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Title: Luca Signorelli
Author: Cruttwell, Maud
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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The Great Masters in Painting and Sculpture Edited by G. C. Williamson


       *       *       *       *       *


_The following Volumes have been issued_





RAPHAEL. By H. STRACHEY.                 _January_ 1.

_In preparation._

CARLO CRIVELLI. By G. M'NEIL RUSHFORTH, M.A., Lecturer in Classics,
    Oriel College, Oxford.

CORREGGIO. By SELWYN BRINTON, M.A., Author of "The Renaissance in
    Italian Art."


    House of Lords.

MICHAEL ANGELO. By CHARLES HOLROYD, Keeper of the National Gallery
    of British Art.

TURNER. By CHARLES FRANCIS BELL, M.A., Deputy Keeper of the
    Ashmolean Museum.

PERUGINO. By G. C. WILLIAMSON, Litt.D., Editor of the Series.

MEMLINC. By W. H. JAMES WEALE, late Keeper of the National Art

MURILLO. By MANUEL B. COSSIO, Litt.D., Ph. D., Director of the Musee
    Pedagogique, Madrid.


_Others to follow._


       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: _Portrait of an unknown man_]





George Bell & Sons

    "Pianga Cortona omai, vestasi oscura,
    Che estinti son del Signorello i lumi;
    Et, tu, Pittura, fa de gli occhi fuimi,
    Che resti senza lui debile e scura."

_Epitaph composed at the time of his death_

    "Il Cortonese Luca d'ingegno
    E spirito pellegrino."



The references to Vasari, and Crowe and Cavalcaselle, are invariably to
the latest editions, both in Italian: "Opere di Giorgio Vasari"
(Firenze, G. C. Sansoni, 1879); "Cavalcaselle e Crowe" (Le Monnier,

The author desires to express her gratitude to Mr Bernhard Berensen,
author of "Lorenzo Lotto," etc., for much help in her work.

FLORENCE, _October_ 1899.



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS                                         ix

BIBLIOGRAPHY                                                xiii

GENEALOGICAL TREE                                             xv

Chapter I. HIS LIFE                                            1


      III. EARLIEST WORKS                                     32

       IV. MIDDLE PERIOD                                      49

        V. ORVIETO                                            63

       VI. LATER PAINTINGS                                    87

      VII. LAST WORKS                                         98

     VIII. DRAWINGS                                          107

       IX. PUPILS AND GENERAL INFLUENCE                      111

CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE                                          121

CATALOGUE OF WORKS                                           131

INDEX                                                        141



Portrait of a Man        _Gallery, Berlin_         _Frontispiece_

Portrait of Signorelli         _Museo del Duomo, Orvieto_      8

The Deposition                       _Cathedral, Cortona_     10

The Flagellation                   _Brera Gallery, Milan_     32

Apostles                             _Santa Casa, Loreto_     34

The Incredulity of S. Thomas         _Santa Casa, Loreto_     36

The Conversion of Saul               _Santa Casa, Loreto_     36

Madonna and Saints                   _Cathedral, Perugia_     38

The Circumcision               _National Gallery, London_     40

Pan                                     _Gallery, Berlin_     42

Madonna                                _Uffizi, Florence_     44

Madonna and Saints                      _Pitti, Florence_     46

Holy Family                   _Rospigliosi Gallery, Rome_     46

Holy Family                            _Uffizi, Florence_     48

The Annunciation                    _Cathedral, Volterra_     50

The Annunciation                       _Uffizi, Florence_     52

The Crucifixion                   _Santo Spirito, Urbino_     54

Miracle of S. Benedict                    _Monte Oliveto_     56

Miracle of S. Benedict                    _Monte Oliveto_     58

Saints                                  _Gallery, Berlin_     60

Holy Family                             _Gallery, Berlin_     60

The Crucifixion           _Municipio, Borgo San Sepolero_     62

Portraits of Signorelli and Fra Angelico
                                     _Cathedral, Orvieto_     64

Patriarchs                           _Cathedral, Orvieto_     68

The Preaching and Fall of Antichrist _Cathedral, Orvieto_     70

The Crowning of the Elect            _Cathedral, Orvieto_     72

Subjects from Dante                  _Cathedral, Orvieto_     74

Heaven                               _Cathedral, Orvieto_     76

Hell                                 _Cathedral, Orvieto_     76

The Damnation                        _Cathedral, Orvieto_     78

The Resurrection                     _Cathedral, Orvieto_     80

Signs of Destruction                 _Cathedral, Orvieto_     82

Madonna and Saints                         _Brera, Milan_     90

Dead Christ upheld by Angels        _S. Niccolò, Cortona_     92

The Adoration of the Magi           _Jarvis Collection,
                                       New Haven, U.S.A._     94

Madonna and Saints                  _Mancini Collection,
                                       Città di Castello_     98

The Deposition                   _Santa Croce, Umbertide_    100

Madonna, Saints, and Prophets           _Gallery, Arezzo_    102

Study of Nude Figure                      _Louvre, Paris_    108

Magdalen at the Foot of the Cross     _Academy, Florence_    111

Tiberius Gracchus                   _Gallery, Buda-Pesth_    116


Page 6 line 1, _for_ "Pius II." _read_ "Sixtus IV."

The Frontispiece and the illustrations facing pp. 40, 42, and 60 (2) are
from photographs by Hanfstaengl (Munich), those facing pp. 46 (No. 2)
and 68 by Anderson (Rome), that facing page 108 by A. Braun & Co.
(Dornach and Paris), those facing pp. 94 and 116 from private
photographs, and the remainder by Alinari (Florence).


LUCA SIGNORELLI. Vasari, con annotazione di Gaetano Milanesi. (Firenze,
    G. C. Sansoni, 1879.) Vol. iii.

    (Leipzig, 1879.)

LUCA SIGNORELLI. Cavalcaselle e Crowe. (Le Monnier, 1898.) Vol. viii.

    SIGNORELLI. G. F. Waagen. (Historisches Taschenbuch von Raumer.)

LUCA SIGNORELLI. Manni. (Racolta Milanese di vari opuscoli, 1756.)
    Vol. i.

STORIA DEL DUOMO DI ORVIETO. Padre della Valle, 1791.

IL DUOMO DI ORVIETO. Ludovico Luzi, 1866.


ISTRUZIONE STORICO. Giacomo Mancini, 1832.

NOTIZIE ... SOPRA LUCA SIGNORELLI. Girolamo Mancini, 1867.



                       VENTURA DI SIGNORELLI.
                               EGIDIO = A sister of LAZZARO DEI TALDI
                                 |            (great-grandfather of GIORGIO
                                 |             VASARI, the biographer).
     |                           |
  VENTURA.                     LUCA = GALIZIA CARNESECCA.
     |                           |
     |      +----------------+---+-------------+----------+---------+
     |      |                |                 |          |         |
     | (Painter and       = 1. NANNINA   = MARGHERITA   MARIOTTO    LUCA DELLA
     | Builder).             DI PAOLO     DI VAGNOZZI.  DEL MAZZA.  BIOSCIA.
     |                       DI FORZORE.       |                         |
     |                     2. MATTEA DI        |                   BERNARDINA.
     |                       DOMENICO DI       |
     |                      |  SIMONE.         |
     +-------------+        |                +-+-----------+
     |             |        |                |             |
= DOMENICO     (Painter).   MARIOTTO
  (Banker.)      CARRARI.   PASSERINI.




(BORN 1441: DIED 1523)

It is a curious fact that, considering the number of documents which
exist relating to Signorelli, and the paintings time has spared, so
little should be known beyond the merest outline of his life. The very
dates of his birth and death are indirectly acquired; the documents
leave his youth and early manhood an absolute blank, and there are only
two of his numerous works which can with certainty be placed before his
thirty-third year.[1] We are, therefore, forced to fall back upon
traditionary record, and by the aid of his biographer Vasari, and the
evidence of youthful studies which his paintings contain, to patch
together a probable account of his life, up to the time when the
documents begin. On Vasari, in this case, we can depend with a certain
amount of confidence, since Signorelli was his kinsman, and they had
been in such personal communication as was possible between an old man
and a child.

From Vasari, then, we learn that Luca was born in Cortona, of Egidio
Signorelli, and a sister of Lazzaro dè Taldi.[2] This Lazzaro, great
grandfather of the biographer, deserves special mention, since it was
through his means, and under his guardianship, that Luca was placed as a
child to study painting with Pier dei Franceschi, at Arezzo.[3] Vasari
tells us that Lazzaro was "a famous painter of his time, not only in his
own country, but throughout Tuscany, with a style of painting hardly to
be distinguished from that of his great friend, Pietro della
Francesca."[4] This, however, is an assertion that has never been
supported, and was probably based on the author's pride in his own
family, for in the Cortona tax-receipts for the year 1427, he is
described merely as a harness-maker (_Sellajo di Cavalli_.)[5] There is,
besides, no record of him among the painters of Arezzo, and no fragment
remains of the many works enumerated by his great-grandson. But it is of
little consequence whether he was a painter of pictures or a decorator
of saddles; what is to our purpose is the fact, that by his means Luca
was placed under the tutelage of the painter most capable of developing
the noblest qualities of his genius.

Luca was born about 1441, as we gather from Vasari, and if 1452 is the
correct date of his uncle Lazzaro's death, his apprenticeship to Pier
dei Franceschi must have begun before his eleventh year. It is probable
that, with his fellow-pupil Melozzo da Forlì, his senior by three years,
Signorelli assisted the master with the frescoes in S. Francesco,
although there is no trace of any work that might be from his hand.
Vasari tells us that as a youth he laboured "to imitate the style of his
master," with such success, that (as he remarked of Lazzaro) "their work
was hardly to be distinguished apart."[6] The nearest approach to the
style of Piero that remains to us is "The Flagellation," of the Brera,
Milan, which, however, already shows signs of a more deeply impressed
technical influence, but it was probably under Piero's training that
Signorelli developed his broad methods of work, and the grand manner
which makes his painting so impressive. The later influence visible in
the above-mentioned "Flagellation," as throughout all his work, is that
of Antonio Pollaiuolo. To him and to Donatello are due the most
important features in his artistic development, and in technique he
follows much more readily than the Umbrian, the Florentine methods, with
which his painting has nearly everything in common. Of the influence of
Donatello it may justly be said that every painter and sculptor of the
fifteenth century submitted to it, but few were so completely touched by
his spirit as Signorelli. Not only, as we shall see later, did he
transfer attitudes and features from Donatello's statues into his
earlier paintings, but he caught, and even exaggerated, the confident
and somewhat arrogant spirit of his work, and exploited it with the same
uncompromising realism.

The influence of Antonio Pollaiuolo was still more important, and is so
evident in the whole mass of his painting, that with no other warrant
we may feel certain that he spent a considerable time either as pupil or
assistant to the Florentine master. The passion of Pollaiuolo was to
discover the science of movement in the human frame. "He understood the
nude in a more modern way than the masters before him," says Vasari,
"and he removed the skin from many corpses to see the anatomy
beneath."[7] He was, in fact, the great anatomical student among the
Quattrocento artists; and, having the same tastes, it was natural that
to his workshop Signorelli should turn, in order to satisfy his own
craving for knowledge of the structure of bones and muscles. The
internal evidence of his paintings warrants this supposition, but there
is no record of any residence in Florence, beyond the announcement of
Vasari, that he went there after his visit to Siena, not at all as a
student, but as a fully-fledged painter, making gifts of his pictures to
his friend and patron, Lorenzo dei Medici. His work, however, proves so
incontestably the training of Pollaiuolo, and shows so close an
acquaintance with Florentine works of art, that we may safely presume
the greater part of his youth, after leaving the studio of Pier dei
Franceschi, to have been passed in Florence as pupil or assistant of

It is a wide leap from these days of study to the beginning of his
citizen's life in Cortona, when, a man of thirty-eight, he first settled
down as a burgher discharging important duties there, but it would be
idle to attempt to fill the gap, and only one document exists to help in
any way to bridge it over. This is a commission from the Commune of
Città di Castello, dated 1474,[8] requiring Signorelli to paint, over
some older frescoes in their Tower, a large "Madonna and Saints," but,
unfortunately the work itself no longer exists, for what time and
neglect had spared, the earthquake of 1789 completely destroyed. We may
presume that before 1479 he painted the important frescoes for the
Church of the Holy House at Loreto, since in that year he was first
appointed to the municipal offices in Cortona, which necessitated an
almost constant residence there for the next three years, as the
documents of election show.[9] These numerous papers (for the most part
discovered through the efforts of Signor Girolamo Mancini, and published
in his "Notizie"), are preserved in the archives of Cortona, and form
the chief evidence of the painter's whereabouts up to the end of his
long life. They record, first, his appointment in the autumn of 1479 to
the Council of XVIII., and to the Conservatori degli Ordinamente,[10] in
the following spring to the Priori, and in the summer to the General
Council, and they continue with few interruptions up to the very day of
his death. They decide for us the social status he enjoyed, for both
Priori and Councillors were chosen from the richest and most influential
families, although not necessarily noble.[11] His official life began in
a time of tumult and bloodshed. It was the year after the failure of the
Pazzi Conspiracy, and all around Cortona were pitched the camps of the
rival troops of Sixtus IV. and the excommunicated Florentines. Cortona
itself, as a frontier town of the Medici, was in the very centre of the
fray; and besides these more important quarrels, there were the
incessant internal bickerings between the nobles and the populace, which
at that time divided every Italian city against itself. Altogether, the
position of Magistrate in such a town, at such a time, could have been
no sinecure, and it is difficult to understand how the hard-working
painter could have found time or inclination to accept the citizen's
duties, which were so weighty an occupation in themselves.

Much time has been spent in the vain search for documents relating to
Signorelli's supposed visit, in 1484, to Rome, where, it is said, he was
summoned to paint, with Perugino, Pintorricchio, Botticelli, and Cosimo
Rosselli, the walls of the Sistine Chapel. Later criticism has perhaps
accounted for the absence of such a record. Of the two frescoes there,
formerly attributed to him, it is now no longer doubted that one--"The
Journey of Moses and Zipporah"--is by Pintorricchio, and the opinion is
gradually gaining ground that the other--"The Death of Moses"--although
much nearer to Signorelli's style, is not sufficiently so as to permit
us to accept it as his work.[12]

The notices of the next few years contain little of interest beyond the
facts, that in 1484 Signorelli painted the altar-piece in the Perugia
Cathedral, the first dated picture remaining, and that in 1488 he
received the much-coveted honour of citizenship from Città di Castello,
for the "great ability" with which he painted a standard for the
brotherhood of the Blessed Virgin,[13] a work which no longer exists.
Soon after follows a document dated 1491, which bears witness that Luca
had been invited by the authorities of Santa Maria dei Fiori in Florence
to assist in judging the models and designs for the projected façade of
that church.[14] This is important as a proof of the high esteem in
which he was held in Florence, implying also that he must have
understood something of architecture. He declined the invitation,
perhaps for the same reason for which he had excused himself the month
before from serving as Priore in his native town, "being absent at a
distance of over forty miles,"[15] probably at Volterra. He painted
there in this year three pictures, all of which are still in the city;
the "Annunciation" and the "Madonna and Saints," dated 1491, and the
fresco of "S. Jerome" on the walls of the Municipio.

The next notice of importance is of the year 1497, when he received the
commission from the monks of S. Benedict to fresco the walls of their
cloister at Monte Oliveto.[16] Here he painted eight episodes from the
life of the patron saint, leaving the rest of the work to be completed
by Sodoma. Notwithstanding this task he found time, for four months of
this very year, to serve among the Priori in Cortona, and accepted,
besides, a fresh appointment as one of the Revisori degli Argenti.

In the following year he was in Siena, where he painted the altar-piece
for the Bicchi family, the wings of which are now in Berlin.

[Illustration: [_Museo del Duomo, Orvieto_


We have now reached the most important time in Signorelli's life, the
year in which he received the commission for the decoration of the
Cappella Nuova in the Cathedral of Orvieto. Fifty years before, the roof
had been begun by Fra Angelico, and ever since he went away, leaving it
unfinished, the authorities had been undecided to whom to give the
important work. Benozzo Gozzoli had begged for it; Perugino, it is said,
had refused it; and now, in 1499, perhaps influenced to the choice by
the success of the Monte Oliveto frescoes, they entrusted the work to
Signorelli. Wishing first, however, to test his powers, they limited the
commission to the completion of the vaulting, and it was not till the
following year that they handed over to him the rest of the chapel, to
be painted with the story of the Last Judgment. With this dramatic
subject, and in these great spaces of the walls he had for the first
time a free field for the wide sweep of his brush, and the force of his
vivid imagination. The conceptions of Dante inspired, but did not
trammel him, and he had sufficient strength to make the great drama his
own, and to compel it to serve his ends in the display of the human
frame in its most vigorous aspects. The portrait he has painted of
himself in the first of the frescoes, as well as that in the Opera del
Duomo, show us a man in the very prime of life, full of energy and

Four years at least, Signorelli laboured at these frescoes, although not
consecutively, as we shall presently see. He had with him as assistant
his son Polidoro,[17] and perhaps Girolamo Genga, and other pupils. He
was apparently on friendly terms with the authorities, of one of whom,
the treasurer Niccolò Francesco, he painted a portrait, side by side
with his own above mentioned. It is on a brick or tile, on the back of
which is a flattering inscription, evidently composed by Niccolò
himself, in which he speaks of Signorelli as "worthy of comparison with

Yet, notwithstanding this friendship with the treasurer, he could not
get the money due to him, and it required the intervention of no less a
person than Guidobaldo of Urbino, in 1506, to obtain it for him. A
letter from the Prince is preserved in the Orvieto archives,[19] in
which he writes: "Loving Maestro Luca di Cortona as I do, in no common
measure, for his ability and rare talents, I can refuse him no possible
favour in all that he may require of me," and goes on to beg the
authorities for their love to him, to pay their debt to the painter,
"which assuredly will be to me the greatest favour."

[Illustration: [_Cathedral, Cortona_


Even in fulfilling so arduous an undertaking as these great frescoes
Luca did not abandon his magistrate's work in his own city, and during
the time, was serving both on the General Council and as one of the
Priori. In 1502, moreover, he found time to paint for his Cathedral at
Cortona the beautiful "Deposition," in which is a repetition of the
Pietà of the Capella Nuova. The realism and pathos of this dead Christ
are so convincing as to have given rise to the legend that it was
painted from the body of his son, who died, or was killed, in this year.
Vasari thus relates the incident: Luca had a son, "beautiful in face and
person, whom he loved most dearly," killed in Cortona, whereupon,
"overwhelmed with grief as he was, he had the body stripped, and with
the greatest fortitude of soul, without tears or lamentation, he made a
drawing of it, in order to have always before his eyes ... what Nature
had given him, and cruel Fate had snatched away."[20] This son, Antonio,
probably a painter also, must have been a man of mature years at the
time of his death, for he was already married to a second wife. The
story has taken hold of the fancy of Signorelli's biographers, in the
dearth of personal matter, and is the best known incident in his life,
but it is more than probable that Antonio was carried off by the plague
which, following close on the heels of the war of 1502, attacked
Cortona, in which case it becomes a mere legend. We learn from a
document, dated June 23rd, that the painter's house was not spared, for
he excused himself from serving as Priore in that month, because the
_peste bubbonica_ had broken out in his family.

Four years later, Polidoro, his eldest son, and his assistant at
Orvieto, died also. This happened while Signorelli was on a visit to
Siena, for it was there he bought the mourning cloth. The object of this
visit was to design one of the subjects for the famous pavement of the
Cathedral, but whether he ever did it we do not know; certainly it was
never executed in marble.

In the next year we have the usual records of official appointments, and
as a proof of his artistic activity, the two pictures still remaining in
the little town of Arcevia, dated 1507 and 1508, one of them, the
splendid _Ancona_, being among his finest works.

Now a man of nearly seventy, Signorelli's energies seemed to grow
greater with increasing age, for in 1508 we find him, besides being
elected to his usual offices, deputed as ambassador to Florence, to
demand there permission to reform the offices and ordinances of Cortona,
and in the same year he was at Rome, together with Perugino,
Pintorricchio, and Sodoma, working at the decoration of the Vatican
Chambers, already begun by Pier dei Franceschi. Giambattista Caporali
gives a glimpse into their social life in Rome, telling of a supper
given in their honour by Bramante[21]--Bramante, to whose introduction
to the Pope of the young Raffaelle it is due that none of their work,
with the exception of Perugino's ceiling, remains to us. How much
Signorelli painted we do not know. Vasari says, "He had successfully
completed one wall,"[22] but so enchanted was Julius II. with the
facile and modern style of Raffaelle, that after he had finished the
"Stanza della Segnatura," he forced him to destroy the paintings of the
older masters and delivered the entire work to him and his assistants: a
caprice which points a very significant turn in the history of
painting--the triumph of the late Renaissance over the giants of the

Signorelli seemed destined to find nothing but disappointment in Rome.
Five years later, an old man of seventy-two, he again went there, this
time on the accession of Giovanni dei Medici, in 1513, to the Papal
chair. Knowing the luxurious nature of the new Pope, and remembering the
intense passion of his father Lorenzo for art and letters, to Rome
flocked poets and painters, sculptors and architects, from every part of
Italy, in the hope of work or of reward, and among them came Signorelli,
with reasonable expectation of employment, and notice from the son of
his old patron and friend.[23] Like his predecessor, however, Leo X.
preferred the more modern school of Raffaelle and his pupils, and Luca
had to return disappointed to Cortona. In connection with the visit
exists a curious document, which has smirched too long the honour of the
painter. It is the famous letter of Michelangelo, preserved among the
Buonarotti archives, in which he makes a complaint to the Capitano of
Cortona, that Signorelli, sick with the ingratitude of the Medici "for
the love of whom he would have had his head cut off," had borrowed of
him eighty _juli_ with which to return to Cortona; that on application
for the money, Luca declared it to have been already repaid, so that now
he--Michelangelo--sees no other way of obtaining his own but by
application to the Capitano for justice.[24] This is the gist of the
letter; we have to use our own knowledge of the character of the two men
to decipher the mystery, since no other document confirms or denies the
accusation. The reasonable explanation seems to be that some delay,
probably on the road, in the transmission of the money, irritated the
notoriously impatient temper of Michelangelo. Signorelli's character,
from all we know of it, seems to have been most upright and generous.
"Such was the goodness of his nature, that he never lent himself to
things that were not just and righteous," says Vasari,[25] and that he
should have been guilty of so petty a crime towards a friend, is not for
a moment to be believed. Moreover, his will, re-made in the following
year, proves him to have been in prosperous circumstances, while the
fact that he continued to hold his appointments, and to receive fresh
and even more honourable ones, testifies to the respect in which he was
held by his fellow-citizens. In pleasant contrast with Michelangelo's
accusation are the glimpses we have of his stately old age, through
Vasari. "And at last," he writes, "having completed works for nearly
all the princes of Italy, and being now old, he returned to Cortona,
where, in his last years, he worked more for pleasure than any other
reason, as one who, accustomed to labour, knew not how to be idle."[26]
Of these later paintings the "Deposition" of Umbertide proves that the
old man of seventy-five had lost little of his power. It is one of his
most beautiful and tender renderings of a scene he has so often painted.
The "Madonna," now in the Arezzo Gallery, painted three years later
(1519), shows, perhaps, a slight falling off in technical power, while
retaining to the full his characteristic grandeur of conception. It was
this picture which, Vasari tells us, was borne on the shoulders of the
brothers, for whose order it was painted, from Cortona to Arezzo, and
Luca, old as he was, insisted on accompanying them, partly to place it
in position, as was customary, and partly to revisit his friends and
relations. The biographer gives a characteristic incident in connection
with this visit, told so charmingly, that I can do no better than
transcribe it:--

"And he, being lodged in the house of the Vasari, where I was a little
child of eight years, I remember how that good old man, who was always
gracious and courteous, having learnt from the master who first taught
me my letters, that I cared for nothing else at school but drawing
pictures; I remember, I say, he turned to Antonio, my father, and said
to him: 'Antonio, since Giorgio takes after his family, let him by all
means be taught how to draw, because, even if he cares for literature,
to know how to draw cannot but be a source of honour and enjoyment, if
not of utility, to him, as to every honourable man.' Then he turned to
me, who stood up straight before him, and said, 'Learn, little
kinsman.'" And Vasari adds, how, hearing that he suffered much from
bleeding at the nose, which sometimes left him half dead, Signorelli
hung a jasper charm about his neck, "with infinite tenderness. Which
memory of Luca," he concludes, "will remain eternally fixed in my
soul."[27]--One of those delightful human touches of which the writings
of Vasari are so full.

