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Title: Perugino
Author: Brinton, Selwyn, 1859-1940
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                              IN COLOUR

                              EDITED BY

                            T. LEMAN HARE

                           PIETRO PERUGINO



(In the National Gallery, London)

This is the centre panel from the great altar-piece commissioned by
Duke Lodovico of Milan, from Perugino, for the Certosa of Pavia, and
completed in 1499.

The three lower panels are replaced in the church by copies, the
originals having been purchased from the Certosa by the Melzi family
in 1786, and sold by Duke Melzi to the National Gallery in 1856. A
masterpiece of Pietro's religious art, painted in his best method and
best period.]


                       BY SELWYN BRINTON, M.A.

                        ILLUSTRATED WITH EIGHT

                       REPRODUCTIONS IN COLOUR

                    [Illustration: IN SEMPITERNUM]

                      LONDON: T. C. & E. C. JACK

                  NEW YORK: FREDERICK A. STOKES CO.

       *       *       *       *       *



I.    Virgin and Child with Adoring Angels                   Frontispiece

        In the National Gallery, London                         Page

II.   St. Sebastian                                              14

        In the Musée du Louvre, Paris

III.  The Deposition from the Cross                              24

        In the Pitti Palace, Florence

IV.   St. Mary Magdalen                                          34

        In the Pitti Palace, Florence

V.    Virgin with Little St. John adoring the Infant Christ      40

        In the Pitti Palace, Florence

VI.   Francesco delle Opere                                      50

        In the Uffizi Gallery, Florence

VII.  The Dead Christ                                            60

        In the Academy of Fine Arts, Florence

VIII. Virgin and Child with Two Male Saints                      70

        In the National Gallery, London

       *       *       *       *       *



In considering the work of one of the greatest of the masters of the
Renaissance, we have to go further back than the disputed question as to
who was the first teacher of Pietro di Cristofano Vannucci--surnamed by
his contemporaries "_il Perugino_," the Perugian--and to inquire into the
more interesting story of his predecessors in that wonderful School of
Umbria, on which his art puts, in a certain sense, the seal and

In an earlier work on this subject I traced this school, in its first
definite inception, to that grand old religious painter Niccolo da
Foligno, whose art may be studied within his native city of
Foligno--in his great altar-piece of the church of S. Niccolo--in
Perugia, Paris, London, and his fine paintings in the Vatican Gallery
at Rome; and in all these works I traced in Niccolo a great master,
"archaic but strong in drawing and full of character, possessing just
the qualities of the founder of a great school." But upon that school
many influences were to stream in, and to affect its progress. The
earlier art of Siena, the city of Mary Virgin, intensely emotional and
religious in its character, the dignity of Duccio and the Lorenzetti,
the grace and delicate beauty of Simone Memmi were among these. Close
to Niccolo himself, in the hill-town of Montefalco, the Florentine,
Benozzo Gozzoli, pupil of Fra Angelico, had been busied on picture
stories from St. Francis' legend, which seem to find their
continuation in the Perugian miracle pictures of Fiorenzo di Lorenzo;
and yet nearer to Florence, in the Umbrian Borderland, that "King of
Painting," Piero della Francesca, was to combine the Umbrian emotion
with Florentine intellectualism.

These are the influences which were to stream upon the young Pietro as
an eager and industrious student--some among them of course
indirectly, but others no doubt very directly and immediately.
Vasari's account, which is still of first value save where it is
opposed by stronger evidence, is that he was sent as a poor boy to
grind colours and run errands in the "bottega" of some Perugian
painter. The impression which is here given of his extreme poverty is
probably exaggerated. The Vannucci family had enjoyed the citizenship
of Perugia since 1427, nor was it in Perugia but in their native
township of Castel (later Città) della Pieve that his son Pietro was
born to Cristofano Vannucci.

But we may take it that he left the paternal roof while yet a child
(he was probably not more than nine years old), and was apprenticed,
as above stated, in Perugia--though to what artist Vasari does not
tell us. Here, therefore, conjecture is rife, and Buonfigli,--that
delightful decorator of the Perugian Palazzo Pubblico,--Fiorenzo di
Lorenzo, and even Niccolo da Foligno himself have been assigned by
various critics as his teacher. Personally, I incline to Fiorenzo di
Lorenzo, whose easel paintings in the Gallery of Perugia seem to
foreshadow the typical Perugino background; but it is yet more
probable that either as a master or (as suggested by Crowe and
Cavalcaselle) as a journeyman associate he may have come under the
influence of Piero della Francesca, and gained from him that intimate
knowledge of perspective which appears in all his later works.

In any case this unknown master--if we are to believe Vasari--was an
inspiring influence; for not only "did he never cease to set before
Pietro the great advantages and honours that were to be obtained from
painting ... but when the boy was wont to frequently inquire of him in
what city the best artists were formed ... he constantly received the
same reply, namely, that Florence was the place above all others wherein
men attain to perfection in all the arts, but more especially in
painting." I spare to my reader the long harangue which Vasari here puts
into the mouth of young Pietro's unknown teacher, and which the critic
pretty certainly evolved out of his own inner consciousness; and
come to his conclusion, which is, that our Pietro, with every goodwill
to improve himself, came to Florence, and entered the famous bottega of
Andrea del Verrocchio. Nor do I see any sufficient ground to reject this
statement, though Morelli in his "Italian Painters" (vol. i. p. 107)
emphasises very properly the importance of his earlier training, "in all
probability at Perugia, under Fiorenzo di Lorenzo, and then at Arezzo
under Piero della Francesca," and will not have him described "as
unconditionally the pupil of Verrocchio." The point to notice here is
that Pietro must have been a fairly advanced artist when he went,
obviously to "finish" himself, to Florence, and that in his earlier work
it is not so much the direct influence of Verrocchio which counts as
that of his countrymen, the Umbrians.

[Illustration: PLATE II.--ST. SEBASTIAN

(In the Musée du Louvre, Paris)

Perugino painted this Saint many times, there being more than six
different renderings still existing. The picture reproduced here is
one of the best, both in the modelling of the nude and the sentiment
of the figure and the lovely Umbrian landscape. It came (in 1896) from
the Sciarra Colonna Gallery. Underneath the figure will be seen the
words, _Sagitte tue infixe sunt michi_.]

But at Florence he must certainly have been in these years, going
there (as the author I have just quoted suggests) "soon after 1470,"
probably, for a time at least, within Verrocchio's workshop, and
drinking in all the glorious message of Florentine art in the company
of the younger generation of her craftsmen, among whom Giovanni Santi,
in his rhyming chronicle of art, mentions directly another pupil of
Verrocchio, the young Leonardo da Vinci, as his friend and associate:

    "_Due giovin par d'etate e par d'amori
      Leonardo da Vinci e'l Perusino
      Pier della Pieve_...."

That he must have been already advanced in his art in those days is
borne out by the fact that only ten years later (1481) he was summoned
by Pope Sixtus to Rome, to decorate, in the company of the great
Florentine masters--Ghirlandajo, Cosimo Rosselli, and Botticelli--the
walls of the "Sistine" Chapel in fresco. Prior to this great
commission, Milanesi notes (1475) frescoes painted by him in the great
hall of the Perugian Palazzo Pubblico, which have entirely
disappeared, and others (1478) in a chapel at Cerqueto, of which only
a "St. Sebastian," very Umbrian in character, now survives.

