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Francesca Lombardi

January 11, 2019

Andrea del Verrocchio. The Maestro

Multifaceted artist, great trendsetter and entrepreneur. From 8 March to 14 July, the exhibition at Palazzo Strozzi e Bargello

During the year that celebrates Leonardo, Florence discovers his mentor, Andrea del Verrocchio. Probably the first to recognise his pupil’s genius, Verrocchio was a multifaceted artist who started gradually defining his personal progress as a youth. As a mature artist, he became an insightful entrepreneur who never stopped teaching. From 9 March to 14 July, the remarkable exhibition Verrocchio il Maestro di Leonardo [Verrocchio, Leonardo’s Maestro] organised by the Palazzo Strozzi Foundation in partnership with the Bargello National Museum, will celebrate an artist who, as painter, sculptor, goldsmith and designer, brilliantly interpreted the Renaissance. Paola D’Agostino, Director of the Bargello Museum, tells us about the Maestro and the man, thus anticipating the exhibition.

Understanding Verrocchio by looking backwards in time, starting from this exhibition…
Unlike previous partnerships between Palazzo Strozzi and the State Museums of Florence, this time the exhibition will actually take place in two venues. I wish to thank the Director of Palazzo Strozzi, Arturo Galansino, for immediately accepting this new mode of institutional cooperation and synergy. The first monographic exhibition dedicated to Verrocchio will describe his origins and the artist’s influence after his death. In this regard the Bargello Museum, with its famous collection of Renaissance sculpture, is the privileged site to define the importance of a workshop that moulded an entire generation of 15th century maestros both in Italy and in Europe. The exhibition will play a pivotal role around the artist

What will we see at the Bargello?
I can only offer a preview. At the Bargello we shall see The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, which comes from the church of Orsanmichele. It will be displayed at the Bargello to witness the importance and extraordinary iconographic fame of the Christ portrayed in the Incredulity not only at the time of its creation but also for sculpture and paintings in the late 1400s and early 1500s.

What were the early experiences of Verrocchio, artist and maestro of great artists?
Andrea del Verrocchio was, especially, his own teacher. Since his youth, he worked as apprentice in many workshops and participated in competitions. Indeed, his first teacher was Giuliano del Verrocchio, a goldsmith from Florence who probably gave Andrea his surname. The apprenticeship in a goldsmith’s workshop influenced Andrea’s decorative refinement. It also explains his production of silver objects, besides his exceptional bronze casting skill. Verrocchio represents and absorbs all experimentations of the late 1400s, and this underpins part of his greatness.

Who taught him to paint?
I would say Filippo Lippi and, to some extent, also Sandro Botticelli, but the influence was mutual.

Hence, we come to the renowned workshop that shaped many famous figures, the most important being Leonardo…
Verrocchio opened his workshop in via de’ Macci in the late 1560s, at the time of the first order for Incredulity. Rivalled only by the equally famous workshop of the Pollaiolo brothers, Verrocchio’s practice far surpassed it for paintings, and also influenced several artists in central Italy. This is one of the many aspects that will be highlighted by the exhibition.

A small anecdote that merges truth and legend: did Verrocchio actually stop painting after seeing the angel painted by Leonardo in The Baptism of Christ at the Uffizi?
It is a legend. Despite recognising Leonardo’s absolute genius, Verrocchio quit painting to better focus on the business as entrepreneur of his flourishing workshop.

What qualities underpin Verrocchio’s greatness?
His ability to be both maestro and highly skilled entrepreneur, and to concomitantly manage a high quality workshop for teaching and works ordered by high ranking clients. Considering the artist, I find his skill to design a sculpture by taking into account the space where it will be placed absolutely brilliant. The project design capacity revealed by The Incredulity of Saint Thomas is amazing.

Which of the works displayed at the Bargello do you prefer?
The Woman with Flowers, for its absolute refinement. 

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