This visit to Arezzo took place only four years before his death. He
must have died in 1523, at the age of eighty-two, but there is no
special record of the event, the date being gathered only from a
document, which tells of the election on the 8th of December of another
Inspector of Santa Margherita, to fill the place of the dead
painter.[28] On the 13th of October of the same year, he had made his
last will, leaving, with many minor bequests, the bulk of his property
to his son, Pier Tommaso, and his grandson, Giulio, and expressing his
desire to be buried in the tomb of his family in the Church of S.
Francesco.[29] In his first edition, Vasari tells us that, after his
death, his memory was honoured by many epitaphs, among which he quotes
the following:--

    "Pianga Cortona omai, vestasi oscura,
    Che estinti son' del Signorello i lumi;
    Et tu, Pittura, fa de gli occhi fiumi,
    Chè resti senza lui debili e scura."[30]

Apparently Signorelli retained his health and energy up to the end of
his long life, for only the year before his death he had accepted fresh
appointments in Cortona, and, in addition to his old offices, was
filling those of Priore of the Fraternity of S. Mark, Sindaco del
Capitans, and several others, religious and secular. He was, moreover,
still actively painting, and in the very year of his death he completed
the altar-piece for the Church at Foiano, a work as noble and majestic
in conception as it is vigorous in execution, besides accepting a
commission from the Priori to paint them an altar-piece for the chapel
of their palace.

I can do no better than conclude this scanty history with the character
of the man, as it is told us by Vasari: "Luca was a person of excellent
habits, sincere and affectionate with his friends, sweet and agreeable
in his converse with everyone, specially courteous to those who had need
of his help, and kindly in his instructions to his pupils. He lived most
splendidly, and delighted in dressing well. For the which good qualities
he was always, in his own country and elsewhere, held in the highest


[1] The "Madonna" (No. 281), and "The Flagellation" (No. 262), Brera,

[2] It was the fame of Lazzaro's son Giorgio as an imitator of antique
vases that won for the family the name Vasari.

[3] Vasari, ii. 553.

[4] Vasari, ii. 554.

[5] Vasari, ii. 553. Editor's Notes.

[6] Vasari, iii. 683 and 684.

[7] Vasari, iii. 295.

[8] Muzi, "Memorie," p. 48; and Giacomo Mancini, "Istruzioni," ii. 66
and 67.

[9] For the dates of these various appointments, see the Chronological
Table, p. 121.

[10] I have thought it best only to translate those titles which have a
corresponding meaning in our own country.

[11] Vischer, p. 7.

[12] It is with the utmost diffidence I venture to hold a different
opinion from a critic of such weight as Morelli (see "Italian Painters,"
i. 92), but a careful comparison has forced me to subscribe to the later
judgments. Crowe & Cavalcaselle (see Cavalcaselle e Crowe, viii. 453)
and Vischer (Signorelli, p. 311) have both maintained that a great part
of the execution reveals the hand of Bartolommeo della Gatta. One of the
latest critics, Mr B. Berensen, presumes that the whole fresco is by
him. I know too little of this painter's style to be able to form an
opinion, feeling certain only that it is not by Signorelli.

[13] See Chronological Table, p. 122.

[14] Arch. dell opera del Duomo di Firenze. Deliberazioni dall'anno 1486
all'anno 1491. A Carte 77. The document merely mentions his name among
those who were unable to attend.

[15] See Chronological Table, p. 122.

[16] See "Guida all'arcicenobio di Monte Oliveto" (Siena, 1844), p. 20.

[17] Proved by a document in the Orvieto Archives, containing a list of
materials handed over by the Treasurer of the Works to Polidoro. See
Vischer, p. 102.

[18] Now in the Opera del Duomo, Orvieto. The portrait of Signorelli in
the frontispiece is the half of this painting.

[19] The letter is transcribed in Vischer, p. 356.

[20] Vasari, iii. 691.

[21] In the reprint of Cesariano's "Comments on Vitruvius," by G. B.
Caporali. (Perugia, 1536). The passage is quoted in Vermiglioli's
"Memorie di Pintorricchio" (1837), pp. 5 and 6.

[22] Vasari, iv. 329.

[23] The biographers of Signorelli, following the lead of Vasari, have
dwelt much on his friendship with contemporary princes--the Baglioni,
Vitelli, etc.; till we have grown to think of him rather as a silk-clad
courtier than a hard-working burgher and painter. It may well be that,
like Leonardo, he combined work with luxury, but the evidence is of too
slight a nature to allow us to consider that side of his life, if it
really existed. Of his friendship with Lorenzo dei Medici, however,
there is more proof, since he painted for him, and was evidently
influenced by his classic tastes, as several of his pictures show.

[24] The letter is transcribed in Vischer, p. 359.

[25] Vasari, iii. 683.

[26] Vasari, iii. 692.

[27] Vasari, iii. 693.

[28] Mancini, "Notizie," 94.

[29] Arch. Gen. di Contratti di Firenze. Rogiti di Ser Baldelli. Filza
dal 1507 al 1524.


    "Let Cortona weep henceforth, and clothe herself in black,
    For the light of Signorello is extinguished;
    And thou, Painting, make rivers of thine eyes
    For without him thou remainest weak and obscure."

[31] Vasari, iii. 695.



The foregoing chapter contains only a bare record of certain facts in
the life of Luca Signorelli. Fortunately time has spared many of his
paintings, and in the study of these we get a fuller insight into his
nature and his aims. A man's work is, after all, the most satisfactory
and reliable document for those who take the pains to decipher it--the
autobiography which every man of genius bequeaths to posterity.

We have seen how by good fortune he was placed as a child to study
painting under Pier dei Franceschi, who was of all men most able to
bring out in his pupils the finer instincts and nobler qualities of
their genius. By his guidance and example, no doubt, Signorelli
cultivated his natural breadth of conception and of treatment, which
give grandeur and impressive solemnity to all his works, besides
acquiring the technical excellences of good drawing, solid modelling,
and the broad massing of the shadows, which are so characteristic of
Piero's own painting. The spirit of master and pupil was fundamentally
alike, the chief points of dissimilarity in their work arising from
minor divergences of temperament. Both were men of robust mind, with a
message of resolute purpose to deliver. Both chose to express themselves
through the medium of the human form in its most vigorous aspects, and
were, therefore, pre-occupied with mastering its structure. But while
Piero, with a serene nature, chose to represent unemotional figures like
the sculptures of the ancient Egyptians, the restless and impetuous
spirit of Signorelli preferred scenes of violent action, and energetic

It was, perhaps, the entire affinity of their temperament, as well as
his passion for anatomical study, which led him to choose his second
master in a man whose taste for realism, and interest in the action of
muscle and movement of limb was as keen as his own. On Antonio
Pollaiuolo, even more than on Pier dei Franceschi, had fallen the mantle
of Paolo Uccello's investigating spirit. As the latter gave all his
attention to applying the laws of perspective to landscape and figures,
so the efforts of Pollaiuolo were concentrated on giving freedom to the
limbs. Great anatomist though he was, Piero was not so ardent a lover of
the Nude for its own sake as the Florentine, and the problems of
movement have little interest for him, whereas in the most
characteristic work of Pollaiuolo it is evident that the scenes are
chosen to display the muscles in tense prominence, and the limbs in
violent action or unusual posture.[32] With precisely the same interests
in the human structure and its movements, it is no wonder that
Signorelli caught so much of his style and mannerisms. The influence of
Antonio Pollaiuolo was stronger than any other in the development of
his actual work, and is visible in all his paintings up to the last in
greater or less degree, but only less important is that of Donatello, to
whom Antonio himself owed so much. Forty years before the birth of
Signorelli, Donatello had been able to carve the human form with
absolute perfection of anatomy, and not only that, but to endow it with
freedom of limb and overflowing life. It is easy to suppose the
impression his statues must have made on the youth, whose spirit was so
much akin to his own in exuberant energy, and who had the same
uncompromising love of realism. The two artists had much in common in
their confident self-reliance, and almost arrogant buoyancy of nature,
which was the true Renaissance expression, and the outward sign of its
immense strength. Signorelli caught and revived the very essence of
Donatello's spirit--the love of bodily life in its most hopeful and
vigorous manifestations. It is significant that the swaggering posture
which became such a special feature of his painting, should have
originated with Donatello. Donatello was, before all things, a realist,
and it was probably the habitual attitude of the cavalry soldier of the
day, accustomed to straddle over the broad back of his war-horse, but
there is little doubt that it was adopted by Signorelli from the "S.
George" of Or San Michele, and perhaps half-unconsciously signified to
him--what that statue so well embodies--the confident spirit of youth
and strength. In his portrait of Pippo Spana, now in S. Apollonia,
Florence, Andrea di Castagno also imitated and emphasised it, as also
did Botticelli in his carved background of the "Calumny," and Perugino
in many of his paintings. But Botticelli's painted statue and Perugino's
"S. Michael" and "Warriors" of the Cambio seem to spread their legs
because they are too puny to bear the weight of the body in any other
manner, while with Signorelli, the attitude became the keynote of his
resolute indomitable nature, and so much a part of his work, that one is
apt to forget it did not originate with him.

Although the character and aims of the two men are so entirely
different, yet to Perugino, Signorelli owed much in his methods of
producing the feeling of free space, and the life and movement of the
atmosphere. Perugino's greatest gift to Art was this power of rendering
the magic of the sun-warmed air and the sense of illimitable distance.
He gave to his landscapes space and depth, the gentle stir of wind, and
the golden shimmer of sunshine. Signorelli also learnt this power of
presenting the life of hill and tree and sky, and some of his effects of
distance have the space and grandeur almost of Nature herself. He also,
like Perugino, could detach his figures from the background, and send
the line of hills receding back to the horizon. Signorelli owes to him,
besides, certain superficial characteristics, such as the fluttering
scarfs and ribbon-like draperies, and the upturned face with ecstatic
eyes which belongs to the Umbrian painter as much as the drooping head
belongs to Botticelli.

From these four great artists Signorelli learnt what each had best to
give, and assimilated and made it his own, with unerring instinct for
its virtue in aiding his own specific qualities. Not that he was in any
sense an eclectic, but he had the unconscious tendency of the healthy
soul to seize upon the food that best ministers to its nourishment. Thus
the fine genius and inspiration of Pier dei Franceschi and the grace of
Perugino saved him from becoming too rigorously realistic under the
influence of the scientific Florentines, Donatello and Pollaiuolo,
working upon his own uncompromising nature.

The most important writers on Signorelli--Crowe and Cavalcaselle,[33]
Rumohr,[34] and, above all, Vischer,[35] mention several other masters,
who, they claim, exercised an influence upon his work, and it is obvious
that to the Sienese school generally he was indebted for many decorative
methods, particularly in the use of gold and gilded gesso. There are
also in some of his paintings reminiscences of Verrocchio and Fiorenzo
di Lorenzo; but an impression of sufficient depth to be considered, must
touch the spirit, and here there appears to me to be little besides
superficial resemblances. It must be remembered, moreover, in the case
of Verrocchio, how much he himself owed to Donatello, while with respect
to the asserted influence of Pintorricchio, it is more probable that
what likeness there is in their style should testify to the impression
of the stronger upon the weaker nature. With Andrea di Castagno his
work, both in outward form and in spirit, has something in common; and
no doubt Signorelli was impressed by paintings which themselves show so
much the influence of Donatello.

As we have seen, Luca's chief interest, like that of Pollaiuolo, lay in
the effort to render movement of limb with facility, and therefore his
attention was concentrated on the muscles and their action. We do not
know how long he studied anatomy from the dead and living model in the
Florentine workshop, nor have we any example of his gradual development,
for when he first appears before us in his earliest remaining work, "The
Flagellation," of the Brera, he is already the master who has conquered
all the difficulties of muscular movement, and surpassed even Antonio
Pollaiuolo in freedom of gesture and correct anatomy.

It is not till later, however, that the most important advance he made
on previous painting first begins to show itself--the power, namely, of
rendering combined action, of working the limbs of a crowd into a single
movement. This is Signorelli's special achievement, on the merits of
which he takes rank with the most important masters of the Quattrocento
as a pioneer and teacher. Great as was Pollaiuolo's command over gesture
and action, it was limited to the combination of two figures only,[36]
while with Signorelli the action of the single figure is held
subordinate to that of the multitude. He gives the stately march of an
army, as in the Umbertide predella and the Monte Oliveto fresco; the
writhings of innumerable figures, like heaps of coiled serpents, as in
the "Damnation" of Orvieto; the rush of a violent mob stirred by a
common impulse, as in the Florence and Cortona "Betrayals." This command
over united movement was new in painting, though, like all other
difficulties, it had been already mastered by Donatello, as we see in
his romping children of the Prato pulpit, and the Florence Cantoria, to
name only two examples. Botticelli, who, with so different a nature, had
yet, in common with the robust Signorelli, this passion for swift
movement, achieved later, it is true, almost as great triumphs[37]; but
to Luca belongs the merit of having endowed painting with the same
freedom of combined movement which Donatello had given to sculpture.

Unlike Botticelli, he is consistently a lover of energy all through his
life, and as the source of energy, of strength, and vigorous health. His
grand conception of the body is one of the chief characteristics of his
work. Strong and stately, it is a fit receptacle for the spirit of
resolution and self-confidence with which he animates it. His Virgins
are like goddesses, and seem to typify for him the strength of
womanhood. Nowhere do we see nobler beauty than in his angels and
archangels. In these "divine birds"[38] he seems to have recognised the
ideal of all he strove for, and their wings are symbols to him of swift
movement and superhuman strength. It was always strength that attracted
him, and strength conscious of its own force, finding its expression in
exuberant animation. Thus he loves to paint the swaggering soldiers,
whose attitudes express their audacious self-reliance. He gives the
luxuriant life of Nature as no one else gave it, and his trees and
plants are as robust and unyielding as his firmly-planted figures. His
angels' wings are not merely decorative, but have real power of muscle
under the plumes to lift the body and bear it aloft without fatigue.

He was a lover of beauty, but it was not for beauty he strove, or we
should not so often find bits of realistic ugliness to risk the harmony
of his noblest paintings. Grace and charm seemed to come to him
unsought, as natural adjuncts of a vigorous and healthy nature; but his
deliberate choice of types of face and form, were those which, by their
strength, promised satisfaction to his love of energetic action. From
the first this tendency is noticeable, for example, in the
above-mentioned "Flagellation," and the Loreto "Conversion of Saul," and
goes on increasing until it reaches a climax in the frescoes of Orvieto.

Once one has grasped the main motive of Signorelli's work, his
preoccupation with movement, and consequently with the muscles, his
frequent defects and inequalities in other respects become, as faults of
inattention, less incomprehensible. For example, his values of distance
are often faulty, and give the unpleasant sensation that one figure is
standing on the top of another,[39] a defect of carelessness, for no one
is a better master of aerial perspective when he chooses. Again, his
hands and feet are often incorrectly drawn and badly modelled, but it is
only when they are not essential to the action; for although the drawing
of hands and feet is always perhaps his weakest point, yet even in his
early painting of the "Flagellation" he has already mastered some of
their greatest difficulties of foreshortening. The recognition of the
intention in a man's work enables one to dispense with much adverse
criticism in detail. It would be wearisome to reiterate the faults of
drawing in each picture when we come to deal with them separately, and
it is better to recognise in the outset that, in pursuit of a certain
definite end, Signorelli is careless of what seems to him unessential at
the moment.

Thus in dealing with him as a colourist[40] we have to bear in mind that
it was by line and modelling chiefly that his effects of movement were
obtained. To be over-critical of the shortcomings of his colour,
therefore, would be as foolish as to miss the charm of Bonifazio's
splendid harmonies in abuse of some defect of drawing. Sometimes, in
fact, Signorelli gains his end by the very crudeness and heaviness for
which he is generally condemned, the sharp contrasts giving a rugged
strength to his painting, and the copper colour of the flesh adding
robustness to the figures.

It would, however, be most unjust to speak as if his colour were always,
or even usually, crude and harsh. On the contrary, in landscape it is
invariably beautiful; and he uses certain golden and moss-greens in
foliage and grass, and a limpid greenish-blue in water, which are most
harmonious. Sometimes it is gorgeous, and in nearly all his early
paintings there is a beauty of red and soft green, and a warmth of
golden glow of great depth and tenderness. He had, perhaps, a tendency
to the use of too heavy colour, especially in the flesh; and he himself
seems aware of it, for, in middle life, for a brief time, he changed his
tone to an almost silvery lightness, with very pale flesh-tints, as in
the Uffizi "Holy Family," No. 1291, and again, after working at Orvieto,
in the "Dead Christ supported by Angels," of S. Niccolò, Cortona, whose
general colour is almost like honey; but he relapses always into his
characteristic dark tones, especially in the works of his old age, which
are for the most part heavy and rather harsh, with flesh-tints of the
reddish-brown of terra-cotta.

It is, as I have said, by form rather than colour that Signorelli
obtains his best effects. He is a superb linealist, as the often-quoted
"Flagellation" shows, and one is inclined to wish he had oftener used
outline, as here, in the manner of Pier dei Franceschi. His line is firm
and clear, simple and structural, of unerring sweep and accuracy, as we
see in his numerous _predella_ paintings; but even more remarkable is
the wonderful plastic quality of his modelling. By this he makes us
realise better than any one before him the tenseness of sinew, the
resistance of hard muscle, and the supple elasticity of flesh, giving a
solidity and weight to his forms that make them impressive as grand

As an illustrator Signorelli is most unequal; brilliant and dramatic
when the subject appealed to his taste, as in the Orvieto frescoes,
often weak, as in his treatment of sacred themes. He was essentially a
religious painter, but in the widest meaning of the word, and he does
not seem to have felt the dignity and significance of many of the scenes
in the life of Christ. When he has to paint Him bound to the pillar or
nailed to the Cross, submissive to scourging and insult, his interest
seems to wander from what should be the central figure, and fixes itself
on some two or three of the minor actors, to whom he gives the
importance he should have concentrated on the Christ. The painter _con
amore_ of arrogant strength, he seems to have little in common with
meekness and humility that bows the head to scourging and martyrdom.
Thus in nearly all his "Crucifixions" the central figure is ignoble in
type and expression, and in the "Flagellations" of the Brera and of
Morra, is entirely without dignity, even ignominious. This is curious
when we consider that even more than of arrogant strength Signorelli was
the painter of stately and noble beauty.

Again it seems as if he cared only to represent figures of powerful
maturity, for there is a complete lack of sympathy in his painting of
children. With one or two exceptions, his child Christs are half-animal
little beings, more like tiny satyrs than human children, although not
without a certain pathos in their very ugliness. In a picture of as
great beauty and tender feeling as the "Holy Family," of the Rospigliosi
Collection, for example, the child is more animal than human. Unlike
Donatello, who delights in childhood, and sees in it the bubbling source
of future strength, Signorelli gives his babies the overweighted,
unelastic sadness of old age. In composing his Holy Families, therefore,
his attention is centred on the Virgin, the strong woman he loved to
paint, but the child he seems to feel as an accessory to be executed
because the Church has ordered it, and so he puts it in without thought
of all it meant and typified.

But although he sometimes falls short as an interpreter of the Church's
intention, the impressive grandeur of his work is in itself intensely
religious, and he makes us feel most solemnly the dignity of Nature, and
especially of the human form. Once he was stirred into something of the
Pagan spirit, probably under the influence of the court of Lorenzo, and
he touched the real note of Pantheism in the "Pan," of the Berlin
Gallery, and the noble figures in the background of the Uffizi and
Munich "Madonnas." In these the spiritual mood dominates and is
sustained throughout, and there is no sign of the scientific absorption
which sometimes in his treatment of the nude makes us too aware of the
student and the realist. One is at times conscious that, painting
straight from the life, Signorelli's interest lay chiefly in a faithful
reproduction of the body before him. His dead Christs for example, were
obviously copied exactly as the corpses lay or hung in his studio. The
S. Onofrio of the Perugia altar-piece, stood just so, a half-starved
street-beggar, with baggy skin over rheumatic joints. The angel in the
same picture, chosen perhaps for its grace of face, must be reproduced
exactly as the child sat, with weak legs and ungainly body. Each figure
is a truthful study from life, and it was that which interested the
painter, and not that he was representing saints and angels whose noble
beauty was supposed to elevate the mind to a state of worship.

Yet with all his realistic treatment, he was intensely alive to the
graces of decoration, both in general lines and in detail. In the
frescoes of Loreto, and more particularly of Orvieto, the mere scheme of
decoration is superb, and adds beauty and distinction to every subtle
line of the architecture. He pays attention, also, to the minor details
of decorative effect, and takes pains with the ornaments and
embroideries; while his use of gold, and embossing with gesso, add much
to the æsthetic charm of his work, and proves that he could, when
necessary, subordinate his love of realism to his sense of beauty.

Before summing up the chief qualities of Signorelli's work, I must not
omit one characteristic which points to the strength of his
personality--the way he repeats his own types (and not types only, but
precisely the same forms) time after time, and often after the lapse of
many years. The child Christs he paints over and over again, the same
figure, sometimes exactly in the same attitude, as in the "Madonnas," of
the Florence Academy and of the Brera. The seated burly Bishop of the
Loreto vaulting (one of his earliest works) occurs again in the Volterra
"Madonna," and again (painted many years later) in the "Madonna," of the
Florence Academy. Line for line he reproduces the figure of Echo, out of
the early "Pan," into the fresco of "The Crowning of the Elect," at
Orvieto. In one or two cases he boldly repeats the same figure in the
same picture, feature for feature, as in the Virgin and S. John of the
Rospigliosi "Holy Family," limb for limb as in the flying soldiers of
the Loreto "Conversion of Saul."

He was also most faithful to his own type of limb or feature, especially
those in which Morelli has taught us always to look for similarity. The
fleshy ear, with its slightly pointed top, is nearly invariable, as also
is the broad hand with its little outlined nails and thick wrists.

In glancing rapidly over the whole of Signorelli's work, consistency to
an absorbing interest is the note struck again and again. He has set
himself from the first a task--the mastery of the human structure and
its movements; and with the resolution and perseverance of a strong
nature, he never swerves from his purpose. This is the conscious aim and
intention of the artist. What he was able to give to the world, of
nobility and dignity--a wider and healthier conception of Nature and her
power and beauty--was the Message of his Genius, of which he was himself
unconscious, but which spoke all the more forcibly for the learning
acquired by hard application and earnest effort. In a detailed study of
his painting, it may be that the student of anatomy and the realist
often assert themselves, but as grand figure after grand figure has
passed before the mind, the general impression is solemn and ennobling.
"To no other contemporary painter," says Morelli, "was it given to endow
the human frame with the like degree of passion, vehemence and
strength."[41] To this we may add that no other painter has ever
conceived Humanity with the same stately grandeur and in the same broad
spirit. The confident strength of youth, the stern austerity of middle
life, the resolute solemnity of old age--these are his themes.
Signorelli is, before all, the painter of the dignity of human life.


[32] It is sufficient to cite the double picture of "Hercules," of the
Uffizi, the "S. Sebastian," of the National Gallery, and the engraving
called "The Battle of the Nudes."

[33] Cavalcaselle e Crowe, viii. 424, etc.

[34] Ital. Forsch. ii. 333.

[35] Vischer, 77, etc. Vischer considers the likeness to Fiorenzo due to
their mutual relation to Verrocchio.

[36] Even the splendid decorative engraving called "The Battle of the
Nudes," is only a series of duels. A comparison of these figures with
the two nude executioners in the Brera "Flagellation" will justify the
assertion of Signorelli's superiority as a master of anatomy and

[37] Specially in "The Death of Virginia," of the Morelli Collection,
Bergamo, and the sketched figures in the repainted "Adoration of the
Magi," lately exposed in the Uffizi.

[38] "Purgatorio," ii. 38.

[39] For example, in the "Madonna," of the Mancini Collection, and "The
Crowning of the Elect," at Orvieto.

[40] Signorelli's pictures, when not frescoed, are invariably painted
with oil.

[41] "Italian Painters," i. 92.



One of the most remarkable things in the history of Signorelli's work,
considering what a number of his paintings remain, is that only two of
them can be placed with any degree of certainty as having been executed
before his fortieth year. These two are the "Madonna" (No. 281), and
"The Flagellation" (No. 262), in the Brera Gallery, Milan. This last,
however--"The Flagellation"--indicates in what manner much of his
earlier time had been employed, for although betraying in parts a
certain youthful immaturity, yet the skilful drawing and thorough
comprehension of anatomy shown in the nudes, especially in the backs of
the two executioners, reveals already the practised hand of a master of
his craft.

