Of the rest of Andrea’s life I need say little. He grew steadily in favour and was always busy; he met Michelangelo and admired him, and Michelangelo warned Raphael in Rome of a little fellow in Florence who would “make him sweat”. Browning, in his monologue, makes this remark of Michelangelo’s, and the comparison between Andrea and Raphael that follows, the kernel of the poem.
Like Leonardo and Rustici, Andrea accepted, in 1518, an invitation from Francis I to visit Paris and once there began to paint for that royal patron. But although his wife did not love him, she wanted him back, and in the midst of his success he returned, taking with him a large sum of money from Francis with which to buy for the king works of art in Italy. That money he misapplied to his own extravagant ends, and although Francis took no punitive steps, the event cannot have improved either Andrea’s position or his peace of mind; while it caused Francis to vow that he had done with Florentines. Andrea died in 1531, of fever, nursed by no one, for his wife, fearing it might be the dreaded plague, kept away.
The SS. Annunziata and the Spedale degli Innocenti
Andrea del Sarto again—Franciabigio outraged—Alessio Baldovinetti—Piero de’ Medici’s church—An Easter Sunday congregation—Andrea’s “Madonna del Sacco”—“The Statue and the Bust”—Henri IV—The Spedale degli Innocenti—Andrea della Robbia—Domenico Ghirlandaio—Cosimo I and the Etruscans—Bronzes and tapestries—Perugino’s triptych—S. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi—“Very sacred human dust”.
From S. Marco it is an easy step, along the Via Sapienza, to the Piazza dell’ Annunziata, where one finds the church of that name, the Palazzo Riccardi-Mannelli, and opposite it, gay with the famous della Robbia reliefs of swaddled children, the Spedale degli Innocenti.
First the church, which is notable for possessing in its courtyard Andrea del Sarto’s finest frescoes. This series, of which he was the chief painter, with his friend Franciabigio again as his principal ally, depict scenes in the life of the Virgin and S. Filippo. The scene of the Birth of the Virgin has been called the triumph of fresco painting, and certainly it is very gay and life-like in that medium. The whole picture very charming and easy, with the pleasantest colouring imaginable and pretty details, such as the washing of the baby and the boy warming his hands, while of the two women in the foreground, that on the left, facing the spectator, is a portrait of Andrea’s wife, Lucrezia. In the Arrival of the Magi we find Andrea himself, the figure second from the right-hand side, pointing; while next to him, on the left, is his friend Jacopo Sansovino. The “Dead Man Restored to Life by S. Filippo” is Andrea’s next best. Franciabigio did the scene of the Marriage of the Virgin, which contains another of his well-drawn