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Knights of the Art

Andrea Del Sarto
Nowhere in Florence could a more honest man or a better worker be found than Agnolo
the tailor. True, there were once evil tales whispered about him when he first opened his
shop in the little street. It was said that he was no Italian, but a foreigner who had been
obliged to flee from his own land because of a quarrel he had had with one of his
customers. People shook their heads and talked mysteriously of how the tailor's scissors
had been used as a deadly weapon in the fight. But ere long these stories died away, and
the tailor, with his wife Constanza, lived a happy, busy life, and brought up their six
children carefully and well.
Now out of those six children five were just the ordinary commonplace little ones such as
one would expect to meet in a tailor's household, but the sixth was like the ugly duckling
in the fairy tale--a little, strange bird, unlike all the rest, who learned to swim far away
and soon left the old commonplace home behind him.
The boy's name was Andrea. He was such a quick, sharp little boy that he was sent very
early to school, and had learned to read and write before he was seven years old. As that
was considered quite enough education, his father then took him away from school and
put him to work with a goldsmith.
It is early days to begin work at seven years old, but Andrea thought it was quite as good
as play. He was always perfectly happy if he could have a pencil and paper, and his
drawings and designs were really so wonderfully good that his master grew to be quite
proud of the child and showed the work to all his customers.
Next door to the goldsmith's shop there lived an old artist called Barile, who began to
take a great interest in little Andrea. Barile was not a great painter, but still there was
much that he could teach the boy, and he was anxious to have him as a pupil. So it was
arranged that Andrea should enter the studio and learn to be an artist instead of a
goldsmith.
For three years the boy worked steadily with his new master, but by that time Barile saw
that better teaching was needed than he could give. So after much thought the old man
went to the great Florentine artist Piero di Cosimo, and asked him if he would agree to
receive Andrea as his pupil. `You will find the boy no trouble,' he urged. `He has
wonderful talent, and already he has learnt to mix his colours so marvellously that to my
mind there is no artist in Florence who knows more about colour than little Andrea'
Cosimo shook his head in unbelief. The boy was but a child, and this praise seemed
absurd. However, the drawings were certainly extraordinary, and he was glad to receive
so clever a pupil.
 
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