Andrea del Castagno
born c. 1421, , San Martino a Corella, near Castagno San Godenzo, republic of
Florence [now in Italy]
died Aug. 19, 1457, Florence
pseudonym of Andrea Di Bartolo one of the most influential 15th-century
ItalianRenaissance painters, best known for the emotional power and naturalistic
treatment of figures in his work.
Little is known of Castagno's early life, and it is also difficult to ascertain
the stages of his artistic development owing to the loss of many of his
paintings. As a youth, he was precocious. He executed a mural of Cosimo de'
Medici's adversaries (rebels hanging by their heels) at the Palazzo del Podestà
in Florence, earning him the byname Andreino degli Impiccati (“Little Andrea of
the Hanged Men”). It is known that he went to Venice in 1442, and frescoes in
San Zaccaria are signed and dated by both him and Francesco da Faenza.
His first notable works were a “Last Supper” and three scenes from the “Passion
of Christ,” all for the former Convent of Sant'Apollonia in Florence, now known
as the Cenacolo di Sant'Apollonia and also as the Castagno Museum. These
monumental frescoes, revealing the influence of Masaccio's pictorial illusionism
and Castagno's own use of scientific perspective, received wideacclaim. In his
altarpiece painting of the “Assumption of the Virgin” for San Miniato fra le
Torri in Florence, Castagno's style more closely resembled International Gothic.
In 1451 Castagno continued the frescoes at San Egidio begun earlier by Domenico
Veneziano. The light tones that Castagno adopted for his outstanding “St.
Julian” (1454–55)show Veneziano's influence.
In a work for a loggia of the Villa Carducci Pandalfini at Legnaia, Castagno
broke with earlier styles and painted a larger-than-life–size series of “Famous
Men and Women,” within a painted frame (now in the Castagno Museum, Florence).
In this work, Castagno displayed more than mere craftsmanship; he portrayed
movement of body and facial expression, creating dramatic tension. Castagno set
the figures in painted architectural niches, thus giving the impression that
they are actual sculptural forms. He achieved similar force in his “Youthful
David” (National Gallery, Washington, D.C.), painted on a shield. His last datedwork (Florence Cathedral) is an equestrian portrait of Niccolòda Tolentino.
Castagno's emotionally expressive realism was strongly influenced by Donato
Donatello, and Castagno's work in turn influenced succeeding generations of
Florentine and Paduan painters.