Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects Vol 1




It is a beautiful and truly useful and praiseworthy action to reward talent largely in every place, and to honour him who has it, seeing that an infinity of intellects which might otherwise slumber, roused by this encouragement, strive with all industry not only to learn their art but to become excellent therein, in order to advance themselves and to attain to a rank both profitable and honourable; whence there may follow honour for their country, glory for themselves, and riches and nobility for their descendants, who, upraised by such beginnings, very often become both very rich and very noble, even as the descendants of the painter Taddeo Gaddi did by reason of his work. This Taddeo di Gaddo Gaddi, a Florentine, after the death of Giotto—who had held him at his baptism and had been his master for twenty-four years after the death of Gaddo, as it is written by Cennino di Drea Cennini, painter of Colle di Valdelsa—remained among the first in the art of painting and greater than all his fellow-disciples both in judgment and in genius; and he wrought his first works, with a great facility given to him by nature rather than acquired by art, in the Church of S. Croce in Florence, in the chapel of the sacristy, where, together with his companions, disciples of the dead Giotto, he made some stories of S. Mary Magdalene, with beautiful figures and with most beautiful and extravagant costumes of those times. And in the Chapel of the Baroncelli and Bandini, where Giotto had formerly wrought the panel in distemper, he made by himself in fresco, on one wall, some stories of Our Lady which were held very beautiful. He also painted over the door of the said sacristy the story of Christ disputing with the Doctors in the Temple, which was afterwards half ruined when the elder Cosimo de' Medici, in making the noviciate, the chapel, and the antechamber in front of the sacristy, placed a cornice of stone over the said door. In the same church he painted in fresco the Chapel of the Bellacci, and also that of S. Andrea by the side of one of the three of Giotto, wherein he made the scene of Jesus Christ taking Andrew and Peter from their nets, and the crucifixion of the former Apostle, a work greatly commended and extolled both then when it was finished and still at the present day. Over the side-door, below the burial-place of Carlo Marsuppini of Arezzo, he made a Dead Christ with the Maries, wrought in fresco, which was very much praised; and below the tramezzo[16] that divides the church, on the left hand, above the Crucifix of Donato, he painted in fresco a story of S. Francis, representing a miracle that he wrought in restoring to life a boy who was killed by falling from a terrace, together with his apparition in the air. And in this story he portrayed Giotto his master, Dante the poet, Guido Cavalcanti, and, some say, himself. Throughout the said church, also, in diverse places, he made many figures which are known by painters from the manner. For the Company of the Temple he painted the shrine that is at the corner of the Via del Crocifisso, containing a very beautiful Deposition from the Cross.

In the cloister of S. Spirito he wrought two scenes in the little arches beside the Chapter-house, in one of which he made Judas selling Christ, and in the other the Last Supper that He held with the Apostles. And in the same convent, over the door of the refectory, he painted a Crucifix and some Saints, which give us to know that among the others who worked here he was truly an imitator of the manner of Giotto, which he held ever in the greatest veneration. In S. Stefano del Ponte Vecchio he painted the panel and the predella of the high-altar with great diligence; and on a panel in the Oratory of S. Michele in Orto he made a very good picture of a Dead Christ being lamented by the Maries and laid to rest very devoutly by Nicodemus in the Sepulchre.


(After the fresco by Taddeo Gaddi, in the Refectory of S. Croce, Florence)

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In the Church of the Servite Friars he painted the Chapel of S. Niccolò, belonging to those of the palace, with stories of that Saint, wherein he showed very good judgment and grace in a boat that he painted, demonstrating that he had complete understanding of the tempestuous agitation of the sea and of the fury of the storm; and while the mariners are emptying the ship and jettisoning the cargo, S. Nicholas appears in the air and delivers them from that peril. This work, having given pleasure and having been much praised, was the reason that he was made to paint the chapel of the high-altar in that church, wherein he made in fresco some stories of Our Lady, and another figure of Our Lady on a panel in distemper, with many Saints wrought in lively fashion. In like manner, in the predella of the said panel, he made some other stories of Our Lady with little figures, whereof there is no need to make particular mention, seeing that in the year 1467 everything was destroyed when Lodovico, Marquis of Mantua, made in that place the tribune that is there to-day and the choir of the friars, with the design of Leon Battista Alberti, causing the panel to be carried into the Chapter-house of that convent; in the refectory of which Taddeo made, just above the wooden seats, the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles, and above that a Crucifix with many saints.

