Andrea del Sarto (1486-1530) and the Art of Reform

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During the second and third decades of the sixteenth century, Andrea del Sarto (1486-1530) distinguished himself within the city of Florence as a painter of considerable talent. He worked within a variety of religious institutions, creating altarpieces rich in theological complexity, elegant in formal execution, and dazzlingly brilliant in chromatic impact. This dissertation analyzes six of those altarpieces, offering a cross-section of Andrea's working life and stylistic development. Approaching the artist's career from this perspective provides modern audiences with a valuable glimpse into his strategies for marrying his own social ambitions to the spiritual teachings that informed ecclesiastical art. These strategies evolved as Andrea learned from each artistic commission he undertook, each altarpiece that he produced in dialogue with educated patrons and learned religious advisors. Over the course of his career, he himself privileged with increasing sophistication theological texts concerned with the idea of reform. I argue that Andrea's stylistic development as a painter describes this process of spiritual education. This argument reconsiders the established conventions of the art-historical monograph, as it adds significantly to the broader scholarly discussion of Renaissance religious art, shedding fresh light on early modern theories of subjectivity and sensation.