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Luca Signorelli

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Luca Signorelli was born sometime between 1441 and 1450 in Cortona, in the Republic of Florence. He was under the tutelage of Piero della Francesca in the 1460s, learning geometry, math, and perspective integral to his work. Signorelli married around 1470, and he and his wife soon had three sons and two daughters. Signorelli’s earliest surviving work is a 1474 fresco of the Virgin Mary and saints that hung outside the Torre del Vescovo in Città del Castello. His earliest signed work was from the same decade, a processional banner depicting the Virgin on one side and a flagellation scene on the other. The banner displays techniques popular in Florentine art at the time, specifically the scientific naturalism practiced by Antonio and Piero Pollaiuolo—this suggests that Signorelli visited Florence during this time. Signorelli was close friends with the painter and book illuminator Bartolomeo della Gatta, and the two collaborated with Pietro Perugino on decoorating the San Giovanni Sacristy in the Holy House of Loreto from 1477 to 1480. Signorelli painted the frescoes in the room’s vaulted ceilings. During the same period, he also worked as only an assistant on the lower wall frescoes of the Sistine Chapel. However, Signorelli’s rising popularity prompted Pope Sixtus to invite him to paint the Stories of Moses frescoes on the south and entrance walls in 1482. While working on this project, he also completed the Vagnucci altapiece in the Perugia Cathedral and several commissions for the Medici family, including the 1490 work The Education of Pan. In 1491, Signorelli was invited to sit on a panel to judge the best designs for the new facade of the Cathedral of Florence; Signorelli declined the appointment, but the invitation indicated his esteemed reputation. From 1499 to 1503, he painted his masterpiece Last Judgement and The Preaching of the Antichrist frescoes in the Orvieto Cathedral. In the last two decades of his life, his work was largely produced by assistants in his workshop, as a decline in the quality of his work is evident starting in 1510. Signorelli suffered a stroke while working on the Baptism of Christ fresco in the Arezzo chapel of Cardinal Passerini; while he was partially paralyzed, Luca Signorelli continued to accept commissions until he died in October 1523.

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