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Bernhard Berenson

In all that concerns movement, Verrocchio was a learner from Pollaiuolo, rather than an initiator, and he probably never attained his master’s proficiency. We have unfortunately but few terms for comparison, as the only paintings which can be with certainty ascribed to Verrocchio are not pictures of action. A drawing however like that of his angel, in the British Museum, which attempts as much movement as the Hercules by Pollaiuolo, in the same collection, is of obviously inferior quality.

Pontormo, who had it in him to be a decorator and portrait-painter of the highest rank, was led astray by his awe-struck admiration for Michelangelo, and ended as an academic constructor of monstrous nudes.

1475-1517. Pupil of Pier di Cosimo; influenced by Leonardo and Michelangelo.

1483 to 1561. Pupil of Granacci, and eclectic imitator of most of his important contemporaries.

Florentine painting between Giotto and Michelangelo contains the names of such artists as Orcagna, Masaccio, Fra Filippo, Pollaiuolo, Verrocchio, Leonardo, and Botticelli. Put beside these the greatest names in Venetian art, the Vivarini, the Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, and Tintoret. The difference is striking. The significance of the Venetian names is exhausted with their significance as painters. Not so with the Florentines. Forget that they were painters, they remain great sculptors; forget that they were sculptors, and still they remain architects, poets, and even men of science.

  • Berlin.
    • Small Marble Apollo.
  • Bologna.
    • S. Domenico. S. Petronio; An Angel (for Ark of St. Dominic). 1494.
  • Bruges.
    • Notre Dame. Madonna.

The essential in painting, especially in figure-painting, is, we agreed, the rendering of the tactile values of the forms represented, because by this means, and this alone, can the art make us realise forms better than we do in life. The great painter, then, is, above all, an artist with a great sense of tactile values and great skill in rendering them. Now this sense, though it will increase as the man is revealed to himself, is something which the great painter possesses at the start, so that he is scarcely, if at all, aware of possessing it.

1435-1488. Pupil of Donatello and Alesso Baldovinetti, influenced by Pesellino.

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!

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