"Whence it came about," says Vasari, "that the fame of Pietro was so
spread abroad within Italy and without that, to his great glory, he
was brought by Pope Sixtus to work at Rome in his chapel, in company
with other excellent craftsmen: in the which place he made the story
of Christ where he gives to St. Peter the keys, and likewise the
'Nativity' and 'Baptism of Christ' and the 'Finding of Moses' ... and
on the side where is the altar the mural painting of the 'Assumption
of Madonna,' wherein he drew Pope Sixtus on his knees. But these
last-mentioned works were destroyed to make room for the 'Last
Judgment' of the divine Michelangelo, in the time of Pope Paul III."
Vasari here refers to the wall paintings in fresco of the "Nativity,"
"Finding of Moses," and "Assumption." All these have disappeared
without a trace.

There remain the magnificent "Delivery of the Keys" and the frescoes
of the "Journey of Moses" and the "Baptism of Christ." I made a
careful study of these last two frescoes at Rome ten years ago, when
writing the life of Pinturicchio, and that study led me to the
conclusion that here we have Pinturicchio working under Perugino
himself. "The Moses, for instance," I wrote of the "Journey of Moses
in Egypt," "who appears here is thoroughly Peruginesque (he is to be
compared with the Christ and the Baptist in the fresco opposite), but
is painted probably by Pinturicchio under Perugino's instructions.
The Zipporah, too, when she is seen advancing, or again where the
child in her lap undergoes the rite of circumcision, and the female
attendant in white in the corner of the fresco are creations of
Vannucci's very type and mould. The beautiful landscape, however, with
its palm-trees and overhanging rocks, is thoroughly in Pinturicchio's
manner, and the fresco is full of grouped portraits--a Florentine
trait.... Now, if we turn about, we can examine the fresco opposite
(right wall next the altar) of the 'Baptism of Christ': here again I
find the two Umbrians to have been working in collaboration. In
support of this attribution it is interesting to compare the 'Baptism'
here with the undoubted 'Baptism' by Perugino at Foligno. I have seen
both the Foligno painting and that of the Sistina this month, and have
photographs of each before me as I correct these notes; and I find the
two groups absolutely identical save for the slight variations in type
and drapery of the St. John, caused, as I think, by his having been
painted by Pinturicchio, but under the elder master's guidance."

I have here quoted from my notes, written within the Sistine Chapel
itself, at some length, because they lead me to some extent to differ
from the conclusions of Senator Morelli, who, insisting on the poetry
of Pinturicchio's landscapes, is disposed to give both these frescoes
to that great master. Pinturicchio was undoubtedly working in Rome as
Perugino's assistant during this pontificate of Pope Sixtus. Crowe and
Cavalcaselle say of this artist: "He was a Perugian by birth and
education, had followed with moderate talent the lessons of Buonfigli
and Fiorenzo di Lorenzo, and afterwards joined the atelier of
Perugino. He had all the qualities that should be sought in a
subordinate, and might have become indispensable to one who undertook
large commissions and required an orderly superintendent for his
apprentices. It was natural that Perugino should take him into
partnership and give him a third of his profits. Nor do the Sixtine
frescoes discountenance the belief that the two men stood in this
relation to each other in 1484."

When Perugino left Rome for Florence in 1486, Pinturicchio remained
there, obtained commissions from the great families of the Della
Rovere and Cibo, and from the Borgia Pope Alexander VI., for whom he
decorated the famous "Appartamento Borgia" within the Vatican. He
thus began to assume the position of an independent master; but if we
trace his hand (especially in the children and landscape backgrounds)
in the two Sistine wall paintings which I have just mentioned--though
working still under the elder master's supervision and assistance--it
is Perugino alone who comes before us, in his full strength, in the
"Delivery to St. Peter of the Keys." The subject, it has been well
said, was a simple incident, but demanded "from the deep meaning
attached to it as related to the history of the Roman church a certain
grandeur and solemnity of treatment"; and here at once we see the full
influence upon Pietro of his Florentine training, combined, in a very
interesting way, with those earlier Umbrian elements which still
remained with him as the strongest impulse, and which he had learnt
from his earlier Perugian master, or later, not improbably, from the
great Piero della Francesca. No writer upon Umbrian art can afford to
neglect its wonderful landscape backgrounds, often poetic and
fantastic, as in the art of Pinturicchio, but always with this sense
of roominess, of vastness, and spaciousness, which Mr. Berenson has
very happily defined by the phrase of "space-composition"; and,
writing of this very fresco in an earlier work, I compared within the
Sistina the crowded frescoes and stir of movement of Botticelli or
Cosimo Rosselli with those wide spaces of Perugino's "Granting of the
Keys," where our eyes are carried onwards from the central group far
away to the distant temple with its roomy porticoes.

But if the background with its Bramantesque temple and the middle
distance is still purely Umbrian, and seems to foreshadow the
"Sposalizio" at Caen, or at the Brera, in those noble figures grouped
upon the front plane of the composition--many of them obviously
contemporary portraits (one of them in a skullcap being suggested as
the master himself)--we may trace the dominant influence of the great
Florentines, of Masaccio within the Brancacci Chapel of the Carmine,
and of the noble fresco art of Domenico Ghirlandajo. And thus Pietro
Perugino combines within himself already the two most important
currents of the art of the Italian Renaissance--that art of Florence,
with its intellectualism, its masterly drawing, its sense of form,
and that lovely devotional spirit of Umbrian art, developed and
inherited from the earlier Sienese. He is at least for us here the
precursor--the "forerunner"; and what his divinely gifted pupil, the
young Raphael of Urbino, was to complete he already foreshadows.

Another point which has not been brought out very fully by our
master's critics is the predominance of fresco painting in his earlier
work. The value of fresco painting to these Italian masters as a
training for eye and hand cannot be too much insisted upon. It needed
both a sure eye and a quick hand, for the painting had to be done at
once when the plaster was ready to receive it; and there can be no
doubt that Pietro's absolute mastery, at this period, of this
difficult art had prepared him for the wonderful series of
altar-pieces in the tempera and oil mediums which we are now about to


(In the Pitti Palace, Florence)

This is the famous painting of the dead Christ for the nuns of S.
Chiara, of which Vasari speaks with such enthusiasm, and tells us the
nuns were offered (and refused) three times the contract price for the

It certainly is a masterpiece of Italian devotional art. It is fully
signed and dated--_Petrus Perusinus Pinxit A. D. MCCCCLXXXXV._--and
there are studies for it in the Uffizi collection of drawings and at
Christ Church, Oxford.]

Perugino, as we have noticed, had returned to Florence in the autumn
of 1486, when the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel were no doubt
completed, and soon after this (1489) received an invitation to visit
Orvieto--his altar-piece for S. Domenico at Fiesole having been
completed in the year previous. The frescoes in the Capella di S.
Brizio within Orvieto Cathedral had been left unfinished through the
death of Fra Angelico, and our Perugino, as a master "whose fame had
been spread throughout Italy," was now requested to examine the chapel
and tender for the completion of its decoration. He did so, but his
price was a high one--1500 ducats and all materials to be found
him--and we shall trace later how the negotiations, protracted for
several years, came eventually to nothing.

For the moment Florence attracted him, for here, in January of 1491,
under the presidency of Lorenzo de' Medici, called the Magnificent,
the foremost artists of the day were gathered to consider the
decoration of the façade of the Florentine Duomo; and here Perugino
was present, beside such masters as Domenico Ghirlandajo, Cosimo
Rosselli, Andrea della Robbia, Botticelli, Baldovinetti, Pollajuolo--a
long list of names now world-famed in the story of art. From Florence,
in March of this same year, our master made his way to Perugia, where
he drew the balance of his pay for the Sistine frescoes; and then,
prudently avoiding Orvieto, went on south to Rome, where we have seen
that Pinturicchio had now established himself, together with the
Florentine Filippino Lippi, and had found many commissions.

