in full Luca d’Egidio di Ventura de’ Signorelli, also called
Luca da Cortona (born 1445/50, Cortona, Republic of
Florence—died Oct. 16, 1523, Cortona), Renaissance painter,
best known for his nudes and for his novel compositional
It is likely that Signorelli was a pupil of Piero della
Francesca in the 1460s. The first certain surviving work by
him, a fragmentary fresco (1474) now in the museum at Città
di Castello, shows a strong influence from Piero. His first
signed work was a processional banner with a Madonna on one
side and a Flagellation on the other; these hang in the
Brera, Milan, as separate pictures. They still show links
with the style of Piero, but the dominant influence is that
of Florence and especially the scientific naturalism of the
Pollaiuolo brothers, which suggests that Signorelli visited
Florence in the 1470s. In 1479 he was elected to the Council
of 18 in his native Cortona, and for the rest of his life he
was active in politics.
About 1483 he went to Rome, where the “Testament of
Moses” fresco in the Sistine Chapel is unanimously
attributed to him. By that date his style had become fixed,
his interest in dramatic action and the expression of great
muscular effort marking him as an essentially Florentine
naturalist. The S. Onofrio altarpiece (1484) for Perugia
cathedral shows the same qualities. Between 1497 and 1498 he
was at work on a fresco cycle of scenes from the life of St.
Benedict in the monastery at Monteoliveto Maggiore, near
His masterpiece, the frescoes of “The End of the World”
and the “Last Judgment” (1499–1502), is in the chapel of S.
Brizio in Orvieto cathedral. Those frescoes, which greatly
influenced Michelangelo, are crowded with powerful nudes
painted in many postures that accentuate their musculature.
Signorelli had little sense of colour, but here his greenish
and purple devils add to the horror induced by the strained
poses and the anatomical details in the decayed bodies.
When commissions in Rome and Florence became infrequent,
Signorelli returned to his less sophisticated Umbrian
clientele. Most of his later works betray the hands of his