[Illustration: [_Brera, Milan_


The best studies of the nude remaining to us by earlier painters, are
the figures in "The Death of Adam," by Pier dei Franceschi, in his
frescoes at Arezzo, the "Hercules overcoming Antæus," and "The Battle of
the Nudes," by Antonio Pollaiuolo, in the Uffizi Gallery. It is
sufficient to compare with these the freer rendering of gesture, and the
greater accuracy of the anatomy in Signorelli's executioners, to see
what an advance he had already made upon any previous painting. (I
limit, of course, this assertion to painting only, for in sculpture
Donatello had years before given free gesture and perfect anatomy to his
statues.) It would be impossible to overrate the excellence and beauty
of drawing in the splendid swing of the bodies, the flexibility of the
limbs, the sinewy elasticity of the leg muscles, and above all, the
subtle suggestion of muscular movement under the loose skin of the
backs. There is here, even more than in his later painting, an
appreciation of the relative values of the muscles, and a consequent
breadth of modelling, which he lost somewhat, by over-accentuation, in
his subsequent treatment of the nude. The inequalities of the picture
betray wherein lay the painter's chief interest, for to this skilful
mastery of the difficulties of anatomy are opposed the rather childish
conception of the Pilate and the stiff action of all the clothed
figures. His apprenticeship to Pier dei Franceschi is here sufficiently
proved, not so much by any likeness of colour or of composition to "The
Flagellations," of that master, in Urbino and Borgo San Sepolero, as in
the firm, clear outlining of the nude figures, their solid modelling,
and in the broad massing of the shadows.

Even more apparent is the influence of Antonio Pollaiuolo, in the great
realism with which the subject is treated, and in such superficial
resemblances as the type of head of the executioner who binds the hands
of Christ, and the characteristic striped loin-cloths.

The Christ is one of Signorelli's most ignoble presentations of the
Saviour, and yet it seems as though he had tried to give graces which
should harmonise with a certain conception of the character--the hair,
for example, is the beautiful rippling hair of a woman, the bent head
and downcast eyes represent the gentleness of resignation, and the
attitude of the legs is intended to be graceful. But the effort to curb
his own natural instinct for pride and strength makes him strike a false
note, and his attempt to give the beauty of meekness has resulted only
in producing a mask of hypocritical inertia.

The picture was painted for the Church of Santa Maria del Mercato in
Fabriano, and this, as well as the fact of its being precisely the same
size, and with the same curved top, seems to argue that it formed
originally one picture with the Madonna, No. 281 of the same gallery,
whose _provenance_ is also from that church. Here the Virgin sits,[42]
clad in a gold garment and blue green-lined mantle, with the Child on
her knee, and floating round her dark-green cherubs' heads. She is the
powerful type of woman, from which in his Virgins Signorelli never
departed, but in this case with a rather cow-like expression, which gave
place later to a tender or noble dignity. The face of the Child has lost
its original character through repainting, but the cherubs' heads
surrounding the throne, have the overweighted, half-animal expression of
which I have already spoken as characteristic of his children.

Next in order, as far as can be judged by the internal evidence of the
painting, come the frescoes in the sacristy of the church of the Santa
Casa at Loreto. They were finished some time before 1484, and bear very
marked traces of Florentine impressions. Of these Vasari writes: "In
Santa Maria di Loreto, he painted in the sacristy in fresco, the four
Evangelists, the four Doctors, and other Saints, which are very
beautiful; and for this work he was liberally rewarded by Pope
Sixtus."[43] This is a mistake, for the patron of the church was
Cardinal Girolamo Basso della Rovere, and the presence of his
coat-of-arms in the centre of the cupola is evidence that the work was
executed at his expense.

In each of the eight compartments of this roof is painted a standing
angel, playing or tuning musical instruments--most graceful and
beautiful figures. Below are seated the four Evangelists and four
Fathers of the Church, against a gold background, who seem, in their
impressive grandeur to be prototypes of the prophets and sybils of
Michelangelo's Sistine frescoes. I do not agree with Vischer in seeing
the hand of Bartolommeo della Gatta in the angels. They show much of the
influence of Pollaiuolo, and seem to me to be Signorelli's unassisted
work. The face and gesture of one of them especially--the angel in the
flowered robe playing a lute--is almost a duplicate of the child on the
_gradino_ of the throne in the Perugia altar-piece. The bishop in the
compartment next this angel is repeated in the Volterra "Madonna and
Saints," and in that of the Florence Academy.

[Illustration: [_Santa Casa, Loreto_


In the divisions of the walls under the roof are painted the twelve
Apostles, grand and stately figures, standing two in each compartment,
divided by imitation pilasters, and forming a magnificent frieze round
the walls. The draperies are exceedingly broadly painted and this
breadth of treatment and the boldness of the design gives importance to
the figures. There being seven compartments to be filled, in two of them
Signorelli has introduced the figure of Christ, treated this time with
dignity, perhaps because here He is represented as the Master, and not
the "Man of Sorrows." In one He reproves S. Peter (?), who turns away
with conscience-stricken humility very nobly rendered; in the other He
shows the marks of the Passion to the incredulous Thomas. These two are
perhaps the finest of the series, and are, besides, dramatic in gesture
and expression. The composition of the last is, with evident intention,
borrowed from Verrocchio's group on the walls of Or San Michele,
Florence, but the likeness ends with the general lines of composition.
Vischer makes a strong point of this, as a proof of Verrocchio's
influence on Signorelli,[44] but to me it seems that feeling, types of
face, and especially the broad and simple treatment of the draperies are
entirely different.

[Illustration: [_Santa Casa, Loreto_


The most important of these frescoes, however, as best illustrating
Signorelli's own peculiar tendencies, is "The Conversion of Saul," in
the compartment over the door. He has realised the scene with emotion,
and rendered it with a most convincing dramatic power, giving the
suddenness of the fall of the principal figure, and the excitement and
panic-stricken terror of the soldiers, with wonderful truth and
animation. It is interesting to note the almost exact repetition of the
same figure in the two soldiers who hurry away to the left, but it is
not at all mechanical, and in no way detracts from the excellence of
the composition. Very Pollaiuolesque is the figure with raised shield in
the foreground to the right, and one feels the influence of Perugino in
the spacious empty distance of the background, from which the figures
are so well detached.

[Illustration: [_Santa Casa, Loreto_


As decoration these frescoes are exceedingly fine, the grand row of
figures, besides the stately strength of each separate group, being most
impressive in general effect. They have been much damaged. For many
years used as a sacristy, the greasy smoke of the incense had so
blackened the walls that the frescoes were nearly invisible. The skilful
cleaning of Signor Guiseppe Missaghi, at the instigation of Signor
Cavalcaselle, has restored to them much of their original beauty,
although the colour still remains somewhat obscured.

On the roof of the nave, in the church itself, are painted a series of
frescoes in _grisaille_, twenty-six Prophets and Fathers of the Church,
somewhat over life size, seated one in each medallion. They are solemn
and impressive figures like those in the sacristy, and painted on the
same broad lines, and remind one strongly of the two medallions, also in
_grisaille_, in the "Madonna," of the Uffizi Corridor. All of them have
severely suffered from repainting.

"The Adoration of the Magi," formerly in the Campana Gallery, Rome, now
No. 389 of the Louvre, seems to have been painted in 1482. Crowe and
Cavalcaselle[45] rightly consider its execution to be the work of
assistants, by reason of the rawness of colour and general coarseness of
the painting; yet in composition, and in many of the figures, there is
so much of the master's impressive dignity, that I feel compelled to
regard the drawing, in parts at least, as his own. The stately Madonna,
and the noble figure of the King on her right, whose draperies have the
same sweeping breadth as those in the National Gallery, "Circumcision,"
as well as the solid, well-seated figures of the mounted attendants,
seem to be Signorelli's own composing. The Child is also characteristic,
and resembles that in the _Tondo_ of the Pitti Gallery. The badly-drawn
horses, again, seem his, for it will be noticed all through his work
that he has never cared to thoroughly master their form, and paints them
always with curious mannerisms of too closely-placed nostrils, and human
eyebrows, which show how little attention he had given to their anatomy.

The first dated picture remaining is the altar-piece of the Perugia
Cathedral, painted in 1484, of which Vasari writes: "Also in Perugia he
painted many works; and among others in the Cathedral, for Messer Jacopo
Vannucci of Cortona, Bishop of the city, a picture in which is Our Lady,
Sant Onofrio, Sant Ercolano, S. John Baptist, S. Stephen,[46] and an
angel, most beautiful, who tunes a lute."[47] The inscription with the
date (given in the catalogue) are unfortunately hidden by the frame.
This is one of Signorelli's finest altar-pieces, the colour being
especially rich and harmonious, and it shows, even more than the Loreto
frescoes, the strength of Florentine influences. For example, very close
to Pollaiuolo is the figure of the angel tuning the lute, with its
striped scarf, and so also is the powerful head of S. Ercolano. The S.
Stephen is almost a reproduction of the bust of S. Lorenzo by Donatello
in the sacristy of the church of that saint in Florence, the aged S.
Onofrio again recalls his wooden statue of S. Jerome in Faenza, and
finally the motive of the cut flowers in glasses is borrowed from the
triptych of Hugo van der Goes in the Gallery of Santa Maria Nuova,
Florence. The ornamental accessories are singularly fine and careful in
finish, and it would seem as though Signorelli had been inspired in
this, not only by the great tryptych, but also by the followers of the
Paduan Squarcione. In the last chapter I have pointed out the extreme
realism with which the figures are treated, but this does not spoil the
impressive grandeur of the painting, gained by the broad style and the
stately simplicity of the composition. The Virgin sits firmly, with the
mantle resting in heavy folds across her knees; the S. Stephen is
overflowing with the vigorous life of youth; the splendidly-draped
bishop is a powerful and majestic figure; and there is real tenderness
and grace in the face of the angel, notwithstanding the want of symmetry
in the body and legs. The painting has suffered from restoration, but on
the whole is fairly well preserved, and may be seen to advantage in the
quiet of this well-lighted winter-chapel.

[Illustration: [_Cathedral, Perugia_


Crowe and Cavalcaselle place "The Circumcision," of the National
Gallery, formerly in Volterra, as about the same date as the
foregoing;[48] Vischer, presuming that it was painted at the same time
with the dated pictures of 1491 still remaining in Volterra, groups it
with them; but the similarity of colour and treatment lead me to accept
the former theory. The distance from Cortona to Volterra is not very
great, and the fact that he was painting there in 1491 does not preclude
the possibility of his having painted there six or seven years before,
even if it was executed on the spot, which was not by any means always
the case. At all events the picture has much in common with the Perugia
altar-piece, both in warmth of colour, simplicity of composition and
splendid breadth of execution. The painting of this "Circumcision" is
bold and resolute, the draperies sweep in broad folds round the figures.
The attitude of the standing woman to the right is grand, and the
earnest concentration of the faces on the ceremony, and the absence of
any connecting link between them and us, give dramatic reality to the
scene. Vasari writes of it: "At Volterra he painted in fresco"--(a
mistake--it is his usual oil medium)--"in the church of S. Francesco,
above the altar of the brotherhood, the Circumcision of our Lord, which
is considered marvellously beautiful; although the Child, having
suffered from the damp, was repainted by Sodoma much less beautiful than
it was before."[49] This unfortunate repainting, which has also
evidently included part of the Virgin's face, was more probably due to
the monks' dislike of Signorelli's type of child than to any damage by
weather, for it would be strange that a picture, otherwise so well
preserved, should be injured by damp nowhere but in the part most
protected by reason of its central position. To support this theory,
under the painting by Sodoma may be clearly seen (in the painting--not
in the photograph) the original legs of the Child of Signorelli, in a
totally different position, showing that Sodoma had made no attempt to
keep to the drawing. The monks, no doubt, preferred the more commonplace
infant of Sodoma, but we, while acknowledging that the children of
Signorelli are far from what they should be, may regret the loss, as did
Vasari, who adds this comment: "It would be better to retain the work of
excellent men, even though half spoiled, than to have it repainted by
one who knows less."

[Illustration: [_National Gallery, London_


A very important group of paintings apparently of about this date, bear
the impress of the classic tastes of the Court of Lorenzo dei Medici,
for whom they seem to have been painted. It comprises the great picture
of "Pan," in the Berlin Gallery, the "Madonna," of the Uffizi Corridor,
and the Munich _Tondo_. I have been tempted to give them a much earlier
place, in the gap before the Perugia altar-piece, because they show so
much of the idealism and idyllic spirit, which seem properly to belong
to youth, but a careful comparison of them with that picture and the
Loreto frescoes, reveals a greater maturity of technique which makes so
early a placing not very probable. In all these three paintings there is
an appreciation of beauty for its own sake, and a true touch of the
Pantheistic spirit, combined with a melancholy grandeur, which is most

The finest of the three, the great canvas of "Pan," now in the Berlin
Gallery, is the picture of which Vasari wrote: "He painted for Lorenzo
dei Medici, on canvas, some nude gods, which were much praised ... and
presented to the said Lorenzo."[50] Sometimes called the "School of
Pan," it is more poetically described in the German catalogue "Pan, as
God of Natural Life, and Master of Music, with his Attendants." It is
full of poetry, and of idyllic charm with all its stately solemnity. The
sad beauty of the god as he listens to the music of the pipes, the
golden sunlight on the moss-green grass, the quiet peace of the scene,
have an entrancing effect, and we are transported in spirit to the same
"melodious plot of beechen green and shadows numberless" where Pan holds
his court.

[Illustration: [_Gallery, Berlin_


The bronze-coloured body of the god is magnificently modelled, with a
solidity unequalled even in the Orvieto frescoes. The style of
Pollaiuolo is noticeable, in the attitude of the youth lying at his
feet, particularly in the treatment of the legs. The figure of Echo is
repeated later in "The Crowning of the Elect," in Orvieto, though there
it has lost much of the idyllic charm of this wood-nymph. The grouping
of the figures is perhaps less happy than usual, but this time the bad
values of distance are no doubt due to the rough treatment the painting
has undergone. It has indeed had an eventful history. About thirty years
ago it was found by the late Signor Tricca, a noted restorer of
pictures, in the attics of the Palazzo Corsi, Florence. He hesitated at
first to recognise it certainly as the work of Signorelli, for all the
figures were covered from head to foot with draperies of obviously
eighteenth-century painting. On trial, however, he found that these were
easily removed, and as the nude figures were revealed, he at once
identified it as the picture of the nude gods, mentioned by Vasari. It
seems that it had passed into the possession of the Rinuccini family as
part of the dowry of one of the Medici, and on the marriage of one of
the ladies of the Rinuccini with a Marchese Corsi again formed part of
the bride's portion. Soon after its discovery and restoration the
Marchese Corsi died, and his brother Cardinal Corsi inherited the
property. Objecting to the picture on account of the nude figures, he
desired Signor Tricca to sell it, and it was then bought by Mr H. J.
Ross, who offered it to the English National Gallery. On the refusal of
the authorities to purchase it, it was acquired in 1873 by Dr Bode for
the Berlin Gallery, of which it is one of the greatest treasures.[51] It
has naturally suffered much from the process of cleaning away the later
draperies, and much of the under-painting is exposed, but enough remains
of its original beauty to rank it as the best of Signorelli's easel

Undoubtedly of the same date is the "Madonna," No. 74 of the Uffizi
Gallery. This picture was, also, according to Vasari, painted as a
present for Lorenzo dei Medici, and was for many years in the villa of
Duke Cosimo at Castello. It has the same idyllic beauty in the
background as the "Pan," and is painted in the same half-pagan spirit.
The Virgin, it is true, sits awkwardly, and with a rather ungainly
gesture of hands and arms, there are faults of drawing in the feet, and
the Child is ugly and insignificant. But these are faults easy to
overlook in considering the grandeur of the landscape, the beauty of the
colour, and, above all, the magnificent modelling of the nude figures
in the background. The Virgin gains in importance by the nobility of
these athletes behind her, but it is clear that Signorelli's interest
lay less in the melancholy Mother and Child, than in these superb
Titans, in whom he seems to have personified the forces of Nature. How
great was the influence of this picture upon Michelangelo we need only
take a few steps into the Tribuna to see, in his _Tondo_ of the Holy
Family, No. 1139. The painting is set in a kind of frame in _grisaille_,
surmounted by a head of S. John the Baptist, and two seated Prophets in

[Illustration: [_Uffizi, Florence_


Somewhat inferior in execution, but painted in exactly the same spirit,
is the "Madonna," of the Munich Gallery, formerly in the Palazzo Ginori,
Florence.[52] Here, as in the last, the Virgin sits, filling the
foreground space, a stately figure, with fingers pressed together, as if
in prayer to the Child at her feet. The background is a classic
landscape, through which runs a stream of the beautiful limpid green
with which Signorelli always paints water, and by its side sits another
of the noble nude figures, untying his sandal. It may be intended for S.
John the Baptist, as the critics say, but I do not think that either
here or in the Uffizi painting, Signorelli had any intention of adhering
to traditional illustration. It seems rather as though the pictures were
symbolic--expressive of some comparison in his mind between
Christianity, as he perhaps conceived it for the moment, melancholy
and dejected, and the Greek Pantheism, vigorous and strong, and radiant
with the joy of life.

Another picture belonging to this beautiful group is the "Portrait of a
Man," in the Berlin Gallery, formerly in the Torrigiani Collection,
Florence. In the days before it was photographed it was considered to be
a portrait of Signorelli himself, and, as it represents a man with grey
hair, was naturally reckoned among his later works; but comparison with
the two portraits at Orvieto show that there is no real resemblance of
feature, while the technique and spirit of the painting claim a place
for it among this early series.

Here again occur the classic figures, but this time with less of the
idyllic feeling. On one side are hurrying Apollo and Daphne(?), on the
other, one athlete has overthrown another, and stands menacingly over
his prey, who tries with ineffectual gestures to beat him off--a very
Pollaiuolesque scene of violence. The colouring, with its clear reds of
the _biretta_ and the robe, is very successful. With this powerful
portrait closes this beautiful and interesting group of paintings, the
_provenance_ of all four of which, it will be observed, is from

The two _Tondos_, of the Pitti and Corsini Galleries, Florence, must
have been painted at a date not far distant from those, for they have
much in common in certain forms, and particularly in the rich and
glowing scheme of colour.

The "Holy Family," of the Pitti Gallery, has been restored, and suffers
much from thick varnish and repainting, but nothing has spoilt the
harmony of the colours, nor the tender beauty of the Virgin, whose
features and expression are a repetition of those of Echo in the "Pan."
The Saint, who writes at the dictation of the Child, is painted with
earnestness, and the whole scene is treated with the utmost religious

The "Madonna and Saints," of the Corsini Gallery, has the same warm glow
of colour, and was probably painted about the same time. The Virgin sits
with the Child on her left knee, clad in a red robe, round the neck of
which little Loves are embroidered in gold. Over it she wears a
dark-green mantle shot with gold--a form of decoration very usual with
Signorelli, especially about this time. She has the beautiful, pale,
honey-coloured hair which occurs so often in his works, almost the same
colour which was characteristic of Palma's Venetian ladies later. To the
left kneels S. Jerome, gazing up at her, and on the right is S. Bernard
holding a pen and book. The painting is in a good state of preservation.

[Illustration: [_Pitti, Florence_


The rather insignificant type of head of S. Joseph occurs again in
another "Holy Family," which belongs approximately to the same
period,--that of the Rospigliosi Gallery in Rome. As far as beauty and
tender grace go, this is the most successful of all his Madonnas. The
daring repetition of the same features with darker colouring in the S.
John behind her, I have already drawn attention to. The draperies are
painted with great freedom, and a fine sweep of broad fold. They are
shot, as in the Corsini _Tondo_, with gold in the high lights.
Insignificant as is the Child in all these Holy Families, there is at
the same time something pathetic and winning in the earnest, careworn
little face.

[Illustration: [_Rospigliosi Gallery, Rome_


Very different is the type Signorelli has adopted for the Christ in the
Uffizi "Holy Family," No. 1291, which must be placed somewhere about
this time, or a very little later. Here He is represented with a certain
nobility of feature and gesture, although self-conscious and
unchildlike. The Greek profile of the Virgin is almost identical with
that of the above-mentioned Rospigliosi picture, while the powerful head
of S. Joseph carries us back to the figures in the "Circumcision." The
Virgin sits uneasily, ill-balanced, and with badly-modelled feet, but
the beauty of the face makes amends for these defects. It is a picture
full of noble qualities, both of feeling and technique, and it has
besides a special importance by reason of the difference of colour, so
much less heavy than usual. The flesh tints are very pale, and the
shadows a silvery grey, and the whole tone is much lighter than in any
of the preceding pictures. The composition is specially fine, the
attention being concentrated without effort on the central figure of the
Child, to which the other two serve as a kind of frame.

[Illustration: [Uffizi, Florence


I cannot leave this series of early works, which includes so many
_Tondos_, without drawing attention to the excellence of Signorelli's
composition in this difficult form. The figures fill the space naturally
and without any artificial bending of the heads to fit the shape; there
is a sense of space, and ease of grouping, and the large sweeping lines
of the draperies follow most harmoniously the curves of the panel.

With the exception of the Perugia altar-piece, none of the
above-mentioned paintings are dated. Inferentially we arrive at the time
when the Loreto frescoes were completed, but there is little to help in
grouping the rest beyond the internal evidence they afford. I have
endeavoured to place them in the order they seem most naturally to take,
with reference to colour, form, and the early influences to be observed
in them, but the arrangement must necessarily be somewhat arbitrary.

Fortunately this difficulty grows less and less in dealing with the
later works, and the most important of them are generally dated.


[42] I shall, as far as space permits, describe those pictures of which
illustrations cannot be inserted. Where the illustration is given, it
becomes unnecessary.

[43] Vasari, iii. 691.

[44] Vischer, p. 79.

[45] Cavalcaselle e Crowe, viii. 507. Note 1.

[46] I have thought it best only to translate those names that are
familiar to us in English.

[47] Vasari, iii. 685.

[48] Cavalcaselle e Crowe, viii. 455.

[49] Vasari, iii. 685.

[50] Vasari, iii. 689.

[51] I am indebted for the above facts to Mr H. J. Ross of Poggio
Gherardo, Florence, the original purchaser of the picture.

[52] The photograph gives so little idea of the beauty of the original
that I have not reproduced it.



We have now arrived at the paintings belonging to the year 1491, part of
which Signorelli spent in Volterra, three works still remaining in that
city to testify to the visit--"The Annunciation," of the Cathedral; the
"Madonna and Saints," now in the Gallery, both dated; and a much-injured
fresco in _grisaille_, representing S. Jerome, on the walls of the same
building--the Palazzo Communale.

The "Madonna enthroned with Saints" was painted for the altar of Maffei
Chapel in San Francesco, and was unfortunately removed not many years
ago to the Gallery of the Palazzo Communale, suffering the greatest
damage in the transit. Two large cracks run through the figures of the
Child and the seated Father; large pieces of the paint have dropped
away, and in the repainting the Child has lost all characteristics of
Signorelli's work. In the less ruined parts, however, enough remains to
testify to the original excellence of the painting, which is finely
composed, and broadly and vigorously treated, especially in the

The Virgin sits enthroned between four saints, with a very Peruginesque
angel on either side, and seated below, at the foot of her throne, are
two Fathers of the Church, in one of whom we have repeated the burly
bishop with wide-spread knees and fine sweeping drapery of the Loreto
cupola, and which occurs later in the Florence Academy altar-piece. The
influence of Pollaiuolo can be observed in the sculptures on the
_gradino_ of the throne, little nude figures in violent action.

In better preservation is the "Annunciation," in the Cathedral, signed,
and with the same date as the foregoing. The architecture, with its
excellent perspective, again reminds us that Signorelli was the pupil of
Pier dei Franceschi, the painter of the wonderful _loggia_ in the
"Annunciation," of Perugia. The Virgin is painted with great feeling,
and in the solemn beauty of the Archangel we get the first of those
splendid creatures whose sublimity Signorelli felt in the same spirit as
Dante, who bent his knees and folded his hands at the sight of the
"_Uccel divino_," "_trattando l'aere con l'eterne penne_."[53]

[Illustration: [_Cathedral, Volterra_


The resemblance is so great between this painting and the
"Annunciation," of the Uffizi _predella_ (No. 1298) that we are
justified in placing the latter somewhere about the same date. As is so
often the case in _predella_ pictures, especially with Signorelli's, the
spontaneity and freedom of execution, and even of conception, is much
greater here than in the more carefully thought-out and finished works.
Small as this panel is, the rush of the great Archangel, the solemn
beauty of the landscape, and the splendid attitudes of the young
courtiers in the last division, make it one of the master's most
important and characteristic paintings. The colour in the first panel
of the "Annunciation" is especially beautiful, and there is a noble
simplicity in the composition, as well as a breadth and certainty of
touch that give the picture great grandeur. The _predella_ is divided by
painted pilasters into three parts. In the first the Archangel hastens
through a rocky pass to announce the message, to which the Virgin bows
with awed acceptance of its solemn meaning. In the second, the shepherds
kneel to offer homage to the new-born Child, who lies at the Virgin's
feet, while the third represents the visit of the Magi.

