Biography: Andrea del Sarto
The most significant Florentine painter of the early 16th century was Del Sarto. His style is admired for the natural poise and grace of his figures, as well as his talent with color.
The most significant Florentine painter of the early 16th century was del Sarto. His style is admired for the natural poise and grace of his figures, as well as his talent with color. He is often associated with religious paintings and the occasional portrait. By 1508, when the "holy trinity" of Leonardo, Raphael, and Michelangelo left Florence, del Sarto assumed the position of the top Florentine artist (overtaking even Bartolommeo). He altered Leonardo's sfumato technique by expanding his color palette to include warmer and more vibrant hues. In fact, del Sarto produced an unmatched color tonal range, and his work significantly influenced the later development of the Mannerist movement. (The Art Story, n.d.)
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Andrea del Sarto was apprenticed to a Florentine goldsmith in 1494 when he was only eight. He developed a love for drawing and draftsmanship due to the experience. Andrea di Salvi Barile soon took him on as a painter and woodcarver, and he studied with him until he was twelve. He then studied with Piero di Cosimo, and Raffaellino del Garbo. However, Del Sarto indeed developed as an artist while studying under di Cosimo, who praised the student's capacity for color and diligent demeanor.
Di Cosimo was a metal point draftsman, like other Florentine artists of the period, and he probably taught del Sarto how to use this technique. No known del Sarto drawings are made in this style, though. Del Sarto preferred to use red and black chalk for his preliminary sketches because it allowed for more tonal variation than the more refined metal point lines. Del Sarto's red-chalk drawings were exceptional.
Around 1506, Del Sarto started working independently, and this period was characterized by the artist's impetuous youth, which led to the natural treatment of his figures. He and Franciabigio, who was only 20 then, opened a studio and shop at a hotel in Piazza del Grano. He started working with the church and convent of Santissima Annunziata in 1509 and continued for many years (also in Florence).
He was hired by the Servite Order and Franciabigio and Andrea Feltrini to paint a series of five frescoes for the cloister's entrance. These scenes, which illustrate the life of St. Filippo Benizzi, would serve as his first significant public commission and establish del Sarto as a promising young artist. (The Art Story, n.d.)
In 1501, Del Sarto relocated to a workshop close to the Santissima Annunziata church. During his roughly six or seven years there, he apprenticed with Jacopo Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino. Additionally, he collaborated with the sculptor Jacopo Sansovino, who is credited with having had a significant influence on del Sarto's developing, more sculptural, and muscular painting style.
Between 1511 and 1518, Del Sarto completed significant frescoes for several churches in Florence. For instance, The Annunciation was painted for the San Gallo convent. The Elders, three of them, have been lightly painted in with a few brushstrokes and are pointing to a Susanna who resembles a man in a male nude while she is up in an airy loggia fit for Pontormo or Rosso.
In 1518, Del Sarto married Lucrezia del Fede of Recanati. She brought to the marital property a sizeable dowry. She was a previous widow. Del Sarto was happy to work with little or no fees. The statement that he would be content to paint "for a carpenter or a king" is repeated in most biographies.
Del Sarto frequently used Lucrezia as a model before and after their marriage, and she can be seen in many of his paintings. In some of his most famous pieces, like The Nativity of the Virgin (1514) and Madonna of the Harpies, she even assumes the role of a Madonna (1517).
Disputation on the Trinity, one of del Sarto's most well-known panels, was created in 1517. The Trinity symbol, emerging from the frightening sky where Del Sarto places his figures, is being discussed by the saints as Magdalene, modeled after Lucrezia (Del Sarto's wife), observes. Del Sarto was personally invited to join the Court of King François I of France in June 1518 after sending two works to his Court two years earlier.
Del Sarto accepted the invitation and accompanied Andrea Squarzzella to Fontainebleau. Del Sarto stayed less than a year and refused to accept any significant commissions, leading one to the conclusion that he did not enjoy life as a court artist. Thought to have been created during his brief stay in France are the two surviving works, The Charity and Portrait of a French Lady. Vasari claims that Lucrezia, who had stayed in Florence, wrote to her husband and pleaded with him to return home. The French King consented, but with the condition that del Sarto returns to France soon.
There was a rumor that François I had given del Sarto money to buy artworks for his Court. Vasari claims that del Sarto destroyed his reputation with the French Court and any chance of ever being invited back to France by using the funds to buy a sizable property on Via della Crocetta in Florence while under the influence of his dishonest wife. Despite being widely known, this story is now regarded as a fabrication (not malicious). Sarto did, however, start "building himself a house in Florence, which was later inhabited and modified by several other painters," adding that it was "a substantial property without being a palace," as Shearman confirms.
Del Sarto also received a very prestigious commission from the Medici family after his return from France (who had become all-powerful since their return to Florence in 1512). Pope Leo X asked him to provide decorations for the Salone (lounge area) at the Villa di Poggio a Caiano outside of Florence; however, the project was abandoned after the Pope's passing in December 1521. Ottaviano de' Medici offered del Sarto an unusual commission in 1523, which he accepted. Federico II Gonzaga coveted Ottaviano's possession of Raphael's group portrait of Pope Leo X, a work of art (the Duke of Mantua).
Ottaviano hired del Sarto to create a replica because he did not want to lose Raphael's original and gave it to the Duke in its place. Del Sarto's copy is said to have been so accurate that it deceived even Giulio Romano, the artist who assisted Raphael with the original's rendering. Del Sarto and his family spent a brief period in Luco in Mugello in 1524 after the bubonic plague broke out in Florence.
Del Sarto later traveled to Rome, where Michelangelo had first met Vasari. After being sufficiently impressed by him, Vasari became one of del Sarto's pupils. Vasari would later express great ambivalence toward his former teacher, believing that although the artist possessed all the necessary skills to be a great artist, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo's work had more drive and ambition. Despite this, Ip notes that del Sarto filled two of Vasari's The Lives of the Artists biography's most significant entries—the first, in 1550, covering 40 pages, and the second, in 1568, covering 55 pages. Vasari criticized del Sarto, however, for his "apparent unwillingness to undertake the challenge of assimilating the antique and contemporary works in Rome during his brief stay" (Ip informs us that Dominique Cordellier's analysis of del Sarto's numerous sheet copies of Michelangelo and Baccio Bandinelli "tells a rather different story").
However, Vasari considered del Sarto to be one of the greatest Florentine painters of his time. Vasari argued that del Sarto's (supposed) lack of "Roman experience" robbed him of the "'resolute boldness' and abundant invention [of] the Bella maniera (beautiful style)" even though his work "possessed the same naturalistic approach and sense of calm witnessed in the works of previous Florentine artists like Giotto, Masaccio, and Domenico Ghirlandaio." (The Art Story, n.d.)
The Art Story. (n.d.). www.theartstory.org. Retrieved August 14, 2022, from https://www.theartstory.org/artist/del-sarto-andrea/