Melozzo degli Ambrosini

Alias: Melozzo da Forlì    Born: 1438  - Death: 1494    Located in: The Signorelli and Perugino Room

Melozzo da Forlì was an innovative Renaissance painter of Italy, showing the first use of foreshortening. He was a leading fresco painter of the 15th Century and important to the Forlì Painting School, of the city of Forlì in Emilia-Romagna. Born to the wealthy Ambrosi family from Forlì, it is assumed that he trained in the Forlì Painting School, which at that time was run by Ansuino da Forlì, who had trained with Francesco Squarcione (1397 – 1468), a teacher of Andrea Mantegna (1431 – 1506). Mantegna’s unique use of perspective and skillful hand was influential on the Forlì Painters, and Ansuino had collaborated with him. It is not known for sure with whom and for how long Melozzo da Forlì trained as a painter, but his work does show Mantegna’s influence.

His first works are noted after 1460 in Rome, where he painted frescos in the Bessarione Chapel in the Basilica dei Santi Apostoli in collaboration with Antoniazzo Romano (1430 – 1510). Then in Urbino after 1465 he met and was influenced by Piero della Francesca (1412 – 1492), whose geometric style impacted Forlì’s use of perspective. His work now in the Uffizi Gallery, The Annunciation, was painted during this period, sometime between 1466 and 1470. Returning to Rome, it was during this period in 1477 that he finished his first major fresco, a depiction of Pope Sixtus IV appointing Bartolomeo Platina as librarian of the Vatican Library. Forlì was one of the first artists in Rome to join the Academy of Saint Luke, then founded by Pope Sixtus IV.

In about 1480, Pietro Riario, a cardinal and nephew of Pope Sixtus IV, commissioned Forlì to paint the vault of the apse in the Basilica dei Santi Apostoli in Rome; the work is the Ascension, where his figure of Christ is so boldly and effectively foreshortened that it seems to burst through the vaulting. Some of Forlì’s last work in Rome is a chapel, now destroyed, in the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, then after the death of Pope Sixtus IV in 1484 he moved from Rome to Loreto. Here he painted the fresco in the cupola of San Marco's sacristy in the Basilica della Santa Casa, commissioned by cardinal Girolamo Basso della Rovere. It is one of the first examples of a cupola decorated both with architecture and figures, with a profound influence from Mantegna’s piece, Camera Picta. He also painted the cupola of the Capuchin church in the city of Forlì, destroyed in 1651; and it has been said that in Urbino he executed some of the portraits of great men, such as Plato, Dante and Pope Sixtus IV.

Eventually Forlì returned to the city of his birth, where together with his pupil Marco Palmezzano (1459 – 1539), decorated the Feo Chapel in the church of San Biagio, which was destroyed during World War II. The Pinacoteca of Forlì houses a fresco by the artist, termed the "Pestapepe", or Pepper-grinder, originally painted as a grocer's sign; it is an energetic specimen of rather coarse realism, now much damaged and the only non-religious subject by Melozzo da Forlì.

(This text has been adapted from the www.wikipedia.org entry on Melozzo da Forlì, available under GNU Free Documentation license.)

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