After an exhibition dedicated to Marina Abramovich, Palazzo Strozzi now celebrates Andrea del Verrocchio, born Andrea di Michele di Francesco Cioni. A fitting tribute to a great artist, Master of Leonardo da Vinci and an icon at the time of Lorenzo de’ Medici’s Florence, as well as a cultural event of absolute importance as part of the celebrations for the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death, which took place in Amboise shortly after he was appointed “first painter, architect and engineer” by King Francis I of France. This exhibition is the first major retrospective of this artist, who was the last disciple of Donatello, as well as an eclectic and versatile figure, experimenting various techniques and materials, from drawing to marble sculpture, from painting to bronze casting and managing a bottega (workshop) – a place where entire generations of masters were trained. The exhibition is curated by Francesco Caglioti and Andrea De Marchi, and it is promoted and organized by the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi and Musei del Bargello in co-operation with the National Gallery of Art in Washington.
Two prestigious premises – Palazzo Strozzi and the Museum of Bargello – will exhibit for the first time over 120 works including paintings, sculptures and drawings, with loans from over 70 among the most important museums and private collections in the world. An intimate and compelling dialogue between the artistic path of Andrea Verrocchio and the works of his precursors, contemporary artists and pupils, such as Desiderio da Settignano, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, Bartolomeo della Gatta, Lorenzo di Credi and Leonardo da Vinci. The exhibition will also feature seven works by Leonardo, some of which are being exhibited in Italy for the first time.
The first hall shows an emblematic juxtaposition of the famous Dama dal mazzolino (Lady with a Bunch of Flowers) in marble, coming from the Bargello – a symbol of the ideal female beauty in the Renaissance, a mix of aristocratic grace and sober elegance, clearly perceivable in the rendition of her slim hands in the foreground, delicately touching each other with an imperceptible movement, while holding a bouquet of tender wildflowers on her chest – and the Study of female arms and hands by Leonardo, a generous loan from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Among the works exhibited at Palazzo Strozzi, the bronze David coming from the Bargello and the Putto con delfino (Putto with Dolphin) coming from Palazzo Vecchio, while the extraordinary bronze group of statues portraying Christ and Saint Thomas, coming from Orsanmichele church, stars in the more intimate ground floor rooms of the Bargello. Through this work, Verrocchio shows a revolutionary interpretation of this sacred scene, with the body of the young apostle rotating and going beyond the narrow space of the Florentine church niche, and creating a new sense of space, in which the audience is involved for the first time.
The exhibiting itinerary ends at Palazzo Strozzi with the terracotta sculpture of the Virgin with Laughing Child, on loan from the Victoria & Albert Museum. For the first time, this work was attributed to a young Leonardo, for its undisputed stylistic similarities with some of his works, such as the the Annunciation at the Uffizi and the Virgin of the Rocks and the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne of the Musée du Louvre, as well as for the Virgin Mary’s elusive and mysterious smile, so emblematic of Leonardo’s portraits. This attribution is furtherly supported by Giorgio Vasari’s memories: “during his youth, he (Leonardo) made some terracotta heads of smiling women (…) and putti heads which appeared to have been shaped by the hands of a Master”.