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Uccello

Painter, b. at Florence, 1397; d. there, 1475

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* Published by Encyclopedia Press, 1913.


Uccello, painter, b. at Florence, 1397; d. there, 1475. His real name was Paolo di Dono, but from his love of painting birds he received the nickname of Uccello, and has been most frequently called by that name ever since. He was apprenticed to Ghiberti, and was one of the assistants engaged in preparing the first pair of bronze gates made for the baptistery in Florence. Vasari tells us that his special love was for geometry and perspective. Manetti taught him geometry, but where he learned painting we do not know, nor are we acquainted with the reasons which led him to leave the botega of Ghiberti and set up for himself. Vasari scoffs at Uccello's study of perspective, regarding it as waste of time, and saying that the artist became "more needy than famous". His skill in foreshortening and proportion, and in some of the complex difficulties of perspective, was quite remarkable, and his pictures for this reason alone are well worthy careful study, for they display an extraordinary knowledge of geometric perspective. His most important work is the colossal equestrian figure of Sir John Hawkwood, a chiaroscuro in terra-verde, intended to imitate a stone statue, seen aloft, standing out from the wall of the cathedral. One of the most precious possessions of the National Gallery, London, is a battle-picture by this artist. For a long time this was wrongly entitled the "Battle of Sant' Egidio of 1416", but it really represents the rout of San Romano of 1432. Instead of Malatesta, the picture gives us a representation of Nicola da Tolentino. Mr. Herbert Horne gave considerable attention to the history of this picture some twelve years ago, and was able to arrive at a very accurate determination regarding it. There are very few paintings by Uccello in existence, although he must have painted a considerable number. There is a panel by him in the Louvre, containing his own portrait, associated with those of Giotto, Donatello, Brunelleschi, and Manetti, representing perspective associated with painting, sculpture, architecture, and geometry. Many of the frescoes he executed for Santa Maria Novella have been destroyed. The only other picture of his that need be mentioned here is a predella in a church near Urbino, relating to the theft of a pax, which is attributed to him by many critics. He is said to have studied the works of Pisanello with great advantage, and it is probable that it was from Pisanello that he first learned painting, but he may be practically regarded as one of the founders of the art of linear perspective. There are very few dates known in his history beyond those of his birth and death. But we know that in 1425 he was at work at Venice, in 1436 painting his portrait of Sir John Hawkwood, and in 1468 residing at Urbino.

GEORGE CHARLES WILLIAMSON


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