orcagna vasari florence painted florentine painter
ORATORIO. See Music.
ORCAGNA (c. 1316-c. 13761), whose full name was ANDREA DI CMS; called ARCAGNTIOL0,2 was the son of a very able Florentine goldsmith, Maestro Cione, said to vanni, the Florentine Baptistery. The result of Orcagna's early training in the use of the precious metals may be traced in the extreme delicacy and refined detail of his principal works in sculpture. He had at least three and mosaicist ; and Jacopo, also a painter. They were frequently associated with Orcagna in his varied labours. From the time of Giotto to the end of the 14th century Orcagna stands quite pre-eminent even among the many excellent artists of that time. In sculpture he was a pupil of Andrea Pisan° ; in painting, though indirectly, he was a disciple of Giotto. Few artists have practised with such success so many branches of the arts. Orcagna was not only a painter and sculptor, but also a worker in mosaic, an architect, and a poet. His importance in the history of Italian art rests not merely on his numerous and beautiful productions, but also on his widespread influence, transmitted to his successors through a large and carefully-trained school of pupils. In style as a painter Orcagna comes midway between Giotto and Fra Angelico : he combined the dramatic force and realistic vigour of the earlier painter with the pure brilliant colour and refined unearthly beauty of Fra Angelico. His large fresco paintings are works of extreme decorative beauty and splendour, - composed with careful reference to their architectural surrounding; arranged for the most part on one plane, without the strong foreshortening or effects of perspective with which the mural paintings of later masters are so often marred.
These paintings were probably executed soon after 1350, and in 1357 Orcagna painted one of his finest panel pictures, as a retable for the altar of the mine chapel, where it still remains. In the centre is Christ in majesty between kneeling figures of St Peter and St Thomas Aquinas, attended by angel musicians; on each side are standing figures of three other saints. It is a work of the greatest beauty both in colour and composition ; it is painted with extreme miniature-like delicacy, and is on the whole very well preserved. This retable is signed, " Aii. dui. mccclvii Andreas Cionis de Florentia me pinxit."
Another fine altar-piece on panel by Orcagna, dated 1363, is preserved in the Cappella de' Medici near the sacristy of Sta Croce; it represents the four doctors of the Latin church. According to Vasari, Orcagna also painted some very fine frescos in Sta Croce, similar in subjects to those attributed to him in the Campo Santo of Pisa, and full of fine portraits. These do not now exist. In the cathedral of Florence, on one of the northern piers, there hangs a nobly-designed and highly-finished picture on panel by Orcagna, representing S. Zanobio enthroned, trampling under his feet Cruelty and Pride ; at the sides are kneeling figures of SS. Eugenius and Crescentius, - the whole very rich in colour. The retable mentioned by Vasari as having been painted for the Florentine church of S. Pietro Maggiore is now in the National Gallery of London. It is a richly decorative composition of the Coronation of the Virgin, between rows of saints, together with nine other subjects painted in miniature. Other paintings on panel by Orcagna were sent by the Pope to Avignon, but cannot now be traced. The frescos also have been destroyed with which, according to Vasari, Orcagna decorated the facade of S. Apollinare and the Cappella de' Cresci in the church of the Servi in Florence.' Temple, and the Angel warning the Virgin to escape into Egypt. Above the last two subjects are large reliefs of the Death of the Virgin, surrounded by the apostle; and higher still her Assumption ; she stands in a vesica, and is borne by angels to heaven. On the base of the Virgin's tomb is inscribed "Andreas Cionis pictor Florentinvs oratorii archimagister extitit hvjvs mccclix." Orcagna's own portrait is given as one of the apostles. In addition to these richly-composed subject-reliefs the whole work is adorned with many other single figures and heads of prophets, angels, and the Virtues, all executed with wonderful finish and refinement. The shrine, which forms an aumbry in the reredos, contains a miraculous picture of the Madonna. A fine bronze screen, with open geometrical tracery, encloses the whole. No work of sculpture in Italy is more magnificent than this wonderful tabernacle, both in general effect and in the delicate beauty of the reliefs and statuettes with which it is so lavishly enriched. It cost the enormous sum of 96,000 gold florins. Unfortunately it is very badly placed and insufficiently lighted, so that a minute examination of its beauties is a work of difficulty.
No mention is made by Vasari of Orcagna's residence in Orvieto, where he occupied for some time the post of "capoma,estro " to the duomo." He accepted this appointment on 14th June 13:58 at the large salary (for that time) of 300 gold florins a year. His brother Matteo was engaged to work under him, receiving S florins a month. When Orcagna accepted this appointment at Orvieto he had not yet finished his work at Or San Michele, and so was obliged to make long visits to Florence, which naturally interfered with the satisfactory performance of his work for the Orvietans. The result was that on the 12th of September 1360 Orcagna, having been paid for his work up to that time, resigned the post of " capo-maestro" of the duomo, though he still remained a little longer in Orvieto to finish a large mosaic picture on the west front. When this mosaic (made of glass t-esserme from Venice) was finished in 1362, it was found to be uneven in surface, and not fixed securely into its cement bed. An arbitration was therefore held as to the price Orcagna was to receive for it, and he was awarded 60 gold florins.
Vasari mentions as other architecturalvorks by Orcagna, the design for the piers in the nave of the Florentine duomo, a zecca or mint, which appears not to have been carried out, and the Loggia dei Lanzi in the Piazza della Signoria. It is, however, more than doubtful whether Orcagna had any hand in this last building, a very graceful vaulted structure, with three semicircular open arches on the side and one at each end, intended to form a sheltered meeting-place for the Priori during elections and other public transactions. This loggia was ordered by the General Council of Florence in 1356, but was not actually begun till the year 1376, after Orcagna's death. The architects were Benci di Cione (possibly a brother of Orcagna) and Simone di Francesco Talenti, both men of considerable reputation in Florence. The sculptured reliefs of the seven Virtues in the spandrels of the arches of the loggia, also attributed to Orcagna by Vasari, were later still. They were designed by Angelo Gaddi (1383-1386), and were carried out by three or four different sculptors.
Pupils of Orcagna named by Vasari are Bernardo Nello, a Pisan, m Tommaso di Marco, a Florentine, and, chief of all, Francesco Traini, whose grand painting on panel of St Thomas Aquinas enthroned with the arch-heretics at his feet still hangs in the church for which it was painted, - Sta Caterina at Pisa. Orcagna had, in addition to the two daughters mentioned above, a son named Cione, who was a painter of but little eminence. Some sonnets attributed to Orcagua exist in MS. in the Strozzi and Magliabccchian libraries in Florence. They have been published by Trucchi (Poesie inedite, ii.p. 25, Prato, 1846). They are graceful in language, but rather artificial and over-elaborated.
Authorities. - Vasari, ed. Milanesi, 1. p. 593 (Florence, 1878); Giornale degli Archivi Toscani, iii. p. 282, &c.; Passerini, Curiostia storico-artistiche ; Gaye, Carteggio inedito, I. pp. 500-513, ii. p. 5 ; Rosini, Stork della pittura, vol. ii.; Baldinuccl, Professort del disegno, vol. i.; Rumohr, Iticerche Italtane, fi., and Antologia dl Firenze, iii.; Crowe and Cavalcaselle, Painting in Italy, i. p. 425 (London, 1864); Perkins, Tuscan Sculptors, p. 77 (London, 1865). g II. M.)