The eclipsing of Bertoldo’s legacy was intensified by his death in 1491 and the death of his patron Lorenzo months later. In the 16th century, Giorgio Vasari wrote the foundational text of Italian art history—Lives of the Artists (1550)—and left Bertoldo out of his manuscript almost entirely, having everlasting effects on Bertoldo’s reputation. “When you have Michelangelo himself erasing Bertoldo, and when you have a founding art historian (especially an Italian one) negating Bertoldo’s role, coupled with the exile and fall of the Medici. It didn’t create a good environment for Bertoldo’s artwork,” Noelle explained.
Yet, Bertoldo’s influence has lived on in the works of others, even the students who wanted to consign his name to oblivion. “[Bertoldo] was ingenious, creative, inventive, and also historically important—he wasn’t just a footnote to three major figures, but he was a major figure himself,” Noelle said. The Frick exhibition finally allows the forgotten Renaissance master to enter the spotlight.