Bizzarre yet ingenious: Piero di Cosimo at the Uffizi Gallery

 01 Piero di Cosimo, Perseus Rescuing Andromeda, 1510-1513, Uffizi Gallery, Florence

Starting June 23rd, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, is hosting an exhibition of paintings by the imaginative Renaissance master Piero di Cosimo (1462-1522). His hometown has decided this homage after the success of his first major retrospective at the National Gallery of Art in Washington from February 1 to May 3.

 02 Piero di Cosimo, Madonna with Child Enthroned with St Elizabeth of Hungary and St Catherine of Alexandria, 1493, Museo dell'Ospedale degli Innocenti, Florence

The exhibition features some of Piero’s most representative works. He is one of the lesser-known painters of his time yet is the most surprising, This is not only due to the strange monsters he painted but also for his own life, for his flair and for his inspiration.

 03 Piero di Cosimo, St. Mary Magdalene,  Galleria Nazionale di Palazzo Barberini, Rome

The son of a goldsmith, Piero apprenticed in the workshop of the artist Cosimo Rosselli. He appeared on the artistic scene in the years when Lorenzo the Magnificent was running Florence and excellent painters, from Botticelli to Filippino Lippi, were in activity.

 04 Piero di Cosimo, The Immaculate Conception with Saints, 1495-1505, Uffizi Gallery, Florence

Starting from an original way of looking onto the natural, Piero developed a very personal poetics, made of different colours brilliantly combined together, often with an oil technique and reduced supports. The result are masterpieces which seem to light up.

 05 Piero di Cosimo, The Visitation with Saints Nicholas and Anthony, 1489–1490, National Gallery of Art, Washington

During his lifetime, Cosimo acquired a reputation for eccentricity,  reputation enhanced and exaggerated by later commentators such as Giorgio Vasari. Reportedly, he was frightened of thunderstorms, and so pyrophobic that he rarely cooked his food; he lived largely on hard-boiled eggs, which he prepared 50 at a time while boiling glue for his artworks. He also resisted any cleaning of his studio, or trimming of the fruit trees of his orchard; he lived, wrote Vasari, “more like a beast than a man”.

 06 Piero di Cosimo, Allegory, 1500, National Gallery of Art, Washington

Centuries later instead, Italian writer Gabriele D’Annunzio wrote of him: He was a “Merry and easy painter, strong and harmonious colourist, who freely revived pagan fables with his paintbrush”. In his works one can admire the ease with which Piero represented a fantasy world, mostly inhabited by monstrous animals, but also by ‘benevolent’ topless women who are actually more joyful than provocative. All this made Piero a very appreciated painter in his time, yet his fate was to be put aside, overshadowed by the greatness of artists such as Leonardo. Today Piero has been rediscovered.

 07 Piero di Cosimo, The Nativity with the Infant Saint John, 1495-1505, National Gallery of Art, Washington

On until September 27th, the exhibition displays approximately forty paintings and thirty drawings by Piero presented in chronological order. Concluding the show a collection of works by Piero’s contemporary colleagues such as Filippino Lippi, Lorenzo di Credi, il Maestro di Serumido.

 

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