Volume I | Cimabue to Agnolo Gaddi
Volume II | Berna to Michelozzo Michelozzi
Volume III | Filarete And Simone To Mantegna
Volume IV | Filippino Lippi To Domenico Puligo
Volume V | Andrea Da Fiesole to Lorenzo Lotto
Volume VI | Fra Giocondo To Niccolò Soggi
Volume VII | Tribolo to Il Sodoma
Volume VIII | Bastiano to Taddeo Zucchero
Volume IX | Michelagnolo To The Flemings
Volume X | Bronzino to Vasari | General Index
Philip Lee Warner, Publisher To The Medici Society, Limited. 7 Grafton St. London, W. 1912-14
|Andrea da Fiesole [Andrea Ferrucci], and Others||1|
|Vincenzio da San Gimignano [Vincenzio Tamagni], and Timoteo da Urbino [Timoteo della Vite]||9|
|Andrea dal Monte Sansovino [Andrea Contucci]||19|
|Benedetto da Rovezzano||33|
|Baccio da Montelupo, and Raffaello his son||39|
|Lorenzo di Credi||47|
|Lorenzetto and Boccaccino||53|
|Giovan Francesco Penni [called Il Fattore], and Pellegrino da Modena||75|
|Andrea del Sarto||83|
|Madonna Properzia de' Rossi||121|
|Alfonso Lombardi, Michelagnolo da Siena, Girolamo Santa Croce, and Dosso and Battista Dossi||129|
|Giovanni Antonio Licinio of Pordenone, and Others||143|
|Giovanni Antonio Sogliani||157|
|Girolamo da Treviso||167|
|Polidoro da Caravaggio and Maturino||173|
|[Pg vi] Il Rosso||187|
|Bartolommeo da Bagnacavallo, and Others||205|
|Morto da Feltro and Andrea di Cosimo Feltrini||225|
|Francesco Mazzuoli [Parmigiano]||241|
|Jacopo Palma [Palma Vecchio] and Lorenzo Lotto||257|
|Index of Names||267|
|Timoteo da Urbino (Timoteo della Vite)||A Muse||Florence: Corsini Gallery||10|
|Lorenzo di Credi||Venus||Florence: Uffizi, 3452||48|
|Bernardino del Lupino (Luini)||S. Catharine borne to her Tomb by Angels||Milan: Brera, 288||54|
|Andrea del Sarto||Madonna dell' Arpie||Florence: Uffizi, 1112||94|
|Dosso Dossi||A Nymph with a Satyr||Florence: Pitti, 147||140|
|Franciabigio (Francia)||Portrait of a Man||Vienna: Prince Liechtenstein||222|
|Lorenzo Lotto||The Triumph of Chastity||Rome: Rospigliosi Gallery||258|
|Jacopo Palma (Palma Vecchio)||S. Barbara||Venice: S. Maria Formosa||260|
|Rondinello (Niccolò Rondinelli)||Madonna and Child||Paris: Louvre, 1159||264|
|Andrea da Fiesole (Andrea Ferrucci)||Font||Pistoia: Duomo||6|
|Silvio Cosini (Silvio da Fiesole)||Tomb of Raffaele Maffei||Volterra: S. Lino||8|
|Vincenzio da San Gimignano (Vincenzio Tamagni)||The Birth of the Virgin||San Gimignano: S. Agostino, Cappella del S. Sacramento||12|
|Timoteo da Urbino (Timoteo della Vite)||Madonna and Saints, with a Child Angel||Milan: Brera, 508||12|
|Timoteo da Urbino (Timoteo della Vite)||The Magdalene||Bologna: Accademia, 204||16|
|Andrea dal Monte Sansovino (Andrea Contucci)||Altar-piece||Florence: S. Spirito||22|
|[Pg viii] Andrea dal Monte Sansovino (Andrea Contucci)||Tomb of Cardinal Ascanio Sforza||Rome: S. Maria del Popolo||24|
|Andrea dal Monte Sansovino (Andrea Contucci)||The Madonna and Child, with S. Anne||Rome: S. Agostino||26|
|Benedetto da Rovezzano||Tomb of Piero Soderini||Florence: S. Maria del Carmine||38|
|Baccio da Montelupo||S. John the Evangelist||Florence: Or San Michele||42|
|Agostino Busti (Il Bambaja)||Detail from the Tomb: Head of Gaston de Foix||Milan: Brera||44|
|Raffaello da Montelupo||S. Damiano||Florence: New Sacristy of S. Lorenzo||44|
|Lorenzo di Credi||Andrea Verrocchio||Florence: Uffizi, 1163||50|
|Lorenzo di Credi||Madonna and Child, with Saints||Paris: Louvre, 1263||52|
|Lorenzo di Credi||The Nativity||Florence: Accademia, 92||52|
|Lorenzetto||Elijah||Rome: S. Maria del Popolo, Chigi Chapel||56|
|Lorenzetto||S. Peter||Rome: Ponte S. Angelo||56|
|Boccaccino||Madonna and Child, with Saints||Rome: Doria Gallery, 125||58|
|Bernardino del Lupino (Luini)||The Marriage of the Virgin||Saronno: Santuario della Beata Vergine||60|
|Baldassarre Peruzzi||Cupola of the Ponzetti Chapel||Rome: S. Maria della Pace||64|
|Baldassarre Peruzzi||Palazzo della Farnesina||Rome||66|
|Baldassarre Peruzzi||Courtyard of Palazzo Massimi||Rome||70|
|Giovanni Francesco Penni (Il Fattore)||The Baptism of Constantine||Rome: The Vatican||78|
|Gaudenzio Milanese (Gaudenzio Ferrari)||The Last Supper||Milan: S. Maria della Passione||80|
|Andrea del Sarto||"Noli Me Tangere"||Florence: Uffizi, 93||86|
|Andrea del Sarto||The Last Supper||Florence: S. Salvi||88|
|Andrea del Sarto||The Arrival of the Magi||Florence: SS. Annunziata||90|
|Andrea del Sarto||Charity||Paris: Louvre, 1514||98|
|Andrea del Sarto||Cæsar receiving the Tribute of Egypt||Florence: Poggio a Caiano||104|
|Andrea del Sarto||Portrait of the Artist||Florence: Uffizi, 280||112|
|Madonna Properzia de' Rossi||Two Angels (with The Assumption of the Virgin, after Tribolo)||Bologna: S. Petronio||126|
|Alfonso Lombardi||The Death of the Virgin||Bologna: S. Maria della Vita||134|
|[Pg ix] Michelagnolo da Siena||Tomb of Adrian VI||Rome: S. Maria dell' Anima||136|
|Girolamo Santa Croce||Madonna and Child, with SS. Peter and John||Naples: Monte Oliveto||138|
|Dosso Dossi||Madonna and Child, with SS. George and Michael||Modena: Pinacoteca, 437||140|
|Giovanni Antonio Licinio of Pordenone||The Disputation of S. Catharine||Piacenza: S. Maria di Campagna||150|
|Giovanni Antonio Licinio of Pordenone||The Adoration of the Magi||Treviso: Duomo||152|
|Giovanni Antonio Sogliani||The Legend of S. Dominic||Florence: S. Marco||162|
|Il Rosso||Madonna and Child, with Saints||Florence: Uffizi, 47||190|
|Il Rosso||The Transfiguration||Città di Castello: Duomo||198|
|Bartolommeo da Bagnacavallo||The Holy Family, with Saints||Bologna: Accademia, 133||208|
|Amico of Bologna (Amico Aspertini)||The Adoration||Bologna: Pinacoteca, 297||210|
|Innocenzio da Imola||The Marriage of S. Catharine||Bologna: S. Giacomo Maggiore||214|
|Franciabigio (Francia)||The Marriage of the Virgin||Florence: SS. Annunziata||218|
|Francesco Mazzuoli (Parmigiano)||The Marriage of S. Catharine||Parma: Gallery, 192||246|
|Francesco Mazzuoli (Parmigiano)||Madonna and Child, with Saints||Bologna: Accademia, 116||250|
|Jacopo Palma (Palma Vecchio)||S. Sebastian||Venice: S. Maria Formosa||260|
|Lorenzo Lotto||The Glorification of S. Nicholas||Venice: S. Maria del Carmine||262|
|Lorenzo Lotto||Andrea Odoni||Hampton Court Palace||262|
|Rondinello (Niccolò Rondinelli)||Madonna and Child, with Saints||Ravenna: Accademia||264|
|Francesco da Cotignola||The Adoration of the Shepherds||Ravenna: Accademia||266|
P. 151, l. 13, Vicenza is an error of the Italian text for Piacenza, the church referred to being in the latter town
Seeing that it is no less necessary for sculptors to have mastery over their carving-tools than it is for him who practises painting to be able to handle colours, it therefore happens that many who work very well in clay prove to be unable to carry their labours to any sort of perfection in marble; and some, on the contrary, work very well in marble, without having any more knowledge of design than a certain instinct for a good manner, I know not what, that they have in their minds, derived from the imitation of certain things which please their judgment, and which their imagination absorbs and proceeds to use for its own purposes. And it is almost a marvel to see the manner in which some sculptors, without in any way knowing how to draw on paper, nevertheless bring their works to a fine and praiseworthy completion with their chisels. This was seen in Andrea, a sculptor of Fiesole, the son of Piero di Marco Ferrucci, who learnt the rudiments of sculpture in his earliest boyhood from Francesco di Simone Ferrucci, another sculptor of Fiesole. And although at the beginning he learnt only to carve foliage, yet little by little he became so well practised in his work that it was not long before he set himself to making figures; insomuch that, having a swift and resolute hand, he executed his works in marble rather with a certain judgment and skill derived from nature than with any knowledge of design. Nevertheless, he afterwards gave a little more attention to art, when, in the flower of his youth, he followed Michele [Pg 4] Maini, likewise a sculptor of Fiesole; which Michele made the S. Sebastian of marble in the Minerva at Rome, which was so much praised in those days.
Andrea, then, having been summoned to work at Imola, built a chapel of grey-stone, which was much extolled, in the Innocenti in that city. After that work, he went to Naples at the invitation of Antonio di Giorgio of Settignano, a very eminent engineer, and architect to King Ferrante, with whom Antonio was in such credit, that he had charge not only of all the buildings in that kingdom, but also of all the most important affairs of State. On arriving in Naples, Andrea was set to work, and he executed many things for that King in the Castello di San Martino and in other parts of that city. Now Antonio died; and after the King had caused him to be buried with obsequies suited rather to a royal person than to an architect, and with twenty pairs of mourners following him to the grave, Andrea, recognizing that this was no country for him, departed from Naples and made his way back to Rome, where he stayed for some time, attending to the studies of his art, and also to some work.
Afterwards, having returned to Tuscany, he built the marble chapel containing the baptismal font in the Church of S. Jacopo at Pistoia, and with much diligence executed the basin of that font, with all its ornamentation. And on the main wall of the chapel he made two lifesize figures in half-relief—namely, S. John baptizing Christ, a work executed very well and with a beautiful manner. At the same time he made some other little works, of which there is no need to make mention. I must say, indeed, that although these things were wrought by Andrea rather with the skill of his hand than with art, yet there may be perceived in them a boldness and an excellence of taste worthy of great praise. And, in truth, if such craftsmen had a thorough knowledge of design united to their practised skill and judgment, they would vanquish in excellence those who, drawing perfectly, only hack the marble when they set themselves to work it, and toil at it painfully with a sorry result, through not having practice and not knowing how to handle the tools with the skill that is necessary.
After these works, Andrea executed a marble panel that was placed [Pg 5] exactly between the two flights of steps that ascend to the upper choir in the Church of the Vescovado at Fiesole; in which panel he made three figures in the round and some scenes in low-relief. And for S. Girolamo, at Fiesole, he made the little marble panel that is built into the middle of the church. Having come into repute by reason of the fame of these works, Andrea was commissioned by the Wardens of Works of S. Maria del Fiore, at the time when Cardinal Giulio de' Medici was governing Florence, to make a statue of an Apostle four braccia in height; at that time, I mean, when four other similar statues were allotted at one and the same moment to four other masters—one to Benedetto da Maiano, another to Jacopo Sansovino, a third to Baccio Bandinelli, and the fourth to Michelagnolo Buonarroti; which statues were eventually to be twelve in number, and were to be placed in that part of that magnificent temple where there are the Apostles painted by the hand of Lorenzo di Bicci. Andrea, then, executed his rather with fine skill and judgment than with design; and he acquired thereby, if not as much praise as the others, at least the name of a good and practised master. Wherefore he was almost continually employed ever afterwards by the Wardens of Works of that church; and he made the head of Marsilius Ficinus that is to be seen therein, within the door that leads to the chapter-house. He made, also, a marble fountain that was sent to the King of Hungary, which brought him great honour; and by his hand was a marble tomb that was sent, likewise, to Strigonia, a city of Hungary. In this tomb was a Madonna, very well executed, with other figures; and in it was afterwards laid to rest the body of the Cardinal of Strigonia. To Volterra Andrea sent two Angels of marble in the round; and for Marco del Nero, a Florentine, he made a lifesize Crucifix of wood, which is now in the Church of S. Felicita at Florence. He made a smaller one for the Company of the Assumption in Fiesole. Andrea also delighted in architecture, and he was the master of Mangone, the stonecutter and architect, who afterwards erected many palaces and other buildings in Rome in a passing good manner.
In the end, having grown old, Andrea gave his attention only to mason's work, like one who, being a modest and worthy person, loved a [Pg 6] quiet life more than anything else. He received from Madonna Antonia Vespucci the commission for a tomb for her husband, Messer Antonio Strozzi; but since he could not work much himself, the two Angels were made for him by Maso Boscoli of Fiesole, his disciple, who afterwards executed many works in Rome and elsewhere, and the Madonna was made by Silvio Cosini of Fiesole, although it was not set into place immediately after it was finished, which was in the year 1522, because Andrea died, and was buried by the Company of the Scalzo in the Church of the Servi.
Silvio, when the said Madonna was set into place and the tomb of the Strozzi completely finished, pursued the art of sculpture with extraordinary zeal; wherefore he afterwards executed many works in a graceful and beautiful manner, and surpassed a host of other masters, above all in the bizarre fancy of his grotesques, as may be seen in the sacristy of Michelagnolo Buonarroti, from some carved marble capitals over the pilasters of the tombs, with some little masks so well hollowed out that there is nothing better to be seen. In the same place he made some friezes with very beautiful masks in the act of crying out; wherefore Buonarroti, seeing the genius and skill of Silvio, caused him to begin certain trophies to complete those tombs, but they remained unfinished, with other things, by reason of the siege of Florence. Silvio executed a tomb for the Minerbetti in their chapel in the tramezzo of the Church of S. Maria Novella, as well as any man could, since, in addition to the beautiful shape of the sarcophagus, there are carved upon it various shields, helmet-crests, and other fanciful things, and all with as much design as could be desired in such a work. Being at Pisa in the year 1528, Silvio made there an Angel that was wanting over a column on the high-altar of the Duomo, to face the one by Tribolo; and he made it so like the other that it could not be more like even if it were by the same hand. In the Church of Monte Nero, near Livorno, he made a little panel of marble with two figures, for the Frati Ingesuati; and at Volterra he made a tomb for Messer Raffaello da Volterra, a man of great learning, wherein he portrayed him from nature on a sarcophagus of marble, [Pg 7] with some ornaments and figures. Afterwards, while the siege of Florence was going on, Niccolò Capponi, a most honourable citizen, died at Castel Nuovo della Garfagnana on his return from Genoa, where he had been as Ambassador from his Republic to the Emperor; and Silvio was sent in great haste to make a cast of his head, to the end that he might afterwards make one in marble, having already executed a very beautiful one in wax.
Now Silvio lived for some time with all his family in Pisa; and since he belonged to the Company of the Misericordia, which in that city accompanies those condemned to death to the place of execution, there once came into his head, being sacristan at that time, the strangest caprice in the world. One night he took out of the grave the body of one who had been hanged the day before; and, after having dissected it for the purposes of his art, being a whimsical fellow, and perhaps a wizard, and ready to believe in enchantments and suchlike follies, he flayed it completely, and with the skin, prepared after a method that he had been taught, he made a jerkin, which he wore for some time over his shirt, believing that it had some great virtue, without anyone ever knowing of it. But having once been upbraided by a good Father to whom he had confessed the matter, he pulled off the jerkin and laid it to rest in a grave, as the monk had urged him to do. Many other similar stories could be told of this man, but, since they have nothing to do with our history, I will pass them over in silence.
After the death of his first wife in Pisa, Silvio went off to Carrara. There he remained to execute some works, and took another wife, with whom, no long time after, he went to Genoa, where, entering the service of Prince Doria, he made a most beautiful escutcheon of marble over the door of his palace, and many ornaments in stucco all over that palace, after the directions given to him by the painter Perino del Vaga. He made, also, a very beautiful portrait in marble of the Emperor Charles V. But since it was Silvio's habit never to stay long in one place—for he was a wayward person—he grew weary of his prosperity in Genoa, and set out to make his way to France. He departed, therefore, but before arriving at Monsanese he turned back, and, stopping at Milan, he executed [Pg 8] in the Duomo some scenes and figures and many ornaments, with much credit for himself. And there, finally, he died at the age of forty-five. He was a man of fine genius, capricious, very dexterous in any kind of work, and a person who could execute with great diligence anything to which he turned his hand. He delighted in composing sonnets and improvising songs, and in his early youth he gave his attention to arms. If he had concentrated his mind on sculpture and design, he would have had no equal; and, even as he surpassed his master Andrea Ferrucci, so, had he lived, he would have surpassed many others who have enjoyed the name of excellent masters.
There flourished at the same time as Andrea and Silvio another sculptor of Fiesole, called Il Cicilia, who was a person of much skill; and a work by his hand may be seen in the Church of S. Jacopo, in the Campo Corbolini at Florence—namely, the tomb of the Chevalier Messer Luigi Tornabuoni, which is much extolled, particularly because he made therein the escutcheon of that Chevalier, in the form of a horse's head, as if to show, according to the ancient belief, that the shape of shields was originally taken from the head of a horse.
About the same time, also, Antonio da Carrara, a very rare sculptor, made three statues in Palermo for the Duke of Monteleone, a Neapolitan of the house of Pignatella, and Viceroy of Sicily—namely, three figures of Our Lady in different attitudes and manners, which were placed over three altars in the Duomo of Monteleone in Calabria. For the same patron he made some scenes in marble, which are in Palermo. He left behind him a son who is also a sculptor at the present day, and no less excellent than was his father.
Having now to write, after the Life of the sculptor Andrea da Fiesole, the Lives of two excellent painters, Vincenzio da San Gimignano of Tuscany, and Timoteo da Urbino, I propose to speak first of Vincenzio, as the man whose portrait is above, and immediately afterwards of Timoteo, since they lived almost at one and the same time, and were both disciples and friends of Raffaello.
Vincenzio, then, working in company with many others in the Papal Loggie for the gracious Raffaello da Urbino, acquitted himself in such a manner that he was much extolled by Raffaello and by all the others. Having therefore been set to work in the Borgo, opposite to the Palace of Messer Giovanni Battista dall' Aquila, with great credit to himself he painted on a façade a frieze in terretta, in which he depicted the Nine Muses, with Apollo in the centre, and above them some lions, the device of the Pope, which are held to be very beautiful. Vincenzio showed great diligence in his manner and softness in his colouring, and his figures were very pleasing in aspect; in short, he always strove to imitate the manner of Raffaello da Urbino, as may also be seen in the same Borgo, opposite to the Palace of the Cardinal of Ancona, from the façade of a house that was built by Messer Giovanni Antonio Battiferro of Urbino, who, in consequence of the strait friendship that he had with Raffaello, received from him the design for that façade, and also, through his good offices, many benefits and rich revenues at the Court. In this design, then, [Pg 12] which was afterwards carried into execution by Vincenzio, Raffaello drew, in allusion to the name of the Battiferri, the Cyclopes forging thunderbolts for Jove, and in another part Vulcan making arrows for Cupid, with some most beautiful nudes and other very lovely scenes and statues. The same Vincenzio painted a great number of scenes on a façade in the Piazza di S. Luigi de' Francesi at Rome, such as the Death of Cæsar, a Triumph of Justice, and a battle of horsemen in a frieze, executed with spirit and much diligence; and in this work, close to the roof, between the windows, he painted some Virtues that are very well wrought. In like manner, on the façade of the Epifani, behind the Curia di Pompeo, and near the Campo di Fiore, he painted the Magi following the Star; with an endless number of other works throughout that city, the air and position of which seem to be in great measure the reason that men are inspired to produce marvellous works there. Experience teaches us, indeed, that very often the same man has not the same manner and does not produce work of equal excellence in every place, but makes it better or worse according to the nature of the place.
Vincenzio being in very good repute in Rome, there took place in the year 1527 the ruin and sack of that unhappy city, which had been the mistress of the nations. Whereupon, grieved beyond measure, he returned to his native city of San Gimignano; and there, by reason of the sufferings that he had undergone, and the weakening of his love for art, now that he was away from the air which nourishes men of fine genius and makes them bring forth works of the rarest merit, he painted some things that I will pass over in silence, in order not to veil with them the renown and the great name that he had honourably acquired in Rome. It is enough to point out clearly that violence turns the most lofty intellects roughly aside from their chief goal, and makes them direct their steps into the opposite path; which may also be seen in a companion of Vincenzio, called Schizzone, who executed some works in the Borgo that were highly extolled, and also in the Campo Santo of Rome and in S. Stefano degl' Indiani, and who was likewise caused by the senseless soldiery to turn aside from art and in a short time to [Pg 13] lose his life. Vincenzio died in his native city of San Gimignano, having had but little gladness in his life after his departure from Rome.
Timoteo, a painter of Urbino, was the son of Bartolommeo della Vite, a citizen of good position, and Calliope, the daughter of Maestro Antonio Alberto of Ferrara, a passing good painter in his day, as is shown by his works at Urbino and elsewhere. While Timoteo was still a child, his father dying, he was left to the care of his mother Calliope, with good and happy augury, from the circumstance that Calliope is one of the Nine Muses, and the conformity that exists between poetry and painting. Then, after he had been brought discreetly through his boyhood by his wise mother, and initiated by her into the studies of the simpler arts and likewise of drawing, the young man came into his first knowledge of the world at the very time when the divine Raffaello Sanzio was flourishing. Applying himself in his earliest years to the goldsmith's art, he was summoned by Messer Pier Antonio, his elder brother, who was then studying at Bologna, to that most noble city, to the end that he might follow that art, to which he seemed to be inclined by nature, under the discipline of some good master. While living, then, in Bologna, in which city he stayed no little time, and was much honoured and received by the noble and magnificent Messer Francesco Gombruti into his house with every sort of courtesy, Timoteo associated continually with men of culture and lofty intellect. Wherefore, having become known in a few months as a young man of judgment, and inclined much more to the painter's than to the goldsmith's art, of which he had given proofs in some very well-executed portraits of his friends and of others, it seemed good to his brother, wishing to encourage the young man's natural genius, and also persuaded to this by his friends, to take him away from his files and chisels, and to make him devote himself entirely to the study of drawing. At which he was very content, and applied himself straightway to drawing and to the labours of art, copying and drawing all the best works in that city; and establishing a close intimacy with painters, he set out to such purpose on his new road, that it was a marvel to see the progress that he made from one day to another, and all the more because he learnt with facility the most difficult things without [Pg 14] any particular teaching from any appointed master. And so, becoming enamoured of his profession, and learning many secrets of painting merely by sometimes seeing certain painters of no account making their mixtures and using their brushes, and guided by himself and by the hand of nature, he set himself boldly to colouring, and acquired a very pleasing manner, very similar to that of the new Apelles, his compatriot, although he had seen nothing by his hand save a few works at Bologna. Thereupon, after executing some works on panel and on walls with very good results, guided by his own good intellect and judgment, and believing that in comparison with other painters he had succeeded very well in everything, he pursued the studies of painting with great ardour, and to such purpose, that in course of time he found that he had gained a firm footing in his art, and was held in good repute and vast expectation by all the world.
Having then returned to his own country, now a man twenty-six years of age, he stayed there for some months, giving excellent proofs of his knowledge. Thus he executed, to begin with, the altar-piece of the Madonna for the altar of S. Croce in the Duomo, containing, besides the Virgin, S. Crescenzio and S. Vitale; and there is a little Angel seated on the ground, playing on a viola with a grace truly angelic and a childlike simplicity expressed with art and judgment. Afterwards he painted another altar-piece for the high-altar of the Church of the Trinità, together with a S. Apollonia on the left hand of that altar.
By means of these works and certain others, of which there is no need to make mention, the name and fame of Timoteo spread abroad, and he was invited with great insistence by Raffaello to Rome; whither having gone with the greatest willingness, he was received with that loving kindness that was as peculiar to Raffaello as was his excellence in art. Working, then, with Raffaello, in little more than a year he made a great advance, not only in art, but also in prosperity, for in that time he sent home a good sum of money. While working with his master in the Church of S. Maria della Pace, he made with his own hand and invention the Sibyls that are in the lunettes on the right hand, so much esteemed by all painters. That they are his is maintained by some who [Pg 15] still remember having seen them painted; and we have also testimony in the cartoons which are still to be found in the possession of his successors. On his own account, likewise, he afterwards painted the bier and the dead body contained therein, with the other things, so highly extolled, that are around it, in the Scuola of S. Caterina da Siena; and although certain men of Siena, carried away by love of their own country, attribute these works to others, it may easily be recognized that they are the handiwork of Timoteo, both from the grace and sweetness of the colouring, and from other memorials of himself that he left in that most noble school of excellent painters.
Now, although Timoteo was well and honourably placed in Rome, yet, not being able to endure, as many do, the separation from his own country, and also being invited and urged every moment to come home by the counsels of his friends and by the prayers of his mother, now an old woman, he returned to Urbino, much to the displeasure of Raffaello, who loved him dearly for his good qualities. And not long after, having taken a wife in Urbino at the suggestion of his family, and having become enamoured of his country, in which he saw that he was highly honoured, besides the circumstance, even more important, that he had begun to have children, Timoteo made up his mind firmly never again to consent to go abroad, notwithstanding, as may still be seen from some letters, that he was invited back to Rome by Raffaello. But he did not therefore cease to work, and he made many works in Urbino and in the neighbouring cities. At Forlì he painted a chapel in company with Girolamo Genga, his friend and compatriot; and afterwards he painted entirely with his own hand a panel that was sent to Città di Castello, and likewise another for the people of Cagli. At Castel Durante, also, he executed some works in fresco, which are truly worthy of praise, as are all the other works by his hand, which bear witness that he was a graceful painter in figures, landscapes, and every other field of painting. In Urbino, at the instance of Bishop Arrivabene of Mantua, he painted the Chapel of S. Martino in the Duomo, in company with the same Genga; but the altar-panel and the middle of the chapel are entirely by the hand of Timoteo. For the same church, also, he painted a Magdalene standing, [Pg 16] clothed in a short mantle, and covered below this by her own tresses, which reach to the ground and are so beautiful and natural, that the wind appears to move them; not to mention the divine beauty of the expression of her countenance, which reveals clearly the love that she bore to her Master.
In S. Agata there is another panel by the hand of the same man, with some very good figures. And for S. Bernardino, without that city, he made that work so greatly renowned that is at the right hand upon the altar of the Buonaventuri, gentlemen of Urbino; wherein the Virgin is represented with most beautiful grace as having received the Annunciation, standing with her hands clasped and her face and eyes uplifted to Heaven. Above, in the sky, in the centre of a great circle of light, stands a little Child, with His foot on the Holy Spirit in the form of a Dove, and holding in His left hand a globe symbolizing the dominion of the world, while, with the other hand raised, He gives the benediction; and on the right of the Child is an angel, who is pointing Him out with his finger to the Madonna. Below—that is, on the level of the Madonna, to her right—is the Baptist, clothed in a camel's skin, which is torn on purpose that the nude figure may be seen; and on her left is a S. Sebastian, wholly naked, and bound in a beautiful attitude to a tree, and wrought with such diligence that the figure could not have stronger relief nor be in any part more beautiful.
At the Court of the most illustrious Dukes of Urbino, in a little private study, may be seen an Apollo and two half-nude Muses by his hand, beautiful to a marvel. For the same patrons he executed many pictures, and made some decorations for apartments, which are very beautiful. And afterwards, in company with Genga, he painted some caparisons for horses, which were sent to the King of France, with such beautiful figures of various animals that they appeared to all who beheld them to have life and movement. He made, also, some triumphal arches similar to those of the ancients, on the occasion of the marriage of the most illustrious Duchess Leonora to the Lord Duke Francesco Maria, to whom they gave vast satisfaction, as they did to the whole Court; on which account he was received for many years into the household of that Duke, with an honourable salary.
[Pg 17] Timoteo was a bold draughtsman, and even more notable for the sweetness and charm of his colouring, insomuch that his works could not have been executed with more delicacy or greater diligence. He was a merry fellow, gay and festive by nature, and most acute and witty in his sayings and discourses. He delighted in playing every sort of instrument, and particularly the lyre, to which he sang, improvising upon it with extraordinary grace. He died in the year of our salvation 1524, the fifty-fourth of his life, leaving his native country as much enriched by his name and his fine qualities as it was grieved by his loss. He left in Urbino some unfinished works, which were finished afterwards by others and show by comparison how great were the worth and ability of Timoteo.
In our book are some drawings by his hand, very beautiful and truly worthy of praise, which I received from the most excellent and gentle Messer Giovanni Maria, his son—namely, a pen-sketch for the portrait of the Magnificent Giuliano de' Medici, which Timoteo made when Giuliano was frequenting the Court of Urbino and that most famous academy, a "Noli me tangere," and a S. John the Evangelist sleeping while Christ is praying in the Garden, all very beautiful.
Although Andrea, the son of Domenico Contucci of Monte Sansovino, was born from a poor father, a tiller of the earth, and rose from the condition of shepherd, nevertheless his conceptions were so lofty, his genius so rare, and his mind so ready, both in his works and in his discourses on the difficulties of architecture and perspective, that there was not in his day a better, rarer, or more subtle intellect than his, nor one that was more able than he was to render the greatest doubts clear and lucid; wherefore he well deserved to be held in his own times, by all who were qualified to judge, to be supreme in those professions. Andrea was born, so it is said, in the year 1460; and in his childhood, while looking after his flocks, he would draw on the sand the livelong day, as is also told of Giotto, and copy in clay some of the animals that he was guarding. So one day it happened that a Florentine citizen, who is said to have been Simone Vespucci, at that time Podestà of the Monte, passing by the place where Andrea was looking after his little charges, saw the boy standing all intent on drawing or modelling in clay. Whereupon he called to him, and, having seen what was the boy's bent, and heard whose son he was, he asked for him from Domenico Contucci, who graciously granted his request; and Simone promised to place him in the way of learning design, in order to see what virtue there might be in that inclination of nature, if assisted by continual study.
Having returned to Florence, then, Simone placed him to learn art with Antonio del Pollaiuolo, under whom Andrea made such proficience, that in a few years he became a very good master. In the house of that [Pg 22] Simone, on the Ponte Vecchio, there may still be seen a cartoon executed by him at that time, of Christ being scourged at the Column, drawn with much diligence; and, in addition, two marvellous heads in terra-cotta, copied from ancient medals, one of the Emperor Nero, and the other of the Emperor Galba, which heads served to adorn a chimney-piece; but the Galba is now at Arezzo, in the house of Giorgio Vasari. Afterwards, while still living in Florence, he made an altar-piece in terra-cotta for the Church of S. Agata at Monte Sansovino, with a S. Laurence and some other saints, and little scenes most beautifully executed. And no long time after this he made another like it, containing a very beautiful Assumption of Our Lady, S. Agata, S. Lucia, and S. Romualdo; which altar-piece was afterwards glazed by the Della Robbia family.
Then, pursuing the art of sculpture, he made in his youth for Simone del Pollaiuolo, otherwise called Il Cronaca, two capitals for pilasters in the Sacristy of S. Spirito, which brought him very great fame, and led to his receiving a commission to execute the antechamber that is between the said sacristy and the church; and since the space was very small, Andrea was forced to use great ingenuity. He made, therefore, a structure of grey-stone in the Corinthian Order, with twelve round columns, six on either side; and having laid architrave, frieze, and cornice over these columns, he then raised a barrel-shaped vault, all of the same stone, with a coffer-work surface full of carvings, which was something novel, rich and varied, and much extolled. It is true, indeed, that if the mouldings of that coffer-work ceiling, which serve to divide the square and round panels by which it is adorned, had been contrived so as to fall in a straight line with the columns, with truer proportion and harmony, this work would be wholly perfect in every part; and it would have been an easy thing to do this. But, according to what I once heard from certain old friends of Andrea, he used to defend himself by saying that he had adhered in his vault to the method of the coffering in the Ritonda at Rome, wherein the ribs that radiate from the round window in the centre above, from which that temple gets its light, serve to enclose the square sunk panels containing the rosettes, which diminish little by little, as likewise do the ribs; and for that reason they do not [Pg 23] fall in a straight line with the columns. Andrea used to add that if he who built the Temple of the Ritonda, which is the best designed and proportioned that there is, and made with more harmony than any other, paid no attention to this in a vault of such size and importance, much less should he do so in a coffered ceiling with far smaller panels. Nevertheless many craftsmen, and Michelagnolo in particular, have been of the opinion that the Ritonda was built by three architects, of whom the first carried it as far as the cornice that is above the columns, and the second from the cornice upwards, the part, namely, that contains those windows of more graceful workmanship, for in truth this second part is very different in manner from the part below, since the vaulting was carried out without any relation between the coffering and the straight lines of what is below. The third is believed to have made the portico, which was a very rare work. And for these reasons the masters who practise this art at the present day should not fall into such an error and then make excuses, as did Andrea.
After that work, having received from the family of the Corbinelli the commission for the Chapel of the Sacrament in the same church, he carried it out with much diligence, imitating in the low-reliefs Donato and other excellent craftsmen, and sparing no labour in his desire to do himself credit, as, indeed, he did. In two niches, one on either side of a very beautiful tabernacle, he placed two saints somewhat more than one braccio in height, S. James and S. Matthew, executed with such spirit and excellence, that every sort of merit is revealed in them and not one fault. Equally good, also, are two Angels in the round that are the crowning glory of this work, with the most beautiful draperies—for they are in the act of flying—that are anywhere to be seen; and in the centre is a little naked Christ full of grace. There are also some scenes with little figures in the predella and over the tabernacle, all so well executed that the point of a brush could scarcely do what Andrea did with his chisel. But whosoever wishes to be amazed by the diligence of this extraordinary man should look at the architecture of this work as a whole, for it is so well executed and joined together in its small proportions that it appears to have been chiselled out of one single stone. [Pg 24] Much extolled, also, is a large Pietà of marble that he made in half-relief on the front of the altar, with the Madonna and S. John weeping. Nor could one imagine any more beautiful pieces of casting than are the bronze gratings that enclose that chapel, with their ornaments of marble, and with stags, the device, or rather the arms, of the Corbinelli, which serve as adornments for the bronze candelabra. In short, this work was executed without any sparing of labour, and with all the best considerations that could possibly be imagined.
By these and by other works the name of Andrea spread far and wide, and he was sought for from the elder Lorenzo de' Medici, the Magnificent, in whose garden, as has been related, he had pursued the studies of design, by the King of Portugal; and, being therefore sent to him by Lorenzo, he executed for that King many works of sculpture and of architecture, and in particular a very beautiful palace with four towers, and many other buildings. Part of the palace was painted after designs and cartoons by the hand of Andrea, who drew very well, as may be seen from some drawings by his own hand in our book, finished with a charcoal-point, and some other architectural drawings, showing excellent design. He also made for that King a carved altar of wood, containing some Prophets; and likewise a very beautiful battle-piece in clay, to be afterwards carved in marble, representing the wars that the King waged with the Moors, who were vanquished by him; and no work by the hand of Andrea was ever seen that was more spirited or more terrible than this, what with the movements and various attitudes of the horses, the heaps of dead, and the vehement fury of the soldiers in combat. And he made a figure of S. Mark in marble, which was a very rare work. While in the service of that King, Andrea also gave his attention to some difficult and fantastic architectural works, according to the custom of that country, in order to please the King; of which things I once saw a book at Monte Sansovino in the possession of his heirs, which is now in the hands of Maestro Girolamo Lombardo, who was his disciple, and to whom it fell, as will be related, to finish some works begun by Andrea.
Having been nine years in Portugal, and growing weary of that service, and desirous of seeing his relatives and friends in Tuscany again, [Pg 25] Andrea determined, now that he had put together a good sum of money, to obtain leave from the King and return home. And so, having been granted permission, although not willingly, he returned to Florence, leaving behind him one who should complete such of his works as remained unfinished. After arriving in Florence, he began in the year 1500 a marble group of S. John baptizing Christ, which was to be placed over that door of the Temple of S. Giovanni that faces the Misericordia; but he did not finish it, because he was almost forced to go to Genoa, where he made two figures of marble, Christ, or rather S. John, and a Madonna, which are truly worthy of the highest praise. And those at Florence remained unfinished, and are still to be found at the present day in the Office of Works of the said S. Giovanni.
He was then summoned to Rome by Pope Julius II, and received the commission for two tombs of marble, which were erected in S. Maria del Popolo—one for Cardinal Ascanio Sforza, and the other for the Cardinal of Recanati, a very near relative of the Pope—and these works were wrought so perfectly by Andrea that nothing more could be desired, since they were so well executed and finished, and with such purity, beauty, and grace, that they reveal the true consideration and proportion of art. There may be seen there, also, a Temperance with an hourglass in her hand, which is held to be a thing divine; and, indeed, it does not appear to be a modern work, but ancient and wholly perfect. And although there are other figures there similar to it, yet on account of its attitude and grace it is much the best; not to mention that nothing could be more pleasing and beautiful than the veil that she has around her, which is executed with such delicacy that it is a miracle to behold.
In S. Agostino at Rome, on a pilaster in the middle of the church, he made in marble a S. Anne embracing a Madonna with the Child, a little less than lifesize. This work may be counted as one of the best of modern times, since, even as a lively and wholly natural gladness is seen in the old woman, and a divine beauty in the Madonna, so the figure of the Infant Christ is so well wrought, that no other was ever executed with such delicacy and perfection. Wherefore it well deserved that for many years a succession of sonnets and various other learned compositions [Pg 26] should be attached to it, of which the friars of that place have a book full, which I myself have seen, to my no little marvel. And in truth the world was right in doing this, for the reason that the work can never be praised enough.
The fame of Andrea having thereby grown greater, Leo X, who had resolved that the adornment with wrought marble of the Chamber of the Madonna in S. Maria at Loreto should be carried out, according to the beginning made by Bramante, ordained that Andrea should bring that work to completion. The ornamentation of that Chamber, which Bramante had begun, had at the corners four double projections, which, adorned by pillars with bases and carved capitals, rested on a socle rich with carvings, and two braccia and a half in height; over which socle, between the two aforesaid pillars, he had made a large niche to contain seated figures, and, above each of these niches, a smaller one, which, reaching to the collarino of the capitals of those pillars, left a frieze of the same height as the capitals. Above these were afterwards laid architrave, frieze, and richly carved cornice, which, going right round all the four walls, project over the four corners; and in the middle of each of the larger walls—for the Chamber is greater in length than in breadth—were left two spaces, since there was the same projection in the centre of those walls as there was at the corners; whence the larger niche below, with the smaller one above it, came to be enclosed by a space of five braccia on either side. In this space were two doors, one on either side, through which one entered into the chapel; and above the doors was a space of five braccia between one niche and another, wherein were to be carved scenes in marble. The front wall was the same, but without niches in the centre, and the height of the socle, with the projection, formed an altar, which was set off by the pillars and the niches at the corners. In the same front wall, in the centre, was a space of the same breadth as the spaces at the sides, to contain some scenes in the upper part, while below, the same in height as the spaces of the sides, but beginning immediately above the altar, was a bronze grating opposite to the inner altar, through which it was possible to hear the Mass and to see the inside of the Chamber and the aforesaid altar of the Madonna. [Pg 27] Altogether, then, the spaces and compartments for the scenes were seven: one in front, above the grating, two on each of the longer sides, and two on the upper part—that is to say, behind the altar of the Madonna; and, in addition, there were eight large and eight small niches, with other smaller spaces for the arms and devices of the Pope and of the Church.
Andrea, then, having found the work in this condition, distributed over these spaces, with a rich and beautiful arrangement, scenes from the life of the Madonna. In one of the two side-walls, he began in one part the Nativity of the Madonna, and executed half of it; and it was completely finished afterwards by Baccio Bandinelli. In the other part he began the Marriage of the Virgin, but this also remained unfinished, and after the death of Andrea it was completed as we see it by Raffaello da Montelupo. On the front wall he arranged that there should be made, in two small squares which are on either side of the bronze grating, in one the Visitation and in the other the scene of the Virgin and Joseph going to have themselves enrolled for taxes; which scenes were afterwards executed by Francesco da San Gallo, then a young man. Then, in that part where the greatest space is, Andrea made the Angel Gabriel bringing the Annunciation to the Virgin—which happened in that very chamber which these marbles enclose—with such grace and beauty that there is nothing better to be seen, for he made the Virgin wholly intent on that Salutation, and the Angel, kneeling, appears to be not of marble, but truly celestial, with "Ave Maria" issuing from his mouth. In company with Gabriel are two other Angels, in full-relief and detached from the marble, one of whom is walking after him and the other appears to be flying. Behind a building stand two other Angels, carved out by the chisel in such a way that they seem to be alive. In the air, on a cloud much undercut—nay, almost entirely detached from the marble—are many little boys upholding a God the Father, who is sending down the Holy Spirit by means of a ray of marble, which, descending from Him completely detached, appears quite real; as, likewise, is the Dove upon it, which represents the Holy Spirit. Nor can one describe how great is the beauty and how delicate the carving of a vase filled with flowers, [Pg 28] which was made in this work by the gracious hand of Andrea, who lavished so much excellence on the plumes of the Angels, the hair, the grace of their features and draperies, and, in short, on every other thing, that this divine work cannot be extolled enough. And, in truth, that most holy place, which was the very house and habitation of the Mother of the Son of God, could not obtain from the resources of the world a greater, richer, or more beautiful adornment than that which it received from the architecture of Bramante and the sculpture of Andrea Sansovino; although, even if it were entirely of the most precious gems of the East, it would be little more than nothing in comparison with such merits.
Andrea spent an almost incredible amount of time over this work, and therefore had no time to finish the others that he had begun; for, in addition to those mentioned above, he began in a space on one of the side-walls the Nativity of Jesus Christ, with the Shepherds and four Angels singing; and all these he finished so well that they seem to be wholly alive. But the story of the Magi, which he began above that one, was afterwards finished by Girolamo Lombardo, his disciple, and by others. On the back wall he arranged that two large scenes should be made, one above the other; in one, the Death of Our Lady, with the Apostles bearing her to her burial, four Angels in the air, and many Jews seeking to steal that most holy corpse; and this was finished after Andrea's lifetime by the sculptor Bologna. Below this one, then, he arranged that there should be made a scene of the Miracle of Loreto, showing in what manner that chapel, which was the Chamber of Our Lady, wherein she was born, brought up, and saluted by the Angel, and in which she reared her Son up to the age of twelve and lived ever after His Death, was finally carried by the Angels, first into Sclavonia, afterwards to a forest in the territory of Recanati, and in the end to the place where it is now held in such veneration and continually visited in solemn throng by all the Christian people. This scene, I say, was executed in marble on that wall, according to the arrangement made by Andrea, by the Florentine sculptor Tribolo, as will be related in due place. Andrea likewise blocked out the Prophets for the niches, but did not finish them completely, save one alone, and the others were afterwards finished by [Pg 29] the aforesaid Girolamo Lombardo and by other sculptors, as will be seen in the Lives that are to follow. But with regard to all the works wrought by Andrea in this undertaking, they are the most beautiful and best executed works of sculpture that had ever been made up to that time.