The same freedom of brushwork characterises another "Annunciation," of
probably the same time, and treated in much the same manner, although
less stately than that of the Uffizi. This is one part of a _predella_
formerly belonging to the Mancini Collection of Città di Castello.[54]
The Archangel, with great wings half folded, and blown drapery, is just
alighting at the feet of the Virgin, who has dropped her book, and drawn
back with startled gesture at the impetuous rush of the messenger.

Connected with these by the same qualities of breadth of treatment, and
almost modern impressionism in the conception of the scene, are two
compartments of a _predella_, belonging to Mr Benson in London,
representing "The Dispute by the Way," and "The Supper at Emmaus." In
the former especially, the dramatic realism with which the Apostles are
depicted, as they argue with animated gestures, is extraordinarily

Yet another _predella_ picture--"The Feast in the House of Simon," now
in the Dublin Gallery--belongs approximately to this period. It is a
most beautiful representation of the scene, and is treated somewhat in
the gay manner of Bonifazio or Paolo Veronese. At a long table, crowded
with guests, Christ sits, with His Mother on His right hand, the master
of the feast being conspicuous in the middle. Over Christ's head, the
Magdalen, a charming and graceful figure, pours the ointment, and on the
left of the table Judas, with expressive gesture, calls attention to the
waste. Notwithstanding the small size of the panel, and the number of
the figures, the effect is exceedingly spacious and free. It is a
well-composed scene, full of animation, and broad in treatment, and is
fortunately in a good state of preservation. The altar-pieces to which
all this series of _predelle_ belong are unknown.

We will now consider the fine Standard, painted in 1494 for the church
of Santo Spirito in Urbino.[55] On one side was represented the
"Crucifixion," and on the other "The Descent of the Holy Ghost at
Pentecost," but the canvases have now been divided. In the former, at
the foot of the Cross is grouped the first of those characteristic
scenes of the fainting Virgin which was, probably from its dramatic
element, so favourite a subject with Signorelli. Sincerely and naturally
felt, it in no way trenches on the melodramatic, as one or two of the
later groups tend to do, and the solitary figure of Christ, raised high
above the sorrowing women, is for once, among his Crucifixions, of
dignity and real pathos. The solemnity of the mood given, is enhanced by
the fine idea of the soldier on the left, who, impressively standing out
against the sky, shades his eyes, with bewildered gesture, as though
blinded by a sudden comprehension of the sacrifice. The grief of the
women who tend the unconscious Virgin, is sympathetically realised, and
without exaggeration of outward sorrow. The composition is specially
beautiful, the sides are well-balanced, while the two mounted soldiers
on either side (notwithstanding their characteristically badly-drawn
horses) give the scene a ceremonious stateliness, which is very

[Illustration: [_Uffizi, Florence_


In the "Pentecost" we have another most masterly bit of perspective and
fine spacious effect. At the end of a long room, between two rows of the
Apostles, is seated the Virgin. Above is God the Father, attended by two
angels, and below, the tongues of flame, the gift of the hovering Dove,
have alighted on the heads of all the company. Apart from the sense of
space and the well-composed grouping, the technical execution does not
appear so satisfactory as in the "Crucifixion," but this may be
accounted for by the fact that the painting has suffered more from

Very closely allied to this Standard in composition is the fine "S.
Sebastian" of Città di Castello, painted in 1496 for the church of S.
Domenico, now in the Gallery, which, in spite of its bad condition is a
picture of great importance and beauty. The least satisfactory part is
the Saint himself, who stands bound high up upon the tree, his
sentimental face with upturned eyes and open mouth recalling the S.
John of several of the Crucifixions. Above him leans God the Father, and
below five soldiers string their bows or shoot, with superb gestures.
Three of them are in the tight-fitting clothes in which Signorelli loved
to display the fine proportions and splendidly-developed muscles of his
figures, and the other two are draped only with the Pollaiuolesque
striped loin-cloth. In the middle distance, burgesses and sad-faced
women look on at the martyrdom, and in the background a distant street,
filled with soldiers, leads steeply up to a ruined classic building, not
unlike the Colosseum. The great damage which the picture has suffered
makes it difficult on a superficial view to give it the place it really
deserves among the master's works. The colouring is somewhat crude,
especially the flesh-tints, which are red and heavy, but it must
nevertheless be ranked high on account of the composition, and the fine
drawing and modelling of the foreground figures.

[Illustration: [_Santo Spirito, Urbino_


To the following year, 1487, belong the series of eight frescoes painted
by Signorelli in the cloister of the Benedictine Monastery of Monte
Oliveto. Vasari writes: "At Chiusuri, near Siena, the principal
habitation of the monks of Monte Oliveto, he painted on one side of the
cloister eleven scenes of the life and work of S. Benedict."[56] Vasari
has mistaken the number of the paintings, for there were never more than
nine, even supposing the last, of which only a slight fragment remains,
to have been by him. To me it seems doubtful, but the fragments are in
so ruined a state, the fresco having been almost entirely cut away in
the enlarging of the doorway, that certainty one way or the other is
hardly possible. The remaining eight are for the most part in a
deplorable condition, both from the damage of time and neglect, and also
from repainting, the lower part of the foreground in all of them being
completely lost, and smeared over with a surface of thick green. The
paintings are very unequal, some being comparatively poor, while the two
last are exceedingly fine. The story begins in the middle of the Saint's
life. The first scene shows "How God punished Florenzo," a wicked rival
abbot, who had tried to poison S. Benedict, and to lead his monks
astray. In the background four grotesque devils are tearing down the
walls of his convent, with extraordinary energy of action, and three
others bear away the soul of the monk, whose body may be seen crushed
beneath the ruins. In the foreground the Saint listens to the tale, told
by a kneeling brother.

The scene is conceived in a spirit somewhat trivial for Signorelli, and
has but little of his usual stately strength. The composition is too
much crowded on one side, and, as far as can be judged from the state of
the fresco, the draperies of the monks are mechanically treated. The
parts most worthy of praise seem to be the vivacity of the devils, and
the effect of spacious distance, but it is in so damaged a condition
that it would be unfair to be over-critical.

The next is in an even worse condition. It illustrates "How S. Benedict
converted the inhabitants of Monte Cassino," to whom, supported by two
monks, he preaches in the foreground. In the middle distance others pull
down from its pillar the statue of Apollo, worshipped by these people.
This is a very much finer painting. The composition is again overcrowded
on one side, but there is much noble dignity in the figures of the three
monks, and the beautiful architecture and perspective of the Temple, are
admirable. The foreground has been entirely destroyed, the draperies are
nearly effaced, and a little town in the background is so smeared over
with green paint, that the effects of distance are lost.

No. III. is in better condition, though very much injured in the
foreground. It shows "How S. Benedict exorcised the Devil upon the
stone," who guarded the place where the statue of Apollo was buried,
which brought a curse on the convent. In the background is seen the
disinterment of the statue, and to the right, the vengeance of the
Devil, who sets fire to their building. Flames burst through the
windows, and the monks hasten with excited gestures to quench them.
These remind one in their _naiveté_ of Carpaccio's scurrying friars, in
S. Giorgio degli Schiavone, Venice. There are some very fine bits in
this fresco; the attitude of the monk to the left who is heaving up the
stone is exceedingly good and true to nature, and the landscape is
spacious and distant.

No. IV. shows "How S. Benedict resuscitated the monk upon whom the wall
fell," the scene of the death taking place in the background, the Devil
having precipitated him from the scaffolding on which he was at work. In
the middle distance three brothers bear the dead body, and in the
foreground the Saint stands and raises him again to life. This fresco is
very fine both in general composition and detail. The little scene of
the death is full of action and animation, the group of monks who bear
the corpse is dignified, and very noble is the kneeling figure of the
resuscitated friar.

The paintings get gradually better, as though Signorelli had warmed to
his task. The next is very charming and one of the most successful in
composition. It illustrates "How S. Benedict reveals to two monks where
and when they had eaten out of the Convent." The two disobedient
brothers sit in the foreground of a long room (of most excellent
perspective), and are served with meats and drinks. At the end of the
room, at the open doorway stands the graceful figure of a youth. The
section of the wall is given, showing in the distance the penitent
brothers on their knees before the Saint, who has reproved their
disobedience. There is something almost German in the domestic
simplicity with which Signorelli has conceived the scene. The woman who
waits on the right is Peruginesque in type and attitude, although with
the robust physique that belongs to Signorelli. The fresco is much
repainted especially in the roof.

[Illustration: [_Monti Oliveto, Maggiore_


The next shows "How S. Benedict reproves the brother of the monk
Valerian for his violated fast," and reveals to him that it was the
Devil who had tempted him in the disguise of a traveller, the different
scenes, as usual, going on in the background. In front the youth kneels
before the monks, and to the right the Devil, his horns showing through
his cap, tempts him. In the distance they can be seen feasting under a
rock. The fresco is much injured and repainted, but the figure of the
Devil with the bundle over his shoulder is very fine and well drawn.

The two last of the series are the best. Signorelli has in them given
the rein to his love of martial scenes, and painted them with great
animation and verve. In No. VII. we have the scene "How S. Benedict
discovers the deceit of Totila," and unmasks the shield-bearer, who,
disguised as the King of the Goths, comes to prove the knowledge of the
saint. In the background, a plain covered with camps and soldiers,
Totila sends forth his servant, and in the foreground the Saint,
surrounded by four monks, proclaims to him his identity. Statesmen,
arrogant pages, and warriors, stand behind the exposed shield-bearer. It
is interesting to observe how Signorelli's attention has wandered from
the empty faces and mechanically executed draperies of the monks, and
concentrated itself on this group. The figures, in their tight clothes,
are superbly posed and modelled, especially the three who stand next to
the shield-bearer.

The last of the frescoes is almost as fine a study of magnificent
attitude. It shows "How S. Benedict recognises and welcomes Totila," the
real King of the Goths, who kneels before him, surrounded by his army on
horse and foot. In the background, troops are marching with great
animation, (one of those fine effects of combined movement so
characteristic of the master). Some of the foreground figures are again
splendidly drawn and modelled, and the mounted soldiers sit their horses
exceedingly well.

[Illustration: [_Monte Oliveto, Maggiore_


In these two last paintings we get a hint of the great work that was to
come three years later--at Orvieto. Signorelli has put forth all his
strength in these groups of swaggering youths in every posture of
conscious power and pride, and never perhaps been more successful in
individual figures. Some of the faces in the last fresco appear to be
portraits, and if it be true, as Vasari says, that he painted the
Vitelli and Baglioni, it is here probably that we should find them
rather than among the audience of Antichrist.

In running the eye down the whole series of frescoes, the scheme of
colour, as far as can be judged in their present condition, does not
strike one as pleasant. Crude blues, emerald greens, brownish purples,
heavy earthen browns--these are the predominating tints. The flesh tones
are uniformly red and heavy. Neither is the decorative effect of the
compositions specially good, as at Loreto, and more particularly at
Orvieto. Perhaps even, on a superficial view, the space-filling by
Sodoma is happier, and has a more imposing effect. It is chiefly in
detail that the great qualities of Signorelli show themselves.

The rest of the walls of the large cloister are painted with
twenty-seven subjects by Sodoma, showing the youth and hermit-life of
the saint, and continuing, after the series by Signorelli, with his
miracles and his old age. Although the subjects chosen by Luca
illustrate the later years, yet they were painted first, and it is
probable that the place of each scene was arranged before any of the
work was entered upon.

The year following the execution of these frescoes Signorelli was in
Siena, painting the two wings for the altar-piece of the Bicchi family,
formerly in the church of S. Agostino, now in the Berlin Gallery, No.
79. A MS. of the Abbate Galgano Bicchi, which gives the date, speaks of
it as an _Ancona_, the centre of which was a statue of S. Christopher by
Jacopo della Quercia, and with a _predella_, which the Abbate minutely
describes.[57] Nothing now remains of the altar-piece but these two
beautiful wings, one of which contains figures of the Magdalen, Santa
Chiara, and S. Jerome, the other, of S. Augustine, S. Antonio and S.
Catherine of Siena. Vasari writes of it: "At Siena he painted in
Sant'Agostino, a picture for the chapel of S. Cristofano, in which are
some Saints surrounding a S. Christopher in relief."[58]

Both panels are of very rich and harmonious colour, especially the one
containing the noble figure of the Magdalen, in her green robe shot with
gold and deep red mantle, and her ropes of honey-coloured hair.

[Illustration: [_Gallery, Berlin_


Perhaps about the same date, perhaps somewhat earlier, we may place the
fine _Tondo_ (No. 79B) hanging in the same gallery, formerly in the
Patrizi collection, Rome. I have not given it its usual name of a
"Visitation," because that scene, conventionally treated, took place
before the birth of the children who here play so important a part.
Signorelli has, according to his habit, conceived the subject without
any reference to traditional custom. I have already spoken of the ease
with which he composes in the _Tondo_ form, and this is perhaps the best
example of his skill. The natural grouping of the figures, the sweeping
curves of the draperies, which, especially that of S. Joseph accentuated
with gold, carry out the lines of the circle, give a sense of rest and
harmony to the eye. The scene is treated with a simplicity and noble
dignity which deserve special praise. It is in some ways the most
sympathetic of all his Holy Families, and he seems to have felt the
charm of every-day simple life, and for once has given the Christ the
life and beauty of childhood. The tender foreboding sadness in the face
of the Virgin, the reverential sympathy of the aged Elizabeth, and the
kindly care with which the powerful Zacharias holds the Child, are
touches full of poetry.

Morelli places this _Tondo_ as a late work,[59] but the soft and
harmonious colour, as well as the poetic feeling, seem to belong to this
period, before the painting of the Orvieto frescoes, if not even

[Illustration: [_Gallery, Berlin_



Lastly, in this group must be placed the Standard of Borgo San Sepolcro,
painted for the Confraternity S. Antonio Abbate, now in the Municipio.
It is interesting to note, as its position in the Gallery allows us to
do, how completely Signorelli has now detached himself from the
influence of his first master--outwardly at least. No greater contrast
could well be, than the unrestful dramatic realism of the "Crucifixion"
on this Standard, and the inspired serenity of the "Resurrection" of
Pier dei Franceschi close by; than the coarsely-conceived figure of the
crucified Christ, with its heavy features and uncouth limbs, and the
spiritual beauty of the risen Saviour.

This "Crucifixion" is the least successful of all Signorelli's
renderings of this subject (with the exception, perhaps, of the Morra
fresco), both from its technical defects of extreme hardness and
heavy colour, as well as from the lack of any real feeling in the
painter for his subject. The unfortunate introduction of the patron
saint, posing as Joseph of Arimathoea, disturbs the harmony of the
mood, while his exaggerated gesture contrasts disagreeably with the
apathetic coldness of the other figures, over-dramatic as their action
is. The Christ is treated deliberately as a study of muscle, and is
among the most ignominious of his types, and the fantastic landscape,
with its shadowy rocks and solid clouds, is badly composed and without
existence. Although there is no trace of the influence of Piero
remaining, yet there is much of Antonio Pollaiuolo, especially in the
muscular figure and bent legs of the Christ.

[Illustration: [_Municipio, Borgo San Sepolcro_


The two large Saints on the reverse of the Standard are, on the other
hand, imposing and noble figures, splendidly painted in Signorelli's
grandest and most sweeping manner. S. Antonio, in the black habit of the
order for which the banner was executed, stands reading in a book, and
by his side is S. Eligio, the smith-saint, in red mantle and dark-green
robe, holding in one hand the farrier's tool, and in the other the
cut-off horse's hoof of the legend. Below kneel small figures of four
brothers of the Confraternity.

We have now come to the end of the series of works, executed, as nearly
as can be judged, between 1490 and 1499, and with the latter date have
arrived at the time of the painting of the Orvieto frescoes, which were
to be the crowning point in the life's work of the master.


[53] "Purg." ii. 37 and 35.

[54] When last heard of by the author it was for sale in England.

[55] The contract, dated June 1494, is transcribed in Pungileoni's
"Elogio Stor. di Giov. Santi.," p. 77.

[56] Vasari, iii. 689.

[57] The MS. is in the possession of Conte Scipione Bicchi-Borghese,

[58] Vasari, iii. 688.

[59] "Die Galerie zu Berlin," p. 46.



There seems to be a moment in the life of every great man in which he
touches the height of his possibilities, and reaches the limits of his
powers of expression. To Signorelli it came late, at an age when most
men begin to feel at least their physical powers on the wane. The two
last frescoes of the Monte Oliveto series indicate that an immense force
lay in reserve, waiting an opportunity for some wider and freer field of
action, than had hitherto presented itself. That opportunity now came,
when, at the age of fifty-nine, he was called upon to undertake the vast
work of these Orvieto frescoes. With the exception of the Sistine
Chapel, no such task has been achieved at so sustained a pitch of
imaginative power and technical excellence. Whether the subject stirred
his dramatic spirit, or whether the great spaces to be filled gave an
expanded sense of liberty to his genius, or whether his powers,
intellectual and physical, really were at the zenith of their strength;
whatever was the cause, he succeeded in executing a work which ranks
among the greatest monuments of the Renaissance, perhaps should even
rank as the very greatest.

Morelli writes: "These masterpieces appear to me unequalled in the art
of the fifteenth century; for to no other contemporary painter was it
given to endow the human frame with a like degree of passion, vehemence,
and strength."[60] And beside the dignity with which he has in these
frescoes elevated the body to an almost superhuman grandeur, his
conception of supernatural things is proportionately solemn and
impressive. It is impossible to look at the scenes without emotion, and
the mood evoked is due in a great measure to the earnest conviction with
which they are conceived. Signorelli, always a religious painter, in the
wider meaning of the word, seems here to assume an almost prophetic
attitude of warning, embodied, one might almost think, in the portrait
of himself, stern and menacing, standing sentinel-like over the work.

Vasari thus speaks of the frescoes: "In the principal church of
Orvieto--that of the Madonna--he completed with his own hand the chapel
which had been begun there by Fra Giovane da Fiesole; in which he
painted all the history of the end of the world, with strange fantastic
invention: Angels, demons, ruins, earthquakes, fires, miracles of
Antichrist, and many other of the like things; besides which, nudes,
foreshortened figures, and many beautiful designs; having pictured to
himself the terror which will be in that latest tremendous day. By means
of this he roused the spirit of all those who came after him in such a
way that since, they have found the difficulty of that manner easy.
Wherefore it does not surprise me that the works of Luca should have
always been most highly praised by Michelagnolo, nor that certain things
of his divine Judgement which he painted in the chapel were in part
courteously taken from the invention of Luca; as are the Angels, Demons,
the heavenly orders, and other things in which Michelagnolo imitated the
style of Luca, as everyone may see. Luca portrayed in the
above-mentioned work himself and many of his friends; Niccolò, Paulo and
Vitellozzo Vitelli; Giovan, Paulo and Orazio Baglioni, and others whose
names are unknown."[61]

[Illustration: [_Cathedral, Orvieto_



Fifty-two years before, in 1447, Fra Angelico had spent three months and
a half in this Cathedral of Orvieto, painting the spandrels in the roof
of the Cappella Nuova, as it was then called.[62] He had time to
complete only two frescoes, being either recalled to Rome by Nicholas
V., or to the convent of S. Domenico, near Fiesole (of which, in 1450,
he was made Prior). These two works are among the best and strongest of
his paintings. In the principal space, that over the altar, he painted
Christ in glory, surrounded by a _mandorla_, with angels on either side;
and in the spandrel on the right, a group of sixteen prophets, seated
pyramidally against a blaze of gold background. It is probable that he
had thought out the general scheme of the frescoes, and that Signorelli
only carried out his intention in working the paintings into one great
whole--Christ in Heaven, surrounded by Angels, Apostles, Martyrs,
Virgins, Patriarchs and Fathers of the Church, witnessing from on high
the execution of divine justice below. However that may be, it is
certain that Signorelli, in his painting of the roof, kept most
scrupulously to the older master's arrangement, and in one of the
spandrels actually seems to have worked over his design.

After the withdrawal of Fra Angelico, the chapel remained untouched for
more than fifty years. In 1449 his pupil, Benozzo Gozzoli, who had
probably been his assistant in the painting, demanded permission to
continue the work; but the authorities were not content to grant it, and
it was only in 1499, after some futile negotiations with Perugino, who
appears to have refused the commission, that they finally resolved to
place the decoration in the hands of Signorelli. Perhaps decided to this
step by the success of the Monte Oliveto frescoes, they were yet so
cautious and so determined to have only the very best work in their
chapel, that at first they only entrusted to him the painting of the
vaulting, already begun. They were wise to be careful in their choice,
for they were probably conscious of the extreme beauty of their
cathedral, and, in particular, of the exquisite architecture of this
chapel. Orvieto Cathedral is one of the finest and most impressive of
the Italian churches, and from its foundation in 1290, the authorities
had been notoriously lavish in their expenditure for its building, and
fastidious in their choice of architects, sculptors, and painters.[63]
From the point of view merely of decoration, they could have given the
work to no better artist than Signorelli, and the first impression, on
passing into the chapel from the austere and spacious nave, is of the
harmonious plan, both of colour and design, with which the original
beauty of the architecture has been enhanced, and its graceful
characteristics accentuated.

The roof is of very perfect shape, and the spaces well adapted for
painting. It is divided in the middle by an arch, thus having two
complete vaultings, each with four spandrels. The walls are high and
spacious, also divided in two parts, in each of which, on either side,
is a large fresco. Signorelli has separated the lower part of the wall
by a painted frieze of delicate gold and ivory, and in the lower half
executed a series of portraits, each surrounded by medallions in
_grisaille_, containing small subject-pictures, the rest of the space
being filled with an intricate pattern of grotesques. The south wall, in
which are three small windows, has been unfortunately disfigured by a
_baroque_ seventeenth-century altar, whose projections hide a part of
the frescoes. Opposite is the entrance, a magnificently-proportioned
portal, with a rounded arch, most delicately decorated in colour. Every
inch of the walls is covered, and for the most part by the work of
Signorelli himself, the above-mentioned grotesques, the merely
ornamental painting, and a few of the medallions alone being by his

In describing the frescoes I intend to begin with those of the vaulting,
and then to work gradually round the walls from the left of the
entrance, where the first of the series of larger paintings begins with
"The Preaching and Fall of Antichrist."

In the spandrel opposite the Christ of Fra Angelico, Signorelli has
painted eight angels holding the symbols of the Passion, while two
others, not unlike the great Archangels of the "Resurrection," blow
trumpets to announce the impending Judgment.

Left of the altar, opposite Fra Angelico's "Prophets," and arranged in
exactly the same pyramidal form, is a magnificent group, representing
the "Apostles," the Virgin being seated on the lowest tier with S. Peter
and S. Paul. Very noble, impressive figures, powerfully and solidly
painted, with broadly-draped, heavy-folded robes, they sit like rocks
upon clouds as solid as hills.

These, with the two frescoes of Fra Angelico, complete the paintings of
the first vaulting.

Those on the other side of the arch are executed entirely by Signorelli,
and, with the exception of one, from his own designs. This one is the
weakest of his roof-paintings in execution, and the composition and
actual drawing of the central figures, are the work of Fra Angelico. It
represents the "Choir of Martyrs," a group of seven figures. In the
centre are seated three Deacons in full canonicals, with Bishops on
either side, and below two Saints in plain robes. These last have all
Signorelli's characteristics of drawing, and sit with wide-spread knees
and broadly-painted draperies, a striking contrast to the weak attitudes
and niggling robes of the central group. Signorelli has indeed hardly
altered the childish chubby features of the Deacon in the middle, nor
the benevolent vacuity of the two Bishops, so different to his own
austere types.