But Perugino soon found a patron in the Cardinal Giuliano della
Rovere, later to become famous in history as Pope Julius II.; and this
powerful prelate protected our artist from the importunities of the
Orvietans, who were pressing him to fulfil his contract, and
threatening, if he delayed longer, to appoint another artist in his
place. Cardinal Giuliano, the imperious patron later of Michelangelo,
took the matter with a characteristically high hand. "We laboured
under the impression"--thus he writes to the Council of Orvieto--"that
you were to be compliant, as best suits the love we have ever borne to
your community. And so we now again exhort and pray that you do
reserve the place which is his due to Maestro Pietro, and refrain from
molesting him...."

The fact was that the great prelate wanted Pietro for a time for
himself, and to this time (1491) belongs the lovely altar-piece,
formerly in the Cardinal's Palace, and now in the Villa Albani at
Rome. All our master's devotional feeling, his refinement and beauty
of type, his wealth of golden colour, is found already in this
wonderful altar-piece, which is divided into six compartments, the
central panel being occupied by the "Nativity," with above the
"Crucifixion" and "Annunciation," and at the sides the figures of four
adoring saints. The landscape background is here of extraordinary
beauty, reflecting the quiet serenity of the kneeling figures, and on
the pillars of the colonnade behind the "Nativity" the master has
signed his work--

                    PETRUS DE PERUSIA PINXIT 1491.

The Albani altar-piece had always ranked as one of Perugino's
loveliest and most typical creations, worthy to stand beside the
beautiful altar-piece of the Certosa of Pavia, of which England is now
the fortunate possessor in her National Gallery; but to this busy and
fertile period in the master's career belong a number of attractive
and interesting works, which we must now endeavour in some measure to
classify and analyse.

I have already alluded to the altar-piece of S. Domenico at Fiesole;
but Pietro painted another altar-piece for the same church in 1493,
which is now in the Uffizi Gallery, a "Virgin Enthroned," between
Saints Sebastian and John Baptist, dated and signed, as usual, "Petrus
Perusinus." The "Crucifixion" of La Calza (Florence), showing very
markedly the influence of Luca Signorelli, may have probably preceded
this; but to the same year of 1493 belongs the beautiful "Pietà" (Dead
Christ) of the Florence Accademia, and the wonderful and most
impressive "Crucifixion" of S. Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi (Florence)
was commissioned by Pietro Pucci in 1493, though it was not completed
till April of 1496. Unsurpassed here is the master in the solemnity,
the sense of aloofness from earthly things, which he conveys to us in
these six figures--the Crucified, with as spectators His mother, the
beloved disciple, and kneeling saints, seen against the wide stretch
of such an Umbrian background as we may see from Perugia or Cortona or
Assisi; and next in importance to this masterpiece of religious art is
the famous "Pietà" of S. Chiara, of which Vasari speaks with such

"He worked out for the ladies of Santa Chiara a painting of the dead
Christ, with colouring so lovely and so fresh that by good craftsmen
it was held a thing marvellous and excellent. In this work certain
very lovely heads of old men are to be seen, and likewise certain
Maries who, with weeping faces, regard the dead man with reverence and
wondrous love; and moreover he made a landscape which was then highly
esteemed. It is said that Francesco del Pugliese would fain have given
to the aforesaid nuns three times as much money as they had paid to
Pietro, and in addition offered to give them a similar painting made
by the artist's own hand; and they would not agree, because Pietro
said that he could never equal that original." This noble creation of
religious art is now in the Pitti Palace at Florence, and fully bears
out Vasari's appreciative criticism: in composition, in beauty of type
in the mourning women and men, in the lax body of the dead Saviour, in
the exquisite landscape with its trees defined against the far sky,
our master touches here a very high level in religious art. As usual
with works of this importance he fully signed it, on the rock on
which the Christ is laid--

                     PETRUS PERUSINUS PINXIT A.D.

and the very careful studies which he made for the groups in this
picture may be seen among the drawings of the Uffizi collection.

When we consider that the magnificently virile portrait of Francesco
delle Opere (1494), now in the Tribuna of the Uffizi, belongs to this
same period, as well as the lovely "Madonna with Saints" of S.
Agostino at Cremona (1494, signed and dated), the "Ascension of
Christ," painted for S. Pietro at Perugia (1495, now at Lyons Hôtel de
Ville), and the grand altar-piece of the Vatican (1496), which I shall
describe more fully later, we shall agree with the critics (Crowe and
Cavalcaselle), who describe the year 1495 as "remarkable in the career
of Vannucci. It was that in which an Umbrian ... successfully applied
the laws of composition and added a calm tenderness to the gravity of
the Florentine school; and through his influence on Fra Bartolommeo
and Raphael replaced, as far as it was possible, the pious mysticism
that had perished with Angelico." The master's influence on Fra
Bartolommeo may be clearly traced in the "Pietà" of S. Chiara, the
forerunner of the Frate's own noble work; and it was not far from this
very time (1495) that the young Rafaelle Sanzio must have entered his
Perugian workshop.


We have now traced the art of Pietro Vannucci from its first
beginnings in the workshop of some unknown teacher at Perugia to the
time when he was one of the accepted masters of Italian art, as much
at home in Florence--that glowing centre of artistic impulse and
creation--as in his own Perugia, or in the Rome of the Renaissance
Popes. Here, then, before we proceed further with the story of his
art, which is practically the story of his busy life, there are some
points on which we shall not waste time in lingering. We saw how
Perugino, like Giotto himself and almost every great master of Italian
painting, had perfected his knowledge and trained his eye and hand in
the practice of fresco-painting; and we have next to notice that he
obtained fame among his contemporaries, as well as patronage, from his
knowledge and use of the new oil medium. Vasari on this point is most
explicit: "Certainly colouring was a matter which Pietro thoroughly
understood, and this both in fresco as well as in oil ..." and again
he mentions certain pictures specially as being painted in oil.

Of course one cannot set up even such direct evidence from Vasari as
conclusive, for we know there are many slips in his invaluable
chronicle; and this very point of the master's medium for his panel
pictures has been questioned by modern critics.

Dr. G. C. Williamson in his excellent monograph on Perugino refers to
Mr. Herbert Horne--a critic whose opinion on Italian art carries great
weight--as saying that "all Perugino's pictures were painted in
tempera on a gesso background," and suggests at least that an entirely
different technique can be traced in the Albani altar-piece and that
of the Certosa. Crowe and Cavalcaselle, in their notice of Perugino,
have analysed very carefully his technique, and shown how his flesh
tints were worked up from a warm brown undertone, through a
succession of glazes, each lighter in colour and fuller in body
than the last, "receiving light from without and transparency from
within," till the highest light was reached.


(In the Pitti Palace, Florence)

A very lovely figure idealised in type, and recalling, though younger,
the Virgin of the great Crucifixion in S. Maria Maddalena dei Pazzi at
Florence. Across the bosom, embroidered, runs the legend "S. Maria

In this analysis the authors have obviously and entirely the oil
medium in view; but there is another view which, as it seems to me,
may throw light upon the question.

Experiments have, as I understand, been made in late years in Germany
to combine the use of tempera with that of oil-painting--the object
being to combine the brilliancy and richness of oil with the lasting
colour of tempera, in which yolk of egg was used with the pure
colours--and I believe that certain results have been attained. Now
this was just the position of painting in Perugino's day, when upon
the old tempera panels of the Giottesques and their successors the oil
technique of the Van Eycks was asserting its advantages; and I would
suggest that our master in this period of transition used both
mediums, and perhaps sometimes in the same picture may have passed
from one to the other. Here, too, his connection with the Gesuati may
have aided him materially, for Vasari tells us expressly how these
friars, for whom he worked very frequently, were practised in the art
of colours as well as enamel and glass-painting, and it was perhaps
from them that he had learned the secret which makes his altar-pieces
still so transparent and so pure in colour.

