Stefano di Giovanni : biography

Unknown - 1450

Life and Works

The date and birthplace of Sassetta are not known. Some say he was born in Siena although there is also an hypothesis that he was born in Cortona. His father, Giovanni, is called da Cartona which possibly means that Cortona was the artist's birthplace. The meaning of his nickname Sassetta is obscure and is not cited in documents of his time but appears in sources from the eighteenth century.

Sassetta was probably trained alongside artists like Benedetto di Bindo and Gregorio di Cecco but he had a style all of his own. He achieved a high level of technical refinement and was aware of artistic innovations of talented painters in Florence such as Gentile da Fabriano and Masolino. His work differs from the late Gothic style of many of his Sienese contemporaries.Miklós Boskovits; National Gallery of Art (U.S.); et al, Italian paintings of the fifteenth century (Washington: National Gallery of Art; New York, 2003), p. 623.

His first certain work, which originally had his signature is the Arte della Lana altarpiece, (1423–1426) fragments of which are now divided among various private and public collections.

The Madonna of the Snow altarpiece for the Siena cathedral was a prestigious commission for Sassetta, and considered his second major work. Not only does he excel at infusing his figures with a natural light that convincingly molds their shape, he also has an amazing handle on spatial relationships, creating cohesive and impressive work. Miklós Boskovits; National Gallery of Art (U.S.); et al, Italian paintings of the fifteenth century (Washington: National Gallery of Art; New York, 2003), 623. From this point on, under Gothic influence, Sassetta’s style increases its decorative nature. The polyptych done by Sassetta in San Domenico at Cortona (around 1437) shows scenes from the legend of St. Anthony the Abbot. He shows great skill in narration through his painting as well as combining a sophisticated color palette and rhythmic compositions.Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012.

Francesco di Giorgio e di Lorenzo, better known as Vecchietta, is said to have been his apprentice.

He died by pneumonia contracted while decorating the Assumption fresco in the Porta Romana of Siena. The work was finished by his pupil Sano di Pietro.

Many consider Sassetta's fusing of traditional and contemporary elements as integral to the move from the Gothic to the Renaissance style of painting in Siena.


  • Italian Paintings of the Fifteenth Century. 2003 Judy Metro, National Gallery of Art, Oxford University Press: Oxford, New York p. 621.
  • Andrew Graham-Dixon, Paper Museum: Writings about Paintings, mostly (New York : Knopf, 1997), 33-36.
  • Miklós Boskovits; National Gallery of Art (U.S.); et al., Italian paintings of the fifteenth century (Washington : National Gallery of Art ; New York, 2003), 621-625.
  • Machtelt Israels, ed. Sassetta: The Borgo San Sepolcro Altarpiece. 2 vols. Florence: Villa I Tatti, 2009.
  • Fabrizio Nevola. “Reviews” Renaissance Quarterly (University of Chicago Press 2010). Vol. 63, No. 2, p589-591.
  • Donald Bruce, Sienese Painting at the London National Gallery. Contemporary Review; Winter2007, Vol. 289 Issue 1687, p481.
  • Luciano Bellosi, Sassetta e i pittori toscani tra XIII e XV secolo, a cura di Luciano Bellosi e Alessandro Angelini, Studio per edizioni scelte, Firenze 1986
  • B. Berenson, Sassetta, Firenze 1946
  • Enzo Carli, Sassetta's Borgo San Sepolcro Altarpiece, in: Burlington Magazine 43, 1951, ss. 145
  • Enzo Carli, Sassetta e il «Maestro dell'Osservanza», Milano 1957
  • Enzo Carli, I Pittori senesi, Milano 1971
  • J. Pope-Henessy, Sassetta, Londra 1939
  • J. Pope-Hennessy, Rethinking Sassetta, in: Burlington Magazine 98, 1956, ss. 364
  • Federico Zeri, Towards a Reconstruction of Sassetta's Arte della Lana Triptych, in Burlington Magazine 98, 1956, ss. 36
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