Opposite to this, over the portal, is a group of eight "Virgins,"
broadly and vigorously treated, in Signorelli's boldest manner. To the
right is another of the pyramidal groups, fifteen "Doctors of the
Church," some of whom are represented disputing and discussing points of

The last of the roof-paintings is a powerful group of "Patriarchs,"
ranking, with that of the "Apostles," among the most impressive of the
frescoes. Here appear many of his well-known types of face; the
melancholy features of Pan are repeated in the turbaned youth in the top
row, intended perhaps to be Solomon; the Christ of the Uffizi "Holy
Family" is in the second tier to the left; the powerful Zacharias from
the Berlin _Tondo_ in the lowest.

Luzi, in his minute description of the paintings,[64] has bestowed names
on all these figures, without much advantage, since they are for the
most part doubtful. Few of them bear symbols, but the different groups
are sufficiently described in large letters, by the painters
EXERCITVS--etc. etc.

The figures, with the exception of those by Fra Angelico, and the design
for the "Martyrs," are entirely the work of Signorelli himself. The
decorations between the spaces seem to be in part by the assistant of
Fra Angelico--perhaps Benozzo Gozzoli. In the first border heads are
painted, in lozenges, at regular intervals, a few of which are in the
older master's style, while many show the manner of Signorelli. The
rounded projecting rib is painted with foliage of cypress-green, with
here and there rich red and golden flowers gleaming out, and on either
side a border of conventionalised water-lilies. It is difficult to say
which of the masters designed this exceedingly beautiful decoration, but
it is most effective, and well-calculated to accentuate the life of the
fine curves in the vaulting.

[Illustration: [_Cathedral, Orvieto_


These groups of Signorelli's are noble and impressive paintings, in
technique strong and vigorous. The draperies are treated with simplicity
and breadth of fold, and the gold background gives richness and beauty
to the colour. No wonder that the authorities, jealous though they were
at the beauty of their chapel, should have hesitated no longer to hand
over the great spaces of the walls to the brush of the painter who had
so well executed their first commission.

In the April of the following year, 1500, the new task was given. The
payment for the roof was to have been 205 ducats; for the walls they
offered 575. Besides this, the painter was to be furnished with
ultramarine, a certain quantity of food and wine, and a free lodging,
with two beds, as the lengthy documents of commission minutely tell.[65]

The paintings begin with "The Preaching and Fall of Antichrist." Here
the foreground is filled with groups of the followers of the false
prophet, who, with the features of Christ, stands on a little raised
dais, listening with an evil expression, as the Devil behind him, unseen
by the crowd, whispers into his ear what he shall say. Before the dais
are scattered gold vessels, bars and coins, with which he tempts the
audience. Farther back to the right, different groups represent the
false teaching and miracles of Antichrist, and in the background is his
Temple, with armed men going in and out of its open portico. The left of
the frescoes is devoted to the fall of the false prophet, and the
destruction of his followers. Above we see him precipitated
head-downwards from heaven by an angel surrounded by fiery rays, which
strike death to the army beneath.

[Illustration: [_Cathedral, Orvieto_


In sombre black, and standing outside the scene, Signorelli has painted
the portrait of himself, with fingers interlaced and firmly-planted
feet, and behind, the milder, but still gloomy figure of Fra Angelico.

There is something sinister in the saturnine melancholy on the faces of
the crowd, unrelieved by any lightness, and culminating in the evil
expression of Antichrist himself. The peace of the gold-flecked
landscape only accentuates the horror of the scene of the downfall in
the background. The picture is a fit prologue to the terrible Judgment
to come.

In composition the fresco is very fine, the values of distance are well
kept, and the meaning of the scene is obvious and significant, and
dramatically rendered. The foreground group is very strongly painted,
natural in attitude and gesture, and the figure of a man in striped hose
is magnificently modelled. I do not care to touch on so hypothetical a
thing as the supposed portraiture in this group, but it is interesting
to note, in the old man right of Antichrist, the features familiar to us
in the drawings of Leonardo, possibly painted from a study of the same
model. Behind is a profile head, obviously intended for Dante. The
terrible force of the angel, with its hawk-like swoop, the unresisting
heavy fall of the body through the air, are rendered with extraordinary
power. The foreshortening is admirable, and so is the fine perspective
of the beautiful architecture of the Temple.

The figures of the soldiers on the steps recall Perugino in the manner
of treatment--dark against light, and well detached from the background.
The capitals of the pillars, the buttons on the clothes, and the rays of
the angel are embossed with gilded gesso, as also are the distant hills.
This form of ornamentation, so much used by Signorelli in these
frescoes, adds greatly to their decorative beauty.

Under this painting is a square-shaped portrait, half cut away by a
recess, in which stands a modern altar. It is supposed by Luzi to
represent Homer, and is the first of a series which run all round the
walls, much repainted, but all of them the work of the master himself.
They are surrounded by four medallions, painted in _grisaille_, also for
the most part by Signorelli, but in this case only two, and a fragment
of the third, remain, the enlarging of the recess having almost entirely
cut that and the fourth away. In the top medallion are five nude
figures, a powerful female and four males, all wildly hastening as if
from some impending destruction. In that on the left a man stands on a
dais, surrounded by soldiers who hold a prisoner bound before him. In
the lower fragment, only one figure remains. These all represent,
according to Luzi, scenes from Homer. The groups are well composed and
full of vigorous energy, the nudes are splendidly modelled in broad,
bold strokes, so sharply drawn on the wet plaster that the outlines
are deeply incised. Where, as here, these _grisaille_ pictures are the
work of Signorelli himself, they are worthy of more attention than is
usually given to them, being as fine as any of his best work. To realise
fully their vigour and excellence, one need only compare these powerful
nudes with those painted in the pilasters close by, the work of
assistants. The medallions in every case are surrounded by a broadly
painted coloured pattern of grotesques, also by assistants, but probably
to a large extent designed by Signorelli, for they are extremely
characteristic of his preoccupation with the human form and with
movement. Arabesques have but little attraction for him, and it will be
noticed that in all his ornamental work where it is possible, he paints
figures. These decorations are almost entirely composed of fantastic
creatures, fauns, tiny satyrs, horses, birds, etc., who blending their
shapes and borrowing each other's limbs, frisk all over the walls, and
by their gambols and contortions form a pattern of curves and lines,
which is a maze of animated life, retaining at the same time the broad
and harmonious effect of an arabesque.

[Illustration: [_Cathedral, Orvieto_


The next large painting represents "The Crowning of the Elect." A crowd
of men and women, many draped round the loins, some quite naked, gaze
upwards ecstatically, or kneel reverently to receive the gold crowns
which angels are placing on their heads. Above, seated on clouds, are
nine other angels, draped in many-folded robes, who play musical
instruments. To the right two figures (in one of whom the Echo of the
"Pan" is repeated) seem to walk out of the scene, thus connecting this
fresco with the next, in which the elect and crowned souls prepare to
ascend to Heaven.

The background is entirely of gold, thickly studded with bosses of
gilded gesso. The figures are finely modelled and posed. The
flesh-painting, as in all the frescoes, is perhaps somewhat heavy in
colour, but the whole effect is rich and harmonious. The chief defects
in the work are the overcrowding of the composition, and the bad values
of distance, caused in a great measure by the gold background.
Signorelli's treatment is too realistic, his figures are too solid and
too true to life, to bear the decorative background so suitable to the
flat, half-symbolic painting of the Sienese school. They need space and
air behind them, and lacking that, one feels a disagreeable sensation of
oppression and overcrowding. Keeping the eye upon the ground, which is
treated naturally, this feeling goes; the long shadows distinctly
marked, send the figures to their different planes, and the confused
composition becomes clear.

Underneath are the usual decorations, two square portraits surrounded
each by four medallions. We do not need the help of Luzi to recognise
Dante in the first, injured though it is, and much repainted, especially
about the mouth, which gives the face a somewhat grotesque expression.

[Illustration: [_Cathedral, Orvieto_


The _grisaille_ paintings represent stories from the "Purgatorio," but
although fine in design, are not executed by Signorelli himself. They
have none of the breadth and grandeur of the first series, and the
effect is meagre and niggling, equal importance being given to the rocks
and to the figures.

The other portrait is probably intended for Virgil, who, with upturned
face and melodramatic expression, seems to seek for inspiration. This
expression is exaggerated, but the painting is vigorous and strong.

Around, the medallions again represent subjects from the "Purgatorio,"
and are apparently by the same hand as the last, with the exception of
the lower one, which seems to have some of Signorelli's own work in the
nude figures.

The south wall is pierced by three lancet windows, the central one over
the altar, dividing the two principal frescoes of "Heaven" and "Hell."
The former is, as I have said, a continuation of the last scene, and
represents angels preceding the elect souls, and showing them the way to
Heaven. In the sky, heavily embossed with gold like the last, float
angels with musical instruments, one of whom, with face downward,
blowing a pipe, is not so successfully foreshortened as is usual with

[Illustration: [_Cathedral, Orvieto_


In the thickness of the small window which cuts into this fresco, are
painted two coloured medallions, one of an angel vanquishing a devil,
the other of S. Michael, with the balances, weighing souls--both by the
master himself. Below are two series of small pictures in _grisaille_,
with scenes from the "Purgatorio." The lowest is unfortunately hidden by
the altar. All of them are by Signorelli himself, exceedingly good, and
worthy of careful study, one being especially beautiful--the top picture
of the first series, in which Dante and Virgil stand before the Angel,
with the gold-plumed Eagle in the foreground--a most nobly conceived
illustration to the ninth canto of the "Purgatorio."

[Illustration: [_Cathedral, Orvieto_


On the opposite side of the altar is the Judgment of Minos, and the
driving of the lost souls to Hell under the superintendence of the two
Archangels, who stand in the sky with drawn swords, sorrowfully watching
the fulfilment of divine justice. Signorelli here has followed very
closely the text of the "Inferno." In the foreground "Minos standeth
horribly and gnasheth," condemning the miserable souls before him each
to his different circle, his tail wound twice about his middle. Farther
back, the Pistoiese, Vanno Fucci, with blasphemous gesture, yells out
his challenge to God; Charon plies his boat; and in the background
despairing souls follow a mocking demon who runs before them with a

The two medallions on the sides of the window contain, one the Archangel
Gabriel with the lily of the Annunciation, the other a very beautiful
group of Raphael and Tobias, both by Signorelli himself. Below, the
decorations correspond to those on the opposite side, the _grisaille_
pictures, representing, according to Luzi, scenes from the
"Metamorphoses" of Ovid, all, with the exception, perhaps, of the
medallion just below the window, being also the work of the master, and
very powerfully painted.

Leaving the window wall, we now come to the finest of all the frescoes,
the magnificent scene of the "Damnation." So vivid is the realisation,
so life-like the movements and gestures, that the writhing mass appears
really alive, and one can almost hear the horrible clamour of the
devils, and the despairing yells of the victims. The general effect
is of one simultaneous convulsed movement, one seething turmoil. In
detail, the horror is most dramatically rendered. The malignancy of the
devils, their brutal fury as they claw their prey, tear at their
throats, and wrench back their heads; the utter horror and anguish of
the victims, the confusion, the uproar, are given with a convincing
realistic force, which makes the scene ghastly and terrible. In most
representations of Hell, and especially of Devils, human imagination
fails in conveying any sense of real horror, even the earnest Dürer and
Botticelli treating them with a grotesqueness which shows how far they
were from any conviction of their reality. Signorelli is the only
painter of the Renaissance I can recall who has succeeded in giving a
savage sternness, a formidable brutishness to his fiends, which is very
far from grotesque, but is really appalling. These ferocious creatures
are of all colours, slate-blue, crude purple, heavy green, livid
mauve--sometimes of all these poisonous-looking colours fading one into
the other. Strong and malevolent, they triumph in their work of torture,
with a gloomy malignancy very different from the trifling malice of the
fiends he painted at Monte Oliveto. Above stand the three Archangels, in
armour, with half-drawn swords, menacing those who try to fly upward
instead of toward the flames of Hell. Two, in their hurry to escape
chastisement, let fall their prey; another, with great bat-wings which
cut the air like scythes, swoops down again into the chaos below.

[Illustration: [_Cathedral, Orvieto_


I suppose a mass of convulsed limbs has never been rendered in so
masterly a manner. The effect is so natural that one is inclined to
forget the difficulties Signorelli has so superbly overcome. But if one
considers in detail the different attitudes, the violent action of the
arms and legs, the contorted positions of the bodies--every muscle
either on the stretch or relaxed into a flaccid limpness,--the
foreshortened limbs twisted into every kind of unnatural posture, and
the complicated interweaving of the whole, one realises that it is
indeed his masterpiece, not only for the mood of terror and awe it
induces by its imaginative power, but for its marvellous rendering of
tumultuous movement, and the ease with which enormous technical
difficulties have been surmounted.

The portraits below are, according to Luzi, of Ovid and Horace, the four
medallions round the former seeming, in their energy and furious life,
to carry out the tumult of the great fresco above. They represent scenes
from "The Metamorphoses," and deal chiefly with Hades and the infernal
Deities. Above stand four female figures with fluttering draperies,
among whom we can distinguish Diana with the bow, and Pallas with the
lance and shield. Below, Pluto stands in a chariot drawn by dragons.
This painting is very much injured, as is much of this lower part of the
wall, especially the grotesques. On the right Pluto bears away
Persephone in his arms in a chariot drawn by two fantastic horses, which
an attendant urges furiously forward with a caduceus. On the left Ceres,
with wildly-floating hair, leaps into a tearing chariot drawn by two
winged serpents, which Cupid goads onward with a flaming torch. These
are all by Signorelli himself, and, for the rendering of violent
movement, worthy of their position under the great painting.

Round the other portrait are subjects also connected with the infernal
regions. Over it, Æneas stands before the Cumoean Sybil, a very
injured painting. Below, Orpheus in Hades plays before Pluto and
Persephone to win back Eurydice, who lies bound before them. On the
right Hercules rescues Theseus from Hades, and slays Cerberus, and on
the left, Eurydice, following Orpheus, looks back, and is re-seized by
the demons. These are all exceedingly good and dramatic paintings, and
are by Signorelli himself.

The next large space, after the fresco of "The Damnation," is filled
with "The Resurrection." Above, the two mighty Archangels sound their
trumpets, and the dead wake, and break through the crust of the grey
earth below. They stand about embracing each other, or helping each
other to rise, or gazing with rapture up at the Archangels, who, with
fluttering draperies and ribbons, and great spread wings of purple and
peacock-green, stand, surrounded by little shadowy cherubs, in the
gold-embossed sky. Most of the figures are of Signorelli's usual
powerful build, one, however, is an emaciated youth with little on his
bones but skin, many are skeletons. To these last he has given a
pathetic look of ecstasy, which is wonderfully expressive, considering
it is obtained only by means of eyeless sockets and grinning jaw-bones.

[Illustration: [_Cathedral, Orvieto_


The fresco has suffered much, particularly from the painting, in later
times, of draperies round the loins, some of which have been worn or
rubbed half off. Almost in the centre is a large stain, outlining the
shape of a window, which Signorelli caused to be filled up, and which
can still be seen on the outside of the Cathedral. The damp, oozing
through the new plaster round the framework, partly destroyed the
painting, but the centre is remarkably well preserved.

It is interesting to note in studying this fresco, that, student of
anatomy though he was, the skeleton seems to have had little attraction
for Signorelli. The placing of the bones is, of course, correct, but the
delicacy of their curves, their relative proportions and thicknesses,
their beauty of detail, are not given at all. For example, in the
skeleton in the foreground, the pelvis has scarcely the shape, and none
of the variety of line, of the bone itself, but is merely a
coarsely-drawn girdle. Compared to the extreme delicacy with which he
models flesh, and his minute appreciation of every gradation of curve in
the muscles, this carelessness in the treatment of the skeleton is

Under this, the last of the larger frescoes, is a recess, in which was
formerly the sarcophagus containing the bones of Pietro Parens, the
patron saint of Orvieto. In this recess, under the brackets on which the
sarcophagus stood, Signorelli has painted one of his most beautiful
"Pietàs." Unfortunately, half hidden by a marble group, sculptured in
1574 by Ippolito Scalza, it is difficult to see, and impossible to
photograph, and is therefore not so well known and appreciated as it
deserves to be. The Christ is an exact repetition of the figure in the
"Deposition," of the Cortona Cathedral, and was probably painted about
the same time--1502. The position only is reversed. The other two
figures are also repeated from that altar-piece, with only very slight
variations. Behind is painted the Tomb, on which is a relief in
_grisaille_ of four naked figures bearing the dead body of the Saviour.
This formed the lower part of the now removed sarcophagus, the three
stone supports of which still project from the wall. On the right of the
"Pietà," is painted the martyr Pietro Parens himself. The saint gazes
down with tender reverence at the scene at his feet, standing in
fur-trimmed robes and cap, one hand on his breast, the other holding the
palm of martyrdom. Over his head is the hammer, the instrument of his
death. The face is of extreme beauty, with gentle expression, the robes
are finely draped, the attitude most natural, and the whole figure is
one of the noblest and most sympathetic of all Signorelli's works, and
deserves to be better known. On the other side, and also as supporter of
the "Pietà," stands Faustinus, another patron saint of the city, also a
very beautiful figure, with features which recall the type generally
used by Signorelli for S. John. At his feet lies the millstone with
which he was drowned. On either side, in the thickness of the wall, is a
medallion in _grisaille_, containing the scenes of their deaths, very
powerfully painted.

This recess occupies more than one half of the space below "The
Resurrection," allowing room for only one portrait and two medallions.
The former Luzi has decided to be Lucan, and represents a beautiful
youth, with a mass of loose curling hair crowned with oak-leaves and
acorns. The scenes of the medallions are supposed to be from "The
Phaisalia." In that above three nude men fight with fists, one binds his
prostrate foe, and another bears off a slain body. In that on the right
four men fight with clubs and swords. All are powerful figures, painted
by Signorelli in his most characteristic manner. Below the portrait of
the poet is an inscription of 1667, honouring the memory of Signorelli,
and of Ippolito Scalza, the sculptor of the marble "Pietà."

The frescoes round the beautifully-proportioned entrance portal, being
on an inside wall, are in a state of better preservation than the rest,
and the colours brighter. They represent "The Signs of the Destruction
of the World." For imaginative power they can be compared only with the
woodcuts of Albrecht Dürer's "Apocalypse." To our right on entering, the
"Rain of Fire" shoots in heavy lines from the hands and bodies of demons
with outspread wings. The distraction of the people on whom it falls is
well rendered. In the foreground armed men on horse and foot seek wildly
to escape the shafts, which have already precipitated some to the
ground. In the middle distance the flames pursue a flying mob of
terrified women clutching their infants, and men trying to protect them;
while in the foreground old men, youths, and children, are struck down
in heaps, stopping their ears, and gazing up in panic at the unearthly

On the opposite side the sun and moon are eclipsed, and a dark rain of
blood falls from the gloomy sky. An earthquake has shaken the city, and
its buildings totter and fall in fragments on the people. In the
foreground is a group, perhaps intended for the Prophets of the
Destruction, who gaze up, less terrified, but with fear and solemn awe.

[Illustration: [_Cathedral, Orvieto_


Next to "The Damnation," these are perhaps the finest of the series, and
show most imagination and dramatic feeling. The foreshortening of some
of the figures is admirable, the composition in the restricted space is
good, and there is superb drawing and modelling in the foreground figure
among the Prophets in the last fresco.

In the centre, over the arch, Signorelli has painted a group of winged
children, who hold a tablet by a bunch of ribbons, in one of whom are
repeated the features of the Christ-child of the Uffizi "Holy Family."

In the space under "The Rain of Fire" has been painted a portrait, but
not a fragment of the face remains, an obelisk-shaped monument having in
later times been placed against the wall, completely destroying it.
Cavalcaselle, for what reason is not clear to me, supposes that it
represented Niccolò Franceschi, the treasurer of the works. On the
opposite side of the doorway is a coloured medallion, representing a man
with a turban, who, leaning his back over the frame as though it were a
window, seems to be gazing up at the painting above. This, Cavalcaselle
suggests, is a portrait of the painter himself; Luzi, however, considers
it to be Empedocles. Over it in the decorations are two small tablets
bearing the master's initials, L. and S.

We began by considering the general impression of the frescoes upon the
mind, their great imaginative qualities, and the solemn mood they
induce. We will conclude by summing up the technical excellences, which
distinguish them from all his previous work by extra power and ability.
The beauty of the compositions, the filling of the spaces and the
effectiveness of the scheme of decoration are as much above the work of
three years before--the Mount Oliveto series--as is the freedom and
dramatic power with which the scenes are rendered.

What chiefly strikes one is the homogeneousness of the whole design,
each part of the work keeping its due place in the great scheme. We are
never unconscious, even while carried away by the emotions of each
separate scene, of the solemn presence of the Judges above, who preside
over the final justice. Considered as subject-pictures, the intense
dramatic feeling makes them extremely powerful in their different
effects, so that it is impossible to look at them unmoved. Finally, the
facility and freedom with which his anatomical knowledge has allowed
Signorelli to render all the possibilities of movement and gesture, is
as much in advance of his age, as is his modern and natural
visualisation, and the impressionistic breadth of his brushwork. In that
respect, indeed, it is impossible to go farther. Later painters have
erred as much in exaggerating violent action and over-developing
muscles, as the earlier master fell short in dry and laborious
stiffness. Signorelli, while retaining the earnest sincerity and
thoughtfulness of the earlier workers, has been able at the same time to
render with modern facility every movement of the human frame, and the
result is an achievement which no later skill has surpassed, which is
perhaps the last word in the treatment of the nude in action.

Before closing these remarks, I must not omit to record the gratitude
due to the two German painters, Bothe and Pfannenschmidt of Würtemburg,
who, in 1845, at their own cost, cleaned and carefully restored the
frescoes, a work done on the whole with great discretion.

Two other paintings of the master, now in the Opera del Duomo, are so
closely connected with the chapel, that the description would be
incomplete without mention of them here--the altar-piece of the
Magdalen, and the portraits of himself and the treasurer of the
Cathedral, Niccolò Franceschi.

The former, painted originally for the Cathedral, is a life-sized, very
broadly painted figure, somewhat coarse in execution, but exceedingly
powerful. She wears a gorgeous gold garment, elaborately embroidered,
and over it a brownish-red mantle lined with green. There is a stately
dignity in the picture itself which the photograph unfortunately does
not reproduce. It is dated 1504, and on the old frame is the following

                ANTONII . --

            CONSVLTO . M.D.IIII.

The double portrait, painted in 1503,[66] is a work of the greatest
importance, both by reason of the interest attached to the portraiture,
and also that it remains to us absolutely untouched, every stroke being
in the original state as the master left it. The heads are full of
character and life, powerfully and rapidly painted in black and red, on
a brick or tile, thickly overlaid with gesso. The brush-strokes are bold
and firm, and the outline slightly incised in the plaster. Under each
head Signorelli has painted the names LVCA and NICOLAVS, and on the back
is a most interesting inscription, apparently painted by himself,
although the words are most probably the composition of the Treasurer.
The following is a translation: "Luca Signorelli, an Italian by race,
citizen of Cortona, renowned for his skill as a painter, comparable to
Apelles for attainment, has, under the rule and in the pay of Niccolò
Franceschi, of the same race, but a citizen of Orvieto, Treasurer of the
vestry of its Cathedral, painted with clear meaning this chapel,
dedicated to the Virgin, with figures of the Last Judgment; and, eager
for immortal fame, on the back of this inscription, has painted the
effigy of both, life-like, and with wonderful art. In the reign of Pope
Alexander VI. and of the Emperor Maximilian IV. in the year of grace
M.CCCCC. in the third Kalends of January."


[60] "Italian Painters," i. 92.

[61] Vasari, iii. 690.

[62] It was not till the seventeenth century that the chapel was
dedicated to the Madonna di San Brizio, on account of a Byzantine
miraculous picture of the Virgin, still on the altar.

[63] For an account of the Cathedral, see the Padre della Valle's
"Storia del Duomo di Orvieto."

[64] "Il Duomo di Orvieto." Ludovico Luzi. Firenze. Le Monnier, 1866.

[65] Preserved among the Archives of the Cathedral. Transcribed by
Vischer, p. 349, etc.

