An Update from Florence
December 2, 2022
What Professor Bent has been up to lately!
Upcoming scans, never-before-seen views, and dealing with Italian weather- an inside look into what Professor Bent has been doing.
Agnolo Gaddi was born into an artistic family sometime around 1350. His father, Taddeo Gaddi, was a Florentine painter and architect; his grandfather, Gaddo di Zanobi, was a Florentine artist credited with the mosaic of the Coronation of the Virgin in the Duomo. Agnolo’s father, Taddeo, studied with the great Giotto di Bondone and painted in Giotto’s style throughout his prominent artistic career. Taddeo taught his sons, Agnolo and Giovanni, how to paint through the same methods that Giotto taught him, connecting Agnolo’s pedigree back to that influential painter. As a student of the Giotto school of painting, Agnolo painted with a high sense of naturalism, aiming to portray his figures with a realistic sense of perspective, and allowing for an authentic engagement between the viewer and the painting. In achieving such Giotto-esque naturalism, Agnolo earned the bids for numerous commissions throughout his short career, including Papal commissions, altarpieces, and other religious frescos.
Agnolo began his formal painting career in 1369 in Rome with his brother, Giovanni. From July to October they completed a project to decorate a portion of the Vatican, commissioned by Pope Urban the Fifth, that they shared with the established Lombard painter, Giovanni da Milano. After completing the decoration in the Vatican, Agnolo’s name is not seen in records until 1376, when he appears in Florence. His name is recorded with more frequency in the 1380s, as he received a series of painterly commissions; this includes what has come to be known as his best and most prominent work, the series dedicated to the Legend of the True Cross in the Cappella Maggiore of the Church of Santa Croce. Agnolo received many other commissions throughout the 1380s and 1390s, including the paintings Madonna Enthroned with Saint and Angels, Coronation of the Virgin, Madonna of Humility with Angels, and Crucifixion. Agnolo’s ability to create a unification throughout a composition made him a highly coveted painter during the late fourteenth century, yet his talents were not solely confined to painting. Agnolo’s name appears on statues for the façade of the Cathedral of Florence, indicating that he was likely the designer or gilder of these statues. He was not solely a painter, rather he was a “renaissance man”, equipped with skills and knowledge to excel in multiple crafts. Agnolo’s death in 1396 put an end to a successful and imaginative artistic career. He was buried in the Church of Santa Croce on October 16, 1396. Agnolo Gaddi boasts achievements for being the last painter under the Giotto-style techniques, while also being an excellent designer of sculptures.
Cole, Bruce. Andrea Pisano (Oxford: Claredon Press, 1977).