Andrea del Verrocchio ~ Master of the Masters
Goldsmith, painter, sculptor
Born Andrea di Michele di Francesco de’ Cioni, he was trained under a master goldsmith, Giuliano Verrocchio, from whom Andrea took the name, which translates to “true eyes.” He grew up with Lorenzo d’Medici as a close friend. Although a bachelor for life, he lived with and supported his sister and her children.
For quite some time, Verrocchio was considered to be one of the most important artists in Florence. Lorenzo and Piero de’Medici were Verrocchio’s chief patrons who paid handsomely for Andrea’s works of art. The Medici supporters also contributed dearly toward a very successful school of art, ran, of course, by Verrocchio himself. It has since become argued among critics as to which paintings were actually created by Verrocchio, which has caused some turmoil in the valuations of individual works of art today.
Some of his students grew to altogether new heights of fame, glory and wealth. His stand-out students include Pietro Perugino (who trained Raphael), Lorenzo di Credi (who shaped da Vinci’s early work, then later was influenced BY da Vinci), Domenico Ghirlandaio (who later taught the Renaissance Grand Masters Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, and Michelangelo).
As a sculptor, Andrea designed the funerary monument of Cosimo de’Medici and the crypts of Piero and Giovanni de’ Medici. Today they can all be seen in the Medici Chapel (Capella di Medici) in Florence. In 1468, Verrocchio accepted the task of creating the Ball for the top of the Duomo. This process involved soldering together many sheets of copper, hammering them into place, then gilting them with gold. The Ball was struck by lightning in 1601 and quickly repaired by 1602. [The cross on top of the Ball was created by someone else.]
Verrocchio died while working on a statue of General Bartolomeo Colioni in Venice. He never saw its completion. The statue was eventually finished by Alessandro Leopardi and stands in the Campo SS Giovanni e Paolo in Venice where you will find it today.
When Master Verrocchio saw the first complete painting created by his young student Leonardo da Vinci, he was so taken aback by its perfect beauty and by the raw talent, skill, and genius of this young Leonardo, that he vowed he would never pick up a brush ever again!
Which Angel is which?
One day, while Verrocchio was painting his “Baptism of Christ” he asked one of his students to paint one of the angels, while Andrea painted the other one. Can you tell which was painted by his student? Clue: this student was a young Leonardo da Vinci, who’s angel has a more ethereal beauty then Verrocchio’s more earthly-looking angel.
How to Make a Bronze Statue
The Lost Wax Method
2. Clay is then added onto the wire to build it up, and hand-molded into the general shape and size of the statue.
3. Next, a thin layer of wax is applied, and carved into the perfectly detailed finished product ~ hair, eyelashes, all details.
4. A heavy coat of plaster is then applied over the beautiful wax layer. Remember: the inside of the plaster is taking the perfect shape of the wax layer inside it. Several holes are made in the plaster where the bronze will enter and the wax will exit.
5. Once the plaster is good and dry, hot molten liquid bronze is poured into the holes, turning the wax to liquid which will drain out through other holes.
6. When the bronze is completely cooled and hardened, the plaster mold will be broken away leaving a perfectly-formed bronze statue (we hope!).
7. Sharp edges of bronze that may remain from the molding process are filed off, and the statue is polished to the artist’s desired smoothness.
In Verrocchio’s sublime statue of “David”, the head of Goliath was cast separately from the main statue. Being trained as a goldsmith, Verrocchio painted molten gold in various places on the statue to give it its final lustrous image. Although the hilt of the sword that you see on this statue in the Florence Bargello was part of the original casting, the sword blade itself was replaced much later during a restoration.