Andrea del Sarto, Madonna of the Harpies
A masterwork in the Uffizi
Andrea Vannucchi, known as Andrea del Sarto (Florence, July 16, 1486 - Florence, January 21, 1530) was an Italian Mannerist painter.
Son of a tailor called Agnolo di Francesco, Andrea del Sarto (Sarto means "tailor" in Italian) started apprenticing at the age of 7 years in the workshop of painter Gian Barile, who soon recognized his talent and sent him to study under Piero di Cosimo. In 1508, he enrolled in the Arte dei Medici e degli Speziali school and completed his first artworks.
Perhaps the most famous work of Andrea del Sarto is the altarpiece he painted for the nuns of San Francesco dei Macci, called the Madonna of the Harpies (now located in Florence's Uffizi Gallery). Commissioned in 1515, the picture was supposed to depict the Madonna and Child crowned by two angels and flanked by John the Evangelist and Saint Bonaventure, and was to be delivered within a year. However, the work is dated 1517, and shows John the Evangelist and Saint Francis on either side of the Madonna and Child on a high, polygonal pedestal. The latter is decorated at the corners with the so-called Harpies, while in the centre, beneath the artist's signature, are the opening words of a hymn to Our Lady of the Assumption. This painting is clearly not a traditional Madonna and Child Enthroned between two saints, but a highly unusual presentation of a full-figured Virgin Mary standing on a pedestal with the harpies at her side, holding onto her legs. Having removed the layers of dirt, the 1984 restoration has re-established the rich coloring that was praised by Vasari as being "of singular and truly rare beauty." The figure of the Madonna, balancing the weight of the Child (who on the other hand is lively and smiling), lights up the centre of the picture with her intense, rose-colored robe which harmonizes with the pale blue of her mantle and with the brilliant yellow of the fabric draped over her shoulders.