Passions & Places

Gentile da Fabriano

Gentile da Fabriano 

Gentile di Niccolò was named after his hometown of Fabriano, where he was born around 1370. He represents one of the greatest interpreters of the international gothic era. He was educated during a period in which Fabriano enjoyed a culturally lively and stimulating climate, being home to a school of artists under the instruction of Giotto and Lorenzetti, and who upon leaving, went on to develop a real qualitatively interesting language. 

Gentile moved to the greater cities of central northern Italy, in 1408 his presence is documented in Venice, where he was made spokesman of a new artistic language in respect of the predominant Byzantine culture. He completed a fresco for the Doges’ Palace of Venice, which unfortunately was subsequently lost in a fire. It was during this period, on commission from Chiavello Chiavelli, a gentleman from Fabriano, that he completed the Polittico di Val Romita, which is today conserved in the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan. 

Of the work, only nine panels remain (the one of the Crucifixion being lost) in which the distinctive features of the painter can already be seen: his stylistic elegance, attention to detail and his use of gold and opulent colours. In the 20s he worked in Florence, Siena, Orvieto and Rome, where he carried out, on a commission basis for Pope Martino V, a series of frescoes in San Giovanni in Laterano, unfortunately destroyed following a refurbishment of the church. 

His works are conserved in some of the most prestigious museums in Italy and abroad, such as the Staatliche Museum of Berlin, the Metropolitan Museum of New York and the National Gallery of Washington.

Gentile is possibly most well known for his masterpiece of the gothic courtly style the Adoration of the Magi, executed on commission for Pala Strozzi in 1423 for the altarpiece of the family chapel in the church of Santa Trinita in Florence (today in the Uffizi). The representation, with the sacred family to the left and to the right the long procession of the Magi who disperse until the end, fully expresses the courtly taste of that period for refined technical execution, the use of deep gold on which the sinuous lines move and the meticulous attention to detail. He combined graceful expressions, fine dresses and elegant movements. More than the Christian significance, the fairy-tale atmosphere recalls a rich and aristocratic world, in keeping with the refined taste of the court environment.

The Polittico Quaratesi (1425) was one of the last works of the artist who died two years later in Rome. He achieved the great altarpiece of the San Nicolò sopr’Arno Church in Florence which is today scattered among various museums including the National Gallery of London and the National Gallery of Washington. In Rome, near the Pinacoteca Vatica, four panels can also be seen from the Story of Saint Nicholas (Storie di San Nicola di Bari).

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