Lamentation. Victoria @ Albert Museum, London.
Vasari's Lives of the Artists
SO GREAT IS THE EFFECT of counterfeiting anything with love and diligence, that very often, when the manner of any master of these our arts has been well imitated by those who take delight in his works, the imitation resembles the thing imitated so closely, that no difference is discerned save by those who have a sharpmess of eye beyond the ordinary; and it rarely comes to pass that a loving disciple fails to learn, at least in great measure, the manner of his master.
Bellano da Padova strove with so great diligence to countefeit the manner and the method of Donato [Donatello] in sculpture, particularly in bronze, that in his native city of Padua he was left the heir to the excellence of the Florentine Donatello; and to this witness is borne by his works in the Santo, which nearly every man that has not a complete knowledge of the matter attributes to Donato, so that every day many are deceived, if they are not informed of the truth. This man, then, fired by the great praise that he heard given to Donato, the sculptor of Florence, who was then working in Padua, and by a desire for those profits that come into the hands of good craftsmen through the excellence of their works, placed himself under Donato in order to learn sculpture, and devoted himself to it in such a manner, that, with the aid of so great a master, he finally achieved his purpose; wherefore, before Donatello had finished his works and departed from Padua, Vellano had made such great progress in the art that great expectations were already entertained about him, and he inspired such confidence in his master as to induce him (and that rightly) to leave his pupil all the equipment, designs, and models for the scenes in bronze that were to be made round the choir of the Santo in that city.
This was the reason why, when Donato departed, as has been said, the commission for the whole of that work was publicly given to Bellano in his native city, to his very great honor. Whereupon he made all the scenes in bronze that are on the outer side of the choir of the Santo, wherein, among others, there is the scene of Samson embracing the column and destroying the temple of the Philistines, in which one sees the fragments of the ruin building duly falling, and the death of so many people, not to mention a great diversity of attitudes among them as they die, some through the ruins, and some through fear; and all this Vellano represented marvellously. In the same place are certain works in wax and the models for these scenes, and likewise some bronze candelabra wrought by the same man with much judgment and invention. From what we see, this craftsman appears to have had a very great desire to attain to the standard of Donatello; but he did not succeed, for he aimed too high in a most difficult art.
Bellano also took delight in architecture, and was more than passing good in that profession; wherefore, having gone to Rome in the year 1464, at the time of Pope Paul the Venetian, for which Pontiff Giuliano da Maiano was architect in the building of the Vatican, he too was employed in many things; and by his hand, among other works that he made, are the arms of that Pontiff which are seen there with his name beside them. he also wrought many of the ornaments of the Palace of San Marco for the same Pope, whose head, by the hand of Bellano, is at the top of the staircase. For that building the same man designed stupendous courtyard, with a commodious and elegant flight of steps, but the death of the Pontiff intervened to hinder the completion of the whole. The while that he stayed in Rome, Bellano made many small things in marble and in bronze for the said Pope and for others, but I have not been able to find them. In Perugia the same master made a bronze statue larger than life, in which he portrayed the said Pope from nature, seated in his pontifical robes; and at the foot of this he placed his name and the year when it was made. This figure is in a niche of several kinds of stone, wrought with much diligence, without the door of San Lorenzo, which is the Duomo of that city. The same man made many medals, some of which are still to be seen, particularly that of the aforesaid Pope, and those of Antonio Rosello of Arezzo and Batista Platina, both Secretaries to that Pontiff.
Having returned after these works to Padua with a very good name, Bellano was held in esteem not only in his native city, but in all Lombardy and in the March of Treviso, both because up to that time there had been no craftsmen of excellence in those parts, and because he had very great skill in the founding of metals. Afterwards, when Bellano was already old, the Signoria of Venice determined to have an equestrian statue of Bartolommeo da Bergamo made in bronze; and they allotted the horse to Andrea del Verrocchio of Florence, and the figure to Bellano. On hearing this, Andrea, who thought that the whole work should fall to him, knowing himself to be, as indeed he was, a better master than Bellano, flew into such a rage that he broke up and destroyed the whole model fo the horse that he had already finished, and went off to Florence. But after a time, being recalled by the Signoria, who gave him the whole work to do, he returned once more to finish it; at which Bellano felt so much displeasure that he departed from Venice, without saying a word or expressing his resentment in any manner, and returned to Padua, where he afterwards lived in honor for the rest of his life, contenting himself with the works that he had made and with being loved and honored, as he ever was, in his native place. He died at the age of ninety-two, and was buried in the Santo with that distinction which his excellence, having honored both himself and his country, had deserved. His portrait was sent to me from Padua by certain friends of mine, who had it, so they told me, from the very learned and very reverend Cardinal Bembo, whose love of our arts was no less remarkable than his supremacy over all other men of our age in all the rarest qualities and gifts both of mind and body.