Italia • 1420−1497

Biography and information

Biography and information

Benozzo Gozzoli belongs to the second generation of the Early Renaissance masters. A pupil of Fra Angelico, Gozzoli assisted his teacher in decorating of the Convent of San Marco (1438-1446. Florence), Niccoline Chapel (1447-1450. Vatican) and others. He began his independent art life in the 1450s. He worked in Montefalco, Florence, Pisa. The "Journey of the Magi" painting in the Magi Chapel of the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi became Gozzoli’s most important work. It occupies three walls and represents a composition, which is thematically related to the altar painting "Christmas"  by Fra Filippo Lippi. Gozzoli's painting organically encircles the walls of the chapel as if covering them with an amazing "carpet". The richness of colors and decoration, the sophistication of the landscape, the diversity of the inhabitants of forests and mountains are naturally combined in the wall paintings.

The Italian painter of the early Renaissance, Gozzoli was born Benozzo di Lese di Sandro. He studied under Lorenzo Ghiberti and Fra Angelico, worked in Florence, Pisa and other cities of Italy. Starting from 1444, for three years he has been an assistant of the sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti helping him with the reliefs of the eastern (so-called Paradise) Gates of the Florence Baptistery. In 1447, he worked with Fra Angelico on the frescoes in the chapel of Pope Nicholas V in the Vatican and the San Brizio Chapel in Orvieto Cathedral. Work with Fra Angelico had a great influence on Benozzo’s art, which even in the last years of his life remained in the mainstream of the Gothic style, despite the fact that Renaissance trends already dominated in Florentine painting of that time. Benozzo Gozzoli is known primarily as a master of proto-Renaissance frescoes.

His best known fresco series are murals dedicated to the life of St. Francis of Assisi (Montefalco, 1450-1452), Journey of the Magi (Magi Chapel of the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, Florence, 1459-1460), scenes from the life of St. Augustine (Church of Sant’Agostino, San Gimignano, 1463-1465) and mural paintings of Old Testament subjects (Campo Santo, Pisa, 1467-1485). In these large fresco series, Gozzoli combined a fairytale poetics, secular interpretation of subjects and the subtlety of live observation with the “carpet-like” composition, conventional spatial decisions and decorative colorfulness.

In addition to the work commissioned by the Medici, Gozzoli was active out of Florence as well. After 1467, the artist lived and worked mainly in Pisa. When the next-generation Florentine artists - Botticelli, Cosimo Rosselli, Ghirlandaio - just began to try their strength in 1482 on the grandiose-sized walls of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, Benozzo was already approaching the completion of equally complex compositions in Campo Santo; some of these painters - primarily Rosselli and Ghirlandaio - were inspired by them in their Vatican murals. Giorgio Vasari called the painting by Benozzo in Campo Santo “truly amazing”, using a definition that, in his Biographies, applied mainly to Michelangelo’s unsurpassed art. But the compositions of Benozzo Gozzoli, overloaded with detail and figures, made in a manner strongly reminiscent of the works of the masters of trecento, could no longer compete with the clarity and inner energy creations of the leading Florentine painters of his time. Benozzo Gozzoli died in Pistoia, Republic of Florence on October 4, 1497.