Another point which we cannot fail to notice at this period of
Pietro's life is his immense activity, his careful business relations
in contracts for his work, and his continual industry. He is so
constantly on the move that we begin to wonder how he found time for
his paintings: he is so continually productive that we wonder no less
that he found it possible to travel. His wanderings might be normal in
these days of Pullman-cars and express trains, but in an age when any
journey was a matter of difficulty and often personal danger they seem
almost phenomenal. From Orvieto (1490) he goes to Florence, from
Florence to Perugia, and thence to Rome; in 1493 he is married at
Fiesole to Chiara Fancelli; in 1494 he is at Venice, and probably at
Cremona, painting there his altar-piece at S. Agostino; then back
again to Florence, at Perugia in March of 1496, making his contract
for the famous Vatican Madonna, and at Pavia in October of the same
year, working at his no less famous altar-piece of the Certosa.

In all these visits he was either arranging for fresh work or leaving
some lovely altar-piece as a memorial of his presence; and next we
shall notice that the two real points of attraction in all this busy
life are Perugia, his native city, if not actually his birthplace, and
Florence. Rome, though he spent some time there, and completed much
important work, never, I think, had the same hold upon him; but
between Florence and Perugia he often seems to hesitate. And this is
really important, because the two tendencies, the Umbrian and the
Florentine, are always present in his art. He had completed, as we
saw, his training in the city of Arno, had married later (1493) a
beautiful Florentine girl, the daughter of Luca Fancelli, who brought
with her a dowry of 500 golden florins, and on his return from Perugia
in 1496 had invested part of the money he had received for his
altar-piece of the Magistrates' Chapel in land at Florence.

In fact, during the whole of these years, after his return from Rome at
the time of Alexander Borgia's accession (1492) to nearly 1500, I take
our master's real centre of activity as being Florence; there he had his
workshop, painted panels for distant customers, undertook frescoes for
the Florentine convents, and returned after his business visits to other
parts of Italy. The year 1499 marks a change in all this, for this was
the year in which the master definitely threw over the offer of the
Orvietans to decorate their Capella di S. Brizio in Orvieto Duomo, and
accepted his great commission from the Perugian guild of bankers to
adorn with fresco paintings their audience-hall--the Sala del Cambio.
This great commission necessitated a long stay at Perugia, and therefore
the master broke up his Florentine workshop, or "bottega."

But Florence had evidently a very deep hold on his affections, for we
find that in 1504 he gave up his Perugian establishment for the
purpose of returning to Florence, and on arriving there took a lodging
in the Pinti suburb. At Florence Perugino was justly esteemed as one
of the great master-craftsmen of the city, and as such was invariably
consulted--as in the great meeting held (January of 1491) to
consider the new façade of S. Maria del Fiore; or again when (in
January of 1497) he was invited with Benozzo Gozzoli, Cosimo Rosselli,
and Filippino Lippi to value the frescoes of Alessio Baldovinetti in
S. Trinità of Florence; or yet again when (June of 1498), after the
destruction of the lantern of S. Maria del Fiore by lightning, he
tendered his advice along with Filippino and Lorenzo di Credi.


(In the Pitti Palace, Florence)

The centre of the painting is filled by the figure of the Virgin, who,
on her knees with hands clasped, adores the little Jesus, seen seated
upon a sack, supported by an angel. He is balanced on the other side
by the kneeling baby St. John. The Umbrian landscape is of great

But while Pietro had been busied at Perugia, in those years of absence
(1499-1504) a new spirit, of dæmonic power, had come to fascinate the
Florentines, and give them a new conception of the art of the human
form; and, in fact, hardly had our master reached Florence and secured
his lodging than he was invited to give his verdict as to the best
site for Michelangelo's gigantic marble "David." Feeling ran high in
the city both as to the site and the work itself. As to the former,
the Loggia de' Signori was suggested, but Michelangelo himself
preferred the left-hand side of the doorway of the Palazzo Vecchio,
and his wish was respected. Yet the feeling against this figure among
some of the citizens was such that, when it was exposed, it became a
mark for missiles, and the watchmen set to guard it were assaulted. We
may imagine that there were frequent gatherings and many heated
discussions among the artistic confraternity, who were wont to meet in
the shop of Baccio d'Agnolo; and it may have been in one of these
discussions that "Michelangelo declared to Perugino that his art was
absurd and antiquated." "_Goffo nell' arte_"--a bungler in his
art--that is the precise phrase quoted by Vasari, and which so rankled
in the breast of the elder man that, "Pietro being unable to support
such an insult, they both carried their plaint before the magistracy
of the Eight; in the which affair Pietro remained with but little

It would have been better, we feel, and more dignified, to have passed
over the slighting word with the contempt which it deserved. The
master of the Sistine fresco which we have described, of the Albani
altar-piece and its younger sister of the Certosa, of the altar-piece
of the Magistrates' Chapel at Perugia, and the superb frescoes of the
Cambio, stood far above such criticism in his own or any later age;
and this appreciation of the Perugian's work in art does not imply
any depreciation of Buonarroti's genius, of which, in its own sublime
and individual path, the present writer is an enthusiastic admirer.

But Pietro was a strong-tempered and revengeful man, as is shown by
the earlier records of Florentine justice, when he had appeared (in
July of 1487) before the Eight--the "_Otto di Custodia_"--for having,
with a notorious ruffian, one Aulista di Angelo of Perugia, waylaid a
private enemy more than once with the intention of beating
him--"_pluries et pluries nocturno tempore accesserunt armati
quibusdam bastonibus._" On that occasion he had escaped with a fine of
ten florins of gold; and this later appearance does not seem, in its
issue, to have been to the master's credit.

There was, besides this, much of truth in Buonarroti's criticism--a
truth which added to the sting--that by this time Pietro's art had
already begun to show old motives carelessly repeated. "Pietro," says
our Vasari, "had worked so much, and had always such abundance of work
in hand, that he often put the same things into his works; and had so
reduced his art to a system that he gave to all his figures the same
appearance." If this tendency appears even in his work before 1500, it
becomes much more apparent later on; but to dwell on this point here
would carry me too far, and for the present we are concerned with the
master in his full strength at the date just mentioned. For the year
1500 dates the completion of the Cambio frescoes, and may be taken
roughly as the great central date in Pietro's art. Before describing
in detail those frescoes, let us consider what other commissions had
preceded that of the Perugian bankers.

Foremost among these must come the great altar-piece of the Certosa of
Pavia, to which I have frequently alluded. It had been commissioned by
Duke Lodovico Sforza of Milan soon after the artist left Venice--the
great Certosa monastery being always under the personal patronage of
the Dukes of Milan. Pietro seems to have been working at it already in
1496, and it was completed, on the Duke's pressing instance, by the
end of 1499. It has only remained partially in its original place--in
the second chapel on the left of the great Carthusian church. The
upper central painting--that of the Eternal Father--is still by
Perugino, the three lower panels are copies from the originals, now
in the National Gallery of London, and the panels at the side are by

Nothing that the master of Perugia has left us exceeds in tranquil
beauty these central panels of the London National Gallery. Orsini
tells us that from 1795 the Certosa painting with its six panels had
passed into the possession of the ducal family of Melzi at Milan; but
this is not quite correct, for we have seen that the panel of the
Eternal Father is still in place. In 1856 Duke Melzi parted with his
three panels to the London Gallery. In the centre panel the sweet,
pensive Virgin is adoring the child Jesus, who is watched over by an
angel, as in Leonardo's famous "Madonna of the Rocks," while three
angels make music in the sky above; on the right of this is the
Archangel Raphael with the young Tobias; on the left the lovely figure
of the Archangel Michael, fully armed, with legs apart set firmly on
the ground, and left hand resting on his shield--a figure which the
master repeated more than once, notably in the great Assumption of the
Virgin in the Florence Academy.

