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Francesco di Giorgio Martini

Sienese, 1439 - 1501

Francesco di Giorgio

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Two biographies of Francisco di Giorgio Martini have been published by the National Gallery of Art in the systematic catalogues of its collection. Both are given here.

By David Alan Brown, in Italian Paintings of the Fifteenth Century, published 2003:

Active as an architect and architectural theorist, engineer, sculptor, and painter, Francesco di Giorgio Martini has rightly been called the "Leonardo da Vinci of Siena." As demonstrated by a series of exhibitions in the 1980s and 1990s devoted to him and his contemporaries, he was the most significant artistic figure in the city during the second half of the fifteenth century. Francesco was keenly responsive to the work of other artists--including Donatello and the North Italian miniaturists Liberale da Verona and Girolamo da Cremona, all three of whom worked in Siena--as well as Pollaiuolo and Verrocchio, whose productions he came to know in Florence. As a painter, he seems to have been trained by the painter/sculptor Vecchietta or, according to a more recent hypothesis, Sano di Pietro. Francesco is known to have shared a workshop with yet another painter/sculptor, Neroccio de' Landi, from the late 1460s to 1475, when their partnership was dissolved. Not long afterward he left Siena to work as sculptor, architect, and military engineer, for Duke Federigo da Montefeltro in Urbino. His services were also in demand at the Sforza court in Milan, where he must have encountered Leonardo, who owned and annotated one of his manuscripts (now in the Biblioteca Laurenziana, Florence). Francesco's only signed painting is the Nativity with Saints of 1475, from the Olivetan monastery of Porta Tufi, now in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena.

By John Graham Pollard, in Renaissance Medals, published 2007:

Francesco was born in Siena in 1439. He was not only a painter and sculptor, but also an important architect, theorist, and military engineer. He worked in Siena, at the Montefeltro court in Urbino (between 1476 and 1482) and after 1490 throughout Italy, from Naples to Milan, as an expert in fortifications. Despite his extensive professional practices Francesco was given civic offices. He was priore in 1480, a magistrate in 1485 and podestà (civil governor) of Porto Ercole in Tuscany in 1487.

As a painter he had been a pupil of Vecchietta, but his originality lay in sculpture, the product generally of the influence of Donatello, but with a strong individuality. There are a lifesize wooden figure of Saint John the Baptist (Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena), large bronze figures of angels for the high altar of Siena cathedral, and a series of reliefs, which have been variously ascribed. The National Gallery of Art has four of these bronze panels.[1]

George Francis Hill ascribed a group of ten medals to Francesco, and no additions have been made to the group, which is now generally accepted as by the artist.[2] Some of the portrait types are bold and powerful, but all have a curiously incoherent treatment of the truncated body.

[1] Saint Jerome (NGA 1957.14.12), The Judgment of Paris (NGA 1957.14.140), Saint Sebastian (NGA 1957.14.247), and Saint John the Baptist (NGA 1957.14.248); John Pope-Hennessy, Renaissance Bronzes from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Reliefs, Plaquettes, Statuettes, Utensils and Mortars, London, 1965: nos. ; Alison Luchs, "Francesco di Giorgio Martini;" in Donatello e i suoi, Eds. Alan Darr and Giorgio Bonsanti, Exh. cat. Forte di Belvedere, Florence; Milan, 1986: nos. 89-90; Pietro Marani, in Francesco Paolo Fioreco and Pietro Marani, "Francesco di Giorgio Martini," in Jane Turner, ed., The Dictionary of Art, 34 vols., London and New York, 1996: 11:693-694.

[2] George Francis Hill, A Corpus of the Italian Medals of the Renaissance before Cellini, London, 1930: nos. 306-316; Allen Stuart Weller, Francesco di Giorgio 1439-1501, Chicago, 1943: 176, commented that Hill had been overcautious. The Siena exhibition (Francesco di Giorgio e il Rinascimento a Siena, ed. Luciano Bellosi; exh. cat. Chiesa di Sant'Agostino, Siena; Milan, 1993: 160, fig. 2) illustrates a medal of Francesca Borghese as a work by Francesco di Giorgio. However, from its style, it depicts a later Francesca and is an unpublished medal by Pastorino da Siena. Another member of the same family, Marcantonio Borghese, was depicted by Pastorino in c. 1546 (Giuseppe Toderi and Fiorenza Vannel, Le Medaglie Italiane del XVI secolo, 3 vols., Florence, 2000: no. 1748).

Artist Bibliography

Painting in Renaissance Sienna 1420-1500. Ed. Keith Christiansen, Laurence B. Kanter, and Carl Brandon Strehlke. Exh. cat. Metroplitan Museum of Art, New York, 1988. Italian ed. La pittura nel rinascimento senese. Siena, 1989.
Bellosi, Luciano, ed. Francesco di Giorgio e il Rinascimento a Siena 1450-1500. Exh. cat. Chiesa di Sant' Agostino, Sienna. Milan, 1993.
Boskovits, Miklós, and David Alan Brown, et al. Italian Paintings of the Fifteenth Century. The Systematic Catalogue of the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 2003: 278.

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