Pietro Perugino (Pietro
Vannucci), Italian painter, active mainly in Perugia. from which his nickname
derives. His early career is obscure, but he seems to have formed his
styte chiefly in Florence, where Vasari says he studied with Verrocchio
- this would have been at about the same time that
Leonardo da Vinci was
training with him (another tradition has it that Perugino was a pupil
of Piero della Francesca; this could have preceded his training in Florence).
In 1472 he was enrolled as a painter in the fraternity of St Luke in Florence
(the same year as Leonardo) and in 1475 he was back in Perugia.
By 1481 he was
sufficiently well known to be commissioned to paint frescos on the walls
of the newly built Sistine Chapel, Rome, along with
Ghirlandaio, and Cosimo Rosselli (Signorelli later completed the work).
Vasari says that Botticelli was head of the team, but some modern scholars
think that Perugino was more likely to have been leader, partly because
of the prominence of his contributions. His main work there is Christ
Delivering the Keys to St Peter; he also did the frescoed altarpiece,
but this was destroyed to make way for Michelangelo's Last Judgment.
firmly established, he travelled extensively in central Italy, and in
the 1490s he maintained a workshop in Florence as well as in Perugia.
In 1500, when he was decorating the Audience Chamber of the Collegio del
Cambio at Perugia, he was called by Agostino Chigi, the wealthy Sienese
banker and patron, the best painter in Italy, and he was indeed at his
peak at about this time.
a fine portraitist as well as a fresco painter, but today he is best known
for his altarpieces, which are usually gentle, pious, and rather sentimental
in manner. His style does not seem to have been a reflection of his personality,
for Vasari says he 'was not a religious man' and that he 'would have gone
to any lengths for money'. In about 1505 he left the competitive atmosphere
of Florence, where his work now seemed old-fashioned, and settled permanently
in Perugia; his later work is often routine and repetitive. At his best,
however, as in the Vatican fresco, he has the authority of a great master.
The harmony and spatial clarity of his compositions and his idealized
physical types had great influence on the young Raphael, who worked with
him early in his career, so Perugino can be seen as one of the harbingers
of the High Renaissance. A second wave of his influence came in the 19th
century, when he was glorified by the Pre-Raphaelites.