Andrea del SartoAndrea d’Agnolo, called del Sarto, was born on 16 July 1486 in Florence. His father, Agnolo di Francesco, was a tailor (sarto), living on the Via Valfonda in the Santa Maria Novella quarter of the city. His mother, Costanza di Silvestro, was the daughter of a tailor. According to Vasari, he was apprenticed first to a goldsmith when seven years old, then to an obscure painter Gian Barile (possibly a mistake for Andrea Barile), and finally to Piero di Cosimo. Another contemporary source, the Anonimo Magliabechiano, gives Raffaellino del Garbo as his master. He was influenced as a painter by Leonardo da Vinci, whose sfumato (gradual transition of colour and tone) he adopted to give mystery and emotion, and as a draughtsman by Michelangelo, whose monumental figure poses he sought to emulate.
He was an independent master by December 1508, when he was admitted to the Arte de’ Medici e Speziali. He was then sharing a workshop with Franciabigio in the Piazza del Grano, behind the Palazzo Vecchio. They moved a little later to a new workshop in the Sapienza, near the church of the Annunziata, where the sculptor Jacopo Sansovino already had lodgings. They were joined by the young Rosso Fiorentino and Jacopo Pontormo.
In May 1518 Sarto was attracted to France as court painter to Francis I, but he was back in Florence by September 1519. According to Vasari, he broke his contract in order to return to his wife, the beautiful Lucrezia del Fede, and incurred the king’s hatred by embezzling the money entrusted to him to buy works of art. He also spent time in other parts of Tuscany, and Vasari says that he visited Rome (though he does not say when). But his work was essentially done in Florence. He died there on 29 September 1530 of the plague introduced into the city by the besieging Imperial army. He was buried in the church of the Annunziata. A commemorative bust by Giovanni Caccini was put up in the courtyard of the church in 1606.
Almost all his pictures, apart from a few portraits, are of religious subjects. Many remain in Florence. Appreciation of his work has been coloured by the legend surrounding his life and character. Vasari portrayed him as an immensely gifted but weak man, dominated by a feckless wife who ruined his career and deserted him on his deathbed. Vasari had an axe to grind, as he had been bullied by Sarto’s wife when an apprentice in his studio. His unreliable biography inspired Browning’s famous poem, which created the enduring but unjust image of Sarto as a painter ‘faultless’ in a technical sense but lacking depth or spirituality. He was certainly technically most accomplished – a superb draughtsman, brilliant colourist, and an absolute master of both oil painting and fresco – but he was also an artist of originality and humanity. While classical in their grace and harmony of composition, his devotional works are intimate and full of feeling, with figures less idealised and more human than those of other High Renaissance artists (he seemed to have preferred to use family and friends as models). He is able to capture inner mood by the most fleeting of facial expressions. There is melancholy and yearning, but no hint of the neurosis that is so evident in the work of his slightly younger Florentine contemporaries, Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino. Many of his panel paintings and frescoes were cleaned for the exhibition held in Florence in 1986 to mark the quincentenary of his birth, enabling the subtle beauty of their colour to be better appreciated. His drawings have always been greatly admired. About 180 survive – mainly closely observed, boldly expressive chalk studies from life.
As well as Pontormo, Rosso and Vasari, Andrea del Sarto's many pupils included: the shadowy Andrea Sguazzella (who accompanied him to France); Domenico Puligo (1492-1527), whose pictures were once often confused with Sarto’s; the highly eccentric Jacone (1495-1557); the conservative Pier Francesco Foschi (1502-67), who painted three altarpieces in Santo Spirito; Jacopino del Conte (1510-98), who worked in Rome; and Vasari’s friend Francesco Salviati (1510-63), a leading practitioner of High Mannerism in Rome, Florence, Venice and France.
Alnwick Castle (Northumberland).
Portrait of a Young Man. Wood, 70 x 51.
The young man, aged about twenty, holds a folded letter in his right hand, leaning his arm on the table beside him, and looks thoughtfully to his left out of wide open eyes. The portrait belonged in the eighteenth century to the Florentine degli Albizzi family, and it may represent Andrea di Matteo degli Albizzi (born in 1485), who was a merchant and friend of the Medici Popes, Leo X and Clement VII. It was one of some seventy paintings acquired by the 5th Duke of Northumberland in 1856 from the collection of the Italian neo-classical painter Vincenzo Camuccini. The traditional attribution to Andrea del Sarto was rejected by Berenson (1904) in favour of Domenico Puligo (then a common ‘waste bin’ for Sarto), and the picture was subsequently largely ignored until the publication in 1965 of John Shearman's classic Andrea del Sarto.
Ascott House (Buckinghamshire).
Virgin and Child with the Infant St John (‘Fries Madonna’). Wood, 102 x 75.
The Child, sitting astride the Virgin’s knee, gives an anxious sideways look, as though startled by an intruder. The picture is little known and has not been exhibited outside Ascott since 1955. It is first mentioned in Goethe’s Italian Journey (1787), which praises its ‘incredible beauty’ and records that it had been bought for 600 zecchini by the son of an Austrian banker Josef Fries. Fries later sold it to the Marquess of Londonderry, and Baron Lionel de Rothschild bought it from the Marquess’ descendants in 1870. The attribution has been disputed. Three 1960s monographs on Sarto reached different conclusions. Freedberg (1963) considered the picture a copy of a lost original of around 1520, Monti (1965) called it a studio work of 1510-20, and Shearman (1965) accepted it as an autograph work of around 1521. The case for considering the picture an autograph original was strengthened by cleaning in 1969, which revealed significant pentimenti in the Child's legs and face. Almost thirty other versions have been recorded. Most of these are of low quality, but one in a Czech collection has been proposed recently as a ruined original by Sarto. (This painting – part of the Colloredo-Mannesfeld collection at Opocno and apparently spoilt by amateurish attempts at cleaning – has an old label on the back stating it was painted in March 1520 for the mercer Giovanni di Paolo. See the article by Jana Zapletalová in the August 2014 Burlington Magazine.)
Head of a Young Woman. Wood, 44 x 37.
Unfinished fragment of a larger portrait, traditionally thought to represent Sarto’s wife, Lucrezia di Baccio del Fede. Lucrezia, whose first husband was a well-to-do hatter, Carlo di Domenico Berrettaio, was widowed in September 1516. She married Andrea del Sarto shortly afterwards and survived him by forty years. In a superb red chalk drawing, possibly for this painting, the woman is seated and holds a book. The fragment may date from the early 1520s. It was bought for the Berlin Museum by the art historian Karl Friedrich Rumohr in 1829 from the Nerli collection in Florence.
Birmingham. Barber Institute.
Copy of the 'Madonna di Porta Pinti'. Wood, 55 x 31.
This small copy by an unknown artist provides an interesting record of the appearance of a famous lost fresco by Andrea del Sarto. The fresco, which was almost two metres high, was painted for a tabernacle just outside the Porta a Pinti (an old gateway, demolished in 1865, that was situated in the present Piazza Donatello). The city walls are shown in the background of the painting. The tabernacle narrowly escaped destruction during the Siege of Florence in 1529, when the Gesuati monastery beside it was razed to the ground. It is said to have still existed as late as 1880, but the fresco was ruined by constant exposure to the weather. There are several other early copies. One – full-size and with a landscape rather than city walls in the background – once belonged to the newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst and was sold at Doyle's, New York, in 2004 for $119,500. Another, also with a lanscape background, is now in the Museum of the Cenacolo di San Salvi at Florence. The Birmingham example once belonged to the Marquess of Bath and was acquired by the Barber Institute from Colnaghi in 1946 for £1,500.
Boston. Museum of Fine Arts.
Virgin and Child. Wood, 83 x 65.
The Virgin rests the Child on a purple cloth on a stone ledge, perhaps symbolising the dead Christ in the winding sheet being laid in the tomb. A little known early work (about 1509-10). Probably the ‘Madonna and Child by Andrea del Sarto’ listed in an 1827 inventory of the collection of Joseph Strutt, the philanthropic Derbyshire textile manufacturer. It passed by inheritance to Lord Belper, who sold it to Agnew’s in 1960. Bought in 1971 by William A. Coolidge, who bequeathed it to the Fine Arts Museum in 1993.
Brussels. Musée Royaux des Beaux Arts.
Leda and Her Children. Wood, 102 x 76.
According to the well known myth, Helen, Clytemnestra and the twins Castor and Pollux hatched from eggs after Jupiter visited Leda as a swan. The painting is a variant of Leonardo's celebrated Leda, which, while lost, is known through preliminary drawings and copies. Recorded, with an attribution to Sarto, in the 1689 inventory of the collection of Queen Christina of Sweden. It then passed through the collections of the Duc d’Orléans, Lucien Bonaparte and the Count de Romzée. Acquired in 1858. A re-attribution to Franciabigio (proposed by Gustavo Frizzoni in 1896) was widely accepted for a time. An attribution was also made (predictably) to Domenico Puligo. Shearman (1965) revived the traditional attribution to Sarto, with a dating of about 1513-15. Apart from portraits and the Charities in Paris and Washington, it is the only surviving non-religious panel painting attributed to the artist. It inspired a comic poem by Robert Browning (On Andrea del Sarto's 'Jupiter and Leda' (1834)).