In like manner, the Palace of the Canons of the same church was also carried on by Andrea, after the arrangements made by Bramante at the commission of Pope Leo. But this, also, remained unfinished after the death of Andrea, and the building was continued under Clement VII by Antonio da San Gallo, and then by the architect Giovanni Boccalino, under the patronage of the very reverend Cardinal da Carpi, up to the year 1563. While Andrea was at work on the aforesaid Chapel of the Virgin, there were built the fortifications of Loreto and other works, which were highly extolled by the all-conquering Signor Giovanni de' Medici, with whom Andrea had a very strait friendship, having become first acquainted with him in Rome.
Having four months of holiday in the year for repose while he was working at Loreto, he used to spend that time in agriculture at his native place of Monte Sansovino, enjoying meanwhile a most tranquil rest with his relatives and friends. Living thus at the Monte during the summer, he built there a commodious house for himself and bought much property; and for the Friars of S. Agostino in that place he had a cloister made, which, although small, is very well designed, but also out of the square, since those Fathers insisted on having it built over the old walls. Andrea, however, made the interior rectangular by increasing the thickness of the pilasters at the corners, in order to change it from an ill-proportioned structure into one with good and true measurements. He designed, also, for a Company that had its seat in that cloister, under the title of S. Antonio, a very beautiful door of the Doric Order; and likewise the tramezzo and pulpit of the Church of S. Agostino. He also caused a little chapel to be built for the friars half-way down the hill on the descent to the fountain, without the door that leads to the old Pieve, although they had no wish for it. He made the design for the house of Messer Pietro, a most skilful astrologer, at [Pg 30] Arezzo; and a large figure of terra-cotta for Montepulciano, of King Porsena, which was a rare work, although I have never seen it again since the first time, so that I fear that it may have come to an evil end. And for a German priest, who was his friend, he made a lifesize S. Rocco of terra-cotta, very beautiful; which priest had it placed in the Church of Battifolle, in the district of Arezzo. This was the last piece of sculpture that Andrea executed.
He gave the design, also, for the steps ascending to the Vescovado of Arezzo; and for the Madonna delle Lagrime, in the same city, he made the design of a very beautiful ornament that was to be executed in marble, with four figures, each four braccia high; but this work was carried no farther, on account of the death of our Andrea. For he, having reached the age of sixty-eight, and being a man who would never stay idle, set to work to move some stakes from one place to another at his villa, whereby he caught a chill; and in a few days, worn out by a continuous fever, he died, in the year 1529.
The death of Andrea grieved his native place by reason of the honour that he had brought it, and his sons and the women of his household, who lost both their dearest one and their support. And not long ago Muzio Camillo, one of the three aforesaid sons, who was displaying a most beautiful intellect in the studies of learning and letters, followed him, to the great loss of his family and displeasure of his friends.
Andrea, in addition to his profession of art, was truly a person of much distinction, for he was wise in his discourse, and reasoned most beautifully on every subject. He was prudent and regular in his every action, much the friend of learned men, and a philosopher of great natural gifts. He gave much attention to the study of cosmography, and left to his family a number of drawings and writings on the subject of distances and measurements. He was somewhat small in stature, but robust and beautifully made. His hair was soft and long, his eyes light in colour, his nose aquiline, and his skin pink and white; but he had a slight impediment in his speech.
His disciples were the aforesaid Girolamo Lombardo, the Florentine Simone Cioli, Domenico dal Monte Sansovino (who died soon after him), [Pg 31] and the Florentine Leonardo del Tasso, who made the S. Sebastian of wood over his own tomb in S. Ambrogio at Florence, and the marble panel of the Nuns of S. Chiara. A disciple of Andrea, likewise, was the Florentine Jacopo Sansovino—so called after his master—of whom there will be a long account in the proper place.
Architecture and sculpture, then, are much indebted to Andrea, in that he enriched the one with many rules of measurement and devices for drawing weights, and with a degree of diligence that had not been employed before, and in the other he brought his marble to perfection with marvellous judgment, care, and mastery.
Great, I think, must be the displeasure of those who, having executed some work of genius, yet, when they hope to enjoy the fruits of this in their old age, and to see the beautiful results achieved by other intellects in works similar to their own, and to be able to perceive what perfection there may be in that field of art that they themselves have practised, find themselves robbed by adverse fortune, by time, by a bad habit of body, or by some other cause, of the sight of their eyes; whence they are not able, as they were before, to perceive either the deficiencies or the perfection of men whom they hear of as living and practising their own professions. And even more are they grieved to hear the praises of the new masters, not through envy, but because they are not able to judge, like others, whether that fame be well-deserved or not.
This misfortune happened to Benedetto da Rovezzano, a sculptor of Florence, of whom we are now about to write the Life, to the end that the world may know how able and practised a sculptor he was, and with what diligence he carved marble in strong relief against its ground in the marvellous works that he made. Among the first of many labours that this master executed in Florence, may be numbered a chimney-piece of grey-stone that is in the house of Pier Francesco Borgherini, wherein are capitals, friezes, and many other ornaments, carved by his hand in open-work with great diligence. In the house of Messer Bindo Altoviti, likewise, is a chimney-piece by the same hand, with a lavatory of marble, and some other things executed with much delicacy; but everything in these that has to do with architecture was designed by Jacopo Sansovino, then a young man.
[Pg 36] Next, in the year 1512, Benedetto received the commission for a tomb of marble, with rich ornaments, in the principal chapel of the Carmine in Florence, for Piero Soderini, who had been Gonfalonier in that city; and that work was executed by him with incredible diligence, seeing that, besides foliage, carved emblems of death, and figures, he made therein with basanite, in low-relief, a canopy in imitation of black cloth, with so much grace and such beautiful finish and lustre, that the stone appears to be exquisite black satin rather than basanite. And, to put it in a few words, for all that the hand of Benedetto did in this work there is no praise that would not seem too little.
And since he also gave his attention to architecture, there was restored from the design of Benedetto a house near S. Apostolo in Florence, belonging to Messer Oddo Altoviti, Patron and Prior of that church. There Benedetto made the principal door in marble, and, over the door of the house, the arms of the Altoviti in grey-stone, with the wolf, lean, excoriated, and carved in such strong relief, that it seems to be almost separate from the shield; and some pendant ornaments carved in open-work with such delicacy, that they appear to be not of stone, but of the finest paper. In the same church, above the two chapels of Messer Bindo Altoviti, for which Giorgio Vasari of Arezzo painted the panel-picture of the Conception in oils, Benedetto made a marble tomb for the said Messer Oddo, surrounded by an ornament full of most masterly foliage, with a sarcophagus, likewise very beautiful.
Benedetto also executed, in competition with Jacopo Sansovino and Baccio Bandinelli, as has been related, one of the Apostles, four and a half braccia in height, for S. Maria del Fiore—namely, a S. John the Evangelist, which is a passing good figure, wrought with fine design and skill. This figure is in the Office of Works, in company with the others.
Next, in the year 1515, the chiefs and heads of the Order of Vallombrosa, wishing to transfer the body of S. Giovanni Gualberto from the Abbey of Passignano to the Church of S. Trinità, an abbey of the same Order, in Florence, commissioned Benedetto to make a design, upon which he was to set to work, for a chapel and tomb combined, with a vast number of lifesize figures in the round, which were to be suitably [Pg 37] distributed over that work in some niches separated by pilasters filled with ornaments and friezes and with delicately carved grotesques. And below this whole work there was to be a base one braccio and a half in height, wherein were to be scenes from the life of the said S. Giovanni Gualberto; while endless numbers of other ornaments were to be round the sarcophagus, and as a crown to the work. On this tomb, then, Benedetto, assisted by many carvers, laboured continually for ten years, with vast expense to that Congregation; and he brought the work to completion in their house of Guarlondo, a place near San Salvi, without the Porta alla Croce, where the General of the Order that was having the work executed almost always lived. Benedetto, then, carried out the making of that chapel and tomb in such a manner as amazed Florence; but, as Fate would have it—for even marbles and the finest works of men of excellence are subject to the whims of fortune—after much discord among those monks, their government was changed, and the work remained unfinished in the same place until the year 1530. At which time, war raging round Florence, all those labours were ruined by soldiers, the heads wrought with such diligence were impiously struck off from the little figures, and the whole work was so completely destroyed and broken to pieces, that the monks afterwards sold what was left for a mere song. If any one wishes to see a part of it, let him go to the Office of Works of S. Maria del Fiore, where there are a few pieces, bought as broken marble not many years ago by the officials of that place. And, in truth, even as everything is brought to fine completion in those monasteries and other places where peace and concord reign, so, on the contrary, nothing ever reaches perfection or an end worthy of praise in places where there is naught save rivalry and discord, because what takes a good and wise man a hundred years to build up can be destroyed by an ignorant and crazy boor in one day. And it seems as if fortune wishes that those who know the least and delight in nothing that is excellent, should always be the men who govern and command, or rather, ruin, everything: as was also said of secular Princes, with no less learning than truth, by Ariosto, at the beginning of his seventeenth canto. But returning to Benedetto: it was a sad pity that all his labours [Pg 38] and all the money spent by that Order should have come to such a miserable end.
By the same architect were designed the door and vestibule of the Badia of Florence, and likewise some chapels, among them that of S. Stefano, erected by the family of the Pandolfini. Finally, Benedetto was summoned to England into the service of the King, for whom he executed many works in marble and in bronze, and, in particular, his tomb; from which works, through the liberality of that King, he gained enough to be able to live in comfort for the rest of his life. Thereupon he returned to Florence; but, after he had finished some little things, a sort of giddiness, which even in England had begun to affect his eyes, and other troubles caused, so it was said, by standing too long over the fire in the founding of metals, or by some other reasons, in a short time robbed him completely of the sight of his eyes; wherefore he ceased to work about the year 1550, and to live a few years after that. Benedetto endured that blindness during the last years of his life with the patience of a good Christian, thanking God that He had first enabled him, by means of his labours, to live an honourable life.
Benedetto was a courteous gentleman, and he always delighted in the society of men of culture. His portrait was copied from one made, when he was a young man, by Agnolo di Donnino. This original is in our book of drawings, wherein there are also some drawings very well executed by the hand of Benedetto, who deserves, on account of all those works, to be numbered among our most excellent craftsmen.
So strong is the belief of mankind that those who are negligent in the arts which they profess to practise can never arrive at any perfection in them, that it was in the face of the judgment of many that Baccio da Montelupo learnt the art of sculpture; and this happened to him because in his youth, led astray by pleasures, he would scarcely ever study, and, although he was exhorted and upbraided by many, he thought little or nothing of art. But having come to years of discretion, which bring sense with them, he was forced straightway to learn how far he was from the good way. Whereupon, seeing with shame that others were going ahead of him in that art, he resolved with a stout heart to follow and practise with all possible zeal that which in his idleness he had hitherto shunned. This resolution was the reason that he produced in sculpture such fruits as the opinions of many no longer expected from him.
Having thus devoted himself with all his powers to his art, and practising it continually, he became a rare and excellent master. And of this he gave a proof in a work in hard-stone, wrought with the chisel, on the corner of the garden attached to the Palace of the Pucci in Florence; which was the escutcheon of Pope Leo X, with two children supporting it, executed in a beautiful and masterly manner. He made a Hercules for Pier Francesco de' Medici; and from the Guild of Porta Santa Maria he received the commission for a statue of S. John the Evangelist, to be executed in bronze, in securing which he had many difficulties, since a number of masters made models in competition with [Pg 42] him. This figure was afterwards placed on the corner of S. Michele in Orto, opposite to the Ufficio; and the work was finished by him with supreme diligence. It is said that when he had made the figure in clay, all who saw the arrangement of the armatures, and the moulds laid upon them, held it to be a beautiful piece of work, recognizing the rare ingenuity of Baccio in such an enterprise; and when they had seen it cast with the utmost facility, they gave Baccio credit for having shown supreme mastery, and having made a solid and beautiful casting. These labours endured in that profession, brought him the name of a good and even excellent master; and that figure is esteemed more than ever at the present day by all craftsmen, who hold it to be most beautiful.
Setting himself also to work in wood, he carved lifesize Crucifixes, of which he made an endless number for all parts of Italy, and among them one that is over the door of the choir of the Monks of S. Marco at Florence. These are all excellent and full of grace, but there are some that are much more perfect than the rest, such as the one of the Murate in Florence, and another, no less famous than the first, in S. Pietro Maggiore; and for the Monks of SS. Fiora e Lucilla he made a similar one, which they placed over the high-altar of their abbey at Arezzo, and which is held to be much the most beautiful of them all. For the visit of Pope Leo X to Florence, Baccio erected between the Palace of the Podestà and the Badia a very beautiful triumphal arch of wood and clay; with many little works, which have either disappeared or been dispersed among the houses of citizens.
Having grown weary, however, of living in Florence, he went off to Lucca, where he executed some works in sculpture, and even more in architecture, in the service of that city, and, in particular, the beautiful and well-designed Temple of S. Paulino, the Patron Saint of the people of Lucca, built with proofs of a fine and well-trained intelligence both within and without, and richly adorned. Living in that city, then, up to the eighty-eighth year of his life, he ended his days there, and received honourable burial in the aforesaid S. Paulino from those whom he had honoured when alive.
A contemporary of Baccio was Agostino, a very famous sculptor and carver of Milan, who began in S. Maria, at Milan, the tomb of Monsignore [Pg 43] de Foix, which remains unfinished even now; and in it may still be seen many large figures, some finished, some half completed, and others only blocked out, with a number of scenes in half-relief, in pieces and not built in, and a great quantity of foliage and trophies. For the Biraghi, also, he made another tomb, which is finished and erected in S. Francesco, with six large figures, the base wrought with scenes, and other very beautiful ornaments, which bear witness to the masterly skill of that valiant craftsman.
Baccio left at his death, among other sons, Raffaello, who applied himself to sculpture, and not merely equalled his father, but surpassed him by a great measure. This Raffaello, beginning in his youth to work in clay, in wax, and in bronze, acquired the name of an excellent sculptor, and was therefore taken by Antonio da San Gallo to Loreto, together with many others, in order to finish the ornamentation of that Chamber, according to the directions left by Andrea Sansovino; where Raffaello completely finished the Marriage of Our Lady, begun by the said Sansovino, executing many things in a beautiful and perfect manner, partly over the beginnings of Andrea, and partly from his own invention. Wherefore he was deservedly esteemed to be one of the best craftsmen who worked there in his time.
He had finished this work, when Michelagnolo, by order of Pope Clement VII, proceeded to finish the new sacristy and the library of S. Lorenzo in Florence; and that master, having recognized the talent of Raffaello, made use of him in that work, and caused him to execute, among other things, after the model that he himself had made, the S. Damiano of marble which is now in that sacristy—a very beautiful statue, very highly extolled by all men. After the death of Clement, Raffaello attached himself to Duke Alessandro de' Medici, who was then having the fortress of Prato built; and he made for him in grey-stone, on one of the extremities of the chief bastion of that fortress—namely, on the outer side—the escutcheon of the Emperor Charles V, upheld by two nude and lifesize Victories, which were much extolled, as they still are. And for the extremity of another bastion, in the direction of the city, on the southern side, he made the arms of Duke Alessandro in the same kind of stone, with two figures. Not long after, he executed a large Crucifix [Pg 44] of wood for the Nuns of S. Apollonia; and for Alessandro Antinori, a very rich and noble merchant of Florence at that time, he prepared a most magnificent festival for the marriage of his daughter, with statues, scenes, and many other most beautiful ornaments.
Having then gone to Rome, he received from Buonarroti a commission to make two figures of marble, each five braccia high, for the tomb of Julius II, which was finished and erected at that time by Michelagnolo in S. Pietro in Vincula. But Raffaello, falling ill while he was executing this work, was not able to put into it his usual zeal and diligence, on which account he lost credit thereby, and gave little satisfaction to Michelagnolo. At the visit of the Emperor Charles V to Rome, for which Pope Paul III prepared a festival worthy of that all-conquering Prince, Raffaello made with clay and stucco, on the Ponte S. Angelo, fourteen statues so beautiful, that they were judged to be the best that had been made for that festival. And, what is more, he executed them with such rapidity that he was in time to come to Florence, where the Emperor was likewise expected, to make within the space of five days and no more, on the abutment of the Ponte a S. Trinità two Rivers of clay, each five braccia high, the Rhine to stand for Germany and the Danube for Hungary.
After this, having been summoned to Orvieto, he made in marble, in a chapel wherein the excellent sculptor Mosca had previously executed many most beautiful ornaments, the story of the Magi in half-relief, which proved to be a very fine work, on account of the great variety of figures and the good manner with which he executed them.
Then, having returned to Rome, he was appointed by Tiberio Crispo, at that time Castellan of the Castello di S. Angelo, as architect of that great structure; whereupon he set in order many rooms there, adorning them with carvings in many kinds of stone and various sorts of variegated marbles on the chimney-pieces, windows, and doors. In addition to this, he made a marble statue, five braccia high, of the Angel of that Castle, which is on the summit of the great square tower in the centre, where the standard flies, after the likeness of that Angel that appeared to S. Gregory, who, having prayed that the people should be delivered from a most grievous pestilence, saw him sheathing his sword in the [Pg 45] scabbard. Later, when the said Crispo had been made a Cardinal, he sent Raffaello several times to Bolsena, where he was building a palace. Nor was it long before the very reverend Cardinal Salviati and Messer Baldassarre Turini da Pescia commissioned Raffaello, who had already left the service of the Castle and of Cardinal Crispo, to make the statue of Pope Leo that is now over his tomb in the Minerva at Rome. That work finished, Raffaello made a tomb for the same Messer Baldassarre in the Church of Pescia, where that gentleman had built a chapel of marble. And for a chapel in the Consolazione, at Rome, he made three figures of marble in half-relief. But afterwards, having given himself up to the sort of life fit rather for a philosopher than for a sculptor, and wishing to live in peace, he retired to Orvieto, where he undertook the charge of the building of S. Maria, in which he made many improvements; and with this he occupied himself for many years, growing old before his time.
I believe that Raffaello, if he had undertaken great works, as he might have done, would have executed more things in art, and better, than he did. But he was too kindly and considerate, avoiding all conflict, and contenting himself with that wherewith fortune had provided him; and thus he neglected many opportunities of making works of distinction. Raffaello was a very masterly draughtsman, and he had a much better knowledge of all matters of art than had been shown by his father Baccio. In our book are some drawings by the hand both of the one and of the other; but those of Raffaello are much the finer and more graceful, and executed with better art. In his architectural decorations Raffaello followed in great measure the manner of Michelagnolo, as is proved by the chimney-pieces, doors, and windows that he made in the aforesaid Castello di S. Angelo, and by some chapels built under his direction, in a rare and beautiful manner, at Orvieto.
But returning to Baccio: his death was a great grief to the people of Lucca, who had known him as a good and upright man, courteous to all, and very loving. Baccio's works date about the year of our Lord 1533. His dearest friend, who learnt many things from him, was Zaccaria da Volterra, who executed many works in terra-cotta at Bologna, some of which are in the Church of S. Giuseppe.
The while that Maestro Credi, an excellent goldsmith in his day, was working in Florence with very good credit and repute, Andrea Sciarpelloni placed with him, to the end that he might learn that craft, his son Lorenzo, a young man of beautiful intellect and excellent character. And since the ability and willingness of the master to teach were not greater than the zeal and readiness with which the disciple absorbed whatever was shown to him, no long time passed before Lorenzo became not only a good and diligent designer, but also so able and finished a goldsmith, that no young man of that time was his equal; and this brought such honour to Credi, that from that day onward Lorenzo was always called by everyone, not Lorenzo Sciarpelloni, but Lorenzo di Credi.
Growing in courage, then, Lorenzo attached himself to Andrea Verrocchio, who at that time had taken it into his head to devote himself to painting; and under him, having Pietro Perugino and Leonardo da Vinci as his companions and friends, although they were rivals, he set himself with all diligence to learn to paint. And since Lorenzo took an extraordinary pleasure in the manner of Leonardo, he contrived to imitate it so well that there was no one who came nearer to it than he did in the high finish and thorough perfection of his works, as may be seen from many drawings that are in our book, executed with the style, with the pen, or in water-colours, among which are some drawings made from models of clay covered with waxed linen cloths and with liquid clay, imitated with such diligence, and finished with such patience, as it is scarcely possible to conceive, much less to equal.
For these reasons, then, Lorenzo was so beloved by his master, that, when Andrea went to Venice to cast in bronze the horse and the statue [Pg 50] of Bartolommeo da Bergamo, he left to Lorenzo the whole management and administration of his revenues and affairs, and likewise all his drawings, reliefs, statues, and art materials. And Lorenzo, on his part, loved his master Andrea so dearly, that, besides occupying himself with incredible zeal with his interests in Florence, he also went more than once to Venice to see him and to render him an account of his good administration, which was so much to the satisfaction of his master, that, if Lorenzo had consented, Andrea would have made him his heir. Nor did Lorenzo prove in any way ungrateful for this good-will, for, after the death of Andrea, he went to Venice and brought his body to Florence; and then he handed over to his heirs everything that was found to belong to Andrea, except his drawings, pictures, sculptures, and all other things connected with art.
The first paintings of Lorenzo were a round picture of Our Lady, which was sent to the King of Spain (the design of which picture he copied from one by his master Andrea), and a picture, much better than the other, which was likewise copied by Lorenzo from one by Leonardo da Vinci, and also sent to Spain; and so similar was it to that by Leonardo, that no difference could be seen between the one and the other. By the hand of Lorenzo is a Madonna in a very well executed panel, which is beside the great Church of S. Jacopo at Pistoia; and another, also, which is in the Hospital of the Ceppo, and is one of the best pictures in that city. Lorenzo painted many portraits, and when he was a young man he made that one of himself which is now in the possession of his disciple, Gian Jacopo, a painter in Florence, together with many other things left to him by Lorenzo, among which are the portrait of Pietro Perugino and that of Lorenzo's master, Andrea Verrocchio. He also made a portrait of Girolamo Benivieni, a man of great learning, and much his friend.
For the Company of S. Sebastiano, behind the Church of the Servi in Florence, he executed a panel-picture of Our Lady, S. Sebastian, and other saints; and for the altar of S. Giuseppe, in S. Maria del Fiore, he painted the first-named saint. To Montepulciano he sent a panel that is now in the Church of S. Agostino, containing a Crucifix, Our Lady, and S. John, painted with much diligence. But the best work that [Pg 51] Lorenzo ever executed, and that to which he devoted the greatest care and zeal, in order to surpass himself, was the one that is in a chapel at Cestello, a panel containing Our Lady, S. Julian, and S. Nicholas; and whoever wishes to know how necessary it is for a painter to work with a high finish in oils if he desires that his pictures should remain fresh, must look at this panel, which is painted with such a finish as could not be excelled.
While still a young man, Lorenzo painted a S. Bartholomew on a pilaster in Orsanmichele, and for the Nuns of S. Chiara, in Florence, a panel-picture of the Nativity of Christ, with some shepherds and angels; in which picture, besides other things, he took great pains with the imitation of some herbage, painting it so well that it appears to be real. For the same place he made a picture of S. Mary Magdalene in Penitence; and in a round picture that is in the house of Messer Ottaviano de' Medici he painted a Madonna. For S. Friano he painted a panel; and he executed some figures in S. Matteo at the Hospital of Lelmo. For S. Reparata he painted a picture with the Angel Michael, and for the Company of the Scalzo he made a panel-picture, executed with much diligence. And, in addition to these works, he made many pictures of Our Lady and others, which are dispersed among the houses of citizens in Florence.
Having thus got together a certain sum of money by means of these labours, and being a man who loved quiet more than riches, Lorenzo retired to S. Maria Nuova in Florence, where he lived and had a comfortable lodging until his death. Lorenzo was much inclined to the sect of Fra Girolamo of Ferrara, and always lived like an upright and orderly man, showing a friendly courtesy whenever the occasion arose. Finally, having come to the seventy-eighth year of his life, he died of old age, and was buried in S. Pietro Maggiore, in the year 1530.
He showed such a perfection of finish in his works, that any other painting, in comparison with his, must always seem merely sketched and dirty. He left many disciples, and among them Giovanni Antonio Sogliani and Tommaso di Stefano. Of Sogliani there will be an account in another place; and as for Tommaso, he imitated his master closely in his high finish, and made many works in Florence and abroad, including [Pg 52] a panel-picture for Marco del Nero at his villa of Arcetri, of the Nativity of Christ, executed with great perfection of finish. But ultimately it became Tommaso's principal profession to paint on cloth, insomuch that he painted church-hangings better than any other man. Now Stefano, the father of Tommaso, had been an illuminator, and had also done something in architecture; and Tommaso, after his father's death, in order to follow in his steps, rebuilt the bridge of Sieve, which had been destroyed by a flood about that time, at a distance of ten miles from Florence, and likewise that of S. Piero a Ponte on the River Bisenzio, which is a beautiful work; and afterwards he erected many buildings for monasteries and other places. Then, being architect to the Guild of Wool, he made the model for the new buildings which were constructed by that Guild behind the Nunziata; and, finally, having reached the age of seventy or more, he died in the year 1564, and was buried in S. Marco, to which he was followed by an honourable train of the Academy of Design.
But returning to Lorenzo: he left many works unfinished at his death, and, in particular, a very beautiful picture of the Passion of Christ, which came into the hands of Antonio da Ricasoli, and a panel painted for M. Francesco da Castiglioni, Canon of S. Maria del Fiore, who sent it to Castiglioni. Lorenzo had no wish to make many large works, because he took great pains in executing his pictures, and devoted an incredible amount of labour to them, for the reason, above all, that the colours which he used were ground too fine; besides which, he was always purifying and distilling his nut-oils, and he made mixtures of colours on his palette in such numbers, that from the first of the light tints to the last of the darks there was a gradual succession involving an over-careful and truly excessive elaboration, so that at times he had twenty-five or thirty of them on his palette. For each tint he kept a separate brush; and where he was working he would never allow any movement that might raise dust. Such excessive care is perhaps no more worthy of praise than the other extreme of negligence, for in all things one should observe a certain mean and avoid extremes, which are generally harmful.
It happens at times, after Fortune has kept the talent of some fine intellect subjected for a period by poverty, that she thinks better of it, and at an unexpected moment provides all sorts of benefits for one who has hitherto been the object of her hatred, so as to atone in one year for the affronts and discomforts of many. This was seen in Lorenzo, the son of Lodovico the bell-founder, a Florentine, who was engaged in the work both of architecture and of sculpture, and was loved so dearly by Raffaello da Urbino, that he not only was assisted by him and employed in many enterprises, but also received from the same master a wife in the person of a sister of Giulio Romano, a disciple of Raffaello.
Lorenzetto—for thus he was always called—finished in his youth the tomb of Cardinal Forteguerra, formerly begun by Andrea Verrocchio, which was erected in S. Jacopo at Pistoia; and there, among other things, is a Charity by the hand of Lorenzetto, which is not otherwise than passing good. And a little afterwards he made a figure for Giovanni Bartolini, to adorn his garden; which finished, he went to Rome, where in his first years he executed many works, of which there is no need to make any further record. Then, receiving from Agostino Chigi, at the instance of Raffaello da Urbino, the commission to make a tomb for him in S. Maria del Popolo, where Agostino had built a chapel, Lorenzo set himself to work on this with all the zeal, diligence, and labour in his power, in order to come out of it with credit and to give satisfaction to Raffaello, from [Pg 56] whom he had reason to expect much favour and assistance, and also in the hope of being richly rewarded by the liberality of Agostino, a man of great wealth. Nor were these labours expended without an excellent result, for, assisted by Raffaello, he executed the figures to perfection: a nude Jonah delivered from the belly of the whale, as a symbol of the resurrection from the dead, and an Elijah, living by grace, with his cruse of water and his bread baked in the ashes, under the juniper-tree. These statues, then, were brought to the most beautiful completion by Lorenzetto with all the art and diligence at his command, but he did not by any means obtain for them that reward which his great labours and the needs of his family called for, since, death having closed the eyes of Agostino, and almost at the same time those of Raffaello, the heirs of Agostino, with scant respect, allowed these figures to remain in Lorenzetto's workshop, where they stood for many years. In our own day, indeed, they have been set into place on that tomb in the aforesaid Church of S. Maria del Popolo; but Lorenzo, robbed for those reasons of all hope, found for the present that he had thrown away his time and labour.
Next, by way of executing the testament of Raffaello, Lorenzo was commissioned to make a marble statue of Our Lady, four braccia high, for the tomb of Raffaello in the Temple of S. Maria Ritonda, where the tabernacle was restored by order of that master. The same Lorenzo made a tomb with two children in half-relief, for a merchant of the Perini family, in the Trinità at Rome. And in architecture he made the designs for many houses; in particular, that of the Palace of Messer Bernardino Caffarelli, and in the Valle, for Cardinal Andrea della Valle, the inner façade, and also the design of the stables and of the upper garden. In the composition of that work he included ancient columns, bases, and capitals, and around the whole, to serve as base, he distributed ancient sarcophagi covered with carved scenes. Higher up, below some large niches, he made another frieze with fragments of ancient works, and above this, in those niches, he placed some statues, likewise ancient and of marble, which, although they were not entire—some being without the head, some without arms, others without legs, and every one, in short, with something missing—nevertheless he arranged to the best [Pg 57] advantage, having caused all that was lacking to be restored by good sculptors. This was the reason that other lords have since done the same thing and have restored many ancient works; as, for example, Cardinals Cesis, Ferrara, and Farnese, and, in a word, all Rome. And, in truth, antiquities restored in this way have more grace than those mutilated trunks, members without heads, or figures in any other way maimed and defective. But to return to the aforesaid garden: over the niches was placed the frieze that is still seen there, of supremely beautiful ancient scenes in half-relief; and this invention of Lorenzo's stood him in very good stead, since, after the troubles of Pope Clement had abated, he was employed by him with much honour and profit to himself. For the Pope had seen, when the fight for the Castello di S. Angelo was raging, that two little chapels of marble, which were at the head of the bridge, had been a source of mischief, in that some harquebusiers, standing in them, shot down all who exposed themselves at the walls, and, themselves in safety, inflicted great losses and baulked the defence; and his Holiness resolved to remove those chapels and to set up in place of them two marble statues on pedestals. And so, after the S. Paul of Paolo Romano, of which there has been an account in another Life, had been set in place, the commission for the other, a S. Peter, was given to Lorenzetto, who acquitted himself passing well, but did not surpass the work of Paolo Romano. These two statues were set up, and are to be seen at the present day at the head of the bridge.
After Pope Clement was dead, Baccio Bandinelli was given the commissions for the tombs of that Pope and of Leo X, and Lorenzo was entrusted with the marble masonry that was to be executed for them; whereupon the latter spent no little time over that work. Finally, at the election of Paul III as Pontiff, when Lorenzo was in sorry straits and almost worn out, having nothing but a house which he had built for himself in the Macello de' Corbi, and being weighed down by his five children and by other expenses, Fortune changed and began to raise him and to set him back on a better path; for Pope Paul wishing to have the building of S. Pietro continued, and neither Baldassarre of Siena nor any of the others who had been employed in that work being now alive, [Pg 58] Antonio da San Gallo appointed Lorenzo as architect for that structure, wherein the walls were being built at a fixed price of so much for every four braccia. Thereupon Lorenzo, without exerting himself, in a few years became more famous and prosperous than he had been after many years of endless labour, through having found God, mankind, and Fortune all propitious at that one moment. And if he had lived longer, he would have done even more towards wiping out those injuries that a cruel fate had unjustly brought upon him during his best period of work. But after reaching the age of forty-seven, he died of fever in the year 1541.
The death of this master caused great grief to his many friends, who had always known him as a loving and reasonable man. And since he had always lived like an upright and orderly citizen, the Deputati of S. Pietro gave him honourable burial in a tomb, on which they placed the following epitaph:
SCULPTORI LAURENTIO FLORENTINO
ROMA MIHI TRIBUIT TUMULUM, FLORENTIA VITAM:
NEMO ALIO VELLET NASCI ET OBIRE LOCO.
VIX. ANN. XLVII, MEN. II, D. XV.
Boccaccino of Cremona, who lived about the same time, had acquired the name of a rare and excellent painter in his native place and throughout all Lombardy, and his works were very highly extolled, when he went to Rome to see the works, so much renowned, of Michelagnolo; but no sooner had he seen them than he sought to the best of his power to disparage and revile them, believing that he could exalt himself almost exactly in proportion as he vilified a man who truly was in the matters of design, and indeed in all others without exception, supremely excellent. This master, then, was commissioned to paint the Chapel of S. Maria Traspontina; but when he had finished it and thrown it open to view, it was a revelation to all those who thought that he would soar above the heavens, for they saw that he could not reach even to the level of the [Pg 59] lowest floor of a house. And so the painters of Rome, on seeing the Coronation of Our Lady that he had painted in that work, with some children flying around her, changed from marvel to laughter.
From this it may be seen that when people begin to exalt with their praise men who are more excellent in name than in deeds, it is a difficult thing to contrive to bring such men down to their true level with words, however reasonable, before their own works, wholly contrary to their reputation, reveal what the masters so celebrated really are. And it is a very certain fact that the worst harm that one man can do to another is the giving of praise too early to any intellect engaged in work, since such praise, swelling him with premature pride, prevents him from going any farther, and a man so greatly extolled, on finding that his works have not that excellence which was expected, takes the censure too much to heart, and despairs completely of ever being able to do good work. Wise men, therefore, should fear praise much more than censure, for the first flatters and deceives, and the second, revealing the truth, gives instruction.
Boccaccino, then, departing from Rome, where he felt himself wounded and torn to pieces, returned to Cremona, and there continued to practise painting to the best of his power and knowledge. In the Duomo, over the arches in the middle, he painted all the stories of the Madonna; and this work is much esteemed in that city. He also made other works throughout that city and in the neighbourhood, of which there is no need to make mention.
He taught his art to a son of his own, called Camillo, who, applying himself to the art with more study, strove to make amends for the shortcomings of the boastful Boccaccino. By the hand of this Camillo are some works in S. Gismondo, which is a mile distant from Cremona; and these are esteemed by the people of Cremona as the best paintings that they have. He also painted the façade of a house on their Piazza, all the compartments of the vaulting and some panels in S. Agata, and the façade of S. Antonio, together with other works, which made him known as a practised master. If death had not snatched him from the world before his time, he would have achieved a most honourable success, for [Pg 60] he was advancing on the good way; and even for those works that he has left to us, he deserves to have record made of him.
But returning to Boccaccino; without having ever made any improvement in his art, he passed from this life at the age of fifty-eight. In his time there lived in Milan a passing good illuminator, called Girolamo, whose works may be seen in good numbers both in that city and throughout all Lombardy. A Milanese, likewise, living about the same time, was Bernardino del Lupino, a very delicate and pleasing painter, as may be seen from many works by his hand that are in that city, and from a Marriage of Our Lady at Sarone, a place twelve miles distant from Milan, and other scenes that are in the Church of S. Maria, executed most perfectly in fresco. He also worked with a very high finish in oils, and he was a courteous person, and very liberal with his possessions; wherefore he deserves all the praise that is due to any craftsman who makes the works and ways of his daily life shine by the adornment of courtesy no less than do his works of art on account of their excellence.
Among all the gifts that Heaven distributes to mortals, none, in truth, can or should be held in more account than talent, with calmness and peace of soul, for the first makes us for ever immortal, and the second blessed. He, then, who is endowed with these gifts, in addition to the deep gratitude that he should feel towards God, must make himself known among other men almost as a light amid darkness. And even so, in our own times, did Baldassarre Peruzzi, a painter and architect of Siena, of whom we can say with certainty that the modesty and goodness which were revealed in him were no mean offshoots of that supreme serenity for which the minds of all who are born in this world are ever sighing, and that the works which he left to us are most honourable fruits of that true excellence which was infused in him by Heaven.
Now, although I have called him above, Baldassarre of Siena, because he was always known as a Sienese, I will not withhold that even as seven cities contended for Homer, each claiming that he was her citizen, so three most noble cities of Tuscany—Florence, Volterra, and Siena—have each held that Baldassarre was her son. But, to tell the truth, each of them has a share in him, seeing that Antonio Peruzzi, a noble citizen of Florence, that city being harassed by civil war, went off, in the hope of a quieter life, to Volterra; and after living some time there, in the year 1482 he took a wife in that city, and in a few years had two children, one a boy, called Baldassarre, and the other a girl, who received the name of Virginia. Now it happened that war pursued this man who sought nothing but peace and quiet, and that no long time afterwards [Pg 64] Volterra was sacked; whence Antonio was forced to fly to Siena, and to live there in great poverty, having lost almost all that he had.
Meanwhile Baldassarre, having grown up, was for ever associating with persons of ability, and particularly with goldsmiths and draughtsmen; and thus, beginning to take pleasure in the arts, he devoted himself heart and soul to drawing. And not long after, his father being now dead, he applied himself to painting with such zeal, that in a very short time he made marvellous progress therein, imitating living and natural things as well as the works of the best masters. In this way, executing what work he could find, he was able to maintain himself, his mother, and his sister with his art, and to pursue the studies of painting.
His first work—apart from some things at Siena, not worthy of mention—was in a little chapel near the Porta Fiorentina at Volterra, wherein he executed some figures with such grace, that they led to his forming a friendship with a painter of Volterra, called Piero, who lived most of his time in Rome, and going off with that master to that city, where he was doing some work in the Palace for Alexander VI. But after the death of Alexander, Maestro Piero working no more in that place, Baldassarre entered the workshop of the father of Maturino, a painter of no great excellence, who at that time had always plenty of work to do in the form of commonplace commissions. That painter, then, placing a panel primed with gesso before Baldassarre, but giving him no scrap of drawing or cartoon, told him to make a Madonna upon it. Baldassarre took a piece of charcoal, and in a moment, with great mastery, he had drawn what he wished to paint in the picture; and then, setting his hand to the colouring, in a few days he painted a picture so beautiful and so well finished, that it amazed not only the master of the workshop, but also many painters who saw it; and they, recognizing his ability, contrived to obtain for him the commission to paint the Chapel of the High-Altar in the Church of S. Onofrio, which he executed in fresco with much grace and in a very beautiful manner. After this, he painted two other little chapels in fresco in the Church of S. Rocco a Ripa. Having thus begun to be in good repute, he was summoned to Ostia, where he painted most beautiful scenes in chiaroscuro in some apartments of the great tower of [Pg 65] the fortress; in particular, a hand-to-hand battle after the manner in which the ancient Romans used to fight, and beside this a company of soldiers delivering an assault on a fortress, wherein the attackers, covered by their shields, are seen making a beautiful and spirited onslaught and planting their ladders against the walls, while the men within are hurling them back with the utmost fury. In this scene, also, he painted many antique instruments of war, and likewise various kinds of arms; with many other scenes in another hall, which are held to be among the best works that he ever made, although it is true that he was assisted in this work by Cesare da Milano.
After these labours, having returned to Rome, Baldassarre formed a very strait friendship with Agostino Chigi of Siena, both because Agostino had a natural love for every man of talent, and because Baldassarre called himself a Sienese. And thus, with the help of so great a man, he was able to maintain himself while studying the antiquities of Rome, and particularly those in architecture, wherein, out of rivalry with Bramante, in a short time he made marvellous proficience, which afterwards brought him, as will be related, very great honour and profit. He also gave attention to perspective, and became such a master of that science, that we have seen few in our own times who have worked in it as well as he. Pope Julius II having meanwhile built a corridor in his Palace, with an aviary near the roof, Baldassarre painted there, in chiaroscuro, all the months of the year and the pursuits that are practised in each of them. In this work may be seen an endless number of buildings, theatres, amphitheatres, palaces, and other edifices, all distributed with beautiful invention in that place. He then painted, in company with other painters, some apartments in the Palace of S. Giorgio for Cardinal Raffaello Riario, Bishop of Ostia; and he painted a façade opposite to the house of Messer Ulisse da Fano, and also that of the same Messer Ulisse, wherein he executed stories of Ulysses that brought him very great renown and fame.
Even greater was the fame that came to him from the model of the Palace of Agostino Chigi, executed with such beautiful grace that it seems not to have been built, but rather to have sprung into life; and [Pg 66] with his own hand he decorated the exterior with most beautiful scenes in terretta. The hall, likewise, is adorned with rows of columns executed in perspective, which, with the depth of the intercolumniation, cause it to appear much larger. But what is the greatest marvel of all is a loggia that may be seen over the garden, painted by Baldassarre with scenes of the Medusa turning men into stone, such that nothing more beautiful can be imagined; and then there is Perseus cutting off her head, with many other scenes in the spandrels of that vaulting, while the ornamentation, drawn in perspective with colours, in imitation of stucco, is so natural and lifelike, that even to excellent craftsmen it appears to be in relief. And I remember that when I took the Chevalier Tiziano, a most excellent and honoured painter, to see that work, he would by no means believe that it was painted, until he had changed his point of view, when he was struck with amazement. In that place are some works executed by Fra Sebastiano Viniziano, in his first manner; and by the hand of the divine Raffaello, as has been related, there is a Galatea being carried off by sea-gods.
Baldassarre also painted, beyond the Campo di Fiore, on the way to the Piazza Giudea, a most beautiful façade in terretta with marvellous perspectives, for which he received the commission from a Groom of the Chamber to the Pope; and it is now in the possession of Jacopo Strozzi, the Florentine. In like manner, he wrought for Messer Ferrando Ponzetti, who afterwards became a Cardinal, a chapel at the entrance of the Church of the Pace, on the left hand, with little scenes from the Old Testament, and also with some figures of considerable size; and for a work in fresco this is executed with much diligence. But even more did he prove his worth in painting and perspective near the high-altar of the same church, where he painted a scene for Messer Filippo da Siena, Clerk of the Chamber, of Our Lady going into the Temple, ascending the steps, with many figures worthy of praise, such as a gentleman in antique dress, who, having dismounted from his horse, with his servants waiting, is giving alms to a beggar, quite naked and very wretched, who may be seen asking him for it with pitiful humility. In this place, also, are various buildings and most beautiful ornaments; and right round [Pg 67] the whole work, executed likewise in fresco, are counterfeited decorations of stucco, which have the appearance of being attached to the wall with large rings, as if it were a panel painted in oils.
And in the magnificent festival that the Roman people prepared on the Campidoglio when the baton of Holy Church was given to Duke Giuliano de' Medici, out of six painted scenes which were executed by six different painters of eminence, that by the hand of Baldassarre, twenty-eight braccia high and fourteen broad, showing the betrayal of the Romans by Julia Tarpeia, was judged to be without a doubt better than any of the others. But what amazed everyone most was the perspective-view or scenery for a play, which was so beautiful that it would be impossible to imagine anything finer, seeing that the variety and beautiful manner of the buildings, the various loggie, the extravagance of the doors and windows, and the other architectural details that were seen in it, were so well conceived and so extraordinary in invention, that one is not able to describe the thousandth part.
