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Benozzo Gozzoli. By Hugh Stokes vii

List of Gozzoli's principal works xvii


Michele PaleologO Frontispiece

The Journey of the Magi i

The Journey of the Magi ............ 2

Lorenzo the Magnificent attired as one of the Magi 3

The Journey of the Magi 4

Journey of the Magi (Detail) 5

Head of one of the Magi (Detail) 6

Journey of the Magi 7

Journey of the Magi

Paradise (I.) from the Journey of the Magi 9

Paradise (Detail) 10

Paradise (Detail) 1 1

Paradise (Detail) 12

Paradise (II.) 13

Paradise (Detail) H

Paradise (Detail) 15

Paradise (Detail) 16

A Pieta 17

The Virgin and St. Catharine 18

St. Antony and St. Benedict 19

The Annunciation 20

St. Dominic reviving a Child killed by a Horse 21

The Virgin and Child, with SS. Peter, John, Jerome, Paul 22

The Curse of Ham 23

Portion of the " Building of the Tower of Babel " 24

Portion of the " Vintage " 25

Abraham and the Worshippers of Baal 26

Detail of Fresco 27



The Birth, and Incident of the Cloak thrown on the Ground for St. Francis to p a ge

walk on 28

St. Francis gives his Dress to the Poor, and sees a Palace in a Dream ... 29

St. Francis protected from his Father's anger by the Bishop of Assisi ... 30

Meeting of St. Francis and St. Dominic 31

St. Francis supporting the falling Church 32

St. Francis expelling Devils from Arezzo 33

The Nativity at Greggio 34

St. Francis before the Soldan 35

St. Francis receiving the Stigmata . .36

The Death of St. Francis 37

The four Evangelists ... 38

Madonna and Child, with Incidents from the Life of St. Jerome .... 39

Detail of the foregoing 40

Incident from the Life of St. Jerome (Detail) 41

Incident from the Life of St. Jerome (Detail) ........ 42

The Entrance of St. Augustine into the Grammar School 43

Reception of St. Augustine on his arrival in Italy 44

St. Augustine teaching in Rome

Departure of St. Augustine for Milan .........

Meeting of St. Augustine with St. Ambrose at Milan

St. Augustine reads the Epistles of St. Paul 48

Baptism of St. Augustine by St. Ambrose 49

St. Augustine visits the Monks of Monte Pisano 50

Death of St. Monica ............. 51

St. Augustine in Ecstasy ............ 52

Death of St. Augustine ............ 53

St. Sebastian ........... .54

Martyrdom of St. Sebastian 55

The Virgin and Child with Angels and Saints 56

The Virgin giving her Girdle to St. Thomas 57

The Rape of Helen eg

Altar Decoration =o

Virgin and Child worshipped by Saints 60



ENOZZO GOZZOLI flourished in the beginning of one
of the most interesting periods in the artistic develop-
ment of the world. The era was one of transition, and
Gozzoli lived long enough to see the old aims and
ideals of mediaeval Christendom gradually submerged
beneath the fascinating teaching of a bygone civilisa-
tion. If an arbitrary date can be accepted as roughly
indicating the beginning of the Renaissance, namely,
1453, when Constantinople was conquered by Mahomet and the Turks,
we find that the artist passed the greater portion of his existence under
those novel conditions of life and thought which permeated Italy during
the latter half of the fifteenth century. Gozzoli was a true child of his
age, and his works reflect the spirit of the early Renaissance in a very
marked degree.

Benozzo di Lese (the surname of Gozzoli being added after his death)
was born in Florence, either in 1420 or 1424. The first date is that given
by himself and generally accepted as correct. The alternative year
has been extracted from an income paper filled up by his father in 1470.
At that time no better environment than Florence could be found for
the education of an artist. Of all the countries of the globe Italy was
the most cultured, and of the many cities in that " garden of the world "
Florence was indisputably first in scholarship, science, philosophy, and
the arts. Her supremacy was never challenged, and the inhabitants
of the town on the banks of the Arno became famous for the quickness
of their intelligence and their enthusiastic love for the beautiful. Florence
became a second Athens, and the Florentines of the Renaissance have
many points of resemblance to the Greeks before the fall of their power.