[66] The head of Luca is reproduced, divided from the other, as the



We have seen that during the four years and a half in which Signorelli
was engaged on the great work of the Orvieto frescoes, he yet spent some
part of the time in his native city, and there, in 1502, he painted the
signed and dated "Deposition" with its _predelle_ for the church of
Santa Margherita, now removed to the Cathedral. Vasari thus speaks of
it: "In Santa Margherita of Cortona, his native town, belonging to the
Frati del Zoccolo, he painted a dead Christ; one of his most excellent
works."[67] This dead Christ is the figure which by its realism and
pathos gave rise to the legend, already quoted,[68] that it was painted
from the body of his own son. It is an exact counterpart of the "Pietà"
in the Orvieto frescoes, except that it is here reversed. It is a work
of great beauty and feeling, painted with sincere emotion, and has none
of the academic dryness with which he treated the same subject in Borgo
San Sepolcro. The fine grouping, the restraint with which the sorrow is
rendered, the real pathos of the scene, give the picture dignity and
solemnity, and the glow of colour, obtained by the lavish use of gold
in the embroideries, add to its richness and decorative beauty. The
Virgin is nearly the same figure as in the Orvieto fresco, and in
feature recalls the San Sepolcro "Crucifixion," and the Magdalen is
almost identical with the altar-piece of the Opera del Duomo, just
considered, although here painted with more refinement and grace. In the
background is one of those vivid scenes of crowded movement, which occur
so often at this period of the master's development--a group of excited
soldiers pressing round the Cross, with fluttering pennons and prancing
steeds. The _predella_ hung just below, contains four subjects--"Christ
in Gethsemane," "The Last Supper," "The Betrayal," and "The
Flagellation." Unfortunately, both pictures are so badly lighted that it
is almost impossible except on a very bright day to appreciate the
colour. The scenes in this _predella_ are nearly the same as in that of
the Florence Academy, which hangs as part of the altar-piece, No. 164,
although it does not seem really to have belonged to it. The two
_predelle_ must certainly have been painted within a very short time of
one another. In both the composition of "The Last Supper" is precisely
the same, as well as "The Flagellation." In the "Betrayal" there is the
same violent crowd with spears and pennons, surging round the Christ. In
the Florence picture, however, there are only three divisions, "The
Betrayal" and "The Way to Calvary" forming the background to "The Agony
in the Garden," where Christ kneels before a little brook, with the
Apostles sleeping in rows behind Him. The broad impressionistic manner
in which they are painted is the same; and, coarse as is the brushwork,
dark and heavy as is the colour, especially in the flesh tints, they are
yet exceedingly fine examples of Signorelli's bold style and quick
resolute workmanship, and well illustrate his power of rendering violent
combined movement, in the crowds which throng round the betrayed Christ,
and march tumultuously on the way to Calvary.

The "Madonna and Saints" above this last _predella_ (No. 164) although
according to Signor Milanesi, not its altar-piece,[69] must certainly
have been painted somewhere about the same time, for the broad style,
tending rather to coarseness, of the work of this period is very
noticeable. It was executed for the church of Santa Trinità in Cortona,
and Milanesi suggests that it might be the altar-piece ordered in 1521
by the authorities of that church,[70] but the description given by the
document of commission is very different, and the picture itself seems
to bear evidence of an earlier date. Like so many of the works in this
Gallery, the painting has been so thickly daubed over by modern
restorers, that it is next to impossible to form a just idea of the
original colour; in its present state it is disagreeably crude and
heavy, and in any case the overcrowding of the composition would prevent
its being considered a successful example of the master's work, although
it has his usual stately dignity and impressive qualities in the
individual figures. The Virgin sits with the Child on her knee, clad in
red robes, over which is a garment, now smeared over with black paint,
but which formerly was covered with gold embroideries. Over her head is
a Trinity, in a _mandorla_ surrounded by cherubs. On the left stands the
Archangel Michael, in Roman armour, holding the balances, in which are
little nude figures representing the souls of the dead; on the right
stands Gabriel with the lily and scroll containing the Message of the
Annunciation. Below, seated at the foot of the throne, are Saint
Augustine and Saint Anastasio, the latter the same burly Bishop with
wide-spread knees of the Loreto Cupola, and the Volterra altar-piece.
These two Saints are fine, stately figures, painted with broad sweeping
lines. The green robe of S. Anastasio was originally covered with a
gorgeous pattern, probably of yellow or gold, but this has been effaced
by the thick smear of repaint. The gentle humility in the face of the
Virgin recalls the "Madonna," of the Brera Gallery, Milan (No. 197
_bis_) with which the picture has, besides, much in common, the Child,
as well as the hands of the Virgin, being exactly the same, although in
a reversed position. We shall not probably be far wrong in placing the
Florence altar-piece about the same time as this "Madonna," of the
Brera, which is dated 1508, and was painted for the church of S.
Francesco in Arcevia (a town famous for its possession of one of
Signorelli's most important works, which we shall presently consider).
Very much repainted, the Madonna still retains great charm and beauty,
but the composition is geometrical, and the figures of the Saints
uninteresting and empty. In these, especially the standing figure on the
left, I feel the hand of an assistant. With all Signorelli's
mannerisms, it lacks his resolute touch and powerful presentation. It is
probable that the great inequalities in many of his paintings,
especially at this later time, are due to his leaving much of the
execution to assistants. Whatever faults are in the work of the master
himself, he is never, up to the last, guilty of any feebleness or
insipidity, such, for instance, as in the painting of this unsolid

[Illustration: [_Brera, Milan_


I have been led from one picture to another by reason of similarities of
form, and have omitted to speak of a beautiful and important painting,
evidently executed soon after the Orvieto frescoes, with which it has
much in common. This is the altar-piece in the church of S. Niccolò,
Cortona, on one side of which is a "Madonna and Saints," on the other a
"Dead Christ upheld by Angels." It is as far as I know, original in
idea--this dead Christ supported by the Archangel, while others show the
symbols of the Passion to the group of kneeling Saints. The four Angels
are very noble figures, and resemble those of the "Hell" and
"Resurrection," of Orvieto. The "S. Jerome" is sincerely painted, and
without any of the senile sentimentality with which Signorelli
occasionally represents this Saint. The one false note in the work is
the stunted figure of the dead Christ, which seems all the more
insignificant by contrast with the grand Archangel who supports it. This
poetic figure with its great wings and its tender beauty is perhaps the
greatest of all the master's renderings of the "Divine Birds." The
colour scheme is much lighter than usual, the flesh-tints being
especially fair, and the painting is another instance of those seeming
efforts to adopt a less heavy palette, to which I have drawn attention
in speaking of the Uffizi _Tondo_.

[Illustration: [_S. Niccolò, Cortona_


Vischer considers the "Madonna and Saints" on the reverse of the panel
to have been painted at a different date.[71] It is an exceedingly fine
picture, with all the great qualities of majestic beauty. The Virgin
sits enthroned between SS. Peter and Paul, robed in red, and wearing a
blue mantle lined with green. The Child, half lying on her knee, has his
hand raised in act to bless. It is well modelled, and of a more pleasing
type than usual.

In 1507 was painted another very important work--the altar-piece in the
church of S. Medardo in Arcevia, a splendid _Ancona_, still in its
original Gothic frame. The Virgin is of the same tender type as in the
Brera and Florence Academy pictures, but with an added stateliness and
gravity. In the centre panel she sits enthroned, with the Child on her
knee, clad in an embroidered robe, on the breast of which are two naked
cherubs. On the left stand S. Medardo and S. Sebastian, on the right S.
Andrew and S. Rock, each figure separated, as in the old polyptychs, by
the pilasters of the frame. Above is God the Father, with two Saints on
either side, left S. Paul and S. John the Baptist, right S. Peter and S.
James of Camerino. Each of the side pilasters of the frame is divided
into seven small spaces, each containing the half figure of a saint, the
work of assistants. The effect of the whole painting is of great
splendour, the colours are of glowing depth, and the richness enhanced
by the low relief in gilded gesso of some of the brocades. But with
all its state and dignity, perhaps the most important part of the
altar-piece is the _predella_ with its five beautiful pictures, flanked
on either side by the arms of Arcevia. As colour these are remarkably
fine and are treated with more care and less rapidity than Signorelli
usually gave to _predella_ work, while retaining the same breadth and
freedom of general effect. "The Annunciation," with its beautiful
perspective, is one of his best compositions of this subject, in which
he is always so successful. "The Nativity" recalls that of the Uffizi
_predella_; "The Adoration of the Magi" is a fine rendering of the
scene, but the two last are the most interesting as well as being the
best in workmanship. In "The Flight into Egypt" the painter has
evidently been influenced by the engravings of Albrecht Dürer, and has
painted the little fortified town of the background very much in his
manner. "The Murder of the Innocents" contains two figures in splendid
action, the executioners, one with his dagger raised in act to strike,
the other holding the child up by the leg--both magnificent studies of
the nude, and worthy of the painter of the Orvieto frescoes.


[_In possession of Mr Jarvis,
New Haven, U.S.A._


Very inferior is the altar-piece of "The Baptism," in the same church of
S. Medardo. The existence of the contract of commission, dated June 5,
1508,[72] shows that Signorelli bound himself to paint the figures of
Christ, of the Baptist, and of God the Father, with his own hand,
leaving the rest of the work to his best pupils. These figures are,
however, so different from any of the master's own work, that it is
difficult to believe that they are entirely by him. The picture had
evidently to be finished in great haste, since the receipt for payment
in Luca's hand is dated the 24th of the same month of June, thus leaving
only nineteen days between commission and completion, a very short time
for so large a work. The Baptist stands in a rich red mantle pouring the
water on the head of the Herculean Christ, who wears the Pollaiuolesque
striped loin-cloth. The coarseness and exaggeration of the muscular
development have not the characteristics of Signorelli's own errors in
over-realism, but bear the same relation to his style that the work of
Bandinelli bears to that of Michelangelo. Above is a feeble figure of
God the Father, and in the middle distance a man pulls off his shirt,
reminding one, both in form and treatment, of the figures in Pier dei
Franceschi's "Baptism," of the National Gallery. Another sits by the
river putting on a sandal, not unlike, although very inferior to, the
athlete of the Munich _Tondo_. The composition is grand, and in the
importance given by it to the two principal figures we certainly see the
work of Signorelli. The picture is an example of one of those mysterious
conflicts of documentary and internal evidence, which the study of Art
occasionally furnishes. It still remains in its beautiful original
frame, in the gables of which is painted an "Annunciation," and below,
on each side, three half figures of Saints by some assistant, who was
not even a pupil of Signorelli, but obviously a follower of Niccolò da
Foligno. The _predella_ contains five scenes. "The Birth of the
Baptist," "The Preaching in the Desert," "The Denouncing of Herod and
Herodias" (a _Tondo_), "The Feast of Herod," and--rather out of its due
course, since the head is offered in the charger in the fourth
scene--"The Decapitation in Prison."

There is a very beautiful fragment of an unknown _predella_ in the
possession of Mr Jarvis of New Haven, U.S.A., which belongs
approximately to this period. It has all the impressive dignity and
breadth of treatment of Signorelli's best work. The subject is conceived
with special feeling for its stateliness, Joseph standing by the side of
the Virgin to receive the gifts, as a Chamberlain might stand beside the
throne, while the earnest reverence of the kneeling King, who has cast
his crown at the feet of the Child, is most nobly rendered. The gold in
the brocaded robes is here slightly in relief. The face of the kneeling
King recalls that of the aged Apostle in "The Institution of the
Eucharist," Cortona, a painting dated 1512; a beautiful picture,
executed for the high altar of the Gesù, but which has now been removed
to the Cathedral. Like the other works in this choir it is very badly
lighted, and the photograph is also indistinct. Vasari writes of it: "In
the Compagnia del Gesù, in the same city (Cortona), he painted three
pictures, of which the one over the high altar is marvellous, where
Christ communicates the Apostles, and Judas puts the wafer in his
satchel."[73] At the end of a shallow hall, in the usual good
perspective, His head accentuated against the sky, as in Leonardo's
"Last Supper," Christ stands, and puts the sacred wafer in the mouth of
a kneeling Apostle. In the foreground Judas, with a crafty look, opens
his satchel. The composition is exceedingly fine, the twelve Apostles
making a stately frame for the central figure of Christ. The attitudes
and gestures are natural and dramatic, and the faces have individual

The two other pictures of which Vasari speaks as having also been
painted for the Gesù, now the Baptistery, are--"The Nativity" (a coarse
and badly-painted school picture, having affinities with that of the
National Gallery, London, No. 1133), and a "Madonna and Saints," which
still remains in the Baptistery. Here the Virgin sits, with a Bishop on
either side, and two monks below. Dry and precise in composition, like
that of the Brera, and apparently painted with the assistance of pupils,
the Madonna herself is still very characteristic of the master, and not
unlike those of the Brera and the Florence Academy. The picture is in an
exceedingly ruined state, and the gabled top in which is painted God the
Father, though not without merit, does not belong to the original
painting, but is of a later date.

Lastly, we may place in this group, the broadly-painted _predella_,
which hangs now, badly lighted, in the sacristy of the Arezzo Cathedral.
It is unknown to what altar-piece it belonged, and the pictures are now
divided and separately framed. The first represents "The Birth of the
Virgin," the second "The Presentation," and the last "The Marriage."
"The Presentation" is the finest in composition and general effect, and
contains very stately figures of Joachim and Anna, with splendidly
draped robes, and behind them a fine austere landscape. All three
pictures are broadly painted and swept in in the usual impressionistic


[67] Vasari, iii. 686.

[68] See p. 10.

[69] Vasari, iii. 70. Commentario.

[70] See Chronological Table, p. 127.

[71] Vischer, p. 259.

[72] For these notices see Anselmi's monograph, "A proposito della
classificazione dei monumenti nazionali nella provincia d'Ancona."
(Foligno, 1888), p. 35. Also quoted by Cavalcaselle e Crowe, viii. p.

[73] Vasari, iii, 686.



We have now considered in detail most of the important works of
Signorelli's early manhood and maturity, and up to his seventy-fourth
year have found him, both in conception and execution, still maintaining
a high standard of excellence, and at an age when the life's work is
supposed to be over showing but little sign of failing powers. On the
contrary, he seems to have gained ground in certain things most
characteristic of his technical ability--in a rugged strength of
modelling, in facility of drawing and freedom of brushwork, and
particularly in that mastery of united movement, which it seemed his
special desire to attain. Even in this last group of paintings which we
have now to consider the mind works as powerfully, and the subjects are
conceived with the same impressive grandeur, as before, and only in one
or two instances can it be noticed that the hand does not always respond
so readily to the purpose.

In the "Madonna and Saints," of the Mancini collection, Città di
Castello, a slight technical falling off is apparent, although it is
possible that this may be due to the assistance of pupils. Its history
would seem, however, to point to its being the unaided work of
Signorelli; but, as we have already seen, documentary evidence is by
no means infallible. In the archives of Montone, a little town near
Umbertide, a deed, dated September 10, 1515, was discovered, which
speaks of an altar-piece presented by the master as a free gift to a
certain French physician, Luigi de Rutanis, in gratitude "for services
rendered, and for those which he hoped to receive in future."[74]


[_Mancini Coll.,
Città di Castello_


The Virgin stands heavily on the heads of cherubs, with S. Sebastian on
one side, and Santa Cristina, with a terribly realistic millstone hung
round her neck, on the other. Two angels hold the crown over her head,
and below stand S. Jerome and S. Nicholas of Bari, both intently
reading. The background stretches away into a charming distant
landscape, in which is a lake, not unlike Trasimeno, and sloping hills,
on which scenes of pastoral life are taking place. This landscape, taken
by itself, is the best part of the painting; of the rest, the
composition is too mechanically precise, the values of distance are bad,
the figures being all on the same plane, and even the landscape does not
keep its proper place in the picture. This last fault may, however, be
due to repainting, which is so thick that it is useless to speak of the
present colour. The altar-piece was discovered by Signor Giacomo Mancini
in a cellar in Montone, almost destroyed by damp and neglect, and since
its restoration it is perhaps hardly fair to discuss more than the
general lines; yet these, in the awkwardness of arrangement, and the
comparative triviality of the figures, both in attitude and gesture,
betray a weakness we have not hitherto met with.

Another picture of the same date--1515--is "The Madonna and Saints," in
the church of San Domenico, Cortona, also in very bad condition. The
restoration of the seventeenth century added a piece of canvas all
round, in order to enlarge it. It was painted for Serninio, Bishop of
Cortona, whose portrait is to be seen in the corner, full of expression
and exceedingly well modelled. The Virgin, in red robe and green mantle,
sits with her feet resting on the heads of cherubs, with an angel on
either side, and below S. Peter Martyr, and S. Domenico. It is an
important work, and among the most successful of the later paintings,
and it is curious that it should not have been photographed by either of
the larger firms.

The next year, 1516, Signorelli painted "The Deposition," of Umbertide,
in which he shows all the technical power of his maturity--(or was it,
perhaps, that he left less of the execution to assistants?). It was
executed for the little dark church of Santa Croce, in this village,
till recently called La Fratta, and still stands over the high
altar--not, however, in its original frame, which was removed in the
seventeenth century. It seems that there was a lunette over the top,
containing a Pietà.[75] Terribly defaced by bad restoration, and the
cracking of the later paint, it is still a very beautiful work, and its
_predella_ has all the qualities of boldness and freedom characteristic
of the master's best times. Some of the figures are perhaps too
obviously life-studies, especially the Mary, standing in the foreground
left, which he evidently painted straight from some _contadina_, whose
stolid features he reproduced without reference to the subject. The
body of the Christ is successful, and has all the weight and helpless
inertia of a corpse; the composition is admirable, and there is
sincerity of emotion in the painting of much of the scene. It is,
however, in the three pictures of the _predella_ that we shall find most
proof of the vigour of mind and hand. It is interesting to compare
Signorelli's treatment of the same subject with that of Pier dei
Franceschi in Arezzo, at the painting of which he probably assisted,
more than forty years before--"The March of Constantine," "The Discovery
of the Cross," and "The Entry of Heraclius into Jerusalem." The first of
the three is the best, both for the special quality of animated
movement, and for the excellence of its composition and its effect of
spacious movement. How much larger a tiny panel like this appears than
some of the crowded altar-pieces of his later years! Dashed in with a
few broad touches, as a modern impressionist might paint, the scene of
the camp is most natural, with its groups of soldiers and marching
troops with raised lances and fluttering pennons.

[Illustration: [_Santa Croce, Umbertide_


In the second, three scenes are run into one, without much reference to
any sequence of the story. On the right the Queen of Sheba kneels before
the bridge which she has recognised as the sacred wood; on the left the
Empress Helena finds the three crosses; and in the centre takes place
the testing of the true one in the resuscitation of the dead youth. In
the third--"The Entry of Heraclius into Jerusalem"--we have again a
splendid effect of a moving body of men. The Emperor has descended from
his horse, which is led behind him, and barefooted, in his shirt, he
carries the Cross within the gates.

The next dated work--"The Madonna and Saints," of the Arezzo Gallery,
was painted three years after this, in 1519. "He executed," says Vasari,
"in his old age, a picture for the Compagnia of S. Girolamo, part of
which was paid for by Messer Niccolò Gamurrini, Doctor of Law, Master of
the Rolls, whom he portrayed from life in that picture, on his knees
before the Madonna, to whom he is presented by a S. Nicholas, also in
the said picture; there are besides, S. Donato and S. Stephen, and below
a nude S. Jerome, and a David who sings on a Psaltery; there are also
two Prophets, who appear, by the scrolls in their hands, to be
discussing the Conception."[76]

[Illustration: [_Gallery, Arezzo_


The commission was given to Luca by the Compagnia of S. Girolamo, on
September 19, 1519, and the price was to be one hundred broad gold
florins, to be shared by Messer Gamurrini and the Confraternity.

In this picture it is in the intention rather than the execution that we
shall find the vigour and strength which ended only with the painter's
life. Much still remains grand and impressive, but though it shows
considerable power, the actual work is not so good. The colour is
exceedingly dark, and full of harsh contrasts; the composition is
overcrowded, as in many of his later paintings; and the figure of David,
although nobly conceived, is awkward and ill-balanced. On the other
hand, the Virgin is as powerfully executed as ever, and so is the
earnest, white-haired Prophet at her feet. It seems to me that the
master has given his own features in this upturned face, with its
firmly-cut lips and square jaw, certainly much more real a person than
the apathetic kneeling Donor. After its removal from its original place
over the altar of the Confraternity, the picture was for several years
in Santa Croce, and, after the suppression of that convent in 1849,
removed to Santo Spirito, and from thence to the Gallery.

Very close to it in style, and probably painted at no distant date, is
the _predella_ owned by Mr Ludwig Mond. It has three stories--I.
Ahasuerus and Esther, II. and III. (with no legendary connection of
which I am aware) Scenes in the Life of S. Augustine. The first is the
finest. Ahasuerus, surrounded by his councillors, bends forward, and
touches with his sceptre the head of the kneeling Esther. His figure is
very like that of the David in the foregoing picture. On the right is a
fine back view of one of the characteristic swaggering soldiers in tight
striped clothes. The treatment is broad, but the drawing in parts is
somewhat careless. In the other two scenes, the composition is jerky and
insignificant, but the individual figures are characteristic, especially
the nude _écorché_-like old saint. They represent visions which appear
in the air to S. Augustine, who sits below under a _loggia_.

Again, very close to the Arezzo altar-piece is "The Conception of the
Virgin," painted for the church of the Gesù, Cortona, now in the
Cathedral. The Virgin stands, on the usual cherub heads, in red and blue
robes, while God the Father bends over her, and two angels scatter
flowers through the air. Below are six prophets, among them David, with
his Psaltery, and Solomon, in crown and royal robe. Under the Virgin,
apparently supporting the cherubs, is the Tree of Life, with two very
fine nude figures of Adam and Eve receiving the fruit from the serpent.
It is the lower part only we have to consider, the whole of the upper
painting, with the weak, badly-draped Virgin and the theatrical angels
being certainly the work of assistants, as also, it seems to me, is the
drapery of the half-kneeling Prophet to the right. The David is exactly
the same figure as in the Arezzo altar-piece, to which, besides, there
is a great resemblance in all the faces, and in the hard coarse manner
in which the draperies are treated. The picture, however, lacks the
rugged strength which makes the Arezzo picture, with all its
shortcomings, so impressive, and only in the nude figures is the old
power unimpaired. These, however, are very good, the Adam especially
being as fine a study of the human form as any of the earlier work.

At Morra, a little village not far from Città di Castello, in the church
of San Crescenziano, are two very important frescoes, a "Crucifixion"
and a "Flagellation," evidently very late work of the master. In the
latter the composition is very little altered from the early picture of
the Brera. Christ is in the centre, bound to the pillar, and on the
right stands the Roman soldier. The executioner near him is almost a
repetition of the magnificent drawing in the Louvre (see reproduction),
except that the legs are wide apart. All Signorelli's energies have
again gone into the figures of the executioners, but, fine as they are,
they are not treated with the same breadth as in the earlier picture,
albeit the painting is free almost to roughness. The background, instead
of the carved wall, now opens out of the court into a spacious

In the "Crucifixion," the group at the foot of the Cross is arranged
much like those of the San Sepolcro, Urbino, and Cortona pictures, but
it is half lost in the confusion of a crowd of mounted soldiers. The
impressive silence and solemnity of these earlier "Pietàs" is changed
here to a scene of noisy turmoil, and the painter's interest is
obviously centred on the movement of this hustling crowd. The horses are
badly drawn and ill-balanced, as in the Louvre "Adoration," and the
Magdalen is very coarsely painted. The animation and action are well
rendered, but something of the grandeur of his earlier work is

This grandeur was, however, fully regained in the last work of the
master, painted in 1523, the very year of his death--"The Coronation of
the Virgin," in the Collegiata of Foiano, a small town near Sinalunga.

The Virgin, in red robes and greenish-blue mantle, with fair hair,
kneels before Christ, who places the crown on her head. On either side
two angels play musical instruments, and on the right and left stand S.
Joseph and the Archangel Michael. In the foreground kneels S. Martin, to
whom the altar-piece was dedicated, in a magnificent gold cope, having
on his left S. Jerome with a grey loin-cloth. Farther back are three
monks, and behind S. Martin stands the Magdalen, while on the other side
an old saint introduces the donor, Angelo Massarelli. The general tone
of colour is not nearly so heavy as in the Arezzo painting, the reds
are of a pale rose-colour, and only the flesh-tints of S. Jerome are
very dark. This figure and the S. Martin are nobly and powerfully
conceived. The donor recalls the portrait of the Gamurrini of Arezzo.