For the house of Messer Francesco di Norcia, on the Piazza de' Farnesi, he made a very graceful door of the Doric Order; and for Messer Francesco Buzio he executed, near the Piazza degl' Altieri, a very beautiful façade, in the frieze of which he painted portraits from life of all the Roman Cardinals who were then alive, while on the wall itself he depicted the scenes of Cæsar receiving tribute from all the world, and above he painted the twelve Emperors, who are standing upon certain corbels, being foreshortened with a view to being seen from below, and wrought with extraordinary art. For this whole work he rightly obtained vast commendation. In the Banchi he executed the escutcheon of Pope Leo, with three children, that seemed to be alive, so tender was their flesh. For Fra Mariano Fetti, Friar of the Piombo, he made a very beautiful S. Bernard in terretta in his garden at Montecavallo. And for the Company of S. Catherine of Siena, on the Strada Giulia, in addition to a bier for carrying the dead to burial, he executed many other things, all worthy of praise. In Siena, also, he gave the design for the organ of the Carmine; and he made some other works in that city, but none of much importance.
[Pg 68] Later, having been summoned to Bologna by the Wardens of Works of S. Petronio, to the end that he might make the model for the façade of that church, he made for this two large ground-plans and two elevations, one in the modern manner and the other in the German; and the latter is still preserved in the Sacristy of the same S. Petronio, as a truly extraordinary work, since he drew that building in such sharply-detailed perspective that it appears to be in relief. In the house of Count Giovan Battista Bentivogli, in the same city, he made several drawings for the aforesaid structure, which were so beautiful, that it is not possible to praise enough the wonderful expedients sought out by this man in order not to destroy the old masonry, but to join it in beautiful proportion with the new. For the Count Giovan Battista mentioned above he made the design of a Nativity with the Magi, in chiaroscuro, wherein it is a marvellous thing to see the horses, the equipage, and the courts of the three Kings, executed with supreme beauty and grace, as are also the walls of the temples and some buildings round the hut. This work was afterwards given to be coloured by the Count to Girolamo Trevigi, who brought it to fine completion. Baldassarre also made the design for the door of the Church of S. Michele in Bosco, a most beautiful monastery of the Monks of Monte Oliveto, without Bologna; and the design and model of the Duomo of Carpi, which was very beautiful, and was built under his direction according to the rules of Vitruvius. And in the same place he made a beginning with the Church of S. Niccola, but it was not finished at that time, because Baldassarre was almost forced to return to Siena in order to make designs for the fortifications of that city, which were afterwards carried into execution under his supervision.
He then returned to Rome, where, after building the house that is opposite to the Farnese Palace, with some others within that city, he was employed in many works by Pope Leo X. That Pontiff wished to finish the building of S. Pietro, begun by Julius II after the design of Bramante, but it appeared to him that the edifice was too large and lacking in cohesion; and Baldassarre made a new model, magnificent and truly ingenious, and revealing such good judgment, that some parts of it have since been used by other architects. So diligent, indeed, was [Pg 69] this craftsman, so rare and so beautiful his judgment, and such the method with which his buildings were always designed, that he has never had an equal in works of architecture, seeing that, in addition to his other gifts, he combined that profession with a good and beautiful manner of painting. He made the design of the tomb of Adrian VI, and all that is painted round it is by his hand; and Michelagnolo, a sculptor of Siena, executed that tomb in marble, with the help of our Baldassarre.
When the Calandra, a play by Cardinal Bibbiena, was performed before the same Pope Leo, Baldassarre made the scenic setting, which was no less beautiful—much more so, indeed—than that which he had made on another occasion, as has been related above. In such works he deserved all the greater praise, because dramatic performances, and consequently the scenery for them, had been out of fashion for a long time, festivals and sacred representations taking their place. And either before or after (it matters little which) the performance of the aforesaid Calandra, which was one of the first plays in the vulgar tongue to be seen or performed, in the time of Leo X, Baldassarre made two such scenes, which were marvellous, and opened the way to those who have since made them in our own day. Nor is it possible to imagine how he found room, in a space so limited, for so many streets, so many palaces, and so many bizarre temples, loggie, and various kinds of cornices, all so well executed that it seemed that they were not counterfeited, but absolutely real, and that the piazza was not a little thing, and merely painted, but real and very large. He designed, also, the chandeliers and the lights within that illuminated the scene, and all the other things that were necessary, with much judgment, although, as has been related, the drama had fallen almost completely out of fashion. This kind of spectacle, in my belief, when it has all its accessories, surpasses any other kind, however sumptuous and magnificent.
Afterwards, at the election of Pope Clement VII in the year 1524, he prepared the festivities for his coronation. He finished with peperino-stone the front of the principal chapel, formerly begun by Bramante, in S. Pietro; and in the chapel wherein is the bronze tomb of Pope Sixtus, [Pg 70] he painted in chiaroscuro the Apostles that are in the niches behind the altar, besides making the design of the Tabernacle of the Sacrament, which is very graceful.
Then in the year 1527, when the cruel sack of Rome took place, our poor Baldassarre was taken prisoner by the Spaniards, and not only lost all his possessions, but was also much maltreated and outraged, because he was grave, noble, and gracious of aspect, and they believed him to be some great prelate in disguise, or some other man able to pay a fat ransom. Finally, however, those impious barbarians having found that he was a painter, one of them, who had borne a great affection to Bourbon, caused him to make a portrait of that most rascally captain, the enemy of God and man, either letting Baldassarre see him as he lay dead, or giving him his likeness in some other way, with drawings or with words. After this, having slipped from their hands, Baldassarre took ship to go to Porto Ercole, and thence to Siena; but on the way he was robbed of everything and stripped to such purpose, that he went to Siena in his shirt. However, he was received with honour and reclothed by his friends, and a little time afterwards he was given a provision and a salary by the Commonwealth, to the end that he might give his attention to the fortification of that city. Living there, he had two children; and, besides what he did for the public service, he made many designs of houses for his fellow-citizens, and the design for the ornament of the organ, which is very beautiful, in the Church of the Carmine.
Meanwhile, the armies of the Emperor and the Pope had advanced to the siege of Florence, and his Holiness sent Baldassarre to the camp to Baccio Valori, the Military Commissary, to the end that Baccio might avail himself of his services for the purposes of his operations and for the capture of the city. But Baldassarre, loving the liberty of his former country more than the favour of the Pope, and in no way fearing the indignation of so great a Pontiff, would never lend his aid in any matter of importance. The Pope, hearing of this, for a short time bore him no little ill-will; but when the war was finished, Baldassarre desiring to return to Rome, Cardinals Salviati, Trivulzi, and Cesarino, to all of whom he had given faithful service in many works, restored him to the favour [Pg 71] of the Pope and to his former appointments. He was thus able to return without hindrance to Rome, where, not many days after, he made for the Signori Orsini the designs of two very beautiful palaces, which were built on the way to Viterbo, and of some other edifices for Apuglia. But meanwhile he did not neglect the studies of astrology, nor those of mathematics and the others in which he much delighted, and he began a book on the antiquities of Rome, with a commentary on Vitruvius, making little by little illustrative drawings beside the writings of that author, some of which are still to be seen in the possession of Francesco da Siena, who was his disciple, and among them some papers with drawings of ancient edifices and of the modern manner of building.
While living in Rome, also, he made the design for the house of the Massimi, drawn in an oval form, with a new and beautiful manner of building; and for the façade he made a vestibule of Doric columns showing great art and good proportion, with a beautiful distribution of detail in the court and in the disposition of the stairs; but he was not able to see this work finished, for he was overtaken by death.
And yet, although the talents and labours of this noble craftsman were so great, they brought much more benefit to others than to himself; for, while he was employed by Popes, Cardinals, and other great and rich persons, not one of them ever gave him any remarkable reward. That this should have happened is not surprising, not so much through want of liberality in such patrons, although for the most part they are least liberal where they should be the very opposite, as through the timidity and excessive modesty, or rather, to be more exact in this case, the lack of shrewdness of Baldassarre. To tell the truth, in proportion as one should be discreet with magnanimous and liberal Princes, so should one always be pressing and importunate with such as are miserly, unthankful, and discourteous, for the reason that, even as in the case of the generous importunate asking would always be a vice, so with the miserly it is a virtue, and with such men it is discretion that would be the vice.
In the last years of his life, then, Baldassarre found himself poor and weighed down by his family. Finally, having always lived a life without reproach, he fell grievously ill, and took to his bed; and Pope [Pg 72] Paul III, hearing this, and recognizing too late the harm that he was like to suffer in the loss of so great a man, sent Jacopo Melighi, the accountant of S. Pietro, to give him a present of one hundred crowns, and to make him most friendly offers. However, his sickness increased, either because it was so ordained, or, as many believe, because his death was hastened with poison by some rival who desired his place, from which he drew two hundred and fifty crowns of salary; and, the physicians discovering this too late, he died, very unwilling to give up his life, more on account of his poor family than for his own sake, as he thought in what sore straits he was leaving them. He was much lamented by his children and his friends, and he received honourable burial, next to Raffaello da Urbino, in the Ritonda, whither he was followed by all the painters, sculptors, and architects of Rome, doing him honour and bewailing him; with the following epitaph:
BALTHASARI PERUTIO SENENSI, VIRO ET PICTURA ET ARCHITECTURA
ALIISQUE INGENIORUM ARTIBUS ADEO EXCELLENTI, UT SI PRISCORUM
OCCUBUISSET TEMPORIBUS, NOSTRA ILLUM FELICIUS LEGERENT. VIX.
ANN. LV, MENS. XI, DIES XX.
LUCRETIA ET JO. SALUSTIUS OPTIMO CONJUGI ET PARENTI, NON SINE LACRIMIS
SIMONIS, HONORII, CLAUDII, æMILIæ, AC SULPITIæ, MINORUM FILIORUM,
DOLENTES POSUERUNT, DIE IIII JANUARII, MDXXXVI.
The name and fame of Baldassarre became greater after his death than they had been during his lifetime; and then, above all, was his talent missed, when Pope Paul III resolved to have S. Pietro finished, because men recognized how great a help he would have been to Antonio da San Gallo. For, although Antonio had to his credit all that is to be seen executed by him, yet it is believed that in company with Baldassarre he would have done more towards solving some of the difficulties of that work. The heir to many of the possessions of Baldassarre was Sebastiano Serlio of Bologna, who wrote the third book on architecture and the fourth on the antiquities of Rome with their measurements; in which works the above-mentioned labours of Baldassarre were partly inserted in the margins, and partly turned to great advantage by the author. Most of these writings of Baldassarre came into the hands of Jacomo Melighino of Ferrara, who was afterwards chosen by Pope Paul as architect [Pg 73] for his buildings, and of the aforesaid Francesco da Siena, his former assistant and disciple, by whose hand is the highly renowned escutcheon of Cardinal Trani in Piazza Navona, with some other works. From this Francesco we received the portrait of Baldassarre, and information about some matters which I was not able to ascertain when this book was published for the first time. Another disciple of Baldassarre was Virgilio Romano, who executed a façade with some prisoners in sgraffito-work in the centre of the Borgo Nuovo in his native city, and many other beautiful works. From the same master, also, Antonio del Rozzo, a citizen of Siena and a very excellent engineer, learnt the first principles of architecture; and Baldassarre was followed, in like manner, by Riccio, a painter of Siena, who, however, afterwards imitated to no small extent the manner of Giovanni Antonio Sodoma of Vercelli. And another of his pupils was Giovan Battista Peloro, an architect of Siena, who gave much attention to mathematics and cosmography, and made with his own hand mariner's compasses, quadrants, many irons and instruments for measuring, and likewise the ground-plans of many fortifications, most of which are in the possession of Maestro Giuliano, a goldsmith of Siena, who was very much his friend. This Giovan Battista made for Duke Cosimo de' Medici a plan of Siena, all in relief and altogether marvellous, with the valleys and the surroundings for a mile and a half round—the walls, the streets, the forts, and, in a word, a most beautiful model of the whole place. But, since he was unstable by nature, he left Duke Cosimo, although he had a good allowance from that Prince; and, thinking to do better, he made his way into France, where he followed the Court without any success for a long time, and finally died at Avignon. And although he was an able and well-practised architect, yet in no place are there to be seen any buildings erected by him or after his design, for he always stayed such a short time in any one place, that he could never bring anything to completion; wherefore he consumed all his time with designs, measurements, models, and caprices. Nevertheless, as a follower of our arts, he has deserved to have record made of him.
Baldassarre drew very well in every manner, with great judgment and diligence, but more with the pen, in water-colours, and in chiaroscuro, [Pg 74] than in any other way, as may be seen from many drawings by his hand that belong to different craftsmen. Our book, in particular, contains various drawings; and in one of these is a scene full of invention and caprice, showing a piazza filled with arches, colossal figures, theatres, obelisks, pyramids, temples of various kinds, porticoes, and other things, all after the antique, while on a pedestal stands a Mercury, round whom are all sorts of alchemists with bellows large and small, retorts, and other instruments for distilling, hurrying about and giving him a clyster in order to purge his body—an invention as ludicrous as it is beautiful and bizarre.
Friends and intimate companions of Baldassarre, who was always courteous, modest, and gentle with every man, were Domenico Beccafumi of Siena, an excellent painter, and Il Capanna, who, in addition to many other works that he painted in Siena, executed the façade of the house of the Turchi and another that is on the Piazza.
Giovan Francesco Penni, called Il Fattore, a painter of Florence, was no less indebted to Fortune than he was to the goodness of his own nature, in that his ways of life, his inclination for painting, and his other qualities brought it about that Raffaello da Urbino took him into his house and educated him together with Giulio Romano, looking on both of them ever afterwards as his children, and proving at his death how much he thought both of the one and of the other by leaving them heirs to his art and to his property alike. Now Giovan Francesco, who began from his boyhood, when he first entered the house of Raffaello, to be called Il Fattore, and always retained that name, imitated in his drawings the manner of Raffaello, and never ceased to follow it, as may be perceived from some drawings by his hand that are in our book. And it is nothing wonderful that there should be many of these to be seen, all finished with great diligence, because he delighted much more in drawing than in colouring.
The first works of Giovan Francesco were executed by him in the Papal Loggie at Rome, in company with Giovanni da Udine, Perino del Vaga, and other excellent masters; and in these may be seen a marvellous grace, worthy of a master striving at perfection of workmanship. He was very versatile, and he delighted much in making landscapes and buildings. He was a good colourist in oils, in fresco, and in distemper, and made excellent portraits from life; and he was much assisted in every respect by nature, so that he gained great mastery over all the [Pg 78] secrets of art without much study. He was a great help to Raffaello, therefore, in painting a large part of the cartoons for the tapestries of the Pope's Chapel and of the Consistory, and particularly the ornamental borders. He also executed many other things from the cartoons and directions of Raffaello, such as the ceiling for Agostino Chigi in the Trastevere, with many pictures, panels, and various other works, in which he acquitted himself so well, that every day he won greater affection from Raffaello. On the Monte Giordano, in Rome, he painted a façade in chiaroscuro, and in S. Maria de Anima, by the side-door that leads to the Pace, a S. Christopher in fresco, eight braccia high, which is a very good figure; and in this work is a hermit with a lantern in his hand, in a grotto, executed with good draughtsmanship, harmony, and grace.
Giovan Francesco then came to Florence, and painted for Lodovico Capponi at Montughi, a place without the Porta a San Gallo, a shrine with a Madonna, which is much extolled.
Raffaello having meanwhile been overtaken by death, Giulio Romano and Giovan Francesco, who had been his disciples, remained together for a long time, and finished in company such of Raffaello's works as had been left unfinished, and in particular those that he had begun in the Vigna of the Pope, and likewise those of the Great Hall in the Palace, wherein are painted by the hands of these two masters the stories of Constantine, with excellent figures, executed in an able and beautiful manner, although the invention and the sketches of these stories came in part from Raffaello. While these works were in progress, Perino del Vaga, a very excellent painter, took to wife a sister of Giovan Francesco; on which account they executed many works in company. And afterwards Giulio and Giovan Francesco, continuing to work together, painted a panel in two parts, containing the Assumption of Our Lady, which went to Monteluci, near Perugia; and also other works and pictures for various places.
Then, receiving a commission from Pope Clement to paint a panel-picture like the one by Raffaello (which is in S. Pietro a Montorio), which was to be sent to France, whither Raffaello had meant to send the first, they began it; but soon afterwards, having fallen out with each other, [Pg 79] they divided their inheritance of drawings and everything else left to them by Raffaello, and Giulio went off to Mantua, where he executed an endless number of works for the Marquis. Thither, not long afterwards, Giovan Francesco also made his way, drawn either by love of Giulio or by the hope of finding work; but he received so cold a welcome from Giulio that he soon departed, and, after travelling round Lombardy, he returned to Rome. And from Rome he went to Naples by ship in the train of the Marchese del Vasto, taking with him the now finished copy of the panel-picture of S. Pietro a Montorio, with other works, which he left in Ischia, an island belonging to the Marquis, while the panel was placed where it is at the present day, in the Church of S. Spirito degli Incurabili at Naples. Having thus settled in Naples, where he occupied himself with drawing and painting, Giovan Francesco was entertained and treated with great kindness by Tommaso Cambi, a Florentine merchant, who managed the affairs of that nobleman. But he did not live there long, because, being of a sickly habit of body, he fell ill and died, to the great grief of the noble Marquis and of all who knew him.
He had a brother called Luca, likewise a painter, who worked in Genoa with his brother-in-law Perino, as well as at Lucca and many other places in Italy. In the end he went to England, where, after executing certain works for the King and for some merchants, he finally devoted himself to making designs for copper-plates for sending abroad, which he had engraved by Flemings. Of such he sent abroad a great number, which are known by his name as well as by the manner; and by his hand, among others, is a print wherein are some women in a bath, the original of which, by the hand of Luca himself, is in our book.
A disciple of Giovan Francesco was Leonardo, called Il Pistoia because he came from that city, who executed some works at Lucca, and made many portraits from life in Rome. At Naples, for Diomede Caraffa, Bishop of Ariano, and now a Cardinal, he painted a panel-picture of the Stoning of S. Stephen for his chapel in S. Domenico. And for Monte Oliveto he painted another, which was placed on the high-altar, although it was afterwards removed to make room for a new one, [Pg 80] similar in subject, by the hand of Giorgio Vasari of Arezzo. Leonardo earned large sums from these Neapolitan nobles, but he accumulated little, for he squandered it all as it came to his hand; and finally he died in Naples, leaving behind him the reputation of having been a good colourist, but not of having shown much excellence in draughtsmanship.
Giovan Francesco lived forty years, and his works date about 1528.
A friend of Giovan Francesco, and likewise a disciple of Raffaello, was Pellegrino da Modena, who, having acquired in his native city the name of a man of fine genius for painting, and having heard of the marvels of Raffaello da Urbino, determined, in order to justify by means of labour the hopes already conceived of him, to go to Rome. Arriving there, he placed himself under Raffaello, who never refused anything to men of ability. There were then in Rome very many young men who were working at painting and seeking in mutual rivalry to surpass one another in draughtsmanship, in order to win the favour of Raffaello and to gain a name among men; and thus Pellegrino, giving unceasing attention to his studies, became not only a good draughtsman, but also a well-practised master of the whole of his art. And when Leo X commissioned Raffaello to paint the Loggie, Pellegrino also worked there, in company with the other young men; and so well did he succeed, that Raffaello afterwards made use of him in many other things.
He executed three figures in fresco in S. Eustachio at Rome, over an altar near the entrance into the church; and in the Church of the Portuguese, near the Scrofa, he painted in fresco the Chapel of the High-Altar, as well as the altar-piece. Afterwards, Cardinal Alborense having caused a chapel richly adorned with marbles to be erected in S. Jacopo, the Church of the Spanish people, with a S. James of marble by Jacopo Sansovino, four braccia and a half in height, and much extolled, Pellegrino painted there in fresco the stories of that Apostle, giving an air of great sweetness to his figures in imitation of his master Raffaello, and designing the whole composition so well, that the work made him known as an able man with a fine and beautiful genius for painting. This work finished, he made many others in Rome, both by himself and in company with others.
[Pg 81] But finally, when death had come upon Raffaello, Pellegrino returned to Modena, where he executed many works; among others, he painted for a Confraternity of Flagellants a panel-picture in oils of S. John baptizing Christ, and another panel for the Church of the Servi, containing S. Cosimo and S. Damiano, with other figures. Afterwards, having taken a wife, he had a son, who was the cause of his death. For this son, having come to words with some companions, young men of Modena, killed one of them; the news of which being carried to Pellegrino, he, in order to help his son from falling into the hands of justice, set out to smuggle him away. But he had not gone far from his house, when he stumbled against the relatives of the dead youth, who were going about searching for the murderer; and they, confronting Pellegrino, who had no time to escape, and full of fury because they had not been able to catch his son, gave him so many wounds that they left him dead on the ground. This event was a great grief to the people of Modena, who knew that by the death of Pellegrino they had been robbed of a spirit truly excellent and rare.
A contemporary of this craftsman was the Milanese Gaudenzio, a resolute, well-practised, and excellent painter, who made many works in fresco at Milan; and in particular, for the Frati della Passione, a most beautiful Last Supper, which remained unfinished by reason of his death. He also painted very well in oils, and there are many highly-esteemed works by his hand at Vercelli and Veralla.
At length, after the Lives of many craftsmen who have been excellent, some in colouring, some in drawing, and others in invention, we have come to the most excellent Andrea del Sarto, in whose single person nature and art demonstrated all that painting can achieve by means of draughtsmanship, colouring, and invention, insomuch that, if Andrea had possessed a little more fire and boldness of spirit, to correspond to his profound genius and judgment in his art, without a doubt he would have had no equal. But a certain timidity of spirit and a sort of humility and simplicity in his nature made it impossible that there should be seen in him that glowing ardour and that boldness which, added to his other qualities, would have made him truly divine in painting; for which reason he lacked those adornments and that grandeur and abundance of manners which have been seen in many other painters. His figures, however, for all their simplicity and purity, are well conceived, free from errors, and absolutely perfect in every respect. The expressions of his heads, both in children and in women, are gracious and natural, and those of men, both young and old, admirable in their vivacity and animation; his draperies are beautiful to a marvel, and his nudes very well conceived. And although his drawing is simple, all that he coloured is rare and truly divine.
Andrea was born in Florence, in the year 1478, to a father who was all his life a tailor; whence he was always called Andrea del Sarto by everyone. Having come to the age of seven, he was taken away from his reading and writing school and apprenticed to the goldsmith's craft. But in this he was always much more willing to practise his hand in [Pg 86] drawing, to which he was drawn by a natural inclination, than in using the tools for working in silver or gold; whence it came to pass that Gian Barile, a painter of Florence, but one of gross and vulgar taste, having seen the boy's good manner of drawing, took him under his protection, and, making him abandon his work as goldsmith, directed him to the art of painting. Andrea, beginning with much delight to practise it, recognized that nature had created him for that profession; and in a very short space of time, therefore, he was doing such things with colours as filled Gian Barile and the other craftsmen in the city with marvel. Now after three years, through continual study, he had acquired an excellent mastery over his work, and Gian Barile saw that by persisting in his studies the boy was likely to achieve an extraordinary success. Having therefore spoken of him to Piero di Cosimo, who was held at that time to be one of the best painters in Florence, he placed Andrea with Piero. And Andrea, as one full of desire to learn, laboured and studied without ceasing; while nature, which had created him to be a painter, so wrought in him, that he handled and managed his colours with as much grace as if he had been working for fifty years. Wherefore Piero conceived an extraordinary love for him, feeling marvellous pleasure in hearing that when Andrea had any time to himself, particularly on feast-days, he would spend the whole day in company with other young men, drawing in the Sala del Papa, wherein were the cartoons of Michelagnolo and Leonardo da Vinci, and that, young as he was, he surpassed all the other draughtsmen, both native and foreign, who were always competing there with one another.
Among these young men, there was one who pleased Andrea more than any other with his nature and conversation, namely, the painter Franciabigio; and Franciabigio, likewise, was attracted by Andrea. Having become friends, therefore, Andrea said to Franciabigio that he could no longer endure the caprices of Piero, who was now old, and that for this reason he wished to take a room for himself. Hearing this, Franciabigio, who was obliged to do the same thing because his master Mariotto Albertinelli had abandoned the art of painting, said to his companion Andrea that he also was in need of a room, and that it would be [Pg 87] to the advantage of both of them if they were to join forces. Having therefore taken a room on the Piazza del Grano, they executed many works in company; among others, the curtains that cover the panel-pictures on the high-altar of the Servi; for which they received the commission from a sacristan very closely related to Franciabigio. On one of those curtains, that which faces the choir, they painted the Annunciation of the Virgin; and on the other, which is in front, a Deposition of Christ from the Cross, like that of the panel-picture which was there, painted by Filippo and Pietro Perugino.
The men of that company in Florence which is called the Company of the Scalzo used to assemble at the head of the Via Larga, above the houses of the Magnificent Ottaviano de' Medici, and opposite to the garden of S. Marco, in a building dedicated to S. John the Baptist, which had been built in those days by a number of Florentine craftsmen, who had made there, among other things, an entrance-court of masonry with a loggia which rested on some columns of no great size. And some of them, perceiving that Andrea was on the way to becoming known as an excellent painter, and being richer in spirit than in pocket, determined that he should paint round that cloister twelve pictures in chiaroscuro—that is to say, in fresco with terretta—containing twelve scenes from the life of S. John the Baptist. Whereupon, setting his hand to this, he painted in the first the scene of S. John baptizing Christ, with much diligence and great excellence of manner, whereby he gained credit, honour, and fame to such an extent, that many persons turned to him with commissions for works, as to one whom they thought to be destined in time to reach that honourable goal which was foreshadowed by his extraordinary beginnings in his profession.
Among other works that he made in that first manner, he painted a picture which is now in the house of Filippo Spini, held in great veneration in memory of so able a craftsman. And not long after this he was commissioned to paint for a chapel in S. Gallo, the Church of the Eremite Observantines of the Order of S. Augustine, without the Porta a S. Gallo, a panel-picture of Christ appearing in the garden to Mary Magdalene in the form of a gardener; which work, what with the colouring and a certain [Pg 88] quality of softness and harmony, is sweetness itself, and so well executed, that it led to his painting two others not long afterwards for the same church, as will be related below. This panel is now in S. Jacopo tra Fossi, on the Canto degli Alberti, together with the two others.
After these works, Andrea and Franciabigio, leaving the Piazza del Grano, took new rooms in the Sapienza, near the Convent of the Nunziata; whence it came about that Andrea and Jacopo Sansovino, who was then a young man and was working at sculpture in the same place under his master Andrea Contucci, formed so warm and so strait a friendship together, that neither by day nor by night were they ever separated one from another. Their discussions were for the most part on the difficulties of art, so that it is no marvel that both of them should have afterwards become most excellent, as is now being shown of Andrea and as will be related in the proper place of Jacopo.
There was at this same time in the Convent of the Servi, selling the candles at the counter, a friar called Fra Mariano dal Canto alla Macine, who was also sacristan; and he heard everyone extolling Andrea mightily and saying that he was by way of making marvellous proficience in painting. Whereupon he planned to fulfil a desire of his own without much expense; and so, approaching Andrea, who was a mild and guileless fellow, on the side of his honour, he began to persuade him under the cloak of friendship that he wished to help him in a matter which would bring him honour and profit and would make him known in such a manner, that he would never be poor any more. Now many years before, as has been related above, Alesso Baldovinetti had painted a Nativity of Christ in the first cloister of the Servi, on the wall that has the Annunciation behind it; and in the same cloister, on the other side, Cosimo Rosselli had begun a scene of S. Filippo, the founder of that Servite Order, assuming the habit. But Cosimo had not carried that scene to completion, because death came upon him at the very moment when he was working at it. The friar, then, being very eager to see the rest finished, thought of serving his own ends by making Andrea and Franciabigio, who, from being friends, had become rivals in art, compete with one another, each doing part of the work. This, besides effecting [Pg 89] his purpose very well, would make the expense less and their efforts greater. Thereupon, revealing his mind to Andrea, he persuaded him to undertake that enterprise, by pointing out to him that since it was a public and much frequented place, he would become known on account of such a work no less by foreigners than by the Florentines; that he should not look for any payment in return, or even for an invitation to undertake it, but should rather pray to be allowed to do it; and that if he were not willing to set to work, there was Franciabigio, who, in order to make himself known, had offered to accept it and to leave the matter of payment to him. These incitements did much to make Andrea resolve to undertake the work, and the rather as he was a man of little spirit; and the last reference to Franciabigio induced him to make up his mind completely and to come to an agreement, in the form of a written contract, with regard to the whole work, on the terms that no one else should have a hand in it. The friar, then, having thus pledged him and given him money, demanded that he should begin by continuing the life of S. Filippo, without receiving more than ten ducats from him in payment of each scene; and he told Andrea that he was giving him even that out of his own pocket, and was doing it more for the benefit and advantage of the painter than through any want or need of the convent.
Andrea, therefore, pursuing that work with the utmost diligence, like one who thought more of honour than of profit, after no long time completely finished the first three scenes and unveiled them. One was the scene of S. Filippo, now a friar, clothing the naked. In another he is shown rebuking certain gamesters, who blasphemed God and laughed at S. Filippo, mocking at his admonition, when suddenly there comes a lightning-flash from Heaven, which, striking a tree under the shade of which they were sheltering, kills two of them and throws the rest into an incredible panic. Some, with their hands to their heads, cast themselves forward in dismay; others, crying aloud in their terror, turn to flight; a woman, beside herself with fear at the sound of the thunder, is running away so naturally that she appears to be truly alive; and a horse, breaking loose amid this uproar and confusion, reveals with his leaps and fearsome movements what fear and terror are caused by things [Pg 90] so sudden and so unexpected. In all this one can see how carefully Andrea looked to variety of incident in the representation of such events, with a forethought truly beautiful and most necessary for one who practises painting. In the third he painted the scene of S. Filippo delivering a woman from evil spirits, with all the most characteristic considerations that could be imagined in such an action. All these scenes brought extraordinary fame and honour to Andrea; and thus encouraged, he went on to paint two other scenes in the same cloister. On one wall is S. Filippo lying dead, with his friars about him making lamentation; and in addition there is a dead child, who, touching the bier on which S. Filippo lies, comes to life again, so that he is first seen dead, and then revived and restored to life, and all with a very beautiful, natural, and appropriate effect. In the last picture on that side he represented the friars placing the garments of S. Filippo on the heads of certain children; and there he made a portrait of Andrea della Robbia, the sculptor, in an old man clothed in red, who comes forward, stooping, with a staff in his hand. There, too, he portrayed Luca, his son; even as in the other scene mentioned above, in which S. Filippo lies dead, he made a portrait of another son of Andrea, named Girolamo, a sculptor and very much his friend, who died not long since in France.
Having thus finished that side of the cloister, and considering that if the honour was great, the payment was small, Andrea resolved to give up the rest of the work, however much the friar might complain. But the latter would not release him from his bond without Andrea first promising that he would paint two other scenes, at his own leisure and convenience, however, and with an increase of payment; and thus they came to terms.
Having come into greater repute by reason of these works, Andrea received commissions for many pictures and works of importance; among others, one from the General of the Monks of Vallombrosa, for painting an arch of the vaulting, with a Last Supper on the front wall, in the Refectory of the Monastery of S. Salvi, without the Porta alla Croce. In four medallions on that vault he painted four figures, S. Benedict, S. Giovanni Gualberto, S. Salvi the Bishop, and S. Bernardo degli Uberti [Pg 91] of Florence, a friar of that Order and a Cardinal; and in the centre he made a medallion containing three faces, which are one and the same, to represent the Trinity. All this was very well executed for a work in fresco, and Andrea, therefore, came to be valued at his true worth in the art of painting. Whereupon he was commissioned at the instance of Baccio d' Agnolo to paint in fresco, in a close on the steep path of Orsanmichele, which leads to the Mercato Nuovo, the Annunciation still to be seen there, executed on a minute scale, which brought him but little praise; and this may have been because Andrea, who worked well without over-exerting himself or forcing his powers, is believed to have tried in this work to force himself and to paint with too much care.
As for the many pictures that he executed after this for Florence, it would take too long to try to speak of them all; and I will only say that among the most distinguished may be numbered the one that is now in the apartment of Baccio Barbadori, containing a full-length Madonna with a Child in her arms, S. Anne, and S. Joseph, all painted in a beautiful manner and held very dear by Baccio. He made one, likewise well worthy of praise, which is now in the possession of Lorenzo di Domenico Borghini, and another of Our Lady for Leonardo del Giocondo, which at the present day is in the hands of Piero, the son of Leonardo. For Carlo Ginori he painted two of no great size, which were bought afterwards by the Magnificent Ottaviano de' Medici; and one of these is now in his most beautiful villa of Campi, while the other, together with many other modern pictures executed by the most excellent masters, is in the apartment of the worthy son of so great a father, Signor Bernardetto, who not only esteems and honours the works of famous craftsmen, but is also in his every action a truly generous and magnificent nobleman.
Meanwhile the Servite friar had allotted to Franciabigio one of the scenes in the above-mentioned cloister; but that master had not yet finished making the screen, when Andrea, becoming apprehensive, since it seemed to him that Franciabigio was an abler and more dexterous master than himself in the handling of colours in fresco, executed, as it were out of rivalry, the cartoons for his two scenes, which he intended to paint on the angle between the side-door of S. Bastiano and the [Pg 92] smaller door that leads from the cloister into the Nunziata. Having made the cartoons, he set to work in fresco; and in the first scene he painted the Nativity of Our Lady, a composition of figures beautifully proportioned and grouped with great grace in a room, wherein some women who are friends and relatives of the newly delivered mother, having come to visit her, are standing about her, all clothed in such garments as were customary at that time, and other women of lower degree, gathered around the fire, are washing the newborn babe, while others are preparing the swathing-bands and doing other similar services. Among them is a little boy, full of life, who is warming himself at the fire, with an old man resting in a very natural attitude on a couch, and likewise some women carrying food to the mother who is in bed, with movements truly lifelike and appropriate. And all these figures, together with some little boys who are hovering in the air and scattering flowers, are most carefully considered in their expressions, their draperies, and every other respect, and so soft in colour, that the figures appear to be of flesh and everything else rather real than painted.
In the other scene Andrea painted the three Magi from the East, who, guided by the Star, went to adore the Infant Jesus Christ. He represented them dismounted, as though they were near their destination; and that because there was only the space embracing the two doors to separate them from the Nativity of Christ which may be seen there, by the hand of Alesso Baldovinetti. In this scene Andrea painted the Court of those three Kings coming behind them, with baggage, much equipment, and many people following in their train, among whom, in a corner, are three persons portrayed from life and wearing the Florentine dress, one being Jacopo Sansovino, a full-length figure looking straight at the spectator, while another, with an arm in foreshortening, who is leaning against him and making a sign, is Andrea, the master of the work, and a third head, seen in profile behind Jacopo, is that of Ajolle, the musician. There are, in addition, some little boys who are climbing on the walls, in order to be able to see the magnificent procession and the fantastic animals that those three Kings have brought with them. This scene is quite equal in excellence to that mentioned above; nay, in both [Pg 93] the one and the other he surpassed himself, not to speak of Franciabigio, who also finished his.
At this same time Andrea painted for the Abbey of S. Godenzo, a benefice belonging to the same friars, a panel which was held to be very well executed. And for the Friars of S. Gallo he made a panel-picture of Our Lady receiving the Annunciation from the Angel, wherein may be seen a very pleasing harmony of colouring, while the heads of some Angels accompanying Gabriel show a sweet gradation of tints and a perfectly executed beauty of expression in their features; and the predella below this picture was painted by Jacopo da Pontormo, who was a disciple of Andrea at that time, and gave proofs at that early age that he was destined to produce afterwards those beautiful works which he actually did execute in Florence with his own hand, although in the end he became one might say another painter, as will be related in his Life.
Andrea then painted for Zanobi Girolami a picture with figures of no great size, wherein was a story of Joseph, the son of Jacob, which was finished by him with unremitting diligence, and therefore held to be a very beautiful painting. Not long after this, he undertook to execute for the men of the Company of S. Maria della Neve, situated behind the Nunnery of S. Ambrogio, a little panel with three figures—Our Lady, S. John the Baptist, and S. Ambrogio; which work, when finished, was placed in due time on the altar of that Company.
Meanwhile, thanks to his talent, Andrea had become intimate with Giovanni Gaddi, afterwards appointed Clerk of the Chamber, who, always delighting in the arts of design, was then keeping Jacopo Sansovino continually at work. Being pleased, therefore, with the manner of Andrea, he caused him to paint a picture of Our Lady for himself, which was very beautiful, for Andrea painted various patterns and other ingenious devices round it, so that it was considered to be the most beautiful work that he had executed up to that time. After this he made for Giovanni di Paolo, the mercer, another picture of Our Lady, which, being truly lovely, gave infinite pleasure to all who saw it. And for Andrea Santini he executed another, containing Our Lady, Christ, S. John, and S. Joseph, all wrought with such diligence [Pg 94] that the painting has always been esteemed in Florence as worthy of great praise.
All these works acquired such a name for Andrea in his city, that among the many, both young and old, who were painting at that time, he was considered one of the most excellent who were handling brushes and colours. Wherefore he found himself not only honoured, but even, although he exacted the most paltry prices for his labours, in a condition to do something to help and support his family, and also to shelter himself from the annoyances and anxieties which afflict those of us who live in poverty. But he became enamoured of a young woman, and a little time afterwards, when she had been left a widow, he took her for his wife; and then he had more than enough to do for the rest of his life, and much more trouble than he had suffered in the past, for the reason that, in addition to the labours and annoyances that such entanglements generally involve, he undertook others into the bargain, such as that of letting himself be harassed now by jealousy, now by one thing, and now by another.
But to return to the works of his hand, which were as rare as they were numerous: after those of which mention has been made above, he painted for a friar of S. Croce, of the Order of Minorites, who was then Governor of the Nunnery of S. Francesco in Via Pentolini, and delighted much in paintings, a panel-picture destined for the Church of those Nuns, of Our Lady standing on high upon an octagonal pedestal, at the corners of which are seated some Harpies, as it were in adoration of the Virgin; and she, using one hand to uphold her Son, who is clasping her most tenderly round the neck with His arms, in a very beautiful attitude, is holding a closed book in the other hand and gazing on two little naked boys, who, while helping her to stand upright, serve as ornaments about her person. This Madonna has on her right a beautifully painted S. Francis, in whose face may be seen the goodness and simplicity that truly belonged to that saintly man; besides which, the feet are marvellous, and so are the draperies, because Andrea always rounded off his figures with a very rich flow of folds and with certain most delicate curves, in such a way as to reveal the nude below. On her left hand she has a [Pg 95] S. John the Evangelist, represented as a young man and in the act of writing his Gospel, in a very beautiful manner. In this work, moreover, over the building and the figures, is a film of transparent clouds, which appear to be really moving. This picture, among all Andrea's works, is held at the present day to be one of singular and truly rare beauty. For the joiner Nizza, also, he made a picture of Our Lady, which was considered to be no less beautiful than any of his other works.
After this, the Guild of Merchants determined to have some triumphal chariots made of wood after the manner of those of the ancient Romans, to the end that these might be drawn in procession on the morning of S. John's day, in place of certain altar-cloths and wax tapers which the cities and townships carry in token of tribute, passing before the Duke and the chief magistrates; and out of ten that were made at that time, Andrea painted some with scenes in oils and in chiaroscuro, which were much extolled. But although it was proposed that some should be made every year, until such time as every city and district had one of its own, which would have produced a show of extraordinary magnificence, nevertheless this custom was abandoned in the year 1527.
Now, while Andrea was adorning his city with these and other works, and his name was growing greater every day, the men of the Company of the Scalzo resolved that he should finish the work in their cloister, which he had formerly begun by painting the scene of the Baptism of Christ. Having resumed that work, therefore, more willingly, he executed two scenes there, with two very beautiful figures of Charity and Justice to adorn the door that leads into the building of the Company. In one of these scenes he represented S. John preaching to the multitude in a spirited attitude, lean in person, as befitted the life that he was leading, and with an expression of countenance filled with inspiration and thoughtfulness. Marvellous, likewise, are the variety and the vivacity of his hearers, some being shown in admiration, and all in astonishment, at hearing that new message and a doctrine so singular and never heard before. Even more did Andrea exert his genius in painting the same John baptizing with water a vast number of people, some of whom are stripping off their clothes, some receiving the baptism, [Pg 96] and others, naked, waiting for him to finish baptizing those who are before them. In all of them Andrea showed a vivid emotion, with a burning desire in the gestures of those who are eager to be purified of their sins; not to mention that all the figures are so well executed in that chiaroscuro, that the whole has the appearance of a real and most lifelike scene in marble.
I will not refrain from saying that while Andrea was employed on these and other pictures, there appeared certain copper engravings by Albrecht Dürer, and Andrea made use of them, taking some of the figures and transforming them into his manner. And this has caused some people, while not saying that it is a bad thing for a man to make adroit use of the good work of others, to believe that Andrea had not much invention.
At that time there came to Baccio Bandinelli, then a draughtsman of great repute, a desire to learn to paint in oils. Whereupon, knowing that no man in Florence knew how to do that better than our Andrea, he commissioned him to paint his portrait, which was a good likeness of him at that age, as may be seen even yet; and thus, by watching him paint that work and others, he saw his method of colouring, although afterwards, either by reason of the difficulty or from lack of inclination, he did not pursue the use of colours, finding more satisfaction in sculpture.
Andrea executed for Alessandro Corsini a picture of a Madonna seated on the ground with a Child in her arms, surrounded by many little boys, which was finished with beautiful art and with very pleasing colour; and for a mercer, much his friend, who kept a shop in Rome, he made a most beautiful head. Giovan Battista Puccini of Florence, likewise, taking extraordinary pleasure in the manner of Andrea, commissioned him to paint a picture of Our Lady for sending into France; but it proved to be so fine that he kept it for himself, and would by no means send it. However, having been asked, while transacting the affairs of his business in France, to undertake to send choice paintings to that country, he caused Andrea to paint a picture of a Dead Christ surrounded by some Angels, who were supporting Him and contemplating with gestures of sorrow and compassion their Maker sunk to such a [Pg 97] pass through the sins of the world. This work, when finished, gave such universal satisfaction, that Andrea, urged by many entreaties, had it engraved in Rome by the Venetian Agostino; but it did not succeed very well, and he would never again give any of his works to be engraved. But to return to the picture: it gave no less satisfaction in France, whither it was sent, than it had done in Florence, insomuch that the King, kindled with even greater desire to have works by Andrea, gave orders that he should execute others; which was the reason that Andrea, encouraged by his friends, resolved to go in a short time to France.
