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they bear the impress of his genius far more much wine having been drunk, Orcagna proclearly than his panels, though unfortunately, posed the question, Who was the greatest like most frescos of the fourteenth century, painter after Giotto ? That the jury disagreed they have suffered much from the ravages is tolerably certain as well as that the palm was of time — enough of them remaining, how- not then awarded to Orcagna himself, though ever, to enable a critic to judge of the artist's he had then executed his principal frescospower.
the entire chief chapel of Santa Maria Novella, Vasari mentions Andrea Pisano as the mas- besides the retro-choir and the altar-piece in ter of Orcagna, and the tabernacle of Or San the same church. In 1357 we find as members Michele makes the statement probable. It of the commission of architects and painters would have been impossible to find any teacher summoned to decide on the completion of the fitter to train, in that severe style which his Duomo of Florence, Orcagna, Taddeo Gaddi, work developed, a man of such comprehen- and six other painters. After repeated trials sive genius as Orcagna ; and it is perhaps in and competitions the model of Orcagna was part due to the influence of sculpture on the accepted. In 1358 he was called to Orvieto to general evolution of painting that Orcagna's design the mosaics for the ornamentation of the pictures possess the measure of plastic quality, façade of the cathedral there, - a church desunprecedented at that time, which he shows. tined to commemorate the miracle of the mass It has been remarked that the sculptors of of Bolsena, - in which it was intended to emthe centuries from the twelfth to the fifteenth ploy the highest talent of the day. were in advance of the painters; and in fact We have no clue as to the time when Orcagna it was not until the Venetian genius became painted the retro-choir of Santa Maria Noan element in the art of Italy that the bal- vella. Baldinucci mentions the fact of his picance was restored. It is only necessary to tures there having been injured by a storm in compare the work of old Niccola Pisano with 1358, and a century later Ghirlandaio repainted any contemporary painting to see how far be- them and repeated many of the subjects treated yond the painters of his day that sculptor was in by his predecessors. The altar-piece of Santa the perception and expression of the essentials Maria Novella was painted in 1357, but it is of art
apart from color. The dealing with not known whether the frescos in the Strozzi forms as they are felt, and not as they seem, is Chapel were executed before or after that date. characteristic of all genuine art, and this was The first, representing the Last Judgment, octhe character of Niccola's work. Who was cupies the partition behind the altar. The Orcagna's master in painting is neither certain Christ appears in an oblong aureole, half hidnor important, for the art education of that den by clouds, surrounded by rays, and with his epoch was so “all round" that the passing from arms outstretched. Three angels on each side one branch of it to another was not a difficult play on musical instruments and hold the symmatter. The world of Florence breathed an bols of the passion, while the Virgin and St. atmosphere of art, by which even Dante was John kneel lower down, gazing at the Saviour greatly influenced.
in adoration, each with six apostles seated on What Orcagna did beyond the attainment the clouds behind them. Below are patriarchs, of the sculpturesque qualities of painting was prophets, saints, kings, and popes, and a group to unite with the Florentine traditions some of women dancing for joy. In one corner an thing of the elements of Sienese art, then in angel helps one of the elect to leave his tomb. its fullest vigor. Cavalcaselle says that he The elect looks steadfastly towards Paradise, united the dramatic qualities of Florentine art which is painted on the wall to the right. with the more vivid coloring of the Sienese Sinners tear their hair and gnash their teeth, school; but it is difficult to accept any such and a demon is dragging off a lost soul to Hell, distinction, for what Giotto had shown of dra- which is painted on the wall to the left, oppomatic power could hardly be said to have been site the Paradise. handed down to the Giottesques, whose work The expression of the Christ in the “ Last remaining to us is mainly tame repetition of Judgment” is noble, and that of the Virgin is Giotto's types. The Florentine school was in sweet and gracious, while St. John is thin and decadence when Orcagna came on the stage, austere. The apostles are grave and majestic. and he naturally turned for comparisons to These are the best preserved portions of the Siena, where art had not been thus depressed, fresco. The group of dancing women is most and as the works of Memmi were then access- graceful in design and action, and may be ible, he came under the influence of Giotto's looked upon as the original conception of the great rival and his own only other great prede- heavenly dances which so delight us in the cessor.
