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Lives of the Great Painters
Vasari's Dello


Although Dello the Florentine has a name as a painter only, his first works were in sculpture. And it was not only that he was changeable by nature, he also perceived that he earned little, and that his poverty required him to change. So he applied himself to painting and succeeded, especially in little figures. At that time it was the custom of the people to have in their chambers great wooden chests of various forms, and every one used to have them painted with stories from the myths of Ovid and other poets, or hunting scenes, or jousts, or tales of love, according to the taste of each one. And in the same way were painted the beds and chairs and other furniture of the rooms. This practice was long in fashion, and the most excellent painters employed themselves in such work with no such sense of shame as many would feel now in painting and gilding such things. Dello then, being a good painter and well skilled especially, as we have said, in little pictures, spent many years in painting chests and chairs and such things, and particularly he painted for Giovanni di Medici the whole furniture of a room, which was considered marvellous and most beautiful of its kind. lt is said that Donatello, then a youth, aided him, making with stucco, gesso, and paste ornaments in bas relief, which being gilded brought out well the painted pictures. Afterwards Dello went to Spain into the king's service, where he obtained such favour that no artist could desire more. And though it is not known what works he did in those parts, yet as he returned very rich and with great honour, we may suppose that they were many and fine and good. But after having been royally rewarded for his labours for some years, the desire arose within him to return to Florence, that he might show his friends how from extreme poverty he had risen to great riches. He asked therefore leave of the king, and he not only granted it graciously, although he would willingly have retained him, but in gratitude for his service this most generous king made him a knight. So he returned to Florence and demanded his pension and the confirmation of his privileges, but they were refused him by Filippo Spano degli Scolari, who had just returned victorious over the Turks, as grand seneschal of the King of Hungary. Dello thereupon wrote in haste to the king complaining of the injury done him; and the king interceded for him with the Signory so warmly that the desired honour was granted him. It is said that Dello, returning to his house on horseback with his banner, and clad in brocade, as he passed along the Vacchereccia, where were then many goldsmiths' shops, was jeered at by certain who had known him familiarly in youth, and he turning to the side where he heard the voices, made a gesture of contempt, and without saying anything passed on his way, so that none perceived it but those who had scoffed at him. But seeing by this and other signs that the envy felt towards him was as great as the unkindness shown him when he was poor, he determined to return to Spain. There he was received with great favour and looked upon kindly, and there he lived and laboured like a lord, painting always attired in a brocaded apron. Thus retreating before envy, he dwelt in honour with the king. He died at the age of forty nine, and was buried honourably. He was not a very good draughtsman, but was one of the first to show good judgment in the marking of the muscles in the human body. His portrait was painted by Paolo Uccello in S. Maria Novella, in the picture representing the drunkenness of Noah.

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