NARDO DI CIONE
(b. ca. 1320, Firenze, d. ca. 1365, Firenze)
Italian painter, one of the brothers of Orcagna (real name Andrea di Cione), the leading Florentine artist of the third quarter of the 14th century, a painter, sculptor, architect, and administrator. His oeuvre has been reconstructed around several signed and dated works, he emerges as an artist with a style of his own, a pronounced lyrical vein, a feeling for poetic values, strong human sympathies, and great sensitivity to colour as a means of subtle differentiation and soft modelling. In the absence of concrete evidence for many of the works, however, it is difficult to sketch Nardo's artistic development, but a probable sequence, based on such stylistic considerations as the changing proportions of his figures, can nevertheless be suggested.
The frescoes in the chapel of Sant'Anna in the Chiostro dei Morti of Santa Maria Novella, with scenes from the Life of St Anne and four figures of saints, are probably from the years 1345–50. The Standing Madonna (Institute of Arts, Minneapolis) was probably produced at the same time. The series of frescoes of the Strozzi Chapel in Santa Maria Novella with depictions of The Last Judgment, Hell, and Paradise faithfully illustrate the account in Dante. These frescoes constitute Nardo's main work; they must have been executed in 1354–57, at the same time as Orcagna's polyptych for the altar of the same chapel.
With these works Nardo attained his full artistic maturity. They were followed by works of unmistakable beauty. St John the Baptist with Sts John the Evangelist and James (National Gallery, London), often understood as a triptych, may very well have originally been part of a larger polyptych dating from 1357–60. The polyptych from which one panel with St Benedict (Nationalmuseum, Stockholm) and a predella panel (I Tatti, Florence) have survived, was probably produced at the same time. The triptych (c. 1360) with a Coronation of the Virgin in the centre (Victoria and Albert Museum, London) and two panels, each with five Saints (Alte Pinakothek, Munich), possibly comes from Santa Maria degli Angeli in Florence. The Crucifixion panel (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence), the Whitley Madonna (private collection) and the two Saints in the Jarves Collection (Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven) probably all date from the first half of the 1360s.
Nardo's small triptych in the Kress Collection (National Gallery of Art, Washington) and his pentaptych (National Gallery, Prague) are probably his latest works, though they cannot be called late works, since Nardo's life apparently came to an abrupt and premature end through illness. On 21 May 1365 he made his will, naming his brothers as equal beneficiaries, apart from a few special legacies; he was dead by 16 May 1366, and his last domicile seems to have been taken over by his brother Jacopo.