Antonio del Pollaiolo
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A celebrated life in art

Antonio del Pollaiolo (1429/1433 – 1498) was an Italian Renaissance painter sculptor engraver and worksmith that attributed much fame and recognition in his lifetime, and died a rich and content man.

Antonio del Pollaiolo, born in Florence, was trained as a goldsmith and painter, but the atelier he was trained is vague and many speculation is made as to which was his tutor.  Some believe it was Bartoluccio di Michele, of a Florence workshop, or Andrea del Castagno.  Pollaiolo, took an interest in engraving and the work “Battle of the Nude Men” the only print surviving from his series of studies, remains as one of the most famous prints of the Renaissance, that took the Italian print to another level of sophistication and technique.  Pollaiolo, worked with his brother, who both took great interest in anatomy, that enhanced their perception and depiction of the human body, along with the classical influences of the Ancient Greco Roman World.  It is reported that they took dissections to improve their knowledge of the human body, which acquired consideration, shows elaborately on their mythical figures of ancient myths.  His work elaborates a brutality and harsh characteristics, in his mythical themes, but some of his portraits of female figurines exhibit calmness and attention to the detail of fashion, as it was accustomed in the late fifteenth century portraiture. Pollaiolo was assigned work in Rome for the tomb of Pope Sixtus IV and the mausoleum of Pope Innocent VII and other monuments which granted him a prestigious position in the art of his time and wealth.

Myths and legends by Pollaiolo

Hercules and Hydra and Hercules and Anteo are two illustrated myths of the Greek Hero by Pollaiolo in 1460 for the Medici family.   The painting exhibits the vast and deep knowledge of anatomy of the artist as elaborated by the execution of the body of Hercules.  The man raises his right arm and the muscles portray brilliantly, same with his chest and legs.  The posture of the man may seem a bit uneasy as he tends towards the monster but celebrates a generous movement of heroic stance.  The warrior wears the leather of the lion as portrayed by another Greek myth. The hero stands in the middle of the painted canvas, grasping antagonistic place in the sketch conquering the focal point of the observer. The dragon on the right and in dark colors of malice is grasped by Hercules ready to attack the animal shouting in despair with its opened jaws.  The snake feet of the dragon grasp the foot of the hero showing that it is a strong combat but yet uneven as the semi God will triumph in this quest.  This visionary battle takes place in an open field in a full bright day.  The influence of the Mediterranean weather is evident in the painting and the artist portrays in rich and sunny colors the sky lighting the figures.  The picturesque and full of trees land is eradicated in ochre and orange colors alike the figures, whose size overwhelms the reader in their grandeur and god like disposition. The scenery is much smaller to the mythical characters, underlining the importance of the battle.  Moreover, it is noted that the depth of field shown in perspective, is a preserved acquisition of the time celebrated in the painting. The dense sketching is common in the Florentine line of Renaissance painting that prospers in this work of Pollaiolo in this fiesta of anguish and legendary feat.

Florentine Color and Design

It is an overwhelming painting of stylistic conquests of Florentine color and design and of an illustration like tone of technique that rejuvenates this mythic combat and carries this imaginary figure of mythology to this day.  It is both the myth that travels with the weight of time and history, but also its pictorial achievement that is vast, in its stance of victorious attacking the devious monster.