Neri di Bicci

Neri di Bicci was the second son and pupil of Bicci di lorenzo . He was the last artist in a family, whose workshop can be traced back to his grandfather Lorenzo di bicci .

Under Neri’s direction, the workshop was extremely successful and catered to a wide number of patrons. The details of its activity, including the names of the many pupils and assistants that passed through it, are recorded from 1453 to 1475 in the workshop diary. This journal, the most extensive surviving document relating to a 15th-century painter, is preserved in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence. From the journal recordings one can patch together the most important events of Neri’s life and one can reconstruct his most important works.

Neri di Bicci was enrolled in 1434 in the Compagnia di S Luca and worked as a painter in the thriving family workshop. At the beginning of his career, his style was virtually indistinguishable from that of the other painters in the workshop. Later he took over the management of the workshop, and eventually achieved a distictive style in his painting.

In 28 February 1455 the workshop began activity in the Spini Chapel of Santa Trìnita, in Florence. (The medieval palace of the Spini, who were prominent bankers in the fourteenth century, still stands today opposite the church of S. Trinita). The work in the chapel included the execution of an altarpiece depicting the Assumption of the Virgin. Neri di Bicci recorded this commission for the Spini family. The altarpiece included a predella, a horizontal panel below the painting with three scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary, the family coat of arms and the whole work was encased in an elaborate gilded frame. The altarpiece, at a cost of 480 lire, was to resemble the one made by Neri for Carlo Benizi in S. Felicita in Florence. It’s late Gothic profile was already outmoded by the 1450’s and inconsistent with the more modern design of the Virgin’s sarcophagus in the painting. The woodwork of the panel and frame was to be subcontracted to Giuliano da Maiano, the woodcarver and architect brother of the sculptor Benedetto. The completed work was set up in the chapel on 28 August 1456.

The subject of the Assumption was repeated sevral times by Neri after this first and important altarpiece- important especially for its peculiarily Tuscan form, with the Virgin handing down her girdle to St. Thomas, a motif called the “Madonna della Cintola” popular there because the girdle was kept as relic in nearby Prato.

After this, Neri never lacked work. Commissions from important Florentine families continued. The workshop’s activity continued at a lively rate.

Though active throughout most of the 15th century, Neri remained faithful, at least in content, to the tradition established by his father and grandfather. With his death on 4 January 1492 came also the demise of a workshop that had stood out for over a century for the wealth of its production. Di Bicci was buried in S Maria del Carmine. Of his four sons and two daughters, not one became an artist.