San Miniato and scenes from his life. 1315/1325.  Basilica of San Miniato al Monte, Florence.

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LIFE OF JACOPO DEL CASENTINO (1297- 1358)
PAINTER

Vasari's Lives of the Artists



Now that the fame and the renown of the pictures of Giotto and his disciples had been heard for many years, many, desirous of acquiring fame and riches by means of the art of painting, and animated by zealous aspirations and by the inclination of nature, began to advance towards the improvement of the art, with a firm belief that, exercising themselves therein, they would surpass in excellence both Giotto and Taddeo and the other painters. Among these was one Jacopo di Casentino, who, being born, as it is read, of the family of Messer Cristoforo Landino of Pratovecchio, was apprenticed by a friar of the Casentino, then Prior at the Sasso della Vernia, to Taddeo Gaddi, while Taddeo was working in that convent, to the end that he might learn drawing and colouring in the art, wherein in a few years he succeeded so well that, betaking himself to Florence and executing many works in company with Giovanni da Milano in the service of Taddeo their master, he was made to paint the shrine of the Madonna of the Mercato Vecchio, with the panel in distemper, and likewise the one at the corner of the Piazza di S. Niccolo and the Via del Cocomero, which were restored a few years ago, both one and the other, by a worse master than was Jacopo ; and for the Dyers he painted that which is in S. Nofri, at the corner of the wall of their garden, opposite to S. Giuseppe. In the meanwhile, the vaults of Orsanmichele over the twelve piers having been brought to a finish, a low rustic roof was placed upon them, in order to pursue as soon as might be possible the building of that palace, which was to be the granary of the Commune; and it was given to Jacopo di Casentino, as a person then much practised, to paint these vaults, with instructions that he should make there, as he did, together with the patriarchs, some prophets and the chiefs of the tribes, which were in all sixteen figures on a ground of ultramarine, today half spoilt, not to mention the other ornaments. Next, on the walls below and on the piers, he made many miracles of the Madonna, and other works that are recognized by the manner.

This work finished, Jacopo returned to the Casentino. and after he had made many works in Pratovecchio, in Poppi, and other places in that valley, he betook himself to Arezzo, which then governed itself with the counsel of sixty of its richest and most honoured citizens, to whose care was committed the whole administration. There, in the principal chapel of the Vescovado, he painted a story of S. Martin, and in the Duomo Vecchio, now in ruins, a number of pictures, among which was the portrait of Pope Innocent VI, in the principal chapel. Next, in the Church of S. Bartolommeo, for the Chapter of the Canons of the Pieve, he painted the wall where the high altar is, and the Chapel of S. Maria della Neve; and in the old Company of S. Giovanni de' Peducci he made many stories of that Saint, which today are covered with whitewash. In the Church of S. Domenico, likewise, he painted the Chapel of S. Cristofano, portraying there from nature the Blessed Masuolo, who is liberating from prison a merchant of the Fei family, who caused that chapel to be built; which Blessed Masuolo, as prophet, predicted many misadventures to the Aretines in his lifetime. In the Church of S. Agostino, in the chapel and on the altar of the Nardi, he painted in fresco some stories of S. Laurence, with marvellous manner and execution.

And because he exercised himself also in the things of architecture, by order of the sixty aforesaid citizens he reconducted under the walls of Arezzo the water that comes from the foot of the hill of Pori, three hundred braccia distant from the city. This water, in the time of the Romans, had been brought first to the theatre, whereof the remains are still there, and from that theatre, which was on the hill where today there is the fortress, to the amphitheatre of the same city, on the plain; but these edifices and conduits were wholly ruined and spoilt by the Goths. Jacopo, then, as it has been said, having brought this water below the walls, made the fountain which was then called the Fonte Guizianelli, and which is now named, by the corruption of the word, the Fonte Viniziana; this work endured from that time, which was the year 1354, up to the year 1527, and no more, for the reason that the plague of that year, the war that came afterwards, the fact that many intercepted the water at their own convenience for the use of their gardens, and still more the fact that Jacopo did not sink it, brought it about that today it is not, as it should be, standing.

The while that the aqueduct was going on being built, Jacopo, not leaving aside his painting, wrought many scenes from the acts of Bishop Guido and Piero Sacconi in the palace that was in the old citadel, now in ruins ; for these men, both in peace and in war, had done great and honourable deeds for that city. In the Pieve, likewise, below the organ, he wrought the story of S. Matthew and many other works. [And so, making works with his own hand throughout the whole city, he showed to Spinello Aretino the principles of that art which was taught to him by Agnolo, and which Spinello taught afterwards to Bernardo Daddi, who, working in his own city, honored it with many beautiful works of painting, which, together with his other most noble qualities, brought it about that he was much honoured by his fellow citizens, who employed him much in magistracies and in other public affairs. The paintings of Bernardo were many and in much esteem, and above all the Chapel of S. Lorenzo and of S. Stefano, belonging to the Pulci and Berardi, in S. Croce, and many other paintings in diverse places in the said church. Finally, having made some pictures over the gates of the city of Florence on the inner side, he died, laden with years, and was given honourable burial in S. Felicita, in the year 1380.

But returning to Jacopo; besides what has been told, in his time, in the year 1350, there was founded the Company and Confraternity of Painters; for the masters who were then living, both those of the old Greek manner and those of the new manner of Cimabue, being a great number, and reflecting that the arts of design had had their new birth in Tuscany nay rather, in Florence itself created the said Company under the name and protection of S. Luke the Evangelist, both in order to render praise and thanks to God in its oratory, and also to come together sometimes and to give succour, in spiritual matters as well as in temporal, to anyone who on occasion might have need of it; which custom is also in use among many Guilds in Florence, but was much more so in ancient times. Their first oratory was the principal chapel of the Hospital of S. Maria Nuova, which was conceded to them by the family of the Portinari. And those who were the first governors of the said Company, with the title of captains, were six, besides two counsellors and two treasurers, as it may be seen in the old book of the said Company, begun at that time, whereof the first chapter begins thus: "These articles and ordinances were drawn up and made by good and discreet men of the Guild of Painters in Florence, and at the time of Lapo Gucci, painter; Vanni Cinuzzi, painter; Corsino Buonaiuti, painter; Pasquino Cenni, painter; Segna d' Antignano, painter. The counsellors were Bernardo Daddi and Jacopo di Casentino, painters; and the treasurers, Consiglio Gherardi and Domenico Pucci, painters."

The said Company being created in this way, at the request of the captains and of the others Jacopo di Casentino painted the panel of their chapel, making therein a S. Luke who is portraying Our Lady in a picture, and on one side of the predella the men of the Company, and on the other all the women, kneeling. From this beginning, sometimes assembling and sometimes not, this Company has continued up to its arrival at the condition wherein it stands today, as it is narrated in its new articles, approved by the most Illustrious Lord Duke Cosimo, most benign protector of these arts of design.

Finally, being heavy with years and much fatigued, Jacopo returned to the Casentino, and died in Pratovecchio at the age of eighty, and was buried by his relatives and friends in S. Agnolo, the Abbey of the Order of Camaldoli, without Pratovecchio. His portrait, by the hand of Spinello, was in the Duomo Vecchio, in a story of the Magi; and of the manner of his drawing there is an example in our book.



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