Italian painter and mathematician, Paolo di Dono (known as Paolo Uccello, meaning “Paul of the birds”) was a pioneer in the art world of the 14th Century. According to the the book, “Lives of the Artists”, by Giorgio Vasari, Paolo would stay up all night in his studio, becoming one of the fist of his time to study visual perspective. He would spend days at a time trying to discover the exact vanishing point and build perspective in his paintings. During the time, other painters would use perspective as a narrative point of view for past and present stories. However, Paolo would use perspective to create a sense of depth in this paintings. His most famous works are three paintings depicting the battle of San Romano, also known as the Battle of Sant’ Egidio of 1416″, as it was known under the wrong title for many years.
Not much is known about Paolo upbringing or early introduction to art; Giorgio Vasari’s biography was written 75 years after Paolo’s death, and a few contemporary official documents give us an overview of his accomplishments and notable events in his life. Paolo was most likely born in Florence in 1397 and because he enjoyed to paint birds, he was nicknamed “Uccello”.
When Paolo was 10 years old, he started apprenticing with the famous sculptor, Lorenzo Ghiberti, in Florence. Ghiberti was a big influence for Paolo, with his late-Gothic and sculptural composition styles. In 1414, Paolo became a member of the painters group “Compagnia di San Lucca” and one year later, he joined the prestigious official painter’s guild of Florence Arte dei Medici e degli Speziali.\
Nearly ten years later, Paolo was an established artist living solely off his art career. He created dozens of paintings for wealthy patrons, churches and cathedrals. During the years of 1450-1456, his three most famous paintings were created–The Battle of San Romano, depicting the the victory of the Florentine army over the Sienese in 1432, created for the the Palazzo Medici in Florence.
In 1453, Paolo married Tomassa Malifici and in 1456 his wife gave birth to Antonia, their daughter. At the end of his life, he stated in his tax return of August 1469: “I find myself old and ailing, my wife is ill, and I can no longer work.” A sad end came to this celebrated painter, as he died as a lonesome, forgotten man on the 10th of December in 1475 at the hospital of Florence and buried in his beloved city.
His daughter, Antonia Uccello, was a painter and a Carmelite nun. Giorgio Vasari, the author who wrote the biography of her father, called her called “a daughter who knew how to draw”. She was even noted as a “pittoressa”, a paintress, on her death certificate, although her skill level and style remains a mystery, as non of her work is known to exist.