Living here in Florence, immersed in the veritable epicenter of great artistic works, one might be forgiven for generally visualizing the artists as wizened old men with stringy beards.
It may bring to mind images of an aging Leonardo’s self-portrait…
…or even the grimacing actor Charlton Heston portraying the tormented genius, Michalangelo.
As it turns out, many of the famous artists of the Renaissance, the “Rebirth”, did not live so very long beyond their own day of birth. Two young artists stand somewhat as bookends to that flourishing period of art.
In what was then the Vatican library, Raphael completed his greatest masterpiece, The School of Athens (1511).
Pope Leo X commissioned the artist to do his portrait. The expressions on the three men in this painting are a bit pensive, (the man on the left, Giulio de’ Medici, also became pope). Perhaps coincidental, but that same year, 1517, Luther posted his Ninety-five Thesis, sparking the reformation.
By 1520, wealthy patrons were clamoring for more and more works by Raphael, but that same year, after a brief illness, he died in Rome at the age of 33.
Mosaccio’s paintings are considered seminal works and helped usher in the Renaissance period. In 1425, the 24 year old Mosaccio took over from the older Masolino da Panicale the painting of the Brancacci chapel in Florence’s Santa Maria del Carmine.
By 1428 he had completed several large pieces that became the talk of the town and influenced the works of succeeding artists of the age. What other influential works he might have done, we will never know; Mosaccio died that same year, not quite 27. Below is a self-portrait that he, like many artists of the day, snuck into much larger paintings. Beside him is the famed architect, Alberti. Alberti is much appreciated in our household, as he designed the very building in which we reside, the Palazzo Rucellai. The man on the right is Brunelleschi, whose crowning achievement is also Florence’s most prominent landmark, the Duomo.
Raphael and Mosaccio, two young artists…both who helped define their times…both dying before their time…both (not so) Old Masters.
Charles Dusenbury, Florence, Italy