Pietro Cavallini

(c. 1270—1330)

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(active c.1270–c.1330).

Italian painter and mosaic designer, active mainly in Rome, where he must have been the leading artist of his day. His two major surviving works (both dating from the 1290s) are mosaics of the Life of the Virgin (S. Maria in Trastevere, Rome) and a fragmentary fresco cycle, the most important part of which is a Last Judgement (S. Cecilia in Trastevere, Rome). In 1308 Cavallini was invited to Naples by the reigning king, Charles II of Anjou, and various frescos in S. Maria Donnaregina have been attributed to him. His final work (c.1325–30) was probably a mosaic on the façade of S. Paolo fuori le Mura, Rome; this was destroyed by fire in 1823, but something of its appearance (as of other lost works) is known from copies. According to his son, a scribe at the papal court, Cavallini lived to be 100, but little else is recorded about him (Vasari's account of his life is poorly informed). Although he is an obscure figure, he occupies an important place in the history of Italian painting. He softened the rigidity of Byzantine art, and his majestic figures have a real sense of weight and three-dimensionality. His achievements were built on by his great contemporary Giotto, whose Last Judgement in the Arena Chapel at Padua features Apostles enthroned exactly as in Cavallini's fresco of the subject.

Subjects: Art.

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