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Bicci di Lorenzo

Florentine, 1373 - 1452

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As a young man Bicci was trained in Florence in the well-established workshop of his father, Lorenzo di Bicci, which he probably took over around 1400.[1] Evidence of collaboration between the two artists might be seen in the large fresco of the tabernacle called "del Madonnone" (of the large Madonna) near the former monastery of San Salvi, in which the decorative richness and elegant rhythms of the drawing reveal an intention to move beyond the essentially Orcagnesque style characteristic of Lorenzo.[2]

Bicci's first dated work is the Porciano triptych (Santa Maria Assunta, Stia) of 1414, which testifies to his moderate interest in the innovations that Cherardo Starnina and Lorenzo Monaco introduced to early fifteenth-century Florentine painting, and betrays the strong attachment to traditional compositional formulas of his father's shop. The success of this rather prosaic style, improved by the artist's great technical skill is demonstrated by a series of prestigious commissions, many of them now lost. The lost works include a panel for the church of Sant'Egidio (1420); frescoes in Santa Lucia de' Magnoli (1421-1422); frescoes for two chapels in San Marco (1420-1433), fragments of which have recently been found. Still surviving are a fragmentary polyptych in the Pinacoteca della Collegiata in Empoli (1423); frescoes in the former monastery of Sant'Onofrio, called "di Fuligno," in Florence (just before 1429);[3] and the frescoed lunette of Porta San Giorgio, also in Florence (1430). In the now dismembered polyptych of San Niccolò a Cafaggio (1433) he copied parts of the predella of Gentile's Quaratesi polyptych.[4] During the 1430s Bicci's commissions became even more copious, and the artist, who was gradually breaking free of late Gothic linear rhythms and rich ornamentation, developed more sedate and rationalized compositional schemes. His models at this time appear to be the works of Masolino and Fra Angelico, whose innovations are simplified in his own archaic idiom, which shows increasingly stereotyped compositions and monotonous execution. And yet, even in the 1440s, Bicci was still obtaining important commissions in Arezzo; in 1447 he received payment for frescoing the vault of the main chapel of the church of San Francesco, a work that would later be continued by Piero della Francesca. By this time the management of Bicci's workshop was firmly in the hands of his son, Neri. His death is documented in 1452. [This is the artist's biography published in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]

[1] On Lorenzo di Bicci, see Miklós Boskovits, Pittura fiorentina alla vigilia del Rinascimento, 1370-1400, Florence, 1975: 107-109, 331-336; for a hypothesis on Bicci's role in his father's workshop see Cecilia Frosinini, "Il passaggio di gestione di una bottega fiorentina del primo Rinascimento: Lorenzo di Bicci e Bicci di Lorenzo," Antichità Viva 25, no. 1 (1986): 5-15.

[2] See Ugo Procacci, Sinopie e affreschi, Milan, 1961: 55, who leaves open the question of attribution between father and son.

[3] See Paatz and Paatz, Kirchen von Florenz, 4, 1952: 468, and Serena Padovani, Il Cenacolo del Perugino, Florence, 1990: 7-9.

[4] Frederico Zeri, "Una precisazione su Bicci di Lorenzo," Paragone 9, no. 105 (1958): 67-71; Sonia Chiodo, "Osservazioni du due polittici di Bicci di Lorenzo," Arte Cristiana 88 (2000): 269-280.

Artist Bibliography

Vasari, Giorgio. Le vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori ed architetti. Edited by Gaetano Milanesi. 9 vols. Florence, 1878-1885: 2(1878): 63-86.
Marle, Raimond van. The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. 19 vols. The Hague, 1923-1938: 9(1927):1-34.
Micheletti, Emma. In DBI, 10(1968):327-330.
Walsh, Barbara Buhler. The Fresco Paintings of Bicci di Lorenzo. Ph.D. diss., Indiana University, Bloomington, 1979.
Frosinini, Cecelia. "Il passaggio di gestione di una bottega fiorentina del primo Rinascimento: Lorenzo di Bicci e Bicci di Lorenzo." AntViv 25, no. 1 (1986): 5-15.
Petrucci, Francesca. In La pittura in Italia: Il Quattrocento. Ed. Federico Zeri. 2 vols. Milan, 1986, reprinted 1987: 2:585.
Boskovits, Miklós. "Per Bicci di Lorenzo diseguatore." In Aux quatre vent. A Festschrift for Bert W. Meijer. Florence, 2002.
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: 138.

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