Verrocchio: Paintings & Sculptures

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Explore the life and works of the Italian artist Andrea del Verrocchio and test your understanding about the Italian Renaissance, the masterpieces of Verrocchio and the history of Western art.

True Eyes

Andrea del Verrocchio (c. 1435-1488) was a painter, sculptor and goldsmith in Florence, Italy. He was born Andrea di Michele di Francesco de'Cioni, but became so respected that he was given the nickname 'Verrocchio', which literally means 'true eyes', implying that his artistic eye was always perfect. Verrocchio was working at a time when Florence was the center of the Italian Renaissance, a period from roughly 1300-1600 when new wealth in Europe led to massive devotion to the arts.

Andrea del Verrocchio

Life and Workshop

Little is known about Verrocchio's early life, but we do know that he held an apprenticeship as a goldsmith and eventually joined the Guild of St. Luke. A guild was an association of professionals, in this case painters and artists, who trained apprentices into masters and helped support each other professionally. While he was a master with the Guild of St. Luke, Verrocchio mentored several apprentices who would become important artists in their own right, including Lorenzo di Credi, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Francesco Botticini, Pietro Perugino, and Leonardo da Vinci.

Verrocchio and his pupils fell under the patronage of Lorenzo de' Medici. The Medici were the most powerful family in Florence, and due to their banking business, one of the richest in Europe. The Medici, like other wealthy families, displayed their wealth by commissioning lots of art in public spaces and churches. Some of the most important artists in history were hired by the Medici, who topped all other families in the amount of art they commissioned.

Sculpture of Lorenzo de Medici by Verrocchio

Near the end of his life, Verrocchio moved to Venice and opened a new workshop as a sculptor, leaving the Florence guild in the hands of a former student, Lorenzo di Credi. Verrocchio died in Venice in 1488.


Despite Verrochhio's popularity and importance, historians can't prove that many surviving paintings are actually his work. It was not until much later that it became common for artists to sign their work. A good example of Verrocchio's painting style, and the difficulty in identifying an artist, is the Baptism of Christ, painted around 1474-75.

Baptism of Christ by Verrocchio with his student Leonardo da Vinci

This painting is typical of the Renaissance style. It is based on a geometric model for artistic harmony; note how the figures create a general triangular shape. In a typical workshop, the master completed parts of the painting, and his students finished the rest. In this case, Leonardo da Vinci is responsible for parts of the figures and background. This is one of the reasons it is sometimes difficult to prove which paintings were Verrocchio's. His students, like da Vinci, became so famous for their own styles that it is hard to know when they were painting on their own and when they were painting with their master.


Verrocchio was probably more well-known as a sculptor than painter, and is credited with several pieces. Some of these include the crypt for Cosimo de' Medici, the golden ball for the top of the famous dome on the Florence Cathedral, and a bronze statue of a young David.

Verrocchio's most famous masterpiece, however, is a bronze statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni. Colleoni was a Captain General of the Republic of Venice. When he died in 1475, he left a substantial amount of money to the city on the condition that he receive a magnificent statue. The city held a contest for artists, and in 1483 Verrocchio was awarded the commission. Verrocchio died in 1488, before the statue was finished, but he was able to finish the final clay model ready to be cast in bronze.

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