(b Castagno, nr. Florence, c.1420; bur. Florence, 19 Aug. 1457). One of the most powerful Florentine painters in the generation after Masaccio. Nothing is known of his training, and the first recorded episode in his career dates from 1440, when he painted frescos at the Palazzo del Podestà depicting rebels against Cosimo de' Medici who were sentenced to be hanged by the heels, earning him the sobriquet ‘Andreino degli Impiccati’ (Little Andrew of the hanged men).
These have been destroyed, and Castagno's earliest known surviving works are frescos in the church of S. Zaccaria in Venice (1442). By 1444 he was back in Florence, designing a stained-glass window for the cathedral, and soon after he began his greatest work, a series of frescos on Christ's Passion for the monastery of S. Apollonia (now a Castagno museum), dominated by one of the most celebrated of all portrayals of the Last Supper (1447). In their emotional vigour and sinewy realism these paintings have been regarded as the pictorial equivalent of the sculpture of Donatello, but they also have something of Masaccio's monumentality. Castagno's other noteworthy works in Florence include a frescoed equestrian portrait in the cathedral (Niccolò da Tolentino, 1455–6), a pendant to Uccello's earlier Sir John Hawkwood; and two extraordinarily intense altar frescos for SS. Annunziata (c.1455): St Julian Receiving Absolution from Christ and The Trinity Appearing to Sts Jerome, Paula, and Eustochium. Vasari wrote that Castagno murdered his friend Domenico Veneziano, and it was not until the 19th century that it was discovered that Castagno had died young of the plague and that Domenico had, in fact, outlived him by four years. The story, however, makes it easy to believe that the intensity of his work reflected a fierce temperament.
Text Source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)