Francesco di Giorgio
Martini was perhaps the most outstanding artist on the mid-fifteenth
century Sienese panorama. He is generally believed to have been a pupil
of Vecchietta, even though there is no documentary proof of such an
apprenticeship. Some small paintings date from the early
fourteen-sixties, while his first known sculpture St. John the Baptist,
dates from 1464. It was during that same year that he began working as
an engineer. On 3 November 1467 he married Cristofana di Cristofano di
Compagnatico. But a document dated the following year, would confirm
that he had received the dowry for the daughter of Antonio di Benedetto
Nerocci of Siena. During the early years of the next decade Francesco
worked primarily as a painter alongside of Neroccio de’Landi. In 1471
he received payment from the Ospedale di Santa Maria della Scala for
some paintings. From 1472 to 1475 he worked on the large Coronation of the Virgin
for the monastery of Monte Oliveto fuori Porta Tufi, and in 1475 he
received another commission from the same monastery for the altarpiece
depicting the Nativity (now in the Pinacoteca Nazionale of
Siena). On 6 July 1475 Francesco di Giorgio and Neroccio broke up their
partnership. From November 1477 the artist lived in Urbino at the court
of Federico da Montefeltro where he worked mainly as military
architect. His trips to Siena in 1481 and the drawings he submitted for
the church of San Francesco are evidence of his lasting relationship
with his native city, where, upon request of Federico he was elected
“prior” in 1480. Between 1481 and 1485 he prepared the drawings and
model for the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie al Calcinaio near
Cortona and continued doing architecture in the Marches region between
Macerata, Jesi and Urbino. In 1487 he was elected podestà of Porto
Ercole and was paid for his work on the bridge at Macereto. In 1489 he
received the important commission for the bronze Angels for the main
altar in the Siena cathedral. During the second phase of his work in
Siena, the last decade of the fifteenth century, he resumed painting
and did the large Nativity for the church of San Domenico. In
1490 Gian Galeazzo Sforza summoned him to Milan for architectural
consulting and there he met Leonardo da Vinci. The following year he
was one of the architects who participated in the competition for the
façade of the church of San Lorenzo in Florence that had been announced
by Lorenzo the Magnificent. He made a trip to Naples in 1491 where,
according to documentary sources, he stayed on and off until 1495. On
30 June 1492 the Neapolitan treasury paid Antonello da Capua on behalf
of Fra’Giocondo who executed one hundred twenty six drawings for two
volumes by Francesco di Giorgio. The artist again worked as an
architect in Naples during the siege of Castel Nuovo by the troops of
Charles VIII. In 1499 he was the master builder of the Opera del Duomo
of Siena and the following year he was summoned to Loreto for an
opinion on the dome of the basilica that was close to collapse. He died
on 29 November 1501.
Drawing from the Treatise I
ms. Ashb. 361, f. 50 r.
This is a page from Francesco di Giorgio Martini’s famous treatises. They attest to the large number of projects he prepared for Federico da Montefeltro in Urbino starting in 1477 which Leonardo da Vinci later studied and sometimes annotated. This sketch shows the technique for mining a tower by placing barrels of powder on the ground below. This system was effectively used in Naples to defend Alfonso II from the French invaders.
Heating system for bathroom
ms. Ashb. 361, f. 23 r.
This is another sheet from Francesco di Giorgio’s Treatises. They are highly innovative, attest to his extraordinary inventive skills and scientific background, yet they were only implemented in part. Here we see plans for a heating system for a bathroom. The air, heated by a fire in a room below, is trapped in a hemispheric “bubble” that rises and lowers, releasing the hot air.
The Time of the Earthquakes
This painting depicts the Virgin Mary over the city of Siena that was struck by a series of earthquakes in 1467 with vivid realism. Beyond the walls are the tents and huts erected to shelter the fleeing inhabitants. Even the in the freshness of the veduta this painting reveals uncertainty and delicacy in the perspective rendering of the architecture that are not easily reconciled with Francesco di Giorgio’s well-known and well-documented perspective skills. In fact, this feature has prompted recent critics to ascribe the painting to one of the artist’s helpers, an important member of his atelier known as “Fiduciario di Francesco.” He often worked alongside of the master and starting from the mid-fourteen sixties he transformed the master’s drawings into paintings.