Chicago. Art Institute.
Portraits of Becuccio Bicchieraio and His Wife. Each 11 in dia.
The two small roundels are rubbed and abraded, especially the portrait of Becuccio’s wife. Andrea del Sarto’s monogram of interlaced A’s is inscribed beneath each portrait. They appeared on the art market in the early 1960s and were given to the Art Institute by Mrs Murray Danforth in 1964. They were then thought to be portraits of Andrea del Sarto and his wife. But Conti (1983-84) identified them as the portraits of Becuccio Bicchieraio, a worker in glass and friend of Andrea, and his wife that Vasari says were incorporated in the predella of the Pala di Gambassi. The altarpiece was painted in about 1525-28 and the main panel is in the Pitti Palace.
Cleveland. Museum of Art.
Sacrifice of Isaac. Wood, 178 x 138.
Very unfinished. But to judge from the extensive pentimenti (particularly in the size and position of the angel), the earliest of three autograph versions. The other two, both mentioned by Vasari, are at Dresden and Madrid. The seated figure on the right is replaced by a nude in the two other versions. The composition seems to have been inspired by a drawing by Michelangelo, the head of Abraham is clearly drawn from that of the Trojan priest in the famous statuary group of the Laocoön (which Andrea del Sarto would probably have known through Baccio Bandinelli’s copy, transferred to Florence in 1524), while the group of trees on the left is thought to derive from an engraving by Lucas van Leyden. Probably comparatively late (1527-29). Bought in Florence by George Cornwall Legh in 1862, and acquired by the museum in 1936.
Portrait of a Lady. Wood, 84 x 63.
This elegant, rather Leonardesque portrait is unrecorded before the early twentieth century. It has been suggested, on the evidence of the sitter’s costume, that it was painted during Sarto’s brief French period (1518-19). The attribution (accepted by Berenson in his 1932-63 Lists, Shearman in his classic 1965 monograph and Natali in his 1999 book) has sometimes been doubted (for example by Freedberg (1963), who gives the picture ‘without hesitation’ to Toschi). Catalogued in 2008 only as ‘circle of Andrea del Sarto’. Sold anonymously at Christie’s in 1910. Acquired in 1929 by Elizabeth Severance Prentiss of Cleveland, who bequeathed her collection to the museum in 1944.
Marriage of Saint Catherine. Wood, 167 x 122.
The Virgin, enthroned under a baldacchino, places a ring on the finger of the kneeling St Catherine; St Margaret kneels on the other side, and the little St John shields a lamb from the dragon at her feet. Andrea del Sarto’s monogram is on the bottom step. This picture is not mentioned by Vasari or other early writers, and was possibly painted as an altarpiece for a church outside Florence. It is a comparatively early work, generally dated around 1512-13 on the basis of style and indebted to Raphael’s Madonna del Baldacchino of 1508 and Fra Bartolommeo’s Marriage of St Catherine of 1512. Probably the ‘Virgin Mary under a Canopy’ by Sarto recorded in the1635 inventory of the Duke of Buckingham’s collection at York House. It was among sixty-nine paintings sold by the Empress Maria Theresa to Augustus III of Saxony in 1759.
Sacrifice of Isaac. Wood, 213 x 159.
Vasari tells how Giovanbattista della Palla, acting as an agent for Francis I of France, commissioned this painting in about 1529. Della Palla died in prison during the Siege of Florence, and the picture was never sent to France. After Andrea’s death, it was sold by his widow to Filippo Strozzi, who in turn sold it for 107 ducats to Alfonso d’Avalos, Marquis of Vasto. It entered the Uffizi in 1633, and in 1640 was exchanged for Correggio’s Riposo. It came, finally, to Dresden in 1746 when the Duke of Modena ceded the best of his pictures to Augustus III. Vasari records that a smaller copy was painted by Andrea del Sarto for Paolo di Terrarossa; this is probably the version now in Madrid. There is a third, unfinished version (probably a ‘first draft’) at Cleveland.
Technical analysis of the Dresden Sacrifice of Isaac has led to a curious recent discovery. It seems that Andrea del Sarto used for the picture an earlier panel that had the cartoon-transfer outlines of a painting by Perugino (the Marriage of the Virgin now at Caen).
Edinburgh. National Gallery of Scotland.
Portrait of Becuccio Bicchieraio. Wood, 86 x 67.
The sitter, shown almost half-length, holds a jug in his right hand, and there is a bowl of apples on the table in front of him. He has been identified fairly recently as Becuccio Bicchieraio, a glass-worker who commissioned the Pala di Gambassi, on the basis of the very close resemblance to the small predella portrait in Chicago. Previously thought to be a self-portrait. Bought in Florence by the Rev. John Sanford in about 1832; in the Watney collection, Cornbury Park, by 1915; and acquired by the National Gallery of Scotland at the Cornbury Park sale in 1967.
'Noli me Tangere'. Wood, 176 x 155.
A very early work, painted in about 1509-10 for the Morelli family chapel in San Gallo – the church of the Augustinian convent outside the Porta San Gallo. After the convent was demolished during the Siege of Florence in 1529-30, its altarpieces were moved to San Jacopo tra' Fossi on the Canto degli Alberti. San Jacopo was suppressed in 1849. After some years in a private chapel, the picture came to the Uffizi in 1875. It was transferred in 1981 to the museum at San Salvi, but returned in 2012. The lower part of the panel was damaged, and its predella and frame probably destroyed, when San Jacopo was flooded in 1557.
‘Madonna of the Harpies’. Wood, 207 x 178.
The Madonna stands on the pedestal between St Francis (the patron saint of the nuns who commissioned the picture in May 1515) and St John the Evangelist. Vasari tells us that the St John was painted from a clay model by Jacopo Sansovino. Always regarded as one of Sarto’s masterpieces (‘of singular and truly rare beauty’ according to Vasari). It takes its name from the figures, described by Vasari as ‘harpies’, on either side of the pedestal. (The fantastic creatures are actually not much like harpes; they have sometimes been called sphinxes or sirens, but perhaps the most convincing interpretation is that they represent the locusts with human faces referred to in the ninth chapter of Revelation.) Signed and dated 1517 on the pedestal. Painted for the main altar of the small convent church of San Francesco de’ Macca in the Via Pentolini, Florence. The price was forty large gold florins; Andrea accepted only thirty for himself and donated the remaining ten to the convent. Bought in 1704 for the Pitti Palace by Grand Duke Ferdinando II for 20,000 scudi (which was used to build the nuns a church). Transferred to the Uffizi in 1795. The lower part of the picture suffered water damage at some early date (probably in the flood of 1557) and was restored. Layers of discoloured nineteenth-century varnish were removed in a restoration of 1984, revealing the exceptionally rich original colouring.
Altarpiece of Four Saints (‘Pala Vallombrosa’). Wood.
Painted for the church of Romitorio delle Celle in Vallombrosa. Dated 1528. The altarpiece had a frame by Baccio d’Agnolo: it was divided in the centre, and contained, in the upper part, a ‘miraculous’ Madonna in the manner of Giotto. The side panels (186 x 88) represent four saints: Michael, John the Baptist, Giovanni Gualberto (founder of the Vallombrosan order), and Bernardo degli Uberti; a small panel (74 x 41) from the centre of the altarpiece represents a group of two boy angels embracing and holding a scroll; the predella (21 x 183) depicts scenes from the lives of the four saints. The altarpiece remained at Vallombrosa until 1810, when it was placed in the Accademia. Transferred to the Uffizi in 1919.
Saint James. Canvas (transferred from panel), 156 x 85.
‘On a processional banner for the Society of St James, called ‘Il Nicchio’, Andrea painted a St James, who is caressing a little boy dressed as a flagellant, by chucking him under the chin, and another little boy with a book in his hand, done with beautiful grace and very lifelike’ (Vasari). The standard is usually dated about 1528. It was placed in the Accademia in 1784, when the Compagnia di San Jacopo was suppressed, and transferred to the Uffizi in 1795.
Young Woman reading Petrarch. Wood, 87 x 69.
The plump young woman, chastely dressed in a blouse with a high neck and a blue satin over-garment with puffed sleeves, looks up from the book she is reading, smiling shyly and holding the page open with her index finger. On the page are two legible poems from Petrarch's Il Canzoniere ('The Song Book'). One (Sonnet 153) begins 'Go, warm sighs, to her frozen heart' and the other (Sonnet 154) begins 'The stars, the sky and the elements compete'. The picture's deep green background, previously overpainted, was uncovered by cleaning in 1986. First recorded (with an attribution to Pontormo) in 1589 in the Tribuna of the Uffizi. An inventory of 1687 (with the correct attribution) gives the sitter as Lucrezia del Fede, Andrea’s wife. Di Pietro (1910) suggested that she might be rather Maria del Berrettaio, Lucrezia’s daughter by her first marriage to Carlo di Domenico Berrettaio. Probably late (about 1528).
