VITALE DA BOLOGNA
(b. 1289/1309, Bologna, d. 1359/69, Bologna)
Italian painter (originally Vitale d'Aimo de'Cavalli, also known as Vidolino or Vitale delle Madonne). The earliest documentary references to Vitale concern S Francesco, Bologna, where he was paid for decorating a chapel in 1330 and where he witnessed deeds in 1334. He was probably born before 1309, since he would have been at least 25 to act as a witness. The earliest works attributed to him are the frescoes of standing saints and Abraham and the Blessed Souls (Bologna, S Martino), which show a strong Riminese influence in the cool, wine-red and olive tones and lean, high-cheeked faces.
Vitale's work continued to reflect Riminese iconography and features, particularly the vivid characterizations associated with Pietro da Rimini, but his style became less dependent upon these sources. He was paid for paintings in a chapel and the guests' refectory of S Francesco in 1340. The Last Supper from the refectory (detached; Bologna, Pinacoteca Nazionale) retains the cool pinks and rows of standing saints of the S Martino frescoes, but the modelling of the figures is richer and more expressive. The long table and symmetrical architecture are inspired by Giotto's frescoes in the Bardi Chapel, Santa Croce, Florence, and the radical transformation in Vitale's style, which set him apart from his Bolognese contemporaries, was partly due to Giotto's influence. Above all, however, his style was influenced by Buffalmacco (the Master of the Triumph of Death) at Pisa. The lively gestures, the loose modelling and lime-green and vermilion palette of Bolognese illuminators, particularly the Illustratore, also began to influence Vitale. Bolognese illumination provided a repertory of genre observation that undoubtedly affected his wide range of iconographic innovations. These varied influences can be seen in the uneven but lively quality of the Crucifixion (c. 1335–40; Philadelphia, Museum of Art).
Vitale's work is also often compared to that of Sienese painters. There is no substantial evidence of direct influence but his use of dramatic facial types reminiscent of Pietro Lorenzetti and a decorative richness akin to Simone Martini's painting suggest that he knew their work.