Paolo, Giovanni di

(active c. 1425-1483)
   One of the leading masters of the Sienese School of the 15th century; however, the details of his life are scarce. He may have studied with the local master Taddeo di Bartolo, though his works show the influence of Gentile da Fabriano who is known to have worked in Siena in c. 1425. Giovanni's St. Catherine of Siena before the Pope (c. 1460; Madrid, Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection) betrays his fealty to the Sienese tradition. The gilded background, brilliant colors, and courtly figures in this work are all typical of the Sienese style of painting. Giovanni's Creation and Expulsion from Paradise (c. 1445; New York, Metropolitan Museum) is part of the predella to an altarpiece he rendered for the Church of San Domenico, Siena. It includes an unusual depiction of God the Father suspended in midair while creating the Earth. The world he has formed is surrounded by concentric circles meant to denote the elements, planets, and zodiac belt. Giovanni's Madonna of Humility (c. 1435; Siena, Pinacoteca Nazionale) presents the Virgin sitting on the ground amidst flowers, behind her a panoramic view of the landscape. She holds the Christ Child in a loving gesture, her facial expression denoting the sadness she feels over her son's future sacrifice. Giovanni was to use this Madonna type again in his Virgin and Child in a Landscape (1460s; Boston, Museum of Fine Arts) where Mary sits on a cushion. The substantial number of scenes by Giovanni to have survived—most predella panels now scattered in museums around the world—speak of the fruitful career the artist enjoyed.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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