Pietro Cavallini

The Annunciation, Santa Maria in Trastevere

Pietro Cavallini (1259 – c. 1330) was an Italian painter and mosaic designer working during the late Middle Ages. Little is known about his biography, though it is known he was from Rome, since he signed pictor romanus.

His first notable works were the fresco cycles for the Basilica di San Paolo fuori le Mura, with stories from the New and Old Testament (1277–1285). They were destroyed by the fire of 1823.

His Last Judgment in the Church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere in Rome, painted c. 1293 and considered Cavallini's masterwork, demonstrates an artistic style known as Roman naturalism. This naturalism influenced the work of artists working in other Italian cities such as Florence and Siena.

In the Sienese school, the influence of classical Roman forms combined with the Byzantine artistic heritage of the region and with northern Gothic influences to form a naturalized painting style that was one of the origins of International Gothic.

In Florence, the influence of classical Roman forms combined with the Byzantine artistic heritage of the region to spark an interest in volumetric, naturalistic paintings and statuary. This work is in stark contrast to the comparatively flat and ornamented Gothic, International Gothic, and Byzantine styles.

This naturalism is also evident in the Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi in Assisi, built in the early years of the 13th century in honor of the newly canonized St. Francis. As the shrine was commissioned by the Roman church, its interior is painted in the Roman tradition. The identities of the artists at work in this church are for the most part not known but at least one team of artists came from Rome. Owing to the similarity of the work in San Francesco to that of Florentine artist Giotto, he was traditionally credited with some of the frescoes, although most scholars no longer believe he was involved.

Giotto's work in the Arena Chapel (also known as the Scrovegni Chapel) at Padua strongly shows the influence of stylized Roman naturalism in a newly individualized style which would come to characterize the work of Florentine Renaissance artists.

From 1308 Cavallini worked in Naples at the court of King Charles II of Anjou, notably in the churches of San Domenico Maggiore (1308) and Santa Maria Donnaregina (1317), together with his fellow Roman Filippo Rusuti. He returned to Rome before 1325, beginning the external decoration of the Basilica di San Paolo fuori le Mura in 1321, with a series of Byzantine-style mosaics.

Cavallini's pupils included Giovanni di Bartolommeo.


His works include:

The apse paintings at San Giorgio al Velabro, Rome, have been attributed to him on the basis of stylistic similarity to the Trastevere paintings.

The apse mosaic of the San Crisogono church in the Trastevere district, depicting the Mary with Sts. Sebastian and Chrysogonos, is also attributed to Cavallini.


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