But meanwhile the Florentines, hearing in the year 1515 that Pope Leo X wished to grace his native city with his presence, ordained for his reception extraordinary festivities and a sumptuous and magnificent spectacle, with so many arches, façades, temples, colossal figures, and other statues and ornaments, that there had never been seen up to that time anything richer, more gorgeous, or more beautiful; for there was then flourishing in that city a greater abundance of fine and exalted intellects than had ever been known at any other period. At the entrance of the Porta di S. Piero Gattolini, Jacopo di Sandro, in company with Baccio da Montelupo, made an arch covered with historical scenes. Giuliano del Tasso made another at S. Felice in Piazza, with some statues and the obelisk of Romulus at S. Trinità, and Trajan's Column in the Mercato Nuovo. In the Piazza de' Signori, Antonio, the brother of Giuliano da San Gallo, erected an octagonal temple, and Baccio Bandinelli made a Giant for the Loggia. Between the Badia and the Palace of the Podestà there was an arch erected by Granaccio and Aristotele da San Gallo, and Il Rosso made another on the Canto de' Bischeri with a very beautiful design and a variety of figures. But what was admired more than everything else was the façade of S. Maria del Fiore, made of wood, and so well decorated with various scenes in chiaroscuro by our Andrea, that nothing more could have been desired. The architecture of this work was by Jacopo Sansovino, as were some scenes in low-relief and many figures carved in the round; and it was declared by the Pope that this structure—which was designed by Lorenzo de' Medici, father of that Pontiff, when he was alive—could not have been more beautiful, even if it had been of marble. [Pg 98] The same Jacopo made a horse similar to the one in Rome, which was held to be a miracle of beauty, on the Piazza di S. Maria Novella. An endless number of ornaments, also, were executed for the Sala del Papa in the Via della Scala, and that street was half filled with most beautiful scenes wrought by the hands of many craftsmen, but designed for the most part by Baccio Bandinelli. Wherefore, when Leo entered Florence, on the third day of September in the same year, this spectacle was pronounced to be the grandest that had ever been devised, and the most beautiful.
But to return now to Andrea: being again requested to make another picture for the King of France, in a short time he finished one wherein he painted a very beautiful Madonna, which was sent off immediately, the merchants receiving for it four times as much as they had paid. Now at that very time Pier Francesco Borgherini had caused to be made by Baccio d' Agnolo some panelling, chests, chairs, and a bed, all carved in walnut-wood, for the furnishing of an apartment; wherefore, to the end that the paintings therein might be equal in excellence to the rest of the work, he commissioned Andrea to paint part of the scenes on these with figures of no great size, representing the acts of Joseph the son of Jacob, in competition with some of great beauty that had been executed by Granaccio and Jacopo da Pontormo. Andrea, then, devoting an extraordinary amount of time and diligence to the work, strove to bring it about that they should prove to be more perfect than those of the others mentioned above; in which he succeeded to a marvel, for in the variety of events happening in the stories he showed how great was his worth in the art of painting. So excellent were those scenes, that an attempt was made by Giovan Battista della Palla, on account of the siege of Florence, to remove them from the places where they were fixed, in order to send them to the King of France; but, since they were fixed in such a way that it would have meant spoiling the whole work, they were left where they were, together with a picture of Our Lady, which is held to be a very choice work.
After this Andrea executed a head of Christ, now kept by the Servite Friars on the altar of the Nunziata, of such beauty, that I for my part do not know whether any more beautiful image of the head of Christ [Pg 99] could be conceived by the intellect of man. For the chapels in the Church of S. Gallo, without the Porta S. Gallo, there had been painted, in addition to the two panel-pictures by Andrea, a number of others, which were not equal to his; wherefore, since there was a commission to be given for another, those friars contrived to persuade the owner of the chapel to give it to Andrea; and he, beginning it immediately, made therein four figures standing, engaged in a disputation about the Trinity. One of these is S. Augustine, who, robed as a Bishop and truly African in aspect, is moving impetuously towards S. Peter Martyr, who is holding up an open book in a proud and sublime attitude: and the head and figure of the latter are much extolled. Beside him is a S. Francis holding a book in one hand and pressing the other against his breast; and he appears to be expressing with his lips a glowing ardour that makes him almost melt away in the heat of the discussion. There is also a S. Laurence, who, being young, is listening, and seems to be yielding to the authority of the others. Below them are two figures kneeling, one a Magdalene with most beautiful draperies, whose countenance is a portrait of Andrea's wife; for in no place did he paint a woman's features without copying them from her, and if perchance it happened at times that he took them from other women, yet, from his being used to see her continually, and from the circumstance that he had drawn her so often, and, what is more, had her impressed on his mind, it came about that almost all the heads of women that he made resembled her. The other kneeling figure is a S. Sebastian, who, being naked, shows his back, which appears to all who see it to be not painted, but of living flesh. And indeed, among so many works in oils, this was held by craftsmen to be the best, for the reason that there may be seen in it signs of careful consideration in the proportions of the figures, and much order in the method, with a sense of fitness in the expressions of the faces, the heads of the young showing sweetness of expression, those of the old hardness, and those of middle age a kind of blend that inclines both to the first and to the second. In a word, this panel is most beautiful in all its parts; and it is now to be found in S. Jacopo tra Fossi on the Canto degli Alberti, together with others by the hand of the same master.
[Pg 100] While Andrea was living poorly enough in Florence, engaged in these works, but without bettering himself a whit, the two pictures that he had sent to France had been duly considered in that country by King Francis I; and among many others which had been sent from Rome, from Venice, and from Lombardy, they had been judged to be by far the best. The King therefore praising them mightily, it was remarked to him that it would be an easy matter to persuade Andrea to come to France to serve his Majesty; which news was so agreeable to the King, that he gave orders that all that was necessary should be done, and that money for the journey should be paid to Andrea in Florence. Andrea then set out for France with a glad heart, taking with him his assistant Andrea Sguazzella; and, having arrived at last at the Court, they were received by the King with great kindness and rejoicing. Before the very day of his arrival had passed by, Andrea proved for himself how great were the courtesy and the liberality of that magnanimous King, receiving presents of money and rich and honourable garments. Beginning to work soon afterwards, he became so dear to the King and to all the Court, that he was treated lovingly by everyone, and it appeared to him that his departure from his country had brought him from one extreme of wretchedness to the other extreme of bliss. Among his first works was a portrait from life of the Dauphin, the son of the King, born only a few months before, and still in swaddling-clothes; and when he took this to the King, he received a present of three hundred gold crowns. Then, continuing to work, he painted for the King a figure of Charity, which was considered a very rare work and was held by that Sovereign in the estimation that it deserved. After that, his Majesty granted him a liberal allowance and did all that he could to induce Andrea to stay willingly with him, promising him that he should never want for anything; and this because he liked Andrea's resoluteness in his work, and also the character of the man, who was contented with everything. Moreover, giving great satisfaction to the whole Court, he executed many pictures and various other works; and if he had kept in mind the condition from which he had escaped and the place to which fortune had brought him, there is no doubt that he would have risen—to say nothing of riches—to a most [Pg 101] honourable rank. But one day, when he was at work on a S. Jerome in Penitence for the mother of the King, there came to him some letters from Florence, written by his wife; and he began, whatever may have been the reason, to think of departing. He sought leave, therefore, from the King, saying that he wished to go to Florence, but would return without fail to his Majesty after settling some affairs; and he would bring his wife with him, in order to live more at his ease in France, and would come back laden with pictures and sculptures of value. The King, trusting in him, gave him money for that purpose; and Andrea swore on the Testament to return to him in a few months.
Thus, then, he arrived in Florence, and for several months blissfully took his joy of his fair lady, his friends, and the city. And finally, the time at which he was to return having passed by, he found in the end that what with building, taking his pleasure, and doing no work, he had squandered all his money and likewise that of the King. Even so he wished to return, but he was more influenced by the sighs and prayers of his wife than by his own necessities and the pledge given to the King, so that, in order to please his wife, he did not go back; at which the King fell into such disdain, that for a long time he would never again look with a favourable eye on any painter from Florence, and he swore that if Andrea ever came into his hands he would give him a very different kind of welcome, with no regard whatever for his abilities. And thus Andrea, remaining in Florence, and sinking from the highest rung of the ladder to the very lowest, lived and passed the time as best he could.
After Andrea's departure to France, the men of the Scalzo, thinking that he would never return, had entrusted all the rest of the work in their cloister to Franciabigio, who had already executed two scenes there, when, seeing Andrea back in Florence, they persuaded him to set his hand to the work once more; and he, continuing it, painted four scenes, one beside another. In the first is S. John taken before Herod. In the second are the Feast and the Dance of Herodias, with figures very well grouped and appropriate. In the third is the Beheading of S. John, wherein the minister of justice, a half-nude figure, is beautifully drawn, as are all the others. In the fourth Herodias is presenting the head; [Pg 102] and here there are figures expressing their astonishment, which are wrought with most beautiful thought and care. These scenes have been for some time the study and school of many young men who are now excellent in our arts.
In a shrine without the Porta a Pinti, at a corner where the road turns towards the Ingesuati, he painted in fresco a Madonna seated with a Child in her arms, and a little S. John who is smiling, a figure wrought with extraordinary art and with such perfect execution, that it is much extolled for its beauty and vivacity; and the head of the Madonna is a portrait of his wife from nature. This shrine, on account of the incredible beauty of the painting, which is truly marvellous, was left standing in 1530, when, because of the siege of Florence, the aforesaid Convent of the Ingesuati was pulled down, together with many other very beautiful buildings.
About the same time the elder Bartolommeo Panciatichi, who was carrying on a great mercantile business in France, desiring to leave a memorial of himself in Lyons, ordered Baccio d' Agnolo to have a panel painted for him by Andrea, and to send it to him there; saying that he wanted the subject to be the Assumption of Our Lady, with the Apostles about the tomb. This work, then, Andrea carried almost to completion; but since the wood of the panel split apart several times, he would sometimes work at it, and sometimes leave it alone, so that at his death it remained not quite finished. Afterwards it was placed by the younger Bartolommeo Panciatichi in his house, as a work truly worthy of praise on account of the beautiful figures of the Apostles; not to speak of the Madonna, who is surrounded by a choir of little boys standing, while certain others are supporting her and bearing her upwards with extraordinary grace. And in the foreground of the panel, among the Apostles, is a portrait of Andrea, so natural that it seems to be alive. It is now at the villa of the Baroncelli, a little distance from Florence, in a small church built by Piero Salviati near his villa to do honour to the picture.
At the head of the garden of the Servi, in two angles, Andrea painted two scenes of Christ's Vineyard, one showing the planting, staking, and binding of the vines, and then the husbandman summoning to the labour [Pg 103] those who were standing idle, among whom is one who, being asked whether he wishes to join the work, sits rubbing his hands and pondering whether he will go among the other labourers, exactly as those idle fellows do who have but little mind to work. Even more beautiful is the other scene, wherein the same husbandman is causing them to be paid, while they murmur and complain, and one among them, who is counting over his money by himself, wholly intent on examining his share, seems absolutely alive, as also does the steward who is paying out the wages. These scenes are in chiaroscuro, and executed with extraordinary mastery in fresco. After them he painted a Pietà, coloured in fresco, which is very beautiful, in a niche at the head of a staircase in the noviciate of the same convent. He also painted another Pietà in a little picture in oils, in addition to a Nativity, for the room in that convent wherein the General, Angelo Aretino, once lived.
The same master painted for Zanobi Bracci, who much desired to have some work by his hand, for one of his apartments, a picture of Our Lady, in which she is on her knees, leaning against a rock, and contemplating Christ, who lies on a heap of drapery and looks up at her, smiling; while a S. John, who stands there, is making a sign to the Madonna, as if to say that her Child is the true Son of God. Behind these figures is a S. Joseph with his head resting on his hands, which are lying on a rock; and he appears to be filled with joy at seeing the human race become divine through that Birth.
Cardinal Giulio de' Medici having been commissioned by Pope Leo to see to the adorning with stucco and paintings of the ceiling in the Great Hall of Poggio a Caiano, a palatial villa of the Medici family, situated between Pistoia and Florence, the charge of arranging for that work and of paying out the money was given to the Magnificent Ottaviano de' Medici, as to a person who, not falling short of the standard of his ancestors, was well informed in such matters and a loving friend to all the masters of our arts, and delighted more than any other man to have his dwellings adorned with the works of the most excellent. Ottaviano ordained, therefore, although the commission for the whole work had already been given to Franciabigio, that he should have only a third, [Pg 104] Andrea another, and Jacopo da Pontormo the last. But it was found impossible, for all the efforts that the Magnificent Ottaviano made to urge them on, and for all the money that he offered and even paid to them, to get the work brought to completion; and Andrea alone finished with great diligence a scene on one wall, representing Cæsar being presented with tribute of all kinds of animals. The drawing for this work is in our book, with many others by his hand; it is in chiaroscuro, and is the most finished that he ever made. In this picture Andrea, in order to surpass Franciabigio and Jacopo, subjected himself to unexampled labour, drawing in it a magnificent perspective-view and a very masterly flight of steps, which formed the ascent to the throne of Cæsar. And these steps he adorned with very well-designed statues, not being content with having proved the beauty of his genius in the variety of figures that are carrying on their backs all those different animals, such as the figure of an Indian who is wearing a yellow coat, and carrying on his shoulders a cage drawn in perspective with some parrots both within it and without, the whole being rarely beautiful; and such, also, as some who are leading Indian goats, lions, giraffes, panthers, lynxes, and apes, with Moors and other lovely things of fancy, all grouped in a beautiful manner and executed divinely well in fresco. On these steps, also, he made a dwarf seated and holding a box containing a chameleon, which is so well executed in all the deformity of its fantastic shape, that it is impossible to imagine more beautiful proportions than those that he gave it. But, as has been said, this work remained unfinished, on account of the death of Pope Leo; and although Duke Alessandro de' Medici had a great desire that Jacopo da Pontormo should finish it, he was not able to prevail on him to put his hand to it. And in truth it suffered a very grievous wrong in the failure to complete it, seeing that the hall, for one in a villa, is the most beautiful in the world.
After returning to Florence, Andrea painted a picture with a nude half-length figure of S. John the Baptist, a very beautiful thing, which he executed at the commission of Giovan Maria Benintendi, who presented it afterwards to the Lord Duke Cosimo.
While affairs were proceeding in this manner, Andrea, remembering [Pg 105] sometimes his connection with France, sighed from his heart: and if he had hoped to find pardon for the fault he had committed, there is no doubt that he would have gone back. Indeed, to try his fortune, he sought to see whether his talents might be helpful to him in the matter. Thus he painted a picture of a half-naked S. John the Baptist, meaning to send it to the Grand Master of France, to the end that he might occupy himself with restoring the painter to the favour of the King. However, whatever may have been the reason, he never sent it after all, but sold it to the Magnificent Ottaviano de' Medici, who always valued it much as long as he lived, even as he did two pictures of Our Lady executed for him by Andrea in one and the same manner, which are in his house at the present day.
Not long afterwards he was commissioned by Zanobi Bracci to paint a picture for Monsignore di San Biause, which he executed with all possible diligence, hoping that it might enable him to regain the favour of King Francis, to whose service he desired to return. He also executed for Lorenzo Jacopi a picture of much greater size than was usual, containing a Madonna seated with the Child in her arms, accompanied by two other figures that are seated on some steps; and the whole, both in drawing and in colouring, is similar to his other works. He painted for Giovanni d' Agostino Dini, likewise, a picture of Our Lady, which is now much esteemed for its beauty; and he made so good a portrait from life of Cosimo Lapi, that it seems absolutely alive.
Afterwards, in the year 1523, the plague came to Florence and also to some places in the surrounding country; and Andrea, in order to avoid that pestilence and also to do some work, went at the instance of Antonio Brancacci to the Mugello to paint a panel for the Nuns of S. Piero a Luco, of the Order of Camaldoli, taking with him his wife and a stepdaughter, together with his wife's sister and an assistant. Living quietly there, then, he set his hand to the work. And since those venerable ladies showed more and more kindness and courtesy every day to his wife, to himself, and to the whole party, he applied himself with the greatest possible willingness to executing that panel, in which he painted [Pg 106] a Dead Christ mourned by Our Lady, S. John the Evangelist, and the Magdalene, figures so lifelike, that they appear truly to have spirit and breath. In S. John may be seen the loving tenderness of that Apostle, with affection in the tears of the Magdalene, and bitter sorrow in the face and whole attitude of the Madonna, whose aspect, as she gazes on Christ, who seems to be truly a real corpse and in relief, is so pitiful, that she fills with helpless awe and bewilderment the minds of S. Peter and S. Paul, who are contemplating the Dead Saviour of the World in the lap of His mother. From these marvellous conceptions it is clear how much Andrea delighted in finish and perfection of art; and to tell the truth, this panel has given more fame to that convent than all the buildings and all the other costly works, however magnificent and extraordinary, that have been executed there.
This picture finished, Andrea, seeing that the danger of the plague was not yet past, stayed some weeks more in the same place, where he was so well received and treated with such kindness. During that time, in order not to be idle, he painted not only a Visitation of Our Lady to S. Elizabeth, which is in the church, on the right hand above the Manger, serving as a crown to a little ancient panel, but also, on a canvas of no great size, a most beautiful head of Christ, somewhat similar to that on the altar of the Nunziata, but not so finished. This head, which may in truth be numbered among the better works that issued from the hands of Andrea, is now in the Monastery of the Monks of the Angeli at Florence, in the possession of that very reverend father, Don Antonio da Pisa, who loves not only the men of excellence in our arts, but every man of talent without exception. From this picture several copies have been taken, for Don Silvano Razzi entrusted it to the painter Zanobi Poggini, to the end that he might make a copy for Bartolommeo Gondi, who had asked him for one, and some others were made, which are held in vast veneration in Florence.
In this manner, then, Andrea passed without danger the time of the plague, and those nuns received from the genius of that great man such a work as can bear comparison with the most excellent pictures that have been painted in our day; wherefore it is no marvel that Ramazzotto, [Pg 107] the captain of mercenaries of Scaricalasino, sought to obtain it on several occasions during the siege of Florence, in order to send it to his chapel in S. Michele in Bosco at Bologna.
On his return to Florence, Andrea executed for Beccuccio da Gambassi, the glass-blower, who was very much his friend, a panel-picture of Our Lady in the sky with the Child in her arms, and four figures below, S. John the Baptist, S. Mary Magdalene, S. Sebastian, and S. Rocco; and in the predella he made portraits from nature, which are most lifelike, of Beccuccio and his wife. This panel is now at Gambassi, a township in Valdelsa, between Volterra and Florence. For a chapel in the villa of Zanobi Bracci at Rovezzano, he painted a most beautiful picture of Our Lady suckling a Child, with a Joseph, all executed with such diligence that they stand out from the panel, so strong is the relief; and this picture is now in the house of M. Antonio Bracci, the son of that Zanobi. About the same time, also, and in the above-mentioned cloister of the Scalzo, Andrea painted two other scenes, in one of which he depicted Zacharias offering sacrifice and being made dumb by the Angel appearing to him, while in the other is the Visitation of Our Lady, beautiful to a marvel.
Now Federigo II, Duke of Mantua, in passing through Florence on his way to make obeisance to Clement VII, saw over a door in the house of the Medici that portrait of Pope Leo between Cardinal Giulio de' Medici and Cardinal de' Rossi, which the most excellent Raffaello da Urbino had formerly painted; and being extraordinarily pleased with it, he resolved, being a man who delighted in pictures of such beauty, to make it his own. And so, when he was in Rome and the moment seemed to him to have come, he asked for it as a present from Pope Clement, who courteously granted his request. Thereupon orders were sent to Florence to Ottaviano de' Medici, under whose care and government were Ippolito and Alessandro, that he should have it packed up and taken to Mantua. This matter was very displeasing to the Magnificent Ottaviano, who would never have consented to deprive Florence of such a picture, and he marvelled that the Pope should have given it up so readily. However, he answered that he would not fail to satisfy the Duke; but that, [Pg 108] since the frame was bad, he was having a new one made, and when it had been gilt he would send the picture with every possible precaution to Mantua. This done, Messer Ottaviano, in order to "save both the goat and the cabbage," as the saying goes, sent privately for Andrea and told him how the matter stood, and how there was no way out of it but to make an exact copy of the picture with the greatest care and send it to the Duke, secretly retaining the one by the hand of Raffaello. Andrea, then, having promised to do all in his power and knowledge, caused a panel to be made similar in size and in every respect, and painted it secretly in the house of Messer Ottaviano. And to such purpose did he labour, that when it was finished even Messer Ottaviano, for all his understanding in matters of art, could not tell the one from the other, nor distinguish the real and true picture from the copy; especially as Andrea had counterfeited even the spots of dirt, exactly as they were in the original. And so, after they had hidden the picture of Raffaello, they sent the one by the hand of Andrea, in a similar frame, to Mantua; at which the Duke was completely satisfied, and above all because the painter Giulio Romano, a disciple of Raffaello, had praised it, failing to detect the trick. This Giulio would always have been of the same opinion, and would have believed it to be by the hand of Raffaello, but for the arrival in Mantua of Giorgio Vasari, who, having been as it were the adoptive child of Messer Ottaviano, and having seen Andrea at work on that picture, revealed the truth. For Giulio making much of Vasari, and showing him, after many antiquities and paintings, that picture of Raffaello's, as the best work that was there, Giorgio said to him, "A beautiful work it is, but in no way by the hand of Raffaello." "What?" answered Giulio. "Should I not know it, when I recognize the very strokes that I made with my own brush?" "You have forgotten them," said Giorgio, "for this picture is by the hand of Andrea del Sarto; and to prove it, there is a sign (to which he pointed) that was made in Florence, because when the two were together they could not be distinguished." Hearing this, Giulio had the picture turned round, and saw the mark; at which he shrugged his shoulders and said these words, "I value it no less than if it were by the hand of Raffaello—nay, even more, for it is something [Pg 109] out of the course of nature that a man of excellence should imitate the manner of another so well, and should make a copy so like. It is enough that it should be known that Andrea's genius was as valiant in double harness as in single." Thus, then, by the wise judgment of Messer Ottaviano, satisfaction was given to the Duke without depriving Florence of so choice a work, which, having been presented to him afterwards by Duke Alessandro, he kept in his possession for many years; and finally he gave it to Duke Cosimo, who has it in his guardaroba together with many other famous pictures.
While Andrea was making this copy, he also painted for the same Messer Ottaviano a picture with only the head of Cardinal Giulio de' Medici, who afterwards became Pope Clement; and this head, which was similar to that by Raffaello, and very beautiful, was presented eventually by Messer Ottaviano to old Bishop de' Marzi.
Not long after, Messer Baldo Magini of Prato desiring to have a most beautiful panel-picture painted for the Madonna delle Carcere in his native city, for which he had already caused a very handsome ornament of marble to be made, one of the many painters proposed to him was Andrea. Wherefore Messer Baldo, having more inclination for him than for any of the others, although he had no great understanding in such a matter, had almost given him to believe that he and no other should do the work, when a certain Niccolò Soggi of Sansovino, who had some interest at Prato, was suggested to Messer Baldo for the undertaking, and assisted to such purpose by the assertion that there was not a better master to be found, that the work was given to him. Meanwhile, Andrea's supporters sending for him, he, holding it as settled that the work was to be his, went off to Prato with Domenico Puligo and other painters who were his friends. Arriving there, he found that Niccolò not only had persuaded Messer Baldo to change his mind, but also was bold and shameless enough to say to him in the presence of Messer Baldo that he would compete with Andrea for a bet of any sum of money in painting something, the winner to take the whole. Andrea, who knew what Niccolò was worth, answered, although he was generally a man of little spirit, "Here is my assistant, who has not been long in our art. If you [Pg 110] will bet with him, I will put down the money for him; but with me you shall have no bet for any money in the world, seeing that, if I were to beat you, it would do me no honour, and if I were to lose, it would be the greatest possible disgrace." And, saying to Messer Baldo that he should give the work to Niccolò, because he would execute it in such a manner as would please the folk that went to market, he returned to Florence.
There he was commissioned to paint a panel for Pisa, divided into five pictures, which were afterwards placed round the Madonna of S. Agnese, beside the walls of that city, between the old Citadel and the Duomo. Making one figure, then, in each picture, he painted in two of them S. John the Baptist and S. Peter, one on either side of the Madonna that works miracles; and in the others are S. Catharine the Martyr, S. Agnese, and S. Margaret, each a figure by itself, and all so beautiful as to fill with marvel anyone who beholds them, and considered to be the most gracious and lovely women that he ever painted.
M. Jacopo, a Servite friar, in releasing and absolving a woman from a vow, had told her that she must have a figure of Our Lady painted over the outer side of that lateral door of the Nunziata which leads into the cloister; and therefore, finding Andrea, he said to him that he had this money to spend, and that although it was not much it seemed to him right, since the other works executed by Andrea in that place had brought him such fame, that he and no other should paint this one as well. Andrea, who was nothing if not an amiable man, moved by the persuasions of the friar and by his own desire for profit and glory, answered that he would do it willingly; and shortly afterwards, putting his hand to the work, he painted in fresco a most beautiful Madonna seated with her Son in her arms, and S. Joseph leaning on a sack, with his eyes fixed upon an open book. And of such a kind was this work, in draughtsmanship, grace, and beauty of colouring, as well as in vivacity and relief, that it proved that he outstripped and surpassed by a great measure all the painters who had worked up to that time. Such, indeed, is this picture, that by its own merit and without praise from any other quarter it makes itself clearly known as amazing and most rare.
[Pg 111] There was wanting only one scene in the cloister of the Scalzo for it to be completely finished; wherefore Andrea, who had added grandeur to his manner after having seen the figures that Michelagnolo had begun and partly finished for the Sacristy of S. Lorenzo, set his hand to executing this last scene. In this, giving the final proof of his improvement, he painted the Birth of S. John the Baptist, with figures that were very beautiful and much better and stronger in relief than the others made by him before in the same place. Most beautiful, among others in this work, are a woman who is carrying the newborn babe to the bed on which lies S. Elizabeth, who is likewise a most lovely figure, and Zacharias, who is writing on a paper that he has placed on his knee, holding it with one hand and with the other writing the name of his son, and all with such vivacity, that he lacks nothing save the breath of life. Most beautiful, also, is an old woman who is seated on a stool, smiling with gladness at the delivery of the other aged woman, and revealing in her attitude and expression all that would be seen in a living person after such an event.
Having finished that work, which is certainly well worthy of all praise, he painted for the General of Vallombrosa a panel-picture with four very lovely figures, S. John the Baptist, S. Giovanni Gualberto, founder of that Order, S. Michelagnolo, and S. Bernardo, a Cardinal and a monk of the Order, with some little boys in the centre that could not be more vivacious or more beautiful. This panel is at Vallombrosa, on the summit of a rocky height, where certain monks live in some rooms called "the cells," separated from the others, and leading as it were the lives of hermits.
After this he was commissioned by Giuliano Scala to paint a panel-picture, which was to be sent to Serrazzana, of a Madonna seated with the Child in her arms, and two half-length figures from the knees upwards, S. Celso and S. Julia, with S. Onofrio, S. Catharine, S. Benedict, S. Anthony of Padua, S. Peter, and S. Mark; which panel was held to be equal to the other works of Andrea. And in the hands of Giuliano Scala, in place of the balance due to him of a sum of money that he had paid for the owners of that work, there remained a lunette containing an Annunciation, which was to go above the panel, to complete it; and it is now [Pg 112] in his chapel in the great tribune round the choir of the Church of the Servi.
The Monks of S. Salvi had let many years pass by without thinking of having a beginning made with their Last Supper, which they had commissioned Andrea to execute at the time when he painted the arch with the four figures; but finally an Abbot, who was a man of judgment and breeding, determined that he should finish that work. Thereupon Andrea, who had already pledged himself to it on a previous occasion, far from making any demur, put his hand to the task, and, working at it one piece at a time when he felt so inclined, finished it in a few months, and that in such a manner, that the work was held to be, as it certainly is, the most spontaneous and the most vivacious in colouring and drawing that he ever made, or that ever could be made. For, among other things, he gave infinite grandeur, majesty, and grace to all the figures, insomuch that I know not what to say of this Last Supper that would not be too little, it being such that whoever sees it is struck with amazement. Wherefore it is no marvel that on account of its excellence it was left standing amid the havoc of the siege of Florence, in the year 1529, at which time the soldiers and destroyers, by command of those in authority, pulled down all the suburbs without the city, and all the monasteries, hospitals, and other buildings. These men, I say, having destroyed the Church and Campanile of S. Salvi, and beginning to throw down part of the convent, had come to the refectory where this Last Supper is, when their leader, seeing so marvellous a painting, of which he may have heard speak, abandoned the undertaking and would not let any more of that place be destroyed, reserving the task until such time as there should be no alternative.
Andrea then painted for the Company of S. Jacopo, called the Nicchio, on a banner for carrying in processions, a S. James fondling a little boy dressed as a Flagellant by stroking him under the chin, with another boy who has a book in his hand, executed with beautiful grace and naturalness. He made a portrait from life of a steward of the Monks of Vallombrosa, who lived almost always in the country on the affairs of his monastery; and this portrait was placed under a sort of bower, in [Pg 113] which he had made pergole and contrivances of his own in various fanciful designs, so that it was buffeted by wind and rain, according to the pleasure of that steward, who was the friend of Andrea. And because, when the work was finished, there were some colours and lime left over, Andrea, taking a tile, called to his wife Lucrezia and said to her: "Come here, for these colours are left over, and I wish to make your portrait, so that all may see how well you have preserved your beauty even at your time of life, and yet may know how your appearance has changed, which will make this one different from your early portraits." But the woman, who may have had something else in her mind, would not stand still; and Andrea, as it were from a feeling that he was near his end, took a mirror and made a portrait of himself on that tile, of such perfection, that it seems alive and as real as nature; and that portrait is in the possession of the same Madonna Lucrezia, who is still living.
He also portrayed a Canon of Pisa, very much his friend; and the portrait, which is lifelike and very beautiful, is still in Pisa. He then began for the Signoria the cartoons for the paintings to be executed on the balustrades of the Ringhiera in the Piazza, with many beautiful things of fancy to represent the quarters of the city, and with the banners of the Consuls of the chief Guilds supported by some little boys, and also ornaments in the form of images of all the virtues, and likewise the most famous mountains and rivers of the dominion of Florence. But this work, thus begun, remained unfinished on account of Andrea's death, as was also the case with a panel—although it was all but finished—which he painted for the Abbey of the Monks of Vallombrosa at Poppi in the Casentino. In that panel he painted an Assumption of Our Lady, who is surrounded by many little boys, with S. Giovanni Gualberto, S. Bernardo the Cardinal (a monk of their Order, as has been related), S. Catharine, and S. Fedele; and, unfinished as it is, the picture is now in that Abbey of Poppi. The same happened to a panel of no great size, which, when finished, was to have gone to Pisa. But he left completely finished a very beautiful picture which is now in the house of Filippo Salviati, and some others.
[Pg 114] About the same time Giovan Battista della Palla, having bought all the sculptures and pictures of note that he could obtain, and causing copies to be made of those that he could not buy, had despoiled Florence of a vast number of choice works, without the least scruple, in order to furnish a suite of rooms for the King of France, which was to be richer in suchlike ornaments than any other in the world. And this man, desiring that Andrea should return to the service and favour of the King, commissioned him to paint two pictures. In one of these Andrea painted Abraham in the act of trying to sacrifice his son; and that with such diligence, that it was judged that up to that time he had never done anything better. Beautifully expressed in the figure of the patriarch was seen that living and steadfast faith which made him ready without a moment of dismay or hesitation to slay his own son. The same Abraham, likewise, could be seen turning his head towards a very beautiful little angel, who appeared to be bidding him stay his hand. I will not describe the attitude, the dress, the foot-wear, and other details in the painting of that old man, because it is not possible to say enough of them; but this I must say, that the boy Isaac, tender and most beautiful, was to be seen all naked, trembling with the fear of death, and almost dead without having been struck. The same boy had only the neck browned by the heat of the sun, and white as snow those parts that his draperies had covered during the three days' journey. In like manner, the ram among the thorns seemed to be alive, and Isaac's draperies on the ground rather real and natural than painted. And in addition there were some naked servants guarding an ass that was browsing, and a landscape so well represented that the real scene of the event could not have been more beautiful or in any way different. This picture, having been bought by Filippo Strozzi after the death of Andrea and the capture of Battista, was presented by him to Signor Alfonso Davalos, Marchese del Vasto, who had it carried to the island of Ischia, near Naples, and placed in one of his apartments in company with other most noble paintings.
In the other picture Andrea painted a very beautiful Charity, with three little boys; and this was afterwards bought from the wife of Andrea, [Pg 115] after his death, by the painter Domenico Conti, who sold it later to Niccolò Antinori, who treasures it as a rare work, as indeed it is.
During this time there came to the Magnificent Ottaviano de' Medici, seeing from that last picture how much Andrea had improved his manner, a desire to have a picture by his hand. Whereupon Andrea, who was eager to serve that lord, to whom he was much indebted, because he had always shown favour to men of lofty intellect, and particularly to painters, executed for him a picture of Our Lady seated on the ground with the Child riding astride on her knees, while He turns His head towards a little S. John supported by an old S. Elizabeth, a figure so natural and so well painted that she appears to be alive, even as every other thing is wrought with incredible diligence, draughtsmanship, and art. Having finished this picture, Andrea carried it to Messer Ottaviano; but since that lord had something else to think about, Florence being then besieged, he told Andrea, while thanking him profoundly and making his excuses, to dispose of it as he thought best. To which Andrea made no reply but this: "The labour was endured for you, and yours the work shall always be." "Sell it," answered Messer Ottaviano, "and use the money, for I know what I am talking about." Andrea then departed and returned to his house, nor would he ever give the picture to anyone, for all the offers that were made to him; but when the siege was raised and the Medici back in Florence, he took it once more to Messer Ottaviano, who accepted it right willingly, thanking him and paying him double. The work is now in the apartment of his wife, Madonna Francesca, sister to the very reverend Salviati, who holds the beautiful pictures left to her by her magnificent consort in no less account than she does the duty of retaining and honouring his friends.
For Giovanni Borgherini Andrea painted another picture almost exactly like the one of Charity mentioned above, containing a Madonna, a little S. John offering to Christ a globe that represents the world, and a very beautiful head of S. Joseph.
There came to Paolo da Terrarossa, a friend to the whole body of painters, who had seen the sketch for the aforesaid Abraham, a wish to have some work by the hand of Andrea. Having therefore asked him [Pg 116] for a copy of that Abraham, Andrea willingly obliged him and made a copy of such a kind, that in its minuteness it was by no means inferior to the large original. Wherefore Paolo, well satisfied with it and wishing to pay him, asked him the price, thinking that it would cost him what it was certainly worth; but Andrea asked a mere song, and Paolo, almost ashamed, shrugged his shoulders and gave him all that he claimed. The picture was afterwards sent by him to Naples ... and it is the most beautiful and the most highly honoured painting in that place.
During the siege of Florence some captains had fled the city with the pay-chests; on which account Andrea was asked to paint on the façade of the Palace of the Podestà and in the Piazza not only those captains, but also some citizens who had fled and had been proclaimed outlaws. He said that he would do it; but in order not to acquire, like Andrea dal Castagno, the name of Andrea degl' Impiccati, he gave it out that he was entrusting the work to one of his assistants, called Bernardo del Buda. However, having made a great enclosure, which he himself entered and left by night, he executed those figures in such a manner that they appeared to be the men themselves, real and alive. The soldiers, who were painted on the façade of the old Mercatanzia in the Piazza, near the Condotta, were covered with whitewash many years ago, that they might be seen no longer; and the citizens, whom he painted entirely with his own hand on the Palace of the Podestà, were destroyed in like manner.
After this, being very intimate in these last years of his life with certain men who governed the Company of S. Sebastiano, which is behind the Servite Convent, Andrea made for them with his own hand a S. Sebastian from the navel upwards, so beautiful that it might well have seemed that these were the last strokes of the brush which he was to make.
The siege being finished, Andrea was waiting for matters to mend, although with little hope that his French project would succeed, since Giovan Battista della Palla had been taken prisoner, when Florence became filled with soldiers and stores from the camp. Among those soldiers were [Pg 117] some lansquenets sick of the plague, who brought no little terror into the city and shortly afterwards left it infected. Thereupon, either through this apprehension or through some imprudence in eating after having suffered much privation in the siege, one day Andrea fell grievously ill and took to his bed with death on his brow; and finding no remedy for his illness, and being without much attention—for his wife, from fear of the plague, kept as far away from him as she could—he died, so it is said, almost without a soul being aware of it; and he was buried by the men of the Scalzo with scant ceremony in the Church of the Servi, near his own house, in the place where the members of that Company are always buried.
The death of Andrea was a very great loss to the city and to art, because up to the age of forty-two, which he attained, he went on always improving from one work to another in such wise that, if he had lived longer, he would have continued to confer benefits on art; for the reason that it is better to go on making progress little by little, advancing with a firm and steady foot through the difficulties of art, than to seek to force one's intellect and nature in a single effort. Nor is there any doubt that if Andrea had stayed in Rome when he went there to see the works of Raffaello and Michelagnolo, and also the statues and ruins of that city, he would have enriched his manner greatly in the composition of scenes, and would one day have given more delicacy and greater force to his figures; which has never been thoroughly achieved save by one who has been some time in Rome, to study those works in detail and grow familiar with them. Having then from nature a sweet and gracious manner of drawing and great facility and vivacity of colouring, both in fresco-work and in oils, it is believed without a doubt that if he had stayed in Rome, he would have surpassed all the craftsmen of his time. But some believe that he was deterred from this by the abundance of works of sculpture and painting, both ancient and modern, that he saw in that city, and by observing the many young men, disciples of Raffaello and of others, resolute in draughtsmanship and working confidently and without effort, whom, like the timid fellow that he was, he did not feel it in him to excel. And so, not trusting himself, he resolved, as the best course for him, to [Pg 118] return to Florence; where, reflecting little by little on what he had seen, he made such proficience that his works have been admired and held in price, and, what is more, imitated more often after his death than during his lifetime. Whoever has some holds them dear, and whoever has consented to sell them has received three times as much as was paid to him, for the reason that he never received anything but small prices for his works, both because he was timid by nature, as has been related, and also because certain master-joiners, who were executing the best works at that time in the houses of citizens, would never allow any commission to be given to Andrea (so as to oblige their friends), save when they knew that he was in great straits, for at such times he would accept any price. But this does not prevent his works from being most rare, or from being held in very great account, and that rightly, since he was one of the best and greatest masters who have lived even to our own day. In our book are many drawings by his hand, all good; but in particular there is one that is altogether beautiful, of the scene that he painted at Poggio, showing the tribute of all the animals from the East being presented to Cæsar. This drawing, which is executed in chiaroscuro, is a rare thing, and the most finished that Andrea ever made; for when he drew natural objects for reproduction in his works, he made mere sketches dashed off on the spot, contenting himself with marking the character of the reality; and afterwards, when reproducing them in his works, he brought them to perfection. His drawings, therefore, served him rather as memoranda of what he had seen than as models from which to make exact copies in his pictures.
The disciples of Andrea were innumerable, but they did not all pursue the same course of study under his discipline, for some stayed with him a long time, and some but little; which was the fault, not of Andrea, but of his wife, who, tyrannizing arrogantly over them all, and showing no respect to a single one of them, made all their lives a burden. Among his disciples, then, were Jacopo da Pontormo; Andrea Sguazzella, who adhered to the manner of Andrea and decorated a palace, a work which is much extolled, without the city of Paris in France; Solosmeo; Pier Francesco di Jacopo di Sandro, who has painted three panels that [Pg 119] are in S. Spirito; Francesco Salviati; Giorgio Vasari of Arezzo, who was the companion of the aforesaid Salviati, although he did not stay long with Andrea; Jacopo del Conte of Florence; and Nannoccio, who is now in France with Cardinal de Tournon, in the highest credit. In like manner, Jacopo, called Jacone, was a disciple of Andrea and much his friend, and an imitator of his manner. This Jacone, while Andrea was alive, received no little help from him, as is evident in all his works, and particularly in the façade executed for the Chevalier Buondelmonti on the Piazza di S. Trinita.
The heir to Andrea's drawings and other art-possessions, after his death, was Domenico Conti, who made little proficience in painting; but one night he was robbed—by some men of the same profession, so it is thought—of all the drawings, cartoons, and other things that he had from Andrea, nor was it ever discovered who these men were. Now Domenico, as one not ungrateful for the benefits received from his master, and desiring to render to him after his death the honours that he deserved, prevailed upon Raffaello da Montelupo to make for him out of courtesy a very handsome tablet of marble, which was built into a pilaster in the Church of the Servi, with the following epitaph, written for him by the most learned Messer Piero Vettori, then a young man:
ADMIRABILIS INGENII PICTORI, AC VETERIBUS ILLIS OMNIUM JUDICIO
DOMINICUS CONTES DISCIPULUS, PRO LABORIBUS IN SE INSTITUENDO SUSCEPTIS,
GRATO ANIMO POSUIT.
VIXIT ANN. XLII, OB. ANN. MDXXX.
After no long time, certain citizens, Wardens of Works of that church, rather ignorant than hostile to honoured memories, so went to work out of anger that the tablet should have been set up in that place without their leave, that they had it removed; nor has it yet been re-erected in any other place. Thus, perchance, Fortune sought to show that the power of the Fates prevails not only during our lives, but also over our memorials after death. In spite of them, however, the works [Pg 120] and the name of Andrea are likely to live a long time, as are these my writings, I hope, to preserve their memory for many ages.
We must conclude, then, that if Andrea showed poor spirit in the actions of his life, contenting himself with little, this does not mean that in art he was otherwise than exalted in genius, most resolute, and masterly in every sort of labour; and with his works, in addition to the adornment that they confer on the places where they are, he rendered a most valuable service to his fellow-craftsmen with regard to manner, drawing, and colouring, and that with fewer errors than any other painter of Florence, for the reason that, as has been said above, he understood very well the management of light and shade and how to make things recede in the darks, and painted his pictures with a sweetness full of vivacity; not to mention that he showed us the method of working in fresco with perfect unity and without doing much retouching on the dry, which makes his every work appear to have been painted in a single day. Wherefore he should serve in every place as an example to Tuscan craftsmen, and receive supreme praise and a palm of honour among the number of their most celebrated champions.
It is an extraordinary thing that in all those arts and all those exercises wherein at any time women have thought fit to play a part in real earnest, they have always become most excellent and famous in no common way, as one might easily demonstrate by an endless number of examples. Everyone, indeed, knows what they are all, without exception, worth in household matters; besides which, in connection with war, likewise, it is known who were Camilla, Harpalice, Valasca, Tomyris, Penthesilea, Molpadia, Orizia, Antiope, Hippolyta, Semiramis, Zenobia, and, finally, Mark Antony's Fulvia, who so often took up arms, as the historian Dion tells us, to defend her husband and herself. But in poetry, also, they have been truly marvellous, as Pausanias relates. Corinna was very celebrated as a writer of verse, and Eustathius makes mention in his "Catalogue of the Ships of Homer"—as does Eusebius in his book of "Chronicles"—of Sappho, a young woman of great renown, who, in truth, although she was a woman, was yet such that she surpassed by a great measure all the eminent writers of that age. And Varro, on his part, gives extraordinary but well-deserved praise to Erinna, who, with her three hundred verses, challenged the fame of the brightest light of Greece, and counterbalanced with her one small volume, called the "Elecate," the ponderous "Iliad" of the great Homer. Aristophanes celebrates Carissena, a votary of the same profession, as a woman of great excellence and learning; and the same may be said for Teano, Merone, Polla, Elpe, Cornificia, and Telesilla, to the last of whom, in [Pg 124] honour of her marvellous talents, a most beautiful statue was set up in the Temple of Venus.
Passing by the numberless other writers of verse, do we not read that Arete was the teacher of the learned Aristippus in the difficulties of philosophy, and that Lastheneia and Assiotea were disciples of the divine Plato? In the art of oratory, Sempronia and Hortensia, women of Rome, were very famous. In grammar, so Athenæus relates, Agallis was without an equal. And as for the prediction of the future, whether we class this with astrology or with magic, it is enough to say that Themis, Cassandra, and Manto had an extraordinary renown in their times; as did Isis and Ceres in matters of agriculture, and the Thespiades in the whole field of the sciences.
