Verrocchio, Andrea del ca. 1435–1488 Italian Artist

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Verrocchio, Andrea del
ca. 1435–1488
Italian artist

Andrea di Michele di Francesco Cione, known as Andrea del Verrocchio, was a leading Florentine goldsmith, sculptor, and painter. Many younger artists, including Leonardo da Vinci, learned their craft in Verrocchio's workshop. As a sculptor, Verrocchio bridged the gap between Donatello and Michelangelo.

Verrocchio trained as a goldsmith before turning to sculpture. His first major sculptural work, the Incredulity of St. Thomas (ca. 1466–1483), was purchased by the merchants' court of Florence to replace a statue by Donatello. The large bronze piece shows the figures of Christ and the saint united in a dramatic way.

Verrocchio produced a number of important projects for the Medici family. In 1472 he completed a Medici tomb in the church of San Lorenzo in Florence. The sculptor's early training as a goldsmith can be seen in his treatment of the tomb's elegantly carved leaves. Verrocchio's work for the Medici includes two bronze statues: David and Putto [infant boy] with a Dolphin. The surfaces of both are finely carved with delicately worked details.

Verrocchio's concern with detail and surface texture appears in Beheading of the Baptist, a small silver sculpture for the Florentine baptistery*. The work reveals the artist's skill in depicting facial expressions. His busts (statues of head and shoulders) reflect the same skill. In Lady Holding Flowers (late 1470s), the beautifully carved features and graceful hands give the subject a noble air. Verrocchio's inclusion of the arms and hands was something new in Renaissance busts. About 1479 the artist received a commission from the city of Venice for a statue of the prominent mercenary* Bartolomeo Colleoni on horseback. The fierce expression on Colleoni's face and the horse's raised hoof give the imposing bronze monument a sense of menace. Verrocchio did not complete the work before his death.

In his own time Verrocchio was highly regarded as a painter as well as a sculptor. However, art historians have discovered that some pictures traditionally associated with Verrocchio were painted, entirely or in part, by others. Leonardo da Vinci touched up Verrocchio's Baptism of Christ. An altarpiece* in Pistoia Cathedral, long thought to have been painted by Verrocchio, is mostly the work of one of his pupils. Yet as both painter and teacher, Verrocchio influenced many central Italian artists, including Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, and Domenico Ghirlandaio.

(See alsoArt; Art in Italy. )

see color plate 4, vol. 1

* baptistery

building where baptisms are performed

* mercenary

hired soldier

* altarpiece

work of art that decorates the altar of a church

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Verrocchio, Andrea del ca. 1435–1488 Italian Artist

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