Born as Pietro di Cristoforo Vannucci, Perugino was one of the first and foremost products of the eloquent Umbrian School of Art during the early Renaissance period. He was born in 1445 in Perugia, Italy with Cristofor Vannucci as his father. Perugino came from one of the richest families in Perugia, according to historian Giorgio Vasari.
Perugino’s career ran from the 1460’s to early 1520’s. He was famous for his paintings for the Roman and Florentine churches such as The Delivery of the Keys (1482), Annunciation of Fano (1490), Pieta (1495), and the Crucifixion.
In the 1460’s, Perugino worked closely with Piero della Francesca whose influenced on the young painter could not be missed. Francesca was a master of linear perspective, which was a very popular technique at that time. Perugino’s works were aimed at showing harmony and balance, which might be one of the obvious influences of Francesca to him.
In 1472, Perugino transferred to Florence to develop his talent even more and expand his social circles of artists. Over there he learned the art of oil painting under the mentorship of Andrea del Verrocchio. The said oil painter had a studio for amateur goldsmiths, painters and sculptors. In fact, Leonardo da Vinci was once a pupil of Verrocchio.
Under the wings of Verrocchio, Perugino was able to complete the Crucifixion of SS. Maria e Angiolo at Argiano. He had also dedicated his talent to helping his master finish some more masterpieces like The Birth of St. John the Baptist and The Madonna di Piazza (Pistoia Cathedral).
Apparently, Perugino had a positive apprenticeship experience with Verrocchio that he was also able to earn the respect of the Florentines. He continued working in Florence and gained a deeper interest in learning the chiaroscuro technique; balance between dark and light colors. In 1473, Perugino seemed to apply this technique through painting The Healing of a Young Girl and the Miracle of the Healing of the Youth of L’Aquila which must have been inspired by the illustrations of D. Veneziano entitled The Life of St. Bernardino (1473).
Perugino was one of the few artists who had been invited by the Pope to fresco the Sistine Chapel. In 1478, he got married but had to leave Florence to fulfill a commissioned work in Rome. He did several frescoes for the Sistine Chapel together with Rosselli, Botticelli and Ghirlandaio.
Perugino was mainly responsible for painting the major events in the life of Moses and of Jesus Christ. His frescoes for the said chapel were a perfect representation of his goal of achieving harmony and balance through painting. Although he was having a successful work with the Pope so far, this motivated him even more to discover more techniques to which his name will be known for.
This then resulted to the execution of the The Delivery of the Keys, also known as Christ giving the Keys to Saint Peter (1482). This painting was far from his usual geometrically aligned characters and vast spaces, which also share resemblance to Francesca’s paintings. Instead, the 1482 painting were done with great control and clarity that the composition looked well-organized and balanced.
Consequently, The Delivery of the Keys brought a higher level of success to Perugino’s name. He then continued making major frescoes and paintings from 1483 to 1500. By the 1480’s, he would have been staying in Rome still but traveled to Perugia and Florence from time-to-time. He had worked with several patrons of the arts in different cities and in 1505, he was considered as Italy’s finest painter.
Perugino was the finest painter of his generation that Raphael Santi got lured to come over to his studio to work. Santi apprenticed to Perugino during the late 15th century, when they collaborated to finish the Fano altarpiece for the Church of S. Maria Nuova in Fano. This project influenced the young Raphael to execute The Marriage of the Virgin, The Spozalizio and The Coronation of the Virgin.
In 1506, Pietro Perugino decided to retire although he still did a few frescoes for a couple of churches and monasteries. In 1523, Perugino suffered from the plague and died because of it. His body now lies in an unconsecrated land, which place is still unknown.
However, his legacy, being passed down to soon-to-be world class painters like Raphael, Bartolommeo and Francia, cannot be denied that he contributed a lot to the advent of the High Renaissance.