Self-Portrait. Tempera on tile, 70 x 65.
Much restored (the tile had been dropped at some time and broken into more than twenty pieces), but believed to be the self-portrait on a tile described by Vasari that Andrea del Sarto painted at the end of his life. Vasari recounts that when Andrea had finished painting a portrait of the steward of the monks of Vallombrosa, he had some colours left on his palette and offered to paint his wife’s portrait to show everyone how well she had worn but nevertheless how she had changed from the early portraits. But Lucrezia refused to sit for him, and so he took a tile and painted his own likeness. In Vasari’s day, the portrait was still in the possession of Lucrezia, who did not die until 1570, outliving her husband by forty years.
Portrait of a Woman with a Basket of Spindles. Wood, 76 x 54.
Nothing is known of the early provenance of this portrait, which was transferred to the Uffizi from the Pitti Palace in 1773. It has been tentatively suggested that the sitter, whose red damask dress has a pattern with pear-shapes, might be from the Peri family, which commissioned the Disputa in about 1517. Pears also sometimes feature in coats-of-arms of the Florentine Peruzzi family. The significance of the basket of spindles is unclear. It might simply allude to domestic virtue. Or it might (through the metaphor of the spinning of the thread of life) symbolise fate, and it has been suggested that the picture might be a posthumous portrait. The old attribution to Sarto, as a comparatively early work of about 1515, was revived by Antonio Natali and Alessandro Cecchi in their Italian monograph of 1989. The main alternative attributions are to Pontormo (proposed by Gamba in 1921) and to Puligo (Berenson (1963)). The dress probably accords best with a dating around the mid-1520s, when huge puffed sleeves became fashionable.
Three Allegorical Scenes. Canvas.
The three oblong canvases are painted in monochrome. One (56 x 144) shows two nude women reclining with putti, another (58 x 115) three boys crowned with laurel and holding musical instruments, and a third (also 58 x 115) two men, one wearing armour and the other naked and holding a sprig of laurel. The original purpose of the canvases is uncertain. They might have been among the ‘scenes painted in chiaroscuro’ that formed part of the temporary façade erected for the Duomo on the occasion of Leo X’s triumphal entrance into Florence on 30 November 1515. Alternatively, they might have decorated floats used in the Medici Carnival of 6-8 February 1513. They are kept with the Uffizi’s collection of drawings (Gabinetto Designi e Stampe).
Portrait of Baccio Bandinelli (?). Canvas, 59 x 43.
This once rather famous portrait of a young man (almost full-face, shoulder-length hair, dark cap and powder blue smock) is now considered a copy of the late sixteenth century or early seventeenth century. It is recorded in an inventory of 1635 as a portrait by Andrea del Sarto of the sculptor Baccio Bandinelli. Vasari says that Bandinelli commissioned a portrait from the artist. Later, the picture was supposed to be a self-portrait. The Uffizi classed it as a copy after restoration in 1986, which removed old varnish and spasmodic repaint. It would be unusual for an early sixteenth-century portrait to be painted on canvas rather than on panel. It has hung since 1987 in the Vasari Corridor. There is another version – also on canvas, slightly larger (70 x 54) and more freely painted – in the Pitti Palace. Acquired in 1797 as a self-portrait, it was preferred to the Uffizi version by some nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century critics, but is now regarded as another copy, less faithful to Sarto’s style.
Annunciation (no. 124). Wood, 185 x 175.
Contrary to tradition, the angel enters from the right. The nude seated on the steps in the background is derived from an antique sculpture, the Ludovisi Ares, in Rome. He might represent Adam (an allusion to Original Sin) and the two men looking down on him from the terrace might represent Old Testament Prophets (Isaiah and Micah?). An altarpiece, commissioned in about 1512 by Taddeo di Dante Da Castiglione for the church of the Augustinian monastery of San Gallo. When the monastery was demolished in 1529 as a result of the ‘scorched earth’ policy, the picture was taken (along with the other altarpieces, including the Disputa) to San Jacopo tra’ Fossi, where it hung in the Da Castiglione Chapel. Grand Duchess Maria Maddelena of Austria, widow of Cosimo II, bought it for her private chapel at the Pitti in 1627, presenting a copy by Ottavio Vannini in exchange. The predella, with a ‘Dead Christ’ and ‘two round prophets’, was executed by Pontormo according to Vasasi. It was probably destroyed in the 1557 flood.
Joseph’s Dream; Joseph in Egypt. Wood, 98 x 135.
Two of a series of pictures illustrating the Life of Joseph, which was commissioned to decorate the wainscoting and furniture in the marriage chamber of Pier Francesco Borgherini and Margherita Acciaiuoli in their palazzo in the Borgo Santi Apostoli. The marriage took place in 1515. From the same series are four panels by Pontormo and two by Bacchiacca in the National Gallery in London, five others by Bacchiacca in the Borghese Gallery in Rome, and two by Granacci in the Uffizi and Palazzo Davanzati. The two Pitti panels were sold by the Borgherini family to Grand Duke Francesco in 1584 for 360 ducats.
Dispute on the Holy Trinity ('Disputa'). Wood, 232 x 193.
This famous picture owes its traditional title – Disputa – to Vasari: in fact St Augustine seems to be revealing the mystery of the Trinity to the other saints. The three other standing saints are Lawrence (holding his gridiron), Peter Martyr (with the knife wound in his head) and Francis (placing a hand with stigmata on his heart); Sebastian (with an arrow) and Mary Magdalene (a portrait of the artist’s wife according to Vasari) kneel at their feet. The dove is missing from the image of the Trinity, and the Holy Spirit might be represented by the light in the stormy sky. Painted in about 1517 for the Augustinian monastery outside the Porta San Gallo at Florence. Sarto had earlier painted two other pictures for the monastery – a Noli me Tangere (now at the Uffizi) and an Annunciation (also Pitti). The Disputa hung in the chapel of the Peri family. Lawrence and Francis were the name-saints of the brothers Lorenzo and Francesco Peri, who are likely to have commissioned the altarpiece. When the monastery was demolished during the Siege of Florence, Andrea del Sarto's three pictures were taken to San Jacopo tra’ Fossi. By 1637 Grand Duke Ferdinando II had removed the Disputa to the Pitti, presenting the friars with a copy by Ottavio Vannini. The picture was previously heavily overpainted, and the rich colours were revealed by cleaning in 1985.
The Baptist. Wood, 94 x 68.
Vasari mentions two pictures by Andrea del Sarto of half-length nude figures of the Baptist. One was painted for Gian Maria Benintendi, and given by him to Duke Cosimo in 1553. The other was painted for the ‘Grand Master of France’ (Anne de Montmorency) to ‘restore the painter to the favour of the king’, but for some reason was sold instead to Ottaviano de’ Medici (‘who always valued it greatly as long as he lived’). The Pitti picture is presumed to be the Benintendi one. The other version is sometimes identified as a half-length picture of the youthful Baptist, viewed from behind, in the Liechtenstein Museum in Vienna. The removal of discoloured varnish in a restoration of 1984 revealed the general abrasion of the paint surface caused by earlier harsh cleaning.
The Entombment. Wood, 239 x 199.
Vasari records that in 1523 the painter and his family, to escape the plague, took refuge in the convent of San Pietro in Luco in the Val Mugello, north of Florence. For the Camaldolese nuns there he painted this Pietà, together with a Visitation and a Head of Christ, which are lost. A payment of eighty ducats was made for these pictures on 11 October 1524. The Pietà was intended for the high altar of the nuns’ church. The church was dedicated to St Peter, who appears in the upper left of the picture. St Paul stands on the right, extending his arm into the centre of the picture. Grand Duke Leopoldo bought the picture in 1782 for 2400 scudi. A copy, by Santi Pacini, was placed in the church at Luco, and remains there in the frame of the original picture with a sixteenth-century predella ascribed to Carlo Portelli. Andrea’s wife Lucrezia is said to figure as the Magdalen, a step-daughter as one of the Maries, and a sister-in-law as the Virgin.
Madonna and Saints (‘Pala di Gambassi’, no. 307). Wood, 209 x 176.
The Virgin and Child, in the clouds, are adored by Saints John the Baptist and Mary Magdalene (who are kneeling), Sebastian and Roch (standing on the right) and Onophrius and Lawrence (standing on the left). Painted for Andrea’s friend Becuccio Bicchieraio of Gambassi, a worker in glass, after the artist’s stay in Luco in Mugello (1523-24). Portraits of Becuccio and his wife from the predella are in the Art Institute at Chicago. The picture originally hung over the high altar of the Eremite Benedictine monastery – the Pieve di Santa Maria a Chianna – at Gambassi. The altar was dedicated to the hermit saints Onophrius and Lawrence. By 1637 the picture had been taken to the Pitti, and a copy, attributed to Francesco Curradi, substituted.
Annunciation (no. 163). Wood, 96 x 189.