Having given the last touch to these works, Taddeo Gaddi was summoned to Pisa, where, for Gherardo and Bonaccorso Gambacorti, he wrought in fresco the principal chapel of S. Francesco, painting with beautiful colours many figures and stories of that Saint and of S. Andrew and S. Nicholas. Next, on the vaulting and on the front wall is Pope Honorius, who is confirming the Order; here Taddeo is portrayed from the life, in profile, with a cap wrapped round his head, and at the foot of this scene are written these words:


Besides this, in the cloister also of the same convent he made in fresco a Madonna with her Child in her arms, very well coloured, and in the middle of the church, on the left hand as one enters, a S. Louis the Bishop, seated, to whom S. Gherardo da Villamagna, who had been a friar of this Order, is recommending a Fra Bartolommeo, then Prior of the said convent. In the figures of this work, seeing that they were taken from nature, there are seen liveliness and infinite grace, in that simple manner which was in some respects better than that of Giotto, above all in expressing supplication, joy, sorrow, and other similar emotions, which, when well expressed, ever bring very great honour to the painter.

Next, having returned to Florence, Taddeo continued for the Commune the work of Orsanmichele and refounded the piers of the Loggia, building them with stone dressed and well shaped, whereas before they had been made of bricks, without, however, altering the design that Arnolfo left, with directions that there should be made over the Loggia a palace with two vaults for storing the provisions of grain that the people and Commune of Florence used to make. To the end that this work might be finished, the Guild of Porta S. Maria, to which the charge of the fabric had been given, ordained that there should be paid thereunto the tax of the square of the grain-market and some other taxes of very small importance. But what was far more important, it was well ordained with the best counsel that each of the Guilds of Florence should make one pier by itself, with the Patron Saint of the Guild in a niche therein, and that every year, on the festival of each Saint the Consuls of that Guild should go to church to make offering, and should hold there the whole of that day the standard with their insignia, but that the offering, none the less, should be to the Madonna for the succour of the needy poor. And because, during the great flood of the year 1333, the waters had swept away the parapets of the Ponte Rubaconte, thrown down the Castle of Altafronte, left nothing of the Ponte Vecchio but the two piers in the middle, and completely ruined the Ponte a S. Trinita except one pier that remained all shattered, as well as half the Ponte alla Carraia, bursting also the weir of Ognissanti, those who then ruled the city determined no longer to allow the dwellers on the other side of the Arno to have to return to their homes with so great inconvenience as was caused by their having to cross in boats. Wherefore, having sent for Taddeo Gaddi, for the reason that Giotto his master had gone to Milan, they caused him to make the model and design of the Ponte Vecchio, giving him instructions that he should have it brought to completion as strong and as beautiful as might be possible; and he, sparing neither cost nor labour, made it with such strength in the piers and with such magnificence in the arches, all of stone squared with the chisel, that it supports to-day twenty-two shops on either side, which make in all forty-four, with great profit to the Commune, which drew from them eight hundred florins yearly in rents. The extent of the arches from one side to the other is thirty-two braccia, that of the street in the middle is sixteen braccia, and that of the shops on either side eight braccia. For this work, which cost sixty thousand florins of gold, not only did Taddeo then deserve infinite praise, but even to-day he is more than ever commended for it, for the reason that, besides many other floods, it was not moved in the year 1557, on September 13, by that which threw down the Ponte a S. Trinita and two arches of that of the Carraia, and shattered in great part the Rubaconte, together with much other destruction that is very well known. And truly there is no man of judgment who can fail to be amazed, not to say marvel, considering that the said Ponte Vecchio in so great an emergency could sustain unmoved the onset of the waters and of the beams and the wreckage made above, and that with so great firmness.

At the same time Taddeo directed the founding of the Ponte a S. Trinita, which was finished less happily in the year 1346, at the cost of twenty thousand florins of gold; I say less happily, because, not having been made like the Ponte Vecchio, it was entirely ruined by the said flood of the year 1557. In like manner, under the direction of Taddeo there was made at the said time the wall of the Costa a S. Gregorio, with piles driven in below, including two piers of the bridge in order to gain additional ground for the city on the side of the Piazza de' Mozzi, and to make use of it, as they did, to make the mills that are there.

