Pietro Berretini

Pietro Berretini  was born 1596, at Cortona, in Italy. He is called Pietro Da Cortona, from the place of his birth. Even when a child, he evinced uncommon genius for painting; but he appeared likely to remain in obscurity and ignorance, as the extreme poverty of his situation precluded him from the usual means of improving natural talent. He struggled, however, with his difficulties, and ultimately overcame every obstacle which opposed him.

When twelve years old, he went, alone and on foot, to Florence, the seat of the fine arts, possessed of no money, and, in fact, completely without resources of any kind. Notwithstanding this gloomy aspect of affairs, he did not lose his courage, but still persevered in a resolution he had thus early formed, to become "an eminent painter." Pietro knew of no person to whom he could apply for assistance in Florence, excepting a poor boy from Cortona, who was then a scullion in the kitchen of Cardinal Sachetti. Pietro sought him out; his little countryman welcomed him very kindly, shared with him his humble meal, offered him the half of his little bed as a lodging, and promised to supply him with food from the spare meat of his kitchen.

Thus provided with the necessaries of life, Pietro applied himself with indefatigable diligence to the art to which he had devoted himself, and soon made such progress in it, as, in his own opinion, amply recompensed him for all the toil, privation and difficulties he had undergone. It was interesting to observe this poor, destitute child, without a friend to guide his conduct or direct his studies, devoting himself with such unceasing assiduity to his own improvement. His little friend, the scullion, did not relax in kindness and generosity towards him; for all that he possessed he shared with Pietro, and the latter, in return, brought him all the drawings he made, and with these he adorned the walls of the little garret in which they slept.

Pietro was in the habit of wandering to a distance from Florence, to take views of the beautiful scenery in the environs of that city. When night overtook him unawares, which was often the case, he very contentedly slept under the shelter of a tree, and arose as soon as daylight dawned to renew his employment. During his absence, on one of these excursions, some of his pictures accidentally fell into the hands of Cardinal Sachetti, who, struck with the merit that distinguished them, inquired by what artist they were executed. He was not a little astonished to hear that they were the performances of a poor child, who had, for more than two years, been supported by the bounty of one of his kitchen boys. The cardinal desired to see Pietro; and when the young artist was brought before him, he received him in a kind manner, assigned him a pension and placed him as a scholar under one of the best painters of Rome.

Pietro afterwards became a very eminent painter, and made the most grateful returns to his friend, the scullion, for the kindness he had shown him in poverty and wretchedness. He spent the latter part of his life at Rome, where he enjoyed the patronage of successive pontiffs, and was made a knight by Pope Alexander III. He was an architect as well as a painter, and designed the church of Saint Martin, at Rome, where he was buried, and to which he bequeathed a hundred thousand crowns. He died 1669, full of wealth and honors. His works display admirable talents, and his history affords a striking example of native genius, overcoming all obstacles, and hewing its way to success in that pursuit for which nature had seemed to create it.