Andrea del Sarto approached perhaps as closely to a Giorgione or a Titian as could a Florentine, ill at ease in the neighbourhood of Leonardo and Michelangelo. As an artist he was, it is true, not endowed with the profoundest sense for the significant, yet within the sphere of common humanity who has produced anything more genial than his “Portrait of a Lady”—probably his wife—with a Petrarch in her hands? Where out of Venetia can we find portraits so simple, so frank, and yet so interpretive as his “Sculptor,” or as his various portraits of himself—these, by the way, an autobiography as complete as any in existence, and tragic as few? Almost Venetian again is his “St. James” caressing children, a work of the sweetest feeling. Even in colour effect, and technique, how singularly close to the best Venetian painting in his “Dispute about the Trinity”—what blacks and whites, what greys and purplish browns! And in addition, tactile values peculiar to Florence—what a back St. Sebastian’s! But in a work of scarcely less technical merit, the “Madonna of the Harpies,” we already feel the man not striving to get the utmost out of himself, but panting for the grand and magnificent. Even here, he remains almost a great artist, because his natural robustness comes to his rescue; but the “Madonna” is too obviously statuesque, and, good saints, pray why all these draperies?

The obviously statuesque and draperies were Andrea’s devices for keeping his head above water in the rising tide of the Michelangelesque. As you glance in sequence at the Annunziata frescoes, on the whole so full of vivacity, gaiety, and genuine delight in life, you see from one fresco to another the increased attention given to draperies. In the Scalzo series, otherwise masterpieces of tactile values, the draperies do their utmost to smother the figures. Most of these paintings are closed in with ponderous forms which have no other purpose than to serve as a frame, and as clothes-horses for draperies: witness the scene of Zacharias in the temple, wherein none of the bystanders dare move for fear of disturbing their too obviously arranged folds.

Thus by constantly sacrificing first spiritual, and then material significance to pose and draperies, Andrea loses all feeling for the essential in art. What a sad spectacle is his “Assumption,” wherein the Apostles, the Virgin herself, have nothing better to do than to show off draperies! Instead of feeling, as in the presence of Titian’s “Assunta,” wrapt to heaven, you gaze at a number of tailor’s men, each showing how a stuff you are thinking of trying looks on the back, or in a certain effect of light. But let us not end on this note; let us bear in mind that, despite all his faults, Andrea painted the one “Last Supper” which can be looked at with pleasure after Leonardo’s.