The arts were encouraged by the people themselves, and the skill
of architects and sculptors rapidly became visible throughout the city.


Arnolfo's cathedral, vaulted over in 1364, was crowned by Brunelleschi's
massive dome in 1446, after twenty years of labour. Donatello had
commenced his great career. Giotto's campanile had already become
a well-known landmark, and Ghibertiwas engaged upon the colossal bronze
gates of the Baptistry. It is not difficult to recreate the chief architec-
tural features of Florence in the days of Gozzoli's youth. The artist
himself has supplied us with portraits of the busy but effeminate citizens
who crowded its streets.

According to one authority, Gozzoli was apprenticed to Lorenzo
Ghiberti, and worked for three years upon the great gates, an example
of the facility with which Italian artists were able to turn from one
branch of the crafts to another. About this time Gozzoli painted an
altar-piece for the company of S. Mark, and a panel for the church of
S. Frediano. Both of these works have been lost.

A far greater influence upon the young painter has yet to be men-
tioned. In the convent at Fiesole, and afterwards in Florence itself,
lived and worked Fra Angelico, type to this day of the Christian artist
who strives towards an ideal of spirituality and faith rather than any
high standard of creative imagination or technical workmanship.
Modern critics scoff at many of the details of the monk's private life
as related by Vasari. There is, however, no good reason to disbelieve
their authenticity, and personal legend, handed down from generation
to generation by word of mouth, is far more worthy of credence than
the blind speculations of the historian. Gozzoli was the favourite
pupil of Fra Angelico, and some characteristics of his master are worth
recapitulation. " He would not follow the ways of the world, but
lived purely and holily, and was a great friend of the poor. . . . He
might have been rich, but did not care about it, saying that true riches
are nothing else than being content with little. . . . He did not esteem
dignities, affirming that he sought no other dignity than to escape hell
and attain to Paradise. . . . He was most kind" and sober, keeping
himself free from all worldly tire, often saying that he who represents
the things of Christ should always live with Christ. He was never seen
in anger, and had a way of admonishing his friends with smiles. He
was most humble and modest. Some say he would never take up his
pencil until he had first made supplication, and he never made a crucifix
but he was bathed in tears." The pupil was fortunate with such a
master. An individuality of this powerful type must have had tre-
mendous influence upon the impressionable nature of a boy. The
little we know of Gozzoli's personality proves that he never quite
forgot the lessons, both material and moral, inculcated by the saintly

When the monastery of S. Mark was given by the Pope to the
monks in 1436, Fra Angelico and his brethren moved from their cells
at Fiesole into the city of Florence. It is probable that Gozzoli entered
his service as a pupil about this time. It is not unlikely that he assisted


in the decoration of the new buildings raised by Cosimo de' Medici.
He is said to have visited Rome. Vasari writes that Gozzoli painted
the chapel of the Cesarini, in the church of Aracoeli, with the history of
S. Anthony of Padua, and Cavalcaselle admits that the frescoes reveal
the hand of the young Florentine. In 1447 Fra Angelico agreed to
paint a new chapel, that of the Madonna of S. Brizio, in the recently
completed cathedral of Orvieto. This he undertook to do with the aid
of his pupil Gozzoli, and his two assistants, Giovanni d'Antonio and
Giacomo da Poli. The monk was to receive under the terms of the
contract two hundred gold ducats a year, Gozzoli seven ducats each month
and the assistants three. Twenty lire monthly were added for board
and lodging, a sufficiency of bread and wine, and all the materials for
the painting. Fra Angelico seems to have sketched out the designs
and left his assistants to complete, for soon after he journeyed to Rome,
and does not appear to have revisited Orvieto. His death took place

in 1455-

Gozzoli had now become his own master. His pupilage had ended,
and he entered upon an independent career. Naturally the first thing
he did was to apply to the council which controlled the works at Orvieto
for permission to complete the unfinished labours of Fra Angelico.
The council asked for examples of his skill, a request somewhat without
reason, for the artist must have been at work in the cathedral for nearly
eighteen months. More inexplicable still is the fact that Benozzo
evidently failed to satisfy the council, for a few months later he settled
in the little town of Montefalco. Committees we know are, at all times,
difficult to please, and when several men act as a committee of taste
they form an eccentric body liable to extraordinary and unintelligible
action. Had Gozzoli not been in the prime of his life and art he would
possibly have secured the commission.

