Pisanello (Antonio Pisano)
(b Pisa or Verona, by 1395; d ?c.
Italian painter, draughtsman and medallist.
His richly decorative frescoes, courtly and elegant
painted portraits and highly original portrait medals
made him one of the most popular artists of the day. He
travelled extensively and worked for several Italian
courts, at Mantua, Ferrara, Pavia, Milan and Naples.
Many of his paintings have been lost or damaged, making
a reconstruction of his career difficult. He is now
better known as a medallist.
born c. 1395, Pisa [Italy]
original name Antonio Pisano Italian medalist and painter, a major exponent of
the International Gothic style. His early work suggests that he was the pupil of
Stefano da Zevio, a Veronese artist. (He was wrongly called Vittore by Giorgio
Vasarí, and only in 1907 was his personal name verified as Antonio.)
Pisanello collaborated with Gentile da Fabriano on frescoes in the Doges' Palace
in Venice (c. 1415–22) and in St. John Lateran in Rome (after 1427). After
Gentile's death, Pisanello probably completed the Roman frescoes, known only
through drawings, which show Gentile'sgreat influence over the young Pisanello.
His only surviving frescoes are an Annunciation at the tomb of Niccolò di
Brenzoni in San Fermo in Verona (c. 1423–24) and the legend of St. George in the
Pellegrini Chapel in San Anastasia, Verona (c. 1433–38). These works are
characterized by the curvilinear design, calligraphic draperies, and decorative
detail typical of the International Gothic style from which Pisanello never
completely freed himself. Even a mature work such as his “St. Eustace” (National
Gallery, London) is encrusted with rich detail that tends to work against
spatial clarity. The “Madonna with SS. Anthony and George” (National Gallery)
displays a simpler conception. It is dominated by the monumental figures of
thetwo saints and the bust of the Virgin in a mandorla, or almond-shaped
Pisanello's fame and his importance in court circles rested more upon his medals
than upon his painting. They are thought to have resulted from his study of
ancient Greek andRoman numismatic portraits. He had virtually no recent
predecessors, and, with him, the art reached its highest point. His work
includes the medal of the Greek emperor JohnVIII Palaeologus (1438), the wedding
medal of Lionello d'Este(1444), Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta (1445), and the
medal of Alfonso of Aragon (1448), generally cited as his most successful work
in the genre. Most of Pisanello's painted portraits, such as the “Margherita
Gonzaga” (c. 1438; Louvre, Paris), and “Lionello d'Este” (c. 1440; Accademia
Carrara, Bergamo), show the sitter in profile (a convention of Pisanello's
portrait medals) against a background of delicate, colourful flowers and
Pisanello's drawings have been preserved in the Codex Vallardi (Louvre, Paris).
This is the only instance in which thedrawings of a 15th-century workshop have
been preserved virtually intact. They are of unique value, therefore, for the
study of the style and techniques of draftsmanship of the period. Pisanello uses
a large variety of techniques and materials to produce masterful drawings (some
coloured) of animals, plants, costume design, and perspective studies. His
drawings of various views of horses are particularly well known. He was one of
the first 15th-century artists to draw from life instead of adhering to the
medieval tradition of copying the drawings of others. The drawings reveal
Pisanello's breadth of interest and his sensitive eye. They combine delicately
rendered Early Renaissance naturalism with the beauty of Late Gothic line and
are one of his most important contributions to the history of art.