The painting does not seem to be the unassisted work of Signorelli, the
S. Michael being too insignificant a figure, and the Magdalen too weakly
executed to be by his own hand. The _predella_ bears evidence that he
had an assistant, for, of the four stories of S. Martin, which they
illustrate, only two are by the master. These two are very fine and
bold, in composition and brushwork. In the first the Saint, clad in
armour, is seated on the characteristic white horse, with a man-at-arms
behind him, and divides his cloak with the nude beggar. The background
is a broadly-painted landscape. The other represents the Saint kneeling
before a Bishop and two acolytes, clothed in a green tabard, a romantic
and beautiful figure. The two remaining divisions are larger in size,
and obviously the work of assistants, one illustrating S. Martin
exorcising a mad bull, the other his funeral and the miraculous healing
of the sick by the dead body.

It is satisfactory to have to conclude the list of works with one so
strong, and which combines so many of the qualities which we have learnt
to look for in Signorelli's painting. Rugged energy, dignity, decorative
grace, and even romantic beauty are all to be found in this altar-piece,
which is a fit ending to the life's work of the master.[77]


[74] Transcribed in Vischer, p. 360.

[75] Cavalcaselle e Crowe, viii. 493.

[76] Vasari, iii. 692.

[77] These detailed studies do not include all the works of Signorelli,
but a complete list of all that are known to the author is to be found
in the catalogue at the end.



The study of Signorelli's drawings is unsatisfactory, both by reason of
their scarcity, and the enormous difference of merit, even among those
few which can be considered as genuine. Morelli writes: "His drawings
are found in all the most important collections of Europe,"[78] but he
mentions only thirteen, and although many certainly in all the galleries
bear his name, and the impress of his influence, later study appears to
accept only six as by his own hand; and of these six two are so much
inferior to the rest that I cannot bring myself to feel any degree of
certainty as to their genuineness.

This difficulty of acceptance arises from a comparison with the very
high standard of excellence in the two magnificent studies of the nude
in the Louvre collection, which correspond, in breadth of feeling, in
grandeur of pose, and in boldness and accuracy of touch, to his best

No. 345, formerly in the Baldinucci collection, represents two nude male
figures of superb proportions, one standing with his hands on his hips,
the other, in the characteristic attitude with wide-spread,
firmly-planted feet, having his hand on the shoulder of the first. It
is in black chalk, dashed in swiftly, with bold sweeping strokes,
apparently direct from the life. It is one of the finest studies of the
nude in existence, both for the splendid anatomy of the figures and the
freedom and energy of touch. No. 343, also from the Baldinucci
collection, which is here reproduced, is hardly inferior to it in the
same qualities of boldness and freedom. It seems to be the study from
which Signorelli painted the executioner in _grisaille_ near the
"Pietà," in Orvieto, and later the scourging figure of the Morra
"Flagellation," although in both there are slight differences of
position. The action is exceedingly fine, the poise of the figure on the
well-drawn feet being especially good, while all the force of the strong
body is thrown into the arms stretched high up over the head.

In Dresden is a sheet of studies, which, while less fine than these two,
are yet very characteristic, and undoubtedly genuine. They are also in
black chalk, but very much rubbed, and consequently rather indistinct
They represent four nude figures in different postures, which Morelli
considers to be studies for part of the Orvieto frescoes, although I
have failed to discover there anything which corresponds to them.

[Illustration: [_Louvre, Paris_


In the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, is another black chalk study of two men
being chained by devils, which, again, seems as though it must have been
intended for some of the figures in the "Damnation," but which I cannot
find there. This drawing is also very characteristic, and although
falling far below the merit of the Louvre studies, has all Signorelli's
qualities of dramatic energy and strength of touch.

The heavy, coarse study for a "Death of Lucretia," also in the Uffizi, I
find extremely hard, in comparison with any of the foregoing, to accept
as an undoubted work of the master, although I am not prepared to
absolutely deny it. There is a want of proportion in the figures, and an
indecision in the strokes, hard to reconcile with all we know of his

In the collection at Windsor is another chalk drawing--"Hercules
overcoming Antæus"--of little merit either of anatomy or of technique,
but which may possibly be from his hand. There is something of the
influence of Antonio Pollaiuolo visible in this treatment of his
favourite subject, and it is just conceivable that it may be an early
study by Signorelli done in his workshop.

The list of all the drawings which are attributed to him in different
collections would take too long for the slight purpose it would serve;
but for the benefit of those who desire to compare for themselves those
which Morelli and Vischer decide to be genuine, I have added a list of
their attributions, transcribed without addition or correction.


DRESDEN (_Gallery_).--Study of four nude figures.

FLORENCE (_Uffizi_).--Case 459. [No. 1246.]

LONDON (_Brit. Mus._).--Three drawings, in vol. 32.

PARIS (_Louvre_).--[Nos. 340, 341, 342, 343, 344, 345, 346.]

WINDSOR (_Library_).--A drawing, attributed to Masaccio.

Besides these, a design for Marcantonio's engraving of "Mars, Venus, and
Cupid" (Bartsch, 345), attributed to Mantegna.


BERLIN (_Gallery_).--Man's head with cap (exposed in frame).

CHATSWORTH.--Four Saints (Waagen's attribution).

DRESDEN (_Gallery_) Case I. 10.--Head of a Woman. (Exposed in room
II.).--Battlefield (?) [This so-called Battlefield is the study of four
nudes, mentioned among the genuine drawings.--_Author's Note._]

FLORENCE (_Uffizi_).--Figure of Youth. Two Damned bound by Devils. Nude
Figure bearing Corpse. Madonna and Child (doubtful). Death of Lucretia
(?). Bacchanal.

PARIS (_Louvre_) 340.--Four nude figures; black chalk. 341. Two Saints;
coloured chalk. 342. A Saint; coloured chalk. 343. Nude figure
scourging; black chalk. 344. A Saint; black chalk. 345. Two nude
figures. 346. Pietà. 347. Nude figure bearing corpse; water-colour (more
finished repetition of the Uffizi study).

SIENA (_Collection of Mr C. Fairfax Murray_).--Seated Saints (study for
_grisaille_ Prophets in the nave of the church of Loreto).

WINDSOR (_Collection of H.M. the Queen_).--Devil seizing man; black
chalk (study for Orvieto frescoes). Male figure in three positions;
Indian ink (attributed to Raffael).

[Illustration: [_Academy, Florence_



[78] "Italian Painters," i. 93.



It would not be possible, in the space at my disposal, to go with any
thoroughness into the work of Signorelli's imitators, even of those who
fell directly under his influence. The painters who stand foremost among
them, Don Bartolommeo della Gatta and Girolamo Genga, are both too
important to be dealt with in a short notice, while it would be a
thankless as well as an arduous task, to try to distinguish the
different painters of what is generically classed as school-work, being,
as it nearly always is, without either individuality or merit. I shall
do little more, therefore, than make a brief mention of the names and
principal works of the known imitators, and try instead to indicate the
influence of Signorelli's style upon painting in general.

Morelli says much of his "uncompromising guidance," and of the
"degeneration" of those who fell under his "crushing influence."[79]
Something of the sort has been said of Michelangelo, and might be said
of every strong man whose personality is powerful enough to stamp its
mark on his contemporaries, but since no one who is content to be merely
a copyist could produce valuable work, the world has probably lost
little by the submission. It is, however, true that, as the powerful
muscles of Michelangelo's statues become meaningless lumps in the works
of Bandinelli and Vasari, so the mannerisms of Signorelli, which were
the outward sign of his strong and energetic temperament, lost all
significance, and were merely coarse exaggerations in the work of his
imitators. The swaggering attitude, the freedom of gesture, and the
dramatic expression, shorn of the strength and earnest emotion from
which they sprang, became disagreeably incongruous in the pictures of
the feeble painters who imitated them.

But one, at least, of Signorelli's disciples was neither slavish nor
feeble. Bartolommeo della Gatta, otherwise Piero di Antonio Dei, the
most important of those who came under his influence, was a painter of
great charm and ability. If it be true, as a recent criticism has
pronounced, that the beautiful "Madonna," of the Christ Church
collection, Oxford, there attributed to Pier dei Franceschi, is from his
brush,[80] we have to deal with a man who started work under the same
ennobling influence as Signorelli himself. Be that as it may, and as
future research will decide, the fresco of "The Death of Moses," in the
Sistine Chapel, which later study has presumed to be almost entirely his
work, proves him to be a painter of great beauty and importance. Signor
Gaetano Milanesi has thrown doubt upon his existence as a painter of
anything except miniatures,[81] but the happy discovery of a document,
referring to his altar-piece of "S. Francis receiving the stigmata," in
the Church of that Saint in Castiglione Fiorentino, has placed the fact
beyond dispute.[82] The student who desires to know more of this painter
is referred to the last Italian edition of Cavalcaselle e Crowe, vol.
viii., and to the "Life" by Vasari, whose reliability in this case the
researches of the critics so well confirm. Born probably in 1408, he was
already a man of mature age when Signorelli himself was a child, but his
simple, pliable nature fitted him to be a follower rather than a leader,
and we find him now influenced by Pier dei Franceschi, now by
Signorelli, and again later by Fiorenzo di Lorenzo. If it be true that
the really splendid painting of the Sistine Chapel is due to him
entirely, it is, of course, his masterpiece, and reaches, indeed, a
level not very inferior to that of Signorelli himself. His most
important undisputed works are the above-mentioned painting in the
church of S. Francesco, Castiglione Fiorentino, the altar-piece in the
Collegiata of the same town, a S. Rock in the Gallery, and a fresco of
S. Jerome, in the Bishop's Palace, Arezzo, etc.

Another imitator of importance, Girolamo Genga, impressionable as his
nature was, yet has much individual excellence to distinguish him from
the rest of Signorelli's assistants. Born at Urbino in 1476, he was
placed, at the age of fifteen, in the studio of Signorelli, with whom,
according to Vasari, he remained for twenty years, becoming "one of the
best pupils that he had."[83] After assisting the master in the painting
of the Cappella Nuova, Orvieto, Genga (always according to the same
authority) placed himself to study perspective with Perugino, at the
time that Raffaelle was also under the influence of that painter. This,
as well as the fact that he was a native of Urbino, and had probably
also felt the impression of Timoteo Viti, would account for the enormous
influence Raffaelle's painting had upon his later work. He seems to have
had an extraordinary facility for changing his style; for, while under
the influence of Signorelli, as in the Petrucci Palace frescoes (Nos.
375 and 376 in the Gallery of Siena), his work bears so much resemblance
to that of the master, that so observant a critic as Morelli declared
the composition of both to be most certainly by Luca himself.[84] Genga
seems to have caught, not the superficial forms only, but also the
spirit of Signorelli in these frescoes, for in one--"The Flight of Æneas
from Troy"--there is an exaggeration of the characteristic energy and
movement, which, almost hysterical though it be, is yet successful and
full of real life; while in the swaggering strength of the nude figures
in "The Rescue of Prisoners" there is something of Luca's own dignity
and impressiveness. In his later work, although he never departs from
certain likenesses to his first master, yet he gives himself up to the
influence of Raffaelle unreservedly, as may be best seen in the Cesena
altar-piece, now in the Brera, Milan. Morelli writes of him: "This
eclectic painter, who, though working in a baroque style, is not without
talent, is confounded with the most diverse masters, both in drawings
and paintings";[85] and the fact that besides the above-mentioned
variations of style, his work is also pardonably attributed to Girolamo
del Pacchia[86] and to Sodoma,[87] fully justifies the epithet and the
assertion. Of the other and less important followers, Tommaso Bernabei,
called Papacello, seems to have been first assistant of Giulio Romano,
and then of Giambattista Caporali, with whom he is said to have painted
the frescoes in the Villa Passerini, near Cortona. His first original
work is of the year 1524--a "Conception of the Virgin," in the church of
Santa Maria del Calcinaio, near Cortona, in which the manner of
Signorelli is very apparent. In the same church are two other paintings
by him, dated 1527, an "Adoration of the Magi," and an "Annunciation,"
which are sufficient to indicate the small amount of artistic ability of
the painter. The date of his birth is unknown; he died in 1559.[88]

We have, besides, four members of Signorelli's own family. First, his
son Polidoro, whom we know to have been his assistant at Orvieto; for,
in a document of 1501, he is mentioned as having received certain
payments there for salary, as well as for materials for the work.[89]
His manner of painting is unknown to us, so that it is impossible to
distinguish his share in the frescoes.

Two other sons, Antonio and Pier Tommaso, were, it seems, also
assistants of their father, the former being the painter of a dated
altar-piece in the church of Santa Maria del Calcinaio, near
Cortona.[90] Lastly, his nephew Francesco, the most important of the
assistants bearing his own name, from whose hand there are several
paintings very close to the master in style. To him, at least, are
attributed the standard of "The Baptism," in the Gallery of Città di
Castello, and a _Tondo_ of a "Madonna and Saints," in the Palazzo
Pubblico, Cortona. There is one signed altar-piece by him, "The
Conception of the Virgin," in the choir of S. Francesco, Gubbio.

Turpino Zaccagna is another pupil, of whom Manni writes that he was a
noble youth of Cortona, who took to painting, and imitated Signorelli's
style.[91] Of his work remains an altar-piece in the church of S. Agata
di Cantalena, near Cortona, signed and dated 1537.

With him the list of known pupils closes. But more really important than
either of these minor scholars is the unknown imitator who painted the
beautiful "Magdalen," of the Florence Academy. Executed on linen, and
evidently intended for a church standard, this is the most successful of
all the works in Signorelli's manner, which yet cannot be accepted as
genuine. The design of the principal figures in the foreground and
middle distance I believe to be by Signorelli himself, and the intensity
of emotion in the Magdalen, who has cast herself at the foot of the
Cross, and the impressive grandeur of the three figures to the right,
have lost none of the original spirit of the master. The colour is
entirely different, and would alone preclude the acceptance of the
painting as Signorelli's work, but, moreover, the general effect has so
little of his sweeping breadth, and the details of the shadowy landscape
are so poorly composed, that it is probable even the whole of the
drawing is not by him.

[Illustration: [_Gallery, Buda-Pesth_


An interesting picture in the Gallery of Buda-Pesth, there attributed to
Luca himself, connects the charming and mysterious "Griselda" series
(Nos. 912, 913, and 914), of the National Gallery,[92] with some
follower of Signorelli, for it is sufficient to glance at the background
of this "Tiberius Gracchus" to be convinced that its painter is the same
unknown master. In the "Griselda" pictures there is more evidence than
here of the influence of Pintorricchio, to whom they are, not
unnaturally, attributed; while in the "Tiberius," in the drapery of the
figure, and the type of the children who support the tablet, especially,
there is much of the real spirit of Signorelli, as well as a good deal
of his breadth and solidity of drawing. The painter must, for the
present, remain as an unknown Umbrian, almost equally influenced by
Pintorricchio and Luca, and with peculiar qualities of simple grace and
romance, which give his work an extremely individual character.

Very different is the imitation of Signorelli's mannerisms in such works
as "The Nativity," of the National Gallery, "The Madonna and Saints," of
the Gallery of Città di Castello, and "The Abbondanza," of the Uffizi.
In these the imitation is mechanical, and without any comprehension of
the master's spirit. It would be useless to mention more of the
school-work, in which superficial excellences and defects are copied
with equal zeal.

On the other hand, the spiritual qualities which these mechanical
imitators missed, were felt intensely by men who never adopted his
mannerisms, and it is in the work of these that the real effect of
Signorelli's influence is to be found. The frescoes of Orvieto never
became, like Masaccio's in the Carmine, a school to which the younger
painters thronged, purposely to learn the methods of the master, but
their impressive grandeur and solemnity, and the breadth of brushwork
and solid modelling by which these qualities were in a great measure
obtained, worked, nevertheless, a very important change in the Art of
the time, and a wave of strong fresh blood was sent through its veins.
Without them, perhaps, we should never have had the same appeal to the
imagination and the nobler instincts in the Sistine paintings, although
there is not in the whole of the work one single mannerism from
Signorelli's style.[93] But what is called the "Terribilità" of the
older master was entirely free from the sombre melancholy which strikes
so gloomy a note in the work of Michelangelo. Signorelli's greatest gift
to us is his conception of humanity, not only of its robust strength,
but of its mental vigour. His figures are solemn, but it is a solemnity
untainted with sadness, conscious only of the dignity of the human race,
its significance and responsibilities.

By his power over his materials, won by hard study, he added much to
Art, and presented things, not as conventional symbols, but as they are
actually reflected on the eye. His people stand on solid ground by the
help of firm muscle, substantial realities that we feel could be touched
and walked round. His atmosphere gives the sense of real space and air.
His trees seem to have roots, and their branches to be full of sap. By
this truth and power of presenting things as they are he was able to
endow his paintings with his own conception of Nature, grander and wider
than our own, and to make us see mankind with his eyes, built on
broader, stronger lines. Nothing trivial or insignificant enters into
his perception of life. He takes his place with Mantegna, with Dürer,
and with Cossa, the austere painters, who felt the dignity of life to
lie in rugged strength, iron resolution, and unflinching


[79] "Italian Painters," i. 96.

[80] An attribution of Mr B. Berensen.

[81] See "Commentary on the Life of Bart. della Gatta." Vasari, iii.

[82] Cavalcaselle e Crowe. Transcript of the Document, viii. 537.

[83] Vasari, vi. 315.

[84] "Italian Painters," i. 94.

[85] "Italian Painters," ii. 285.

[86] Madonna. Siena Gallery, No. 340.

[87] Portrait of Man. Pitti Gallery, Florence, No. 382.

[88] See Cavalcaselle e Crowe, viii. 521.

[89] Vischer, 102.

[90] Vischer, 320.

[91] Inserted at the end of Vischer's "Signorelli," 383.

[92] Unfortunately recently hung so high that any just appreciation of
their great merit and beauty is impossible.

[93] Crowe and Cavalcaselle maintain that Raffaelle also studied
carefully the works of Signorelli. See Cavalcaselle e Crowe, viii. 425,
and i. 41, etc. etc.



    [The following table is compiled from that of Cavalcaselle e
    Crowe. (Le Monnier, 1898) as being more complete than that in
    Milanesi's Vasari, and more condensed than that of Vischer.
    Dates, however, which are not supported by documentary evidence
    have been omitted.]

1441 (_circa_). Luca was born of Egidio, son of Luca, son of Ventura

1474. (November) Completed the fresco in the Tower of the Commune, Città
    di Castello, with the Virgin enthroned between SS. Jerome and Paul,
    first spoiled by exposure, and completely destroyed by the
    earthquake of 1789.

1479. (Sep. 6) Elected to the Consiglio dei XVIII., Cortona.

1479. (Nov. 28) Elected to the Conservatori degli Ordinamente del

1480. Elected to the Priori for the months of March and April.

1480. (Aug. 26) Elected to the Consiglio Generale.

1481. (Aug. 25) Elected to the Consiglio Generale.

1484. Painted the altar-piece in the Cathedral of Perugia.

1484. Is sent to Gubbio, to negotiate with Francesco di Giorgio, Sienese
    architect, for a design for the church of Calcinaio, near Cortona.

1485. (Jan. 10) Undertook the painting of a chapel in Sant' Agata,
    Spoleto; a work which, it seems, was never executed.

1485. (Feb. 22) Elected to the Consiglio dei XVIII.

1485. (Aug. 22) Elected to the Consiglio Generale.

1486. Elected to the Priori for the months of January and February.

1488. (July 6) For the great ability with which he painted the Banner of
    the Blessed Virgin, is made citizen of Città di Castello, as was his
    great desire.

1488. Reseated in the Chief Magistracy of Cortona for the months of
    September and October.

1489. Elected to the Consiglio Generale.

1490. (Dec. 25) Elected to the Priori for the months of January and

1490. (Dec. 27) His son Antonio announces to the Priori that Luca cannot
    serve, being absent from the city at a distance of over forty miles.

1491. (Jan. 5) Is among those invited to judge the designs and models
    presented for the competition for the façade of Santa Maria del
    Fiore, Florence. Did not assist.

1491. (Aug. 23) Elected to the Consiglio Generale.

1491. Painted the altar-piece of the "Annunciation," in the Cathedral,

1491. Painted the altar-piece of San Francesco, Volterra.

1493. Painted the altar-piece of the "Adoration of the Magi," for the
    church of Sant'Agostino, Città di Castello.

1493. Elected to the Consiglio Generale.

1493. (Sept. 24) Sold for 122 gold florins to Domenico di Tommaso della
    Barba of Cortona, some acres of ground situated in the territory of
    Montalla, called La Mucchia, and the Via di Montalla, and others in
    the territory of Orsaia, called the Bocca del Prato and the Via da

1494. Commission for the Banner for the church of Santo Spirito,

1495. Elected to the Priori for the months of November and December.

1496. Painted the altar-piece of the "Nativity," for the church of San
    Francesco, Città di Castello.

1497. Elected to the Priori for the months of May and June.

1497. (March 10) Elected one of the Revisori degli Argenti.

1497. Elected to the Priori for the months of November and December.

1497. Painted in the cloister of Monte Oliveto, near Chiusuri, "Stories
    in the Life of S. Benedict."

1498. Painted the altar-piece for the chapel of the Bicchi family in S.
    Agostino, Siena.

1498. (Feb. 22) Elected to the Consiglio Generale.

1499. (April 5) Commission for the frescoes in the roof of the Cappella
    Nuova, in the Cathedral, Orvieto.

1500. (April 27) Commission for the painting of the walls in the
    above-mentioned chapel.

1500. (Feb. 21) Elected to the Consiglio Generale.

1501. (May 1) Becomes surety to a citizen who undertakes the office of
    Priore of the Commune.

1501. Certain payments are made to Polidoro, son of Maestro Luca, for
    colours and plaster, the removing of the scaffolding of the chapel,
    and for a part of his salary.

1501. (June 5) Sold to Ventura, his brother, the half of a house, which
    belonged to him, together with the said Ventura, situated in
    Cortona, in the quarter of San Marco, bounded by the Hospital of San
    Niccolò, by Pietro, surnamed Scrolla, by Jacopo di Francesco, and by
    the Via del Comune.

1502. Painted the "Deposition," for the church of Santa Margherita,
    Cortona, now in the Cathedral.

1502. Payment made to Maestro Luca Signorelli for the painting of the
    Cappella Nuova, Orvieto.

1502. (Feb. 21) Elected to the Consiglio Generale.

1502. (June 23) Elected to the Priori for the months of July and August,
    but cannot serve because his family is attacked by the plague.

1502. (July 23) Presents to Paolo di Forzore and to his daughter
    Francesca two acres of ground at Rio di Loreto, belonging to him as
    heir of his son Antonio, who had received it as the dowry of his
    first wife Nannina, daughter of Paolo.

1502. Elected to the Priori for the months of November and December.
    Being absent, his name was removed from the list.

1504. (Feb. 23) Elected to the Council of XVIII.

1504. Elected to the Priori for the months of May and June.

1504. Painted the altar-piece of S. Mary Magdalen for the Cathedral of

1504. (Dec. 5) Payment for the paintings of the Cappella Nuova.

1505. (Feb. 21) Elected to the Consiglio Generale.

1505. (Sept. 1) Is surety for one of the Priori.

1506. Is in Siena, and receives the commission for the cartoon of the
    "Judgment of Solomon," for the marble pavement of the Cathedral.

1506. (Oct. 27) Is surety for one of the Priori.

1507. (Feb. 20) Elected to the Consiglio Generale.

1507. Elected to the Priori for the months of July and August.

1507. (Dec. 17) Elected to the Council of the Casa di Misericordia.

1507. Painted the altar-piece in the church of S. Medardo, Arcevia.

1508. (Feb. 23) Elected to the Consiglio dei XVIII.

1508. Elected to the Priori for the months of July and August.

1508. (July 5) Is sent on an embassy to Florence to demand permission to
    reform the offices and ordinances of the Commune.

1508. (Aug. 25) Elected to the Consiglio Generale.

1508. Is in Rome, painting for Julius II., together with Perugino,
    Pintorricchio, and Sodoma.

1509. (Feb. 21) Elected one of the Inspectors of Santa Margherita.

1509. (March 1) Becomes surety for a priest.

1509. (March 11) Binds himself to paint, for 70 gold florins, a picture
    for the high altar of the Convent Church of Santuccie, Cortona.

1509. (Aug. 25) Elected to the Consiglio dei XVIII.

1509. Elected to the Priori for the months of January and February.

1510. (Aug. 18) Appointed one of the Inspectors of Relics of the

1510. Payment for the Cappella Nuova, Orvieto.

1511. (Aug. 28) Elected to the Consiglio Generale.

1511. Elected to the Priori for the months of November and December.

1512. Painted "The Institution of the Eucharist," in the Cathedral,

1512. (Sept. 27) Is sent as ambassador to Florence, together with Messer
    Silvio Passerini, Messer Gilio and Jacopo Vagnucci, to congratulate
    the Medici on their return to Florence. Departed Sept. 28 and
    returned Oct. 12.

