(15th century)


Pollaiuolo, surname of two Italian artists of the Renaissance, Antonio (c. 1432-1498) and Piero (c. 1441-1496), who, as brothers, shared a busy workshop in Florence. Patronized by the Medici family, the firm produced articles of gold, bronze sculpture, paintings, and decorative work. They are both recorded as being painters, sculptors, and goldsmiths, but there are considerable problems in attempting to disentangle their individual contributions.

Several documented paintings by Piero are known, all of fairly mediocre quality, but none by Antonio, and as certain pictures from the studio of the two brothers are so much better than Piero's independent work, Antonio's collaboration has usually been assumed. The most important these pictures is the Martyrdom of St Sebastian in the National Gallery in London, probably painted in 1475. The figures of the archers in the foreground reveal a mastery of the nude paralleled in certain bronzes generally accepted as Antonio's (e.g. the Hercules and Antaeus in the Bargello, Florence), in his only surviving engraving (The Battle of the Nude Men, c. 1460), and in his numerous pen drawing in which his typically wiry figures are seen in vigorous and expressive movement. Piero did three of the paintings known as the Seven Virtues (1469-1470, Uffizi, Florence), and probably collaborated with Antonio on three others (the seventh was by Botticelli).

Antonio's main contribution to Florentine painting lay in his searching analysis of the anatomy of the body in movement or under conditions of strain, but he is also important for his pioneering interest in landscape, seen in the St Sebastian and other works. Antonio is said to have anticipated Leonardo in dissecting corpses in order to study the anatomy of the body. Antonio's two principal works were the bronze tombs of Pope Sixtus IV (signed and dated 1493) and Pope Innocent VIII (1492-98) both in St Peter's, Rome. The latter contains the first sepulchral effigy that simulated the living man.