In a poem discovered by the eminent art historian, Ernst Gombrich, Ugolino Verino (the quattrocento humanist and poet), lavished praise on one of Florence’s most prolific cassoni painters, Apollonio di Giovanni.

 In 1446, Apollonio is documented as being master of his own Florentine workshop, which specialised in the figurative decoration of furniture and household objects. The classical themes, often depicted by Apollonio, would likely have appealed to Verino’s humanist sensibilities and accordingly, he produced the following panegyric.

Ugolino Verino, “On the Noteworthy Painter Apollonio.”

In former times Homer sang how the walls
Of Phoebus’ Troy were burnt by the Greek Pyres,
Eloquent Virgil’s great work as well
Proclaimed the Greek cheats and Troy’s destruction,
But surely the Tuscan Apelles, Apollonius,
Now has painted Troy burning better for us!
Painting the flight of Aeneas and the anger
Of evil Juno, the tossed rafts, with much skill.

And Neptune’s threats, as he shoots through the tall seas,
And checks the waves, turned from the swift winds,
Painted how Aeneas, with faithful Achates beside him,
Entered the Phoenician woman’s city, disguised.
And his departure, and wretched Dido’s funeral,
The painted panel shows by Apollonio’s hand.

References: Creighton E. Gilbert,  Sources and Documents in the History of Art Series: Italian Art 1400-1500, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, 1980.

Colum Hourihane, ed., The Grove Encyclopaedia of Medieval Art and Architecture, Volume I, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012, pp.123-124.

Gordon Campbell, ed., The Grove Encyclopaedia of Decorative Arts, Volume I, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2006, pp.204-205.

Images: Attr. the workshop of Apollonio, Cassone with painted front panel depicting the Conquest of Trebizond, after 1461, poplar wood, linen, polychromed and gilded gesso with panel painted in tempera and gold, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Public domain image.

 The Shipwreck of Aeneas, 1450-60, tempera on panel, Yale University Art Gallery. Public domain image.

Darius Marching to the Battle of Issus, 1450-1455, tempera on panel, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Web Gallery of Art.

Tournament in the Square of Santa Croce, Florence, c.1440, tempera on panel, Yale University Art Gallery. Public domain image.

The Meeting of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, 1440-1450, tempera on panel, Yale University Art Gallery. Public domain image.

Posted by Samantha Hughes-Johnson.

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