Art e Dossier

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Art History

Benozzo Gozzoli: biography

Benozzo di Lese was born in Florence sometime around 1420. It was Giorgio Vasari who gave him the nickname of “Gozzoli” without any specific reason. Vasari describes him as an tireless worker, filled with good will even if he was not highly talented. It is certain that Benozzo was born from that rib of the artisan and industrious Florence that made his atelier his strong point. From 1444 to 1446 he was in the workshop of Lorenzo Ghiberti who was making the second door of the Baptistry. That experience was probably the root of his taste for minute detail, for the clean lines of the engraver or goldsmith. In any event, the artist who had the most influence on Benozzo’s painting was Beato Angelico with whom – it seems – he worked from the days of the frescoes in the convent of San Marco (1436 – 1443). He definitely followed Angelico to Rome and Orvieto in 1447. Domenico Veneziano, Filippo Lippi and then Andrea del Castagno and Pesellino also played a fundamental part in his development.
His first definite work – because it is signed and dated “Benotti […] Florentia […] CCCCL.” is a Virgin and Child Enthroned (1450). It is a fresco in the church of San Fortunato at Montefalco, near Spoleto where Benozzo did a great deal of work that included the frescoes in the church of San Francesco in which the angels herald the particular iconography of those in the Medici chapel in Florence. The Medici project, carried out between 1459 and 1463, was certainly his greatest achievement, especially since it has given us a self-portrait in the figure with the red cap on which we can read “opus Benotii” In addition to the two altar pieces (Rome, Vatican Museum and London, National Gallery) Benozzo’s St. Sebastian in the Collegiata di San Gimignano and some frescoes in the church of Sant’Agostino in the same town have survived. Between 1468 and 1484 Benozzo painted the Scenes from the Old Testament in the cemetery in Pisa – paintings that Vasari described as “terrible.”
He died of the plague in Pistoia, at the height of his fame in 1497.

The works