By Anne Leader
On 10 March 1453, Italian painter Neri di Bicci began a diary, or ricordanza, in which he noted all the daily activities associated with his workshop through 24 April 1475. Fortunately it has survived and stands as the most extensive document of a Renaissance painter’s activities. With 189 folios, the book contains notes regarding both professional and personal activities and has offered art historians a rich trove of information about the daily life of an early Renaissance artist. As it is labeled ’D,’ the journal is at least the fourth in a series kept by the artist and includes information about patrons, collaborators, prices, materials, and more.
Neri recorded the names of many artists with whom he had business dealings, including the painters Fra Filippo Lippi, Maso Finiguerra, Lo Scheggia (Masaccio’s brother), Domenico di Michelino, Zanobi Strozzi and Alesso Baldovinetti and the sculptors Desiderio da Settignano, Giuliano da Maiano, and Benedetto da Maiano.
Were it not for this extraordinary document, Neri might be much less known today since his skill level was of middling quality. His obvious success as a painter, however, shows that artists of average ability could nevertheless have a busy and profitable career, shedding light on Renaissance attitudes about quality, talent, and invention – characteristics prized by art historians and museum curators that were obviously not necessary to sell artwork in the fifteenth century.
Reference: Bruno Santi. “Neri di Bicci.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press.