Virgin and Child with Saints Peter and Paul
The Virgin and Child are typically of Francesco di Giorgio’s groups, while the more massive saints recall the figures of Liberale da Verona. We must note the lavishness of the Child’s clothing that the artist punched with gold according to the old traditions and the modern concept in the hatching. A certain weakness in the pictorial rendering of the figures has led to the hypothesis that it may have been the “Fiduciario di Francesco” who actually painted what was an original drawing by Francesco.
This painting is very close in style to Neroccio de’Landi, the artist who was Francesco di Giorgio’s partner from 1470to 1475. The landscape, however shows a relationship to contemporary Florentine models (Alessio Baldovinetti, Andrea del Verrocchio) Considered very different by the critics, with more modern elements (the capitals, the angel’s pose) along with a fragility of execution that can only be partially attributed to the painting’s poor state of conservation, this piece, too, may have actually been the fruit of cooperation between Francesco and his helper who was known as “Fiduciario di Francesco.”
Natività di Cristo
This painting was done for the destroyed monastery of Monteoliveto Fuori Porta Tufi in Siena and is the only painting that has definitively been documented as having been done by Francesco di Giorgio’s hand. The contract that specifies that the painting “must be decorated in all parts, and requires a fine panel by a good artist,” dates from 1475, the year that Francesco di Giorgio broke up his partnership with Neroccio de’Landi. He decisively turned to models from beyond Siena. We can see the evident influences of Baldovinetti in the landscape and of Filippo Lipp and Liberale da Verona in the figures.
Lamentation over the Dead Christ
This splendid relief, from the oratory of Santa Croce in Urbino was taken to Milan by the French in the late eighteenth century and donated to Venice in the middle of the nineteenth. It is an outstanding example of Francesco di Giorgio’s worker as a caster of reliefs. This is also borne out by a few lines of the poem by Giovanni Santi, Raphael’s father, written in Urbino in 1490: “[…]he who receives more praises than others;/can sculpt his scenes in bronze” Among the kneeling figures on the right we can clearly recognize the distinctive profile of Federico da Montefeltro witnessing Mary’s grief that is portrayed here with an emphasis that markedly recalls Donatello’s work on the pulpit in the church of San Lorenzo as does the treatment of the material, that goes from the bas-relief of the angels twisting around in the heaven to the nearly full round of the foreground.Iconography
The Massacre or Allegory of Discord
This mythological scene has been interpreted in several ways; most probably it should be taken as an allegory of discord. It is set in a space that is completely surrounded by architecture: buildings with arches, loggias and monuments that recall the Coliseum. Naturally, this is related with Francesco di Giorgio’s work as an architect and set designer. Another, very similar, version of this piece is conserved in the Chigi Saracini Collection in Siena.
Palazzo della Signoria di Jesi
The plans for the building known as the Palazzo della Signoria di Jesi – which should actually be called “Palazzo del Comune”, or town hall because Jesi did not have a signoria government, were designed by Francesco di Giorgio but were completed by others. It is important to note the harmonious structure of the quadrangular building with its three stories graced by string courses, the unusual windows: the upper portion consists of two panes and while the lower is just a single pane.
The Mondavio Fortress
Francesco di Giorgio began working on this fortress, for Giovanni della Rovere in the late fourteen-eighties and never completed it. Only two of the towers were built. The massive keep, with the disjointed corners - to multiply the defensive positions - reveals the artist’s imprint. He had elaborated Sienese solutions by basing the defensive structure on a complex arrangement, as we can see on his many paper drawings.
Nativity of Christ
This miniature comes from the convent of Monteoliveto Maggiore and is considered one of Francesco di Giorgio’s earliest paintings. There are evident stylistic links with Sano di Pietro who painted other miniatures for the same convent during that period, with Vecchietta and mainly – in the background landscape – with the Florentine school of the era. St. Joseph’s pose has been interpreted as an allusion to melancholy.