Known also as Pietro da Cortona
, Pietro Berrettini was born in Cortona on November 1st 1596. After studying under his uncle, Filippo Berrettini, Pietro went to Florence to learn in the workshop of Andrea Commodi.
At the age of 15 he left Florence to study in Rome under the Florentine painter Baccio Ciarpi, where he was able to study the works of Raphael, Michelangelo and Polidoro, as well as acquaint himself with fine examples of Classical art, such as the relief work on the Column of Trajan.
Although still very young, Berrettini attracted the attention of Cardinal Sacchetti, who became his protector and for whom he completed his first commissions: The Battle of Alexander and The Rape of the Sabine Women.
Soon after entering the service of Cardinal Sacchetti, Pietro da Cortona received a commission from Pope Urban VIII to decorate a chapel in the church of Santa Bibiana. The success of this commission was such that Berrettini immediately received the commission that has come to be considered his greatest masterpiece – the decoration of the ceiling of the main hall in Palazzo Barberini, which is an allegorical representation of the history of the Barberini family. At the same time, Berrettini also completed some mosaics for the dome of St Peter’s.
After travelling through Lombardy, with a stop in Venice, Pietro da Cortona returned to Florence where he was employed by the Grand Duke Ferdinand II to decorate Palazzo Pitti. After completing a number of important frescoes, he left the work incomplete after quarrelling with a jealous rival. The commission was finished by his disciple Ciro Ferri.
Back in Rome, Pietro da Cortona received a number of important commissions, which gained him both fame and riches. Pope Alexander VII promoted him to the rank of Chevalier of the Order of the Gilded Cylindrical Tooth. Among his students there were Francesco Romanelli, Ferri, Testa, Giordano and Borgognone.
Berrettini died in Rome on May 16th 1669 and is buried in the church he designed, San Martino, and to which he bequeathed conspicuous sums of money.