The Annunciation by Francesco di Giorgio Martini, ca. 1472, Siena, Pinacoteca Nazionale.
FRANCESCO DI GIORGIO OF SIENA, who was an excellent sculptor and architect, made the two bronze angels that are on the high altar of the Duomo in that city. These were truly very beautiful pieces of casting, and he finished them afterwards by himself with the greatest diligence that it is possible to imagine. This he could do very conveniently, for he was endowed with good means as well as with a rare intelligence; wherefore he would work when he felt inclined, not through greed of gain, but for his own pleasure and in order to leave some honorable memorial behind him. He also gave attention to painting and executed some pictures, but these did not equal his sculptures. He had very good judgment in architecture, and proved that he had a very good knowledge of that profession; and to this ample testimony is borne by the palace that he built for Duke Federigo Feltro at Urbino, which is commodiously arranged and beautifully planned, while the bizarre staircases are well conceived and more pleasing than any others that had been made up to his time. The halls are large and magnificent, and the apartments are conveniently distributed and handsome beyond belief. In a word, the whole of that palace is as beautiful and as well built as any other that has been erected down to our own day.
Francesco was a very able engineer, particularly in connection with military engines, as he showed in a frieze tht he painted with his own hand in the said palace at Urbino, which is all full of rare things of that kind for the purposes of war. He also filled some books with designs of such instruments; and the Lord Duke Cosimo de'Medici has the best of these among his greatest treasures. The same man was so zealous a student of the warlike machines and instruments of the ancients, and spent so much time in investigating the plans of the ancient amphitheatres and other things of that kind, that he was thereby prevented from giving equal attention to sculpture; but these studies brought him and still bring him no less honor than sculpture could have gained for him. For all these reasons he was so dear to the said Duke Federigo, whose portrait he made both on medals and in painting, that when he returned to his native city of Siena he found his honors were equal to his profits.
For Pope Pius II he made all the designs and models of the Palace and Vescovado of Pienza, the native place of the said Pope, which was raised by him to the position of a city, and called Pienza after himself, in place of its former name of Corsignano. These buildings were as magnificent and handsome as they could be for that place; and he did the same for the general form and the fortifications of the said city, together with the palace and loggia built for the same Pontiff. Wherefore he ever lived in honor, and was rewarded with the supreme magistracy of the Signoria in his native city; but finally, having reached the age of forty-seven, he died. His works date about 1480. He left behind him his companion and very dear friend, Jacopo Cozzerello, who devoted himself to sculpture and to architecture, making some figures of wood in Siena, and a work of architecture without the Porta a Tufi--namely, Santa Maria Maddalena, which remained unfinished by reason of his death. To him we are also indebted for the portrait of the aforesaid Francesco, which he made with his own hand; to which Francesco much gratitude is due for his having facilitated the art of architecture, and for his having rendered it greater services than any other man had done from the time of Filippo di Ser Brunellesco to his own.
A Sienese and also a much extolled sculptor was Lorenzo, the son of Piero Vecchietti, who, having first been a highly esteemed goldsmith, finally devoted himself to sculpture and to casting in bronze; which arts he studied so zealously that he became excellent in them, and was commissioned to make a tabernacle in bronze for the high altar of the Duomo in his native city of Siena, together with the marble ornaments that are still seen therein. This casting, which is admirable, acquired very great fame and repute for him by reason of the proportion and grace that it shows in all its parts; and whosoever observes this work well can see that the design is good, and that the craftsman was a man of judgment and of practised ability.
For the Chapel of the Painters of Siena, in the great Hospital of the Scala, the same man made a beautiful metal casting of a nude Christ, of the size of life and holding the Cross in His hand; which work was finished with a love and diligence worthy of the beautiful success of the casting. In the pilgrim's hall in the same place there is a scene painted in colors by Lorenzo. Over the door of San Giovanni he painted an arch with figures wrought in fresco; and in like manner, since the baptismal font was not finished, he wrought for it certain little figures in bronze, besides finishing, also in bronze, a scene formerly begun by Donatello. In this place two scenes in bronze had been already wrought by Jacopo della Fonte [Jacopo della Quercia], whose manner Lorenzo ever imitated as closely as he was able. This Lorenzo brought the said baptismal font to perfect completion, adding to it some bronze figures, formerly cast by Donatello but entirely finished by himself, which are held to be very beautiful.
For the Loggia of the Ufficiali [The officials of the Mercanzia] in Banchi Lorenzo made two life-size figures in marble of St. Peter and St. Paul, wrought with consummate grace and executed with fine mastery. He disposed the works that he made in such a manner that he deserves as much praise for them after death as he did when alive. He was a melancholic and solitary person, ever lost in contemplation; which was perchance the reason that he did not live longer, for he passed to the other life at the age of fifty-eight. His works date to about the year 1482.