But in no other age, for certain, has it been possible to see this better than in our own, wherein women have won the highest fame not only in the study of letters—as has been done by Signora Vittoria del Vasto, Signora Veronica Gambara, Signora Caterina Anguisciuola, Schioppa, Nugarola, Madonna Laura Battiferri, and a hundred others, all most learned as well in the vulgar tongue as in the Latin and the Greek—but also in every other faculty. Nor have they been too proud to set themselves with their little hands, so tender and so white, as if to wrest from us the palm of supremacy, to manual labours, braving the roughness of marble and the unkindly chisels, in order to attain to their desire and thereby win fame; as did, in our own day, Properzia de' Rossi of Bologna, a young woman excellent not only in household matters, like the rest of them, but also in sciences without number, so that all the men, to say nothing of the women, were envious of her.
This Properzia was very beautiful in person, and played and sang in her day better than any other woman of her city. And because she had an intellect both capricious and very ready, she set herself to carve peach-stones, which she executed so well and with such patience, that they were singular and marvellous to behold, not only for the subtlety of the work, but also for the grace of the little figures that she made in them and the delicacy with which they were distributed. And it was certainly a miracle to see on so small a thing as a peach-stone the whole [Pg 125] Passion of Christ, wrought in most beautiful carving, with a vast number of figures in addition to the Apostles and the ministers of the Crucifixion. This encouraged her, since there were decorations to be made for the three doors of the first façade of S. Petronio all in figures of marble, to ask the Wardens of Works, by means of her husband, for a part of that work; at which they were quite content, on the condition that she should let them see some work in marble executed by her own hand. Whereupon she straightway made for Count Alessandro de' Peppoli a portrait from life in the finest marble, representing his father, Count Guido, which gave infinite pleasure not only to them, but also to the whole city; and the Wardens of Works, therefore, did not fail to allot a part of the work to her. In this, to the vast delight of all Bologna, she made an exquisite scene, wherein—because at that time the poor woman was madly enamoured of a handsome young man, who seemed to care but little for her—she represented the wife of Pharaoh's Chamberlain, who, burning with love for Joseph, and almost in despair after so much persuasion, finally strips his garment from him with a womanly grace that defies description. This work was esteemed by all to be most beautiful, and it was a great satisfaction to herself, thinking that with this illustration from the Old Testament she had partly quenched the raging fire of her own passion. Nor would she ever do any more work in connection with that building, although there was no person who did not beseech her that she should go on with it, save only Maestro Amico, who out of envy always dissuaded her and went so far with his malignity, ever speaking ill of her to the Wardens, that she was paid a most beggarly price for her work.
She also made two angels in very strong relief and beautiful proportions, which may now be seen, although against her wish, in the same building. In the end she devoted herself to copper-plate engraving, which she did without reproach, gaining the highest praise. And so the poor love-stricken young woman came to succeed most perfectly in everything, save in her unhappy passion.
The fame of an intellect so noble and so exalted spread throughout all Italy, and finally came to the ears of Pope Clement VII, who, [Pg 126] immediately after he had crowned the Emperor in Bologna, made inquiries after her; but he found that the poor woman had died that very week, and had been buried in the Della Morte Hospital, as she had directed in her last testament. At which the Pope, who was eager to see her, felt much sorrow at her death; but more bitter even was it for her fellow-citizens, who regarded her during her lifetime as one of the greatest miracles produced by nature in our days.
In our book are some very good drawings by the hand of this Properzia, done with the pen and copied from the works of Raffaello da Urbino; and her portrait was given to me by certain painters who were very much her friends.
But, although Properzia drew very well, there have not been wanting women not only to equal her in drawing, but also to do as good work in painting as she did in sculpture. Of these the first is Sister Plautilla, a nun and now Prioress in the Convent of S. Caterina da Siena, on the Piazza di S. Marco in Florence. She, beginning little by little to draw and to imitate in colours pictures and paintings by excellent masters, has executed some works with such diligence, that she has caused the craftsmen to marvel. By her hand are two panels in the Church of that Convent of S. Caterina, of which the one with the Magi adoring Jesus is much extolled. In the choir of the Convent of S. Lucia, at Pistoia, there is a large panel, containing Our Lady with the Child in her arms, S. Thomas, S. Augustine, S. Mary Magdalene, S. Catherine of Siena, S. Agnese, S. Catherine the Martyr, and S. Lucia; and another large panel by the same hand was sent abroad by the Director of the Hospital of Lelmo. In the refectory of the aforesaid Convent of S. Caterina there is a great Last Supper, with a panel in the work-room, both by the hand of the same nun. And in the houses of gentlemen throughout Florence there are so many pictures, that it would be tedious to attempt to speak of them all. A large picture of the Annunciation belongs to the wife of the Spaniard, Signor Mondragone, and Madonna Marietta de' Fedini has another like it. There is a little picture of Our Lady in S. Giovannino, at Florence; and an altar-predella in S. Maria del Fiore, containing very beautiful scenes from the life of S. Zanobi. And because [Pg 127] this venerable and talented sister, before executing panels and works of importance, gave attention to painting in miniature, there are in the possession of various people many wonderfully beautiful little pictures by her hand, of which there is no need to make mention. The best works from her hand are those that she has copied from others, wherein she shows that she would have done marvellous things if she had enjoyed, as men do, advantages for studying, devoting herself to drawing, and copying living and natural objects. And that this is true is seen clearly from a picture of the Nativity of Christ, copied from one which Bronzino once painted for Filippo Salviati. In like manner, the truth of such an opinion is proved by this, that in her works the faces and features of women, whom she has been able to see as much as she pleased, are no little better than the heads of the men, and much nearer to the reality. In the faces of women in some of her works she has portrayed Madonna Costanza de' Doni, who has been in our time an unexampled pattern of beauty and dignity; painting her so well, that it is impossible to expect more from a woman who, for the reasons mentioned above, has had no great practice in her art.
With much credit to herself, likewise, has Madonna Lucrezia, the daughter of Messer Alfonso Quistelli della Mirandola, and now the wife of Count Clemente Pietra, occupied herself with drawing and painting, as she still does, after having been taught by Alessandro Allori, the pupil of Bronzino; as may be seen from many pictures and portraits executed by her hand, which are worthy to be praised by all. But Sofonisba of Cremona, the daughter of Messer Amilcaro Anguisciuola, has laboured at the difficulties of design with greater study and better grace than any other woman of our time, and she has not only succeeded in drawing, colouring, and copying from nature, and in making excellent copies of works by other hands, but has also executed by herself alone some very choice and beautiful works of painting. Wherefore she well deserved that King Philip of Spain, having heard of her merits and abilities from the Lord Duke of Alba, should have sent for her and caused her to be escorted in great honour to Spain, where he keeps her with a rich allowance about the person of the Queen, to the admiration of all [Pg 128] that Court, which reveres the excellence of Sofonisba as a miracle. And it is no long time since Messer Tommaso Cavalieri, a Roman gentleman, sent to the Lord Duke Cosimo (in addition to a drawing by the hand of the divine Michelagnolo, wherein is a Cleopatra) another drawing by the hand of Sofonisba, containing a little girl laughing at a boy who is weeping because one of the cray-fish out of a basket full of them, which she has placed in front of him, is biting his finger; and there is nothing more graceful to be seen than that drawing, or more true to nature. Wherefore, in memory of the talent of Sofonisba, who lives in Spain, so that Italy has no abundance of her works, I have placed it in my book of drawings.
We may truly say, then, with the divine Ariosto, that—
Le donne son venute in eccellenza
Di ciascun' arte ov' hanno posto cura.
And let this be the end of the Life of Properzia, sculptor of Bologna.
Alfonso of Ferrara, working in his early youth with stucco and wax, made an endless number of portraits from life on little medallions for many nobles and gentlemen of his own country. Some of these are still to be seen, white in colour and made of wax or stucco, and bear witness to the fine intellect and judgment that he possessed; such as those of Prince Doria, of Duke Alfonso of Ferrara, of Clement VII, of the Emperor Charles V, of Cardinal Ippolito de' Medici, of Bembo, of Ariosto, and of other suchlike personages. Finding himself in Bologna at the coronation of Charles V, he executed the decorations of the door of S. Petronio as a part of the preparations for that festival; and he had come into such repute through being the first to introduce the good method of making portraits from life in the form of medals, as has been related, that there was not a single man of distinction in those Courts for whom he did not execute some work, to his own great profit and honour. But, not being content with the gain and the glory that came to him from making works in clay, in wax, and in stucco, he set himself to work in marble; and such was the proficience that he showed in some things that he made, although these were of little importance, that he was commissioned to execute the tomb of Ramazzotto, which brought him very great fame and honour, in S. Michele in Bosco, without Bologna. After that work he made some little scenes of marble in [Pg 132] half-relief on the predella of the altar at the tomb of S. Dominic, in the same city. And for the door of S. Petronio, also, on the left hand of the entrance into the church, he executed some little scenes in marble, containing a very beautiful Resurrection of Christ. But what pleased the people of Bologna most of all was the Death of Our Lady, wrought with a very hard mixture of clay and stucco, with figures in full-relief, in an upper room of the Della Vita Hospital; and marvellous, among other things in that work, is the Jew who leaves his hands fixed to the bier of the Madonna. With the same mixture, also, he made a large Hercules with the dead Hydra under his feet, for the upper room of the Governor in the Palazzo Pubblico of that city; which statue was executed in competition with Zaccaria da Volterra, who was greatly surpassed by the ability and excellence of Alfonso. For the Madonna del Baracane the same master made two Angels in stucco, who are upholding a canopy in half-relief; and in some medallions in the middle aisle of S. Giuseppe, between one arch and another, he made the twelve Apostles from the waist upwards, of terra-cotta and in full-relief. In terra-cotta, likewise, for the corners of the vaulting of the Madonna del Popolo in the same city, he executed four figures larger than life; namely, S. Petronio, S. Procolo, S. Francis, and S. Dominic, figures which are all very beautiful and grand in manner. And by the hand of the same man are some works in stucco at Castel Bolognese, and some others in the Company of S. Giovanni at Cesena.
Let no one marvel that hitherto our account of this master has dealt with scarcely any work save in clay, wax, and stucco, and very little in marble, because—besides the fact that Alfonso was always inclined to that sort of work—after passing a certain age, being very handsome in person and youthful in appearance, he practised art more for pleasure and to satisfy his own vanity than with any desire to set himself to chisel stone. He used always to wear on his arms, on his neck, and in his clothing, ornaments of gold and suchlike fripperies, which showed him to be rather a courtier, vain and wanton, than a craftsman desirous of glory. Of a truth, just as such ornaments enhance the splendour of those to whom, on account of their wealth, high estate, and noble blood, [Pg 133] they are becoming, so are they worthy of reproach in craftsmen and others, who should not measure themselves, some for one reason and some for another, with the rich, seeing that such persons, in place of being praised, are held in less esteem by men of judgment, and often laughed to scorn. Now Alfonso, charmed with himself and indulging in expressions and wanton excesses little worthy of a good craftsman, on one occasion robbed himself through this behaviour of all the glory that he had won by labouring at his profession. For one evening, chancing to be at a wedding in the house of a Count in Bologna, and having made love for some time to a lady of quality, he had the luck to be invited by her to dance the torch-dance; whereupon, whirling round with her, and overcome by the frenzy of his passion, he said with a trembling voice, sighing deeply, and gazing at his lady with eyes full of tenderness: "S'amor non è, che dunque è quel ch' io sento?" Hearing this, the lady, who had a shrewd wit, answered, in order to show him his error: "A louse, perhaps." Which answer was heard by many, so that the saying ran through all Bologna, and he was held to scorn ever afterwards. Truly, if Alfonso had given his attention not to the vanities of the world, but to the labours of art, without a doubt he would have produced marvellous works; for if he achieved this in part without exerting himself much, what would he have done if he had faced the dust and heat?
The aforesaid Emperor Charles V being in Bologna, and the most excellent Tiziano da Cadore having come to make a portrait of his Majesty, Alfonso likewise was seized with a desire to execute a portrait of that Sovereign. And having no other means of contriving to do that, he besought Tiziano, without revealing to him what he had in mind, that he should do him the favour of introducing him, in the place of one of those who used to carry his colours, into the presence of his Majesty. Wherefore Tiziano, who loved him much, like the truly courteous man that he has always been, took Alfonso with him into the apartments of the Emperor. Alfonso, as soon as Tiziano had settled down to work, took up a position behind him, in such a way that he could not be seen [Pg 134] by the other, who was wholly intent on his portrait; and, taking up a little box in the shape of a medallion, he made therein a portrait of the Emperor in stucco, and had it finished at the very moment when Tiziano had likewise brought his picture to completion. The Emperor then rising, Alfonso closed the box and had already hidden it in his sleeve, to the end that Tiziano might not see it, when his Majesty said to him: "Show me what you have done." He was thus forced to give his portrait humbly into the hand of the Emperor, who, having examined it and praised it highly, said to him: "Would you have the courage to do it in marble?" "Yes, your sacred Majesty," answered Alfonso. "Do it, then," added the Emperor, "and bring it to me in Genoa." How unusual this proceeding must have seemed to Tiziano every man may imagine for himself. For my part, I believe that it must have appeared to him that he had compromised his credit. But what must have seemed to him most strange was this, that when his Majesty sent a present of a thousand crowns to Tiziano, he bade him give the half, or five hundred crowns, to Alfonso, keeping the other five hundred for himself, at which it is likely enough that Tiziano felt aggrieved. Alfonso, then, setting to work with the greatest zeal in his power, brought the marble head to completion with such diligence, that it was pronounced to be a very fine thing: which was the reason that, when he had taken it to the Emperor, his Majesty ordered that three hundred crowns more should be given to him.
Alfonso having come into great repute through the gifts and praises bestowed on him by the Emperor, Cardinal Ippolito de' Medici took him to Rome, where he kept many sculptors and painters about his person, in addition to a vast number of other men of ability; and he commissioned him to make a copy in marble of a very famous antique head of the Emperor Vitellius. In that work Alfonso justified the opinion held of him by the Cardinal and by all Rome, and he was charged by the same patron to make a portrait-bust in marble of Pope Clement VII, after the life, and shortly afterwards one of Giuliano de' Medici, father of the Cardinal; but the latter was left not quite finished. These heads were afterwards sold in Rome, and bought by me at the request of the [Pg 135] Magnificent Ottaviano de' Medici, together with some pictures; and in our own day they have been placed by the Lord Duke Cosimo de' Medici in that hall of the new apartments of his palace wherein I have painted, on the ceiling and the walls, all the stories of Pope Leo X; they have been placed, I say, in that hall, over the doors made of that red veined marble which is found near Florence, in company with the heads of other illustrious men of the house of Medici.
But returning to Alfonso; he then went on to execute many works in sculpture for the same Cardinal, but these, being small things, have disappeared. After the death of Clement, when a tomb had to be made for him and also for Leo, the work was allotted by Cardinal de' Medici to Alfonso; whereupon he made a model with figures of wax, which was held to be very beautiful, after some sketches by Michelagnolo Buonarroti, and went off to Carrara with money to have the marble quarried. But not long afterwards the Cardinal, having departed from Rome on his way to Africa, died at Itri, and the work slipped out of the hands of Alfonso, because he was dismissed by its executors, Cardinals Salviati, Ridolfi, Pucci, Cibo, and Gaddi, and it was entrusted by the favour of Madonna Lucrezia Salviati, daughter of the great Lorenzo de' Medici, the elder, and sister of Leo, to Baccio Bandinelli, a sculptor of Florence, who had made models for it during the lifetime of Clement.
For this reason Alfonso, thus knocked off his high horse and almost beside himself, determined to return to Bologna; and, having arrived in Florence, he presented to Duke Alessandro a most beautiful head in marble of the Emperor Charles V, which is now in Carrara, whither it was sent by Cardinal Cibo, who removed it after the death of Duke Alessandro from the guardaroba of that Prince. The Duke, when Alfonso arrived in Florence, was in the humour to have his portrait taken; for it had already been done on medals by Domenico di Polo, a gem-engraver, and by Francesco di Girolamo dal Prato, for the coinage by Benvenuto Cellini, and in painting by Giorgio Vasari of Arezzo and Jacopo da Pontormo, and he wished that Alfonso should likewise portray him. Wherefore he made a very beautiful portrait of him in relief, much better than the one executed by Danese da Carrara, and then, since he [Pg 136] was wholly set on going to Bologna, he was given the means to make one there in marble, after the model. And so, having received many gifts and favours from Duke Alessandro, Alfonso returned to Bologna, where, being still far from content on account of the death of the Cardinal, and sorely vexed by the loss of the tombs, there came upon him a pestilent and incurable disease of the skin, which wasted him away little by little, until, having reached the age of forty-nine, he passed to a better life, never ceasing to rail at Fortune, which had robbed him of a patron to whom he might have looked for all the blessings which could make him happy in this life, and saying that she should have closed his own eyes, since she had reduced him to such misery, rather than those of Cardinal Ippolito de' Medici. Alfonso died in the year 1536.
Michelagnolo, a sculptor of Siena, after he had spent the best years of his life in Sclavonia with other excellent sculptors, made his way to Rome on the following occasion. After the death of Pope Adrian, Cardinal Hincfort, who had been the friend and favourite of that Pontiff, determined, as one not ungrateful for the benefits received from him, to erect to him a tomb of marble; and he gave the charge of this to Baldassarre Peruzzi, the painter of Siena. And that master, having made the model, desired that the sculptor Michelagnolo, his friend and compatriot, should undertake the work on his own account. Michelagnolo, therefore, made on that tomb a lifesize figure of Pope Adrian, lying upon the sarcophagus and portrayed from nature, with a scene, also in marble, below him, showing his arrival in Rome and the Roman people going to meet him and to do him homage. Around the tomb, moreover, in four niches, are four Virtues in marble, Justice, Fortitude, Peace, and Prudence, all executed with much diligence by the hand of Michelagnolo after the counsel of Baldassarre. It is true, indeed, that some of the things that are in this work were wrought by the Florentine sculptor, Tribolo, then a very young man, and these were considered the best of all; but Michelagnolo executed the minor details of the work with supreme diligence and subtlety, and the little figures that are in it deserve to be extolled more than all the rest. Among other things, there are some variegated marbles wrought with a high finish, and put [Pg 137] together so well that nothing more could be desired. For these labours Michelagnolo received a just and honourable reward from the aforesaid Cardinal, and was treated with much favour by him for the rest of his life; and, in truth, with right good reason, seeing that this tomb and the Cardinal's gratitude have done as much to bring fame to him as did the work to give a name to Michelagnolo in his lifetime and renown after his death. This work finished, no long time elapsed before Michelagnolo passed from this life to the next, at about the age of fifty.
Girolamo Santa Croce of Naples, although he was snatched from us by death in the very prime of life, at a time when greater things were looked for from him, yet showed in the works of sculpture that he made at Naples during his few years, what he would have done if he had lived longer; for the works that he executed in sculpture at Naples were wrought and finished with all the lovingness that could be desired in a young man who wishes to surpass by a great measure those who for many years before his day have held the sovereignty in some noble profession. In S. Giovanni Carbonaro at Naples he built the Chapel of the Marchese di Vico, which is a round temple, partitioned by columns and niches, with some tombs carved with much diligence. And because the altar-piece of this chapel, made of marble in half-relief and representing the Magi bringing their offerings to Christ, is by the hand of a Spaniard, Girolamo executed in emulation of this work a S. John in a niche, so beautifully wrought in full-relief, that it showed that he was not inferior to the Spaniard either in courage or in judgment; on which account he won such a name, that, although Giovanni da Nola was held in Naples to be a marvellous sculptor and better than any other, nevertheless Girolamo worked in competition with him as long as he lived, notwithstanding that his rival was now old and had executed a vast number of works in that city, where it is much the custom to make chapels and altar-pieces of marble. Competing with Giovanni, then, Girolamo undertook to execute a chapel in Monte Oliveto at Naples, just within the door of the church, on the left hand, while Giovanni executed another opposite to his, on the other side, in the same style. In his chapel Girolamo made a lifesize Madonna in the round, which is [Pg 138] held to be a very beautiful figure; and since he took infinite pains in executing the draperies and the hands, and in giving bold relief to the marble by undercutting, he brought it to such perfection that it was the general opinion that he had surpassed all those who had handled tools for working marble at Naples in his time. This Madonna he placed between a S. John and a S. Peter, figures very well conceived and executed, and finished in a beautiful manner, as are also some children which are placed above them.
In addition to these, he made two large and most beautiful statues in full-relief for the Church of Capella, a seat of the Monks of Monte Oliveto. He then began a statue of the Emperor Charles V, at the time of his return from Tunis; but after he had blocked it and carved it with the pointed chisel, and even in some places with the broad-toothed chisel, it remained unfinished, because fortune and death, envying the world such excellence, snatched him from us at the age of thirty-five. It was confidently expected that Girolamo, if he had lived, even as he had outstripped all his compatriots in his profession, would also have surpassed all the craftsmen of his time. Wherefore his death was a grievous blow to the Neapolitans, and all the more because he had been endowed by nature not only with a most beautiful genius, but also with as much modesty, sweetness, and gentleness as could be looked for in mortal man; so that it is no marvel if all those who knew him are not able to restrain their tears when they speak of him. His last sculptures were executed in 1537, in which year he was buried at Naples with most honourable obsequies.
Old as he was, Giovanni da Nola, who was a well-practised sculptor, as may be seen from many works made by him at Naples with good skill of hand, but not with much design, still remained alive. Him Don Pedro di Toledo, Marquis of Villafranca, and at that time Viceroy of Naples, commissioned to execute a tomb of marble for himself and his wife; and therein Giovanni made a great number of scenes of the victories obtained by that lord over the Turks, with many statues for the same work, which stands quite by itself, and was executed with much diligence. This tomb was to have been taken to Spain; but, since [Pg 139] that nobleman did not do this while he was alive, it remained in Naples. Giovanni died at the age of seventy, and was buried in Naples, in the year 1558.
About the same time that Heaven presented to Ferrara, or rather, to the world, the divine Lodovico Ariosto, there was born in the same city the painter Dosso, who, although he was not as rare among painters as Ariosto among poets, nevertheless acquitted himself in his art in such a manner, that, besides the great esteem wherein his works were held in Ferrara, his merits caused the learned poet, his intimate friend, to honour his memory by mentioning him in his most celebrated writings; so that the pen of Messer Lodovico has given more renown to the name of Dosso than did all the brushes and colours that he used in the whole of his life. Wherefore I, for my part, declare that there could be no greater good-fortune than that of those who are celebrated by such great men, since the might of the pen forces most of mankind to accept their fame, even though they may not wholly deserve it.
Dosso was much beloved by Duke Alfonso of Ferrara: first for his good abilities in the art of painting, and then because he was a very pleasant and amiable person—a manner of man in whom the Duke greatly delighted. Dosso had the reputation in Lombardy of executing landscapes better than any other painter engaged in that branch of the profession, whether in mural painting, in oils, or in gouache; and all the more after the German manner became known. In Ferrara, for the Cathedral Church, he executed a panel-picture with figures in oils, which was held to be passing beautiful; and in the Duke's Palace he painted many rooms, in company with a brother of his, called Battista. These two were always enemies, one against the other, although they worked together by the wish of the Duke. In the court of the said palace they executed stories of Hercules in chiaroscuro, with an endless number of nudes on those walls; and in like manner they painted many works on panel and in fresco throughout all Ferrara. By their hands is a panel in the Duomo of Modena; and they painted many things in the Cardinal's Palace at Trento, in company with other painters.
[Pg 140] At this same time the painter and architect, Girolamo Genga, was executing various decorations in the Imperiale Palace, above Pesaro, as will be related in the proper place, for Duke Francesco Maria of Urbino; and among the number of painters who were summoned to that work by order of the same Signor Francesco Maria, invitations were sent to Dosso and Battista of Ferrara, principally for the painting of landscapes; many paintings having been executed long before in that palace by Francesco di Mirozzo of Forlì, Raffaello dal Colle of Borgo a San Sepolcro, and many others. Now, having arrived at the Imperiale, Dosso and Battista, according to the custom of men of their kidney, found fault with most of the paintings that they saw, and promised the Duke that they would do much better work; and Genga, who was a shrewd person, seeing how the matter was likely to end, gave them an apartment to paint by themselves. Thereupon, setting to work, they strove with all labour and diligence to display their worth; but, whatever may have been the reason, never in all the course of their lives did they do any work less worthy of praise, or rather, worse, than that one. It seems often to happen, indeed, that in their greatest emergencies, when most is expected of them, men become blinded and bewildered in judgment, and do worse work than at any other time; which may result, perchance, from their own malign and evil disposition to be always finding fault with the works of others, or from their seeking to force their genius overmuch, seeing that to proceed step by step according to the ruling of nature, yet without neglecting diligence and study, appears to be a better method than seeking to wrest from the brain, as it were by force, things that are not there; and it is a fact that in the other arts as well, but above all in that of writing, lack of spontaneity is only too easily recognized, and also, so to speak, over-elaboration in everything.
Now, when the work of the Dossi was unveiled, it proved to be so ridiculous that they left the service of the Duke in disgrace; and he was forced to throw to the ground all that they had executed, and to have it repainted by others after the designs of Genga.
[Pg 141] Finally, they painted a very beautiful panel-picture in the Duomo of Faenza for the Chevalier, M. Giovan Battista de' Buosi, of Christ disputing in the Temple; in which work they surpassed themselves, by reason of the new manner that they used, and particularly in the portraits of that Chevalier and of others. That picture was set up in that place in the year 1536. Ultimately Dosso, having grown old, spent his last years without working, being pensioned until the close of his life by Duke Alfonso. And in the end Battista survived him, executing many works by himself, and maintaining himself in a good condition. Dosso was buried in his native city of Ferrara.
There lived in the same times the Milanese Bernazzano, a very excellent painter of landscapes, herbage, animals, and other things of earth, air, and water. And since, as one who knew himself to have little aptitude for figures, he did not give much attention to them, he associated himself with Cesare da Sesto, who painted them very well and in a beautiful manner. It is said that Bernazzano executed in a courtyard some very beautiful landscapes in fresco, in which he painted a strawberry-bed full of strawberries, ripe, green, and in blossom, and so well imitated, that some peacocks, deceived by their natural appearance, were so persistent in picking at them as to make holes in the plaster.
It would seem, as has been remarked already in the same connection, that Nature, the kindly mother of the universe, sometimes presents the rarest things to certain places that never had any knowledge of such gifts, and that at times she creates in some country men so much inclined to design and to painting, that, without masters, but only by imitating living and natural objects, they become most excellent. And it also happens very often that when one man has begun, many set themselves to work in competition with him, and labour to such purpose, without seeing Rome, Florence, or any other place full of notable pictures, but merely through rivalry one with another, that marvellous works are seen to issue from their hands. All this may be seen to have happened more particularly in Friuli, where, in our own day, in consequence of such a beginning, there has been a vast number of excellent painters—a thing which had not occurred in those parts for many centuries.
While Giovanni Bellini was working in Venice and teaching his art to many, as has been related, he had two disciples who were rivals one with another—Pellegrino da Udine, who, as will be told, was afterwards called Da San Daniele, and Giovanni Martini of Udine. Let us begin, then, by speaking of Giovanni. He always imitated the manner of Bellini, which was somewhat crude, hard, and dry; nor was he ever able to give it sweetness or softness, although he was a diligent and finished painter. This may have happened because he was always making trial of certain reflections, half-lights, and shadows, with which, cutting the relief in the middle, he contrived to define light and shade very abruptly, in such a way that the colouring of all his works was [Pg 146] always crude and unpleasant, although he strove laboriously with his art to imitate Nature. By the hand of this master are numerous works in many places in Friuli, particularly in the city of Udine, in the Duomo of which there is a panel-picture executed in oils, of S. Mark seated with many figures round him, which is held to be the best of all that he ever painted. There is another on the altar of S. Ursula in the Church of the Friars of S. Pietro Martire, wherein the first-mentioned Saint is standing with some of her virgins round her, all painted with much grace and beautiful expressions of countenance. This Giovanni, besides being a passing good painter, was endowed by Nature with beauty and grace of features and an excellent character, and, what is most desirable, with such foresight and power of management, that, after his death, in default of heirs male, he left an inheritance of much property to his wife. And she, being, so I have heard, a lady as shrewd as she was beautiful, knew so well how to manage her life after the death of her husband, that she married two very beautiful daughters into the richest and most noble houses of Udine.
Pellegrino da San Daniele, who was a rival of Giovanni, as has been related, and a man of greater excellence in painting, received at baptism the name of Martino. But Giovanni Bellini, judging that he was destined to become, as he afterwards did, a truly rare master of art, changed his name from Martino to Pellegrino. And even as his name was changed, so he may be said by chance to have changed his country, since, living by preference at San Daniele, a township ten miles distant from Udine, and spending most of his time in that place, where he had taken a wife, he was called ever afterwards not Martino da Udine, but Pellegrino da San Daniele. He painted many pictures in Udine, and some may still be seen on the doors of the old organ, on the outer side of which is painted a sunken arch in perspective, containing a S. Peter seated among a multitude of figures and handing a pastoral staff to S. Ermacora the Bishop. On the inner side of the same doors, likewise, in some niches, he painted the four Doctors of the Church in the act of studying. For the Chapel of S. Giuseppe he executed a panel-picture [Pg 147] in oils, drawn and coloured with much diligence, in the middle of which is S. Joseph standing in a beautiful attitude, with an air of dignity, and beside him is Our Lord as a little Child, while S. John the Baptist is below in the garb of a little shepherd-boy, gazing intently on his Master. And since this picture is much extolled, we may believe what is said of it—namely, that he painted it in competition with the aforesaid Giovanni, and that he put forward every effort to make it, as it proved to be, more beautiful than that which Giovanni painted of S. Mark, as has been related above. Pellegrino also painted at Udine, for the house of Messer Pre Giovanni, intendant to the illustrious Signori della Torre, a picture of Judith from the waist upwards, with the head of Holofernes in one hand, which is a very beautiful work. By the hand of the same man is a large panel in oils, divided into several pictures, which may be seen on the high-altar of the Church of S. Maria in the town of Civitale, at a distance of eight miles from Udine; and in it are some heads of virgins and other figures with great beauty of expression. And in his township of San Daniele, in a chapel of S. Antonio, he painted in fresco scenes of the Passion of Jesus Christ, and that so finely that he well deserved to be paid more than a thousand crowns for the work. He was much beloved for his talents by the Dukes of Ferrara, and, in addition to other favours and many gifts, he obtained through their good offices two Canonicates in the Duomo of Udine for two of his relatives.
Among his pupils, of whom he had many, making much use of them and rewarding them liberally, was one of Greek nationality, a man of no little ability, who had a very beautiful manner and imitated Pellegrino closely. But Luca Monverde of Udine, who was much beloved by Pellegrino, would have been superior to the Greek, if he had not been snatched from the world prematurely when still a mere lad; although one work by his hand was left on the high-altar of S. Maria delle Grazie in Udine, a panel-picture in oils, his first and last, in which, in a recess in perspective, there is a Madonna seated on high with the Child in her arms, painted by him with a soft gradation of shadow, while on the level surface below there are two figures on either side, so beautiful that [Pg 148] they show that if he had lived longer he would have become truly excellent.
Another disciple of the same Pellegrino was Bastianello Florigorio, who painted a panel-picture that is over the high-altar of S. Giorgio in Udine, of a Madonna in the sky surrounded by an endless number of little angels in various attitudes, all adoring the Child that she holds in her arms; while below there is a very well executed landscape. There is also a very beautiful S. John, and a S. George in armour and on horseback, who, foreshortened in a spirited attitude, is slaying the Dragon with his lance; while the Maiden, who is there on one side, appears to be thanking God and the glorious Virgin for the succour sent to her. In the head of the S. George Bastianello is said to have made his own portrait. He also painted two pictures in fresco in the Refectory of the Friars of S. Pietro Martire: in one is Christ seated at table with the two disciples at Emmaus, and breaking the bread with a benediction, and in the other is the death of S. Peter Martyr. The same master painted in fresco in a niche on a corner of the Palace of M. Marguando, an excellent physician, a nude man in foreshortening, representing a S. John, which is held to be a good painting. Finally, he was forced through some dispute to depart from Udine, for the sake of peace, and to live like an exile in Civitale.
Bastianello had a crude and hard manner, because he much delighted in drawing works in relief and objects of Nature by candle-light. He had much beauty of invention, and he took great pleasure in executing portraits from life, making them truly beautiful and very like; and at Udine, among others, he made one of Messer Raffaello Belgrado, and one of the father of M. Giovan Battista Grassi, an excellent painter and architect, from whose loving courtesy we have received much particular information touching our present subject of Friuli. Bastianello lived about forty years.
Another disciple of Pellegrino was Francesco Floriani of Udine, who is still alive and is a very good painter and architect, like his younger brother, Antonio Floriani, who, thanks to his rare abilities in his profession, is now in the service of his glorious Majesty the Emperor [Pg 149] Maximilian. Some of the pictures of that same Francesco were to be seen two years ago in the possession of the Emperor, who was then a King; one of these being a Judith who has cut off the head of Holofernes, painted with admirable judgment and diligence. And in the collection of that monarch there is a book of pen-drawings by the same master, full of lovely inventions, buildings, theatres, arches, porticoes, bridges, palaces, and many other works of architecture, all useful and very beautiful.
Gensio Liberale was also a disciple of Pellegrino, and in his pictures, among other things, he imitated every sort of fish excellently well. This master is now in the service of the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, a splendid position, which he deserves, for he is a very good painter.
But among the most illustrious and renowned painters of the territory of Friuli, the rarest and most famous in our day—since he has surpassed those mentioned above by a great measure in the invention of scenes, in draughtsmanship, in boldness, in mastery over colour, in fresco work, in swiftness of execution, in strength of relief, and in every other department of our arts—is Giovanni Antonio Licinio, called by some Cuticello. This master was born at Pordenone, a township in Friuli, twenty-five miles from Udine; and since he was endowed by nature with a beautiful genius and an inclination for painting, he devoted himself without any teacher to the study of natural objects, imitating the style of Giorgione da Castelfranco, because that manner, seen by him many times in Venice, had pleased him much. Now, having learnt the rudiments of art, he was forced, in order to save his life from a pestilence that had fallen upon his native place, to take to flight; and thus, passing many months in the surrounding country, he executed various works in fresco for a number of peasants, gaining at their expense experience of using colour on plaster. Wherefore, since the surest and best method of learning is practice and a sufficiency of work, it came to pass that he became a well-practised and judicious master of that kind of painting, and learned to make colours produce the desired effect when used in a fluid state, which is done on account of the white, which dries the plaster and produces a brightness that ruins all softness. [Pg 150] And so, having mastered the nature of colours, and having learnt by long practice to work very well in fresco, he returned to Udine, where he painted for the altar of the Nunziata, in the Convent of S. Pietro Martire, a panel-picture in oils containing the Madonna at the moment of receiving the Salutation from the Angel Gabriel; and in the sky he made a God the Father surrounded by many little boys, who is sending down the Holy Spirit. This work, which is executed with good drawing, grace, vivacity, and relief, is held by all craftsmen of judgment to be the best that he ever painted.
In the Duomo of the same city, on the balustrade of the organ, below the doors already painted by Pellegrino, he painted a story of S. Ermacora and Fortunatus, also in oils, graceful and well designed. In the same city, in order to gain the friendship of the Signori Tinghi, he painted in fresco the façade of their palace; in which work, wishing to make himself known and to prove what a master he was of architectural invention and of working in fresco, he made a series of compartments and groups of varied ornaments full of figures in niches; and in three great spaces in the centre of the work he painted scenes with figures in colours, two spaces, high and narrow, being on either side, and one square in shape in the middle; and in the latter he painted a Corinthian column planted with its base in the sea, with a Siren on the right hand, holding the column upright, and a nude Neptune on the left supporting it on the other side; while above the capital of the column there is a Cardinal's hat, the device, so it is said, of Pompeo Colonna, who was much the friend of the owners of that palace. In one of the two other spaces are the Giants being slain with thunderbolts by Jove, with some dead bodies on the ground very well painted and most beautifully foreshortened. On the other side is a Heaven full of Gods, and on the earth two Giants who, club in hand, are in the act of striking at Diana, who, defending herself in a bold and spirited attitude, is brandishing a blazing torch as if to burn the arms of one of them.
At Spelimbergo, a large place fifteen miles above Udine, the balustrade and the doors of the organ in the great church are painted by the hand of the same master; on the outer side of one door is the Assumption [Pg 151] of Our Lady, and on the inner side S. Peter and S. Paul before Nero, gazing at Simon Magus in the air above; while on the other door there is the Conversion of S. Paul, and on the balustrade the Nativity of Christ.
Through this work, which is very beautiful, and many others, Pordenone came into repute and fame, and was summoned to Vicenza, whence, after having executed some works there, he made his way to Mantua, where he coloured a façade in fresco with marvellous grace for M. Paris, a gentleman of that city. Among other beautiful inventions which are in that work, much praise is due to a frieze of antique letters, one braccio and a half in height, at the top, below the cornice, among which, passing in and out of them, are many little children in various attitudes, all most beautiful.
That work finished, he returned in great credit to Vicenza, and there, besides many other works, he painted the whole of the tribune of S. Maria di Campagna, although by reason of his departure a part remained unfinished, which was afterwards finished with great diligence by Maestro Bernardo da Vercelli. In the same church he painted two chapels in fresco: one with stories of S. Catherine, and the other with the Nativity of Christ and the Adoration of the Magi, both being worthy of the highest praise. He then painted some poetical pictures in the beautiful garden of M. Barnaba dal Pozzo, a doctor; and, in the said Church of S. Maria di Campagna, the picture of S. Augustine, which is on the left hand as one enters the church. All these most beautiful works brought it about that the gentlemen of that city persuaded him to take a wife there, and always held him in vast veneration.
Going afterwards to Venice, where he had formerly executed some works, he painted a wall of S. Geremia, on the Grand Canal, and a panel-picture in oils for the Madonna del Orto, with many figures, making a particular effort to prove his worth in the S. John the Baptist. He also painted many scenes in fresco on the façade of the house of Martin d'Anna on the same Grand Canal; in particular, a Curtius on horseback in foreshortening, which has the appearance of being wholly in the round, like the Mercury flying freely through the air, not to speak of many other things that all prove his ability. That work pleased the whole city [Pg 152] of Venice beyond measure, and Pordenone was therefore extolled more highly than any other man who had ever worked in the city up to that time.
Among other reasons that caused him to give an incredible amount of effort to all his works, was his rivalry with the most excellent Tiziano; since, setting himself to compete with him, he hoped by means of continual study and by a bold and resolute method of working in fresco to wrest from the hands of Tiziano that sovereignty which he had gained with so many beautiful works; employing, also, unusual methods outside the field of art, such as that of being obliging and courteous and associating continually and of set purpose with great persons, making his interests universal, and taking a hand in everything. And, in truth, this rivalry was a great assistance to him, for it caused him to devote the greatest zeal and diligence in his power to all his works, so that they proved worthy of eternal praise.
For these reasons, then, he was commissioned by the Wardens of S. Rocco to paint in fresco the chapel of that church, with all the tribune. Setting his hand, therefore, to this work, he painted a God the Father in the tribune, with a vast number of children in various beautiful attitudes, radiating from Him. In the frieze of the same tribune he painted eight figures from the Old Testament, with the four Evangelists in the angles, and the Transfiguration of Christ over the high-altar; and in the two lunettes at the sides are the four Doctors of the Church. By the hand of the same master are two large pictures in the middle of the church: in one is Christ healing an endless number of the sick, all very well painted, and in the other is S. Christopher carrying Jesus Christ on his shoulders. On the wooden tabernacle of the same church, wherein the vessels of silver are kept, he painted a S. Martin on horseback, with many beggars who are bringing votive offerings, in a building in perspective.
This work, which was much extolled and brought him honour and profit, was the reason that M. Jacopo Soranzo, having become his intimate friend, caused him to be commissioned to paint the Sala de' Pregai in competition with Tiziano; and there he executed many pictures [Pg 153] with figures seen foreshortened from below, which are very beautiful, together with a frieze of marine monsters painted in oils round that hall. These works made him so dear to the Senate, that as long as he lived he always received an honourable salary from them. And since, out of rivalry, he always sought to do work in places where Tiziano had also worked, he painted for S. Giovanni di Rialto a S. John, as Almoner, giving alms to beggars, and also placed on an altar a picture of S. Sebastian, S. Rocco, and other saints, which was very beautiful, but yet not equal to the work of Tiziano, although many, more out of malignity than out of a love for the truth, exalted that of Giovanni Antonio. The same master painted in the cloister of S. Stefano many scenes in fresco from the Old Testament, and one from the New, divided one from another by various Virtues; and in these figures he displayed amazing foreshortenings, in which method of painting he always delighted, seeking to introduce them into his every composition with no fear of difficulties, and making them more ornate than any other painter.
Prince Doria had built a palace on the seashore in Genoa, and had commissioned Perino del Vaga, a very celebrated painter, to paint halls, apartments, and ante-chambers both in oils and in fresco, which are quite marvellous for the richness and beauty of the paintings. But seeing that Perino was not then giving much attention to the work, and wishing to make him do by the spur of emulation what he was not doing by himself, he sent for Pordenone, who began with an open terrace, wherein, following his usual manner, he executed a frieze of children, who are hurrying about in very beautiful attitudes and unloading a barque full of merchandise. He also painted a large scene of Jason asking leave from his uncle to go in search of the Golden Fleece. But the Prince, seeing the difference that there was between the work of Perino and that of Pordenone, dismissed the latter, and summoned in his place Domenico Beccafumi of Siena, an excellent painter and a rarer master than Pordenone. And he, glad to serve so great a Prince, did not scruple to leave his native city of Siena, where there are so many marvellous works by his hand; but he did not paint more than one single scene in that palace, because Perino brought everything to completion by himself.
[Pg 154] Giovanni Antonio then returned to Venice, where he was given to understand that Ercole, Duke of Ferrara, had brought a great number of masters from Germany, and had caused them to begin to make fabrics in silk, gold, floss-silk, and wool, for his own use and pleasure, but that he had no good designers of figures in Ferrara, since Girolamo da Ferrara had more ability for portraits and separate things than for difficult and complicated scenes, which called for great power of art and design; and that he should enter the service of that Prince. Whereupon, desiring to gain fame no less than riches, he departed from Venice, and on reaching Ferrara was received with great warmth by the Duke. But a little time after his arrival, being attacked by a most grievous affliction of the chest, he took to his bed with the doom of death upon him, and, growing continually worse and finding no remedy, within three days or little more he finished the course of his life, at the age of fifty-six. This seemed a strange thing to the Duke, and also to Pordenone's friends; and there were not wanting men who for many months believed that he had died of poison. The body of Giovanni Antonio was buried with honour, and his death was a grief to many, particularly in Venice, for the reason that he was ready of speech and the friend and companion of many, and delighted in music; and his readiness and grace of speech came from his having given attention to the study of Latin. He always made his figures grand, and was very rich in invention, and so versatile that he could imitate everything very well; but he was, above all, resolute and most facile in works in fresco.
