Luca Signorelli (c. 1445 – October 16, 1523) was an Italian Renaissance
painter who was noted in particular for his ability as a draughtsman and his use
of foreshortening. His massive frescoes of the Last Judgment (1499–1503) in
Orvieto Cathedral are considered his masterpiece.
He was born Luca d'Egidio di Ventura in Cortona, Tuscany (some sources call
him Luca da Cortona). The precise date of his birth is uncertain; birth dates of
1441–1445 are proposed. He died in 1523 in Cortona, where he is buried. He was
perhaps eighty-two years old. He is considered to be part of the Tuscan school,
although he also worked extensively in Umbria and Rome.
His first impressions of art seem to be due to Perugia—the style of Bonfigli,
Fiorenzo and Pinturicchio. Lazzaro Vasari, the great-grandfather of art
historian Giorgio Vasari, was brother to Luca's mother; he got Luca apprenticed
to Piero de Franceschi. In 1472 the young man was painting at Arezzo, and in
1474 at Città di Castello. He presented to Lorenzo de Medici a picture which is
probably the one named the School of Pan, discovered in Florence and formerly in
Berlin (destroyed during the Second World War); it is almost the same subject
which he painted also on the wall of the Petrucci palace in Siena—the principal
figures being Pan himself, Olympus, Echo, a man reclining on the ground and two
He executed, moreover, various sacred pictures, showing a study of Botticelli
and Lippo Lippi. Pope Sixtus IV commissioned Signorelli to paint some frescoes,
now mostly very dim, in the shrine of Loreto—Angels, Doctors of the Church,
Evangelists, Apostles, the Incredulity of Thomas and the Conversion of St Paul.
He also executed a single fresco in the Sistine Chapel in Rome, the Acts of
Moses; another, Moses and Zipporah, which has been usually ascribed to
Signorelli, is now recognized as the work of Perugino.
Signorelli worked in Rome from 1478–1484. He assisted in the decoration of the
lower walls of the Sistine Chapel. The Testament of Moses is almost entirely of
his hand. In the latter year he returned to his native Cortona, which remained
from this time his home. In the Monastery of Monte Oliveto Maggiore (Siena) he
painted eight frescoes, forming part of a vast series of the life of St.
Benedict; they are at present much injured. In the palace of Pandolfo Petrucci
he worked upon various classic or mythological subjects, including the School of
Pan already mentioned.
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