Pesellino: The Crucifixion with Saint Jerome and Saint Francis.
Tempera on panel, 1445/1450. Now National Gallery of Art, Washington
Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists
IT IS RARELY WONT to happen that the disciples of the best masters, if they observe their precepts, fail to become very excellent, or, if they do not actually surpass them, at least to equal them and to make themselves in every way like them. For the burning zeal of imitation, with assiduity in studying, has power to make them equal the talent of those who show them the true method of working; wherefore the disciples become such that they afterwards compete with their masters, and even find it easy to outstrip them, because it is always but little labor to add to what has been discovered by others. That this is true is proved by Francesco di Pesello, who imitated the manner of Fra Filippo so well that he would have surpassed him by a long way, if death had not cut him off so prematurely. It is also known that Pesello imitated the manner of Andrea dal Castagno; and he took so much pleasure in counterfeiting animals, of which he kept some of all sorts alive in his house, and made them so lifelike and vivacious, that there was no one in his time who equalled him in this branch of his profession. He worked up to the age of thirty under the discipline of Andrea, learning from him, and became a very good master. Wherefore, having given good proof of his knowledge, he was commissioned by the Signoria of Florence to paint a panel in distemper of the Magi bringing offerings to Christ, which was placed half-way up the staircase of their Palace, and acquired great fame for Pesello, above all because he had made certain portraits therein, including that of Donato Acciaiuoli. In S. Croce, also, in the Chapel of the Cavalcanti, below the Annunciation of Donato, he painted a predella with little figures, containing stories of S. Nicholas.
In the house of the Medici he adorned some panelling very beautifully with animals, and certain coffers with little scenes of jousts on horseback. And in the same house there are seen to this day certain canvases by his hand, representing lions pressing against a grating, which appear absolutely alive; and he made others on the outside, together with one fighting with a serpent; and on another canvas he painted an ox, a fox, and other animals, very animated and vivacious. In the Chapel of the Alessandri, in S. Piero Maggiore, he made four little scenes with little figures of S. Peter, of S. Paul, of S. Zanobi restoring to life the son of the widow, and of S. Benedict. In S. Maria Maggiore in the same city of Florence, in the Chapel of the Orlandini, he made a Madonna and two other very beautiful figures. For the children of the Company of S. Giorgio he painted a Crucifix, S. Jerome, and S. Francis; and he made an Annunciation on a panel in the Church of S. Giorgio. In the Church of S. Jacopo at Pistoia he painted a Trinity, S. Zeno, and S. James; and throughout the houses of citizens in Florence there are many pictures, both round and square, by the hand of the same man.
Pesello was a temperate and gentle person; and whenever it was in his power to assist his friends, he would do it very lovingly and willingly. He married young, and had a son named Francesco, known as Pesellino, who became a painter, following very closely in the steps of Fra Filippo. From what is known of this man, it is clear that if he had lived longer he would have done much more than he did, for he was a zealous student of his art, and would draw all day and night without ceasing. In the Chapel of the Noviciate in S. Croce, below the panel by Fra Filippo, there is still seen a most marvellous predella with little figures, which appear to be by the hand of Fra Filippo. He made many little pictures with small figures throughout Florence, where, having acquired a great name, he died at the age of thirty-one; to the great grief of Pesello, who followed him after no long time, at the age of seventy-seven.