Andrea del Castagno ~ Biography
1419 – August 19, 1457
Castagno was an influential figure in 15th Century Florentine Art, whose depictions of the human physique were regarded as masterful. As a highly skilled artist who had acquired the secret of Oil Painting from Domenico Veneziano, he was alleged to have murdered Veneziano in order to be the only master of the time. This was alleged by the great biographer Giorgio Vasari, but the claim is said to be false due to the record that Veneziano died years after Castagno was stricken with the plague.
One of his earliest works depicts those hung after the Battle of Anghiari of the Florentine war with Milan. Castagno painted this after returning home to Castagno, outside Florence after the war around 1440, and the work appears on the façade of the Palazzo del Podestá. This work garnered him the nickname of Andrea degli Impiccati, which he used as an artist.
His main influence was that of Tommaso Masaccio (1401 – 1428), the great painter of the Quattrocento period of Italy’s Renaissance and the great Florentine painter Giotto. Though he may have acquired influence from that of possible teachers Lippo Lippi (1406 – 1469) and a pioneer of visual perspective, Paolo Uccello (1397 – 1475). Even if these apprenticeships are not known for certain, Castagno is often mentioned alongside Uccello and Lippi in propelling the Masaccio revolution of Italian Renaissance art. This revolution was one that took Florentine painters away from the gothic ideology of art and introduced them to a more natural world of human presence.
Castagno’s first indication of Masaccio’s influence is seen in his fresco of Crucifixion and Saints, at the Ospedale di Santa Maria Nuova. Much of his work can only be studied in Florence, having been scatted about and he also completed frescos in Venice from 1442 to 1443 and for the Vatican’s apartments in 1454, as commissioned by Pope Nicolas V.
Works such as Deposition, Madonna with Child and Santi, and The Last Supper, were frescoes done throughout Florence’s Cathedrals and Chapels. It is often said that his Last Supper fresco exudes his greatest talent for balance between human figure and architecture. He stayed highly active in his later years, painting the his well known Illustrious People, in the Villa Carducci, displaying great minds such as Spano, Uberti, Dante and Boccaccio. Between 1449 and 1455 he created several frescos that are now on display from London to Washington D.C, and of course in Florence.
His most notable portrait painting is said to be Equestrian Statue of Niccoló da Tolentino, which hangs in the Cathedral of Florence. The life-life work was created in the image of Uccello’s famous portrait of John Hawkwood. Historically, Castagno brought to painting what Banco and Donatello brought to sculpture for Florentine artists. This influence carried great weight through the Renaissance, finding a masterful pinnacle in the work of Michelangelo.