The panel, originally lunette-shaped, has been made up into a rectangle, the additions painted to look like curtains. It was originally intended to crown an altarpiece painted in 1528 for the chapel of Benedetto Celsi in the church of San Domenico at Sarzano (near Spezia). The main panel of the Madonna in Glory with Saints, formerly in Berlin, was destroyed in 1945. The lunette never joined the rest of the altarpiece. According to Vasari, it was retained by Giuliano Scala, who had ordered the altarpiece for Celsi and was not paid in full. It hung in Scala’s family chapel in SS. Annunziata at Florence until 1580, when it was acquired from his heirs by Cardinal Ferdinando de’ Medici as a lunette for an altarpiece in his Roman villa. A copy by Alessandro Allori (now in the Louvre) was substituted. The original was moved from Rome to the Pitti Palace in 1723.
‘Bracci Holy Family’ (no. 62). Wood, 129 x 105.
Described by Vasari: ‘… a painting of Our Lady, in which she is kneeling and leaning against a boulder as she contemplates Christ, who lies on a bundle of drapery and smiles up at her, while St John, who stands nearby, makes a sign as if indicating that Christ is truly the son of God’. One of two Holy Families commissioned from Andrea del Sarto by Zanobi di Giovambattista Bracci; the other is probably the so-called Barberini Holy Family in Rome. Placed by Vasari before Andrea’s fresco of 1521 at Poggio a Caiano, but usually dated a few years later by modern critics. It must have been painted before February 1529, when Zanobi Bracci was arrested following his brother Lorenzo’s defection to the Imperial side during the Siege of Florence. It was inherited by Zanobi’s son Antonio, who sent it as a present in July 1579 to Cardinal Ferdinando de’ Medici in Rome, after having it copied by Alessandro Allori. It remained at the Medici palace in Rome until 1706, when it was returned to Florence. Exceptionally well preserved. A black and red chalk drawing, once owned by Vasari, for the head of Joseph was sold at Christie’s in 2005 for $11.4 million, the third highest price for an old master drawing. The cartoon for the head of the Virgin is preserved in the Rijksmuseum.
‘Medici Holy Family’ (no. 81). Wood, 140 x 104.
A pyramidal, Leonardesque composition. The Virgin, in profile seated on the ground, holds the Child astride her knee. He turns to the young Baptist on St Elizabeth’s lap, who leans towards him pointing. Painted for Ottaviano de’ Medici during the Siege of Florence. Ottaviano, imprisoned along with other members of the Medici family on 13 October 1529, claimed the picture after his release on 10 August 1530, paying double the agreed price. Vasari saw it in the collection of Ottaviano’s widow; by 1589 it was hanging in the Tribuna of the Uffizi; and by 1637 it had been transferred to the Pitti Palace.
Madonna and Child (no. 476). Wood, 87 x 65.
The Virgin, almost in profile, holds the Child astride her knee in a pose related (in reverse) to that in the Medici Holy Family. A late work, usually dated 1528-30. Of uncertain provenance. (It has sometimes been identified with the Madonna seen by Vasari in the house of Pierfrancesco Borgherini, which was acquired by Ferdinando de’ Medici from the Borgherini family in 1579 for his Roman residence; but doubt has been cast on this identification by the discovery of another early reference to the Borgherini picture, which describes it as representing three figures.)
Assumption of the Virgin (‘Assunta Panciatichi’, no. 191). Wood, 362 x 209.
The apostle on the left, who kneels and turns to the spectator as he leans on his book, is said to be a self-portrait. The picture was ordered in about 1522 by Bartolomeo Panciatichi, a Florentine merchant trading in France, for his chapel in Notre-Dame-de-Confort at Lyon. However, according to Vasari, progress was delayed because the wood of the panel split several times (the cracks are still visible), and the picture was left slightly unfinished at the artist’s death. Bartolomeo Panciatichi’s son (also called Bartolomeo) paid Andrea’s widow, Lucrezia del Fede, forty florins for the unfinished picture on 8 February 1536, three years after his father’s death. It was acquired shortly afterwards by Pietro Salviati, who hung it in the chapel of the Villa Baroncelli. When Salviati’s estate was confiscated because his son Alessandro had been declared a traitor, the villa and its contents were given by Duke Cosimo to Paolo Giordano Orsini, husband of Cosimo’s daughter Isabella. The picture entered the Medici collection in 1602, when it was bought by Maria Maddalena of Austria, consort of Cosimo II, for 1000 scudi.
Assumption of the Virgin (‘Assunta Passerini’, no. 225). Wood, 379 x 222.
Commissioned by Margherita Passerini, mother of Cardinal Silvio, for the high altar of the church of Sant’Antonio dei Servi at Cortona. The picture was probably in progress by 28 April 1526, when it is mentioned in her will. Its price was 155 florins. The composition and dimensions correspond closely to the Assunta Panciatichi, which was commissioned a few years earlier. The two altarpieces have been shown to rely on the same cartoon for the lower part, where apostles are gathered round the tomb. Acquired by Grand Duke Ferdinando II for the Medici collections in 1639.
Annunciation with St Michael and St Godenzo. Canvas (transferred), 184 x 175.
From the Servite abbey of San Godenzo. Acquired by Cardinal Carlo de’ Medici for 25 scudi in 1627. Transferred early from panel to canvas, and, before a long and careful restoration in the 1990s, so damaged it was hard to attribute or to date. Placed by Vasari quite early in his Life of Andrea del Sarto, but considered a late work of about 1528 by Natali (1999).
Virgin in Glory (‘Pala di Poppi’, no. 123). Wood, 309 x 205.
The Virgin is adored by four saints: Bernardo degli Uberti, Fidelio, Giovanni Gualberto and Catherine of Alexandria. Ordered for the Vallombrosan Abbey at Poppi in Casentino. It remained unfinished at Andrea del Sarto’s death and was completed by Vincenzo di Francesco Bonilli in 1540 (date inscribed on St Catherine’s wheel). Transferred to the Pitti in 1818.
Madonna of Humility. Wood, 21 x 18.
This sketchily-executed little panel was attributed to Andrea del Sarto as an early work (1512-14) at the time of the 1986 exhibition on the artist. Until the early 1970s it was in storage in an attic of the Pitti Palace. It has been identified with a small Madonna by Andrea del Sarto recorded in 1635 in the Tribuna of Uffizi.
Dead Christ. Fresco, 182 x 113.
From the convent of SS. Annunziata, where it was described by Vasari in a niche at the head of a staircase leading to novices’ cells. It was probably painted just after Andrea del Sarto’s return from France in 1519. Detached and removed to the Accademia in 1810. For many years it was exhibited in the little museum at San Salvi.
Florence. SS. Annunziata. Court (Chiostro dei Voti).
Five Scenes from the Life of St Philip Benizzi. Frescoes, each about 360 x 305.
The frescoes occupy three of the four bays on the left wall and the two bays to the left of the entrance door. The cycle was begun by Cosimo Rosselli, who painted the scene of St Philip (a thirteenth-century general of the Order of the Servi di Maria and the Order’s chief saint) taking the habit (1476). The work was interrupted by Rosselli’s death, and was not resumed until 1509. The five scenes by Andrea del Sarto are his first major works, painted when he was still in his early twenties. According to Vasari, they were commissioned by the sacristan, Fra Marciano del Canto alla Macino, for the trifling price of just ten ducats each. The scenes are: the saint sharing his cloak with a leper; the saint cursing the gamblers; the saint restoring a girl possessed by the devil; the death of the saint (restored by Passignano in the seventeenth century after builders, making repairs outside, broke through the wall and damaged two of the heads); and children cured by touching the saint’s garments. The last scene, according to Vasari, includes the portrait of the sculptor Andrea della Robbia as ‘a bent old man dressed in red, holding a staff’; Andrea’s son Luca is also shown. On the step is inscribed: A.D. MDX.
Journey of the Magi. Fresco, 407 x 321.
The fresco occupies the extreme right bay on the entrance wall of the church. The large building the Magi are approaching may be Herod’s palace in Jerusalem. In the distance, their retinue, with horses, camels and a giraffe, descend the hill. Vasari identifies the three figures standing on the right as portraits of Sarto himself (with his arm raised), Jacopo Sansovino (looking at the spectator) and the musician Francesco d’Aiolle (in profile). The fresco is weathered and faded, and has suffered greatly from damp. It was probably finished by December 1511, when some money was paid on account. It is from a cycle representing the Life of the Virgin, which was started by Baldovinetti some fifty years earlier. Andrea del Sarto painted only one other scene, the Birth of the Virgin on the adjacent wall. He was promised 98 lire for his two frescoes, and was given a bonus of 42 lire on completion. The other scenes were painted by Franciabigio, Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino.
Birth of the Virgin. Fresco, 410 x 335.
This fresco is the most famous of Andrea del Sarto’s early works. It was probably painted mainly in 1513 and is dated 1514 on the mantelpiece. The scene is given the contemporary setting of an elegant patrician bedroom, and (as Vasari tells us) the women attending St Anne in her magnificent canopied bed are dressed in the height of fashion for that time. One of the women is said to be a portrait of Lucrezia del Fede, who the artist was to marry a few years later. Baldinucci recounts that in about 1570, when the artist Jacopo da Empoli was copying the fresco, the very elderly Lucrezia, who was going into the church to hear mass, stopped to look at his work and pointed out the figure for which she had posed over fifty years before. It is not clear from his story what figure is meant (though it is often assumed to be the woman in the centre foreground).