Perugino was married at this time to the beautiful Chiara Fancelli,
and there is little doubt that she appears in more than one of his
pictures; in particular, she is said to have posed for the Archangel
Raphael of this Certosa altar-piece. Next to the beauty of type in
this and other figures, we have to notice the pure rich colouring and
the extraordinary beauty, in the central panel, of the landscape
background. All the Umbrian sense of space is there, in this valley
with its winding stream and blue distances, while in the middle
distance the delicately drawn trees are mirrored against the clear
sky. It is a picture one would love to live with, and, without
possessing the rapt devotion, the deep inner spirit, which pervades
the paintings of Angelico, its atmosphere is calm, restful, and in
that sense prayerful.

A whole group of other paintings, attractive and interesting, though
of lesser interest, belongs to this splendidly fertile period of
Pietro's genius. The Fano altar-piece--a Virgin and Child with
Saints--dates from a visit in 1497, and an Annunciation followed in
the next year, while at Sinigaglia and Cantiano there are very similar
works. Both the Fano pictures, which I have not seen, have been
carefully described by Dr. Williamson in his monograph on this artist.
The Madonna Crowned, with the Child on her knee and a group of
kneeling penitents behind, now in the Perugian Gallery, was painted
for the confraternity of San Pietro Martire in 1497; and there is in
the same gallery a somewhat similar work, painted for another
confraternity, with two saints (one of whom is St. Bernardino)
kneeling in the foreground, and in the distance Perugia, with the yet
untouched towers of the Baglioni.

To the same period have been attributed the Family of St. Anne, at
Marseilles, and the Virgin in Glory, of the Bologna Gallery, with its
armed St. Michael and its lovely female figure of St. Apollonia; and
now we come to a creation which, in its fine drawing and composition
and its atmosphere of tranquil beauty, takes a place beside the
Certosa altar-piece or that of the Perugian Magistrates' Chapel. I
refer to the Virgin appearing to St. Bernard, now in the Munich
Gallery. The theme was a favourite one at this period of Italian art,
for it has been treated with great beauty by Filippino Lippi in his
painting in the Badia at Florence. The Munich picture was destined by
our master for S. Spirito at Florence, and was acquired (in 1829) by
King Ludwig of Bavaria from the Capponi family, who held the rights
over the chapel where it hung. As in Filippino's rendering, the
monastic saint is seated in study or adoration, and looks up, with a
startled gesture, to see the Virgin enter with a train of lovely
angels; but what Filippino fails to equal--even with his delicious
angels, who might be taken from Florentine urchins--is the sense of
tranquil beauty which comes to us in these figures of the Perugian
master, and is continued in that wonderful sweep of distant landscape
seen through the open colonnade. A study for this fine painting is
among the drawings in the Uffizi Gallery.


(In the Uffizi Gallery, Florence)

An interesting portrait, once thought a self-portrait of the master,
but now considered to be of Francesco delle Opere. A powerful face,
small dark eyes, a well-cut nose, and thick bull-neck. We see that
Perugino was a fine portraitist of men, both in this and his genuine
self-portrait (in the Sala del Cambio) and the two Vallombrosan monks
in the Florence Academy. On the back of this picture is inscribed:
1494 D'Luglio Pietro Perugino Pinse Franco del Ope (i.e. delle

I have already had occasion to mention the great Crucifixion of S.
Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi (completed 1496), and a very similar
treatment of this subject appears in a later Crucifixion painted for
the Convent of S. Jerome in Florence, and now in the Accademia of that
city. Here, in the three figures introduced, the Christ and the
Virgin mother are almost reproduced from those in the larger fresco of
S. Maria Maddalena, but are coarser and more careless in the painting.
The city here in the distance has been traced to be Florence, and the
date suggested is about 1498. Closer yet to this central date of the
Perugian master's work is the great Vallombrosa "Assumption" (dated
1500); but this very probably succeeded immediately in order of time
to the Sala del Cambio frescoes, and therefore I leave it for the
moment to speak of the earlier, but most important, commission of the
altar-piece of the Magistrates' Chapel at Perugia. A painting to
decorate this chapel, and which was to include the portraits of the
Priori, the governing body then in office, had been commissioned from
Pietro as early as 1483, and the contract actually signed; but the
master had more important work on hand--notably his frescoes for the
chapel of Pope Sixtus--and it was not till twelve years later, in
1495, that, being again in Perugia and at the summit of his fame, he
was successfully captured by the magistrates of that city, and signed
a fresh contract on far higher terms (one hundred golden ducats, but
with a time limit of six months for the work) to paint the altar-piece
of their chapel. The result was the masterpiece which now hangs in the
Vatican Gallery, and shows us the Virgin enthroned with the Child
standing upright on her knee, beneath such an open portico as appears
in the "Vision of St. Bernard," and with beside her four grave
attendant saints, as robed and mitred bishops. Here the master varies
a little his frequent signature--for _Petrus de Chastro Plebis pinxit_
gives as his birthplace the little Umbrian city of Città della Pieve.

The great altar-piece, which possesses all the devotional beauty and
repose of his best period, was this time completed within the time
agreed, and took its honoured place within the Magistrates' Chapel at
Perugia, whence it was torn away by the invading French in 1797, and
found its way back, not to Perugia, but to the Vatican collection at
Rome. Perugia, especially in the person of her greatest master, Pietro
Vannucci, suffered terribly at the hands of Napoleon; and here I must
express my appreciation of the able description given by my friend Dr.
G. C. Williamson of what he very aptly calls "the story of the

Perugia in 1796 was very rich in the works of her master, Pietro
Perugino. "Almost every church possessed pictures by the master. The
altar-piece painted in 1495 for the Magistrates' Chapel was still _in
situ_, and public buildings were full of rich decoration." But
Napoleon, a man whose life was steeped in battle and human bloodshed,
seems by a strange contrast to have had a particular fancy for the
quiet devotional art of the Umbrian master. His commissioner, one
Tinet by name, had orders to ransack Perugia, and six cartloads of her
treasured paintings, drawn by oxen, left the city for Paris. One
altar-piece, that of the Magistrates' Chapel, was nearly forgotten,
but remembered at the last moment, and included. But even so, the
terrible conqueror who held Italy beneath his feet was not contented,
and a fresh decree, of 1811, ordered more pictures to be sent for his
Paris collection. A certain Tofanelli was now the agent for further
spoliation, and by diligent search forty-eight more pictures were
squeezed out of unlucky Perugia, and in November of 1813 forwarded,
viâ Rome, to Paris. Napoleon had now more works of Perugino than he
could find place for in his gallery of the Louvre, and gave many of
them away to the provincial museums of France; and thus it happens
that the works of our master are distributed, in fragmentary condition
in panels from his famous altar-pieces, among the French provincial
cities--such towns as Bordeaux, Marseilles, Lyons, Grenoble, Nantes,
Rouen, and Caen, where they are practically inaccessible to the
average student--while only a small portion of the once rich
collection of his works remains within the Perugian Pinacoteca.

But fortunately his masterpiece in fresco painting within the Sala del
Cambio could not be so easily torn from the walls. I have already
alluded to the acceptance by the master in 1499 of this commission,
for which he had refused the decoration of Orvieto Duomo. The actual
space offered him to decorate by the Perugian bankers in their Sala
del Cambio was not very great, but the result was a thing of perfect
beauty--"a little gem" (I called it in my notes written at Perugia,
and published some years ago) "of decorative Renaissance art. It is a
small room, panelled with the loveliest tarsia work (this too from
Vannucci's design), and above these panels the master's frescoes. The
'Nativity' and 'Transfiguration' at the end of the room are among his
finest, ripest works, and on each side are the Prophets and Sibyls, or
heroes, kings, and sages of antiquity--Leonidas the Spartan, Trajan
the wise Roman emperor, Fabius 'Cunctator,' Socrates, Horatius, who
kept the bridge, and the Roman Camillus."