However, at Montefalco he was extremely successful. In the church
of S. Fortunato he painted a fresco, on the portal, of a Virgin and Child
amongst saints and angels, an altar-piece representing the apotheosis
of the saint, an Annunciation, and an altar-piece of S. Thomas receiving
the girdle, now in the museum of the Lateran at Rome. This latter work,
one of the best of his earlier achievements, was painted in the manner
of his old master, and has, indeed, been assgned to Fra Angelico.

A more ambitious undertaking was entered into at the monastery of
S. Francesco. Quoting those well-known critics Crowe and Cavalcaselle,
Gozzoli " filled the hexagonal choir with a triple course of episodes from
the life of S. Francis, copious adjuncts of saints in the ceiling and window,
and portraits in medallions along the lower skirting of the principal
subject and in the vaulting of the entrance arch. Scrolls held by
angels in the pilasters of the entrance contain inscriptions from which
it appears that Benozzo's patron was the Franciscan Jacopodi Montefalco,
and that the whole choir was completed in 1452." These frescoes repay
a careful examination, as the essentials of Gozzoli's talent are clearly


displayed. He had learnt all that Fra Angelico could teach him. He
possessed a respectable knowledge of the practice of perspective, and
his figure drawing, though stiff and at times awkward, had not degene-
rated as it did in later examples. As one of his critics observes, his spirit
is a religious and kindly one, natural in the pupil of such a master as
Angelico. Some of the subjects in this series, notably 5. Francis sup-
porting the Falling Church, and S. Francis expelling the Devils from
Arezzo, are reminiscent of Giotto, for whom Gozzoli evidently had
much esteem. Here also we see for the first time indications of Gozzoli's
love for children and animals. There are some delightful little boys
in one corner of 5. Francis protected from his Father's Wrath, and
a most naturally drawn pouting child in the Nativity. The archi-
tecture forms an odd study. In the Nativity at Grezzo we have a curious
and ugly mixture of early gothic and revived classic forms. The
strongly marked classic pilasters with their elaborately floriated capitals
clearly indicate the artistic ferment of the fifteenth century. The
architectural details in Gozzoli's paintings are always interesting.
In the building which S. Francis sees in his dream, and in the view
of the town of Arezzo, the elevations are evidently based upon the
artist's recollections of the Bargello and the Palazzo Vecchio at

Gozzoli remained in Montefalco until about 1456. He employed an
assistant, Mesastris by name, and to this fact one may attribute the
inferiority of the frescoes in the chapel of S. Jerome, the Madonna and
saints on the wall, a crucifixion above, four evangelists in the ceiling,
scenes from the life of S. Sebastian on the pilasters, and figures of
saints in the vaulting of the entrance.

About this year Gozzoli painted a Madonna with saints for a church
in Perugia. He then resettled in Florence, and was soon employed
upon the decorations of the Medici palace, now known as the Palazzo

The story of the Medici family forms an integral part of the history
of Italy. One of the richest banking houses of the Middle Ages, they
speedily attained an actual, though not at first an official, power in
the government of Florence which placed the family in a position of
supreme importance. Cosimo de Medici was not only a business man
with genius, but a most munificent supporter of arts and letters. And
although the characteristics of the family gradually changed, until
the dominance of the race was lost and the last head of the Medici
faded out of history like a senile old man imperceptibly wasting away
from the life around him, few members of the family seem to have been
without this hereditary affection for art and artists. The paintings
in the Riccardi Palace thus remain not only a monument to the talent
of their creator, but also a memorial of the taste and discernment of
the early Medicis.

Had Gozzoli not painted the walls of the Medici chapel but little


of his fame would have survived until the present day. As it is, in
the procession of the kings which slowly winds round the walls of the
little chapel we have one of the most fascinating mural decorations
in the world. The exterior of the palace is decidedly gloomy, with
a massive cornice casting a perpetual frown across the upper storeys of
the building, and a crude and heavy rustication of the ground floor
which gives an impression of tremendous strength, an impression
heightened by the heavily barred windows. Half palace, half fortress,
prepared to successfully meet and repel any attacks from a fickle
rabble, it is difficult to imagine that it nouses such a gem as the chapel
of the Medici.

