Olga's Gallery

Pietro Cavallini Biography

Pietro Cavallini (c.1250-1330) was an Italian Gothic Era painter and mosaic designer from Rome. Very little is known about his life, although his works are some of the earliest known deviations from the flat, two-dimensional Byzantine art style that was the norm at the time.

Among his earliest notable works, dating back to around 1277-1290, were a number of fresco restorations in the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, Rome. Painted over the faded remains of 5th century murals, they depicted scenes from the New and Old Testaments. These and other works at the basilica were destroyed when the building almost completely burned down in 1823, although copies of the paintings remained.

His next major works of art were made in the early 1290s, beginning in 1291. These include a series of mosaics for the Basilica of Our Lady in Trastevere, Rome. The series is centered around scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary, and shows several key departures from Byzantine art conventions with the introduction of depth and more realistic shading. Around this period he also executed perhaps his most famous works: frescoes of The Last Judgment and scenes from the Old Testament for the Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, Rome, and The Annunciation for St. Paul's Outside the Walls.

Between 1308 and about 1315, Cavallini lived in Naples, where he had been invited by King Charles II of Anjou. He and fellow artist Filippo Rusuti worked on decorating several churches, including San Domenico Maggiore and Santa Maria Donna Regina Vecchia. It was likely around this time that Cavallini was exposed to and influenced by Gothic art. After his return to Rome he began working on a mosaic on the façade of St. Paul's Outside the Walls in 1321.

During his lifetime, Cavallini had numerous pupils who carried on his artistic style. His work was also highly influential on Florentine painter Giotto di Bondone.

Bibliography

Pietro Cavallini by Pietro Toesca. Oldbourne Book Company, Ltd, 1960.

Pietro Cavallini in Santa Cecilia in Travastere by Michael Schmitz. Hirmer Verlag GmbH, 2013.

Pietro Cavallini by Alessandro Tomei. Silvana, 2000.