Franciabigio, in spite of his action in the matter of this fresco, seems to have been a very sweet-natured man, who painted rather to be able to provide for his poor relations than from any stronger inner impulse, and when he saw some works by Raphael gave up altogether, as Verrocchio gave up after Leonardo matured. Franciabigio was a few years older than Andrea, but died at the same age. Possibly it was through watching his friend’s domestic troubles that he remained single, remarking that he who takes a wife endures strife. His most charming work is that “Madonna of the Well” in the Uffizi, which is reproduced in this volume. Franciabigio’s master was Mariotto Albertinelli, who had learned from Cosimo Rosselli, the teacher of Piero di Cosimo, Andrea’s master—another illustration of the interdependence of Florentine artists.
One of the most attractive works in the courtyard must once have been the “Adoration of the Shepherds” by Alessio Baldovinetti, at the left of the entrance to the church. It is badly damaged and the colour has gone, but one can see that the valley landscape, when it was painted, was a dream of gaiety and happiness.
The particular treasure of the church is the extremely ornate chapel of the Virgin, containing a picture of the Virgin displayed once a year on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25th, in the painting of which the Virgin herself took part, descending from heaven for that purpose. The artist thus divinely assisted was Pietro Cavallini, a pupil of Giotto. The silver shrine for the picture was designed by Michelozzo and was a beautiful thing before the canopy and all the distressing accessories were added. It was made at the order of Piero de’ Medici, who was as fond of this church as his father Cosimo was of S. Lorenzo. Michelozzo only designed it; the sculpture was done by Pagno di Lapo Portigiani, whose Madonna is over the tomb of Pope John by Donatello and Michelozzo in the Baptistery.
Among the altar-pieces are two by Perugino; but of Florentine altar-pieces one can say little or nothing in a book of reasonable dimensions. There are so many and they are for the most part so difficult to see. Now and then one arrests the eye and holds it; but for the most part they go unstudied. The rotunda of the choir is interesting, for here we meet again Alberti, who completed it from designs by Michelozzo. It does not seem to fit the church from within, and even less so from without, but it is a fine structure. The seventeenth-century painting of the dome is almost impressive.