“Andrea del Sarto” is a meandering poem of 267 lines in blank verse, broken unevenly into three stanzas of 243, 23, and 1 line(s). The title identifies the subject of the poem, Andrea del Sarto, a distinguished artist of the Florentine School of painting. The poem is written in the first person, the speaker being Andrea, not Robert Browning. Andrea, conversing with his silent wife, Lucrezia, reflects on his life and art, thereby dramatically revealing his moral and aesthetic failure.
The poem begins with Andrea’s placative request to Lucrezia to sit with him and not “quarrel any more.” The failure of the marriage quickly becomes evident as Andrea acknowledges that her physical presence affords no guarantee of intimacy or rapport. His wife’s consent to sit is rewarded with a promise that he will accede to her wishes, permitting Lucrezia’s friends to dictate the circumference and price of his art. His most persuasive ploy for the pleasure of her company—even for a few evening hours—is his pledge to “shut the money” from his work in her hand.
As Andrea muses over the state of his life and his art, detailing his experiences and implying his dreams, he becomes an unconscious study in the complexity of failure: an artist possessing an uncommon aptitude for perfection in execution, but lacking the personal character traits to achieve success. Andrea views in all that he has touched—his life, his marriage, and his paintings—a “common greyness.” He gropes desultorily for the cause of this diminution of his promise.
(The entire section is 646 words.)