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Alesso Baldovinetti (1425-99)

( Originally Published 1955 )

Oldest of the generation of painters whose art made up the complex of later fifteenth-century style in Florence. His art was based on that of Fra Angelico and Fra Filippo Lippi, and thus partakes more of the lyrical and spiritual qualities of those painters than of the monumental and scientific tradition of Masaccio. Baldovinetti was born in Florence of a respected patrician family and his name is first registered in the painters' guild in 1448. There is no factual evidence that he was a pupil of Fra Angelico, although he worked on a project. directed by Angelico for paintings on sacristy cupboard doors in SS. Annunziata. His entire documented activity was in Florence, where he executed a number of important fresco commissions that are now lost. We know from a journal he kept that he also made designs for stained glass windows and mosaics. The three sacristy cupboard doors preserved in the museum of San Marco reveal an affinity with Fra Angelico's style, and the influence of Domenico Veneziano, especially in the color. A Madonna and Saints and an Annunciation (c. 1455-60) in the Uffizi show close relations to both Angelico and Fra Filippo Lippi. A damaged fresco of the Nativity (1460/62) is in the cloister of SS. Annunziata and fragments of a later fresco project (1471) are in Santa Trinita. His best-preserved and finest single panel is the Madonna Adoring the Child (c. 1460) in the Louvre. This and the Nativity fresco reveal Baldovinetti as a master of realistic landscape. Late altarpieces in the Florence Academy and in Sant' Ambrogio are inferior in quality and were probably done in part by pupils.

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