While all these works were being made by the direction and design of Taddeo, seeing that he did not therefore stop painting, he decorated the Tribunal of the Mercanzia Vecchia, wherein, with poetical invention, he represented the Tribunal of Six (which is the number of the chief men of that judicial body), who are standing watching the tongue being torn from Falsehood by Truth, who is clothed with a veil over the nude, while Falsehood is draped in black; with these verses below:


And below the scene are these verses:


Taddeo received a commission for some works in fresco in Arezzo, which he carried to the greatest perfection in company with his disciple Giovanni da Milano. Of these we still see one in the Company of the Holy Spirit, a scene on the wall over the high-altar, containing the Passion of Christ, with many horses, and the Thieves on the Cross, a work held very beautiful by reason of the thought that he showed in placing Him on the Cross. Therein are some figures with vivid expressions which show the rage of the Jews, some pulling Him by the legs with a rope, others offering the sponge, and others in various attitudes, such as the Longinus who is piercing His side, and the three soldiers who are gambling for His raiment, in the faces of whom there is seen hope and fear as they throw the dice. The first of these, in armour, is standing in an uncomfortable attitude awaiting his turn, and shows himself so eager to throw that he appears not to be feeling the discomfort; the other, raising his eyebrows, with his mouth and with his eyes wide open, is watching the dice, in suspicion, as it were, of fraud, and shows clearly to anyone who studies him the desire and the wish that he has to win. The third, who is throwing the dice, having spread the garment on the ground, appears to be announcing with a grin his intention of casting them. In like manner, throughout the walls of the church are seen some stories of S. John the Evangelist, and throughout the city other works made by Taddeo, which are recognized as being by his hand by anyone who has judgment in art. In the Vescovado, also, behind the high-altar, there are still seen some stories of S. John the Baptist, which are wrought with such marvellous manner and design that they cause him to be held in admiration. In the Chapel of S. Sebastiano in S. Agostino, beside the sacristy, he made the stories of that martyr, and a Disputation of Christ with the Doctors, so well wrought and finished that it is a miracle to see the beauty in the changing colours of various sorts and the grace in the pigments of these works, which are finished to perfection.

(Florence: Accademia 107. Panel)

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In the Church of the Sasso della Vernia in the Casentino he painted the chapel wherein S. Francis received the Stigmata, assisted in the minor details by Jacopo di Casentino, who became his disciple by reason of this visit. This work finished, he returned to Florence together with Giovanni, the Milanese, and there, both within the city and without, they made very many panels and pictures of importance; and in process of time he gained so much, turning all into capital, that he laid the foundation of the wealth and the nobility of his family, being ever held a prudent and far-sighted man.

He also painted the Chapter-house in S. Maria Novella, being commissioned by the Prior of the place, who suggested the subject to him. It is true, indeed, that by reason of the work being large and of there being unveiled, at that time when the bridges were being made, the Chapter-house of S. Spirito, to the very great fame of Simone Memmi, who had painted it, there came to the said Prior a desire to call Simone to the half of this work; wherefore, having discussed the whole matter with Taddeo, he found him well contented therewith, for the reason that he had a surpassing love for Simone, because he had been his fellow-disciple under Giotto and ever his loving friend and companion. Oh! minds truly noble! seeing that without emulation, ambition, or envy, ye loved one another like brothers, each rejoicing as much in the honour and profit of his friend as in his own! The work was divided, therefore, and three walls were given to Simone, as I said in his Life, and Taddeo had the left-hand wall and the whole vaulting, which was divided by him into four sections or quarters in accordance with the form of the vaulting itself. In the first he made the Resurrection of Christ, wherein it appears that he wished to attempt to make the splendour of the Glorified Body give forth light, as we perceive in a city and in some mountainous crags; but he did not follow this up in the figures and in the rest, doubting, perchance, that he was not able to carry it out by reason of the difficulty that he recognized therein. In the second section he made Jesus Christ delivering S. Peter from shipwreck, wherein the Apostles who are manning the boat are certainly very beautiful; and among other things, one who is fishing with a line on the shore of the sea (a subject already used by Giotto in the mosaics of the Navicella in S. Pietro) is depicted with very great and vivid feeling. In the third he painted the Ascension of Christ, and in the fourth the coming of the Holy Spirit, where there are seen many beautiful attitudes in the figures of the Jews who are seeking to gain entrance through the door. On the wall below are the Seven Sciences, with their names and with those figures below them that are appropriate to each. Grammar, in the guise of a woman, with a door, teaching a child, has the writer Donato seated below her. After Grammar follows Rhetoric, and at her feet is a figure that has two hands on books, while it draws a third hand from below its mantle and holds it to its mouth. Logic has the serpent in her hand below a veil, and at her feet Zeno of Elea, who is reading. Arithmetic is holding the tables of the abacus, and below her is sitting Abraham, its inventor. Music has the musical instruments, and below her is sitting Tubal-Cain, who is beating with two hammers on an anvil and is standing with his ears intent on that sound. Geometry has the square and the compasses, and below, Euclid. Astrology has the celestial globe in her hands, and below her feet, Atlas. In the other part are sitting seven Theological Sciences, and each has below her that estate or condition of man that is most appropriate to her—Pope, Emperor, King, Cardinals, Dukes, Bishops, Marquises, and others; and in the face of the Pope is the portrait of Clement V. In the middle and highest place is S. Thomas Aquinas, who was adorned with all the said sciences, holding below his feet some heretics—Arius, Sabellius, and Averroes; and round him are Moses, Paul, John the Evangelist, and some other figures, that have above them the four Cardinal Virtues and the three Theological, with an infinity of other details depicted by Taddeo with no little design and grace, insomuch that it can be said to have been the best conceived as well as the best preserved of all his works.

