Piero di Cosimo (2 January 1462 – 12 April 1522), also known as Piero di Lorenzo, was an Italian painter of the Renaissance. He is most famous for the mythological and allegorical subjects he painted in the late Quattrocento; he is said to have abandoned these to return to religious subjects under the influence of Savonarola, the preacher who exercised a huge sway in Florence in the 1490s, and had a similar effect on Botticelli. The High Renaissance style of the new century had little influence on him, and he retained the straightforward realism of his figures, which combines with an often whimsical treatment of his subjects to create the distinctive mood of his works.
If, as Vasari asserts, he spent the last years of his life in gloomy retirement, the change was probably due to preacher Girolamo Savonarola, under whose influence he turned his attention once more to religious art. The death of his master Roselli may also have affected Piero's morose elder years. The Immaculate Conception with Saints, at the Uffizi, and the Holy Family, at Dresden, illustrate the religious fervour to which he was stimulated by Savonarola.
This picture and its companion (also in The Met's collection) (See above) reimagine the early history of humankind and are among the most singular works of the Renaissance. Their inspiration was the fifth book of De Rerum Natura by the Epicurean poet and philosopher Lucretius (ca. 99–55 B.C.). A manuscript of Lucretius’s work was discovered in 1417 and published in Florence in 1471–73. Lucretius believed that the workings of the world can be accounted for by natural rather than divine causes, and he put forward a vision of the history of primitive humanity and the advent of civilization that was much discussed in Renaissance Florence—and beyond. More on this painting
With the exception of the landscape background in Rosselli's fresco of the Sermon on the Mount, in the Sistine Chapel, there is no record of any fresco work from his brush. On the other hand, Piero enjoyed a great reputation as a portrait painter: the most famous of his work is in fact the portrait of a Florentine noblewoman, Simonetta Vespucci (See above), mistress of Giuliano de' Medici. According to Vasari, Piero excelled in designing pageants and triumphal processions for the pleasure-loving youths of Florence, and gives a vivid description of one such procession at the end of the carnival of 1507, which illustrated the triumph of death. Piero di Cosimo exercised considerable influence upon his fellow pupils Albertinelli and Bartolomeo della Porta, and was the master of Andrea del Sarto.
Vasari gave Piero's date of death as 1521, and this date is still repeated by many sources, including the Encyclopædia Britannica. However, contemporary documents reveal that he died of plague on 12 April 1522. He is featured in George Eliot's novel Romola. More on Piero di Cosimo
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