Very great is the advantage enjoyed by one who follows in the steps of a predecessor who has gained honour and fame by means of some rare talent, for the reason that, if only he follows to some extent the path prepared by his master, he seldom fails to arrive without much fatigue at an honourable goal; whereas, if he had to reach it by himself, he would have need of a much longer time and far greater labours.
Pisanello, a painter of Verona, having spent many years in Florence with Andrea dal Castagno, and having finished his works after his death, acquired so much credit by means of Andrea’s name, that Pope Martin V, coming to Florence, took him in his train to Rome, where he caused him to paint some scenes in fresco in S. Giovanni Laterano, which are very lovely and beautiful beyond belief, because he used therein a great abundance of a sort of ultramarine blue given to him by the said Pope, which was so beautiful in colour that it has never yet been equaled.
. . . . To return to Vittore Pisano; the account that has been given of him above was written by us, with nothing more, when this our book was printed for the first time, because we had not then received that information and knowledge of the works of this excellent craftsman which we have since gained from notices supplied by that very reverend and most learned Father, Fra Marco de’ Medici of Verona, of the Order of Preaching Friars, and from the narrative of Biondo da Forlì, where he speaks of Verona in his “Italia Illustrata.” Vittore was equal in excellence to any painter of his age; and to this, not to speak of the works enumerated above, most ample testimony is borne by many others that are seen in his most noble native city of Verona, although many are almost eaten away by time. And because he took particular delight in depicting animals, he painted in the Chapel of the Pellegrini family, in the Church of S. Anastasia at Verona, a S. Eustace caressing a dog spotted with white and tan, which, with its feet raised and leaning against the leg of the said Saint, is turning its head backwards as though it had heard some noise; and it is making this movement with so great vivacity, that a live dog could not do it better. Beneath this figure there is seen painted the name of Pisano, who used to call himself sometimes Pisano, and sometimes Pisanello, as may be seen from the pictures and the medals by his hand.
By reason of his fame and reputation in that art, this master gained the honour of being celebrated by very great men and rare writers; for, besides what Biondo wrote of him, as has been said, he was much extolled in a Latin poem by the elder Guerino, his compatriot and a very great scholar and writer of those times; of which poem, called, from the surname of its subject, “Il Pisano del Guerino,” honourable mention is made by Biondo. He was also celebrated by the elder Strozzi, Tito Vespasiano, father of the other Strozzi, both of whom were very rare poets in the Latin tongue. The father honoured the memory of Vittore Pisano with a very beautiful epigram, which is in print with the others. Such are the fruits that are borne by a worthy life.
Some say that when he was learning art in Florence in his youth, he painted in the old Church of the Temple, which stood where the old Citadel now is, the stories of that pilgrim who was going to S. Jacopo di Galizia, when the daughter of his host put a silver cup into his wallet, to the end that he might be punished as a robber; but he was rescued by S. Jacopo, who brought him back home in safety. In this Pisano gave promise of becoming, as he did, an excellent painter. Finally, having come to a good old age, he passed to a better life. And Gentile da Fabriano, after making many works in Città di Castello, became palsied, and was reduced to such a state that he could no longer do anything good; and at length, wasted away by old age, and having lived eighty years, he died. The portrait of Pisano I have not been able to find in any place whatsoever. Both these painters drew very well, as may be seen in our book.
Lives of the most eminent painters, sculptors & architects, by Giorgio Vasari (1511 – 1574)
tr. by Gaston du C. de Vere (1912-15)
Pisanello, known professionally as Antonio di Puccio Pisano or Antonio di Puccio da Cereto, also erroneously called Vittore Pisano by Giorgio Vasari, born between 1380 and 1395 and died between 1450 and 1455, was acclaimed by poets such as Guarino da Verona and praised by humanists of his time who compared him to such illustrious names as Cimabue, Phidias and Praxiteles.