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Antonio Pollaiuolo

Antonio Pollaiuolo

Antonio Pollaiuolo (ca. 1432-1498), Italian painter, sculptor, goldsmith, and engraver, was a master of anatomical rendering and excelled in action subjects, notably mythologies. This "most Florentine of artists" appealed especially to the circle of Lorenzo de' Medici.

Antonio Pollaiuolo was born in Florence. Most of the dated documents refer to his activity as a goldsmith, in which trade he began. The varied nature of his work may be observed in the following commissions: a silver cross for S. Giovanni (1457), a reliquary for the prior of S. Pancrazio (1461), a silver belt and chain for Filippo Rinuccini (1461-1462), two candelabra for S. Giovanni (1465), and the embroidery designs for two tunics, a chasuble, and a cope (1465).

In 1468 Pollaiuolo bought property near Pistoia, and his success as both artist and businessman is attested by the purchase of additional property in and near Florence in the 1480s. In 1472 he was called upon to decorate the helmet of the Duke of Urbino, and that year his name first appeared in the register of the guild of Florentine painters.

Pollaiuolo's monumental Martyrdom of St. Sebastian (completed 1475), his most ambitious painting, is a milestone in Renaissance art in showing muscular figures in action. Other paintings are the tiny Apollo and Daphne, the Rape of Deianira, and the elegant Profile Portrait of a Lady. The famous studies of concentrated muscular energy shown in the panels of Hercules and the Hydra and Hercules and Antaeus are tiny replicas of lost canvases of the Labors of Hercules painted about 1460 for the Medici palace. Pollaiuolo again used the subject of Hercules and Antaeus for a bronze statuette, which, like the damaged fresco painting of the frenetic Dancing Nudes in the Villa la Gallina near Florence, reveals his fanatical interest in the nude in action.

Pollaiuolo also executed one engraving, the famous Battle of the Nudes (ca. 1465). It is a masterful synthesis of his main artistic ideal: the decorative beauty, in violent posturings, of the male nude.

Pollaiuolo's most important commissions for sculpture were executed not in Florence but Rome. He was called, with his artist brother Piero, to the Vatican in 1484 to do the tombs of Sixtus IV and Innocent VIII, masterpieces of bronze casting. Though the former tomb was not finished until 1493, the artist evidently returned to Florence in 1491 to take part in a competition for the facade of the Cathedral. In 1494 he was commissioned to make a bronze bust of Condottiere Gentile Orsini. Pollaiuolo died in Rome.

Further Reading

Although old, the monograph by Maud Cruttwell, Antonio Pollaiuolo (1907), is still useful. Pollaiuolo's sculpture is discussed in John Pope-Hennessy, Italian Renaissance Sculpture (1958), and Charles Seymour, Sculpture in Italy, 1400-1500 (1966). □

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Pollaiuolo

Pollaiuolo (pōl-läyōō-ô´lō), family of Florentine artists. Jacopo Pollaiuolo was a noted 15th-century goldsmith. His son and pupil Antonio Pollaiuolo, 1429?–1498, goldsmith, sculptor, painter, and engraver, became head of one of the foremost Florentine workshops, with many pupils and assistants. He was a great draftsman and may have been the first artist to study anatomy by dissection. Many of Antonio's paintings were executed in collaboration with his brother Piero. Although greatly influenced by Castagno and Donatello, Antonio developed his own highly dynamic style. He displayed ample skill in his delineation of anatomy and attained a mastery of figures in action by his energetic use of line.

Highly regarded by the Medici, Antonio and his brother painted for them three canvases depicting the Labors of Hercules (lost). Small versions exist of Hercules and the Hydra (Uffizi); a painting and a bronze statuette of Hercules and Antaeus (both: Uffizi); and Hercules and Deianira (Yale Univ.). Other famous canvases are Apollo and Daphne and The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian (National Gall., London); the lively Dancing Nudes (Arcetri); and Tobias and the Angel (Turin). One of Antonio's rare signed engravings, Ten Fighting Nudes, is in the Ufizzi. In 1484 he was summoned with his brother to Rome by Pope Innocent VIII and there executed the bronze tomb of Sixtus IV and the monument to Innocent VIII in St. Peter's.

See C. Seymour, Sculpture in Italy, 1400 to 1500 (1966); L. D. Ettlinger, Antonio and Piero Pollaiuolo (1978).



Piero Pollaiuolo, 1443–96, a painter, was associated with his brother. He is generally considered to be less gifted than his brother, judging by his independent works. They include the Virtues (Uffizi) and Coronation of the Virgin in the Church of Sant' Agostino in San Gimignano.

Their nephew, Simone del Pollaiuolo, 1457–1508, Italian architect, worked chiefly in Florence. After a visit to Rome to study the remains of antiquity, he was nicknamed Il Cronaca [Ital.,=chronicle] because of the endless tales he told. His chief monument is the noble Strozzi Palace, which he finished in 1540 after the death of Benedetto da Majano; Cronaca is responsible for the beautiful cornice and the interior courtyard. He also worked on the Great Hall of the Palazzo Vecchio (1495) and the Church of San Salvatore al Monte (1504), admired for its purity of design. He may have worked on the sacristy of Santo Spirito and the Palazzo Guadagni.

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"Pollaiuolo." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Pollaiuolo." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pollaiuolo

"Pollaiuolo." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pollaiuolo