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Andrea del Sarto

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Born at Florence in 1486; d. there in 1531. He received the surname Sarto from the fact that he was the son of a tailor. At first he was the pupil of an obscure master, G. Barile, but in 1498 he entered the studio of Piero di Cosimo. He visited Rome for a short time. Vasari says, that had he remained there long enough to study its masterpieces, he would have "surpassed all the artists of his day." Naturally diffident, he felt himself a stranger there, and hastened to return to Florence. Despite his brief career, he produced a large number of frescoes and easel pictures. In 1509 he began the fresco decoration of the little cloister of the Annunziata, connected with the Servite church and convent at Florence. He depicted five scenes from the life of St. Philip Benizi, General of the Servites: "His Charity to a Leper"; "The Smiting of the Blasphemers"; "The Cure of the Woman Possessed with a Devil"; "The Resurrection of Two Children near the Tomb of the Saint"; "The Veneration of his Relics." Later he added the "Adoration of the Magi" (1511) and the "Nativity of the Virgin" (1514). In 1525, by way of farewell, he painted for this convent the masterpiece, "The Madonna of the Sack," so called because in it St. Joseph is represented leaning against a sack. In 1514, in the cloister of the Scalzo, he executed a series of ten frescoes, recounting the history of St. John the Baptist. Four allegorical figures, Faith, Hope, Charity, and Justice, complete the decorative cycle. The influence of Albrecht Duerer has been traced in several, but that of Ghirlandajo has been recognized in this as well as in the preceding cycle, though here Andrea displays a more original bent. In Poggio's villa at Cajano he painted the fresco (1521), "Caesar receiving the Tribute of the Animal World," by way of complimenting the zoological tastes of Lorenzo the Magnificent. The work was finished in 1582 by Al. Allori. A beautifully executed series of figures, especially those of Sts. Agnes, Catherine, and Margaret, were painted (1524) in the cathedral of Pisa. His last fresco, "The Last Supper," was done for the refectory in the convent of San Salvi, at the gates of Florence. Here Andrea drew his inspiration from Leonardo da Vinci. The beautiful work shows lively and varied colouring, but lacks the perfection of drawing and especially the dramatic quality of the "Last Supper" of Milan.

His principal pictures are: at the Pitti Palace, "The Annunciation" (1513); "Madonna with Sts. Francis and John the Evangelist" (1517); "Disputation concerning the Trinity" (1517), a very careful painting in which the artist "comes closest to intellectual expression" (Burckhardt); "Descent from the Cross" (1524); "Madonna with four saints" (1524); "The Assumption" (1526), of which there are two variations; at the Uffizi "Madonna of the Harpies, with St. Francis and St. John" (1517), so called because of the decorations on the pedestal on which the Blessed Virgin stands with the Infant Jesus in her arms; at the Museum of Berlin, "The Virgin with Saints" (1528); in the Dresden Gallery, "The Sacrifice of Abraham"; "The Marriage of St. Catherine"; at the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, "Madonna between Sts. Catherine and Elizabeth"; at the Museum of Vienna, "The Pieta" (1517); at the Louvre, "The Virgin with the Infant Jesus, St. Elizabeth and St. John," which is an imitation of Raphael's "Madonna Canigiani"; "Charity." These two pictures were purchased by Francis I. According to Vasari, the King of France was charmed with his talent and induced him to come to Paris. His portrait of the dauphin and "Charity" must have been painted during his stay at the court. Obtaining permission to visit Florence, he departed, with money to collect works of art for Francis I; but, being of weak character and dominated by his wife, a beautiful and unscrupulous coquette, he squandered the money and did not return to Paris. He has left several portraits of himself (Pitti Palace, Uffizi, and National Gallery). Andrea del Sarto owes much to Fra Bartolommeo, borrowing from him the architectural arrangement of his compositions as in "Charity" of the Louvre, where triangle grouping is used. Andrea was above all a colourist, "the greatest colourist of the sixteenth century, in the region south of the Apennines" (Burckhardt). In this also he resembles Bartolommeo but shows more care for chiaroscuro. Like Leonardo da Vinci he excels in sfumato. His drawings, many of which are preserved at the Uffizi and the Louvre, are characterized by a melting softness which recalls Correggio's delicate execution, but this excessive love of colour led him to neglect the superior beauty of expression; his pictures lack conviction and character. Not understanding the true character which each face should express, he usually confines himself to repeating the same type of Madonnas and Infant Christs, and thus produces an effect of coldness and artificiality.


VASARI, Le vite de' piu eccellenti pittori, ed. MILANESI, V (Florence, 1880), 5-72; REUMONT, Andrea del Sarto (Leipzig, 1835); CROWE AND CAVACASELLE, History of Painting in Italy, III (London, 1866), 542; MANTZ, Gazette des Beaux Arts (1876), I, 465; (1877), I, 38, 261, 338; CHAMPLIN, Cyclopedia of Painters and Paintings, IV (New York and London, 1888); MUENTZ, Hist. de l'art pendant la Renaissance, III (Paris, 1895), 508-10; GUINNESS, Andrea del Sarto (London, 1899); KNAPP, Andrea del Sarto (Bielefeld, 1907); PERATE, Andrea del Sarto in MICHEL, Hist. de l'Art, IV (Paris, 1909), 382-86.

About this page

APA citation. Sortais, G. (1912). Andrea del Sarto. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Sortais, Gaston. "Andrea del Sarto." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by John Fobian. In memory of Joseph Bula.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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