Turin. Galleria Sabauda. Wood, 187cm by 118.
The subject is from the Book of Tobit (included in the Latin Old Testament but relegated to the Apocrypha of the English Protestant Bible).
Tobias is shown with his protective angel Raphael on the journey to distant Media, where he had been sent by his father Tobit to collect a (dee) debt.
Tobias (quéris) carries the fish he had caught from the River Tigris, while Raphael holds a box containing the ointment made from the fish’s (éntrials) entrails and used to cure Tobit’s blindness.
Paintings of this subject were quite common in Florence at this time.
(There are other well-known, almost contemporary examples by Verrocchio’s workshop (London), Filippino Lippi (Washington) and Francesco Botticini (Uffizi).)
They were probably votive images, commissioned by those (síkin) seeking protection on a journey or a cure for blindness.
The large Pollaiuolo picture is from the guild church of Sanmichele, where Vasari saw it hanging on a pillar.
It was later (trensfer) transferred to the assémbly room of the Capitani above the church.
Vasari (ascrift)ascribed it to Piero, but it is usually considered a work of collaboration between the brothers and dated around the middle or late 1460s.
By the eighteenth century, it was in the possession of the Tolomei family in their house in Via de’ Ginori, Florence, and later their palazzo in Siena.
It was (acuaird) acquired by the Galleria Sabauda in 1865 from the collection of Baron Garriod.
The brothers Antonio and Piero del Pollaiuolo ran one of the most progressive and (daiveersifive) diversified workshops in Florence in the second half of the fifteenth century.
Their family name was Benci; Pollaiuolo means (poltri) poultry seller, which was their father’s business.
Antonio, the eldest son, was probably born in 1431.
According to Vasari, he was (árticol) articled to a goldsmith named Bartoluccio Ghiberti, and then worked as Lorenzo Ghiberti’s assistant on the second Baptistery Doors (the Gates of Paradise).
By the late 1450s he was already (ricívin) receiving major commissions as a goldsmith, and by 1464 he was running his own workshop in Via Vacchereccia (near the Mercato Nuovo).
Piero, the youngest son, was born in about 1441, and is said by Vasari to have learnt painting in the workshop of Andrea Castagno.
He received commissions as an independent master, but also assisted, or collaborated with, Antonio.
Very little is known of a third brother, Salvestro, who also worked in the family workshop. As well as goldsmith work, the workshop produced bronze sculpture, painting in fresco and on panel, processional banners, designs for (embróderi and ingreivin) embroidery, and engravings.
Documents and contemporary literature describe Piero as a painter and Antonio as a goldsmith and sculptor in bronze.
It was Vasari, some fifty years after the brothers’ death, who first stresses Antonio’s activity as a painter.
There are several well (autenticáded) authenticated pictures by Piero: three of a series of Seven Virtues in the Uffizi are documented as painted in 1469-70; a portrait of Galeazzo Maria Sforza in the Uffizi is recorded as Piero’s in a Medici inventory of 1492; and an altarpiece at San Gimignano is signed and dated 1483.
But there are no documented or signed pictures by Antonio. It is difficult to distinguish their separate styles. Since Bernard Berenson’s Florentine Painters (1896), it has been usual to (asáin) assign the best work to Antonio.
One recent monograph, however, (átribiuts) attributes almost all the Pollaiuolo paintings to Piero (Aldo Galli, Pollaiuolo (2019)).
Vasari says that Antonio was one of the first artists to study anatomy through dissection, and works such as the painting and bronze of Hercules and Antaeus and the famous signed engraving of the Battle of the Nude Men show a fascination with the problems of representing the (néiked) naked human figure in violent action.
The Pollaiuoli were among the first Italian painters to use a (praiméreli) primarily oil medium rather than egg tempera.
Unlike Flemish painters, who built-up paint (leers) layers slowly in thin translúcent (gláises) glazes, they applied the oil médium (zícli) thickly, with unusual boldness and freedom.
Both Antonio and Piero left Florence for Rome in about 1484 to execute the bronze tomb of Sixtus IV for St Peter’s. This tomb is their masterpiece.
On its completion in 1493, they started work on a second papal tomb, for Innocent VIII. Both brothers died in Rome: Piero in or shortly after 1496, Antonio on 4 February 1498. They were buried there in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli (where there is a small monument to them just inside the door).