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Lives of the Great Painters
Vasari's Andrea di Cione


It is rarely the case that a man is excellent in one thing who could not easily learn another; and so we find that Orcagna the Florentine was painter, sculptor, architect, and poet. Born in Florence, he began as a boy the study of sculpture under Andrea Pisano; then he gave himself up to the study of drawing, and aided by Nature, who desired to make him a universal genius, he practised colouring in distemper and fresco, and succeeded so well with the aid of Bernardo, his brother, that this Bernardo took him with him to paint in S. Maria Novella, and by the works he painted in company with his brother, his fame spread so far that he was summoned to Pisa to paint in the Campo Santo.

Afterwards he gave himself with all his might to the study of architecture, thinking it might be of use to him. Nor was he mistaken, for in the year 1355 the commune of Florence, having bought some houses near the palace that they might enlarge the Piazza, and make a place where the citizens might retire under cover in winter and in time of rain, ordered designs to be made for a magnificent loggia near the palace. Among the designs made by the best masters in the city Orcagna's was universally approved and accepted as the best, the most beautiful, and most magnificent. So he begin the work, and brought it to a conclusion in a little time

And a little after the company of Orsanmichele, having in their possession much money, chiefly from the alms presented to the Madonna there during the mortality of 1348, resolved to make over her a chapel, or rather a tabernacle, not only carved in marble and adorned with precious stones, but also with mosaics and bronzework so that it should surpass in material and in excellent work everything made before that time. And the charge being given to Orcagna, he made many designs for it, until one pleased the governors as better than all the others, and the whole matter was left to his judgment. And he giving to different masters from many countries the other parts, kept for himself and his brother all the figures in the work; and when it was finished he caused it to be built up and joined together without cement with fastenings of copper and lead, that the polished marble might not be stained, which succeeded so well that the whole chapel seems to be cut out of one piece of marble. But what great efforts he made in that dark age to display his subtle genius is chiefly seen in a great work in relief of the Twelve Apostles watching the Madonna borne up to heaven by angels. For one of the apostles he sculptured himself as he was, aged, with shaven face, with his cowl about his head. Below he wrote upon the marble these words, "Andreas Cionis pictor Florentinus Oratorii archimagister extitit hujus, MCCLIX." The building of the loggia and the tabernacle cost ninety six thousand gold florins, which were very well spent, for whether as regards architecture, sculpture, or ornament, it is as beautiful as anything of those times, and such that it will always keep alive the name of Andrea Orcagna, who used on his paintings to write, "Fece Andrea di Cione scultore," and on his sculpture, "Fece Andrea di Cione pittore."

In the year 1350 was formed the Company and Fraternity of the Painters in Florence, for the masters were there in great numbers, and they considered that the arts of design had been born again in Tuscany, and indeed in Florence itself. They put their company under the protection of S. Luke the Evangelist, and their oratory was the larger chapel of S. Maria Nuova. The companywas ruled by two councillors and two treasurers, and when it was formed, Jacopo di Casentino painted the picture for their chapel representing S. Luke portraying the Virgin.

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