The chapel is exceedingly small, about twenty feet by twenty-five.
At the end of the seventeenth century it was proposed to demolish the
whole, but, by good fortune, only a corner was cut away, giving the plan
a somewhat irregular appearance. Originally the chapel possessed one
door and no window, and it is suggested that Gozzoli worked upon the
walls before the roof was added. A barbarian at some later period
destroyed a portion of the painting for an additional doorway, removed
the altar-piece, which was the culminating point of the procession, and
inserted the window which now lights the chamber. Otherwise the
walls are exactly as Gozzoli left them, the colours hardly unstained
by the four centuries which have elapsed since they were fresh. The
artist speaks of these colours in a letter which has escaped destruction.
" My dearest friend," he writes to Piero de' Medici, who had succeeded
his father Cosimo, " I informed your Magnificence in a previous letter
that I am in need of fifty florins, and begged you to advance them to
me, for now is the time to buy corn and many other things that I want,
whereby I shall save, and get out of a load of care. I also reminded
you to send to Venice for some ultramarine, for in the course of this
week one wall will be finished, and for the other I shall need ultramarine.
The brocades and other things can then be finished, as well as the
figures." The paintings have been preserved so well that we can study
the figures, " the brocades and other things," almost as well as if the
painter had laid them on a day before. This cannot be said of all the
work of Gozzoli ; the frescoes in the Campo Santo at Pisa, for instance,
have suffered severely.

Although the Procession of the Magi is a subject nominally belonging
to sacred art, the religious spirit is singularly lacking in this fantastic
cavalcade. Gozzoli did not trouble to depict eastern monarchs with
swarthy skins and outlandish retinues. He selected his types from
the crowd around him, and, for the vanity of his own generation and
the benefit of its descendants, drew in a realistic manner the features
of all the prominent Florentines of 1460. One of the most striking
figures is that of the youthful Lorenzo the Magnificent, who became
head of the Medici family in 1469, at the age of twenty. Amongst the
horsemen who follow in his train is Benozzo himself. (The head is


full face, the third row from the bottom of the picture, counting the
fourth full face from the left of the frame.) Each character in the
whole procession is a portrait of some dependent or supporter of the
great house which ruled Florence for nearly three hundred years.

For its fascination the painting has no equal. This glorious pageant
solemnly makes its way towards the manger in which rests the Holy
Babe. Rocks, mountains, woods, plains watered by rippling streams, all
are depicted with a minute realism. We receive a brilliant and true im-
pression of Florentine pomp at a most exciting epoch in European history.

The Italian, as he shook off the chains of mediaevalism and emerged
into the freer atmosphere of the Renaissance, was a curious being,
controlled by many opposing currents. In this painting we can
study the type of man who supported the Medici family against the
Pazzi. The story is a vivid illustration of the interest of existence
during the fifteenth century to Italians who interested themselves in
politics, or even municipal government, which was, in fact, synonymous.
In 1478 the Pazzi conspired to take the lives of Lorenzo and his younger
brother, Guiliano, as they attended mass in the cathedral church of
the city. The Elevation of the Host was selected as a convenient signal
for the attack. But even the conspirators could not nerve themselves
to the perpetration of murder during the most solemn and impressive
moment of the Mass. Old bottles can seldom satisfactorily take new
wine, and the free thought of the Renaissance could not immediately
conquer centuries of ecclesiastical tradition. A priest seized the dagger.
Lorenzo escaped into the sacristy with a flesh wound in his thigh,
leaving his brother a corpse on the steps of the sanctuary. Popular
feeling was with the Medici, and an ugly vengeance sought out the
partisans of the Pazzi clan. The archbishop himself, in his episcopal
robes, swung from the window of a Florentine palace, victim to the
wrath of the Medici. Then followed pontifical thunder, not against
the men who had shed blood in a consecrated building, but against
those who had executed an assassin. Pope Sixtus IV. excommunicated
the whole city for hanging his bishop. In Gozzoli's paintings we
are able to see the actors in sanguinary dramas of this description,
which culminated under Lorenzo the Magnificent in the unparalleled
ferocities of the sack of Volterra.