It is most probable that the whole scheme of decoration, and of these
classic sages and heroes in particular, with their guiding virtues
above, was supplied to the artist by the humanist Maturanzio,
Secretary to the "Priori" of Perugia, and acting under their orders;
while Maturanzio himself may have drawn his inspiration from a MS.
Cicero in the Perugian Library, in whose miniatures the four cardinal
virtues appear beside the heroes who displayed them in their lives.
Such a dictation was quite in the traditions of the best Italian art.
I have shown in an earlier work--"The Renaissance in Italian Art"--how
this was probably the case in the famous frescoes of the Spanish
chapel at Florence, where Ruskin had pictured the artist himself as
giving his message of religious dogmatic teaching to the world; and
later we shall see how the Marchioness of Mantua, Isabella d'Este,
ties down our Pietro most mercilessly in the allegorical painting
which she commissions.

But here, in the rendering at least, Perugino is entirely himself, and
all these figures, whether heroes of heathendom or sages or
prophets--Isaiah, Moses, David, and Daniel--or virtues or lovely
sibyls, are painted in one key of tranquil, devotional beauty.
"Obliged," says Addington Symonds, "to treat in the Sala del Cambio
the representative heroes of Greek and Roman story, he adopted the
manner of his religious paintings. Leonidas, the lion-hearted Spartan,
and Cato, the austere Roman, bend their mild heads like flowers in
Perugino's frescoes, and gather up their drapery in studied folds with
celestial delicacy."

In the ceiling, which, if not painted by himself, is undoubtedly from
his design, he had perhaps a freer hand in the arrangement, and has
created a very lovely piece of decoration. Here the deities of the old
heathen world appear as imaged in that delicious sentiment of the
earlier Renaissance. Venus is wafted through the sky, drawn by two
doves; Luna, nude to the waist, sits in a chariot with her nymphs in
harness; Mercury holds his _caduceus_, the serpent wand; Apollo drives
his four-horsed chariot; and--loveliest group of all--Jupiter receives
the cup of nectar from young Ganymede, "such a cup-bearer" (I wrote in
my Perugian notes) "as the tyrants of the Visconti or the Baglioni may
have had--a slim young page with long floating curls, his limbs clad
in tight red hose, and long ribbons twining around him, as on bent
knee he offers the cup to his master."

His fellow-citizens wished the master to include his own portrait in
the frescoes of their Cambio, and here it is, for us, a square,
solid-looking face of middle life, whose hair escapes from the tight
red cap--a face not perhaps attractive, but of intellectuality and
power, and with great determination in the lines of mouth and chin.
The Latin lines of compliment beneath are probably due to the
scholarly pen of Maturanzio, and on the other side the words _Anno
Salut. MD_ give the date of the work's completion--the central date,
as we may fairly take it, of Perugino's genius, and his life-work in
art. It is the moment when he climbs the hill-top--this fateful year
that divides the century--and stands upon the highest ground;
henceforth for him too, as for his country, the slow years mark the
footsteps of decline.


Rafaelle Sanzio of Urbino had lost his mother, Magia Ciarla, in 1491,
and his father, Giovanni Santi, three years later. It was not long
after this that he was placed by his relatives for instruction in
Perugino's famous workshop at Perugia, and we may safely assume that
he was there during part of the master's richly creative period which
we have just traversed, and that his hand was busied, along with those
of other pupils, in the paintings of the frescoes of the Sala del


(In the Academy of Fine Arts, Florence)

Vasari mentions at some length Pietro's work for the Convent of the
Gesuati, and in doing so describes this picture: "A Pietà--that is to
say, Christ in the lap of Our Lady with four figures around--as good
as any painted in his manner." The convent seems to have suffered much
from its position without the Porta a Pinti in the siege of Florence,
and both this painting and the "Christ in the Garden" eventually found
their way to the Academy. Pietro was a good friend of the Gesuati
monks, and was a good deal at one time at the convent. Date of this
work, about 1493.]

Among these pupils Vasari mentions, beside Rafaelle, the
Florentines--Rocco Zoppo, Baccio, and Francesco Ubertino (the latter
best known by his surname of Bacchiacca), Giovanni di Pietro (called
Lo Spagna), Andrea di Luigi (called L'Ingegno), Eusebio di San
Giorgio, Benedetto Caporali, and others. We have already noted
Bernardino di Betto, called Pinturicchio, as his assistant, and later
as a sort of partner and superintendent of these young apprentices;
and there seems little doubt that, after the completion of the Cambio
frescoes and Perugino's subsequent return to Florence, Pinturicchio
took young Rafaelle with him to Siena, as an assistant in his great
commission there (1502) to decorate the library of Cardinal
Piccolomini. In Perugino the brilliant but most assimilative young
student found just the master he needed. He would have been crushed
under the masterful force, the relentless nudities, of such a master
as Luca Signorelli, whereas in Pietro's devotional art, with its
accurate training in drawing, colour, and perspective, his sunny
nature found room to expand, and his first visit to Florence (1504)
proved as inspiring to him as it had been to his master.

Meanwhile that busy master, his decorative commission of the Sala del
Cambio completed, had gone back at once to purely religious art in a
great painting for the high altar at Vallombrosa, which is now in the
Florence Accademia. The subject is the Assumption of Mary Virgin, who
appears in a mandorla surrounded by angels, while God the Father
bends to bless from heaven, and four saints on earth beneath await in
adoration. This was probably painted at the monastery, for Vasari says
distinctly, "At Vallombrosa he painted a picture for the high altar";
and this is quite likely, as well as that his two grand profile
portraits of the Abbot Baldasarre and of Don Biagio Milanesi date from
the same visit.

We have already noticed his finely virile portrait of Francesco delle
Opere in the Uffizi collection, and this, combined with the two
monastic portraits just mentioned, now in the Florentine Accademia,
proves that, if our master had devoted himself to portrait work, he
might have been one of the greatest portraitists of all time. In the
two last portraits the technique is of extreme simplicity. It is
simply the bare shaven head, seen in profile against a brown
background. But the drawing is faultless, the man himself is there,
and there is not a touch more than is needed to reveal the bones of
the skull beneath an upper surface covering of flesh and skin.

The Vallombrosan altar-piece dates from 1500, and in 1501 Perugino was
one of the Priors (Priori), and, being obliged to reside in the
Communal Palace and give the most of his time to magisterial and civic
duties, he probably had little time left for painting. But he took
occasion to contract for future work (1502)--for saints and angels to
be painted around a fine crucifix in wood for the Convent of S.
Francesco al Monte, which is now in the Perugian Gallery; for designs
for the intarsia work of S. Agostino, and a double altar-piece for the
same church, as well as a Sposalizio (Marriage of Mary) for the Duomo.

In 1503 we have seen that Pietro had returned to Florence, and taken
lodgings in the Pinti quarter. There followed the quarrel with
Michelangelo which I have mentioned, and very shortly after this he
left Florence again for Perugia. While here, he received a letter from
the Priors of his birthplace, Città della Pieve, inviting him to paint
a fresco there. This was on February 20, 1504, and, after some
correspondence as to terms, in March following the contract was
concluded, and the fresco painted in the same year. The subject of
this fine fresco is the Adoration of the Magi. Hidden away in its
little township, it is not easily accessible to visitors, and escaped
the plunder of the French. I have not yet been able to visit it, but
my friend Dr. G. C. Williamson, who drove to Città across the
mountains from Perugia, was deeply impressed by the painting and the
place, and writes, "The town is strangely beautiful--like a petrified
city, left high and dry by the moving waters of civilisation,
untouched and unspoiled." At Panicale, another township near there, is
a St. Sebastian by our master, signed and dated 1505. These were works
which he probably painted rapidly and for a comparatively low
price--the Pieve Adoration having been reduced to seventy-five
florins--and Crowe and Cavalcaselle trace the hand of his assistant,
Lo Spagna, in the Panicale St. Sebastian and an Assumption in that

But Perugino had by no means abandoned Florence as yet, for we find
him writing from there in June of 1505 to the Marchioness of Mantua to
acknowledge the receipt of eighty ducats for his tempera painting of
the "Combat of Love and Chastity."

