Perugino: il divin pittore

The master artist whom Raphael look to as his teacher

Fellow apprentice of Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli, he was called in 1500 “the best painter in Italy.”

This is the second show of the Renaissance exhibit series which aims to understand the culture of Italy rich in regional characteristics. As a sequel to the exhibit of the artwork from Prato two years ago, this show introduces Pietro Vannucci (ca. 1450 – 1523), who was called Perugino, meaning “a man of Perugia.” He was active mainly in Perugia, located in the region of Umbria in verdant central Italy.

Exhibition Details

From April 21 (Sat.) to July 1 (Sun.), 2007
(closed Mondays except April 30)
Seiji Togo Memorial Sompo Japan Museum of Art
1-26-1, Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-8338
Sompo Japan Headquarters build. 42nd floor
Open Hours
10:00-18:00 (Admittance by 17:30)
10:00-20:00 (Fridays, Admittance by 19:30)
Adults: 1,000yen (800yen)
University & High School Students: 600 yen (500yen)
Senior Citizens (65 years and more): 800yen
Children of Junior High School or under: Free
( ) indicated discount rates for groups of 20 and more
Organized by
Seiji Togo Memorial Sompo Japan Museum of Art
Nihon Keizai Shimbun,Inc.
Supported by
Sompo Japan Insurance Inc.
Patronized by
Ambasciata d’Italia, Tokyo
Istituto Italiano di Cultura, Tokyo
Cooperation with
Nippon Express
Planning assisted by
Art Planning Rey Inc.


Apprenticing with Leonardo da Vinci

Perugino came in contact with many Renaissance masters throughout his life. He spent the latter half of his apprenticeship in the studio of Verrocchio alongside Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci. Raphael, whose father, painter Giovanni Santi, praised Perugino as being a “divine painter with reputation as high as Leonardo’s,” apprenticed at Perugino’s studio as a youth and received a great deal of influence from him. Perugino’s wife Chiara was the daughter of Fancelli, an architect who had a part in the building of Palazzo Pitti.

One of the most successful independent painters

Perugino ran two large studios in Perugia and Firenze and received plenty of orders. Agostino Chigi, a wealthy Sienese banker and patron, called him “the best painter in Italy” in his letter dated 1500. Some of his representative works include the frescos of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican in Rome, frescos that decorate the walls of the Collegio del Cambio (exchange guild) in Perugia, St Sebastian and Apollo and Marsyas exhibited at the Louvre in Paris, and The Vision of St Bernard shown at Alte Pinakothek in Munich. Perugino, who also served as a priore of Perugia in 1500, was one of the most highly paid, socially successful independent painters refusing invitations to become a court artist.

The Umbria school

Perugino’s so-called “sweet” or ”angelic” style combines lucid color palette characteristic of the Umbrian painters and form derived from the Classical art the Florentine people adored. It was the most successful style of the time and passed onto Raphael, through whom it came into full bloom during the height of the Renaissance Era. This exhibit also includes works of other painters who also flourished in Perugia, including Benedetto Bonfili and Bartolomeo Caporali, to show the overall lineage of the Umbria school, which later fed into the prosperous Renaissance art.

Estimation of Perugino

Around the 1500s when Perugino was alive was a transition period in which painters, formerly considered craftsmen, began seeking to improve their social status to that of cultured artists. While Leonardo and Michelangelo spent time in deep thought, however, Perugino used his widely accepted style and set up in his later life a systematic system of production, through which he was successful in taking a great number of orders. For this, he became disfavored by later generations, which placed more importance on the spiritual integrity of the artist. In today’s art world, however, artists who can act as leaders in organizing major projects are gaining more attention.

Simultaneously, many artists of the Renaissance era who had been cast aside into the shadows of the great known masters are once again being moved back into the spotlight. This show was designed based on the major retrospective exhibition of Perugino held in his hometown Perugia in 2004. Around 40 of his works including the treasured paintings on wood boards stored at the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria (National Gallery of Umbria) have been received on loan. This is the first show in Japan to collectively introduce the work of Perugio, which scholars have been reexamining with renewed interest in recent years.

About Perugia

Perugia, formerly called Perusia, was one of the cities of the Etruscan civilization, which flourished from the 6th century BC. It became part of the Roman Empire in 40 BC, and fell under the rule of the Byzantine Empire after Roman Empire’s east-west split. After 500 AD, the city went through a period of repeated change of rulers, and finally became a free city in the 12th century. Art flourished during the Renaissance period in Perugia, which became known as the center of the Umbria school led by Perugino.

Studio in 1473, San Bernardino risana da un’ulcera la figlia di Giovanni Antonio Petrazio da Rieti, Perugia,Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbira, ©2007PERUGIA, Galleria Nazionale dell’a Umbria
Pietro Vannucci, alias Perugino, Cristo in pieta, Perugia,Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbira, ©2007PERUGIA, Galleria Nazionale dell’a Umbria
Benedetto Bonfigli, Angeli con cartiglio e chiodi, Perugia,Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbira,©2007PERUGIA, Galleria Nazionale dell’a Umbria
Pietro Vannucci, alias Perugino, Madonna della Pieta e i Santi Girolamo e Maria Maddalena, Perugia,Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbira, ©2007PERUGIA, Galleria Nazionale dell’a Umbria
Pietro Vannucci, alias Perugino, Ritratto di giovinetto, Galleria degli Uffizi ©Firenze, Galleria degli Uffizi ©Antonio Quattrone
Pietro Vannucci, alias Perugino, Nozze di Cana, Perugia,Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbira, ©2007PERUGIA, Galleria Nazionale dell’a Umbria