The Chiostro dei Voti was enclosed in 1833 to protect the frescoes from the elements, and the present cast iron and glass ceiling was constructed in the early twentieth century. The frescoes have been restored many times. Interventions of various kinds are recorded in 1857, 1885, 1912, 1957-65 (when the frescoes were detached from the walls) and the 1980s. A new restoration was underway in 2014.
SS. Annunziata. Chiostro de’ Morti.
‘Madonna del Sacco’. Frescoed lunette, 410 x 345.
This celebrated fresco, over the doorway that leads into the north transept of the church, takes its name from the sack on which St Joseph leans. Vasari says that it was commissioned by Messer Jacopo, a Servite friar, on behalf of an unnamed woman, whom he had released from a vow on condition that she provided for a painting of Our Lady over the outside door of the church leading to the cloister. On the right side of the border remains the trace of the date: 1525. Though glazed since the eighteenth century, the fresco has suffered badly from exposure. There is a fine late eighteenth-century copy (restored in 2011) by the Florentine painter Irene Parenti Duclos in the Galleria Accademia's Gipsoteca.
SS. Annunziata. Chapel left of entrance.
Head of Christ. Wood, 47 x 27.
This small panel is praised by Vasari, who places it as a fairly early work, before Andrea’s departure to France. The silver tabernacle, inset with semi-precious stones, which now contains it was designed by Matteo Nigetti; it was donated by Don Lorenzo de’ Medici, brother of Cosimo II, in 1624, as a thanks-offering for his recovery from a serious illness.
Florence. Chiostro allo Scalzo.
Scenes from the Life of the Baptist. Main scenes about 192 high, 200-310 wide.
The Compagnia di San Giovanni Battista (commonly called Lo Scalzo', meaning 'the barefooted') was a confraternity of flagellants. Andrea del Sarto was himself a member. His frescoes of the life of the confraternity's patron saint are among his most important works. They cover the walls of what was the little cloister of the confraternity's meeting rooms. The cloister, with its colonnade of Corinthian pillars, was designed by Giuliano da Sangallo, but it was restored and the walls heightened in 1722. The frescoes, executed in grey and brown monochrome, comprise twelve large narrative scenes (four on each side wall and two on each end wall) and four female figures of Virtues (flanking the doors). The cycle begins with the Annunciation to Zacharias on the south wall and reads counterclockwise, ending with the Feast of Herod.
The scenes were not painted in the order of the narrative. They were done intermittently over a period of some fifteen years. The earliest subject is the Baptism of Christ – which Vasari classed among the earliest of Andrea’s works, probably dates from about 1509 and may have been painted in collaboration with Franciabigio. The figure of Charity seems to date from 1513; the figure of Justice and the Baptist Preaching seem to date from 1515; and the Baptism of the Multitude and the Arrest of the Baptist from 1517. When Andrea del Sarto was in France (1518-19), Franciabigio contributed two scenes (the Baptist leaving his Parents and the Meeting of Christ and the Baptist). Sarto then continued the series with the Dance of Salome (1521-22), the Annunciation of Zacharias (1522), the Decapitation of the Baptist, the Feast of Herod and the figure of Hope (all 1523), the Visitation (1524), and the Birth of the Saint (1526). The price was 56 lire each for the main scenes and 21 lire each for the Virtues.
Like almost all Florentine confraternities, the Scalzo was suppressed in 1785 by Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo. Most of its buildings were sold off and subsequently altered or demolished. The cloister became the property of the Accademia delle Belle Arti and opened as a museum in 1891. The frescoes, which have suffered from rising damp and rain penetrating through the roof, were removed from the walls in 1963-68.
Florence. Museo del Cenacolo di San Salvi.
Last Supper. Fresco, 462 x 872.
Christ and the apostles, who seem to be portraits, sit in a lofty room at a long bare table. At the middle window, two chatting servants are silhouetted against the evening sky. While comparison with Leonardo’s great fresco in Milan is inevitable, Andrea del Sarto also seems to have been aware of Dürer’s woodcut of 1510 from the Great Passion series and Raphael’s Last Supper of about 1517 (engraved by Marcantonio Raimondi). The fresco was ordered for the refectory of the former Vallombrosan monastery by Don Ilario Panichi, a wealthy monk, in June 1511 for thirty-eight gold florins. The work was delayed for many years by a scandal within the Vallombrosan order and the fall from grace of the Abbot-General, Don Biagio Milanesi, and it was not completed until 1527. Benedetto Varchi, followed by Vasari, recount that in 1529, when the convents and hospitals outside the walls of Florence were being razed to the ground to prevent them being used as quarters by the invading Imperial army, a demolition squad was awe-struck by the Last Supper and spared the monastery. The fresco was restored after flood damage in 1966.
The saints in tondi on the underside of the arch over the fresco were painted much earlier (probably in 1511). Vasari identifies them as Benedict, Giovanni Gualberto, Salvi and Bernardo degli Uberti, and says they were done immediately after the frescoes of St Philip at the Annunziata. The grotesque decoration around the tondi was executed by Andrea di Cosimo Feltrini.
Annunciation. Fresco, 182 x 113.
This ruined fresco was painted in a tabernacle beside the church of Orsanmichele. It was detached and transferred to the Museum of San Marco at the end of the nineteenth century when the tabernacle was demolished. It is one of Andrea del Sarto’s earliest works.
Saint Mary Magdalene. Fresco, 108 x 65.
Described in Ferdinando del Magliore’s Firenze Città Nobilissima of 1684: ‘a hexagonal fresco painting on the north face of the second pilaster, of Saint Mary Magdalene by Andrea del Sarto, of which Vasari did not have knowledge’. A very early work (1508-9), very faded and damaged. The two angels below, with the gold chalice, have sometimes been ascribed to Franciabigio.
Greenville (South Carolina). Bob Jones University Museum.
Saint Sebastian. Wood, 84 x 61.
The youthful plague-saint is very like the famous Baptist in the Pitti Palace. Naked except for a piece of blue drapery over his left shoulder, he holds two arrows in his right hand and a martyr’s palm in his left. Vasari says that Andrea del Sarto painted for the Compagnia di San Sebastiano ‘a St Sebastian from the navel upward, so beautiful that it seemed that these must be the last brush strokes he was to make’. The Compagnia met in an oratory attached to the church of the Annunziata at Florence. The artist was himself a member, joining on 2 February 1529. The picture is the last work of Andrea that Vasari mentions. The original remained in the possession of the Compagnia until at least 1707. It seems to have passed to the Pitti Palace by 1759-60, but had mysteriously disappeared from there by the early nineteenth century. The picture at Greenville is ‘attributed to Andrea del Sarto’ by the Bob Jones Museum but is generally regarded as an early copy. Formerly in the Cook collection at Richmond, it was sold at Christie’s in 1956 and acquired by the museum in 1970. Almost twenty other versions are known, including two in the Musée des Beaux-Arts at Caen (one of which has been catalogued as autograph) and one in the Ospedale degli Innocenti at Florence.
London. National Gallery.
Portrait of a Young Man. Canvas (linen), 72 x 57.
The young man, distracted from his reading, turns to look at the spectator over his left shoulder, and appears about to speak. The object in his hands is probably an open book. It was once identified as modelling clay or stone, and the picture was called a ‘Portrait of a Sculptor’ as a result, and the sitter sometimes identified as Jacopo Sansovino or Baccio Bandinelli. Signed, top left, with the artist’s monogram. Usually dated around 1517-18. Bought (as a self-portrait) in 1862 for £270 from the estate of Cavaliere Niccolò Puccini of Pistoia. Shearman (1965) wondered if the sitter might not be Niccolò’s ancestor, Giovanni Battista Puccini, who commissioned works from Andrea del Sarto for the French court. However, Puccini (who was born in 1463) would have been in his fifties when the portrait was painted, and the sitter appears much younger than this. Another tentative suggestion is that the sitter could be Paolo da Terrarossa, for whom Sarto painted a version of the Sacrifice of Isaac. This suggestion depends on the novel identification of the object held by the man as a brick – Paolo da Terrarossa’s family being brick manufacturers. The latest – and most convincing – proposal (published by Alessandro Cecchi in the May 2016 Burlington Magazine) identifies the sitter as Lorenzo di Matteo Peri. Peri, born in Florence in 1490, was a cartolaio (stationer) and probable patron of Andrea del Sarto's celebrated Disputa altarpiece of around 1517. The support – very fine canvas – is most unusual for Sarto, but there is no hard evidence that the portrait has been transferred from panel.
Madonna with SS. Elizabeth and John. Wood, 106 x 81.