1513. Is in Rome, and appears to have borrowed money from Michelangelo.

1514. (July 18) Elected to the Riformatori e Imborsatori degli Uffici.

1514. (Aug. 25) Elected to the Sindaco del Capitano.

1514. (March 18) Makes a will, annulling the donation made to his
    daughter Gabriella, to his son-in-law Mariotto Passerini, and to his
    grandaughter Bernardina, and pronouncing as his sole heir his son
    Pier Tommaso, and his grandson Giulio, son of the above.

1515. (Feb. 18) Elected to the Conservatori degli Ordinamente.

1515. Painted the "Madonna," now in the Mancini collection, Città di

1515. (Aug. 25) Elected to the Consiglio Generale.

1515. (Sept. 23) Is commissioned by the Priori of Cortona to paint, for
    16 gold florins, the arms of Silvio Passerini, Chancellor of Leo X.,
    on the walls of the atrium of the Palazzo Pubblico.

1515-16. Painted the "Deposition," in the church at La Fratta (now

1516. (Feb. 21) Elected to the Collegi.

1516. (Feb. 26) Luca, from the rostrum, speaks publicly in the Council
    on a matter in deliberation.

1516. (May 21) Elected to the Consiglio Generale; but is absent.

1516. Elected to the Priori for the months of November and December.

1517. (Feb. 22) Among the Stimatori del danno.

1517. (April 23) Among the Inspectors of the Property of Santa

1517. (July 24) Is elected as ambassador to Rome to present to Cardinal
    Passerini a gift from the Commune.

1517. (Aug. 26) Elected to the Consiglio Generale.

1517. (Nov. 9) Is excused from the above-mentioned embassy to Rome.

1518. Elected to the Collegi.

1518. Painted the altar-piece for the Confraternity of San Girolamo of

1520. (Feb. 23) Elected to the Consiglio dei XVIII.

1520. Elected to the Priori for the months of May and June.

1520. (June 7) Gave the design of a wooden candelabra with copper
    sconces for the altar of the Great Hall of Council, Cortona.

1520. (Aug. 25) Elected to the Consiglio dei XVIII.

1521. (April 23) Elected Prior of the Confraternity of Sant' Antonio.

1521. (April 27) Commissioned to paint a picture for the Hospital of the
    Misericordia, Cortona.

1521. (May 22) The Priori writes to Cardinal Passerini, legate to
    Perugia, that he should not send Maestro Pietro Perugino or other
    painters to whom Luca may have spoken, to value the picture painted
    by Luca in the Church of Santa Maria del Piève.

1521. (July 7) Commission for the picture for the Convent of S. Trinità
    in Cortona.

1521. (Aug. 15) Elected to take part in the Commission to examine the
    new bridge over the Chiana.

1521. (Sept. 6) Elected to the Pacieri.

1522. (Feb. 18) Elected to the Collegi.

1522. (April 23) Prior of the Confraternity of San Marco.

1522. (Aug. 25) Elected one of the Conservatori degli Ordinamente del
    Comune, and the Provveditori de' luoghi pii.

1522. Elected to the Priori for the months of January and February.

1523. Painted the altar-piece of the Collegiata, Foiano.

1523. (Feb. 21) Elected to the Sindaci del Capitano.

1523. (April 24) Elected one of the Inspectors of the Chapel of Santa

1523. (June 14) Received payment for the picture of Foiano.

1523. (June 23) The Priori commission him to paint, for the chapel of
    the great hall of the Palazzo Pubblico, a picture with "Christ
    disputing in the Temple," for the price of 35 gold florins.

1523. (July 16) Elected one of the Riformatori degli Uffici.

1523. (Oct. 13) His last will. Desires to be buried in the church of S.
    Francesco, in the tomb of his family.

1523. (Oct. 15) Adds a codicil to his will with a few alterations of

1523. Died between the last days of November and the 1st December. The
    8th December another citizen is nominated to the Inspectorship of
    the Chapel of Santa Margherita, as substitute for Maestro Luca,
    being dead.










    _This must be the panel mentioned by Cavalcaselle as in the
    possession of Capt. Stirling, Glentyan, Scotland (?)._


  MADONNA. Oil. 1 ft. 9 in. × 1 ft. 4 in. [No. 26.]


  THE CIRCUMCISION. Oil. 8 ft. 6 in. × 5 ft. 11 in. [No. 1128.]

    _Originally in the church of S. Francesco, Volterra. Later in
    the Duke of Hamilton's Collection, near Glasgow. Purchased in




    1. Dispute on the way to Emmaus. 2. Christ at Emmaus.



    1. Meeting of Joachim and Anna. 2. Birth of the Virgin.



    1. Ahasuerus and Esther. 2 and 3. Scenes in the Life of S.


  MADONNA. Tondo.



    Part of Predella formerly in the Mancini Collection, Città di
    Castello. For sale since 1898.








  PART OF PREDELLA. 1525. Oil. 1 ft. 1 in. × 2 ft. 4 in.

    _From the Collection of Louis XVIII._

  ADORATION OF THE MAGI. Oil. 10 ft. 10 in. × 8 ft. 1 in. Drawing only.

    _From the Collection of Napoleon III._


    _Bought from Campana Collection, Rome, by Napoleon III._




    _From the Collection of the late Herr von Lindenau._

    Four small panels with a Saint in each, and five parts of a
    Predella: 1. Christ on the Mount of Olives. 2. Flagellation. 3.
    Crucifixion. 4. Deposition. 5. Resurrection.


    Oil. 4 ft. 8 in. × 2 ft. 5½ in. [No. 79.]

    _Painted for the church of S. Agostino, Siena, which was burnt
    down in 1655. Bought from the Solly Collection._

    Oil on canvas. 6 ft. 5 in. × 8 ft. 6½ in. [No. 79A.]

    _Probably painted for Lorenzo dei Medici. Discovered in 1865 in
    the Palazzo Corsi, Florence. Bought by the Berlin Gallery 1873._

    Inscribed: LVCA CORTONEN.

  HOLY FAMILY. Oil. 10 in. × 10 in. Tondo. [No. 79B.]

    _From the Patrizi Collection, Rome. Bought 1875._


  PORTRAIT OF MAN. Oil. 1 ft. 7 in. × 1 ft.

    _From the Torrigiani Collection, Florence._





    _From the Palazzo Ginori, Florence._


ARCEVIA, S. MEDARDO (between Fabriano and Sinigalia).

  POLYPTYCH. MADONNA AND SAINTS. 1507. Oil. 8 ft. 8 in. × 8 ft. 8 in.

    In the original Gothic frame. Inscribed:


  PREDELLA: 1. The Annunciation. 2. The Nativity. 3. The
  Adoration of the Magi. 4. The Flight into Egypt. 5. The
  Murder of the Innocents.


  BAPTISM. 1508. Oil. 4 ft. 4 in. × 4 ft. 4 in.

    In the original Gothic frame. Partly by assistants.

  PREDELLA: 1. The Birth of the Baptist. 2. The Preaching
    in the Desert. 3. The Denouncing of Herod and Herodias.
    4. The Feast of Herod. 5. The Decapitation in Prison.


  MADONNA, SAINTS, AND PROPHETS. 1519. Oil. 11 ft. 7½ in. × 7 ft. 9 in.
    [No. 31.]

    _Painted for the Campagnia of San Girolamo. For many years in S.
    Croce; on the suppression of that convent in 1849 removed to S.
    Spirito; from thence to the Gallery._



    1. Birth of the Virgin. 2. Presentation. 3. Marriage of the


  S. ROCK. Oil. [No. 19.]

  MADONNA. Oil. [No. 20.]

  S. SEBASTIAN. [No. 24.]


  CHURCH STANDARD. Oil on canvas. 6 ft. 4 in. × 4 ft. 6 in.

    On one side a Crucifixion; on the other, SS. Antonio and Eligio.

    _From the Confraternity of S. Antonio Abbate._


  DEPOSITION. Fresco. 8 ft. 10 in. × 8 ft. 10 in.


    Oil, 9 ft. 4 in. × 5 ft. 9½ in. [No. 19.]

    _From the church of S. Domenico._



    _Painted for the church of S. Francesco in Montone, near
    Umbertide. Discovered in a cellar in Montone._



  DEPOSITION. 1502. Oil. 8 ft. 10 in. × 8 ft 10 in.

    _From the church of Santa Margherita._

    Inscribed (under frame):



    1. Christ in Gethsemane. 2. The Last Supper. 3. The Betrayal. 4.
    The Flagellation.

    Oil. 8 ft. 2 in. × 8 ft. 2 in.

    _From the high altar of the Gesù._




    The upper part the work of assistants.

CORTONA, S. DOMENICO (3rd altar, R.).


    _Painted for the Bishop of Cortona._





  DEAD CHRIST UPHELD BY ANGELS. Oil. 5 ft. ½ in. × 5 ft. 8½ in.
  On the Reverse--


CORTONA, S. NICCOLO (on the wall, l. of entrance).

  MADONNA AND SAINTS. Fresco. 9 ft. 4 in. × 9 ft. 8 in.

    _Discovered in 1847 by Don Agramante Lorini._


  CRUCIFIXION. Oil, on canvas. [No. 6.]
    (Part of the design only.)

  MADONNA AND SAINTS. Oil. [No. 54.]

    _From the church of S. Trinità, Cortona._

  PREDELLA. [No. 54.]

    1. The Last Supper. 2. Christ in Gethsemane. 3. The




  HOLY FAMILY. Oil. 2 ft. 11 in. × 2 ft 11 in. Tondo. [No. 355.]


  MADONNA AND CHILD (1st Corridor). [No. 74.]

    _Probably painted for Lorenzo dei Medici. Later in the Villa of
    Duke Cosimo at Castello. Removed to the Gallery 1779._

  HOLY FAMILY. Tondo. [No. 1291.]

    _Originally in the "Audienza dei Capitani," later in the "Stanza
    del Provveditore."_

  PREDELLA. [No. 1298.]

    1. The Annunciation. 2. The Nativity. 3. The Adoration of the

    _From the church of Santa Lucia, Montepulciano._

FOIANO (near Sinalunga), COLLEGIATA.

  CORONATION OF THE VIRGIN. 1523. Oil. 6 ft. 11 in. × 5 ft. 7 in.

  PREDELLA. (Two scenes only by Signorelli.)


  FRESCOES. Probably finished before 1484.

    (Left Sacristy) "Della Cura." (In the cupola) Angels,
    Evangelists, and Fathers of the Church. (Walls) Apostles,
    Incredulity of S. Thomas. (Over door) Conversion of Saul. (Nave)
    Medallions in _grisaille_ of Prophets and Fathers of the Church.


  MADONNA AND SAINTS. 1508. Oil. 8 ft. 2 in. × 6 ft. 2½ in. [No. 197bis.]

    _From the church of S. Francesco, Arcevia. First brought to the
    Gallery 1811. In 1815 removed to the church at Figino, near
    Milan. Replaced in the Gallery 1892._

    Inscribed: LVCAS SIGNORELLI P. CORTONA (on the back of the

  THE FLAGELLATION. [No. 262.]   { Probably one panel
                                 { originally.
  MADONNA AND CHILD. [No. 281.]  { 2 ft. 8½ in. × 2 ft.

    _From the church of Santa Maria del Mercato, Fabriano._

    "The Flagellation" inscribed: OPVS LVCE CORTONENSIS.


  FRESCOES. 1497.

    Eight scenes from the life of S. Benedict.

MORRA (near Città di Castello), S. CRESCENZIANO.




  FRESCOES. 1499-1504.

    (Six compartments in Vaulting): 1. Apostles; 2. Signs of the
    Passion; 3. Martyrs (design of Fra Angelico); 4. Virgins; 5.
    Patriarchs; 6. Fathers of the Church. (Four large frescoes): 1.
    Antichrist; 2. Crowning of the Elect; 3. Damnation; 4.
    Resurrection. (Window Wall): R. Hell; L. Heaven. (Round the
    Portal): Signs of Destruction. (Lower Walls): Pietà; Portraits
    of Poets; Medallions in _grisaille_.


  S. MARIA MADDALENA. 1504. Oil. 5 ft. 11 in. × 3 ft. 11 in.

    _Originally painted for the Cathedral._

    Inscribed on the upper part of the frame:


    On the lower:


  [No. 1504.] Tempera on brick. 1 ft. × 1 ft. 3½ in.

    Inscribed on the draperies: LVCA and NICOLAVS.

    On the back, probably by Signorelli at the request of Niccolò
    Franceschi, the Treasurer of the Works:



  MADONNA AND SAINTS. 1484. Oil. 6 ft. 8 in. × 6 ft. 1½ in.

    Inscribed (hidden by the frame):



  HOLY FAMILY. Oil. 2 ft. 8 in. × 2 ft. [Sala II., No. 3.]


  DEPOSITION. Oil. 6 ft. 6 in. × 4 ft. 10 in.

  PREDELLA: 1. March of Constantine. 2. Discovery of the Cross.
    3. Entry of Heraclius into Jerusalem.


  CHURCH STANDARD. (Now divided.) Oil on canvas. 5 ft. × 3 ft.
    (On one side, CRUCIFIXION; on the other, DESCENT OF THE


  ANNUNCIATION. 1491. Oil.


    A later inscription records its restoration in 1731.



    _From the church of S. Francesco._


VOLTERRA (first landing of stairs), MUNICIPIO.

  S. GIROLAMO. Fresco.





[94] The paintings, except when otherwise indicated, are on wood.


_Adoration of the Magi, The_ (Louvre), 37;
  (Arcevia), 93;
  (New Haven), 95

_Agony in the Garden, The_, 88

_Ahasuerus and Esther_, 103

_Annunciation, The_ (Volterra), 7, 49, 50;
  (Uffizi), 50;
  (formerly Mancini collection), 51;
  (Arcevia), 93, 94

Arcevia, Altar-piece at, 11, 92

_Baptism, The_ (Arcevia), 93

Berensen, B., 6, 112

Bernabei, Tommaso, 115

_Betrayal, The_ (Florence), 23, 88;
  (Cortona), 23, 88

Bicchi Family, Altar-piece for, 8, 59

_Birth of the Baptist, The_ (Arcevia), 95

_Birth of the Virgin, The_ (Arezzo), 96

Bode, Dr, 43

Botticelli, 6;
  his "Calumny," 19;
  passion for swift movement, 23

Bramante, 11

Caporali, Giambattista, 11

Castagno, Andrea di, 19;
  influence of on Signorelli, 21

_Christ in Gethsemane_, 88

_Circumcision, The_, 38, 39, 47

Città di Castello, Frescoes at, 4, 5, 53;
  citizenship of presented to Signorelli, 7

_Conception of the Virgin, The_, 103

_Conversion of Saul, The_, 24, 30, 36

_Coronation of the Virgin, The_, 105

Cortona, Signorelli born at, 2;
  municipal appointments at, 5, 6, 8, 10;
  the "Deposition" in the Cathedral of, 10, 87

Crowe and Cavalcaselle, 6, 21, 37, 39, 83, 113, 118

_Crowning of the Elect, The_, 24, 29, 42, 73

_Crucifixion, The_ (Urbino), 52;
  (Borgo San Sepolcro), 61, 88;
  (Morra), 61, 104

_Damnation, The_, 8, 22, 76

Dante, Portraits of, by Signorelli, at Orvieto, 71, 74;
  scenes from the Divina Commedia, 74, 75

_Dead Christ supported by Angels_, 26, 91

_Death of Lucretia_, Study for a, 109

_Death of Moses, The_, 6, 112

_Decapitation in Prison, The_, 95

_Denouncing of Herod and Herodias_, 95

_Deposition, The_ (Cortona), 10, 87;
  (Umbertide), 14, 22, 100

_Descent of the Holy Ghost, The_, 52, 53

_Discovery of the Cross, The_, 101

_Dispute by the Way, The_, 51

Donatello, his influence on Signorelli, 3, 19;
  mastery of combined movement, 23

_Entry of Heraclius into Jerusalem, The_, 101

_Feast of Herod, The_, 95

_Feast in the House of Simon, The_, 52

_Flagellation, The_ (Brera), 1, 3, 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, 32;
  (Cortona), 88;
  (Florence), 88;
  (Morra), 27, 104

_Flight into Egypt, The_, 93

Foiano, Altar-piece at, 16, 105

Foligno, Niccolò da, 95

Forlì, Melozzo da, 3

Fra Angelico, frescoes at Orvieto, 8, 64, 65, 69

Franceschi, Pier dei, Signorelli the pupil of, 2, 3, 11, 17, 50;
  and Signorelli compared, 17, 18;
  his "Death of Adam," 32;
  his "Resurrection," 61;
  his "Baptism," 94

Francesco, Niccolò, Portrait of, by Signorelli, 9, 83, 85

Gatta, Bartolommeo della, 6, 35;
  an imitator of Signorelli, 111, 112, 113

Genga, Girolamo, 9;
  an imitator of Signorelli, 111, 113

Gozzoli, Benozzo, 8, 66, 69

Guidobaldo, of Urbino, 9

_Hercules overcoming Antæus_ (chalk drawing), 109

_Holy Family_ (Rospigliosi Collection), 27, 30, 46;
  (Pitti), 38, 45;
  (Uffizi), 26, 47

Homer, Scenes from, at Orvieto, 72

_Institution of the Eucharist, The_, 95

_Journey of Moses and Zipporah, The_, fresco by Pintorricchio, 6

_Last Judgment, The_, 8, 22, 76

_Last Supper, The_ (Cortona), 88;
  (Florence), 88

Lazzaro de' Taldi, Signorelli's uncle, 2

Lorenzo, Fiorenzo di, Reminiscences of, in Signorelli's work, 21

Loreto, Frescoes at, 5, 24, 29, 34

Lucan, Scenes from, at Orvieto, 81, 82

Luzi, Ludovico, "il Duomo di Orvieto," 69, 72, 74, 78, 81, 83

_Madonna and Saints_ (Brera), 1, 29, 32, 99;
  (Volterra), 7, 29, 35, 49;
  (Arezzo), 14;
  (Uffizi), 28, 37, 41, 43;
  (Munich), 28, 41, 44;
  (Florence Academy), 29, 35, 89;
  (Corsini Gallery), 46;
  (Città di Castello), 24, 98;
  (S. Niccolò, Cortona), 91, 92;
  (S. Domenico, Cortona), 100

_Magdalen, The_, altar-piece (Orvieto), 85, 88

Mancini, Giacomo, 5, 99

Mancini, Girolamo, 5

_March of Constantine, The_, 101

_Marriage of the Virgin, The_, 96

Medici, Giovanni dei (Pope Leo X.), 12

Medici, Lorenzo dei, 4;
  friendship with Signorelli, 12, 41, 43

Michelangelo, Story of his dealings with Signorelli, 13

Milanesi, Signor, 89, 112

Missaghi, Guiseppe, 37

Monte Oliveto, Frescoes in the Benedictine Cloister at, 7, 22, 54, 63

Morelli, on the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, 6;
  on Signorelli, 30, 61, 63;
  on his drawing, 107, 109;
  on his influence, 111;
  on Girolamo Genga, 114

_Murder of the Innocents, The_, 93

_Nativity, The_ (Arcevia), 93;
  (Cortona), 96

Nude, Early treatment of the, 32

Orvieto, Frescoes in the Cathedral of, 8, 9, 29, 42, 58, 63 _et seq._

Ovid, Scenes from, at Orvieto, 78

_Pan_, 28, 41, 42

Parens, Pietro, 80, 81

Perugia, Altar-piece in the Cathedral of, 7, 28, 38

Perugino, 6, 8, 11, 20, 66;
  his influence on Signorelli, 20, 37, 72

_Pietà_ (Orvieto), 80

Pintorricchio, 6, 11;
  frescoes in the Sistine Chapel by, 6;
  asserted influence of, on Signorelli, 21

Pollaiuolo, Antonio, his influence on Signorelli, 3, 4, 18, 22, 37, 42,
    50, 62, 94, 109;
  his "S. Sebastian," 18;
  his "Battle of the Nudes," 18, 22, 32;
  "Hercules," 18, 32

_Portrait of a Man_ (Berlin), 45

_Preaching and Fall of Antichrist, The_, 70

_Preaching in the Desert, The_, 95

_Presentation, The_, 96

Quercia, Jacopo della, 60

Raffaelle, 11, 12, 114

_Rain of Fire, The_, 82

_Resurrection, The_, 79

Rome, Frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, 6;
  decoration of the Vatican chambers, 11

Rosselli, Cosimo, 6

Rumohr, on Signorelli, 21

_S. Augustine, Scenes from the Life of_, 103

_S. Benedict, Scenes from the Life of_, 54

_S. Jerome_, 7, 49

_S. Martin, Scenes from the Life of_, 106

_S. Sebastian, The Martyrdom of_, 53

Scalza, Ippolito, 80, 82

Signorelli, Antonio, 10, 115

Signorelli, Francesco, 115

Signorelli, Luca, little known of his life, 1;
  Vasari on, 1;
  birth, 2;
  studied painting under Pier dei Franceschi, 2;
  influence of Antonio Pollaiuolo and Donatello, 3, 4;
  gap in his biography, 4;
  early frescoes, 5;
  municipal appointments at Cortona, 5, 6, 8, 10, 16;
  his social status, 5;
  supposed visit to Rome, 6;
  frescoes in the Sistine Chapel ascribed to, 6;
  painted the altar-piece in Perugia Cathedral, 7;
  received the honour of citizenship from Città di Castello, 7;
  pictures at Volterra, 7;
  frescoes in the cloister at Monte Oliveto, 7;
  altar-piece at Siena, 8;
  frescoes in the Cathedral of Orvieto, 8, 9;
  portraits of himself, 8, 9, 71, 85;
  the "Deposition" at Cortona, 10;
  death of his son Antonio, 10;
  and of Polidoro, 10;
  pictures at Arcevia, 11;
  decoration of the Vatican chambers, 11;
  disappointments at Rome, 12;
  alleged transaction with Michelangelo, 13;
  visit to Arezzo, 14, 15;
  death, 15;
  Vasari's character of, 16;
  artists who influenced, 17, 20;
  origin of the swaggering posture so characteristic of his paintings,
    19, 20;
  use of gold and gesso, 21, 29;
  his great achievement, the rendering of combined action, 22;
  his defects, 24, 25;
  his colour, 25;
  his line and modelling, 26;
  an unequal illustrator, 26, 27;
  his painting of children, 27;
  realism, 28;
  repetitions, 29;
  chief qualities of his work, 29;
  earliest works, 32;
  frescoes at Loreto, 34;
  altar-piece at Perugia, 38;
  qualities of his _Tondos_, 47;
  works at Volterra, 49;
  frescoes at Monte Oliveto, 54;
  the Orvieto frescoes, 63, 86;
  later works, 87;
  altar-piece at Arcevia, 92;
  last works, 98, 106;
  drawings, 107, 110;
  his imitators and influence, 111, 119

Signorelli, Pier Tommaso, 15, 115

Signorelli, Polidoro, 9, 115;
  his death, 10

_Signs of the Destruction of the World_, 82

Sodoma, 8, 11, 40, 59

Standards painted by Signorelli, 7, 52, 61

_Supper at Emmaus, The_, 51

Uccello, Paolo, 18

Van der Goes, Hugo, 39

Vasari, on Signorelli, 1, 3, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 35, 38, 40, 54, 59, 60,
    64, 87, 95, 96, 102, 113

Verrocchio, Reminiscences of, in Signorelli's work, 21, 36

Vischer, on the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, 6;
  on Signorelli, 21, 35, 36, 39, 92;
  list of Signorelli's drawings, 110

_Visitation, The_, 60

_Way to Calvary, The_, 88

Zaccagna, Turpino, 116



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Transcriber's note:

General: Corrections to punctuation have not been individually noted.

Page xii: Erratum applied to text.

Page xiii: GUIDÀ corrected to GUIDA. RELLA corrected to NELLA.

Page 64: "By the which he roused" amended to "By means of this he roused".

Page 72: Duplicate a removed from "In that on the left a a man".

Page 94: ninteen corrected to nineteen.

Page 102: Campagnia standardised to Compagnia.

Page 108: Pietá corrected to Pietà.

Page 138: PSPICVE without tilde as in original, probably intended as an
abbreviation for PERSPICUE. FIGVRAD[~V] as in original, perhaps a
misspelling of FIGURANDUM. ATFRGO as in original perhaps intended A TERGO.
CVPIDVSQ (Cupidusque?) and VTRIVSQ (Utriusque?) as in original without

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