Paolo di Dono is best known to us by his nickname, Uccello – “the bird”, the origin of which is unclear. Uccello was one of the most versatile founders of the Italian Early Renaissance, although his later reputation did not reflect his true significance, he went out of fashion during his lifetime and was only rediscovered in the XX century.
He was originally apprenticed to Ghiberti, whom he assisted in the decoration of the paradise doors of the Florence baptistry. Nothing survives of his contribution to the mosaics of San Marco in Venice, but his frescoes of the Genesis in the Chiostro Verde of Santa Maria Novella in Florence (c. 1430) show that he was a follower of Ghiberti and that he was firmly rooted in the International Gothic style.
It comes therefore as a great surprise to note his change of direction in the 1430s. Developing an intense interest in perspective under the influence of Masaccio’s and Donatello’s works, he became engrossed with developing the new science of perspective in painting. His first great achievement was the Equestrian Portrait of John Hawkwood. Proof of Uccello’s obsession with perspective are his drawings in the Uffizzi of objects which he made look transparent in order to be able to show them in their stereometric complexity. Unfortunately he outlived his own time: after painting his three battle pieces of Battle of San Romano commissions dwindled away as general taste changed and demanded courtly refinement.
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Painting of Europe. XIII-XX centuries. Encyclopedic Dictionary. Moscow. Iskusstvo. 1999.
The Art of the Italian Renaissance. Architecture. Sculpture. Painting. Drawing. Könemann. 1995.
Paolo Uccello by Franco Borsi, Stepfano Borsi, Elfreda Powell, Stefano Borsi. Harry N Abrams, 1994.
The Hunt in the Forest by Paolo Uccello by Catherine Whistler. Ashmolean Museum Publications, 2001.
Paolo Uccello, Domenico Veniziano, Andrea Del Castagno by Annarita Paolieri, Paolo Uccello, Domenico Veneziano, Andrea Del Castagno. Riverside Book Company, 1991.