The Extraordinary Creatures of Antonio Pisanello


Antonio di Puccio (c.1395 – 1455) was said, by the polymath, Giorgio Vasari, to have hailed from Verona. Nevertheless, his nickname (Pisanello) would suggest that he had been born in Pisa. Vasari however, was not immune to making the odd mistake and throughout both editions of his Lives of the Artists, referred to Pisanello as Vittore, rather than his given name, Antonio.

Documentary records place Pisanello in Pisa, Venice, Florence, Mantua, Rome, Ferrara, Milan and Naples during the first half of the quattrocento, where he worked variously as a painter, draughtsman and medalist. A proponent of the International Gothic style, Pisanello was a well-known and sought after artist during his own lifetime. Unfortunately, many of his panel paintings and works of monumental proportion have not survived into the present day. Nevertheless, a number of the artist’s depictions of various creatures have endured the ravages of time and circumstance: continuing to delight us with their masterful attention to detail and natural idiosyncrasies. 








Images: Antonio Pisanello, Vision of St Eustace, c. 1440, tempera on wood, 55 x 65 cm, The National Gallery, London. Web Gallery of Art.

St George and the Princess of Trebizond (detail), 1436-38, fresco, Pellegrini Chapel, Sant’Anastasia, Verona. Web Gallery of Art.

Apes (from the artist’s sketchbook)c. 1430, drawing, Musée du Louvre, Paris. Web Gallery of Art.

Stork, 1430s, drawing, Musée du Louvre, Paris. Web Gallery of Art.

Sturgeon and Six Monkeys, 1430s, drawing, Musée du Louvre, Paris. Web Gallery of Art.

Study of Horse Heads, 1433-38, pen on paper, 290 x 190 mm, Musée du Louvre, Paris. Web Gallery of Art.

Three Cows, 1430s, silver point, pencil and pen, 176 x 226 mm, Musée du Louvre, Paris. Web Gallery of Art.

The Virgin and Child with Saints Anthony Abbot and George, c.1435-4, tempera on poplar, 46.5 x 29 cm, The National Gallery, London. Web Gallery of Art.


References: Giorgio Vasari, “Lives of Gentile Da Fabriano and Vittore Pisanello of Verona.” In https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/v/vasari/giorgio/lives/part2.26.html

Raimond van Marie, The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting (Volume 8), Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, 1927, p.74.

Luke Syson, Dillian Gordon and Susanna Avery-Quash, Pisanello: Painter to the Renaissance Court, published by National Gallery Company, London, distributed by Yale University Press, 2001.


Posted by Samantha Hughes-Johnson.


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