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Piero di Cosimo: A Renaissance Painter Comes to America

Virginia Brilliant, The Ulla R. Searing Curator of Collections, The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida. The first major retrospective of paintings by the inventive Italian Renaissance master Piero di Cosimo premiered at the National Gallery of Art on February 1, 2015. After Giorgio Vasari described Piero in 1550 as an oddball misanthrope—“more like a beast than a man”—the painter was generally relegated to the margins of art history. American collectors, who tended to focus on mainstream works, did not begin collecting Piero’s paintings until the 1930s and 1940s. Yet museums in America are now home to numerous paintings by this visionary artist—from solemn altarpieces and tondi to intriguing mythological scenes. In this lecture, held on March 19, 2015, Virginia Brilliant explores how changing tastes and opportunities prompted American collectors to acquire major works by this eccentric artist. Piero di Cosimo: The Poetry of Painting in Renaissance Florence is on view through May 3, 2015.