Isabella d'Este da Gonzaga, Marchioness of Mantua, an enthusiastic
collector and art patron, and one of the most cultivated women of her
time, was at that moment forming within her palace at Mantua the
famous Studio della Grotta, which she adorned with paintings by
Mantegna, Costa, and Perugino. These paintings, which I have described
in my own work on Mantua, and elsewhere, were still in the Grotta in
1627, but after the terrible sack of Mantua in 1630 they were sold to
Cardinal Richelieu, and are now in the Musée du Louvre. They were all
of allegorical subjects, dictated by the Marchesa herself, and the
"Parnassus" of her court painter, Andrea Mantegna, is a masterpiece.
But that of the Perugian master is far less satisfactory, and was
indeed found so by that very keen critic, the Marchesa Isabella
herself. She wrote to him on June 30 of the year 1505: "The picture
has reached me safely, and, as it is well drawn and coloured, pleases
me; but if it had been more carefully finished, it would have been
more to your honour and our satisfaction." She here goes straight to
the point in noting--as we shall do later--that the master was
becoming careless and hasty in his execution. On the other hand, it is
fair to remember that the subject was not probably congenial, that he
was tied hand and foot in his treatment by the learned lady's written
instructions (on hearing that he had represented Venus as nude, she
declared that if one single figure were altered the whole fable would
be ruined), and it is only in the wide sweep of clear sky and hills
and river that the artist really finds himself again.

Another commission of this time in Florence was to complete the
Descent from the Cross begun in 1503 by Filippino Lippi, and left
unfinished at his death in 1505. This picture, which was destined for
the SS. Annunziata at Florence, was completed by Perugino, and is now
in the Accademia. The lower portion is here by our master, and,
considering the initial difficulty of working upon another man's
conception, the result is to be praised. Crowe, indeed, calls the
Virgin fainting in the arms of the three Maries one of the noblest
conceptions of his brush. But the same cannot be said of his joint
commission of the Assumption, painted also for the SS. Annunziata in
this summer of 1505. Dr. Williamson, whose monograph I have already
mentioned, and who went to the pains of visiting all these works of
Perugino scattered by Napoleon through the small provincial museums of
France, noted that the resemblance between the Assumption and the
Ascension of Lyons, which had been painted in 1495 for S. Pietro at
Perugia, is so close as to show the artist had hardly troubled to make
any change. Not only this, but the Coronation of the Virgin, of the
Perugian Gallery, shows groups identical with both the above
paintings, and this Assumption, for which, as Crowe says, "he fell
back on the model of the Lyons Ascension," is painted in a slovenly
and careless manner.

When we remember what Florence was in this early sixteenth century--a
city keenly intellectual, alive to art as perhaps no city, save
Athens, has ever been before or since, and highly critical and
censorious--we need not be surprised that the master, thus openly
convicted of plagiarism from his earlier works and of careless
technique, was censured by his friends and attacked by his enemies.
Vasari tells us that "when the aforesaid work" (the Assumption) "was
uncovered, it was freely blamed by all the younger craftsmen, and, in
particular, because Pietro had made use of those figures which had
already appeared in his other works; and his friends replied that it
was not that his powers had failed, but that he had acted so either
from greed of money or from haste. To whom Pietro answered: 'I have
put into this work the figures praised before by you, and with which
you were infinitely pleased. If now they displease you and are not
praised, what can I do to help it?' But these men continued to assail
him with sonnets and public insults. Whence he, already old, left
Florence, and returned to Perugia." There is something pathetic in the
old man's reply, and it must have cost him a heart-pang to thus turn
his back on Florence. He had loved the city, had gained there his
first inspiration in art, his first successes, had wedded there,
bought a house and property, and purchased in this noble Church of the
SS. Annunziata a burial-place for himself and his descendants. But he
never returned. His name disappears from the rolls of the painters'
guild in Florence, and in 1506 appears in that of Perugia. Umbria
welcomed back her great master with reverent appreciation. That
divided impulse of his life was ended, and from henceforth he was
all her own.


(In the National Gallery, London)

This fine painting, very individual in treatment, was painted by
Pietro in 1507 for the executors of Giovanni Schiavone, a
master-carpenter of Perugia.

In 1822 Baron delle Penna, by whose family it had been inherited,
removed the painting to his palace at Perugia, and thence it passed to
the London Gallery in 1879.]

Always a good man of business, Perugino's first step on reaching
Perugia was to collect the debts still due to him. From the
authorities of Città della Pieve he demanded the balance (March of
1507) of 25 florins, which was liquidated by the conveyance of a
house, from Panicale 11 florins, and for his work in the Cambio he
drew 350 ducats. Then the commissions began to come in again, and an
altar-piece of this very time (1507), representing Madonna between SS.
Jerome and Francis, has recently come to the London National Gallery
from the Palazzo Penna at Perugia, and is a work of charm and great
merit. It had been ordered in 1507 by the executors of Giovanni
Schiavone, a master-carpenter of Perugia, to be set over the altar of
a chapel in S. Maria de' Servi in that city. This work completed, he
left for Foligno, where I found still in place his fresco of The
Baptism of Christ in the Church of La Nunziatella, and from Foligno
(1507-8) he was summoned by Pope Julius to Rome to decorate the
ceilings of his Vatican Palace. Bazzi (Sodoma) and Peruzzi were
already being employed on the same work, and at Rome Perugino met his
old friends and rivals in art--Signorelli, Bramantino, and others--and
introduced to them his own pupil Caporali. When Rafaelle was accepted
by Julius II. as his final and only master in the Vatican, and bidden
by the impetuous Pontiff to destroy all work of other artists, he
spared--with that _gentilezza_ which was in his character--the ceiling
paintings of his old master Perugino, which yet remain to us in the
Camera dell' Incendio. But, eclipsed by his brilliant young pupil,
there was clearly no room for old Pietro at Rome, and he journeyed
northward with Signorelli, breaking his journey to paint a Crucifixion
for S. Maria degli Angeli at Assisi, and another painting at Siena of
the same subject for the Church of S. Agostino. A fragment which is in
the collection of Miss Hertz at Rome may belong to another picture due
to this Siena visit; and later we find him painting at Bettona, and
(1512-13) in his own birthplace of Città della Pieve.

