Pinturicchio, Bernardino

Pinturicchio, Bernardino an Italian painter of much celebrity, was born at Perugia in 1454. His real name was Betti Biagi, but he was often called Sordicchio, from his deafness and insignificant appearance, but Pinturicchio was his usual name. He was a disciple of Pietro Perugino (q.v.). His earlier works no longer exist. He never perfected himself in the use of oil mediums, but was confined almost entirely to tempera. He went to Rome, and probably labored with Perugino in the Sistine Chapel. He afterwards executed almost numberless frescos in the churches and palaces of that city. He was first patronized by the Roveri, and then by the Piccolomini. For Alexander VI he decorated the Apartamento Borgia in the Vatican; five of these rooms still remain in their original state. His pictures in the Castle of S. Angelo have been completely destroyed. During his engagements in Rome he went twice to Orvieto, for the execution of commissions there. The amount of his labors was surprising, but is explained by his great facility of execution and the employment of many assistants. He was not original 'in his compositions; he loved landscapes, but he cumbered them with too much detail; his figures of virgins, infants, and angels have a certain coarseness; he used too much gilt and ornamentation; his draperies were full, but often badly cast; his works are either too gaudy or very somber, no pleasing medium seeming to suggest itself to him; his flesh has the red outlines of the earliest tempera; and yet with all these faults he painted at a time when the great precepts of art were well known, and his works are good exponents of skilled labor in art without any striking or exceptional power in the artist. It is scarcely possible here to give more than a list of the churches in which he painted: in Rome they were the Araceli, S. Cecilia in Trastevere, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, and S. Onofrio. In 1496 he returned to Perugia, and undertook an altar-piece for S. Maria de' Fossi (now S. Anna), to be completed in two years. This is the most finished of his works, and more full of feeling than any other. He next adorned the collegiate church of Spello; but his works there are fast disappearing from the effects of dampness.

He was next called to Siena by cardinal Francesco Piccolomini, to decorate the library of the Duomo. Here he painted the ceiling in a variety of designs, with the shield and arms of the Piccolomini ill the center; and the walls with ten scenes from the life of Eneas Sylvius, or Pius II. This work was commenced in 1503, but was interrupted by deaths in the family of his patron, and was not completed until 1507, he having filled various other commissions in the mean time. It is said with great probability that he was assisted in the library by the then youthful Raffaelle, and some critics have been wont to attribute the best features of all Pinturicchio's pictures to aid from the same source. But this can hardly have been the case. They were associated more or less, without doubt, and it is not improbable that Raffaelle was one of the many assistants whom the master hired in Perugia for his work in Siena; but there are many reasons why the credit of the best of Pinturicchio should not be given to Sanzio, who certainly does not need any such praise. There are many circumstances connected with certain cartoons, many similarities of figures in the works of the two masters, which make us feel sure of their association, but these Siena frescos are conceived in the system of Pinturicchio. This library is one of the few Italian halls that retain their original character. The frescos are discolored and injured in parts, but are, on the whole, fairly preserved. It is probable that after the completion of these works the master went to Rome, and returned to Siena in 1509 with Signorelli, who stood as godfather to the son born to Pinturicchio in the beginning of that year. He then probably entered the service of Pandolfo Petrucci. His last authentic picture is now in the Palazzo Borromeo at Milan, and is a cabinet size of Christ bearing his Cross. It was painted in 1513, the year of his death. Dreadful stories have been told of the manner in which his wife Grania treated him. It is said that when very sick she left him to die of starvation, but this lacks confirmation. His works are seen in all large, and in some smaller collections of Europe. See Clement, Handbook of Sculptors, Painters, etc., s.v.; Spooner, Biog. Hist. of the Fine Arts, s.v.

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