Piero di Cosimo

Painter of Faith and Fable


The study of Piero di Cosimo belongs no less to the history of the imagination than to the history of art. As was true for Giorgio Vasari five centuries ago, Piero’s intensely personal visual language remains a moving target for modern scholars. Yet, as surprising and strange as his pictorial solutions appear, we have never known as much about Piero as we do today. Freed from the powerful spell of Vasari’s biography-cum-cautionary tale, the Piero that emerges is not solely a conjurer of the uncanny, but a sensitive observer of the emotions, the natural and manmade worlds, humans and beasts, surfaces and coloristic effects, phenomena material and ephemeral.
The conference from which the thirteen essays in this volume spring provided a forum for international scholars to continue the ongoing conversation and to ask new questions. The latter address Piero’s relationship to his artistic contemporaries, north and south of the Alps; the master’s Marian imagery; his intellectual engagement with classical traditions; the dual themes of naturalism and exoticism; and the latest technical findings. Topics of investigation thus range as broadly as Piero’s own versatile production, uniting diverse fields and methods, traversing regional boundaries, and often venturing far beyond Florence’s city walls, into the wild.

Contributors are Ianthi Assimakopoulou, Marina Belozerskaya, Jean Cadogan, Elena Capretti, Alessandra Galizzi Kroegel, Dennis Geronimus, Guy Hedreen, Sarah Blake McHam, Anna Teresa Monti, Paula Nuttall, Roberta J.M. Olson, Lesley Stevenson, Lisa Venerosi Pesciolini, and Elizabeth Walmsley.

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Dennis Geronimus, Ph.D. (Oxford University, 2001), is Associate Professor of Italian Renaissance Art and Chair of the Department of Art History at New York University. He is the author of Piero di Cosimo: Visions Beautiful and Strange (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2006), and co-curator (with Gretchen Hirschauer) of the exhibition Piero di Cosimo: The Poetry of Painting in Renaissance Florence, held at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, in 2015. He is presently at work on a book devoted to Jacopo da Pontormo, to be published by Yale University Press.
Michael W. Kwakkelstein, Ph.D. (Leiden University, 1994), is Professor of Italian Renaissance Art and Art Theory at the Department of History and Art History at Utrecht University, and Director of the Dutch University Institute for Art History in Florence. He is the author of Leonardo da Vinci as a Physiognomist. Theory and Drawing Practice (Leiden: Primavera Pers, 1994) and guest curator of the exhibition Leonardo da Vinci: The Language of Faces (Teylers Museum, Haarlem 2018). He has published various articles on Leonardo da Vinci and other Italian Renaissance artists. Currently he is writing a book on Leonardo for Singel Uitgeverijen (2020).
“Extremely valuable for the ongoing study of Piero di Cosimo.”
Gretchen A. Hirschauer, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. In: Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 75, No. 1 (Spring 2022), pp. 229–231.


Foreword: Director’s Remarks
List of Figures
Notes on Contributors

Introduction: Telling Tales: The Kaleidoscopic Art of Piero di Cosimo (1462-1522)
Dennis Geronimus
1 From Ancilla Domini to Madonna del Parto: Observations on Piero di Cosimo’s Marian Imagery
Alessandra Galizzi Kroegel
2 L’altare Del Pugliese nella chiesa dello Spedale degli Innocenti: un esempio di dialogo fra pittura e scultura
Elena Capretti
3 Real or Imagined? Exotic Animals in Piero di Cosimo’s Mythologies
Marina Belozerskaya
4 The ‘Fantasia’ of the Cricket in Piero di Cosimo’s Vulcan and Aeolus
Sarah Blake McHam
5 Rara Avis: Piero di Cosimo and the Birds He Painted
Roberta J.M. Olson
6 Piero di Cosimo’s Nymph and the Hallmark of Artemis
Ianthi Assimakopoulou
7 Beautiful Monsters: The Language of Empathy and Grief in Piero di Cosimo’s Representation of Animals and Human-Animal Hybrids
Dennis Geronimus
8 The Question of Centaurs: Lucretius, Ovid, and Empedokles in Piero di Cosimo
Guy Hedreen
9 Piero di Cosimo and Netherlandish Painting
Paula Nuttall
10 Piero and Ghirlandaio: Drawing the Figure
Jean K. Cadogan
11 Deconstructing the Underdrawing in Piero di Cosimo’s Construction of a Palace
Elizabeth Walmsley
12 La ricomposizione di un Piero di Cosimo perduto: il restauro della Pala con Lo Sposalizio mistico di S.Caterina e della Lunetta con i due Angeli che sorreggono la corona
Anna Teresa Monti e Lisa Venerosi Pesciolini
13 Piero di Cosimo: Two Angels Return to Florence from Edinburgh
Lesley Stevenson

All readers interested in Italian Renaissance art, as it relates specifically to the artistic career of the Florentine painter Piero di Cosimo (1462-1522) and his engagement with artistic contemporaries both north and south of the Alps. The anthology’s contributing authors break new ground in subjects ranging from Piero’s altarpieces and mythological works to broader treatments of his engagement with natural world, be it his closely observed studies of birds and exotic beasts or his fantastic, invented human-animal hybrids.
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