Luca Signorelli

Born: After 1441  - Death: October 16, 1523    Located in: The Signorelli and Perugino Room

Born Luca d'Egidio di Ventura in Cortona, Tuscany, and called, Luca Signorelli, sometimes Luca da Cortona. He was an Italian Renaissance painter, particularly noted for his ability as a draughtsman and his use of the visual effect of foreshortening. His massive frescoes of the Last Judgment, painted between 1499 and 1503 in Orvieto Cathedral are considered his masterpiece.

His early influence formed into a style close to that of artists such as Benedetto Bonfigli (1420 – 1496), Pinturicchio (1452 – 1513), Fiorenzo di Lorenzo (1440 – 1522), and Pietro Perugino (1446 – 1524). Signorelli’s early sacred works showed an influence from Sandro Botticelli (1444 – 1510) and Lippo Lippi (1406 – 1469). His first major patrons were from Pope Sixtus IV (1414 – 1484), who commissioned him for frescos in the Shrine of Loreto in Rome. Signorelli also executed his Acts of Moses fresco for the Sistine Chapel in Rome, assisting some on the lower walls of the Chapel as well.

In the Monastery of Monte Oliveto Maggiore in Siena he painted eight frescoes, forming part of a vast series of the life of St. Benedict and in the Palace of Pandolfo Petrucci he worked on various classic or mythological subjects. In the latter was his School of Pan, a near-copy of an earlier work he completed to win the favor of Lorenzo de Medici (1449 – 1492). From Siena, Signorelli traveled to Orvieto, where he produced his masterpiece in the Chapel of S. Brizio for the Cathedral. It included work depicting the Apocalypse, among other religious subjects. The works were daring inventions, with a powerful treatment of the nude and arduous foreshortenings, quite striking in its day. Michelangelo (1475 – 1564) is said to have borrowed some of Signorelli's figures or combinations in his own fresco at the Sistine Chapel wall.

After sometime in Orvieto, he was invited back to Rome by Pope Julius II (1443 – 1513), to collaborate with Perugino, Pinturicchio and Il Sodoma (1477 – 1549) in the Vatican Palace. The artists did not fully engage with the works though, as Raphael’s work took prominence there. Then in Cortona, he executed his work, The Trinity, the Virgin and Saints, for the Confraternità della Trinità dei Pellegrini, along with the accompanying predella, The Last Supper, Agony in the Garden and, Flagellation. Both the latter are now in the Uffizi Gallery, along with his Crucifix with Maria Magdalen and, Allegory of Fertility and Abundance.

Signorelli traveled also to Arezzo, but became partially paralyzed, resulting in this becoming his last works. He eventually past away just a few short years later in Cortona. His works showed a distinct quality with great attention to anatomy; known to have studied in burial grounds. He surpassed contemporaries in showing the structure and mechanism of the nude in immediate action; and he even went beyond nature in experiments of this kind, trying hypothetical attitudes and combinations. With this he aimed at powerful truth rather than nobility of form, leaving a vast influence over the painters of his own and of succeeding times

(This biography has been adapted from the entry on Luca Signorelli, available under the GNU Free Documentation License.)

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