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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pietro Perugino

By all accounts, Pietro Perugino was an accomplished painter. Born around 1450, he distinguished himself in that most difficult of all painterly mediums, the wall-size fresco. Not only was he an outstanding painter but an excellent draftsman as well. In an era when the use of linear perspective was cutting edge visual technology, Perugino had a grasp of its demanding intricacies beyond that of most of his peers. Though he was limited to the traditional one-point perspective characteristic of Renaissance art, his work demonstrates a three-dimensional depth unusual even for this amazing era in art history.   
His most important work is a massive Fresco painted around 1482 titled The Delivery of the Keys, which depicts a standing Christ and his apostles delivering a massive key to a kneeling St. Peter.  The nearly two-dozen life-size figures in the painting are arrayed across the lower picture plane in the foreground while a second group of some 50 or more middle-ground figures mingle just over their heads deep within an open space, perfectly proportioned to those in the foreground.

Delivery of the Keys, 1481-82, Pietro Perugno
In the background, perfectly rendered in amazing detail is a domed, octagonal church flanked by two Roman arches of the triumphant variety, all drawn in perfect, one-point, linear perspective.  The painting is a tour-de-force of early Renaissance painting. In its time, it was heralded as a masterpiece. Yet, Perugino is today is largely forgotten, and the painting, though prominently displayed, is largely ignored. Why? Well, it has suffered the misfortune of having been upstaged by an even more important work of Renaissance art. Perugino's The Delivery of the Keys graces the left wall, some twenty feet above the floor and some fifty feet beneath the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. 

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