One of two versions. The other (the Madonna) in the Hermitage at St Petersburg probably used the same cartoon, but includes the extra figure of St Catherine on the right. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the execution of the National Gallery picture was often ascribed to a pupil such as Domenico Puligo. But the many pentimenti suggest that it is at least partly autograph and possibly earlier than the Hermitage version. Recorded in the Villa Aldobrandini, Rome, from 1603. Brought to England in 1805, and bequeathed to the National Gallery in 1831 by the Rev. Holwell Carr. Old varnish and retouchings were removed in a 1992 restoration. However, a hardened layer of old linseed oil could not be safely removed, and the surface is still somewhat darkened and discoloured. Probably comparatively early (around 1513-15).
London. Wallace Collection.
Virgin and Child with St John. Wood, 109 x 84.
St Francis appears in the background with an angel playing a viol. The artist’s monogram is in the upper left corner. Usually dated either shortly before or shortly after Andrea’s period in France (ie. about 1517 or about 1519-20). Some two-dozen variants and copies are known (including two at the Prado, one of which is ascribed to Andrea del Sarto himself and the other to his school, and one at Houghton Hall in Norfolk). Once in the Aldobrandini collection at Rome; later owned by William II of Holland; acquired by Lord Hertford for 30,500 florins at an auction at the Hague in 1850.
London. Royal Collection.
Virgin and Child. Wood, 56 x 43.
The Madonna holds down the Child’s lower lip, as though looking for milk teeth. Possibly slightly unfinished, especially the lower part. This intimate little devotional panel, first certainly recorded only in 1835 at Hampton Court, is one of several versions. One is known as the ‘Botti Madonna’ after an early owner Matteo Botti. (Later in the Medici collections, it was given to Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I, and went to Spain during the Commonwealth. Still in private ownership, it was loaned to the Courtauld Institute Galleries in London in 2001.) Another version was formerly in the Baring and Northbrook collections and is now in the Allen Memorial Museum at Oberlin, Ohio. Yet another is at Alnwick Castle, Northumberland. It is uncertain whether any of these four versions is Sarto’s original. The design probably dates from late in his career (around 1528-30).
‘Madonna della Scala’. Wood, 177 x 135.
There have been many different interpretations of the subject. An angel with a book (Raphael?) crouches on the right; the man sitting on the left has been variously identified as Joseph, John the Evangelist, Matthew and Tobias. In the middle distance on the left, a woman (St Elizabeth?) leads a child (the young Baptist?) towards a little village. The artist’s monogram is on the Virgin’s stool. The picture was painted for the banker Lorenzo di Bernardo Jacopo according to Vasari, who places it just before Andrea del Sarto’s journey of 1523 to the Mugello to escape the plague. The Jacopo funerary chapel was in the church of the Castello (now Santa Maria Maddalena dei Pazzi). The picture was bought from the Jacopo family in 1605 by Vincenzo Gonzaga, and was among the Gonzaga pictures acquired by Charles I of England. It was valued at the high price of £200 in the ‘Commonwealth Sale’ that followed King Charles’s execution, and was bought for Philip IV of Spain by his ambassador Alonso de Cardenas. Transferred from the Escorial to the Prado in 1819. The poses of the Madonna and Child are repeated in a half-length Holy Family with St John (by Sarto’s workshop?) in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Sacrifice of Isaac. Wood, 98 x 69.
The smallest of three versions (roughly half the size of the others at Cleveland and Dresden), and probably the one mentioned by Vasari as painted for Paolo da Terrarossa. Bought by Charles IV of Spain and previously at the Escorial. The panel has suffered badly from cracking and is somewhat restored.
Portrait of a Woman (‘Lucrezia del Fede’). Wood, 73 x 56.
Seated against a plain dark background, she wears a striped turban, low-cut short bodice and wide yellow sleeves, and gazes towards the viewer with a faint, sad smile. This lovely (but much restored) portrait probably dates from 1514-17, and follows the type established by Raphael’s Florentine portraits, such as the Donna Gravida and La Muta. The young woman is traditionally identified as Lucrezia del Fede. However, she does not bear a very obvious likeness to other supposed portraits of Lucrezia (the central figure in the fresco of the Nativity of the Virgin in the Annunziata courtyard, the unfinished fragment at Berlin and the red chalk drawing in the Uffizi), which show a woman plumper and more rounded in the face. Transferred from the Placio Nuevo in 1794. The panel has suffered from vertical cracks and the left sleeve and background are especially heavily repainted.
Munich. Alte Pinakothek.
Holy Family. Wood, 136 x 104.
Once dismissed as a ‘very feeble’ copy (Crowe and Cavalcaselle), but now generally accepted as the Holy Family which Vasari says Andrea del Sarto painted for his friend Giovanni Battista Puccini to send to France, but which proved so fine that Puccini kept it for himself. It came to Germany with the dowry of Anna Maria Ludovica, daughter of Cosimo I of Tuscany, who married Johann Wilhelm, Elector Palatine of Bavaria, in 1691. There are other versions in Paris (a second version painted for Francis I) and Vienna (listed as an original Sarto in the Uffizi inventory of 1589, but probably a replica of the Munich picture). The Munich picture was previously in a fragile condition (partly repainted and unevenly cleaned, and with the Virgin’s robe seriously affected by ‘ultramarine sickness’). Following an extensive restoration lasting almost twenty years, it went back on public display in 2009, when it was shown alongside the Louvre version in a special exhibition at the Alte Pinakothek.
Portrait of Leo X with Two Cardinals. Wood, 161 x 119.
A replica of Raphael’s portrait in the Uffizi. Vasari recounts that Pope Clement VII requested Ottaviano de’ Medici to send the original in his possession as a gift to Federigo II, Duke of Mantua. Ottaviano, unwilling to part with it, got Andrea del Sarto to paint a copy, which was sent to Mantua instead. Vasari claims that the copy, which ‘counterfeited even the spots of dirt’, fooled even Giulio Romano, who had worked on the original portrait. Contemporary letters confirm that Andrea del Sarto made such a copy, which was despatched to Mantua in August 1525. But they cast doubt on Vasari’s story that it was prepared in secret, with the intention of passing it off as Raphael’s original. The copy came to Naples in 1735 from the Farnese collection at Parma, where it was held to be by Raphael. It is exceptionally well preserved, and the colours are markedly warmer and more intense and the modelling softer than in Raphael’s original. Vasari says that, while copying Raphael’s picture, Andrea del Sarto also made a copy of just the head of Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici (the future Clement VII). This ‘very beautiful portrait’ was given by Ottaviano de’ Medici to the Bishop de’ Marzi; it is untraced.
New Haven. Yale University Art Gallery. On loan from private collection.
Portrait of Bernardo Accolti. Wood, 48 x 31.
Bernardo Accolti, born in 1458 of a prominent Arezzo family, was a celebrated poet in the circles of Julius II and Leo X. Distinctively hawk-nosed, he is shown bust-length, almost in profile, wearing a laurel wreath. His name is given in an old English inscription on the back of the panel, and the identification is confirmed by comparison with the poet’s portrait in Vasari’s fresco in the Palazzo Vecchio commemorating Leo X’s Entry into Florence. In spite of the inscription, which goes on to give Andrea del Sarto as the artist, the panel was sold at Christie’s in 1983 as a Portrait of Dante by Vasari. It was published in 2007 as a Portrait of Bernardo Accolti by Andrea del Sarto by Jonathan Unglaub in the Burlington Magazine. The curators at Yale, where the portrait was placed on loan by a New York private collector, endorse the attribution, but few other experts have yet passed judgement. The sitter’s age suggests an early dating (supposing the portrait to have been done from life) but the style (dark tonality and loose brushwork) tends to suggest one towards the end of Sarto’s career.
New York. Metropolitan Museum.
'Borgherini Holy Family'. Wood, 136 x 101.
Almost certainly the picture (‘containing a Madonna, a St John as a little boy holding out to Christ a ball standing for the world, and a very fine head of St Joseph’) ordered by Giovanni Borgherini that Vasari records at the end of his Life of Andrea del Sarto. Giovanni Borgherini was the much younger brother of Pierfrancesco Borgherini, for whom Sarto painted the two Joseph panels in the Pitti Palace and a Madonna. The Holy Family must date from around 1529-30. The theory that the young Baptist handing the globe to Christ alludes to the Savonarolan doctrine that Florence transferred its allegiance from John the Baptist to Christ himself originated with James O’Gorman (1965 Art Bulletin). The picture seems to have remained with the Borgherini family until at least the end of the sixteenth century. It is not recorded again until the mid-nineteenth century, when it belonged to Marchese Pierfrancesco Rinuccini. Offered for sale in Paris in 1852 (as School of Andrea del Sarto) but presumably unsold, it passed by descent to Principessa Corsini (Eleonora Rinuccini). It was sold by the Corsini to Agnew’s in 1901, and remained in the hands of Charles Fairfax Murray, one of the firm’s partners, until his death in 1919. Acquired by the Metropolitan Museum (from Durlacher Bros) in 1922. There are many versions and copies. The head of St Joseph is probably a portrait. The same bearded man is portrayed among the apostles in the Panciatichi Assumption and Passerini Assumption (both at the Pitti Palace). He is also depicted in a recently discovered black and red chalk portrait drawing (auctioned at Pau, France, in December 2016).
Portrait of Man. Canvas (transferred), 67 x 51.
