Andrea del Sarto (poem)

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"Andrea del Sarto (Called "The Faultless Painter")" is a poem by Robert Browning (1812-1889) published in his 1855 poetry collection, Men and Women. The poem is a dramatic monologue, a form of poetry for which Browning is famous.


Andrea del Sarto was a Renaissance painter who was regarded highly by his contemporaries because of his technical skill. Michelangelo was especially fond of Del Sarto's work, and it was he who introduced Giorgio Vasari to Del Sarto's studio. Vasari, however, was highly critical of his teacher, alleging that, though having all the prerequisites of a great artist, he lacked ambition and that divine fire of inspiration which animated the works of his more famous contemporaries, like Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael. This was and is the most common critique of Del Sarto's work. The judgement that while he had great technical skill, his paintings lacked "soul" is mentioned in this poem. Browning links this shortcoming with several other issues, principally Sarto's marriage to an unfaithful wife, Lucrezia del Fede, whose constant demands for money for her family and lovers led him to neglect his own parents and misappropriate money given him by Francois I of France. She is the interlocutor of this dramatic monologue.

The poem is the source of one of Browning's most famous quotations,
Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what's a heaven for?