A disciple of Pordenone was Pomponio Amalteo of San Vito, who won by his good qualities the honour of becoming the son-in-law of his master. This Pomponio, always following that master in matters of art, has acquitted himself very well in all his works, as may be seen at Udine from the doors of the new organ, painted in oils, on the outer side of which is Christ driving the traders from the Temple, and on the inner side the story of the Pool of Bethesda and the Resurrection of Lazarus. In the Church of S. Francesco, in the same city, there is a panel-picture in oils by the hand of the same man, of S. Francis receiving the Stigmata, with some very beautiful landscapes, and with a sunrise from which, [Pg 155] in the midst of some rays of the greatest splendour, there radiates the celestial light, which pierces the hands, feet, and side of S. Francis, who, kneeling devoutly and full of love, receives it, while his companion lies on the ground, in foreshortening, all overcome with amazement. Pomponio also painted in fresco for the Friars of La Vigna, at the end of their refectory, Jesus Christ between the two disciples at Emmaus. In the township of San Vito, his native place, twenty miles distant from Udine, he painted in fresco the Chapel of the Madonna in the Church of S. Maria, in so beautiful a manner, and so much to the satisfaction of all, that he has won from the most reverend Cardinal Maria Grimani, Patriarch of Aquileia and Lord of San Vito, the honour of being enrolled among the nobles of that place.
I have thought it right in this Life of Pordenone to make mention of these excellent craftsmen of Friuli, both because it appears to me that their talents deserve it, and to the end that it may be recognized in the account to be given later how much more excellent are those who, after such a beginning, have lived since that day, as will be related in the Life of Giovanni Ricamatori of Udine, to whom our age owes a very great obligation for his works in stucco and his grotesques.
But returning to Pordenone; after the works mentioned above as having been executed by him at Venice in the time of the most illustrious Gritti, he died, as has been related, in the year 1540. And because he was one of the most able men that our age has possessed, and for the reason, above all, that his figures seem to be in the round and detached from their walls, and almost in relief, he can be numbered among those who have rendered assistance to art and benefit to the world.
Very often do we see in the sciences of learning and in the more liberal of the manual arts, that those men who are melancholy are the most assiduous in their studies and show the greatest patience in supporting the burden of their labours; so that there are few of that disposition who do not become excellent in such professions. Even so did Giovanni Antonio Sogliani, a painter of Florence, whose cast of countenance was so cold and woeful that he looked like the image of melancholy; and such was the power of this humour over him that he gave little thought to anything but matters of art, with the exception of his household cares, through which he endured most grievous anxieties, although he had enough to live in comfort. He worked at the art of painting under Lorenzo di Credi for four-and-twenty years, living with him, honouring him always, and rendering him every sort of service. Having become during that time a very good painter, he showed afterwards in all his works that he was a most faithful disciple of his master and a close imitator of his manner. This was seen from his first paintings, in the Church of the Osservanza on the hill of San Miniato without Florence, for which he painted a panel-picture copied from the one that Lorenzo had executed for the Nuns of S. Chiara, containing the Nativity of Christ, and no less excellent than the one of Lorenzo.
Afterwards, having left his master, he painted for the Church of S. Michele in Orto, at the commission of the Guild of Vintners, a S. Martin in oils, robed as a Bishop, which gave him the name of a very good master. And since Giovanni Antonio had a vast veneration for the works and the manner of Fra Bartolommeo di San Marco, and made great efforts to approach that manner in his colouring, it may be seen from a panel [Pg 160] which he began but did not finish, not being satisfied with it, how much he imitated that painter. This panel remained in his house during his lifetime as worthless: but after his death it was sold as a piece of old rubbish to Sinibaldo Gaddi, and he had it finished by Santi Titi dal Borgo, then a mere boy, and placed it in a chapel of his own in S. Domenico da Fiesole. In this work are the Magi adoring Jesus Christ, who is in the lap of His Mother, and in one corner is his own portrait from life, which is a passing good likeness.
He then painted for Madonna Alfonsina, the wife of Piero de' Medici, a panel-picture that was placed as a votive offering over the altar of the Chapel of the Martyrs in the Camaldolite Church at Florence: in which picture he painted the Crucifixion of S. Arcadio and other martyrs with their crosses in their arms, and two figures, half covered with draperies and half naked, kneeling with their crosses on the ground, while in the sky are some little angels with palms in their hands. This work, which was painted with much diligence, and executed with good judgment in the colouring and in the heads, which are very lifelike, was placed in the above-mentioned Camaldolite Church; but that monastery was taken on account of the siege of Florence from those Eremite Fathers, who used devoutly to celebrate the Divine offices in the church, and was afterwards given to the Nuns of S. Giovannino, of the Order of the Knights of Jerusalem, and finally destroyed; and the picture, being one which may be numbered among the best works that Sogliani painted, was placed by order of the Lord Duke Cosimo in one of the chapels of the Medici family in S. Lorenzo.
The same master executed for the Nuns of the Crocetta a Last Supper coloured in oils, which was much extolled at that time. And in a shrine in the Via de' Ginori, he painted in fresco for Taddeo Taddei a Crucifix with Our Lady and S. John at the foot, and in the sky some angels lamenting Christ, very lifelike—a picture truly worthy of praise, and a well-executed example of work in fresco. By the hand of Sogliani, also, is a Crucifix in the Refectory of the Abbey of the Black Friars in Florence, with angels flying about and weeping with much grace; and at the foot the Madonna, S. John, S. Benedict, S. Scholastica, and other [Pg 161] figures. For the Nuns of the Spirito Santo, on the hill of San Giorgio, he painted two pictures that are in their church, one of S. Francis, and the other of S. Elizabeth, Queen of Hungary and a sister of that Order. For the Company of the Ceppo he painted the banner for carrying in processions, which is very beautiful, representing on the front of it the Visitation of Our Lady, and on the other side S. Niccolò the Bishop, with two children dressed as Flagellants, one of whom holds his book and the other the three balls of gold. On a panel in S. Jacopo sopra Arno he painted the Trinity, with an endless number of little boys, S. Mary Magdalene kneeling, S. Catherine, S. James, and two figures in fresco standing at the sides, S. Jerome in Penitence and S. John; and in the predella he made his assistant, Sandrino del Calzolaio, execute three scenes, which won no little praise.
On the end wall of the Oratory of a Company in the township of Anghiari, he executed on panel a Last Supper in oils, with figures of the size of life; and on one of the two adjoining walls (namely, the sides) he painted Christ washing the feet of the Apostles, and on the other a servant bringing two vessels of water. The work is held in great veneration in that place, for it is indeed a rare thing, and one that brought him both honour and profit. A picture that he executed of a Judith who had cut off the head of Holofernes, being a very beautiful work, was sent to Hungary. And likewise another, in which was the Beheading of S. John the Baptist, with a building in perspective for which he had copied the exterior of the Chapter-house of the Pazzi, which is in the first cloister of S. Croce, was sent as a most beautiful work to Naples by Paolo da Terrarossa, who had given the commission for it. For one of the Bernardi, also, Sogliani executed two other pictures, which were placed in a chapel in the Church of the Osservanza at San Miniato, containing two lifesize figures in oils—S. John the Baptist and S. Anthony of Padua. But as for the panel that was to stand between them, Giovanni Antonio, being dilatory by nature and leisurely over his work, lingered over it so long that he who had given the commission died: wherefore that panel, which was to contain a Christ lying dead in the lap of His Mother, remained unfinished.
[Pg 162] After these things, when Perino del Vaga, having departed from Genoa on account of his resentment against Prince Doria, was working at Pisa, where the sculptor Stagio da Pietrasanta had begun the execution of the new chapels in marble at the end of the nave of the Duomo, together with that space behind the high-altar, which serves as a sacristy, it was ordained that the said Perino, as will be related in his Life, with other masters, should begin to fill up those adornments of marble with pictures. But Perino being recalled to Genoa, Giovanni Antonio was commissioned to set his hand to the pictures that were to adorn the aforesaid recess behind the high-altar, and to deal in his works with the sacrifices of the Old Testament, as symbols of the Sacrifice of the Most Holy Sacrament, which was there over the centre of the high-altar. Sogliani, then, painted in the first picture the sacrifice that Noah and his sons offered when they had gone forth from the Ark, and afterwards those of Cain and of Abel; which were all highly extolled, but above all that of Noah, because some of the heads and parts of the figures in it were very beautiful. The picture of Abel is charming for its landscapes, which are very well executed, and the head of Abel himself, which is the very presentment of goodness; but quite the opposite is that of Cain, which has the mien of a truly sorry villain. And if Sogliani had pursued the work with energy instead of being dilatory, he would have been charged by the Warden, who had given him his commission and was much pleased with his manner and character, to execute all the work in that Duomo, whereas at that time, in addition to the pictures already mentioned, he painted no more than one panel, which was destined for the chapel wherein Perino had begun to work; and this he finished in Florence, but in such wise that it pleased the Pisans well enough and was held to be very beautiful. In it are the Madonna, S. John the Baptist, S. George, S. Mary Magdalene, S. Margaret, and other saints. His picture, then, having given satisfaction, Sogliani received from the Warden a commission for three other panels, to which he set his hand, but did not finish them in the lifetime of that Warden, in whose place Bastiano della Seta was elected; and he, perceiving that the business was moving but slowly, allotted four pictures for the aforesaid sacristy behind the high-altar [Pg 163] to Domenico Beccafumi of Siena, an excellent painter, who dispatched them very quickly, as will be told in the proper place, and also painted a panel there, and other painters executed the rest. Giovanni Antonio, then, working at his leisure, finished two other panels with much diligence, painting in each a Madonna surrounded by many saints. And finally, having made his way to Pisa, he there painted the fourth and last, in which he acquitted himself worse than in any other, either through old age, or because he was competing with Beccafumi, or for some other reason.
But the Warden Bastiano, perceiving the slowness of the man, and wishing to bring the work to an end, allotted the three other panels to Giorgio Vasari of Arezzo, who finished two of them, those that are beside the door of the façade. In the one nearer the Campo Santo is Our Lady with the Child in her arms, with S. Martha caressing Him. There, also, on their knees, are S. Cecilia, S. Augustine, S. Joseph, and S. Guido the Hermit, and in the foreground a nude S. Jerome, with S. Luke the Evangelist, and some little boys uplifting a piece of drapery, and others holding flowers. In the other, by the wish of the Warden, he painted another Madonna with her Son in her arms, S. James the Martyr, S. Matthew, S. Sylvester the Pope, and S. Turpè the Chevalier. Having to paint the Madonna, and not wishing to repeat the same composition (although he had varied it much in other respects), he made her with Christ dead in her arms, and those saints as it were round a Deposition from the Cross; and on the crosses, planted on high and made of tree-trunks, are fixed two naked Thieves, surrounded by horses and ministers of the crucifixion, with Joseph, Nicodemus, and the Maries; all for the satisfaction of the Warden, who wished that in those new pictures there should be included all the saints that there had been in the past in the various dismantled chapels, in order to renew their memory in the new works. One picture was still wanting to complete the whole, and this was executed by Bronzino, who painted a nude Christ and eight saints. And in this manner were those chapels brought to completion, all of which Giovanni Antonio could have done with his own hand if he had not been so slow.
[Pg 164] And since Sogliani had won much favour with the Pisans, after the death of Andrea del Sarto he was commissioned to finish a panel for the Company of S. Francesco, which the said Andrea left only sketched; which panel is now in the building of that Company on the Piazza di S. Francesco at Pisa. The same master executed some rows of cloth-hangings for the Wardens of Works of the aforesaid Duomo, and many others in Florence, because he took pleasure in doing that sort of work, and above all in company with his friend Tommaso di Stefano, a painter of Florence.
Being summoned by the Friars of S. Marco in Florence to paint a work in fresco at the head of their refectory, at the expense of one of their number, a lay-brother of the Molletti family, who had possessed a rich patrimony when in the world, Giovanni Antonio wished to paint there the scene of Jesus Christ feeding five thousand persons with five loaves and two fishes, in order to make the most of his powers; and he had already made the design for it, with many women and children and a great multitude of other people, when the friars refused to have that story, saying that they wanted something definite, simple, and familiar. Whereupon, to please them, he painted the scene when S. Dominic, being in the refectory with his friars and having no bread, made a prayer to God, when the table was miraculously covered with bread, brought by two angels in human form. In this work he made portraits of many friars who were then in the convent, which have the appearance of life, and particularly that of the lay-brother of the Molletti family, who is serving at table. Then, in the lunette above the table, he painted S. Dominic at the foot of a Crucifix, with Our Lady and S. John the Evangelist, who are weeping, and at the sides S. Catherine of Siena and S. Antonino, Archbishop of Florence, a brother of their Order. All this, for a work in fresco, was executed with much diligence and a high finish; but Sogliani would have been much more successful if he had executed what he had designed, because painters express the conceptions of their own minds better than those of others. On the other hand, it is only right that he who pays the piper should call the tune. The design for the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes is in the hands of Bartolommeo [Pg 165] Gondi, who, in addition to a large picture that he has by the hand of Sogliani, also possesses many drawings and heads painted from life on tinted paper, which he received from the wife of the painter, who had been very much his friend, after his death. And we, also, have in our book some drawings by the same hand, which are beautiful to a marvel.
Sogliani began for Giovanni Serristori a large panel-picture which was to be placed in S. Francesco dell' Osservanza, without the Porta a S. Miniato, with a vast number of figures, among which are some marvellous heads, the best that he ever made; but it was left unfinished at the death of the said Giovanni Serristori. Nevertheless, since Giovanni Antonio had received full payment, he finished it afterwards little by little, and gave it to Messer Alamanno di Jacopo Salviati, the son-in-law and heir of Giovanni Serristori; and he presented it, frame and all, to the Nuns of S. Luca, who have it over their high-altar in the Via di S. Gallo.
Giovanni Antonio executed many other works in Florence, some of which are in the houses of citizens, and some were sent to various countries; but of these there is no need to make mention, for we have spoken of the most important. Sogliani was an upright person, very religious, always occupied with his own business, and never interfering with his fellow-craftsmen.
One of his disciples was Sandrino del Calzolaio, who painted the shrine that is on the Canto delle Murate, and, in the Hospital of the Temple, a S. John the Baptist who is assigning shelter to the poor; and he would have done more work, and good work, if he had not died as young as he did. Another of his disciples was Michele, who afterwards went to work with Ridolfo Ghirlandajo, whose name he took; and likewise Benedetto, who went with Antonio Mini, a disciple of Michelagnolo Buonarroti, to France, where he has executed many beautiful works. And another, finally, was Zanobi di Poggino, who has painted many works throughout the city.
In the end, being weary and broken in health after having been long tormented by the stone, Giovanni Antonio rendered up his soul to God at the age of fifty-two. His death was much lamented, for he had been [Pg 166] an excellent man, and his manner had been much in favour, since he gave an air of piety to his figures, in such a fashion as pleases those who, delighting little in the highest and most difficult flights of art, love things that are seemly, simple, gracious, and sweet. His body was opened after his death, and in it were found three stones, each as big as an egg; but as long as he lived he would never consent to have them extracted, or to hear a word about them.
Rarely does it happen that those who persist in working in the country in which they were born, are exalted by Fortune to that height of prosperity which their talents deserve; whereas, if a man tries many, he must in the end find one wherein sooner or later he succeeds in being recognized. And it often comes to pass that one who attains to the reward of his labours late in life, is prevented by the venom of death from enjoying it for long, even as we shall see in the case of Girolamo da Treviso.
This painter was held to be a very good master; and although he was no great draughtsman, he was a pleasing colourist both in oils and in fresco, and a close imitator of the methods of Raffaello da Urbino. He worked much in his native city of Treviso; and he also executed many works in Venice, such as, in particular, the façade of the house of Andrea Udoni, which he painted in fresco, with some friezes of children in the courtyard, and one of the upper apartments: all of which he executed in colour, and not in chiaroscuro, because the Venetians like colour better than anything else. In a large scene in the middle of this façade is a Juno, seen from the thighs upwards, flying on some clouds with the moon on her head, over which are raised her arms, one holding a vase and the other a bowl. He also painted there a Bacchus, fat and ruddy, with a vessel that he is upsetting, and holding with one arm a Ceres who has many ears of corn in her hands. There, too, are the Graces, with five little boys who are flying below and welcoming them, in order, so they signify, to make the house of the Udoni abound with their gifts; and to show that the same house was a friendly haven for men of talent, [Pg 170] he painted Apollo on one side and Pallas on the other. This work was executed with great freshness, so that Girolamo gained from it both honour and profit.
The same master painted a picture for the Chapel of the Madonna in S. Petronio, in competition with certain painters of Bologna, as will be related in the proper place. And continuing to live in Bologna, he executed many pictures there; and in S. Petronio, in the Chapel of S. Antonio da Padova, he depicted in oils, in imitation of marble, all the stories of the life of the latter Saint, in which, without a doubt, there may be perceived grace, judgment, excellence, and a great delicacy of finish. He painted a panel-picture for S. Salvatore, of the Madonna ascending the steps of the Temple, with some saints; and another of the Madonna in the sky, with some children, and S. Jerome and S. Catherine beneath, which is certainly the weakest work by his hand that is to be seen in Bologna. Over a great portal, also, in Bologna, he painted in fresco a Crucifix with Our Lady and S. John, all worthy of the highest praise. For S. Domenico, at Bologna, he executed a panel-picture in oils of Our Lady with some saints, which is the best of his works; it is near the choir, as one ascends to the tomb of S. Dominic, and in it is the portrait of the patron who had it painted. In like manner, he painted a picture for Count Giovanni Battista Bentivogli, who had the cartoon by the hand of Baldassarre of Siena, representing the story of the Magi: a work which he carried to a very fine completion, although it contained more than a hundred figures. There are also many other works by the hand of Girolamo in Bologna, both in private houses and in the churches. In Galiera he painted in chiaroscuro the façade of the Palace of the Teofamini, with another façade behind the house of the Dolfi, which is considered in the judgment of many craftsmen to be the best work that he ever executed in that city.
He went to Trento, and, in company with other painters, painted the palace of the old Cardinal, from which he gained very great fame. Then, returning to Bologna, he gave his attention to the works that he had begun. Now it happened that there was much talk throughout Bologna about having a panel-picture painted for the Della Morte Hospital, [Pg 171] for which various designs were made by way of competition, some in drawing and some in colour. And since many thought that they had the first claim, some through interest and others because they held themselves to be most worthy of such a commission, Girolamo was left in the lurch; and considering that he had been wronged, not long afterwards he departed from Bologna. And thus the envy of others raised him to such a height of prosperity as he had never thought of; since, if he had been chosen for the work, it would have impeded the blessings that his good fortune had prepared for him. For, having made his way to England, he was recommended by some friends, who favoured him, to King Henry; and presenting himself before him, he entered into his service, although not as painter, but as engineer. Then, making trial of his skill in various edifices, copied from some in Tuscany and other parts of Italy, that King pronounced them marvellous, rewarded him with a succession of presents, and decreed him a provision of four hundred crowns a year; and he was given the means to build an honourable abode for himself at the expense of the King. Thereupon Girolamo, raised from one extreme of distress to the other extreme of grandeur, lived a most happy and contented life, thanking God and Fortune for having turned his steps to a country where men were so favourable to his talents. But this unwonted happiness was not destined to last long, for the war between the French and the English being continued, and Girolamo being charged with superintending all the work of the bastions and fortifications, the artillery, and the defences of the camp, it happened one day, when the city of Boulogne in Picardy was being bombarded, that a ball from a demi-cannon came with horrid violence and cut him in half on his horse's back. And thus, Girolamo being at the age of thirty-six, his life, his earthly honours, and all his greatness were extinguished at one and the same moment, in the year 1544.
In the last age of gold, as the happy age of Leo X might have been called for all noble craftsmen and men of talent, an honoured place was held among the most exalted spirits by Polidoro da Caravaggio, a Lombard, who had not become a painter after long study, but had been created and produced as such by Nature. This master, having come to Rome at the time when the Loggie of the Papal Palace were being built for Leo under the direction of Raffaello da Urbino, carried the pail, or we should rather say the hod, full of lime, for the masons who were doing the work, until he had reached the age of eighteen. But, when Giovanni da Udine had begun to paint there, the building and the painting proceeding together, Polidoro, whose will and inclination were much drawn to painting, could not rest content until he had become intimate with all the most able of the young men, in order to study their methods and manners of art, and to set himself to draw. And out of their number he chose as his companion the Florentine Maturino, who was then working in the Papal Chapel, and was held to be an excellent draughtsman of antiquities. Associating with him, Polidoro became so enamoured of that art, that in a few months, having made trial of his powers, he executed works that astonished every person who had known him in his former condition. On which account, the work of the Loggie proceeding, he exercised his hand to such purpose in company with those young painters, who were well-practised and experienced in painting, and learned the art so divinely well, that he did not leave that work without carrying away the true glory of being considered the most noble and [Pg 176] most beautiful intellect that was to be found among all their number. Thereupon the love of Maturino for Polidoro, and of Polidoro for Maturino, so increased, that they determined like brothers and true companions to live and die together; and, uniting their ambitions, their purses, and their labours, they set themselves to work together in the closest harmony and concord. But since there were in Rome many who had great fame and reputation, well justified by their works, for making their paintings more lively and vivacious in colour and more worthy of praise and favour, there began to enter into their minds the idea of imitating the methods of Baldassarre of Siena, who had executed several façades of houses in chiaroscuro, and of giving their attention thenceforward to that sort of work, which by that time had come into fashion.
They began one, therefore, on Montecavallo, opposite to S. Silvestro, in company with Pellegrino da Modena, which encouraged them to make further efforts to see whether this should be their profession; and they went on to execute another opposite to the side-door of S. Salvatore del Lauro, and likewise painted a scene by the side-door of the Minerva, with another, which is a frieze of marine monsters, above S. Rocco a Ripetta. And during this first period they painted a vast number of them throughout all Rome, but not so good as the others; and there is no need to mention them here, since they afterwards did better work of that sort. Gaining courage, therefore, from this, they began to study the antiquities of Rome, counterfeiting the ancient works of marble in their works in chiaroscuro, so that there remained no vase, statue, sarcophagus, scene, or any single thing, whether broken or entire, which they did not draw and make use of. And with such constancy and resolution did they give their minds to this pursuit, that they both acquired the ancient manner, the work of the one being so like that of the other, that, even as their minds were guided by one and the same will, so their hands expressed one and the same knowledge. And although Maturino was not as well assisted by Nature as Polidoro, so potent was the faithful imitation of one style by the two in company, that, wherever either of them placed his hand, the work of both one and the other, whether in composition, expression, or manner, appeared to be the same.
[Pg 177] In the Piazza di Capranica, on the way to the Piazza Colonna, they painted a façade with the Theological Virtues, and a frieze of very beautiful invention beneath the windows, including a draped figure of Rome representing the Faith, and holding the Chalice and the Host in her hands, who has taken captive all the nations of the earth; and all mankind is flocking up to bring her tribute, while the Turks, overcome at the last, are shooting arrows at the tomb of Mahomet; all ending in the words of Scripture, "There shall be one fold and one Shepherd." And, indeed, they had no equals in invention; of which we have witness in all their works, abounding in personal ornaments, vestments, foot-wear, and things bizarre and strange, and executed with an incredible beauty. And another proof is that their works are continually being drawn by all the foreign painters; wherefore they conferred greater benefits on the art of painting with the beautiful manner that they displayed and with their marvellous facility, than have all the others together who have lived from Cimabue downwards. It has been seen continually, therefore, in Rome, and is still seen, that all the draughtsmen are inclined more to the works of Polidoro and Maturino than to all the rest of our modern pictures.
In the Borgo Nuovo they executed a façade in sgraffito, and on the Canto della Pace another likewise in sgraffito; with a façade of the house of the Spinoli, not far from that last-mentioned, on the way to the Parione, containing athletic contests according to the custom of the ancients, and their sacrifices, and the death of Tarpeia. Near the Torre di Nona, on the side towards the Ponte S. Angelo, may be seen a little façade with the Triumph of Camillus and an ancient sacrifice. In the road that leads to the Imagine di Ponte, there is a most beautiful façade with the story of Perillus, showing him being placed in the bronze bull that he had made; wherein great effort may be seen in those who are thrusting him into that bull, and terror in those who are waiting to behold a death so unexampled, besides which there is the seated figure of Phalaris (so I believe), ordaining with an imperious air of great beauty the punishment of the inhuman spirit that had invented a device so novel and so cruel in order to put men to death with greater suffering. In this work, also, [Pg 178] may be perceived a very beautiful frieze of children, painted to look like bronze, and other figures. Higher up than this they painted the façade of the house where there is the image which is called the Imagine di Ponte, wherein are seen several stories illustrated by them, with the Senatorial Order dressed in the garb of ancient Rome. And in the Piazza della Dogana, beside S. Eustachio, there is a façade of battle-pieces; and within that church, on the right as one enters, may be perceived a little chapel with figures painted by Polidoro.
They also executed another above the Farnese Palace for the Cepperelli, and a façade behind the Minerva in the street that leads to the Maddaleni; and in the latter, which contains scenes from Roman history, may be seen, among other beautiful things, a frieze of children in triumph, painted to look like bronze, and executed with supreme grace and extraordinary beauty. On the façade of the Buoni Auguri, near the Minerva, are some very beautiful stories of Romulus, showing him when he is marking out the site of his city with the plough, and when the vultures are flying over him; wherein the vestments, features, and persons of the ancients are so well imitated, that it truly appears as if these were the very men themselves. Certain it is that in that field of art no man ever had such power of design, such practised mastery, a more beautiful manner, or greater facility. And every craftsman is so struck with wonder every time that he sees these works, that he cannot but be amazed at the manner in which Nature has been able in this age to present her marvels to us by means of these men.
Below the Corte Savella, also, on the house bought by Signora Costanza, they painted the Rape of the Sabines, a scene which reveals the raging desire of the captors no less clearly than the terror and panic of the wretched women thus carried off by various soldiers, some on horseback and others in other ways. And not only in this one scene are there such conceptions, but also (and even more) in the stories of Mucius and Horatius, and in the Flight of Porsena, King of Tuscany. In the garden of M. Stefano dal Bufalo, near the Fountain of Trevi, they executed some most beautiful scenes of the Fount of Parnassus, in which they made grotesques and little figures, painted very well in colour. On the [Pg 179] house of Baldassini, also, near S. Agostino, they executed scenes and sgraffiti, with some heads of Emperors over the windows in the court. On Montecavallo, near S. Agata, they painted a façade with a vast number of different stories, such as the Vestal Tuccia bringing water from the Tiber to the Temple in a sieve, and Claudia drawing the ship with her girdle; and also the rout effected by Camillus while Brennus is weighing the gold. On another wall, round the corner, are Romulus and his brother being suckled by the wolf, and the terrible combat of Horatius, who is defending the head of the bridge, alone against a thousand swords, while behind him are many very beautiful figures in various attitudes, working with might and main to hew away the bridge with pickaxes. There, also, is Mucius Scævola, who, before the eyes of Porsena, is burning his own hand, which had erred in slaying the King's minister in place of the King; and in the King's face may be seen disdain and a desire for vengeance. And within that house they executed a number of landscapes.
They decorated the façade of S. Pietro in Vincula, painting therein stories of S. Peter, with some large figures of Prophets. And so widespread was the fame of these masters by reason of the abundance of their work, that the pictures painted by them with such beauty in public places enabled them to win extraordinary praise in their lifetime, with glory infinite and eternal through the number of their imitators after death. On a façade, also, in the square where stands the Palace of the Medici, behind the Piazza Navona, they painted the Triumphs of Paulus Emilius, with a vast number of other Roman stories. And at S. Silvestro di Montecavallo they executed some little things for Fra Mariano, both in the house and in the garden; and in the church they painted his chapel, with two scenes in colour from the life of S. Mary Magdalene, in which the disposition of the landscapes is executed with supreme grace and judgment. For Polidoro, in truth, executed landscapes and groups of trees and rocks better than any other painter, and it is to him that art owes that facility which our modern craftsmen show in their works.
They also painted many apartments and friezes in various houses at Rome, executing them with colours in fresco and in distemper; but [Pg 180] these works were attempted by them as trials, because they were never able to achieve with colours that beauty which they always displayed in their works in chiaroscuro, in their imitations of bronze, or in terretta. This may still be seen in the house of Torre Sanguigna, which once belonged to the Cardinal of Volterra, on the façade of which they painted a most beautiful decoration in chiaroscuro, and in the interior some figures in colour, the painting of which is so badly executed, that in it they diverted from its true excellence the good design which they always had. And this appeared all the more strange because of there being beside them an escutcheon of Pope Leo, with nude figures, by the hand of Giovan Francesco Vetraio, who would have done extraordinary things if death had not taken him from our midst. However, not cured by this of their insane confidence, they also painted some children in colour for the altar of the Martelli in S. Agostino at Rome, a work which Jacopo Sansovino completed by making a Madonna of marble; and these children appear to be by the hands, not of illustrious masters, but of simpletons just beginning to learn. Whereas, on the side where the altar-cloth covers the altar, Polidoro painted a little scene of a Dead Christ with the Maries, which is a most beautiful work, showing that in truth that sort of work was more their profession than the use of colours.
Returning, therefore, to their usual work, they painted two very beautiful façades in the Campo Marzio; one with the stories of Ancus Martius, and the other with the Festivals of the Saturnalia, formerly celebrated in that place, with all the two-horse and four-horse chariots circling round the obelisks, which are held to be most beautiful, because they are so well executed both in design and in nobility of manner, that they reproduce most vividly those very spectacles as representations of which they were painted. On the Canto della Chiavica, on the way to the Corte Savella, they painted a façade which is a divine thing, and is held to be the most beautiful of all the beautiful works that they executed; for, in addition to the story of the maidens passing over the Tiber, there is at the foot, near the door, a Sacrifice painted with marvellous industry and art, wherein may be seen duly represented all the instruments and all those ancient customs that used to have a place in sacrifices of that [Pg 181] kind. Near the Piazza del Popolo, below S. Jacopo degli Incurabili, they painted a façade with stories of Alexander the Great, which is held to be very fine; and there they depicted the ancient statues of the Nile and the Tiber from the Belvedere. Near S. Simeone they painted the façade of the Gaddi Palace, which is truly a cause of marvel and amazement, when one observes the lovely vestments in it, so many and so various, and the vast number of ancient helmets, girdles, buskins, and barques, adorned with all the delicacy and abundance of detail that an inventive imagination could conceive. There, with a multitude of beautiful things which overload the memory, are represented all the ways of the ancients, the statues of sages, and most lovely women: and there are all the sorts of ancient sacrifices with their ritual, and an army in the various stages between embarking and fighting with an extraordinary variety of arms and implements, all executed with such grace and finished with such masterly skill, that the eye is dazzled by the vast abundance of beautiful inventions. Opposite to this is a smaller façade, which could not be improved in beauty and variety; and there, in the frieze, is the story of Niobe causing herself to be worshipped, with the people bringing tribute, vases, and various kinds of gifts; which story was depicted by them with such novelty, grace, art, force of relief and genius in every part, that it would certainly take too long to describe the whole. Next, there follows the wrath of Latona, and her terrible vengeance on the children of the over-proud Niobe, whose seven sons are slain by Phœbus and the seven daughters by Diana; with an endless number of figures in imitation of bronze, which appear to be not painted but truly of metal. Above these are executed other scenes, with some vases in imitation of gold, innumerable things of fancy so strange that mortal eye could not picture anything more novel or more beautiful, and certain Etruscan helmets; but one is left confused by the variety and abundance of the conceptions, so beautiful and so fanciful, which issued from their minds. These works have been imitated by a vast number of those who labour at that branch of art. They also painted the courtyard of that house, and likewise the loggia, which they decorated with little grotesques in colour that are held to be divine. In short, all that they touched they brought to [Pg 182] perfection with infinite grace and beauty; and if I were to name all their works, I should fill a whole book with the performances of these two masters alone, since there is no apartment, palace, garden, or villa in Rome that does not contain some work by Polidoro and Maturino.
Now, while Rome was rejoicing and clothing herself in beauty with their labours, and they were awaiting the reward of all their toil, the envy of Fortune, in the year 1527, sent Bourbon to Rome; and he gave that city over to sack. Whereupon was divided the companionship not only of Polidoro and Maturino, but of all the thousands of friends and relatives who had broken bread together for so many years in Rome. Maturino took to flight, and no long time passed before he died, so it is believed in Rome, of plague, in consequence of the hardships that he had suffered in the sack, and was buried in S. Eustachio. Polidoro turned his steps to Naples; but on his arrival, the noblemen of that city taking but little interest in fine works of painting, he was like to die of hunger. Working, therefore, at the commission of certain painters, he executed a S. Peter in the principal chapel of S. Maria della Grazia; and in this way he assisted those painters in many things, more to save his life than for any other reason. However, the fame of his talents having spread abroad, he executed for Count ... a vault painted in distemper, together with some walls, all of which is held to be very beautiful work. In like manner, he executed a courtyard in chiaroscuro for Signor ..., with some loggie, which are very beautiful, rich in ornaments, and well painted. He also painted for S. Angelo, beside the Pescheria at Naples, a little panel in oils, containing a Madonna and some naked figures of souls in torment, which is held to be most beautiful, but more for the drawing than for the colouring; and likewise some pictures for the Chapel of the High-Altar, each with a single full-length figure, and all executed in the same manner.
It came to pass that Polidoro, living in Naples and seeing his talents held in little esteem, determined to take his leave of men who thought more of a horse that could jump than of a master whose hands could give to painted figures the appearance of life. Going on board ship, therefore, he made his way to Messina, where, finding more consideration [Pg 183] and more honour, he set himself to work; and thus, working continually, he acquired good skill and mastery in the use of colour. Thereupon he executed many works, which are dispersed in various places; and turning his attention to architecture, he gave proof of his worth in many buildings that he erected. After a time, Charles V passing through Messina on his return from victory in Tunis, Polidoro made in his honour most beautiful triumphal arches, from which he gained vast credit and rewards. And then this master, who was always burning with desire to revisit Rome, which afflicts with an unceasing yearning those who have lived there many years, when making trial of other countries, painted as his last work in Messina a panel-picture of Christ bearing the Cross, executed in oils with much excellence and very pleasing colour. In it he made a number of figures accompanying Christ to His Death—soldiers, pharisees, horses, women, children, and the Thieves in front; and he kept firmly before his mind the consideration of how such an execution must have been marshalled, insomuch that his nature seemed to have striven to show its highest powers in this work, which is indeed most excellent. After this he sought many times to shake himself free of that country, although he was looked upon with favour there; but he had a reason for delay in a woman, beloved by him for many years, who detained him with her sweet words and cajoleries. However, so mightily did his desire to revisit Rome and his friends work in him, that he took from his bank a good sum of money that he possessed, and, wholly determined, prepared to depart.
Polidoro had employed as his assistant for a long time a lad of the country, who bore greater love to his master's money than to his master; but, the money being kept, as has been said, in the bank, he was never able to lay his hands upon it and carry it off. Wherefore, an evil and cruel thought entering his head, he resolved to put his master to death with the help of some accomplices, on the following night, while he was sleeping, and then to divide the money with them. And so, assisted by his friends, he set upon Polidoro in his first sleep, while he was slumbering deeply, and strangled him with a cloth. Then, giving him several wounds, they made sure of his death; and in order to prove that it was [Pg 184] not they who had done it, they carried him to the door of the woman whom he had loved, making it appear that her relatives or other persons of the house had killed him. The assistant gave a good part of the money to the villains who had committed so hideous an outrage, and bade them be off. In the morning he went in tears to the house of a certain Count, a friend of his dead master, and related the event to him; but for all the diligence that was used for many days in seeking for the perpetrator of the crime, nothing came to light. By the will of God, however, nature and virtue, in disdain at being wounded by the hand of fortune, so worked in one who had no interest in the matter, that he declared it to be impossible that any other but the assistant himself could have committed the murder. Whereupon the Count had him seized and put to the torture, and without the application of any further torment he confessed the crime and was condemned by the law to the gallows; but first he was torn with red-hot pincers on the way to execution, and finally quartered.
For all this, however, life was not restored to Polidoro, nor was there given back to the art of painting a genius so resolute and so extraordinary, such as had not been seen in the world for many an age. If, indeed, at the time when he died, invention, grace, and boldness in the painting of figures could have laid down their lives, they would have died with him. Happy was the union of nature and art which embodied a spirit so noble in human form; and cruel was the envy and hatred of his fate and fortune, which robbed him of life with so strange a death, but shall never through all the ages rob him of his name. His obsequies were performed with full solemnity, and he was given burial in the Cathedral Church, lamented bitterly by all Messina, in the year 1543.
Great, indeed, is the obligation owed by craftsmen to Polidoro, in that he enriched art with a great abundance of vestments, all different and most strange, and of varied ornaments, and gave grace and adornment to all his works, and likewise made figures of every sort, animals, buildings, grotesques, and landscapes, all so beautiful, that since his day whosoever has aimed at catholicity has imitated him. It is a marvellous thing and a fearsome to see from the example of this master the instability [Pg 185] of Fortune and what she can bring to pass, causing men to become excellent in some profession from whom something quite different might have been expected, to the no small vexation of those who have laboured in vain for many years at the same art. It is a marvellous thing, I repeat, to see those same men, after much travailing and striving, brought by that same Fortune to a miserable and most unhappy end at the very moment when they were hoping to enjoy the fruits of their labours; and that with calamities so monstrous and terrible, that pity herself takes to flight, art is outraged, and benefits are repaid with an extraordinary and incredible ingratitude. Wherefore, even as painting may rejoice in the fruitful life of Polidoro, so could he complain of Fortune, which at one time showed herself friendly to him, only to bring him afterwards, when it was least expected, to a dreadful death.
Men of account who apply themselves to the arts and pursue them with all their powers are sometimes exalted and honoured beyond measure, at a moment when it was least expected, before the eyes of all the world, as may be seen clearly from the labours that Il Rosso, a painter of Florence, devoted to the art of painting; for if these were not acknowledged in Rome and Florence by those who could reward them, yet in France he found one to recompense him for them, and that in such sort, that his glory might have sufficed to quench the thirst of the most overweening ambition that could possess the heart of any craftsman, be he who he may. Nor could he have obtained in this life greater dignities, honour, or rank, seeing that he was regarded with favour and much esteemed beyond any other man of his profession by a King so great as is the King of France. And, indeed, his merits were such, that, if Fortune had secured less for him, she would have done him a very great wrong, for the reason that Rosso, in addition to his painting, was endowed with a most beautiful presence; his manner of speech was gracious and grave; he was an excellent musician, and had a fine knowledge of philosophy; and what was of greater import than all his other splendid qualities was this, that he always showed the invention of a poet in the grouping of his figures, besides being bold and well-grounded in draughtsmanship, graceful in manner, sublime in the highest flights of imagination, and a master of beautiful composition of scenes. In architecture he showed an extraordinary excellence; and he was always, however poor in circumstances, rich in the grandeur of his spirit. For this reason, whosoever shall follow in the labours of painting the walk pursued by Rosso, must [Pg 190] be celebrated without ceasing, as are that master's works, which have no equals in boldness and are executed without effort and strain, since he kept them free of that dry and painful elaboration to which so many subject themselves in order to veil the worthlessness of their works with the cloak of importance.
In his youth, Rosso drew from the cartoon of Michelagnolo, and would study art with but few masters, having a certain opinion of his own that conflicted with their manners; as may be seen from a shrine executed in fresco for Piero Bartoli at Marignolle, without the Porta a S. Piero Gattolini in Florence, containing a Dead Christ, wherein he began to show how great was his desire for a manner bold and grand, graceful and marvellous beyond that of all others. While still a beardless boy, at the time when Lorenzo Pucci was made a Cardinal by Pope Leo, he executed over the door of S. Sebastiano de' Servi the arms of the Pucci, with two figures, which made the craftsmen of that day marvel, for no one expected for him such a result as he achieved. Wherefore he so grew in courage, that, after having painted a picture with a half-length figure of Our Lady and a head of S. John the Evangelist for Maestro Jacopo, a Servite friar, who was something of a poet, at his persuasion he painted the Assumption of the Madonna in the cloister of the Servites, beside the scene of the Visitation, which was executed by Jacopo da Pontormo. In this he made a Heaven full of angels, all in the form of little naked children dancing in a circle round the Madonna, foreshortened with a most beautiful flow of outlines and with great grace of manner, as they wheel through the sky: insomuch that, if the colouring had been executed by him with that mature mastery of art which he afterwards came to achieve, he would have surpassed the other scenes by a great measure, even as he actually did equal them in grandeur and excellence of design. He made the Apostles much burdened with draperies, and, indeed, overloaded with their abundance; but the attitudes and some of the heads are more than beautiful.
The Director of the Hospital of S. Maria Nuova commissioned him to paint a panel: but when he saw it sketched, having little knowledge [Pg 191] of that art, the Saints appeared to him like devils; for it was Rosso's custom in his oil-sketches to give a sort of savage and desperate air to the faces, after which, in finishing them, he would sweeten the expressions and bring them to a proper form. At this the patron fled from his house and would not have the picture, saying that the painter had cheated him.
In like manner, over another door that leads into the cloister of the Convent of the Servites, Rosso painted the escutcheon of Pope Leo, with two children; but it is now ruined. And in the houses of citizens may be seen several of his pictures and many portraits. For the visit of Pope Leo to Florence he executed a very beautiful arch on the Canto de' Bischeri. Afterwards he painted a most beautiful picture of the Dead Christ for Signor di Piombino, and also decorated a little chapel for him. At Volterra, likewise, he painted a most lovely Deposition from the Cross.
Having therefore grown in credit and fame, he executed for S. Spirito, in Florence, the panel-picture of the Dei family, which they had formerly entrusted to Raffaello da Urbino, who abandoned it because of the cares of the work that he had undertaken in Rome. This picture Rosso painted with marvellous grace, draughtsmanship, and vivacity of colouring. Let no one imagine that any work can display greater force or show more beautifully from a distance than this one, which, on account of the boldness of the figures and the extravagance of the attitudes, no longer employed by any of the other painters, was held to be an extraordinary work. And although it did not bring him much credit at that time, the world has since come little by little to recognize its excellence and has given it abundant praise; for with regard to the blending of colour it would be impossible to excel it, seeing that the lights which are in the brightest parts unite with the lower lights little by little as they merge into the darks, with such sweetness and harmony, and with such masterly skill in the projection of the shadows, that the figures stand out from one another and bring each other into relief by means of the lights and shades. Such vigour, indeed, has this work, that it may be said to have been conceived and executed with more judgment and mastery than [Pg 192] any that has ever been painted by any other master, however superior his judgment.
For S. Lorenzo, at the commission of Carlo Ginori, he painted a panel-picture of the Marriage of Our Lady, which is held to be a most beautiful work. And, in truth, with regard to his facility of method, there has never been anyone who has been able to surpass him in masterly skill and dexterity, or even to approach within any distance of him; and he was so sweet in colouring, and varied his draperies with such grace, and took such delight in his art, that he was always held to be marvellous and worthy of the highest praise. Whosoever shall observe this work must recognize that all that I have written is most true, above all as he studies the nudes, which are very well conceived, with all the requirements of anatomy. His women are full of grace, and the draperies that adorn them fanciful and bizarre. He showed, also, the sense of fitness that is necessary in the heads of the old, with their harshness of features, and in those of women and children, with expressions sweet and pleasing. He was so rich in invention, that he never had any space left over in his pictures, and he executed all his work with such facility and grace, that it was a marvel.
