The Healing Colors of Andrea del Sarto’s Gambassi Altarpiece

Document Type


Presentation Date


Conference Name

23rd International Conference of Europeanists

Conference Location

Philadelphia, PA


Andrea del Sarto, a Florentine painter of considerable talent, produced his Gambassi Altarpiece (1527-1528) as a response to a particularly vicious outbreak of plague. This paper describes the innovative nature of that response. I argue that Andrea’s colore—that is, his glittering treatment of light, color, and atmosphere—engages with sophisticated discussions of Renaissance art theory, with longstanding medical beliefs regarding the spread of contagion, as well as with ancient traditions of theological inquiry concerning spiritual renewal and healing. It my contention that, when considered within the context of sixteenth-century devotional practices, Andrea’s painting—his colore, in particular—offers spectators special reassurances that, in turn, resonate with the way Europeanists are coming to discuss the idea of “resilience” today. In this sense, my paper not only speaks to pressing and current concerns among scholars in the Early Modern field. It also has exciting implications for the study of Europe’s artistic and religious histories, broadly conceived.


Classical Archaeology and Art History | Fine Arts

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