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Pisanello

(c. 1395—1455)


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(b ?Pisa, c.1394; d ?Rome, ?1455).

Italian painter, draughtsman, and medallist. He presumably came from Pisa (hence his nickname—‘the little Pisan’), but he spent his early years in Verona, a city with which he kept up his association for most of his life. His successful career also took him to Rome, Naples, and several courts of northern Italy, particularly those of the Este (Ferrara) and Gonzaga (Mantua). With Gentile da Fabriano, Pisanello is regarded as the foremost exponent of the International Gothic style in Italian painting, but most of his major works have perished, including frescos in the Doges' Palace, Venice (in which he collaborated with Gentile), and in St John Lateran, Rome (in which he completed work left unfinished by Gentile at his death). His surviving documented frescos are the Annunciation (c.1426, S. Fermo, Verona) and St George and the Princess of Trebizond (c.1433–8, S. Anastasia, Verona), and attributed to him are some fragments of murals showing scenes of war and chivalry in the Ducal Palace in Mantua, uncovered in 1968 and one of the most spectacular art discoveries of recent years. A handful of panel paintings is also given to him, including two in the National Gallery, London. On the other hand, a good many of his drawings survive, those of animals being particularly memorable. They show his keen eye for detail and his ability to convey an animal's personality. Pisanello is also regarded as the inventor of the portrait medal and he was arguably the greatest of all exponents of this art form, his work having an extraordinary dignity and strength considering the small size of the objects. His first medal commemorated a visit to Italy by the Byzantine Emperor John VIII in 1438–9, and he subsequently made more than twenty others, mainly for the ruling families of the courts at which he worked.

Subjects: Art.


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