Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Piero di Cosimo

Piero di Cosimo was a highly eccentric Florentine painter (ca. 1461-1521) whose best known paintings are quite idiosyncratic. His mythological paintings exhibit a bizarre style, many filled with fantastic humans and animals.

Perseus frees Andromeda

Perseus frees Andromeda, ca. 1513
Oil on wood
Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy


. . . it appeared that he had lived the life of a brute rather than a man, as he had kept himself shut up and would not permit anyone to see him work. He would not allow his rooms to be swept, he ate when he felt hungry, and would never suffer the fruit-trees of his garden to be pruned or trained, leaving the vines to grow and trail along the ground. . . .

. . . so devoted was he to art that he neglected his material comforts, and his habitual food consisted of hard-boiled eggs, which he cooked while he was boiling his glue, to save the firing. He would cook not six or eight at a time, but a good fifty, and would eat them one by one from a basket in which he kept them. . . . The crying of babies irritated him, and so did the coughing of men, the sound of bells, the singing of the friars. . . . He was much afraid of lightning and was terrified of the thunder. He would wrap himself up in his mantle, shut up the windows and doors of the room and crouch into a corner until the fury of the storm had passed. . . .

. . . when eighty years old, he became so strange and eccentric that he was unbearable. . . . He would not allow his apprentices to be about him, so that he obtained less and less assistance by his uncouthness. . . . The flies annoyed him, and he hated the dark. . . . He abused physicians and apothecaries, saying that they made their patients die of hunger, in addition to tormenting them with syrups, medicines, clysters and other tortures, such as not allowing them to sleep when drowsy . . . and thus he went on with these most extraordinary notions, twisting things to the strangest imaginable meanings. . . . After such a curious life he was found dead one morning at the foot of the stairs, in 1521.

From The Lives of the Artists by Giorgio Vasari


The death of Procris

The death of Procris, ca. 1500
Oil on panel
The National Gallery, London, United Kingdom



GIORGIO VASARI (1511–1574) was an Italian painter, writer, historian, and architect. Although an artist of considerable repute, Vasari depends for immortality on his remarkable work, Vite de’ più eccell, pitori, scultori et archit (On the lives of the most eminent painters, sculptors, and architects), a work of stupendous industry. Its first edition appeared in 1550 in Florence. He is considered the ideological foundation of art-historical writing.


Highlighted in Frontispiece Spring 2012 – Volume 4, Issue 2

Spring 2012  |  Sections  |  Art Flashes

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