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Pietro Vanucci, known as Perugino, was born in Città della Pieve betwen 1448 and 1450. It is very likely that in Florence he attended Verrocchio’s workshop and was inspired by the style of Pollaiolo, Botticelli, Leonardo and Piero della Francesca. He tried to imitate the well defined spatial compositions of this painter and his use of perspective. Little remains of his early works and there is no certainty that the eight Stories of St Bernardino, in the National Gallery of Peugia, were actually painted by him.
In 1478 he was invited to Rome by Pope Eugene IV to deLa consegna delle chiavicorate the chapel of Conception (nothing survived); in 1481 he received a commission for painting parts of the Sistine Chapel.
He worked on this chapel from 1481 and 1483; he painted a number of frescos and was helped by his followers. The composition of his masterpiece (Christ handing the keys to St Peter) is grandiose and at the same time has the elements of classical, balanced solemnity, which inspired painters like Raffaello in his painting The Wedding of the Virgin. The temple is in the middle of the pictureand from it the lines of the floor’s tiles spread out. In the foreground there are a number of people – including the painter himself – arranged harmoniously with the temple in the background.
The artist became incredibly famous in later years and was invited to all Italy’s major towns.
Typical elements of the painter are balconies standing on large pillars and female characters with oval, smiling and happy faces (like the Madonna with Child, in Washington). Some of the painter’s other works are: the vision of St Bernard, the Pietà and the Madonna and Saints in the Uffizi Gallery and the Albani Polyptich. In the 1490s he painted: Lamentation over the Dead Christ, the Decemviri altar piece (Vatican Picture Gallery), the Crucifixion mural in Santa Maria Maddalena dei Pazzi in Florence, the Fano Polyptichs.
The painter died in Fontignano in 1523.