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Bernhard Berenson

Before Verrocchio, his precursors, first Alessio Baldovinetti and then Pollaiuolo, had attempted to treat landscape as naturalistically as painting would permit. Their ideal was to note it down with absolute correctness from a given point of view; their subject almost invariably the Valdarno; their achievement, a bird’s-eye view of this Tuscan paradise. Nor can it be denied that this gives pleasure, but the pleasure is only such as is conveyed by tactile values.

Bronzino, Pontormo’s close follower, had none of his master’s talent as a decorator, but happily much of his power as a portrait-painter. Would he had never attempted anything else!

1420-1497. Pupil possibly of Giuliano Pesello, and of the Bicci; assistant and follower of Fra Angelico.

[An attempt to distinguish in the mass of work usually ascribed to Giotto the different artistic personalities engaged as his most immediate followers and assistants.]

The first of the great personalities in Florentine painting was Giotto. Although he affords no exception to the rule that the great Florentines exploited all the arts in the endeavour to express themselves, he, Giotto, renowned as architect and sculptor, reputed as wit and versifier, differed from most of his Tuscan successors in having peculiar aptitude for the essential in painting as an art.

What is a Naturalist? I venture upon the following definition:—A man with a native gift for science who has taken to art. His purpose is not to extract the material and spiritual significance of objects, thus communicating them to us more rapidly and intensely than we should perceive them ourselves, and thereby giving us a sense of heightened vitality; his purpose is research, and his communication consists of nothing but facts.

  • Berlin.
    • 93. Sleeping Youth (terra-cotta).
    • 97a. Entombment (terra-cotta).
  • Florence.
    • Bargello. David (bronze). Bust of Woman (marble).
    • Opera del Duomo. Decapitation of Baptist (silver relief).

Verrocchio was, among Florentines at least, the first to feel that a faithful reproduction of the contours is not landscape, that the painting of nature is an art distinct from the painting of the figure. He scarcely knew where the difference lay, but felt that light and atmosphere play an entirely different part in each, and that in landscape these have at least as much importance as tactile values.

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