Andrea del Verrocchio
Biography of Renaissance Sculptor in Florence.

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Equestrian Statue of Bartolommeo
Colleoni (c.1483-88)
Campo dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo.

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Andrea del Verrocchio (1435-88)

Florentine sculptor, painter and goldsmith, Andrea del Verrocchio is one of the most important Renaissance Sculptors of the Florentine Renaissance, ranking alongside Donatello and Michelangelo. His pupils included Leonardo da Vinci, Ghirlandaio, Perugino and Sandro Botticelli. Known for his quattrocento classical style, Verrocchio's most acclaimed work of Renaissance sculpture is his gilded bronze statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni (1496, Campo di Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Venice).

Early Life

Andrea was born Andrea di Michele di Francesco de' Cioni in Florence. It is thought he probably took the name of his mentor Francesco di Luca Verrocchio, a successful goldsmith. It is likely that Verrocchio trained with Francesco in his youth, although there are some indications he may also have apprenticed with Donatello. Verrocchio 's father was a tile and brick maker, later becoming a tax collector. The family were always struggling financially, and Verrocchio quickly became a key supporter. He never married and went on to provide the education and dowries of his brothers, sisters and nieces.

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Nanni di Banco (1375-1421)
Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378-1455)
Donatello (1386-1466)
Luca Della Robbia (1400-1482)
Antonio Rossellino (1427-1479)
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Michelangelo (1475-1564)
Alonso Berruguete (c.1486-1561)
Jacopo Sansovino (1486-1570)
Baccio Bandinelli (1493-1560)

Paintings by del Verrocchio

Only one existing painting can be attributed with absolute certainty to Verrocchio's hand, the celebrated Baptism of Christ (1472-1475, Uffizi, Florence). The painting was commissioned by the monastery church of San Salvi in Florence, where it remained until 1530. Painted in Verrocchio's workshop, several of his apprentices assisted with the project. Verrocchio would have designed the composition, and painted some of the main features. The blond angel to the left of Christ is recognisable as the hand of a very young Leonardo da Vinci, who (along with the young Perugino) was present in Verrocchio's studio in the early 1470s. Some critics ascribe the second angel in the picture to that of another young Florentine painter, Sandro Botticelli, also present at the time in the studio. The only signed painting by Verrocchio is Madonna with Saints John the Baptist and Donatus (1475-83 Pistoia Cathedral). Although clearly the work of his apprentices, the intricate composition could only have been designed by Verrocchio. Although a little austere, it is a visually pleasing painting, with beautiful oriental carpets, tiled floors, still-life elements and a modulated tiled floor.

Other paintings ascribed to Verrocchio are Madonna and Child (c.1470, Staatliche Museen, Berlin); Saint Monica (Santo Spirito, Florence) and Tobias and the Angel, Egg tempera on wood panel (1470-80, National Gallery, London).


Early Sculptures

The earliest surviving figurative sculpture of Verrocchio is a small bronze statue of David (1473-75 Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence). The statuette was commissioned by the Medici family and has often been compared to Donatello's more famous version (although not favourably). Donatello's David is sensuous, depicted nude and vulnerable. Verrocchio's David is elegantly clothed, posing casually with a sword in one hand and the other hand on his hip. Although it is less emotionally complex than Donatello's version, it was meant to be simpler, and appreciated for its exquisite patina (bronze sheen).

A second important bronze figure was Putto with Dolphin (1479, Palazzo Vecchio Museum, Florence), an adorable little free standing sculpture of Cupid holding a dolphin. Cupid is precisely balanced on one leg, and was probably initially placed on a fountain so that it could be turned by the pressure of jets of water.

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Medici and Bust Sculptures

After the mid 1470's, Verrocchio applied himself almost exclusively to sculpture. His artistic rise to critical acclaim only began about this time, when the Medici family took him under their wing. Donatello had died in 1466 and he had been the Medici favourite. In the late 1470's Verrocchio produced a highly realistic painted terracotta bust of Lorenzo de Medici (National Gallery of Art, Washington) (see above). This was followed by a marble bust, known as Lady with Primroses (Museo Nazionale del Bargello). With this piece of work, Verrocchio developed a new type of Renaissance classicism, in which the arms of the sitter are included, reminiscent of ancient Roman models. This compositional device allows the hands, as well as the face, to express the character and mood of the sitter.

Mature Sculptural Career

Verrocchio's most important works were only in fact executed in the last two decades of his life. In 1479 the authorities in Renaissance Venice set a competition for the design of an equestrian monument to the mercenary Bartolomeo Colleoni. Verrocchio entered the competition, sending a life-size wax model of the horse in 1483. He was awarded the commission, but the work remained unfinished at his death in 1488. The completion of the project fell to Venetian bronze caster Alessandro Leopardi. Verrocchio's monument is similar in composition to other equestrian sculptures at the time, including Donatello's Gattamelata in Padua. Colleoni sits erect on his horse, staring his unseen enemy in the eye. However, where Donatello's figure is calm, dignified, and universal; Verrocchio's is specific and dynamically engaged. Some say, that the staring eyes and intense expression may have influenced the design of the great statue of David by Michelangelo (1501-4).


Verrocchio appears to have spent nearly all his time working in Florence. It is said that he worked for Pope Sixtus IV in Rome, but there is no documentary evidence of this. Instead, Verrocchio spent most of his life beautifying the city of Florence, and finally Venice where he spent his last few years. Verrocchio's reputation - in goldsmithing as well as sculpture - steadily grew after his death, and many well known artists of the Italian Renaissance went on to study his paintings and sculptures.

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