In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Andrea del Verrocchio

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Primary Sources
  • Training and Early Work
  • Verrocchio and Goldsmithing
  • Major Exhibition Catalogues
  • Restoration and Technical Reports

Renaissance and Reformation Andrea del Verrocchio
Christina Neilson
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 July 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 July 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0518


Andrea del Verrocchio was a leading artist in Renaissance Italy. Best known today as the teacher of Leonardo da Vinci, Verrocchio was a celebrated artist in his own right. Born in Florence c. 1435 to a family of artisans and laborers, Verrocchio spent most of his career in that city. He died in Venice in 1488, two years after he had moved there to make a bronze equestrian monument of the mercenary general Bartolommeo Colleoni. Verrocchio worked in an unusually wide variety of media. In sculpture he produced works in marble, wood, bronze, terracotta, and wax. He was also a draftsman, painter, and goldsmith. Most studies on the artist tend to focus on his art in sculpture and few consider his work in different media in dialogue. Yet the artist frequently used the tools and techniques from one medium in another. A closer look at Verrocchio’s tendency to work between and across media reveals an artist who is among the most experimental in 15th-century Florence, itself a major European center of artistic innovation. Verrocchio influenced many of the leading artists of the next generation, especially painters, some of whom trained with him. These included Leonardo da Vinci, Pietro Perugino, and Domenico Ghirlandaio, among many others. Verrocchio initiated many formal, stylistic, and technical innovations that were taken up by artists of the next generation and in succeeding centuries. His Christ and Saint Thomas shows the figures in dynamic and carefully choreographed poses. Thomas is positioned on a step outside the niche in which Christ is placed and turns to reach forward as if to touch Christ’s wound but does not. The careful placement of the figures in relation to each other and to the niche around them anticipates formal developments taken up by Baroque artists, such as Gianlorenzo Bernini. Verrocchio’s Putto with a Dolphin has an equally dynamic pose, with the putto positioned so that it spirals around a central axis, its twisting body inviting the viewer to move around it. This pose came to be known as figura serpentinata (literally “serpentine figure”), a compositional device of enormous influence adopted by leading artists of the sixteenth century, including the painter Leonardo and the sculptor Giambologna. Verrocchio recognized the tonal potential for drawing in black chalk and used it to create areas of sfumato (areas of smokiness) in his drawings, a technical innovation commonly attributed to his pupil Leonardo.

General Overviews

Butterfield 1997 and Covi 2005 provide the most useful and up-to-date studies on Verrocchio, along with the exhibition catalogues Butterfield 2019 and Caglioti and De Marchi 2019 (both cited under Major Exhibition Catalogues), although Adorno 1991, Cannon-Brookes 1974, Cruttwell 1904, Passavant 1969, and Seymour 1971 all make important contributions. Covi is particularly useful in providing transcriptions of almost all documentation relating to the artist. Neilson 2019 takes a different approach, offering an exploration of Verrocchio’s art across and between different media.

  • Adorno, Piero. Il Verrocchio: Nuove proposte nella civilità artistica del tempo di Lorenzo il Magnifico. Florence: Casa Editrice Edam, 1991.

    Examines Verrocchio’s work as a sculptor, painter, and goldsmith, focusing especially on the political and cultural context in which his works were created.

  • Butterfield, Andrew. The Sculptures of Andrea del Verrocchio. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997.

    Overview of Verrocchio’s sculpture, organized chronologically, with cogent and convincing analyses of objects and documents. Emphasizes Verrocchio’s knowledge of Classical sources and his interest in psychology, preempting Leonardo’s work in this area. A brief discussion of Verrocchio’s activity as a painter, draftsman, and teacher is included at the end.

  • Cannon-Brookes, Peter. “Verrocchio Problems.” Apollo 99 (1974): 8–19.

    Analyzes material evidence of important sculptures by Verrocchio to hypothesize about how they were made and their implications for the artist’s training, as well as discussing issues of attribution and dating. Although this is an article rather than a monograph, it provides an overview of many important issues relating to Verrocchio.

  • Covi, Dario A. Andrea del Verrocchio: Life and Work. Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 2005.

    Important recent monograph on Verrocchio’s work in all media (sculptures, paintings, drawings), focusing especially on issues of attribution and dating. Includes an appendix with transcriptions of most documents from Verrocchio’s lifetime (or shortly afterward) concerning the artist.

  • Cruttwell, Maud. Verrocchio. London: Duckworth, 1904.

    Aims to establish Verrocchio’s importance as an artist. The first important monograph on Verrocchio in English. Chiefly concerned with issues of attribution, mainly of sculptures but also of paintings and drawings.

  • Neilson, Christina. Practice and Theory in the Italian Renaissance Workshop: Verrocchio and the Epistemology of Making Art. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2019.

    DOI: 10.1017/9781316779408

    Argues that although Verrocchio left no writings about his art, it is possible to formulate a theory of his art by analyzing his techniques of making. This book is not a monograph, but the arguments presented through a series of case studies has broader ramifications for understanding Verrocchio beyond the works discussed: that Verrocchio thought between and across media (sculpture, painting, and drawing), and expressed ideas through materials and techniques.

  • Passavant, Günter. Verrocchio: Sculptures, Paintings, and Drawings. Translated by Katherine Watson. London: Phaidon, 1969.

    Monographic study of the artist. Interested chiefly in attribution and establishing the sequence of Verrocchio’s stylistic development. Summarizes in English arguments about Verrocchio as a painter from Passavant 1959 (cited under Verrocchio’s Painting Oeuvre), proposing that Verrocchio began painting in the 1460s and that his work as a painter was concerned with issues carried over from his work in sculpture, namely volume and spatial relationships.

  • Seymour, Charles, Jr. The Sculpture of Verrocchio. Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society, 1971.

    Provides insightful interpretations of the artist’s major sculptural works and addresses issues of attribution. Also useful for the translation into English of the list of works Verrocchio made for the Medici, inventoried by his brother, Tommaso, after the artist’s death (for a transcription in Italian, see Covi 2005).

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