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Andrea del Castagno (or Andrea di Bartolo di Bargilla) (c. 1421 – 1457) was an Italian painter from Florence, influenced chiefly by Tommaso Masaccio and Giotto di Bondone. His works include frescoes in Sant'Apollonia in Florence and the painted equestrian monument of Niccolò da Tolentino (1456) in the Cathedral in Florence.[1]. He in turn influenced the Ferrarese school of Cosmè Tura, Francesco del Cossa and Ercole de' Roberti.


Early years

Andrea del Castagno was born at Castagno, a village near Monte Falterona, not far from Florence. During the war between Florence and Milan, he lived in Corella, returning to his home after its end. In 1440 he moved to Florence under the protection of Bernadetto de' Medici. Here he painted the portraits of the citizens hanged after the Battle of Anghiari on the facade of the Palazzo del Podestà, gaining the nickname of Andrea degli Impiccati.

Little is known about his formation, though it has been hypothised that he apprenticed under Fra Filippo Lippi and Paolo Uccello. In 1440-1441 he executed the fresco of Crucifixion and Saints in the Ospedale di Santa Maria Nuova, whose perspective-oriented construction and figures shows the influence of Masaccio.

In 1442 he was in Venice where he executed frescoes in the San Tarasio Chapel of the church of San Zaccaria. Later he also worked in St. Mark's Basilica, leaving a fresco of Death of the Virgin (1442-1443).

Back in Florence, he designed a stained window with Deposition for the local Cathedral. On May 30, 1445 he became member of the Guild of the Medicians. From the same year is the fresco of Madonna with Child and Santi in the Contini Bonacossi Collection (Uffizi).
The Last Supper of Sant'Apollonia.

The Last Supper

In 1447 he worked in the refectory of Sant'Apollonia in Florence, painting, in the lower part, Last Supper fresco[2], accompanied by other scenes portraying the Deposition, Resurrection[3], and Crucifixion, which are now damaged. He also painted a lunette in the cloister, depicting a Pietà.

The Last Supper displays del Castagno's talents at his best. The arrangement of balanced figures in an architectural setting is particularly noted. For instance, Saint John's posture of innocent slumber neatly contrasts Jude the Betrayer's tense, upright pose, and the hand positions of the final pair of apostles on either end of the fresco mirror each other with accomplished realism. The colors of the apostles' robes and their postures contribute to the balance of the piece.

The detail and naturalism of this fresco portray the ways in which del Castagno departed from earlier artistic styles. The highly detailed marble walls hearken back to Roman "First Style" wall paintings, and that the pillars and statues recall Classical sculpture and preface trompe l'oeil painting. Furthermore, the color highlights in the hair of the figures, flowing robes, and a credible perspective in the halos foreshadow advancements to come.
[edit] Late activity

In 1449-1450 he painted the Assumption with Saints Julian and Miniato for the church of San Miniato fra le Torri (now in Berlin). In the same years he collaborated with Filippo Carducci to a series of Illustrious People for the Villa Carducci at Legnaia. These include Pippo Spano, Farinata degli Uberti, Niccolò Acciaioli, Dante, Petrarca, Boccaccio, the Cumaean Sibyl, Esther and Tomiri.

Also from around 1450 is the Crucifixion in London, as well as the David with Goliath's Head and the Portrait of a Man in Washington. Between January 1451 and September 1453 he completed the frescoes with Scenes of Life of the Virgin left unfinished by Domenico Veneziano in the Florentine church of Sant'Egidio (now lost). In October Filippo Carducci commissioned him frescoes for his villa at Soffiano, of which today an Eve and a ruined Madonna with Child survive.

In 1455 Andrea del Castagno worked in the Basilica della Santissima Annunziata (frescoes with Trinity with Saints Jerome, Paula and Eustochium and St. Julian and the Redeemer, the former showing a stressed realism). Also to those years is attributed a Crucifixion for St. Apollonia. In 1456 he executed in the Cathedral the famous fresco of the Equestrian Statue of Niccolò da Tolentino, paralleling the similar painting by Paolo Uccello portraying John Hawkwood.

Giorgio Vasari, an artist and biographer of the Italian Renaissance, alleged that Castagno murdered Domenico Veneziano,[4] although this seems rather unlikely - given that Veneziano died in 1461, four years after Castagno died of the plague.


1. ^ Andrea del Castagno in the "History of Art"
2. ^ Web Gallery of Art - Last Supper
3. ^ Web Gallery of Art - Resurrection
4. ^ "Andrea Castagno". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.


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