Thursday, 29 March 2012

Pietro Perugino (c. 1448-1523)

Lo Sposalizio by Raphael
Lo Sposalizio by Perugino

Born Pietro de Cristoforo Vannucci, Perugino was influenced by Piero della Francesca, from whom he learned how to balance surface with space and how to construct large-scale compositions. But his fame today has become eclipsed by his famous pupil Raphael, to whom he taught much about the art of composition. One has only to compare Perugino's Sposalizio della Vergine with Raphael's work of the same name to see the older man's influence.

In 1931 the National Gallery of Ireland purchased at auction at Christie's in London one of Perugino's most beautiful works - Lamentation over the Dead Christ (c. 1495). One of the first visitors to see the painting was Samuel Beckett, who wrote his impressions of the painting in a letter of 20 December 1931 to his friend Thomas McGreevy, one time director of the National Gallery of Ireland:

A clean-shaven, potent Christ, and a passion of tears for the waste. The most mystical constituent is the ointment pot that was probably added by Raffaela. Rottenly hung in rotten light behind this thick shop window, so that a total view of it is impossible, and full of grotesque amendments. But a lovely cheery Christ full of sperm, and the woman touching his thighs and mourning his secrets. [Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett by James Knowlson p140]

Pietro Perugino self-portrait 

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