For Giovanni Bandini, also, he painted a picture with some very beautiful nudes, representing the scene of Moses slaying the Egyptian, wherein were things worthy of the highest praise; and this was sent, I believe, into France. And for Giovanni Cavalcanti, likewise, he executed another, which went to England, of Jacob receiving water from the women at the well; this was held to be a divine work, seeing that it contained nudes and women wrought with supreme grace. For women, indeed, he always delighted to paint transparent pieces of drapery, head-dresses with intertwined tresses, and ornaments for their persons.
While Rosso was engaged on this work, he was living in the Borgo de' Tintori, the rooms of which look out on the gardens of the Friars of S. Croce; and he took much pleasure in a great ape, which had the intelligence rather of a man than of a beast. For this reason he held it very dear, and loved it like his own self; and since it had a marvellous understanding, he made use of it for many kinds of service. It happened that [Pg 193] this beast took a fancy to one of his assistants, by name Battistino, who was a young man of great beauty; and from the signs that his Battistino made to him he understood all that he wished to say. Now against the wall of the rooms at the back, which looked out upon the garden of the friars, was a pergola belonging to the Guardian, loaded with great Sancolombane grapes; and the young men used to let the ape down with a rope to the pergola, which was some distance from their window, and pull the beast up again with his hands full of grapes. The Guardian, finding his pergola stripped, but not knowing the culprit, suspected that it must be mice, and lay in hiding; and seeing Rosso's ape descending, he flew into a rage, seized a long pole, and rushed at him with hands uplifted in order to beat him. The ape, seeing that whether he went up or stayed where he was, the Guardian could reach him, began to spring about and destroy the pergola, and then, making as though to throw himself on the friar's back, seized with both his hands the outermost crossbeams which enclosed the pergola. Meanwhile the friar made play with his pole, and the ape, in his terror, shook the pergola to such purpose, and with such force, that he tore the stakes and rods out of their places, so that both pergola and ape fell headlong on the back of the friar, who shrieked for mercy. The rope was pulled up by Battistino and the others, who brought the ape back into the room safe and sound. Thereupon the Guardian, drawing off and planting himself on a terrace that he had there, said things not to be found in the Mass; and full of anger and resentment he went to the Council of Eight, a tribunal much feared in Florence. There he laid his complaint; and, Rosso having been summoned, the ape was condemned in jest to carry a weight fastened to his tail, to prevent him from jumping on pergole, as he did before. And so Rosso made a wooden cylinder swinging on a chain, and kept it on the ape, in such a way that he could go about the house but no longer jump about over other people's property. The ape, seeing himself condemned to such a punishment, seemed to guess that the friar was responsible. Every day, therefore, he exercised himself in hopping step by step with his legs, holding the weight with his hands; and thus, resting often, he succeeded in his design. For, being one day loose [Pg 194] about the house, he hopped step by step from roof to roof, during the hour when the Guardian was away chanting Vespers, and came to the roof over his chamber. There, letting go the weight, he kept up for half an hour such a lovely dance, that not a single tile of any kind remained unbroken. Then he went back home; and within three days, when rain came, were heard the Guardian's lamentations.
Rosso, having finished his works, took the road to Rome with Battistino and the ape; in which city his works were sought for with extraordinary eagerness, great expectations having been awakened about them by the sight of some drawings executed by him, which were held to be marvellous, for Rosso drew divinely well and with the highest finish. There, in the Pace, over the pictures of Raffaello, he executed a work which is the worst that he ever painted in all his days. Nor can I imagine how this came to pass, save from a reason which has been seen not only in his case, but also in that of many others, and which appears to be an extraordinary thing, and one of the secrets of nature; and it is this, that he who changes his country or place of habitation seems to change his nature, talents, character, and personal habits, insomuch that sometimes he seems to be not the same man but another, and all dazed and stupefied. This may have happened to Rosso in the air of Rome, and on account of the stupendous works of architecture and sculpture that he saw there, and the paintings and statues of Michelagnolo, which may have thrown him off his balance; which works also drove Fra Bartolommeo di San Marco and Andrea del Sarto to flight, and prevented them from executing anything in Rome. Certain it is, be the cause what it may, that Rosso never did worse; and, what is more, this work has to bear comparison with those of Raffaello da Urbino.
At this time he painted for Bishop Tornabuoni, who was his friend, a picture of a Dead Christ supported by two angels, which was a most beautiful piece of work, and is now in the possession of the heirs of Monsignor della Casa. For Baviera he made drawings of all the Gods, for copper-plates, which were afterwards engraved by Jacopo Caraglio; one of them being Saturn changing himself into a horse, and the most noteworthy that of Pluto carrying off Proserpine. He executed a sketch for [Pg 195] the Beheading of S. John the Baptist, which is now in a little church on the Piazza de' Salviati in Rome.
Meanwhile the sack of the city took place, and poor Rosso was taken prisoner by the Germans and used very ill, for, besides stripping him of his clothes, they made him carry weights on his back barefooted and with nothing on his head, and remove almost the whole stock from a cheesemonger's shop. Thus ill-treated by them, he escaped with difficulty to Perugia, where he was warmly welcomed and reclothed by the painter Domenico di Paris, for whom he drew the cartoon for a panel-picture of the Magi, a very beautiful work, which is to be seen in the house of Domenico. But he did not stay long in that place, for, hearing that Bishop Tornabuoni, who was very much his friend, and had also fled from the sack, had gone to Borgo a San Sepolcro, he made his way thither.
There was living at that time in Borgo a San Sepolcro a pupil of Giulio Romano, the painter Raffaello dal Colle; and this master, having undertaken for a small price to paint a panel for S. Croce, the seat of a Company of Flagellants, in his native city, lovingly resigned the commission and gave it to Rosso, to the end that he might leave some example of his handiwork in that place. At this the Company showed resentment, but the Bishop gave him every facility; and when the picture, which brought him credit, was finished, it was set up in S. Croce. The Deposition from the Cross that it contains is something very rare and beautiful, because he rendered in the colours a certain effect of darkness to signify the eclipse that took place at Christ's death, and because it was executed with very great diligence.
Afterwards, at Città di Castello, he received the commission for a panel-picture, on which he was about to set to work, when, as it was being primed with gesso, a roof fell upon it and broke it to pieces; while upon him there came a fever so violent, that he was like to die of it, on which account he had himself carried from Castello to Borgo a San Sepolcro. This malady being followed by a quartan fever, he then went on to the Pieve a San Stefano for a change of air, and finally to Arezzo, where he was entertained in the house of Benedetto Spadari, who so [Pg 196] went to work with the help of Giovanni Antonio Lappoli of Arezzo and the many friends and relatives that they had, that Rosso was commissioned to paint in fresco a vault previously allotted to the painter Niccolò Soggi, in the Madonna delle Lagrime. And so eager were they that he should leave such a memorial of himself in that city, that he was given a payment of three hundred crowns of gold. Whereupon Rosso began his cartoons in a room that they had allotted to him in a place called Murello; and there he finished four of them. In one he depicted our First Parents, bound to the Tree of the Fall, with Our Lady drawing from their mouths the Sin in the form of the Apple, and beneath her feet the Serpent; and in the air—wishing to signify that she was clothed with the sun and moon—he made nude figures of Phœbus and Diana. In the second is Moses bearing the Ark of the Covenant, represented by Our Lady surrounded by five Virtues. In another is the Throne of Solomon, also represented by the Madonna, to whom votive offerings are being brought, to signify those who have recourse to her for benefits: together with other bizarre fancies, which were conceived by the fruitful brain of M. Giovanni Pollastra, the friend of Rosso and a Canon of Arezzo, in compliment to whom Rosso made a most beautiful model of the whole work, which is now in my house at Arezzo. He also drew for that work a study of nude figures, which is a very choice thing; and it is a pity that it was never finished, for, if he had put it into execution and painted it in oils, instead of having to do it in fresco, it would indeed have been a miracle. But he was ever averse to working in fresco, and therefore went on delaying the execution of the cartoons, meaning to have the work carried out by Raffaello dal Borgo and others, so that in the end it was never done.
At that same time, being a courteous person, he made many designs for pictures and buildings in Arezzo and its neighbourhood; among others, one for the Rectors of the Fraternity, of the chapel which is at the foot of the Piazza, wherein there is now the Volto Santo. For the same patrons he drew the design for a panel-picture to be painted by his hand, containing a Madonna with a multitude under her cloak, which was to be set up in the same place; and this design, which was not put [Pg 197] into execution, is in our book, together with many other most beautiful drawings by the hand of the same master.
But to return to the work that he was to execute in the Madonna delle Lagrime: there came forward as his security for this work Giovanni Antonio Lappoli of Arezzo, his most faithful friend, who gave him proofs of loving kindness with every sort of service. But in the year 1530, when Florence was being besieged, the Aretines, having been restored to liberty by the small judgment of Papo Altoviti, attacked the citadel and razed it to the ground. And because that people looked with little favour on Florentines, Rosso would not trust himself to them, and went off to Borgo a San Sepolcro, leaving the cartoons and designs for his work hidden away in the citadel.
Now those who had given him the commission for the panel at Castello, wished him to finish it; but he, on account of the illness that he had suffered at Castello, would not return to that city. He finished their panel, therefore, at Borgo a San Sepolcro; nor would he ever give them the pleasure of a glance at it. In it he depicted a multitude, with Christ in the sky being adored by four figures, and he painted Moors, Gypsies, and the strangest things in the world; but, with the exception of the figures, which are perfect in their excellence, the composition is concerned with anything rather than the wishes of those who ordered the picture of him. At the same time that he was engaged on that work, he disinterred dead bodies in the Vescovado, where he was living, and made a most beautiful anatomical model. Rosso was, in truth, an ardent student of all things relating to art, and few days passed without his drawing some nude from life.
He had always had the idea of finishing his life in France, and of thus delivering himself from that misery and poverty which are the lot of men who work in Tuscany, or in the country where they were born; and he resolved to depart. And with a view to appearing more competent in all matters, and to being ignorant of none, he had just learned the Latin tongue; when there came upon him a reason for further hastening his departure. For one Holy Thursday, on which day matins are chanted in the evening, one of his disciples, a young Aretine, being in church, [Pg 198] made a blaze of sparks and flames with a lighted candle-end and some resin, at the moment when the "darkness," as they call it, was in progress; and the boy was reproved by some priests, and even struck. Seeing this, Rosso, who had the boy seated at his side, sprang up full of anger against the priests. Thereupon an uproar began, without anyone knowing what it was all about, and swords were drawn against poor Rosso, who was busy with the priests. Taking to flight, therefore, he contrived to regain his own rooms without having been struck or overtaken by anyone. But he held himself to have been affronted; and having finished the panel for Castello, without troubling about his work at Arezzo or the wrong that he was doing to Giovanni Antonio, his security (for he had received more than a hundred and fifty crowns), he set off by night. Taking the road by Pesaro, he made his way to Venice, where, being entertained by Messer Pietro Aretino, he made for him a drawing, which was afterwards engraved, of Mars sleeping with Venus, with the Loves and Graces despoiling him and carrying off his cuirass. Departing from Venice, he found his way into France, where he was received by the Florentine colony with much affection. There he painted some pictures, which were afterwards placed in the Gallery at Fontainebleau; and these he then presented to King Francis, who took infinite pleasure in them, but much more in the presence, speech, and manner of Rosso, who was imposing in person, with red hair in accordance with his name, and serious, deliberate, and most judicious in his every action. The King, then, after straightway granting him an allowance of four hundred crowns, and giving him a house in Paris, which he occupied but seldom, because he lived most of the time at Fontainebleau, where he had rooms and lived like a nobleman, appointed him superintendent over all the buildings, pictures, and other ornaments of that place.
There, in the first place, Rosso made a beginning with a gallery over the lower court, which he completed not with a vault, but with a ceiling, or rather, soffit, of woodwork, partitioned most beautifully into compartments. The side-walls he decorated all over with stucco-work, fantastic and bizarre in its distribution, and with carved cornices of many kinds; and on the piers were lifesize figures. Everything below [Pg 199] the cornices, between one pier and another, he adorned with festoons of stucco, vastly rich, and others painted, and all composed of most beautiful fruits and every sort of foliage. And then, in a large space, he caused to be painted after his own designs, if what I have heard is true, about twenty-four scenes in fresco, representing, I believe, the deeds of Alexander the Great; for which, as I have said, he made all the designs, executing them in chiaroscuro with water-colours. At the two ends of this gallery are two panel-pictures in oils by his hand, designed and painted with such perfection, that there is little better to be seen in the art of painting. In one of these are a Bacchus and a Venus, executed with marvellous art and judgment. The Bacchus is a naked boy, so tender, soft, and delicate, that he seems to be truly of flesh, yielding to the touch, and rather alive than painted; and about him are some vases painted in imitation of gold, silver, crystal, and various precious stones, so fantastic, and surrounded by devices so many and so bizarre, that whoever beholds this work, with its vast variety of invention, stands in amazement before it. Among other details, also, is a Satyr raising part of a pavilion, whose head, in its strange, goatlike aspect, is a marvel of beauty, and all the more because he seems to be smiling and full of joy at the sight of so beautiful a boy. There is also a little boy riding on a wonderful bear, with many other ornaments full of grace and beauty. In the other picture are Cupid and Venus, with other lovely figures; but the figure to which Rosso gave the greatest attention was the Cupid, whom he represented as a boy of twelve, although well grown, riper in features than is expected at that age, and most beautiful in every part.
The King, seeing these works, and liking them vastly, conceived an extraordinary affection for Rosso; wherefore no long time passed before he gave him a Canonicate in the Sainte Chapelle of the Madonna at Paris, with so many other revenues and benefits, that Rosso lived like a nobleman, with a goodly number of servants and horses, giving banquets and showing all manner of courtesies to all his friends and acquaintances, especially to the Italian strangers who arrived in those parts.
[Pg 200] After this, he executed another hall, which is called the Pavilion, because it is in the form of a Pavilion, being above the rooms on the first floor, and thus situated above any of the others. This apartment he decorated from the level of the floor to the roof with a great variety of beautiful ornaments in stucco, figures in the round distributed at equal intervals, and children, festoons, and various kinds of animals. In the compartments on the walls are seated figures in fresco, one in each; and such is their number, that there may be seen among them images of all the Heathen Gods and Goddesses of the ancients. Last of all, above the windows, is a frieze all adorned with stucco, and very rich, but without pictures.
He then executed a vast number of works in many chambers, bathrooms, and other apartments, both in stucco and in painting, of some of which drawings may be seen, executed in engraving and published abroad, which are full of grace and beauty; as are also the numberless designs that Rosso made for salt-cellars, vases, bowls, and other things of fancy, all of which the King afterwards caused to be executed in silver; but these were so numerous that it would take too long to mention them all. Let it be enough to say that he made designs for all the vessels of a sideboard for the King, and for all the details of the trappings of horses, triumphal masquerades, and everything else that it is possible to imagine, showing in these such fantastic and bizarre conceptions, that no one could do better.
In the year 1540, when the Emperor Charles V went to France under the safeguard of King Francis, and visited Fontainebleau, having with him not more than twelve men, Rosso executed one half of the decorations that the King ordained in order to honour that great Emperor, and the other half was executed by Francesco Primaticcio of Bologna. The works that Rosso made, such as arches, colossal figures, and other things of that kind, were, so it was said at the time, the most astounding that had ever been made by any man up to that age. But a great part of the rooms finished by Rosso at the aforesaid Palace of Fontainebleau were destroyed after his death by the same Francesco Primaticcio, who has made a new and larger structure in the same place.
[Pg 201] Among those who worked with Rosso on the aforesaid decorations in stucco and relief, and beloved by him beyond all the others, were the Florentine Lorenzo Naldino, Maestro Francesco of Orleans, Maestro Simone of Paris, Maestro Claudio, likewise a Parisian, Maestro Lorenzo of Picardy, and many others. But the best of them all was Domenico del Barbieri, who is an excellent painter and master of stucco, and a marvellous draughtsman, as is proved by his engraved works, which may be numbered among the best in common circulation. The painters, likewise, whom he employed in those works at Fontainebleau, were Luca Penni, brother of Giovan Francesco Penni, called Il Fattore, who was a disciple of Raffaello da Urbino; the Fleming Leonardo, a very able painter, who executed the designs of Rosso to perfection in colours; Bartolommeo Miniati, a Florentine; with Francesco Caccianimici, and Giovan Battista da Bagnacavallo. These last entered his service when Francesco Primaticcio went by order of the King to Rome, to make moulds of the Laocoon, the Apollo, and many other choice antiquities, for the purpose of casting them afterwards in bronze. I say nothing of the carvers, the master-joiners, and innumerable others of whom Rosso availed himself in those works, because there is no need to speak of them all, although many of them executed works worthy of much praise.
In addition to the things mentioned above, Rosso executed with his own hand a S. Michael, which is a rare work. For the Constable he painted a panel-picture of the Dead Christ, a choice thing, which is at a seat of that noble, called Ecouen; and he also executed some exquisite miniatures for the King. He then drew a book of anatomical studies, intending to have it printed in France; of which there are some sheets by his own hand in our book of drawings. Among his possessions, also, after he was dead, were found two very beautiful cartoons, in one of which is a Leda of singular beauty, and in the other the Tiburtine Sibyl showing to the Emperor Octavian the Glorious Virgin with the Infant Christ in her arms. In the latter he drew the King, the Queen, their Guard, and the people, with such a number of figures, and all so well drawn, that it may be said with truth that this was one of the most beautiful things that Rosso ever did.
[Pg 202] By reason of these works and many others, of which nothing is known, he became so dear to the King, that a little before his death he found himself in possession of more than a thousand crowns of income, without counting the allowances for his work, which were enormous; insomuch that, living no longer as a painter, but rather as a prince, he kept a number of servants and horses to ride, and had his house filled with tapestries, silver, and other valuable articles of furniture. But Fortune, who never, or very seldom, maintains for long in high estate one who puts his trust too much in her, brought him headlong down in the strangest manner ever known. For while Francesco di Pellegrino, a Florentine, who delighted in painting and was very much his friend, was associating with him in the closest intimacy, Rosso was robbed of some hundreds of ducats; whereupon the latter, suspecting that no one but the same Francesco could have done this, had him arrested by the hands of justice, rigorously examined, and grievously tortured. But he, knowing himself innocent, and declaring nothing but the truth, was finally released; and, moved by just anger, he was forced to show his resentment against Rosso for the shameful charge that he had falsely laid upon him. Having therefore issued a writ for libel against him, he pressed him so closely, that Rosso, not being able to clear himself or make any defence, felt himself to be in a sorry plight, perceiving that he had not only accused his friend falsely, but had also stained his own honour; and to eat his words, or to adopt any other shameful method, would likewise proclaim him a false and worthless man. Resolving, therefore, to kill himself by his own hand rather than be punished by others, he took the following course. One day that the King happened to be at Fontainebleau, he sent a peasant to Paris for a certain most poisonous essence, pretending that he wished to use it for making colours or varnishes, but intending to poison himself, as he did. The peasant, then, returned with it; and such was the malignity of the poison, that, merely through holding his thumb over the mouth of the phial, carefully stopped as it was with wax, he came very near losing that member, which was consumed and almost eaten away by the deadly potency of the poison. And shortly afterwards it slew Rosso, although he was in [Pg 203] perfect health, he having drunk it to the end that it might take his life, as it did in a few hours.
This news, being brought to the King, grieved him beyond measure, since it seemed to him that by the death of Rosso he had lost the most excellent craftsman of his day. However, to the end that the work might not suffer, he had it carried on by Francesco Primaticcio of Bologna, who, as has been related, had already done much work for him; giving him a good Abbey, even as he had presented a Canonicate to Rosso.
Rosso died in the year 1541, leaving great regrets behind him among his friends and brother-craftsmen, who have learned by his example what benefits may accrue from a prince to one who is eminent in every field of art, and well-mannered and gentle in all his actions, as was that master, who for many reasons deserved, and still deserves, to be admired as one truly most excellent.
It is certain that the result of emulation in the arts, caused by a desire for glory, proves for the most part to be one worthy of praise; but when it happens that the aspirant, through presumption and arrogance, comes to hold an inflated opinion of himself, in course of time the name for excellence that he seeks may be seen to dissolve into mist and smoke, for the reason that there is no advance to perfection possible for him who knows not his own failings and has no fear of the work of others. More readily does hope mount towards proficience for those modest and studious spirits who, leading an upright life, honour the works of rare masters and imitate them with all diligence, than for those who have their heads full of smoky pride, as had Bartolommeo da Bagnacavallo, Amico of Bologna, Girolamo da Cotignola, and Innocenzio da Imola, painters all, who, living in Bologna at one and the same time, felt the greatest jealousy of one another that could possibly be imagined. And, what is more, their pride and vainglory, not being based on the foundation of ability, led them astray from the true path, which brings to immortality those who strive more from love of good work than from rivalry. This circumstance, then, was the reason that they did not crown the good beginnings that they had made with that final excellence which they expected; for their presuming to the name of masters turned them too far aside from the good way.
Bartolommeo da Bagnacavallo had come to Rome in the time of Raffaello, in order to attain with his works to that perfection which he believed himself to be already grasping with his intellect. And being a young man who had some fame at Bologna and had awakened [Pg 208] expectations, he was set to execute a work in the Church of the Pace at Rome, in the first chapel on the right hand as one enters the church, above the chapel of Baldassarre Peruzzi of Siena. But, thinking that he had not achieved the success that he had promised himself, he returned to Bologna. There he and the others mentioned above, in competition one with another, executed each a scene from the Lives of Christ and His Mother in the Chapel of the Madonna in S. Petronio, near the door of the façade, on the right hand as one enters the church; among which little difference in merit is to be seen between one and another. But Bartolommeo acquired from this work the reputation of having a manner both softer and stronger than the others; and although there is a vast number of strange things in the scene of Maestro Amico, in which he depicted the Resurrection of Christ with armed men in crouching and distorted attitudes, and many soldiers crushed flat by the stone of the Sepulchre, which has fallen upon them, nevertheless that of Bartolommeo, as having more unity of design and colouring, was more extolled by other craftsmen. On account of this Bartolommeo associated himself with Biagio Bolognese, a person with much more practice than excellence in art; and they executed in company at S. Salvatore, for the Frati Scopetini, a refectory which they painted partly in fresco and partly "a secco," containing the scene of Christ satisfying five thousand people with five loaves and two fishes. They painted, also, on a wall of the library, the Disputation of S. Augustine, wherein they made a passing good view in perspective. These masters, thanks to having seen the works of Raffaello and associated with him, had a certain quality which, upon the whole, gave promise of excellence, but in truth they did not attend as they should have done to the more subtle refinements of art. Yet, since there were no painters in Bologna at that time who knew more than they did, they were held by those who then governed the city, as well as by all the people, to be the best masters in Italy.
By the hand of Bartolommeo are some round pictures in fresco under the vaulting of the Palace of the Podestà, and a scene of the Visitation of S. Elizabeth in S. Vitale, opposite to the Palace of the Fantucci. In the Convent of the Servites at Bologna, round a panel-picture [Pg 209] of the Annunciation painted in oils, are some saints executed in fresco by Innocenzio da Imola. In S. Michele in Bosco Bartolommeo painted in fresco the Chapel of Ramazzotto, a faction-leader in Romagna. In a chapel in S. Stefano the same master painted two saints in fresco, with some little angels of considerable beauty in the sky; and in S. Jacopo, for Messer Annibale del Corello, a chapel in which he represented the Circumcision of Our Lord, with a number of figures, above which, in a lunette, he painted Abraham sacrificing his son to God. This work, in truth, was executed in a good and able manner. For the Misericordia, without Bologna, he painted a little panel-picture in distemper of Our Lady and some saints; with many pictures and other works, which are in the hands of various persons in that city.
This master, in truth, was above mediocrity both in the uprightness of his life and in his works, and he was superior to the others in drawing and invention, as may be seen from a drawing in our book, wherein is Jesus Christ, as a boy, disputing with the Doctors in the Temple, with a building executed with good mastery and judgment. In the end, he finished his life at the age of fifty-eight.
He had always been much envied by Amico of Bologna, an eccentric man of extravagant brain, whose figures, executed by him throughout all Italy, but particularly in Bologna, where he spent most of his time, are equally eccentric and even mad, if one may say so. If, indeed, the vast labour which Amico devoted to drawing had been pursued with a settled object, and not by caprice, he might perchance have surpassed many whom we regard as rare and able men. And even so, such is the value of persistent labour, that it is not possible that out of a mass of work there should not be found some that is good and worthy of praise; and such, among the vast number of works that this master executed, is a façade in chiaroscuro on the Piazza de' Marsigli, wherein are many historical pictures, with a frieze of animals fighting together, very spirited and well executed, which is almost the best work that he ever painted. He painted another façade at the Porta di S. Mammolo, and a frieze round the principal chapel of S. Salvatore, so extravagant and so full of absurdities that it would provoke laughter in one who was on the verge [Pg 210] of tears. In a word, there is no church or street in Bologna which has not some daub by the hand of this master.
In Rome, also, he painted not a little; and in S. Friano, at Lucca, he filled a chapel with inventions fantastic and bizarre, among which are some things worthy of praise, such as the stories of the Cross and some of S. Augustine. In these are innumerable portraits of distinguished persons of that city; and, to tell the truth, this was one of the best works that Maestro Amico ever executed with colours in fresco.
In S. Jacopo, at Bologna, he painted at the altar of S. Niccola some stories of the latter Saint, and below these a frieze with views in perspective, which deserve to be extolled. When the Emperor Charles V visited Bologna, Amico made a triumphal arch, for which Alfonso Lombardi executed statues in relief, at the gate of the Palace. And it is no marvel that the work of Amico revealed skill of hand rather than any other quality, for it is said that, like the eccentric and extraordinary person that he was, he went through all Italy drawing and copying every work of painting or relief, whether good or bad, on which account he became something of an adept in invention; and when he found anything likely to be useful to him, he laid his hands upon it eagerly, and then destroyed it, so that no one else might make use of it. The result of all this striving was that he acquired the strange, mad manner that we know.
Finally, having reached the age of seventy, what with his art and the eccentricity of his life, he became raving mad, at which Messer Francesco Guicciardini, a noble Florentine, and a most trustworthy writer of the history of his own times, who was then Governor of Bologna, found no small amusement, as did the whole city. Some people, however, believe that there was some method mixed with this madness of his, because, having sold some property for a small price while he was mad and in very great straits, he asked for it back again when he regained his sanity, and recovered it under certain conditions, since he had sold it, so he said, when he was mad. I do not swear, indeed, that this is true, for it may have been otherwise; but I do say that I have often heard the story told.
Amico also gave his attention to sculpture, and executed to the best [Pg 211] of his ability, in marble, a Dead Christ with Nicodemus supporting Him. This work, which he treated in the manner seen in his pictures, is on the right within the entrance of the Church of S. Petronio. He used to paint with both hands at the same time, holding in one the brush with the bright colour, and in the other that with the dark. But the best joke of all was that he had his leather belt hung all round with little pots full of tempered colours, so that he looked like the Devil of S. Macario with all those flasks of his; and when he worked with his spectacles on his nose, he would have made the very stones laugh, and particularly when he began to chatter, for then he babbled enough for twenty, saying the strangest things in the world, and his whole demeanour was a comedy. Certain it is that he never used to speak well of any person, however able or good, and however well dowered he saw him to be by Nature or Fortune. And, as has been said, he so loved to chatter and tell stories, that one evening, at the hour of the Ave Maria, when a painter of Bologna, after buying cabbages in the Piazza, came upon Amico, the latter kept him under the Loggia del Podestà with his talk and his amusing stories, without the poor man being able to break away from him, almost till daylight, when Amico said: "Now go and boil your cabbages, for the time is getting on."
He was the author of a vast number of other jokes and follies, of which I shall not make mention, because it is now time to say something of Girolamo da Cotignola. This master painted many pictures and portraits from life in Bologna, and among them are two in the house of the Vinacci, which are very beautiful. He made a portrait after death of Monsignore de Foix, who died in the rout of Ravenna, and not long after he executed a portrait of Massimiliano Sforza. For S. Giuseppe he painted a panel-picture which brought him much praise, and, for S. Michele in Bosco, the panel-picture in oils which is in the Chapel of S. Benedetto. The latter work led to his executing, in company with Biagio Bolognese, all the scenes which are round that church, laid on in fresco and executed "a secco," wherein are seen proofs of no little mastery, as has been said in speaking of the manner of Biagio. The same Girolamo painted a large altar-piece for S. Colomba at Rimini, in competition with Benedetto da [Pg 212] Ferrara and Lattanzio, in which work he made a S. Lucia rather wanton than beautiful. And in the great tribune of that church he executed a Coronation of Our Lady, with the twelve Apostles and the four Evangelists, with heads so gross and hideous that they are an outrage to the eye.
He then returned to Bologna, but had not been there long when he went to Rome, where he made portraits from life of many men of rank, and in particular that of Pope Paul III. But, perceiving that it was no place for him, and that he was not likely to acquire honour, profit, or fame among so many noble craftsmen, he went off to Naples, where he found some friends who showed him favour, and above all M. Tommaso Cambi, a Florentine merchant, and a devoted lover of pictures and antiquities in marble, by whom he was supplied with everything of which he was in need. Thereupon, setting to work, he executed a panel-picture of the Magi, in oils, for the chapel of one M. Antonello, Bishop of I know not what place, in Monte Oliveto, and another panel-picture in oils for S. Aniello, containing the Madonna, S. Paul, and S. John the Baptist, with portraits from life for many noblemen.
Being now well advanced in years, he lived like a miser, and was always trying to save money; and after no long time, having little more to do in Naples, he returned to Rome. There some friends of his, having heard that he had saved a few crowns, persuaded him that he ought to get married and live a properly-regulated life. And so, thinking that he was doing well for himself, he let those friends deceive him so completely that they imposed upon him for a wife, to suit their own convenience, a prostitute whom they had been keeping. Then, after he had married her and come to a knowledge of her, the truth was revealed, at which the poor old man was so grieved that he died in a few weeks at the age of sixty-nine.
And now to say something of Innocenzio da Imola. This master was for many years in Florence with Mariotto Albertinelli; and then, having returned to Imola, he executed many works in that place. But finally, at the persuasion of Count Giovan Battista Bentivogli, he went to live in Bologna, where one of his first works was a copy of a picture [Pg 213] formerly executed by Raffaello da Urbino for Signor Leonello da Carpi. And for the Monks of S. Michele in Bosco he painted in fresco, in their chapter-house, the Death of Our Lady and the Resurrection of Christ, works which were executed with truly supreme diligence and finish. For the church of the same monks, also, he painted the panel of the high-altar, the upper part of which is done in a good manner. For the Servites of Bologna he executed an Annunciation on panel, and for S. Salvatore a Crucifixion, with many pictures of various kinds throughout the whole city. At the Viola, for the Cardinal of Ivrea, he painted three loggie in fresco, each containing two scenes, executed in colour from designs by other painters, and yet finished with much diligence. He painted in fresco a chapel in S. Jacopo, and for Madonna Benozza a panel-picture in oils, which was not otherwise than passing good. He made a portrait, also, besides many others, of Cardinal Francesco Alidosio, which I have seen at Imola, together with the portrait of Cardinal Bernardino Carvajal, and both are works of no little beauty.
Innocenzio was a very good and modest person, and therefore always avoided any dealings or intercourse with the painters of Bologna, who were quite the opposite in nature, and he was always exerting himself beyond the limits of his strength; wherefore, when he fell sick of a putrid fever at the age of fifty-six, it found him so weak and exhausted that it killed him in a few days. He left unfinished, or rather, scarcely begun, a work that he had undertaken without Bologna, and this was completed to perfection, according to the arrangement made by Innocenzio before his death, by Prospero Fontana, a painter of Bologna.
The works of all the above-named painters date from 1506 to 1542, and there are drawings by the hands of them all in our book.
The fatigues that a man endures in this life in order to raise himself from the ground and protect himself from poverty, succouring not only himself but also his nearest and dearest, have such virtue, that the sweat and the hardships become full of sweetness, and bring comfort and nourishment to the minds of others, insomuch that Heaven, in its bounty, perceiving one drawn to a good life and to upright conduct, and also filled with zeal and inclination for the studies of the sciences, is forced to be benign and favourably disposed towards him beyond its wont; as it was, in truth, towards the Florentine painter Francia. This master, having applied himself to the art of painting for a just and excellent reason, laboured therein not so much out of a desire for fame as from a wish to bring assistance to his needy relatives; and having been born in a family of humble artisans, people of low degree, he sought to raise himself from that position. In this effort he was much spurred by his rivalry with Andrea del Sarto, then his companion, with whom for a long time he shared both work-room and the painter's life; on account of which life they made great proficience, one through the other, in the art of painting.
Francia learned the first principles of art in his youth by living for some months with Mariotto Albertinelli. And being much inclined to the study of perspective, at which he was always working out of pure delight, while still quite young he gained a reputation for great ability in Florence. The first works painted by him were a S. Bernard executed in fresco in S. Pancrazio, a church opposite to his own house, and a S. Catharine of Siena, executed likewise in fresco, on a pilaster in the Chapel of the [Pg 218] Rucellai; whereby, exerting himself in that art, he gave proofs of his fine qualities. Much more, even, was he established in repute by a picture which is in a little chapel in S. Pietro Maggiore, containing Our Lady with the Child in her arms, and a little S. John caressing Jesus Christ. He also gave proof of his excellence in a shrine executed in fresco, in which he painted the Visitation of Our Lady, on a corner of the Church of S. Giobbe, behind the Servite Convent in Florence. In the figure of that Madonna may be seen a goodness truly appropriate, with profound reverence in that of the older woman; and the S. Job he painted poor and leprous, and also rich and restored to health. This work so revealed his powers that he came into credit and fame; whereupon the men who were the rulers of that church and brotherhood gave him the commission for the panel-picture of their high-altar, in which Francia acquitted himself even better; and in that work he painted a Madonna, and S. Job in poverty, and made a portrait of himself in the face of S. John the Baptist.
There was built at that time, in S. Spirito at Florence, the Chapel of S. Niccola, in which was placed a figure of that Saint in the round, carved in wood from the model by Jacopo Sansovino; and Francia painted two little angels in two square pictures in oils, one on either side of that figure, which were much extolled, and also depicted the Annunciation in two round pictures; and the predella he adorned with little figures representing the miracles of S. Nicholas, executed with such diligence that he deserves much praise for them. In S. Pietro Maggiore, by the door, and on the right hand as one enters the church, is an Annunciation by his hand, wherein he made the Angel still flying through the sky, and the Madonna receiving the Salutation on her knees, in a most graceful attitude; and he drew there a building in perspective, which was a masterly thing, and was much extolled. And, in truth, although Francia had a somewhat dainty manner, because he was very laborious and constrained in his work, nevertheless he showed great care and diligence in giving the true proportions of art to his figures.
He was commissioned to execute a scene in the cloister in front of the Church of the Servites, in competition with Andrea del Sarto; and there he painted the Marriage of Our Lady, wherein may be clearly recognized [Pg 219] the supreme faith of Joseph, who shows in his face as much awe as joy at his marriage with her. Besides this, Francia painted there one who is giving him some blows, as is the custom in our own day, in memory of the wedding; and in a nude figure he expressed very happily the rage and disappointment that drive him to break his rod, which had not blossomed, the drawing of which, with many others, is in our book. In the company of Our Lady, also, he painted some women with most beautiful expressions and head-dresses, things in which he always delighted. And in all this scene he did not paint a single thing that was not very well considered; as is, for example, a woman with a child in her arms, who, turning to go home, has cuffed another child, who has sat down in tears and refuses to go, pressing one hand against his face in a very graceful manner. Certain it is that he executed every detail in this scene, whether large or small, with much diligence and love, on account of the burning desire that he had to show therein to craftsmen and to all other good judges how great was his respect for the difficulties of art, and how successfully he could solve them by faithful imitation.
Not long after this, on the occasion of a festival, the friars wished that the scenes of Andrea, and likewise that of Francia, should be uncovered; and the night after Francia had finished his with the exception of the base, they were so rash and presumptuous as to uncover them, not thinking, in their ignorance of art, that Francia would want to retouch or otherwise change his figures. In the morning, both the painting of Francia and those of Andrea were open to view, and the news was brought to Francia that Andrea's works and his own had been uncovered; at which he felt such resentment, that he was like to die of it. Seized with anger against the friars on account of their presumption and the little respect that they had shown to him, he set off at his best speed and came up to the work; and then, climbing on to the staging, which had not yet been taken to pieces, although the painting had been uncovered, and seizing a mason's hammer that was there, he beat some of the women's heads to fragments, and destroyed that of the Madonna, and also tore almost completely away from the wall, plaster and all, a nude figure that is breaking a rod. Hearing the noise, the friars ran up, [Pg 220] and, with the help of some laymen, seized his hands, to prevent him from destroying it completely. But, although in time they offered to give him double payment, he, on account of the hatred that he had conceived for them, would never restore it. By reason of the reverence felt by other painters both for him and for the work, they have refused to finish it; and so it remains, even in our own day, as a memorial of that event. This fresco is executed with such diligence and so much love, and it is so beautiful in its freshness, that Francia may be said to have worked better in fresco than any man of his time, and to have blended and harmonized his paintings in fresco better than any other, without needing to retouch the colours; wherefore he deserves to be much extolled both for this and for his other works.
At Rovezzano, without the Porta alla Croce, near Florence, he painted a shrine with a Christ on the Cross and some saints; and in S. Giovannino, at the Porta a S. Piero Gattolini, he executed a Last Supper of the Apostles in fresco.
No long time after, on the departure for France of the painter Andrea del Sarto, who had begun to paint the stories of S. John the Baptist in chiaroscuro in a cloister of the Company of the Scalzo at Florence, the men of that Company, desiring to have that work finished, engaged Francia, to the end that he, being an imitator of the manner of Andrea, might complete the paintings begun by the other. Thereupon Francia executed the decorations right round one part of that cloister, and finished two of the scenes, which he painted with great diligence. These are, first S. John the Baptist obtaining leave from his father Zacharias to go into the desert, and then the meeting of Christ and S. John on the way, with Joseph and Mary standing there and beholding them embrace one another. But more than this he did not do, on account of the return of Andrea, who then went on to finish the rest of the work.
With Ridolfo Ghirlandajo he prepared a most beautiful festival for the marriage of Duke Lorenzo, with two sets of scenery for the dramas that were performed, executing them with much method, masterly judgment, and grace; on account of which he acquired credit and favour with that Prince. This service was the reason that he received the commission [Pg 221] for gilding the ceiling of the Hall of Poggio a Caiano, in company with Andrea di Cosimo. And afterwards, in competition with Andrea del Sarto and Jacopo da Pontormo, he began, on a wall in that hall, the scene of Cicero being carried in triumph by the citizens of Rome. This work had been undertaken by the liberality of Pope Leo, in memory of his father Lorenzo, who had caused the edifice to be built, and had ordained that it should be painted with scenes from ancient history and other ornaments according to his pleasure. And these had been entrusted by the learned historian, M. Paolo Giovio, Bishop of Nocera, who was then chief in authority near the person of Cardinal Giulio de' Medici, to Andrea del Sarto, Jacopo da Pontormo, and Franciabigio, that they might demonstrate the power and perfection of their art in the work, each receiving thirty crowns every month from the magnificent Ottaviano de' Medici. Thereupon Francia executed on his part, to say nothing of the beauty of the scene, some buildings in perspective, very well proportioned. But the work remained unfinished on account of the death of Leo; and afterwards, in the year 1532, it was begun again by Jacopo da Pontormo at the commission of Duke Alessandro de' Medici, but he lingered over it so long, that the Duke died and it was once more left unfinished.
But to return to Francia; so ardent was his love for the matters of art, that there was no summer day on which he did not draw some study of a nude figure from the life in his work-room, and to that end he always kept men in his pay. For S. Maria Nuova, at the request of Maestro Andrea Pasquali, an excellent physician of Florence, he executed an anatomical figure, in consequence of which he made a great advance in the art of painting, and pursued it ever afterwards with more zeal. He then painted in the Convent of S. Maria Novella, in the lunette over the door of the library, a S. Thomas confuting the heretics with his learning, a work which is executed with diligence and a good manner. There, among other details, are two children who serve to uphold an escutcheon in the ornamental border; and these are very fine, full of the greatest beauty and grace, and painted in a most lovely manner.
He also executed a picture with little figures for Giovanni Maria [Pg 222] Benintendi, in competition with Jacopo da Pontormo, who painted another of the same size for that patron, containing the story of the Magi; and two others were painted by Francesco d' Albertino. In his work Francia represented the scene of David seeing Bathsheba in her bath; and there he painted some women in a manner too smooth and dainty, and drew a building in perspective, wherein is David giving letters to the messengers, who are to carry them to the camp to the end that Uriah the Hittite may meet his death; and under a loggia he painted a royal banquet of great beauty. This work contributed greatly to the fame and honour of Francia, who, if he had much ability for large figures, had much more for little figures.
Francia also made many most beautiful portraits from life; one, in particular, for Matteo Sofferroni, who was very much his friend, and another for a countryman, the steward of Pier Francesco de' Medici at the Palace of S. Girolamo da Fiesole, which seems absolutely alive, with many others. And since he undertook any kind of work without being ashamed, so long as he was pursuing his art, he set his hand to whatever commission was given to him; wherefore, in addition to many works of the meanest kind, he painted a most beautiful "Noli me tangere" for the cloth-weaver Arcangelo, at the top of a tower that serves as a terrace, in Porta Rossa; with an endless number of other trivial works, executed by Francia because he was a person of sweet and kindly nature and very obliging, of which there is no need to say more.
This master loved to live in peace, and for that reason would never take a wife; and he was always repeating the trite proverb, "The fruits of a wife are cares and strife." He would never leave Florence, because, having seen some works by Raffaello da Urbino, and feeling that he was not equal to that great man and to many others of supreme renown, he did not wish to compete with craftsmen of such rare excellence. In truth, the greatest wisdom and prudence that a man can possess is to know himself, and to refrain from exalting himself beyond his true worth. And, finally, having acquired much by constant work, for one who was not endowed by nature with much boldness of invention or with any [Pg 223] powers but those that he had gained by long study, he died in the year 1524 at the age of forty-two.
One of Francia's disciples was his brother Agnolo, who died after having painted a frieze that is in the cloister of S. Pancrazio, and a few other works. The same Agnolo painted for the perfumer Ciano, an eccentric man, but respected after his kind, a sign for his shop, containing a gipsy woman telling the fortune of a lady in a very graceful manner, which was the idea of Ciano, and not without mystic meaning. Another who learnt to paint from the same master was Antonio di Donnino Mazzieri, who was a bold draughtsman, and showed much invention in making horses and landscapes. He painted in chiaroscuro the cloister of S. Agostino at Monte Sansovino, executing therein scenes from the Old Testament, which were much extolled. In the Vescovado of Arezzo he painted the Chapel of S. Matteo, with a scene, among other things, showing that Saint baptizing a King, in which he made a portrait of a German, so good that it seems to be alive. For Francesco del Giocondo he executed the story of the Martyrs in a chapel behind the choir of the Servite Church in Florence; but in this he acquitted himself so badly, that he lost all his credit and was reduced to undertaking any sort of work.
Francia taught his art also to a young man named Visino, who, to judge from what we see of him, would have become an excellent painter, if he had not died young, as he did; and to many others, of whom I shall make no further mention. He was buried by the Company of S. Giobbe in S. Pancrazio, opposite to his own house, in the year 1525; and his death was truly a great grief to all good craftsmen, seeing that he had been a talented and skilful master, and very modest in his every action.
