Amico Aspertini (born 1474 or 75-1552) was an Italian Renaissance painter and sculptor who anticipated Mannerism with his convoluted, quirky, and eclectic style.
At the beginning of the sixteenth century, Bologna was a very culturally active city. Artists’ obsession with the ancient, interpreted innovatively utilizing iconography borrowed from erudite literary sources, mirrored the city’s vibrant center for humanities, due in part to its university (the “Studium”).
Amico studied under masters such as Lorenzo Costa and Francesco Francia. He painted frescoes, facade decorations, and altarpieces. He has produced some works considered bizarre by many of his contemporaneous fellow painters. The artist and art historian Giorgio Vasari described Aspertini as a person with an eccentric personality. He was ambidextrous, according to Vasari, and worked so quickly with both hands that he could divide chiaroscuro between them, painting chiaro with one hand and scuro with the other. Aspertini’s originality caused the criticisms of scholars of classicistic heritage, too loyal to fixed canons of external beauty, proportions, and compositional balance.
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In 1496, he traveled to Rome with his father, and he is briefly documented there again between 1500 and 1503, before returning to Bologna and painting in the manner of Pinturicchio and Filippino Lippi. In Bologna in 1504, he collaborated with Francia and Costa on murals for Giovanni II Bentivoglio’s Oratory of Santa Cecilia near to San Giacomo Maggiore.
The ancient culture exerted a strong influence on him and spurred him to visit the Roman ruins. This interest in archeology is proved by at least two collections of sketches: the Wolfegg Codex and one of Aspertini’s notebooks the, “Parma Notebook” (Taccuino di Parma), preserved in the British Museum, in which he reveals his admiration for antiquity.
Aspertini created the magnificent murals in the Chapel of the Cross in the Basilica di San Frediano in Lucca while in exile from Bologna following the collapse of the Bentivoglio dynasty in 1508-1509. In 1529, Aspertini was one of two painters chosen to create a triumphal arch for Pope Clement VII and Emperor Charles V’s arrival into Bologna. He created sculptures for the doors of Bologna’s San Petronio Basilica.
He died in Bologna in 1552.
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