Dressed in a simple blue-grey robe and four-cornered berretto and holding a small volume, the man could be a prelate. The portrait is probably very late. It has been tentatively identified as the ‘very lifelike and very beautiful’ portrait mentioned by Vasari of the Canon of Pisa – ‘a great friend of Andrea’ who commissioned the Sant’ Agnese Altarpiece. First certainly recorded only in 1915, when it was with Wildenstein of New York and was published as a work of Andrea del Sarto by Mason Perkins (Rassegna d'Arte). Subsequently owned by Mrs Martin F. Plant (later Mrs Rovensky) and then by Jack and Belle Linsky, whose collection was bequeathed to the museum in 1982. The attribution has occasionally been questioned. Shearman (1965) attributed the portrait to Francesco Salviati, while Costamagna and Fabre (Paragone (1991)) proposed Jacopino del Conte. The paint surface was damaged by the transfer from the original wooden support: restoration conceals numerous losses, especially on the thinly painted green background.
Ottawa. National Gallery of Canada.
Virgin and Child. Wood, 85 x 62.
The composition is closely related to that of the Madonna of the Harpies (1517). Often regarded as a studio or school work, but the many pentimenti suggest that it may be at least partly autograph. By 1853 in the collection of Lord Wenlock, and later owned by Mrs Margaret Peyton-Jones of Wendover. Acquired in 1938. There are several other versions, apparently executed from the same cartoon. One was acquired in 2014 by the National Gallery of Western Art at Tokyo.
Charity. Canvas (transferred from panel), 185 x 137.
Vasari says that Sarto ‘executed many pictures and other works’ during his period at the French court (late May 1518 to September 1519), but this is the only picture certainly to have survived. It is signed and dated 1518 on the cartellino. The pyramidal composition is derived from Leonardo (whose Madonna and Child with St Anne Andrea would have been able to study in France) and Raphael. The sleeping child symbolises Faith, the child looking up Hope, and the nursing child Charity. The flowers and the fruits (including the pomegranate on the ground and the hazelnuts held by Hope) probably allude to Christ’s Passion. The picture hung originally in the Château d’Amboise. It then passed with Francis I’s other pictures to Fontainebleau and entered the Louvre in 1666. It is now much damaged and restored. It was one of the first of many valuable paintings in the French royal collection to be transferred from panel to canvas in the eighteenth century. This hazardous operation was carried out by the French chemist Robert Picault, who claimed to have perfected a technique for separating the paint layer from the wooden support while preserving the panel. (He kept his technique secret, but it is thought to have involved exposing the panel to nitric acid vapours to weaken the adhesion of the paint surface.) The transferred painting was triumphantly exhibited in 1750 at the Luxembourg Galleries with, on an easel next to it, what was alleged to be the original worm-eaten panel. The official report on the restoration was doubtless less than candid when it claimed that the picture had 'not suffered the slightest alteration in its design and colour'. The painting needed re-restoration by 1780 and was transferred again, to fresh canvases, in 1803 and 1840-8.
Madonna and Child with St Elizabeth, the Infant John and Two Angels. Wood, 141 x 108.
The Holy Family painted in Florence for the French king, Francis I, who was so pleased with it, according to Vasari, that he gave the merchants four times the price they had paid the artist. The first version, intended for Francis I but kept by Giovanni Battista Puccini, is thought to be that at Munich (which has an angel with a flute on the left rather than two angels singing). There is a third version, judged of ‘excellent quality’ by Shearman (1965), at Vienna.
Madonna and Child with St Elizabeth and the Infant John. Canvas (transferred from panel), 86 in dia.
Signed upper left and bearing the artist’s monogram. In old restorations the circular tondo was transferred from panel to canvas (probably in 1789), converted to an oval, and ‘so completely repainted that one cannot judge of its original condition’ (Crowe and Cavalcaselle). Shearman (1965) suspected it to be a copy, but later (following a restoration) accepted it as autograph. Opinion is divided on whether it was painted in France (1518-19) or slightly earlier in Florence. Said to have been in Cardinal Richelieu’s collection in the Palais Cardinal, and recorded in Le Brun’s 1683 catalogue of the collection of Louis XIV.
Petworth House (Sussex).
Madonna and Child with St John and Three Angels. Wood, 132 x 97.
The composition matches the description of a picture (‘of Our Lady seated on the ground with the boy Child in her arms, surrounded by swarms of putti’) mentioned by Vasari as painted for Alessandro Corsini. The original was sold by the Corsini to the Crescenzi family in Rome in 1613. The Petworth picture is one of many versions. It is often regarded as a copy (eg in the 1960s monographs by both Freedberg and Shearman), but is accepted as autograph by Berenson (1963) and by Natali (1999). Probably acquired in Italy in the 1620s, and recorded (‘A piece of our Lady amongst the Children’) in the1635 inventory of the Duke of Buckingham’s collection. By 1652, it was in the Earl of Northumberland’s ‘Suffolke Howse’ and valued, together with another picture ascribed to Sarto, at £1000.
Five panels of Saints.
The delightful picture of Saint Agnes (142 x 103) hangs on the right entrance pillar of the choir. The other four panels (145 x 62), representing St Catherine, St Margaret, St Peter and John the Baptist, hang on the wall of the choir beneath the cantoria. All five panels belonged to a polyptych painted for the high altar of the church of Sant’ Agnese at Pisa. The polyptych was constructed around an ancient miracle-working image of the Madonna (now lost). In 1617-18 the polyptych was broken up and the panels transferred to their current positions in the cathedral. Vasari places the polyptych shortly after Sarto’s return from the Mugello (1524-25), but it is sometimes dated a few years later on stylistic grounds.
‘Madonna delle Grazie’. Wood, 235 x 194.
The picture hangs over the third altar of the south aisle. It was painted for the high altar of the Compagnia delle Stimate in the Piazza San Francesco at Pisa, and transferred to the cathedral in 1785 when the confraternity was suppressed. According to Vasari, the picture was only sketched in by Andrea del Sarto before his death, and completed by Giovanni Antonio Sogliano.
Poggio a Caiano (near Florence). Villa Medici.
Caesar receiving Tribute. Fresco, 502 x 356(565).
Vasari relates how Ottaviano de’ Medici was given the task of organising the decoration of the country palace by Leo X, and employed Franciabigio, Pontormo and Andrea del Sarto to fresco the Great Hall. The iconographical programme was devised by the classical scholar Paolo Giovio and commemorates Leo’s father Lorenzo the Magnificent. Andrea del Sarto’s fresco represents the presentation of tribute to Caesar in Egypt, and alludes to the Sultan of Egypt’s gifts to Lorenzo in 1487. The tribute includes a cage of parrots, a string of Indian sheep, a monkey, and a chameleon in a box. The work was suspended after Pope Leo’s death in December 1521, and (as stated by an inscription on the base) the fresco was finished by Alessandro Allori in 1582. Allori changed the fresco from a vertical to a horizontal shape, extending it by 50 per cent on the right. Sarto’s original border is visible, running through the statue of Abundance added by Allori.
Raleigh (North Carolina). Museum of Arts.
Madonna and Child with Infant St John. Wood, 58 x 62.
Probably a late work (about 1528), executed with studio assistance. The poses of the half-length Madonna and Child are adapted from those in the altarpiece of the Madonna della Scala (now in the Prado), the child St John replacing the angel on the right. First recorded with Volpi of Florence, and in the early twentieth-century collection of Edward Simon of Berlin. Acquired by the museum in 1952.
Rome. Galleria Nazionale (Palazzo Barberini).
‘Barberini Holy Family’. Wood, 140 x 104.
Very probably the ‘beautiful picture of Our Lady suckling the Child and a Joseph’ noted by Vasari, which was painted for the chapel of Zanobi Bracci’s villa at Rovezzano (near Florence). A late work, probably painted shortly before February 1529, when Bracci was arrested and sentenced to three years imprisonment during the Siege of Florence. Another, probably slightly earlier, Holy Family painted by Andrea del Sarto for Bracci is in the Pitti Palace. The Barberini Holy Family was inherited by Bracci’s son Antonio, who sold it in 1580 to Jacopo Salviati. In 1667 it was sent to Rome, where it passed into the Colonna collection (by the early eighteenth century) and then into the Barberini collection (by 1835). Acquired by the Galleria Nazionale in 1935. There is a replica, ascribed to Andrea del Sarto, in the Prado.
Madonna with Saint Peter Martyr and a Donor. Wood, 77 x 60.
The Child holds a goldfinch, symbol of Christ’s Passion. The picture is in rather poor condition, and the knife in St Peter’s head and the sword in his breast may be later additions. A very early work (Shearman dates it about 1507), which had been ascribed in the past to Franciabigio. From the Palazzo Corsini, Rome; it was for many years in the museum at Bari, where it had been transferred in about 1936 (with an attribution to Fra Paolino).
Rome. Galleria Nazionale (Palazzo Corsini).
Madonna. Wood, 44 x 26.