Benozzo Gozzoli had too tender a soul to depict such scenes. Even
when he ventured upon a martyrdom we have a very placid and
untroubled saint. In the procession of the kings he drew a caieful
picture of what could be seen from any window in Florence when one
prince paid a visit of state to another. We have historical mention
of such a visit (some years after the chapel was completed), when Duke
Galeazzo Maria Sforza of Milan and his wife Bona of Savoy came to
see the Medici in Florence. They arrived attended by the whole court,
writes the historian of the Renaissance, John Addington Symonds ;
bodyguards on horse and foot, ushers, pages, falconers, grooms, kennel


varlets, and huntsmen. Omitting the mere baggage service, their train
counted two thousand horses. Florence was crowded with nobles and
courtiers, and luxury and prodigal expenditure abounded. Masked
balls and tournaments succeeded each other in profusion. As we
read the words of the historian the procession of the Magi rises before
our eyes, and we see Italian history as illustrated by a contemporary.

The sanctuary of the chapel is adorned by groups of angels. In
the centre stood the lost altar-piece, which represented the Nativity.
These delightful compositions display the influence of Fra Angelico
in a marked degree. But the temperaments of the Dominican monk
and Benozzo Gozzoli bear no comparison. Fra Angelico painted his
angels with a spiritual exaltation Gozzoli never felt. Gozzoli painted
hard matter-of-fact portraits, charming portraits, it is admitted, but
possessing little of the idealism of the older painter. The yeast of the
Renaissance spirit was beginning to work. Fra Angelico was unin-
fluenced by the new movement ; he was too old. Gozzoli was younger
and more impressionable. He moved about in a world which was
openly weighing classical ethics against the teaching of the church.
It required a man of extremely strong personality and most decided
ideas to remain unsettled by such influences. There is an odd story
told of a young patriot who had been sentenced to death for a political
offence. An artist (Lippo Lippi) sat with his friend throughout the
night previous to the execution. No fear of death beset the youth.
He accepted, evidently with faith, all the consolations religion could
offer. But throughout his conversation he continued to mention
Brutus, to whom he likened his own career. He was a hero as the Roman
had been. During his last hours Christian teaching was almost forgotten
in the glory of imagining that he had followed in the footsteps of a
noble pagan exemplar. It is idle to expect that in a community so
dominated by classical learning and tradition, the painters and poets
could remain subject to much deep religious zeal and impulse.
Indeed, nowhere can such feeling be disco veied in the works of

Benozzo was famous for the rapidity with which he worked, and
the chapel of the Riccardi Palace was finished in 1460. He then painted
some panel pictuies. The larger example in the National Gallery was
probably executed about this time. In 1464, according to one authoiity,
he was enrolled amongst the doctors and apothecaries of Florence, but
why amongst the doctors does not appear clear. About this same year
he settled in the town of S. Gimignano, where he worked under the
patronage of Domenico Strambi, also known as Parisinus, by reason
of his long stay in the capital town of France. Here Gozzoli painted
above the altar of S. Sebastian in the church of S. Agostino, a picture
of the titular martyr clothed in a long mantle so held by a number of
angels as to shelter a crowd of supplicants. The Saviour and the
Mother implore the mercy of the Almighty, who launches forth thunder-


bolts which are intercepted by the Saint. The subject, which some
critics consider trivial, was intended as a pictorial realisation of the
intervention of S. Sebastian to preserve S. Gimignano from the plague
which raged throughout the town in 1464. The commission did not
excite Gozzoli to any high flights of imagination. Possibly his faith
in the power of the saints had been impaired by the new learning.
Certainly the Father is depicted in an essentially Olympean manner.
The crucified Saviour beneath, with four adoring saints, and twelve
medallions at each side, is the votive gift of Domenico Strambi, whose
kneeling presence in miniature form in the foreground is declared by
the words F.D.M.P. (" frater dominicus Magister Parisiensis.")

In attempting to reproduce the personality of Gozzoli we would like
to imagine him as a man of much pluck and endurance. It is evident
that he enjoyed a big work. During his past career he had painted the
large frescoes depicting the life of S. Francis at Montefalco. The Pro-
cession of the Magi at the Riccardi Palace was of considerable size, and
its environment subjected it to the severe criticism of the whole of the
country. Now, with a light heart, Gozzoli commenced to cover the choir


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