Saturday 16 July 2022

The Faultless Painter

 Born on this day in 1486 was Andrea del Sarto, the 'faultless painter' as Browning (following Vasari) calls him. Browning's dramatic monologue in Andrea's voice is a fascinating poem, one of the best of its kind – full text here. Taking his lead from Vasari – an unreliable source, but what can you do? – Browning explores the relationship between the painter and his faithless, frivolous wife, and relates his passivity to the weakness of ambition that allowed him to be overshadowed by his contemporaries Leonardo, Raphael and Michelangelo (surely the most daunting set of rivals any artist could have). All this is probably very unfair on the Andrea del Sarto of real life, but at least posterity now recognises him as a hugely accomplished, important, influential (and, yes, faultless) painter. 
The intense, uneasy, exquisitely painted portrait above is in the National Gallery. Titled Portrait of a Young Man, it could well be a self portrait. It certainly makes a perfect match with Browning's poem.
London also has one of his Madonnas – the beautiful Virgin and Child with the Infant Baptist in the Wallace Collection (below). 

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