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Lives of the Great Painters
Vasari's Gaddi


Among the old painters who were much alarmed by the praises so deservedly bestowed upon Cimabue and Giotto was one Margaritone, a painter of Arezzo, who having held a high rank among those who practised the art in that unhappy age became aware that the works of these new men would almost entirely eclipse his fame. He had been considered excellent by the other painters of his time who worked in the old Greek style, and had painted many pictures in Arezzo, both in tempera and fresco. For the church of S. Margherita he painted a work on canvas stretched on a panel, in which are many pictures containing little figures representing stories from the lives of our Lady and the saints; and the picture is noteworthy not only because the little figures are painted so well that they seem to be miniatures, but also because it is a marvel to see a work on canvas that has been preserved three hundred years. He made a great number of pictures all over the city, and having painted on wood a large crucifix in the Greek style, he sent it to Florence to the famous citizen Farinata degli Uberti, because he had, among his other great works, saved his country from danger and ruin. Afterwards he gave himself to sculpture with so much application that he succeeded much better than he had in painting. He died at the age of seventy seven, disgusted, it is said, with life, because he had seen the age change so much and new artists obtain honour.

Andrea Tafi for his works in mosaic was greatly admired, and he himself was considered almost divine; but Gaddo the Florentine, who worked with him at Pisa, showed more knowledge of design, and perhaps this arose from his friendship with Cimabue. For either through conformity of nature or the goodness of their hearts, they were united in a close attachment, and while discoursing lovingly together over the difficulties of their art, the noblest and greatest conceptions were ever in their mihds. And this so much the more because they were aided by the subtle air of Florence, which is wont to produce ingenious and subtle spirits. For those who are studying any science find that by conferring together they clear it from obscurity and make it more easy. But some on the contrary have wickedly made a profession of friendship with specious appearance of love, only in malice and envy to defraud others of their conceptions. True love, however, bound together Gaddo and Cimabue, and also Andrea Tafi and Gaddo. Andrea took him to aid him in the mosaics of S. Giovanni, and afterwards he worked alone and applied himself to the study of the Greek manner, together with that of Cimabue. So his fame being spread abroad, he was called to Rome and to other cities. Afterwards returning to Florence for rest after his labours, he set himself to making little tablets of mosaic, some of which he made of eggshells, with incredible patience and diligence. He painted also many pictures maintaining his reputation, but because the manner of painting in those times cannot greatly help artists, I will pass them over in silence. Gaddo lived seventy three years, dying in 1312, and was honourably buried in S. Croce by Taddeo his son, and although he had many sons, Taddeo, who had been held at the font by Giotto, alone applied himself to painting, learning the rudiments from his father and the rest from Giotto, who was his master four and twenty years. He, surpassing his fellow scholars, produced his first works with a facility given him by nature rather than by art. He was indeed an imitator of Giotto's manner, whom he always held in the greatest veneration.

At the command of the commune he continued the building of Orsanmichele, begun by Arnolfo di Lapo, and repaired the pillars of the loggia, building them of well-hewn stone where they had first been made of brick, yet without altering the design that Arnolfo di Lapo had left for a palace of two storeys over the loggia, for storing the grain of the people and commune of Florence. And that the work might be finished, the Guild of S. Maria, which had the charge of the building, gave orders that the tax on the sale of grain and other little customs should go towards it. But what was of more importance, it was ordained with great wisdom that each of the guilds of Florence should make a pillar and set up in a niche in it the patron saint of the guild, and every year on the feastday the consuls of the guild should go there for offerings, setting up their standard and standing by the pillar the whole day, but the offerings given to the Madonna should still be for the help of those in need.

In the year 1333 a great flood of waters swept away the defences of the bridge Rubaconte, overthrew the castle Altafronte, and left nothing of the old bridge but the two middle piers. The bridge of the Holy Trinity was altogether destroyed except one pier, which was left in a shattered state; and half the bridge at Carraja was swept away, the sluices of Ogni Santi bursting. So those who had the rule of the city deliberated upon this matter, and not being willing that those who lived on the other side of the Arno should be subjected to such discomfort as to have to pass to and from their houses by boats, they called for Taddeo Gaddo and bade him make a model and design for rebuilding the old bridge, charging him to make it as handsome and fine as could be. He therefore, sparing neither expense nor trouble, built it with great piers and with magnificent arches of hewn stone, so that to this day it bears the weight of twenty two shops on each side, in all forty four, to the great advantage of the commune, which receives from them every year eight hundred florins for rent. For this work, which cost sixty thousand gold florins, Taddeo deserved infinite praise then, and is more to be commended now than ever, for, not to speak of other floods, it remained unmoved on the 13th day of September, 1537, when the water brought down the bridge of the Holy Trinity, two arches of the Carraja bridge, ruined a great part of the Rubaconte, besides doing other notable damage. And indeed no one of any judgment can fail to be astonished and to marvel that this old bridge should have sustained unmoved the shock of the water, the drift wood, and the ruins swept down from above.

Taddeo, however, did not cease from painting, and made a great number of pictures of importance both in Florence and elsewhere; and in process of time he gained so much wealth that he laid the foundation of the riches and nobility of the family, being always held to be a wise man and prudent. He painted the chapter house of S. Maria Novella, being called to the work by the prior of the place. But because the work was great, and the chapterhouse of Santo Spirito had been by that time uncovered, to the great fame of Simone Memmi who had painted it, the prior desired to give Simone half of the work, and conferring with Taddeo about it, found him right content, for he loved Simone greatly, they having been schoolfellows together under Giotto, and ever loving friends and companions. Oh, truly noble souls! without emulation or envy, loving one another like brothers, and rejoicing each one at the honour and praise of the other, as if it were his own! So the work was divided between them, three sides being given to Simone, and to Taddeo the left side and all the ceiling.

So Taddeo, having procured to himself by his industry and labours not only a name but also great riches, passed to the other life, leaving him his sons Agnolo and Giovanni, and that Agnolo particularly would become of in painting. But he who in his youth shoed signs of far surpassing his father, did not succeed according to the opinion that had been conceived of him, for having been born and brought up in ease, which has often proved an impediment to study, he gave himself more to trade and merchandise than to the art of painting, which thing should not be thought either new or strange, for avarice has often hindered many who would have risen to great heights if the desire of gain in their first and better years had not impeded their way. Nevertheless he worked as the caprice took him, sometimes with more care and sometimes with less, and having in a sense inherited the secret of working in mosaic, having also in his house the instruments and other things that Gaddo his grandfather had used, he for pastime, when it seemed good to him, made some things in mosaic. Thus many of his works may be seen in Florence, at which he laboured much to own profit, though he worked rather for sake of doing as his fathers had done than for the love of it, his mind going after merchandise; and when his sons, refusing to be painters, gave themselves up wholly to trade, establishing a house at Venice in partnership with their father, he worked no more at his art, except for his pleasure.

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