pictures of Beato Angelico. In this splendid Sacchetti makes mention of a banquet given composition Orcagna has scrupulously obeyed by a number of artists at San Miniato, where, the laws of composition then recognized; the
fingers are well proportioned and full of move- kneel before her, playing on various instruments. ment, and the foreshortening is masterly. On the side panels are twenty-four saints kneel
In the" Paradise" the Saviour and the Virgin, ing, among them St. Peter, holding on his knees crowned and surrounded by aureoles, are seated the model of the Church of S. Pietro Maggiore on a throne upheld by clouds. On each side are designed by Orcagna. angels, cherubim, and seraphim in adoration. In 1355 he set to work on the Church of Below the throne are two angels singing and Or San Michele, one of the noblest examples of playing, and on each side of them stand saints architecture, sculpture, and mosaic of the day. and martyrs, apostles and prophets, each carry- The bas-reliefs here show that Orcagna was ing the symbol of his or her martyrdom, and even a better sculptor than painter. They are accompanied by a guardian angel in the act full of energy and delicacy, and possess the of playing, singing, or praying. On the clouds grandeur of composition and grace of type are men and women dancing, while an angel which distinguish his frescos. invites a woman to take part.
In 1364 and 1366 we find Orcagna again The "Hell” has been entirely repainted, and called in to give his advice on the completion we can hardly guess at the original design. of the Duomo. Vasari says that he lived till
Under these three frescos is a false base, 1389; but this is certainly incorrect, for in 1376 painted in imitation of white marble, and sur- we find one Ristori named guardian to his two rounded by a frame. It is upheld by columns, be- daughters, Tessa and Romola. The last certween which are painted busts in chiaroscuro. tain date concerning him is 1368, in which On the ceiling are figures of various saints, the year he was dangerously ill. symbols of the four Evangelists, and the arms According to Vasari, Orcagna painted in the of the Strozzi. The stained window was prob- Campo Santo of Pisa the great frescos of the ably designed by Orcagna also.
Triumph of Death and the Universal JudgThis chapel must have been decorated be- ment; but this assertion is open to doubt, if fore 1354, the date on which Orcagna received indeed not certainly wrong. Modern research the commission to paint the altar-piece for has shown that some of the frescos are by Tommaso di Rosselli. Part of the agreement Andrea di Firenze, a painter who lived some was that the picture should be completed with- years longer than Orcagna. It is more than in a year and eight months, but we learn that probable that Vasari confused the two paintOrcagna failed to comply with the contract. ers, and, not knowing which frescos this Andrea The panel is in five parts, with a predella. In had painted, chose these two without considthe center, surrounded by an oval ring of cheru- ering whether the style and technical execution bim and seraphim, sits the Christ, offering with were attributable to Orcagna. his right hand the gospel to St. Thomas Aqui- It is very probable that Nardo Cione, elder nas, and with his left the key to St. Peter. The brother to Orcagna, was his assistant in many two kneel before him, the former presented by of his labors, and that even in executing comthe Virgin, at whose right stand St. Catherine missions on his own account Nardo got help and St. Michael ; the latter by St. John the from the younger brother, who was the artistic Baptist, with St. Paul and St. Laurence on his head of the family. It is quite natural that left. The predella is painted with three legends: both Nardo and Jacopo, painting with Andrea, a priest in ecstasy before the altar, Christ saving should follow his style, both in painting on Peter on the waves, and a dispute between his frescos and in their own works. This is St. Michael and a demon for the soul of a the case in the frescos in Santa Croce and the dead king.
Badia of Florence, in which we recognize the In this work there is much energy and vi- conception of Orcagna, but not his execution. vacity of action, and the color is clear and Another follower of Orcagna, to whom may vivacious, but there is not the mastery which be attributed many of the paintings wrongly we find in Orcagna’s frescos. The same is the considered to be by his master, is Niccolo case with his other easel paintings; for exam- Tommaso, who took part with Orcagna and ple, the panel in Santa Maria del Fiore, rep- Taddeo Gaddi in the council of painters conresenting St. Zenobius, patron of the city of sulted about the Duomo. Florence,treading under foot Pride and Cruelty, In dramatic conception Orcagna can hardly while Charity and Humility hold a canopy be said to rival Giotto; but without in any way over his throne, and two minor saints kneel on falling into the modern manner of following each side of him.
Nature through the use of the model, it is The painting by Orcagna which once hung certain that he had a far more delicate percepin S. Pietro Maggiore in Florence is now in tion of her beauty than any of his predecessors, the National Gallery of London. The central and some of the female heads in the Spanish panel represents the Madonna being crowned; chapel are not surpassed in subtile spiritual two angels stand beside her, and ten others qualities by anything in later art, certainly not