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Pietro Perugino

Umbrian, c. 1450 - 1523

Vanucci, Pietro di Cristoforo; Perugino; Vanucci, Pietro; Vannucci, Pietro

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Contemporaries regarded Perugino as one of the leading painters in Florence in the 1480s and as the "best master in Italy" in 1500, but soon afterward his reputation suffered a decline from which it has only partly recovered. The grounds for this criticism, then as now, is the formulaic quality of his work, in particular his tendency to repeat figure types or even whole compositions again and again. He was also head of a very large workshop, which, operating for a time in both Florence and Perugia, turned out innumerable devotional pictures and frescoes in his distinctive style. Perugino's most famous pupil was, of course, Raphael.

Born in Città della Pieve about 1450, Pietro Vannucci evidently received his initial training in his native Umbria. According to Vasari, his teacher was the Florentine painter/sculptor Verrocchio, and several Verrocchiesque pictures have accordingly been assigned to Perugino's early years as an artist. His first documented work consists of a fresco fragment of 1478 in Cerqueto. Perugino's career was launched by the wall frescoes he completed, together with Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, and other painters, in the Sistine Chapel in 1481-1482. He continued to work in Rome, as well as Venice and elsewhere, throughout his career. Though he fulfilled a commission from Isabella d'Este, Perugino was unusual among the major painters of his time in never having been attached to a princely court. After his work no longer satisfied progressive taste in Florence, he retired to the Umbrian countryside, where the once-great master produced feeble replicas of the works that had brought him fame. Perugino died in 1523. [This is the artist's biography published in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]

Artist Bibliography

Canuti, Fiorenzo. Il Perugino. 2 vols. Siena, 1931.
Scarpellini, Pietro. Perugino. Milan, 1984.
Bradshaw, Marilyn. "Pietro Perugino: An Annotated Chronicle." In Pietro Perugino, Master of the Italian Renaissance. Ed. Joseph Antenucci Becherer. Exh. cat. Grand Rapids Art Museum, 1997.
Garibaldi, Vittoria. Perugino: Catalogo completo. Florence, 1999.
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: 551.

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