Luca Signorelli was a Renaissance painter in Italy; he was born in 1450 and died in 1523. Luca was born in Cortona, Tuscany, and he died there as well. However, he did travel and create artworks in Perugia, Rome, Siena, and Umbria, along with a few other cities.
Giorgio Vasari, an art historian from the Renaissance, wrote about Luca. For anyone who doesn’t know Vasari, he was a very picky art historian. He only wrote about artists he deemed good enough in his eyes (he was very biased, but he provides a good insight into that time period). Therefore, in Vasari’s eyes, Signorelli was a worthy painter.
Signorelli’s great-grandfather connected him with Piero della Francesca, and Signorelli became his apprentice. In his paintings, Signorelli was also inspired by Botticelli and Filippo Lippi.
Sant’Onofrio Altarpiece, 1484
The Sant’Onofrio Altarpiece is a tempera and oil painting on panel. It was created for the Cathedral of Perugia and is certainly held in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. This painting is surprisingly in good shape to this day; mixing both tempera and oil paints was risky on Signorelli’s part because it can mess with the preservation process (a good example of this is da Vinci’s Last Supper, which is worn down because of the paints (among other things)).
In the painting, we have Mary and Christ sitting and reading in the upper half of the painting. To the right of her, we have St. John the Baptist; to her left is St. Lawrence. St. John the Baptist is staring passionately into the sky, and St. Lawrence is staring at Mary and Christ. He is also wearing a clothe that has paintings that reference to Christ’s Resurrection.
Signorelli is combining this altarpiece with allusions to Christ’s childhoold and his death and Resurrection. This is such a unique concept of Signorelli to use.
On the bottom left is St. Onuphrius. On the bottom right is Bishop Vagnucci, who is suppose to be represented as St. Ercolano. In the bottom center, we see an angel tuning his lute, a common instrument of the Medieval and Renaissance era.
Like St. Lawrence, Bishop Vagnucci also has a cloak that represents paintings, but these paintings appear to revolve more around Mary’s life. Three specific paintings that are easier to distinguish are the Marriage of Mary and Joseph (top left), the Annunciation (top right), and the Flight into Egypt (second panel on right image).
It is possible that Signorelli have Bishop Vagnucci have a combination of Mary and Christ’s life because one of the panels in the Bishop’s clothe looks like the Baptism of Christ (right picture, bottom panel).
Furthermore, because this painting has worn down a bit, and most likely because the painting is mixed with oil and tempera, the colors are slightly duller than they are meant to be. One can only imagine the rich blue, red, and green hues that were prominent in this painting back in the Renaissance.
Hope you guys enjoy this!