Andrea del Verrocchio

Andrea del Verrocchio, born Andrea di Michele di Francesco de' Cioni, (c. 1435 -1488) was an influential Florentine sculptor, goldsmith and painter who worked at the court of Lorenzo de Medici. His pupils included Leonardo da Vinci, Perugino, Ghirlandaio and Sandro Botticelli, but he also influenced Michelangelo. He worked in the serenely classic style of the Early-High Renaissance.

Verrocchio was born in Florence in 1435 to Michele di Francesco Cioni, who worked as tile and bricks maker and, later, as tax collector. Michele had never married, and had to provide for financial support to some members of his family, who did not live a good economical situation. Michele's fame rose however when he was allowed in the Medici court, in which he remained until some years before his death, after his workshop had moved to Venice.

Andrea started to work as a goldsmith in the workshop of Giulio Verrocchi, from which it seems that he took his surname. Hints about an apprenticeship with Donatello are unconfirmed. His first approaches to painting are probably from the 1460s, when he worked in Prato alongisde Filippo Lippi.

Around 1465 he worked at the lavabo of the Old Sacristy in San Lorenzo (Florence). Between 1465 and 1467 he executed the funerary monument to Cosimo de' Medici for the crypt under the altar of the same church, and in 1472 he completed the monument to Piero and Giovanni de' Medici in the Old Sacristy.

In 1466 the Guild of Traders of Florence commissioned Verrocchio a bronze group entitled The Incredulity of St. Thomas for an external niche of the church of Orsanmchiele. The work was placed there in 1483. For it he devised a group of two persons, with Christ in the centre of the niche, and the Saint stretching out, in order to avoid a rigid frontal view and to made the spectator identify better in the two charcters.

In 1468 Verrocchio made a famous candelabre, now in Amsterdam, for a corridor of Florence's Town Hall. In the early 1470s he made a voyage to Rome, while in 1474 he executed the Forteguerri monument for the Cathedral of Pistoia, which he left unfinished.

Of 1474-1475 is the Baptism of Christ, now housed in the Uffizi. Leonardo helped his master finishing the background and the left angel. The only autograph painting by Verrocchio is the Madonna with Child and Saints, in the Cathedral of Pistoia.

Since the mid-1470s Verrocchio devoted mainly to sculpture, at first following the standard Florentine canons. These are well in evidence in the bronze statue of David (c. 1476, now at Bargello), commissioned by Lorenzo and Giuliano de' Medici. Verrocchio's David is underage, modestly clad in contrast to Donatello's provocative David, and haughtily bragging of his conquest. The Gothic-like and idealistic beauty features connect it indeed more to Ghiberti than to the innovative Donatello. Around 1478 he finished an Winged Cherubim with Dolphin, today housed in Palazzo Vecchio and originally intended for a fountain in the Medici villa of Careggi: this work is influenced by dynamic naturalism which Verrocchio learned from Desiderio da Settignano. Of the same period are the Dama col mazzolino and the relief for the funerary monument of Francesca Tornabuoni for Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome (now in the Bargello).

In 1479 Verrocchio began what was to become his most famous work, an equestrial statue of the condottiero Colleoni, who had died three years before. The work was commissioned by the Republic of Venice. It was the first attempt ot produce such a group with one of the horse's legs not touching the base. The statue is also notable for the carefully-observed expression of stern command upon Colleoni's face.

Verrocchio sent to his commissioners a wax model in 1480, and in 1488 he finally moved to Venice to assist at the metal fusion of the group. However, he died in the same year before the work was finished.

His best-known works include the bronze Christ and St Thomas (c.1465-83) at Orsanmichele, a bronze statue of David (c.1476) (modestly clad, in contrast to Donatello's provocative nude David), and the Colleoni monument (1479-88) in Venice, which is the first equestrian statue in stone to depict one of the horse's legs in a raised position. In other words, the entire weight of the statue is carried on three legs rather than four. The statue is also notable for the carefully-observed expression of stern command upon Colleoni's face.