Sienese, 1447 - 1500
Neroccio di Bartolommeo de' Landi; Landi, Neroccio di Bartolomeo Benedetto de'
Nothing certain is known of Neroccio, an artist who probably trained in Vecchietta's workshop until 1468, when he entered into partnership with Francesco di Giorgio. In 1475 the association was dissolved and Neroccio began activity on his own. His work, both in sculpture and painting, is clearly influenced by the artistic language of his colleague (who was eight years his senior), not only in such works produced in their shared workshop as the polychrome wooden statue of Saint Catherine of 1474 (Oratorio di Santa Caterina in Fontebranda, Siena) but also in later pieces, where the delicate coloring, measured elegance of the pose, and redundantly rich drapery reflect prototypes by Francesco di Giorgio. In Neroccio's earliest paintings the influence of Vecchietta's energetic drawing and crystalline forms is also apparent, as is manifested, for example, in his triptych of 1476 (Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena), the artist's first signed and dated work, characterized by the splendor of abundant gilding; brilliant, precious colors; and refined chiseling of forms.
After his separation from Francesco di Giorgio and the latter's departure for Urbino, Neroccio and his brother Piero, a woodworker, took over Vecchietta's workshop and received several prestigious commissions like the design for the Hellespontine Sybil for the floor of the Siena cathedral in 1483 and the funerary monument for Bishop Tommaso del Testa Piccolomini (1485) for the Spedale di Santa Maria della Scala in the same city. He also painted a panel in 1481/1482 for the monastery of San Salvatore a Sesto whose predella probably comprised the Stories of Saint Benedict in the Galleria degli Uffizi. But the major part of his activity in these years was devoted to producing panels for private devotion representing the Virgin and Child, often accompanied by two saints, using a very successful formula that he repeated with few variations (see, for example, those in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena; Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena; Musée du Louvre, Paris; Fondazione Horne, Florence; Cagnola collection, Gazzada), along with terra-cotta Madonnas and painted cassoni (wedding chests).
Neroccio's mature phase includes some large altarpieces, painted mainly for provincial churches: the Rapolano altarpiece (National Gallery of Art, Washington), the altarpiece for Montepescini with the Virgin and six saints (Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena) of 1492, and the Montisi altarpiece of 1496, which preserves the integral carpentry of all its elements, from the predella to the gables.
Neroccio's refined, cultivated, aristocratic art, particularly appreciated by early twentieth-century critics, lends a subtle charm and immediate evocativeness to his images, which seem to hark back to the Gothic matrix of the Sienese figurative tradition. In reality, however, far from being retardataire or isolated in Tuscan painting of the late quattrocento, he reacts to the innovations as they arrive in his city, absorbing the classicism of the late production of Francesco di Giorgio and revealing his sensitivity to the realism of Signorelli. [This is the artist's biography published in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]