Critical opinion was once divided between those (eg Longhi, Freedberg and Shearman) who saw this small panel is a very early work of Andrea del Sarto and those (eg Venturi and Berenson) who ascribed it to his partner Franciabigio. As Sarto in eighteenth and nineteenth century guides to the Corsini collection. The paint surface is much abraded, with the loss of final glazes and gold highlights.
Rome. Galleria Borghese.
Madonna and Child with St John (no. 334). Wood, 154 x 101.
A comparatively early work (about 1515-16). The artist’s monogram is top centre. Much restored, and once regarded as a copy. Sometimes identified as ‘the picture of Our Lady … which was very beautiful’ mentioned by Vasari as painted for Giovanni Gaddi, Clerk of the Chamber and Papal Legate to Clement VII. There is a replica, exhibited as by ‘Andrea del Sarto e Scuola, in the gallery at Ancona.
Predella: Pietà and Four Saints. Wood, 22 x 168.
Against a continuous landscape background, there is a Pietà group with SS. John the Evangelist and Mary Magdalene in the centre, and three-quarter length figures of SS. Apollonia, Anthony of Padua (or Alberto Siculo), Elizabeth of Hungary (or Clare or Angela of Bohemia) and Margaret at the sides. The panel has been in the Borghese collection since at least 1693, when it was attributed to Perugino (understandably so since the composition of the Pietà is derived from Perugino’s famous altarpiece of about 1493). The attribution to Andrea del Sarto, as a youthful work, was made by Roberto Longhi in his 1928 catalogue of the Borghese pictures. It has been suggested that the panel may have formed the predella of an altarpiece mentioned by the Anonimo Magliabechiano that was painted by Andrea del Sarto for the Clarissan sisters of Monte Domini, whose convent was outside the Porta a San Gallo in Florence. The altarpiece was delivered on 21 September 1509 and cost ‘18 florins for the painted parts alone’.
Madonna and Child with St John (no. 336). Wood, 80 x 60.
The figure of the Madonna is similar to that in the early Marriage of St Catherine at Dresden. The Child holds a goldfinch, symbol of his future Passion. The traditional Sarto attribution (recorded in the 1626 inventory of Olimpia Aldobrandini’s collection) has sometimes been doubted, with Bugliardini a favoured alternative at one time. Shearman (1965) ascribes the execution to unknown assistants. The picture (reproduced in Natali’s 1999 book) has been little exhibited.
Rome. Galleria Spada.
Visitation. Wood, 67 x 89.
A variant of the fresco of November 1524 by Andrea del Sarto in the Chiostro allo Scalzo. Often ascribed to his workshop or school, but Shearman (1965) had ‘no doubt of its authenticity’. In the Spada collection by 1722, when it is mentioned in Jonathon Richardson’s Account of Some of the Statues, Bas-Reliefs, Drawings and Pictures in Italy.
St Petersburg. Hermitage.
Madonna with SS. Elizabeth and Catherine (‘Tallard Madonna’). Canvas (transferred from panel in 1866), 102 x 80.
The composition almost repeats that of a picture in the National Gallery, London, but with the addition of St Catherine (leaning on the wheel on the right). Signed on St Catherine’s wheel. Another version (repeating the signature) in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle is now regarded as a copy. Dated variously between 1511 and 1521, but most usually about 1513-15. The picture was formerly in France, passing in the eighteenth century through the collections of the Comptesse de Verrue, the Compte de Morville and the Duke de Tallard. It was seized by Napoleon in 1806 from Prince Wilhelm von Hesse-Kassel as part of the spoils of war, and hung in the Château de Malmaison. It was among the pictures acquired by Alexander I in 1814 from heirs of the Empress Josephine. The picture, damaged by the transfer in 1866 from panel to canvas, is extensively restored.
Holy Family with St John the Baptist. Canvas, 129 x 100.
A variant of the Medici Madonna in the Pitti Gallery, repeating the pose of the Madonna but substituting St Joseph for St Catherine. It entered the Hermitage in 1919 with the Musina-Pushkina collection of St Petersburg. Long regarded as a copy, it was catalogued as autograph in 1994. It has been suggested that it could be the ‘picture showing Our Lady, Christ, St John and St Joseph’ mentioned by Vasari as painted for Andrea Santini (or Sertini).
Tokyo. National Gallery of Western Art.
Madonna and Child. Wood, 89 x 67.
One of several versions – the best known is in the National Gallery of Canada at Ottawa. The composition probably dates from 1515-17. Acquired in Italy by a wealthy Boston spinster, Clara Winthrop, who donated it in the 1930s to the Episcopal church of All Saints at West Newbury, Massachusetts. It hung for many years over the choir stalls, before being taken down and stored in a cupboard and then an attic. Previously considered a copy, it was sold as an original Andrea del Sarto at Sotheby's, New York, in 2000. (In an unpublished letter to Sotheby's, John Shearman expressed the view that, while the Christ Child had been painted by Sarto, the Virgin was the work of an assistant.) Acquired by the Tokyo museum in 2014. On the back of the panel, there are some small charcoal sketches of nude figures.
Vienna. Kunsthistorisches Museum.
Pietà. Wood, 99 x 120.
The dead Christ is lamented by the Virgin and two angels. Thought to have been painted either at the French court (1518-19) or shortly after Andrea’s return to Florence. An earlier Pietà, engraved by Agostino Veneziano in 1516 and sent by Giovanni Battista Puccini to Francis I, is lost. Probably a picture intended for private devotion rather than an altarpiece, and possibly the Pietà noted by Vasari in the room of the friar Angelo Aretino in SS. Annunziata. (The Virgin appears to wear the black robe of the Servite Order.) First certainly recorded in the collection of the Duke of Buckingham (1635); bought at Antwerp by Archduke Leopold Wilhelm in 1648 for his brother Emperor Ferdinand III at Prague, and transferred to Vienna in 1723.
Tobias and the Angel. Wood, 178 x 153.
In the arched top, a small blessing Christ in Glory with a cross. Tobias, holding his fish and accompanied by his small white dog, is led by the hand by the Archangel Raphael, who holds a small box containing the gall used to cure Tobias's father's blindness. The donor, kneeling on the left, is attended by his name saint, St Leonard (identified by the fetters he holds). His name (it has been recently discovered) was Lorenzo di Lorenzi Morelli, of the same family that commissioned the San Gallo Noli me Tangere (now in the Uffizi). Painted for the family’s altar in the church of Santa Lucia at Settimello in the northwestern outskirts of Florence. An early work: payments are recorded between March and October 1512. It was once in the Medici collection; it came to Vienna in 1792 when there was an exchange of pictures between the Uffizi and the Imperial Gallery. Overcleaned, and the underdrawing shows through in places. Because of the damage, the execution of the picture was sometimes, in the past, attributed to Domenico Puligo. A superb black chalk drawing for the head of the donor is preserved in the Fondation Custodia at Paris (Frits Lugt collection).
Vienna. Liechtenstein Museum.
Saint John the Baptist. Wood, 66 x 51.
The youthful saint is seen from the back, looking over his shoulder towards the viewer. Sometimes identified with the ‘picture of St John the Baptist, half-naked’ that Vasari says Andrea del Sarto painted for the ‘Grand Master of France’ (Anne de Montmorency) to ‘restore the painter to the favour of the king’. The picture was never sent to France but sold instead to Ottaviano de’ Medici (‘who always valued it greatly as long as he lived’). Classed as a copy by Freedberg (1963), but accepted as an original by Shearman (1965). Tentative attributions have also been made to the young Pontormo (Berenson) and to Andrea del Sarto’s idiosyncratic pupil Jacone (Costamagna). Recorded in the Liechtenstein collection since 1733. Somewhat damaged and retouched (especially along the vertical join to the right of the centre of the panel).
Washington. National Gallery.
Charity. Wood, 122 x 93.
The flaming vase, top right, symbolises Charity. As Vasari says, the composition is closely related to that of the Borgherini Holy Family, now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York. Pentimenti show that the Charity itself was first planned as a Holy Family and later transformed. According to Vasari, it was painted for Giovanbattista della Palla (a supporter of the Florentine Republic who died in prison after the return of the Medici in 1529) as a gift for Francis I of France, but was not delivered. After Andrea’s death, it was sold by his widow to the painter Domenico Conti, who in turn sold it to Niccolò Antinori. It then disappears from view until 1827, when it was sold by Prince Rospigliosi of Rome to John Proctor Anderdon of London. Subsequent owners included Hugh Andrew Munro of Novar and Thomas Humphry Ward of Cheltenham. Acquired by the Kress Foundation in 1954. In very good condition.
Portrait of Woman. Wood, 65 x 49.
This freely painted, dark-shadowed, powerful portrait is very unfinished, and the vigorous, sketch-like underdrawing is clearly visible in places. The yellow garment, white shirt and green headdress are only sketched in; the left side of the face (in shadow) is less finished than the right side (in the light). Generally accepted as a very late work of Sarto, perhaps left unfinished at his death. Possibly ‘a woman’s picture’ by Andrea del Sarto, valued at £30, included in a list of paintings returned to Charles II in 1660. First certainly recorded in the 1830s at Windsor Castle.