Vasari has a gossiping story that Pietro, "who trusted no one, and, in
going and returning from Castello della Pieve, carried all the money
he had about him always on his person," was robbed on the way, and
lost his money and nearly his life. And he adds next: "Pietro was a
person of very little religion, and could never be made to believe in
the immortality of the soul; nay, with words adapted to his evil mind,
he did most obstinately refuse every good path. He placed all his
hopes in the goods of fortune, and for money would have made every bad
contract." There were two reasons why Vasari should have been unfair
to Perugino--one, that he was an Umbrian, even though long resident in
Florence, the other, that he had come, as we have seen, into collision
with his admired Michelangelo. Even so, Vasari is much too good a
judge to depreciate his art, but he attacks the Perugian master
personally, and his remarks about religion do not count for much.
Vasari lived in an age--that of the counter-Reformation--which
combined in Italy the lowest level of morals with apparent orthodoxy,
and, under the shadow of the Inquisition, religion became a good stone
to throw at your enemy. But we cannot say there is nothing behind his
charge, because, with regret, we have seen within these pages this
master of the tender virgins and calm saints of God as being
vindictive (that affair before the Eight with Aulista di Angelo comes
to our thought), disloyal, and shifty in his business dealings (here
the Orvietans and their Chapel of S. Brizio are an instance), and
always consistently keen on getting the best side of a bargain. It
does come as something of a shock--at any rate to me--to turn from
this serenely devotional art to this record of the man's personality,
and we feel inclined to echo the words of Symonds, who asks, "How
could such a man have endured to pass a long life in the fabrication
of devotional pictures?" The answer perhaps lies in the fact that
Pietro did not create this lovely art of devotion, of which he was
such a supreme interpreter. He found it all around him, in the
aspirations of thousands of prayerful souls, even in the very soil of
this land of his, where the Etruscans had once quarried the tombs of
their dead, and as an art motive it absorbed his whole feeling. When,
later in life, material success came to invade his nature, its
influence as a corrosive at once appears in his art creation. The
touch of ideal beauty leaves his figures; drawing, colour,
composition become mere hasty repetition of his earlier efforts.

And yet we cannot but think of the old master with pleasure, even in
these later years, as filling these little hill-towns of Umbria,
Bettona, Assisi, Montefalco, Spello, Trevi, most of all his own
birthplace, Castello della Pieve, with frescoes which are at least
lovely shadows of his greatest works. At Bettona he had painted a St.
Anthony, and again in the Church of S. Peter at Città della Pieve, and
here, too, in the Church of S. Maria de' Servi is the fragment--but a
beautiful fragment--of a ruined Crucifixion. The frescoes of S. Maria
Maggiore at Spello (signed and dated 1521), and the Adoration of the
Magi in the Church of S. Maria delle Lagrime at Trevi, are important
in this late period of his art, as well as perhaps a Nativity in the
Church of S. Francesco at Montefalco, which is filled with work of his
pupils. But a work of special interest is his completion of the
frescoes of his greatest pupil, Rafaelle of Urbino, in the Church of
S. Severo at Perugia. Sixteen years had elapsed since Rafaelle in 1505
had, as a youth of brilliant promise, painted the upper fresco,
anticipating therein the composition of his great Disputa del
Sacramento within the Vatican. Since then he had gone on from strength
to strength, and now, in his declining years, his old master was
called on to complete his pupil's work. The six saints whom he painted
there, beneath Rafaelle's fresco, grouped on either side of
terra-cotta figures of the Virgin and Child--SS. Jerome, John,
Gregory, and Boniface, with SS. Scolastica and Martha--possess, as far
as can be now judged, both dignity and beauty. The fresco is signed by
him, and dated with the year of 1521, little more than a year before
his death.

For to the last the old man was busy, and after a long life of
industry died almost with the brush within his hand. This very year of
1521 he was at Trevi as well as Spello. In 1522 he painted the
"Transfiguration" for S. Maria Nuova at Perugia, and his frescoes for
the Convent of S. Agnese at Perugia, which are still in place--both
the "Transfiguration" and its three predella panels being now in the
Perugian Gallery. His last work (1523), the fresco of the Adoration of
the Shepherds (a fresco now transferred to canvas), is now in the
London National Gallery, where is also his charming Virgin with the
little Jesus and St. John, a signed work from the late Mr. Beckford's
collection. The child Jesus stands, naked and upright, upon a stone
balustrade, and plays with a lock of His mother's hair, who is herself
of the pure virginal type imaged by Rafaelle in his earlier creations,
notably the famous "Madonna del Granduca"; while the "Adoration," the
master's last work, was removed from the Church of Fontignano in 1843.
The landscape in both these works--in the Beckford Virgin blue hills
and outlined trees, in the Fontignano fresco wide-sweeping uplands--is
of great attraction.

"As the aged artist," says Crowe, "laboured at Fontignano, industrious
to the close, a plague broke out in the Perugia district and ravaged
the country. A disgraceful panic over-spread the land. It was decreed
that the ceremonies of religion should be omitted in all cases where
death ensued from the contagion. Perugino died and was buried in a
field at Fontignano ... and no one knows where lie the bones of Pietro
Perugino." Later documentary evidence, which is quoted by the above
authors, and at greater length by Milanesi in his edition of
"Vasari's Lives," has here overthrown the statement by Vasari that
"Pietro, having come to the age of seventy-two years, ended the course
of his life in Castello della Pieve, where he was honourably buried in
the year 1524." We know now that his sons (1524) endeavoured to have
their father's body brought from his hasty burial-place to be interred
in S. Agostino at Perugia; but, in the disturbed state of central
Italy during this epoch of foreign invasion, the pious wish was never

When we think with what care and expense Pietro had once prepared his
last resting-place in S. Maria de' Servi at Florence, this tragedy of
his unknown and hurried burial seems the more sad. He survives in his
art; and that is a complete vindication, an undying memorial. In these
pages we have traced his progress from his first great commission of
the Sistine Chapel, with its dignified grouping and sense of air and
space, through the tender beauty of his altar-pieces, the simplicity
and breadth of his fresco work--the Nativity of the Villa Albani, the
Crucifixion of S. Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi, the Pietà of the nuns of
S. Chiara, the altar-piece of the Certosa of Pavia--till, in his great
decorative commission at Perugia of the Sala del Cambio, in the year
1500, he seemed to reach the summit of his creative power, and climb
down from thence, though by no means immediately or conclusively, to
these faded and yet exquisite frescoes, with which, in his own fading
years, he wreathed the little hill-cities of his native Umbria. And we
noted him as a complete master of his art, even though he might
willingly abide within a certain religious convention; we saw that the
master of the Delivery of the Keys within the Sistine, the great
portrait artist, whose hand has left us those forceful heads of
Francesco delle Opere, of the Abbot Baldasarre, and Don Biagio, the
painter of the Albani and Certosa altar-pieces, the decorator of the
Cambio, had nothing to fear in his powers of art creation from the
very greatest of his time.

But after we have said all this, we must own that his special place
within that galaxy of genius of the greatest Italian art is best
described by a writer to whose appreciative criticism I have always
given my sincere admiration; for Pietro's task it was "to create for
the soul amid the pomps and passions of this world a resting-place of
contemplation, tenanted by saintly and seraphic beings. No pain comes
near the folk of his celestial city; no longing poisons their repose;
they are not weary, and the wicked trouble them no more. Their
cheerfulness is no less perfect than their serenity; like the shades
of Hellas, they have drunk Lethæan waters from the river of content,
and all remembrance of things sad or harsh has vanished from their
minds.... In the best work of Perugino, the Renaissance set the seal
of absolute perfection upon pietistic art."

       *       *       *       *       *


ARTIST.              AUTHOR.

DA VINCI.           M. W. BROCKWELL.
DÜRER.              H. E. A. FURST.
HOGARTH.            C. LEWIS HIND.
HOLBEIN.            S. L. BENSUSAN.
INGRES.             A. J. FINBERG.
LUINI.              JAMES MASON.
MEMLINC.            W. H. J. & J. C. WEALE.
MILLAIS.            A. LYS BALDRY.
MILLET.             PERCY M. TURNER.
MURILLO.            S. L. BENSUSAN.
RAEBURN.            JAMES L. CAW.
ROMNEY.             C. LEWIS HIND.
RUBENS.             S. L. BENSUSAN.
TITIAN.             S. L. BENSUSAN.
TURNER.             C. LEWIS HIND.
VAN EYCK.           J. CYRIL M. WEALE.
WATTEAU.            C. LEWIS HIND.
WATTS.              W. LOFTUS HARE.

_Others in Preparation._

       *       *       *       *       *

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