At some point during Leonardo da Vinci’s first Milanese period, Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, must have sent word to Florence in order to seek recommendations for other Florentine painters that he could patronise. Although the written request has not so far been uncovered, an archived reply to the enquiry does exist. Presumably from a Florentine agent, the note reads as follows:

Sandro di Botticelli, a most excellent painter in panel and fresco, his things have a manly air and also have very good organisation and complete balance. 

Filippino di Fra Filippo [Lippi], very good, pupil of the above, and son of the most remarkable master of his time, his things have a gentler air, I don’t think they have as much skill.

Perugino, an outstanding master, especially in fresco, his things have an angelic air, very gentle.

Domenico di Ghirlandaio, good master in panel and more in fresco, his things have a good air, and he is very expeditious and does a lot of work.

All these above-named painters proved themselves in the Sistine Chapel except Filippono, but all of them at the Ospadaletto of Lord Lorenzo [de’ Medici], and the choice is almost even. 

References: Creighton E. Gilbert, Sources and Documents in the History of Art Series: Italian Art 1400-1500, ed. H. W. Janson, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1980, pp. 138-139.

Images: Sandro Botticelli, Detail from Adoration of the Magi, 1475-1475, tempera on panel, Uffizi Gallery, Florence. Wikimedia Commons. 

Filippino Lippi, Detail from The Dispute with Simon Magus, 1481-1482, fresco, Brancacci Chapel, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence. Wikimedia Commons. 

Pietro Perugino, Self Portrait, 1497-1500, fresco, Collegio del Cambio, Perugia. Wikimedia Commons. 

Domenico Girlandaio, Detail from Adoration of the Magi, 1485–1488, tempera on panel, Ospedale degli Innocenti, Florence. 

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2 thoughts on “Fit for Ducal Patronage: A Quartet of Quattrocento Florentine Painters

  1. My translation is slightly different, but its important for Filippino. Ludovico’s informant carefully arranged the names in order of preference: the ‘most excellent’ Botticelli was followed by the ‘excellent’ Filippino, ‘outstanding’ Perugino, and ‘good’ Ghirlandaio. If you are interested, I wrote about an article about this, focusing on Botticelli’s ‘air’: Jonathan K. Nelson, ‘Botticelli’s “Virile Air”: Reconsidering the Milan Memo of 1493’, in Gert Jan van der Sman and Irene Mariani, eds, Sandro Botticelli: Artist and Entrepreneur in Renaissance Florence (Florence, 2015), pp. 166-81

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