In the same S. Maria Novella, over the tramezzo[17] of the church, he also made a S. Jerome robed as a Cardinal, having such a devotion for that Saint that he chose him as the protector of his house; and below this, after the death of Taddeo, his son caused a tomb to be made for their descendants, covered with a slab of marble bearing the arms of the Gaddi. For these descendants, by reason of the excellence of Taddeo and of their merits, Cardinal Jerome has obtained from God most honourable offices in the Church—Clerkships of the Chamber, Bishoprics, Cardinalates, Provostships, and Knighthoods, all most honourable; and all these descendants of Taddeo, of whatsoever degree, have ever esteemed and favoured the beautiful intellects inclined to the matters of sculpture and painting, and have given them assistance with every effort.

Finally, having come to the age of fifty and being smitten with a most violent fever, Taddeo passed from this life in the year 1350, leaving his son Agnolo and Giovanni to apply themselves to painting, recommending them to Jacopo di Casentino for ways of life and to Giovanni da Milano for instruction in the art. After the death of Taddeo this Giovanni, besides many other works, made a panel which was placed on the altar of S. Gherardo da Villamagna in S. Croce, fourteen years after he had been left without his master, and likewise the panel of the high-altar of Ognissanti, where the Frati Umiliati had their seat, which was held very beautiful, and the tribune of the high-altar at Assisi, wherein he made a Crucifix, with Our Lady and S. Chiara, and stories of Our Lady on the walls and sides. Afterwards he betook himself to Milan, where he wrought many works in distemper and in fresco, and there finally he died.

Taddeo, then, adhered constantly to the manner of Giotto, but did not better it much save in the colouring, which he made fresher and more vivacious than that of Giotto, the latter having applied himself so ardently to improving the other departments and difficulties of this art, that although he gave attention to this, he could not, however, attain to the privilege of doing it, whereas Taddeo, having seen that which Giotto had made easy and having learnt it, had time to add something and to improve the colouring.

Taddeo was buried by Agnolo and Giovanni, his sons, in the first cloister of S. Croce, in that tomb which he had made for Gaddo his father, and he was much honoured with verses by the men of culture of that time, as a man who had been greatly deserving for his ways of life and for having brought to completion with beautiful design, besides his pictures, many buildings of great convenience to his city, and besides what has been mentioned, for having carried out with solicitude and diligence the construction of the Campanile of S. Maria del Fiore, from the design left by Giotto his master; which campanile was built in such a manner that stones could not be put together with more diligence, nor could a more beautiful tower be made, with regard either to ornament, or cost, or design. The epitaph that was made for Taddeo was this that is to be read here:


Taddeo was very resolute in draughtsmanship, as it may be seen in our book, wherein is drawn by his hand the scene that he wrought in the Chapel of S. Andrea, in S. Croce at Florence.

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