they wait their turn to be baptised. Some of the figures perch on rocks that sit in the river. In the right background of the fresco, there is another crowd of onlookers standing on a low hill.

Del Sarto has approached this subject matter as a chance to render the human body in different poses and with varying degrees of clothing. For example, there is a figure on the far right wearing a fabric that only covers his upper body; his rear is visible to the viewer. Moreover, on the left, there is a figure that perches elegantly on a rock; the muscles in his legs, arms, and chest are very prominent. The range of different postures reveals the artist's masterful command of the human body and his ability to render its lines and shapes from all angles. Additionally, the scene is framed by an elaborately painted architectural setting which further confirms del Sarto's technical range.

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Andrea del Sarto
Influenced by Artist
Artists
Friends & Personal Connections
  • Michelangelo
    Michelangelo
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    Piero di Cosimo
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    Gian Barile
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    Raffaelino del Garbo
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    Jacopo Sansovino
Artists
  • No image available
    Francesco Salviati
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    Jacopino del Conte
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    Bernardo del Buda
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    Lamberto Lombardi
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    Nannuccio Fiorentino
Friends & Personal Connections
Movements & Ideas
Open Influences
Close Influences

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Content compiled and written by Tatyana Serraino

Edited and revised, with Summary and Accomplishments added by Tony Todd

"Andrea del Sarto Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Tatyana Serraino
Edited and revised, with Summary and Accomplishments added by Tony Todd
Available from:
First published on 30 May 2021. Updated and modified regularly
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