Pietro di Cristoforo Vannucci known as "Perugino"
The painter Pietro di Cristoforo Vannucci, known as Perugino, was born in a wealthy family of Città della Pieve in the mid-fifteenth century, presumably between 1445 and 1452, according to reports provided by Giorgio Vasari and Giovanni Santi.
We don’t know much about the first years of his training as an artist, but it is probable that Perugino had a first period of apprenticeship at the workshop of Bartolomeo Caporali in Perugia (1420 – 1503 ca.): this place was indeed one of the most active workshop in the city during the 60s and 70s of the sixteenth century.
Perugino had already moved to Florence in 1472, since a document attested him in the Red Book of the Company of San Luca, a Brotherhood of Painters; he was probably already in contact with the entourage of young artists -including Luca Signorelli (1445 ca-1423) with whom he would later collaborate in the Sistine Chapel- who attended the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio (1435-1488), particularly popular as Leonardo Da Vinci’s master (1452-1519).
In the context of the renovation and modernization works of the Sistine Chapel commissioned by Pope Sixtus IV in 1477, Perugino was included in the team of painters called to realize, with the help of their workshops, the fresco decoration cycle conceived to adorn the walls of the sumptuous Chapel. The contracts signed on October 27, 1481 marks the beginning of the works, which were already done on January 17, 1482, when Perugino signed an agreement on the price for the work being completed.
In 1485, two years after the realization of the Pala dei Decemviri, Vannucci became an official citizen of the city of Perugia, and the following year he enrolled in the local coven of painters. The artist’s most successful moment in Umbria is the commission for the decoration of the Nobile Collegio del Cambio, a task that made him so proud to the point of including his self-portrait among the ones depicting illustrious men of the past, together with a high-sounding autocelebrative Latin motto that defines him as “Egregius Pictor”.
After the works in the Vatican, Perugino had reached such a reputation that, in June 1486, he rented a room near the Hospital of Santa Maria Nuova in Florence, in the current via Bufalini, formerly San Gilio, to set up a workshop although his work in this city was only occasional until the early nineties; his Tuscan workshop remained active for about a quarter of a century, until the spring of 1511.
On September, 11 1493 a happy event marked the definitive moving of Pietro Vannucci to the Florentine capital: it is the marriage with Luca Fancelli’s beautiful daughter, Chiara, whose graceful face will appear in many of Perugino’s paintings. He himself spent a lot of time styling his beloved Muse, before portraying her as one of his Madonnas. In the middle of the Savonarolian era, after Lorenzo il Magnifico’s death, Perugino was at the peak of his fame, and he started to follow the tendency of the time to an extremely clear and simple devotional art.
After years spent realizing many paintings in central Italy, following the activity of the two workshops in Umbria and Tuscany (thanks to which he earned the modern name of “painter-entrepreneur”), from the beginning of the Sixteenth century his art started to slightly decline, following harsh criticism that depicted his art as immobile and recurrent, almost serial. Actually, in the same period personalities such as Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo were carrying out novelties that would revolutionize the history of art forever; moreover, Vasari, in Perugino’s biography, pointed out the fact that he was not Florentine by birth, but a provincial artist. Vasari gave back the image of an artist who was often worthy of merit, but he also criticized him as a man, depicting him as greedy and not devoted to God.
From this moment on and until his death, Pietro Vannucci dedicated himself to various commissions in Perugia and in the nearby area. He was working at the decoration of the church of the Annunziata in Fontignano, now in old age, when he was caught by plague; he died in 1523.
The places and the artworks of Perugino
Museums and Churches
Perugino "business man":
The Umbrian school
The author Giorgio Vasari in his writings recalled that Pietro Vannucci “Perugino”’s training happened in Florence, specially inside Andrea del Verrocchio’s workshop, where the painter could learn the principles of the art-making and meet some of the most important personalities of the Reinassance Florence: Lorenzo di Credi, Leonardo da Vinci, Ghirlandaio, Filippino Lippi, Sandro Botticelli.
In an old document dated 1472, Perugino is registered with the status of “dipintore” (“official painter”) and this fact shows that at that date he had certainly already completed his apprentice; during the same period, he also opened his personal workshop in Florence. His fame grew so much that he could also start another workshop in Perugia, opened in 1501: an entire generation of painters received the artistic training there, on one hand spreading his style, while enriching it and making it more various on the other.
The most famous between Perugino’s followers is, without doubt, Raphael. After having learnt the basis of painting from his father, Giovanni Santi, in Urbino, Raphael moved to Umbria and improved his artistic education thanks to Perugino. The young painter realized his first independent works between Perugia and Città di Castello. Even when he moved to Florence, Raphael continued to maintain relations with patronage and clients referring the Umbria area at least until 1508, when he definitively left Florence and Perugia for Rome, wanted at the Pope’s service.
Giovanni di Pietro called “Lo Spagna” was another important disciple of Vannucci: he mainly worked in Assisi, Spoleto and Campello sul Clitunno; for his use of colors, he was particularly appreciated by Giorgio Vasari, who defined him as Perugino’s best follower, together with Andrea d’Assisi “l’Ingegno”. He probably took part in one of the Master’s most prestigious assignments, that is, the Sistine Chapel in Vatican, the Nobile Collegio del Cambio in Perugia, and in Assisi; but unfortunately, due to a weakening of his sight, l’Ingegno was soon forced to abandon painting.
Eusebio di San Giorgio took part in many important commissions of Perugino: for instance, the great S. Pietro’s altarpiece, in Perugia, not only as co-worker, but also as a witness during the execution of the contract between the Master and the S. Pietro’s friars.
Remembered as one of the closest assistants of Perugino, Giannicola di Paolo absorbed the style of Perugino, but also mixing it with that of Raphael, Signorelli, Fra Bartolomeo: however, Perugino’s strong influence is particularly evident in the decoration of the Chapel of Saint John in the Nobile Collegio del Cambio, which Giannicola realized between 1511 and 1528.
Giovanni Battista Caporali also worked in Perugino’s workshop, learning both from him and Raphael.
Finally, also Bernardino di Betto, better known as “Pintoricchio” is considered one of Perugino’s followers and assistants, even if he never officially attended his workshop. Born in Perugia, Pintoricchio knew Verrocchio in Florence and appreciated his style at the Sistine Chapel. In 1481 he certainly worked at Sistine’s frescoes too, as part of Perugino’s entourage. Born in Perugia, Pintoricchio knew Verrocchio in Florence and appreciated his style at the Sistine Chapel. In 1481 he certainly worked at Sistine’s frescoes too, as part of Perugino’s entourage.