December 16, 2018

Who was “il Perugino”?

We decided to rename our “brand” after him, because he was and still is one of the greatest Italian Renaissance painters. Let us find out something more about him, his life, his works that are still admired today and about his character that used to have a great influence on all his contemporary artists and painters. Pietro Vannucci, known as il Perugino, was born in Castel della Pieve, probably in the mid 1400s, in a house located on the top of the strada del Vecciano (today Via Roma), as mentioned in some old official papers and died when he contracted the bubonic plague in Fontignano (PG) in 1523. He is worldwide known thanks to its artist name “Perugino”. He had chosen a bigger city like Perugia rather than a smaller place like Castel della Pieve because his purpose was to give his paintings a precise geographical origin. It is said, even if there is no evidence of it, that his first teacher would have been a certain Francesco da Castel della Pieve, a local painter who worked on a big “Crucifixion” from 1449, that is still visible in Paciano, at the art gallery owned by the Confraternita del SS Sacramento of Paciano. According to the art historian Vasari, he could have been a pupil in the school of Piero della Francesca in Arezzo, from whom he learnt the use of perspective, while in Florence he trained at the workshop owned by the multitasking artist Verrocchio. It was there, where he learnt grace and harmony in drawing.

He was a prolific artist of a great fame and opened two schools: one in Perugia and another one in Florence. He was so much appreciated for his talent that in the year 1481 was commissioned the painting of the walls in the Sistine Chapel, together with his contemporary painters like: Cosimo Rosselli, Sandro Botticelli and Domenico Ghirlandaio. There is no doubt at all that in this period he reached the top of his fame and prestige; his paintings were a mixture of lyricism and surreal figures.

The late 1400s represented the end of his golden age and the early 1500s the beginning of his downfall. It was probably due to a radical change in taste and styles in art, while he showed a lack of renovation. For this reason his style was labelled as monotonous, static and old-fashioned. He was therefore forced to leave those bigger cities like Rome and Florence where he made a fortune and come back to the surrounding area of Perugia, where he was still appreciated as an artist.

He showed his talent when he painted the wall painting “The Adoration of the Magi” in 1504 at the Oratory of Santa Maria de’ Bianchi in Città della Pieve and the following year “the Sacrifice of Saint Sebastian”, in the church renamed after Saint Sebastian in Panicale. In 1508 he also painted “Sant’Antonio Abate between the two Saints Paolo Eremita and Marcello” in the church of San Pietro always in Città della Pieve and afterwards the two altar canvas “Madonna in glory with the Saints” and the “Christening of Jesus Christ”, inside the Cathedral of Città della Pieve.

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Back in Città della Pieve, when he was old and almost blind, Pietro painted in 1517 the Church of Santa Maria dei Servi, today the Civic Museum owned by the Diocese. The painting was supposed to be a cycle of frescoes focusing on the main events of Jesus’ life. The “Lowering of Christ from the cross” is an essential and mature work and it is the only one that is still visible. He died after having contracted the bubonic plague in the year 1523, when he was almost 80 years old.

Although Vasari criticised him a lot, we should not forget that Perugino taught pupils like Pinturicchio, Raffaello, Giovanni Spagna, Eusebio da San Giorgio, Giannicola di Paolo, Giovanni Battista Caporali and today he is considered one of the most famous Italian painters.

You can see his works in Città della Pieve and Panicale either on your own, or with a guided tour that you can book and buy directly on our internet site “terre del Perugino”, following the links here below:

Città della Pieve and the Renaissance

Città della Pieve, history and art centre

The lands of Perugino between Città della Pieve and Panicale

Panicale between history and nature