Franciabigio - Encyclopedia

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FRANCIABIGIO (1482-1525), Florentine painter. The name of this artist is generally given as Mercantonio Franciabigio; it appears, however, that his only real ascertained name was Francesco di Cristofano; and that he was currently termed Francia Bigio, the two appellatives being distinct. He was born in Florence, and studied under Albertinelli for some months. In 1505 he formed the acquaintance of Andrea del Sarto; and after a while the two painters set up a shop in common in the Piazza del Grano. Franciabigio paid much attention to anatomy and perspective, and to the proportions of his figures, though these are often too squat and puffy in form. He had a large stock of artistic knowledge, and was at first noted for diligence. As years went on, and he received frequent commissions for all sorts of public painting for festive occasions, his diligence merged in something which may rather be called workmanly offhandedness. He was particularly proficient in fresco, and Vasari even says that he surpassed all his contemporaries in this method - a judgment which modern connoisseurship does not accept. In the court of the Servites (or cloister of the Annunziata) in Florence he painted in 1513 the "Marriage of the Virgin," as a portion of a series wherein Andrea del Sarto was chiefly concerned. The friars having uncovered this work before it was quite finished, Franciabigio was so incensed that, seizing a mason's hammer, he struck at the head of the Virgin, and some other heads; and the fresco, which would otherwise be his masterpiece in that method, remains thus mutilated. At the Scalzo, in another series of frescoes on which Andrea was likewise employed, he executed in 1518-1519 the "Departure of John the Baptist for the Desert," and the "Meeting of the Baptist with Jesus"; and, at the Medici palace at Poggio a Caiano, in 1521, the "Triumph of Cicero." Various works which have been ascribed to Raphael are now known or reasonably deemed to be by Franciabigio. Such are the "Madonna del Pozzo," in the Uffizi Gallery; the half figure of a "Young Man," in the Louvre (see also Francia); and the famous picture in the Fuller-Maitland collection, a "Young Man with a Letter." These two works show a close analogy in style to another in the Pitti gallery, avowedly by Franciabigio, a "Youth at a Window," and to some others which bear this painter's recognized monogram. The series of portraits, taken collectively, placed beyond dispute the eminent and idiosyncratic genius of the master. Two other works of his, of some celebrity, are the "Calumny of Apelles," in the Pitti, and the "Bath of Bathsheba" (painted in 1523), in the Dresden gallery.

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