Son of a Tailor

Andrea del Sarto's Saint John the Baptist Sepia Print (LEO Design)

On this day in 1486, Florentine artist Andrea d’Agnolo di Francesco di Luca di Paolo del Migliore was born to a tailor and his wife. At eight years of age, the boy was apprenticed to a goldsmith, and, later, to a woodcarver and painter.   Before long, Andrea opened his own studio (with a partner) and was receiving commissions for pictures—oil paintings and frescoes—for churches and churchmen in Florence.  He developed a reputation for painting swiftly and accurately and was called “Andrea senza errori” (“Andrea without errors”).   In time, his name became Andrea del Sarto (“sarto” being the Italian word for “tailor”).

In 1516, after a couple of Andrea’s paintings (a Madonna and a Pietà) had come to the attention of French king François I, the painter was invited to visit the Paris court.  Andrea’s wife, Lucrezia (who often modeled for her husband), was not happy being left-behind in Florence—and soon she wrote a letter to Andrea, demanding that he return to her in Italy. The king consented to releasing Andrea, imploring the artist to return soon.  Before Andrea left, the king gave him a sum of money with which to buy Italian artworks for him.  Upon return to Florence, Andrea spent the king’s money buying a house for his family—thus ruining his reputation with the king and preventing his future return to France.

Andrea del Sarto was highly regarded by other Renaissance artists and art patrons of the time.  Michelangelo admired him and introduced Andrea to the important artist biographer Giorgio Vasari.  But it was a time of many artistic giants and Andrea fell into the shadows of Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo.  43 year old Andrea died in Florence in 1530—a casualty of the bubonic plague.  His wife, Lucrezia, afraid of contracting the disease herself, avoided her husband in his final weeks.  He is buried in the Santissima Annunziata church in Florence.

The print shown above (circa 1910) is of Andrea del Sarto’s depiction of a young Saint John the Baptist, painted in 1523.  The original oil on wood now hangs in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence.  


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