Andrea Del Sarto
No one can go to Florence without becoming a lover of Andrea del Sarto, and it is only at Florence one can see him at his best. He was the son of a tailor (Sartore) . Andrea del Sarto means the tailor's Andrea. He was the pupil of Piero di Cosimo Piero, whose quaint humor and eccentric habits make one of the most amusing chapters in Vasari.
George Eliot introduces Piero to us early in Romola, and he goes with us to the end of the book. He is the same Piero who, stepping into Nello's barber shop that April day in 1492, fixed his keen eyes on Tito and said, "Young man, I am painting a picture of Sinon deceiving old Priam, and I would be glad of your face for my Sinon, if you'd give me a sitting." The same Piero who painted the portraits of Romola and Tito as the crowned Ariadne sitting by the side of young Bacchus; the same Piero whom we see for the last time as he comes up the Borgo Pinti, bringing flowers for Romola to dress the altar on the morrow for Fra Girolamo's Festa. Andrea was rightly called the faultless painter. In drawing, color, everything pertaining to the technique of art, he was above criticism.
He fell in love with a beautiful, heartless woman. His life with her killed all that was best in him. Nothing was left him but his faultless hand and her faultless face. In Browning's poem, "Andrea del Sarto," the whole tragedy is distilled into the right words, the whole man raised up and reclothed with flesh. Look at the portrait of Andrea and Lucrezia, painted by himself. His face tells the story more than any written words. The glory and vision are all gone. He grew morose and jealous ; he abandoned his own father and mother, and was completely changed under her baneful influence. He lived a disappointed and embittered man, yet he clung to his wife through everything, bearing all the torment she brought, for the great love he bore her.
Poor Andrea ! How near Browning brings us to him that summer night as he sits by Lucrezia's side looking out on Fiesole, speaking half to himself, half to her.
"But, do not let us quarrel any more,
I am grown peaceful as old age tonight.
Love, we are in God's hand.
How strange now looks the life he makes us lead;
Poor Andrea ! How well he understood that the something which made the pictures of many of the other artists divine was wanting in his, and which he voices in these words :
And that cartoon, the second from the door-
Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp,
Pouring his soul, with kings and popes to see,
King Francis I. saw some of Andrea's pictures and determined to have some of them. Francis was a connoisseur and a greedy collector. France may well be proud of her art. She owes much to Francis I. He sent for Leonardo da Vinci, for Rosso, for Benvenuto Cellini and lastly for Andrea del Sarto. The works of these men form some of the principal attractions of the Louvre today.
Andrea received the invitation of the king with great joy, and at once set out for Paris.
His work gave the greatest satisfaction, and a brilliant future seemed about to open before him, but one day there came a letter from Lucrezia, which made him decide to go home. He made a solemn oath on the gospel, before the king, that he would return in a short time. The king gave him a large sum of money with which to buy pictures and statues. When once under the spell of Lucrezia he forgot every-thing. The money which the king had entrusted to him he spent, he built himself a house with part of it. When the time came to return he had none of it left, but in spite of this, he wanted to go back and make the best amends he could. Lucrezia willed otherwise and he remained with her. Of this too he speaks, as he sits by her side that summer night.
In this world, who can do a thing, will not;
The very wrong to Francis !—it is true
After the siege of Florence was over, Andrea hoped he might be re-instated into the favor of King Francis, but this hope was never realized. The soldiers brought the plague with them, and Florence was one vast hospital. Lucrezia, for whom he had thrown away fame and honor, fled from him, leaving him to die alone and uncared for.
The picture of Andrea and Lucrezia is in the Pitti Palace.
Mrs. Anna Benneson McMahan says : "What is known as the 'New Criticism,' denies that Andrea painted this picture. They ascribe it to an unknown artist of the Venetian school, and the portraits are considered to be two unknown persons. Whether right or wrong, no critical conclusion can ever destroy the charm of the poem called Andrea del Sarto. By whatever name we call the picture, to what-ever artist we assign it, the story which Browning read between the lines of the two faces looking out from the canvas is no less eloquent than the monologue, no less dramatically expressive of that type of artist who just misses his place among the very greatest by reason of his lack of spiritual power and grace. For years hundreds of persons daily had passed unmoved before this picture in the Pitti gallery; one day the man of supreme dramatic imagination, the poet, paused, and to him the lips seemed to move and the heart to throb with a tale of love, and woe, and resigned despair. Since that time there are none who read the poem who do not wish to see the picture itself, or failing in that, some reproduction of it."
( Originally Published 1912 )
Famous Italian Pictures & Their Stories:
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