The painter Morto da Feltro, who was as original in his life as he was in his brain and in the new fashion of grotesques that he made, which caused him to be held in great estimation, found his way as a young man to Rome at the time when Pinturicchio was painting the Papal apartments for Alexander VI, with the loggie and lower rooms in the Great Tower of the Castello di S. Angelo, and some of the upper apartments. He was a melancholy person, and was constantly studying the antiquities; and seeing among them sections of vaults and ranges of walls adorned with grotesques, he liked these so much that he never ceased from examining them. And so well did he grasp the methods of drawing foliage in the ancient manner, that he was second to no man of his time in that profession. He was never tired, indeed, of examining all that he could find below the ground in Rome in the way of ancient grottoes, with vaults innumerable. He spent many months in Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli, drawing all the pavements and grottoes that are there, both above ground and below. And hearing that at Pozzuolo, in the Kingdom of Naples, ten miles from the city, there were many walls covered with ancient grotesques, both executed in relief with stucco and painted, and said to be very beautiful, he devoted several months to studying them on the spot. Nor was he content until he had drawn every least thing in the Campana, an ancient road in that place, full of antique sepulchres; and he also drew many of the temples and grottoes, both above and below the ground, at Trullo, near the seashore. He went to Baia and Mercato di Sabbato, both places full of ruined buildings covered with scenes, [Pg 228] searching out everything in such a manner that by means of his long and loving labour he grew vastly in power and knowledge of his art.
Having then returned to Rome, he worked there many months, giving his attention to figures, since he considered that in that part of his profession he was not the master that he was held to be in the execution of grotesques. And after he had conceived this desire, hearing the renown that Leonardo and Michelagnolo had in that art on account of the cartoons executed by them in Florence, he set out straightway to go to that city. But, after he had seen those works, he did not think himself able to make the same improvement that he had made in his first profession, and he went back, therefore, to work at his grotesques.
There was then living in Florence one Andrea di Cosimo Feltrini, a painter of that city, and a young man of much diligence, who received Morto into his house and entertained him with most affectionate attentions. Finding pleasure in the nature of Morto's art, Andrea also gave his mind to that vocation, and became an able master, being in time even more excellent than Morto, and much esteemed in Florence, as will be told later. And it was through Andrea that Morto came to paint for Piero Soderini, who was then Gonfalonier, decorations of grotesques in an apartment of the Palace, which were held to be very beautiful; but in our own day these have been destroyed in rearranging the apartments of Duke Cosimo, and repainted. For Maestro Valerio, a Servite friar, Morto decorated the empty space on a chair-back, which was a most beautiful work; and for Agnolo Doni, likewise, in a chamber, he executed many pictures with a variety of bizarre grotesques. And since he also delighted in figures, he painted Our Lady in some round pictures, in order to see whether he could become as famous for them as he was (for his grotesques).
Then, having grown weary of staying in Florence, he betook himself to Venice; and attaching himself to Giorgione da Castelfranco, who was then painting the Fondaco de' Tedeschi, he set himself to assist him and executed the ornamentation of that work. And in this way he remained many months in that city, attracted by the sensuous pleasures and delights that he found there.
[Pg 229] He then went to execute works in Friuli, but he had not been there long when, finding that the rulers of Venice were enlisting soldiers, he entered their service; and before he had had much experience of that calling he was made Captain of two hundred men. The army of the Venetians had advanced by that time to Zara in Sclavonia; and one day, when a brisk skirmish took place, Morto, desiring to win a greater name in that profession than he had gained in the art of painting, went bravely forward, and, after fighting in the mêlée, was left dead on the field, even as he had always been in name, at the age of forty-five. But in fame he will never be dead, because those who exercise their hands in the arts and produce everlasting works, leaving memorials of themselves after death, are destined never to suffer the death of their labours, for writers, in their gratitude, bear witness to their talents. Eagerly, therefore, should our craftsmen spur themselves on with incessant study to such a goal as will ensure them an undying name both through their own works and through the writings of others, since, by so doing, they will gain eternal life both for themselves and for the works that they leave behind them after death.
Morto restored the painting of grotesques in a manner more like the ancient than was achieved by any other painter, and for this he deserves infinite praise, in that it is after his example that they have been brought in our own day, by the hands of Giovanni da Udine and other craftsmen, to the great beauty and excellence that we see. For, although the said Giovanni and others have carried them to absolute perfection, it is none the less true that the chief praise is due to Morto, who was the first to bring them to light and to devote his whole attention to paintings of that kind, which are called grotesques because they were found for the most part in the grottoes of the ruins of Rome; besides which, every man knows that it is easy to make additions to anything once it has been discovered.
The painting of grotesques was continued in Florence by Andrea Feltrini, called Di Cosimo, because he was a disciple of Cosimo Rosselli in the study of figures (which he executed passing well), as he was afterwards [Pg 230] of Morto in that of grotesques, of which we have spoken. In this kind of painting Andrea had from nature such power of invention and such grace that he was the first to make ornaments of greater grandeur, abundance, and richness than the ancient, and quite different in manner; and he gave them better order and cohesion, and enriched them with figures, such as are not seen in Rome or in any other place but Florence, where he executed a great number. In this respect there has never been any man who has surpassed him in excellence, as may be seen from the ornament and the predella painted with little grotesques in colour round the Pietà that Pietro Perugino executed for the altar of the Serristori in S. Croce at Florence. These are heightened with various colours on a ground of red and black mixed together, and are wrought with much facility and with extraordinary boldness and grace.
Andrea introduced the practice of covering the façades of houses and palaces with an intonaco of lime mixed with the black of ground charcoal, or rather, burnt straw, on which intonaco, when still fresh, he spread a layer of white plaster. Then, having drawn the grotesques, with such divisions as he desired, on some cartoons, he dusted them over the intonaco, and proceeded to scratch it with an iron tool, in such a way that his designs were traced over the whole façade by that tool; after which, scraping away the white from the grounds of the grotesques, he went on to shade them or to hatch a good design upon them with the same iron tool. Finally, he went over the whole work, shading it with a liquid water-colour like water tinted with black. All this produces a very pleasing, rich, and beautiful effect; and there was an account of the method in the twenty-sixth chapter, dealing with sgraffiti, in the Treatise on Technique.
The first façades that Andrea executed in this manner were that of the Gondi, which is full of delicacy and grace, in Borg' Ognissanti, and that of Lanfredino Lanfredini, which is very ornate and rich in the variety of its compartments, on the Lungarno between the Ponte S. Trinita and the Ponte della Carraja, near S. Spirito. He also decorated in sgraffito the house of Andrea and Tommaso Sertini, near S. Michele in Piazza Padella, making it more varied and grander in manner than [Pg 231] the two others. He painted in chiaroscuro the façade of the Church of the Servite Friars, for which work he caused the painter Tommaso di Stefano to paint in two niches the Angel bringing the Annunciation to the Virgin; and in the court, where there are the stories of S. Filippo and of Our Lady painted by Andrea del Sarto, he executed between the two doors a very beautiful escutcheon of Pope Leo X. And on the occasion of the visit of that Pontiff to Florence he executed many beautiful ornaments in the form of grotesques on the façade of S. Maria del Fiore, for Jacopo Sansovino, who gave him his sister for wife. He executed the baldachin under which the Pope walked, covering the upper part with most beautiful grotesques, and the hangings round it with the arms of that Pope and other devices of the Church; and this baldachin was afterwards presented to the Church of S. Lorenzo in Florence, where it is still to be seen. He also decorated many standards and banners for the visit of Leo, and in honour of many who were made Chevaliers by that Pontiff and by other Princes, of which there are some hung up in various churches in that city.
Andrea, working constantly in the service of the house of Medici, assisted at the preparations for the wedding of Duke Giuliano and that of Duke Lorenzo, executing an abundance of various ornaments in the form of grotesques; and so, also, in the obsequies of those Princes. In all this he was largely employed by Franciabigio, Andrea del Sarto, Pontormo, and Ridolfo Ghirlandajo, and by Granaccio for triumphal processions and other festivals, since nothing good could be done without him. He was the best man that ever touched a brush, and, being timid by nature, he would never undertake any work on his own account, because he was afraid of exacting the money for his labours. He delighted to work the whole day long, and disliked annoyances of any kind; for which reason he associated himself with the gilder Mariotto di Francesco, one of the most able and skilful men at his work that ever existed in the world of art, very adroit in obtaining commissions, and most dexterous in exacting payments and doing business. This Mariotto also brought the gilder Raffaello di Biagio into the partnership, and the three worked together, sharing equally all the earnings of the commissions that they [Pg 232] executed; and this association lasted until death parted them, Mariotto being the last to die.
To return to the works of Andrea; he decorated for Giovanni Maria Benintendi all the ceilings of his house, and executed the ornamentation of the ante-chambers, wherein are the scenes painted by Franciabigio and Jacopo da Pontormo. He went with Franciabigio to Poggio, and executed in terretta the ornaments for all the scenes there in such a way that there is nothing better to be seen. For the Chevalier Guidotti he decorated in sgraffito the façade of his house in the Via Larga, and he also executed another of great beauty for Bartolommeo Panciatichi, on the house (now belonging to Ruberto de' Ricci) which he built on the Piazza degli Agli. Nor am I able to describe all the friezes, coffers, and strong-boxes, or the vast quantity of ceilings, which Andrea decorated with his own hand, for the whole city is full of these, and I must refrain from speaking of them. But I must mention the round escutcheons of various kinds that he made, for they were such that no wedding could take place without his having his workshop besieged by one citizen or another; nor could any kind of brocade, linen, or cloth of gold, with flowered patterns, ever be woven, without his making the designs for them, and that with so much variety, grace, and beauty, that he breathed spirit and life into all such things. If Andrea, indeed, had known his own value, he would have made a vast fortune; but it sufficed him to live in love with his art.
I must not omit to tell that in my youth, while in the service of Duke Alessandro de' Medici, I was commissioned, when Charles V came to Florence, to make the banners for the Castle, or rather, as it is called at the present day, the Citadel; and among these was a standard of crimson cloth, eighteen braccia wide at the staff and forty in length, and surrounded by borders of gold containing the devices of the Emperor Charles V and of the house of Medici, with the arms of his Majesty in the centre. For this work, in which were used forty-five thousand leaves of gold, I summoned to my assistance Andrea for the borders and Mariotto for the gilding; and many things did I learn from that good Andrea, so full of love and kindness for those who were studying art. And so great [Pg 233] did the skill of Andrea then prove to be, that, besides availing myself of him for many details of the arches that were erected for the entry of his Majesty, I chose him as my companion, together with Tribolo, when Madama Margherita, daughter of Charles V, came to be married to Duke Alessandro, in making the festive preparations that I executed in the house of the Magnificent Ottaviano de' Medici on the Piazza di S. Marco, which was adorned with grotesques by his hand, with statues by the hand of Tribolo, and with figures and scenes by my hand. At the last he was much employed for the obsequies of Duke Alessandro, and even more for the marriage of Duke Cosimo, when all the devices in the courtyard, described by M. Francesco Giambullari, who wrote an account of the festivities of that wedding, were painted by Andrea with ornaments of great variety. And then Andrea—who, by reason of a melancholy humour which often oppressed him, was on many occasions on the point of taking his own life, but was observed so closely and guarded so well by his companion Mariotto that he lived to be an old man—finished the course of his life at the age of sixty-four, leaving behind him the name of a good and even rarely excellent master of grotesque-painting in our own times, wherein every succeeding craftsman has always imitated his manner, not only in Florence, but also in other places.
When the world possesses some great light in any science, every least part is illuminated by its rays, some with greater brightness and some with less; and the miracles that result are also greater or less according to differences of air and place. Constantly, in truth, do we see a particular country producing a particular kind of intellect fitted for a particular kind of work, for which others are not fitted, nor can they ever attain, whatever labours they may endure, to the goal of supreme excellence. And if we marvel when we see growing in some province a fruit that has not been wont to grow there, much more can we rejoice in a man of fine intellect when we find him in a country where men of the same bent are not usually born. Thus it was with the painter Marco Calavrese, who, leaving his own country, chose for his habitation the sweet and pleasant city of Naples. He had been minded, indeed, on setting out, to make his way to Rome, and there to achieve the end that rewards the student of painting; but the song of the Siren was so sweet to him, and all the more because he delighted to play on the lute, and the soft waters of Sebeto so melted his heart, that he remained a prisoner in body of that land until he rendered up his spirit to Heaven and his mortal flesh to earth.
Marco executed innumerable works in oils and in fresco, and he proved himself more able than any other man who was practising the same art in that country in his day. Of this we have proof in the work that he executed at Aversa, ten miles distant from Naples; and, above all, in a panel-picture in oils on the high-altar of the Church of S. Agostino, with a large ornamental frame, and various pictures painted with scenes [Pg 238] and figures, in which he represented S. Augustine disputing with the heretics, with stories of Christ and Saints in various attitudes both above and at the sides. In this work, which shows a manner full of harmony and drawing towards the good manner of our modern works, may also be seen great beauty and facility of colouring; and it was one of the many labours that he executed in that city and for various places in the kingdom.
Marco always lived a gay life, enjoying every minute to the full, for the reason that, having no rivalry to contend with in painting from other craftsmen, he was always adored by the Neapolitan nobles, and contrived to have himself rewarded for his works by ample payments. And so, having come to the age of fifty-six, he ended his life after an ordinary illness.
He left a disciple in Giovan Filippo Crescione, a painter of Naples, who executed many pictures in company with his brother-in-law, Leonardo Castellani, as he still does; but of these men, since they are alive and in constant practice of their art, there is no need to make mention.
The pictures of Maestro Marco were executed by him between 1508 and 1542. He had a companion in another Calabrian (whose name I do not know), who worked for a long time in Rome with Giovanni da Udine and executed many works by himself in that city, particularly façades in chiaroscuro. The same Calabrian also painted in fresco the Chapel of the Conception in the Church of the Trinità, with much skill and diligence.
At this same time lived Niccola, commonly called by everyone Maestro Cola dalla Matrice, who executed many works in Calabria, at Ascoli, and at Norcia, which are very well known, and which gained for him the name of a rare master—the best, indeed, that there had ever been in these parts. And since he also gave his attention to architecture, all the buildings that were erected in his day at Ascoli and throughout all that province had him as architect. Cola, without caring to see Rome or to change his country, remained always at Ascoli, living happily for some time with his wife, a woman of good and honourable family, and endowed with extraordinary nobility of spirit, as was proved when the strife of [Pg 239] parties arose at Ascoli, in the time of Pope Paul III. For then, while she was flying with her husband, with many soldiers in pursuit, more on her account (for she was a very beautiful young woman) than for any other reason, she resolved, not seeing any other way in which she could save her own honour and the life of her husband, to throw herself from a high cliff to the depth below. At which all the soldiers believed that she was not only mortally injured, but dashed to pieces, as indeed she was; wherefore they left the husband without doing him any harm, and returned to Ascoli. After the death of this extraordinary woman, worthy of eternal praise, Maestro Cola passed the rest of his life with little happiness. A short time afterwards, Signor Alessandro Vitelli, who had become Lord of Matrice, took Maestro Cola, now an old man, to Città di Castello, where he caused him to paint in his palace many works in fresco and many other pictures; which works finished, Maestro Cola returned to finish his life at Matrice.
This master would have acquitted himself not otherwise than passing well, if he had practised his art in places where rivalry and emulation might have made him attend with more study to painting, and exercise the beautiful intellect with which it is evident that he was endowed by nature.
Among the many natives of Lombardy who have been endowed with the gracious gift of design, with a lively spirit of invention, and with a particular manner of making beautiful landscapes in their pictures, we should rate as second to none, and even place before all the rest, Francesco Mazzuoli of Parma, who was bountifully endowed by Heaven with all those parts that are necessary to make a supreme painter, insomuch that he gave to his figures, in addition to what has been said of many others, a certain nobility, sweetness, and grace in the attitudes which belonged to him alone. To his heads, likewise, it is evident that he gave all the consideration that is needful; and his manner has therefore been studied and imitated by innumerable painters, because he shed on art a light of grace so pleasing, that his works will always be held in great price, and himself honoured by all students of design. Would to God that he had always pursued the studies of painting, and had not sought to pry into the secrets of congealing mercury in order to become richer than Nature and Heaven had made him; for then he would have been without an equal, and truly unique in the art of painting, whereas, by searching for that which he could never find, he wasted his time, wronged his art, and did harm to his own life and fame.
Francesco was born at Parma in the year 1504, and because he lost his father when he was still a child of tender age, he was left to the care of two uncles, brothers of his father, and both painters, who brought him up with the greatest lovingness, teaching him all those praiseworthy ways that befit a Christian man and a good citizen. Then, having made some little growth, he had no sooner taken pen in hand in order to learn [Pg 244] to write, than he began, spurred by Nature, who had consecrated him at his birth to design, to draw most marvellous things; and the master who was teaching him to write, noticing this and perceiving to what heights the genius of the boy might in time attain, persuaded his uncles to let him give his attention to design and painting. Whereupon, being men of good judgment in matters of art, although they were old and painters of no great fame, and recognizing that God and Nature had been the boy's first masters, they did not fail to take the greatest pains to make him learn to draw under the discipline of the best masters, to the end that he might acquire a good manner. And coming by degrees to believe that he had been born, so to speak, with brushes in his fingers, on the one hand they urged him on, and on the other, fearing lest overmuch study might perchance spoil his health, they would sometimes hold him back. Finally, having come to the age of sixteen, and having already done miracles of drawing, he painted a S. John baptizing Christ, of his own invention, on a panel, which he executed in such a manner that even now whoever sees it stands marvelling that such a work should have been painted so well by a boy. This picture was placed in the Nunziata, the seat of the Frati de' Zoccoli at Parma. Not content with this, however, Francesco resolved to try his hand at working in fresco, and therefore painted a chapel in S. Giovanni Evangelista, a house of Black Friars of S. Benedict; and since he succeeded in that kind of work, he painted as many as seven.
But about that time Pope Leo X sent Signor Prospero Colonna with an army to Parma, and the uncles of Francesco, fearing that he might perchance lose time or be distracted, sent him in company with his cousin, Girolamo Mazzuoli, another boy-painter, to Viadana, a place belonging to the Duke of Mantua, where they lived all the time that the war lasted; and there Francesco painted two panels in distemper. One of these, in which are S. Francis receiving the Stigmata, and S. Chiara, was placed in the Church of the Frati de' Zoccoli; and the other, which contains a Marriage of S. Catharine, with many figures, was placed in S. Piero. And let no one believe that these are works of a young beginner, for they seem to be rather by the hand of a full-grown master.
[Pg 245] The war finished, Francesco, having returned with his cousin to Parma, first completed some pictures that he had left unfinished at his departure, which are in the hands of various people. After this he painted a panel-picture in oils of Our Lady with the Child in her arms, with S. Jerome on one side and the Blessed Bernardino da Feltro on the other, and in the head of one of these figures he made a portrait of the patron of the picture, which is so wonderful that it lacks nothing save the breath of life. All these works he executed before he had reached the age of nineteen.
Then, having conceived a desire to see Rome, like one who was on the path of progress and heard much praise given to the works of good masters, and particularly to those of Raffaello and Michelagnolo, he spoke out his mind and desire to his old uncles, who, thinking that such a wish was not otherwise than worthy of praise, said that they were content that he should go, but that it would be well for him to take with him some work by his own hand, which might serve to introduce him to the noblemen of that city and to the craftsmen of his profession. This advice was not displeasing to Francesco, and he painted three pictures, two small and one of some size, representing in the last the Child in the arms of the Madonna, taking some fruits from the lap of an Angel, and an old man with his arms covered with hair, executed with art and judgment, and pleasing in colour. Besides this, in order to investigate the subtleties of art, he set himself one day to make his own portrait, looking at himself in a convex barber's mirror. And in doing this, perceiving the bizarre effects produced by the roundness of the mirror, which twists the beams of a ceiling into strange curves, and makes the doors and other parts of buildings recede in an extraordinary manner, the idea came to him to amuse himself by counterfeiting everything. Thereupon he had a ball of wood made by a turner, and, dividing it in half so as to make it the same in size and shape as the mirror, set to work to counterfeit on it with supreme art all that he saw in the glass, and particularly his own self, which he did with such lifelike reality as could not be imagined or believed. Now everything that is near the mirror is magnified, and all that is at a distance is diminished, and thus he made the hand engaged in [Pg 246] drawing somewhat large, as the mirror showed it, and so marvellous that it seemed to be his very own. And since Francesco had an air of great beauty, with a face and aspect full of grace, in the likeness rather of an angel than of a man, his image on that ball had the appearance of a thing divine. So happily, indeed, did he succeed in the whole of this work, that the painting was no less real than the reality, and in it were seen the lustre of the glass, the reflection of every detail, and the lights and shadows, all so true and natural, that nothing more could have been looked for from the brain of man.
Having finished these works, which were held by his old uncles to be out of the ordinary, and even considered by many other good judges of art to be miracles of beauty, and having packed up both pictures and portrait, he made his way to Rome, accompanied by one of the uncles. There, after the Datary had seen the pictures and appraised them at their true worth, the young man and his uncle were straightway introduced to Pope Clement, who, seeing the works and the youthfulness of Francesco, was struck with astonishment, and with him all his Court. And afterwards his Holiness, having first shown him much favour, said that he wished to commission him to paint the Hall of the Popes, in which Giovanni da Udine had already decorated all the ceiling with stucco-work and painting. And so, after presenting his pictures to the Pope, and receiving various gifts and marks of favour in addition to his promises, Francesco, spurred by the praise and glory that he heard bestowed upon him, and by the hope of the profit that he might expect from so great a Pontiff, painted a most beautiful picture of the Circumcision, which was held to be extraordinary in invention on account of three most fanciful lights that shone in the work; for the first figures were illuminated by the radiance of the countenance of Christ, the second received their light from others who were walking up some steps with burning torches in their hands, bringing offerings for the sacrifice, and the last were revealed and illuminated by the light of the dawn, which played upon a most lovely landscape with a vast number of buildings. This picture finished, he presented it to the Pope, who did not do with it what he had done with the others; for he had given the picture of Our Lady [Pg 247] to Cardinal Ippolito de' Medici, his nephew, and the mirror-portrait to Messer Pietro Aretino, the poet, who was in his service, but the picture of the Circumcision he kept for himself; and it is believed that it came in time into the possession of the Emperor. The mirror-portrait I remember to have seen, when quite a young man, in the house of the same Messer Pietro Aretino at Arezzo, where it was sought out as a choice work by the strangers passing through that city. Afterwards it fell, I know not how, into the hands of Valerio Vicentino, the crystal-engraver, and it is now in the possession of Alessandro Vittoria, a sculptor in Venice, the disciple of Jacopo Sansovino.
But to return to Francesco; while studying in Rome, he set himself to examine all the ancient and modern works, both of sculpture and of painting, that were in that city, but held those of Michelagnolo Buonarroti and Raffaello da Urbino in supreme veneration beyond all the others; and it was said afterwards that the spirit of that Raffaello had passed into the body of Francesco, when men saw how excellent the young man was in art, and how gentle and gracious in his ways, as was Raffaello, and above all when it became known how much Francesco strove to imitate him in everything, and particularly in painting. Nor was this study in vain, for many little pictures that he painted in Rome, the greater part of which afterwards came into the hands of Cardinal Ippolito de' Medici, were truly marvellous; and even such is a round picture with a very beautiful Annunciation, executed by him for Messer Agnolo Cesis, which is now treasured as a rare work in the house of that family. He painted a picture, likewise, of the Madonna with Christ, some Angels, and a S. Joseph, which are beautiful to a marvel on account of the expressions of the heads, the colouring, and the grace and diligence with which they are seen to have been executed. This work was formerly in the possession of Luigi Gaddi, and it must now be in the hands of his heirs.
Hearing the fame of this master, Signor Lorenzo Cibo, Captain of the Papal Guard, and a very handsome man, had a portrait of himself painted by Francesco, who may be said to have made, not a portrait, but a living figure of flesh and blood. Having then been commissioned to paint for [Pg 248] Madonna Maria Bufolini of Città di Castello a panel-picture which was to be placed in S. Salvatore del Lauro, in a chapel near the door, Francesco painted in it a Madonna in the sky, who is reading and has the Child between her knees, and on the earth he made a figure of S. John, kneeling on one knee in an attitude of extraordinary beauty, turning his body, and pointing to the Infant Christ; and lying asleep on the ground, in foreshortening, is a S. Jerome in Penitence.
But he was prevented from bringing this work to completion by the ruin and sack of Rome in 1527, which was the reason not only that the arts were banished for a time, but also that many craftsmen lost their lives. And Francesco, also, came within a hair's breadth of losing his, seeing that at the beginning of the sack he was so intent on his work, that, when the soldiers were entering the houses, and some Germans were already in his, he did not move from his painting for all the uproar that they were making; but when they came upon him and saw him working, they were so struck with astonishment at the work, that, like the gentlemen that they must have been, they let him go on. And thus, while the impious cruelty of those barbarous hordes was ruining the unhappy city and all its treasures, both sacred and profane, without showing respect to either God or man, Francesco was provided for and greatly honoured by those Germans, and protected from all injury. All the hardship that he suffered at that time was this, that he was forced, one of them being a great lover of painting, to make a vast number of drawings in water-colours and with the pen, which formed the payment of his ransom. But afterwards, when these soldiers changed their quarters, Francesco nearly came to an evil end, because, going to look for some friends, he was made prisoner by other soldiers and compelled to pay as ransom some few crowns that he possessed. Wherefore his uncle, grieved by that and by the fact that this disaster had robbed Francesco of his hopes of acquiring knowledge, honour, and profit, and seeing Rome almost wholly in ruins and the Pope the prisoner of the Spaniards, determined to take him back to Parma. And so he set Francesco on his way to his native city, but himself remained for some days in Rome, where he deposited the panel-picture painted for Madonna Maria Bufolini with the Friars of the [Pg 249] Pace, in whose refectory it remained for many years, until finally it was taken by Messer Giulio Bufolini to the church of his family in Città di Castello.
Having arrived in Bologna, and finding entertainment with many friends, and particularly in the house of his most intimate friend, a saddler of Parma, Francesco stayed some months in that city, where the life pleased him, during which time he had some works engraved and printed in chiaroscuro, among others the Beheading of S. Peter and S. Paul, and a large figure of Diogenes. He also prepared many others, in order to have them engraved on copper and printed, having with him for this purpose one Maestro Antonio da Trento; but he did not carry this intention into effect at the time, because he was forced to set his hand to executing many pictures and other works for gentlemen of Bologna. The first picture by his hand that was seen at Bologna was a S. Rocco of great size in the Chapel of the Monsignori in S. Petronio; to which Saint he gave a marvellous aspect, making him very beautiful in every part, and conceiving him as somewhat relieved from the pain that the plague-sore in the thigh gave him, which he shows by looking with uplifted head towards Heaven in the act of thanking God, as good men do in spite of the adversities that fall upon them. This work he executed for one Fabrizio da Milano, of whom he painted a portrait from the waist upwards in the picture, with the hands clasped, which seems to be alive; and equally real, also, seems a dog that is there, with some landscapes which are very beautiful, Francesco being particularly excellent in this respect.
He then painted for Albio, a physician of Parma, a Conversion of S. Paul, with many figures and a landscape, which was a very choice work. And for his friend the saddler he executed another picture of extraordinary beauty, containing a Madonna turned to one side in a lovely attitude, and several other figures. He also painted a picture for Count Giorgio Manzuoli, and two canvases in gouache, with some little figures, all graceful and well executed, for Maestro Luca dai Leuti.
One morning about this time, while Francesco was still in bed, the aforesaid Antonio da Trento, who was living with him as his engraver, [Pg 250] opened a strong-box and robbed him of all the copper-plate engravings, woodcuts, and drawings that he possessed; and he must have gone off to the Devil, for all the news that was ever heard of him. The engravings and woodcuts, indeed, Francesco recovered, for Antonio had left them with a friend in Bologna, perchance with the intention of reclaiming them at his convenience; but the drawings he was never able to get back. Driven almost out of his mind by this, he returned to his painting, and made a portrait, for the sake of money, of I know not what Count of Bologna. After that he painted a picture of Our Lady, with a Christ who is holding a globe of the world. The Madonna has a most beautiful expression, and the Child is also very natural; for he always gave to the faces of children a vivacious and truly childlike air, which yet reveals that subtle and mischievous spirit that children often have. And he attired the Madonna in a very unusual fashion, clothing her in a garment that had sleeves of yellowish gauze, striped, as it were, with gold, which gave a truly beautiful and graceful effect, revealing the flesh in a natural and delicate manner; besides which, the hair is painted so well that there is none better to be seen. This picture was painted for Messer Pietro Aretino, but Francesco gave it to Pope Clement, who came to Bologna at that time; then, in some way of which I know nothing, it fell into the hands of Messer Dionigi Gianni, and it now belongs to his son, Messer Bartolommeo, who has been so accommodating with it that it has been copied fifty times, so much is it prized.
The same master painted for the Nuns of S. Margherita, in Bologna, a panel-picture containing a Madonna, S. Margaret, S. Petronio, S. Jerome, and S. Michael, which is held in vast veneration, as it deserves, since in the expressions of the heads and in every other part it is as fine as all the other works of this painter. He made many drawings, likewise, and in particular some for Girolamo del Lino, and some for Girolamo Fagiuoli, a goldsmith and engraver, who desired them for engraving on copper; and these drawings are held to be full of grace. For Bonifazio Gozzadino he painted his portrait from life, with one of his wife, which remained unfinished. He also began a picture of Our Lady, which was afterwards sold in Bologna to Giorgio Vasari of Arezzo, who has it in the new house [Pg 251] built by himself at Arezzo, together with many other noble pictures, works of sculpture, and ancient marbles.
When the Emperor Charles V was at Bologna to be crowned by Clement VII, Francesco, who went several times to see him at table, but without drawing his portrait, made a likeness of that Emperor in a very large picture in oils, wherein he painted Fame crowning him with laurel, and a boy in the form of a little Hercules offering him a globe of the world, giving him, as it were, the dominion over it. This work, when finished, he showed to Pope Clement, who was so pleased with it that he sent it and Francesco together, accompanied by the Bishop of Vasona, then Datary, to the Emperor; at which his Majesty, to whom it gave much satisfaction, hinted that it should be left with him. But Francesco, being ill advised by an insincere or injudicious friend, refused to leave it, saying that it was not finished; and so his Majesty did not have it, and Francesco was not rewarded for it, as he certainly would have been. This picture, having afterwards fallen into the hands of Cardinal Ippolito de' Medici, was presented by him to the Cardinal of Mantua; and it is now in the guardaroba of the Duke of that city, with many other most noble and beautiful pictures.
After having been so many years out of his native place, as we have related, during which he had gained much experience in art, without accumulating any store of riches, but only of friends, Francesco, in order to satisfy his many friends and relatives, finally returned to Parma. Arriving there, he was straightway commissioned to paint in fresco a vault of some size in the Church of S. Maria della Steccata; but since in front of that vault there was a flat arch which followed the curve of the vaulting, making a sort of façade, he set to work first on the arch, as being the easier, and painted therein six very beautiful figures, two in colour and four in chiaroscuro. Between one figure and another he made some most beautiful ornaments, surrounding certain rosettes in relief, which he took it into his head to execute by himself in copper, taking extraordinary pains over them.
At this same time he painted for the Chevalier Baiardo, a gentleman of Parma and his intimate friend, a picture of a Cupid, who is fashioning [Pg 252] a bow with his own hand, and at his feet are seated two little boys, one of whom catches the other by the arm and laughingly urges him to touch Cupid with his finger, but he will not touch him, and shows by his tears that he is afraid of burning himself at the fire of Love. This picture, which is charming in colour, ingenious in invention, and executed in that graceful manner of Francesco's that has been much studied and imitated, as it still is, by craftsmen and by all who delight in art, is now in the study of Signor Marc' Antonio Cavalca, heir to the Chevalier Baiardo, together with many drawings of every kind by the hand of the same master, all most beautiful and highly finished, which he has collected. Even such are the many drawings, also by the hand of Francesco, that are in our book; and particularly that of the Beheading of S. Peter and S. Paul, of which, as has been related, he published copper-plate engravings and woodcuts, while living in Bologna. For the Church of S. Maria de' Servi he painted a panel-picture of Our Lady with the Child asleep in her arms, and on one side some Angels, one of whom has in his arms an urn of crystal, wherein there glitters a Cross, at which the Madonna gazes in contemplation. This work remained unfinished, because he was not well contented with it; and yet it is much extolled, and a good example of his manner, so full of grace and beauty.
Meanwhile Francesco began to abandon the work of the Steccata, or at least to carry it on so slowly that it was evident that he was not in earnest. And this happened because he had begun to study the problems of alchemy, and had quite deserted his profession of painting, thinking that he would become rich quicker by congealing mercury. Wherefore, wearing out his brain, but not in imagining beautiful inventions and executing them with brushes and colour-mixtures, he wasted his whole time in handling charcoal, wood, glass vessels, and other suchlike trumperies, which made him spend more in one day than he earned by a week's work at the Chapel of the Steccata. Having no other means of livelihood, and being yet compelled to live, he was wasting himself away little by little with those furnaces; and what was worse, the men of the Company of the Steccata, perceiving that he had completely [Pg 253] abandoned the work, and having perchance paid him more than his due, as is often done, brought a suit against him. Thereupon, thinking it better to withdraw, he fled by night with some friends to Casal Maggiore. And there, having dispersed a little of the alchemy out of his head, he painted a panel-picture for the Church of S. Stefano, of Our Lady in the sky, with S. John the Baptist and S. Stephen below. Afterwards he executed a picture, the last that he ever painted, of the Roman Lucretia, which was a thing divine and one of the best that were ever seen by his hand; but it has disappeared, however that may have happened, so that no one knows where it is.
By his hand, also, is a picture of some nymphs, which is now in the house of Messer Niccolò Bufolini at Città di Castello, and a child's cradle, which was painted for Signora Angiola de' Rossi of Parma, wife of Signor Alessandro Vitelli, and is likewise at Città di Castello.
In the end, having his mind still set on his alchemy, like every other man who has once grown crazed over it, and changing from a dainty and gentle person into an almost savage man with long and unkempt beard and locks, a creature quite different from his other self, Francesco went from bad to worse, became melancholy and eccentric, and was assailed by a grievous fever and a cruel flux, which in a few days caused him to pass to a better life. And in this way he found an end to the troubles of this world, which was never known to him save as a place full of annoyances and cares. He wished to be laid to rest in the Church of the Servite Friars, called La Fontana, one mile distant from Casal Maggiore; and he was buried naked, as he had directed, with a cross of cypress upright on his breast. He finished the course of his life on the 24th of August, in the year 1540, to the great loss of art on account of the singular grace that his hands gave to the pictures that he painted.
Francesco delighted to play on the lute, and had a hand and a genius so well suited to it that he was no less excellent in this than in painting. It is certain that if he had not worked by caprice, and had laid aside the follies of the alchemists, he would have been without a doubt one of the rarest and most excellent painters of our age. I do not deny that working [Pg 254] at moments of fever-heat, and when one feels inclined, may be the best plan. But I do blame a man for working little or not at all, and for wasting all his time over cogitations, seeing that the wish to arrive by trickery at a goal to which one cannot attain, often brings it about that one loses what one knows in seeking after that which it is not given to us to know. If Francesco, who had from nature a spirit of great vivacity, with a beautiful and graceful manner, had persisted in working every day, little by little he would have made such proficience in art, that, even as he gave a beautiful, gracious, and most charming expression to his heads, so he would have surpassed his own self and the others in the solidity and perfect excellence of his drawing.
He left behind him his cousin Girolamo Mazzuoli, who, with great credit to himself, always imitated his manner, as is proved by the works by his hand that are in Parma. At Viadana, also, whither he fled with Francesco on account of the war, he painted, young as he was, a very beautiful Annunciation on a little panel for S. Francesco, a seat of the Frati de' Zoccoli; and he painted another for S. Maria ne' Borghi. For the Conventual Friars of S. Francis at Parma he executed the panel-picture of their high-altar, containing Joachim being driven from the Temple, with many figures. And for S. Alessandro, a convent of nuns in that city, he painted a panel with the Madonna in Heaven, the Infant Christ presenting a palm to S. Giustina, and some Angels drawing back a piece of drapery, with S. Alexander the Pope and S. Benedict. For the Church of the Carmelite Friars he painted the panel-picture of their high-altar, which is very beautiful, and for S. Sepolcro another panel-picture of some size. In S. Giovanni Evangelista, a church of nuns in the same city, are two panel-pictures by the hand of Girolamo, of no little beauty, but not equal to the doors of the organ or to the picture of the high-altar, in which is a most beautiful Transfiguration, executed with much diligence. The same master has painted a perspective-view in fresco in the refectory of those nuns, with a picture in oils of the Last Supper of Christ with the Apostles, and fresco-paintings in the Chapel of the High-Altar in the Duomo. And for Madama Margherita of Austria, Duchess of Parma, he has made a portrait of the Prince Don Alessandro, [Pg 255] her son, in full armour, with his sword over a globe of the world, and an armed figure of Parma kneeling before him.
In a chapel of the Steccata, at Parma, he has painted in fresco the Apostles receiving the Holy Spirit, and on an arch similar to that which his cousin Francesco painted he has executed six Sibyls, two in colour and four in chiaroscuro; while in a niche opposite to that arch he has painted the Nativity of Christ, with the Shepherds adoring Him, which is a very beautiful picture, although it was left not quite finished. For the high-altar of the Certosa, without Parma, he has painted a panel-picture with the three Magi; a panel for S. Piero, an abbey of Monks of S. Bernard, at Pavia; another for the Duomo of Mantua, at the commission of the Cardinal; and yet another panel for S. Giovanni in the same city, containing a Christ in a glory of light, surrounded by the Apostles, with S. John, of whom He appears to be saying, "Sic eum volo manere," etc.; while round this panel, in six large pictures, are the miracles of the same S. John the Evangelist.
In the Church of the Frati Zoccolanti, on the left hand, there is a large panel-picture of the Conversion of S. Paul, a very beautiful work, by the hand of the same man. And for the high-altar of S. Benedetto in Pollirone, a place twelve miles distant from Mantua, he has executed a panel-picture of Christ in the Manger being adored by the Shepherds, with Angels singing. He has also painted—but I do not know exactly at what time—a most beautiful picture of five Loves, one of whom is sleeping, and the others are despoiling him, one taking away his bow, another his arrows, and the others his torch, which picture belongs to the Lord Duke Ottavio, who holds it in great account by reason of the excellence of Girolamo. This master has in no way fallen short of the standard of his cousin Francesco, being a fine painter, gentle and courteous beyond belief; and since he is still alive, there are seen issuing from his brush other works of rare beauty, which he has constantly in hand.
A close friend of the aforesaid Francesco Mazzuoli was Messer Vincenzio Caccianimici, a gentleman of Bologna, who painted and strove to the best of his power to imitate the manner of Francesco. This Vincenzio [Pg 256] was a very good colourist, so that the works which he executed for his own pleasure, or to present to his friends and various noblemen, are truly well worthy of praise; and such, in particular, is a panel-picture in oils, containing the Beheading of S. John the Baptist, which is in the chapel of his family in S. Petronio. This talented gentleman, by whose hand are some very beautiful drawings in our book, died in the year 1542.
So potent are mastery and excellence, even when seen in only one or two works executed to perfection by a man in the art that he practises, that, no matter how small these may be, craftsmen and judges of art are forced to extol them, and writers are compelled to celebrate them and to give praise to the craftsman who has made them; even as we are now about to do for the Venetian Palma. This master, although not very eminent, nor remarkable for perfection of painting, was nevertheless so careful and diligent, and subjected himself so zealously to the labours of art, that a certain proportion of his works, if not all, have something good in them, in that they are close imitations of life and of the natural appearance of men.
Palma was much more remarkable for his patience in harmonizing and blending colours than for boldness of design, and he handled colour with extraordinary grace and finish. This may be seen in Venice from many pictures and portraits that he executed for various gentlemen; but of these I shall say nothing more, since I propose to content myself with making mention of some altar-pieces and of a head that I hold to be marvellous, or rather, divine. One of the altar-pieces he painted for S. Antonio, near Castello, at Venice, and another for S. Elena, near the Lido, where the Monks of Monte Oliveto have their monastery. In the latter, which is on the high-altar of that church, he painted the Magi presenting their offerings to Christ, with a good number of figures, among which are some heads truly worthy of praise, as also are the draperies, [Pg 260] executed with a beautiful flow of folds, which cover the figures. Palma also painted a lifesize S. Barbara for the altar of the Bombardieri in the Church of S. Maria Formosa, with two smaller figures at the sides, S. Sebastian and S. Anthony; and the S. Barbara is one of the best figures that this painter ever executed. The same master also executed another altar-piece, in which is a Madonna in the sky, with S. John below, for the Church of S. Moisè, near the Piazza di S. Marco. In addition to this, Palma painted a most beautiful scene for the hall wherein the men of the Scuola of S. Marco assemble, on the Piazza di SS. Giovanni e Paolo, in emulation of those already executed by Giovanni Bellini, Giovanni Mansueti, and other painters. In this scene is depicted a ship which is bringing the body of S. Mark to Venice; and there may be seen counterfeited by Palma a terrible tempest on the sea, and some barques tossed and shaken by the fury of the winds, all executed with much judgment and thoughtful care. The same may be said of a group of figures in the air, and of the demons in various forms who are blowing, after the manner of winds, against the barques, which, driven by oars, and striving in various ways to break through the dangers of the towering waves, are like to sink. In short, to tell the truth, this work is of such a kind, and so beautiful in invention and in other respects, that it seems almost impossible that brushes and colours, employed by human hands, however excellent, should be able to depict anything more true to reality or more natural; for in it may be seen the fury of the winds, the strength and dexterity of the men, the movements of the waves, the lightning-flashes of the heavens, the water broken by the oars, and the oars bent by the waves and by the efforts of the rowers. Why say more? I, for my part, do not remember to have ever seen a more terrible painting than this, which is executed in such a manner, and with such care in the invention, the drawing, and the colouring, that the picture seems to quiver, as if all that is painted therein were real. For this work Jacopo Palma deserves the greatest praise, and the honour of being numbered among those who are masters of art and who are able to express with facility in their pictures their most sublime conceptions. For many painters, in difficult subjects of that kind, achieve in the first sketch of their work, as [Pg 261] though guided by a sort of fire of inspiration, something of the good and a certain measure of boldness; but afterwards, in finishing it, the boldness vanishes, and nothing is left of the good that the first fire produced. And this happens because very often, in finishing, they consider the parts and not the whole of what they are executing, and thus, growing cold in spirit, they come to lose their vein of boldness; whereas Jacopo stood ever firm in the same intention and brought to perfection his first conception, for which he received vast praise at that time, as he always will.
But without a doubt, although the works of this master were many, and all much esteemed, that one is better than all the others and truly extraordinary in which he made his own portrait from life by looking at himself in a mirror, with some camel-skins about him, and certain tufts of hair, and all so lifelike that nothing better could be imagined. For so much did the genius of Palma effect in this particular work, that he made it quite miraculous and beautiful beyond belief, as all men declare, the picture being seen almost every year at the Festival of the Ascension. And, in truth, it well deserves to be celebrated, in point of draughtsmanship, colouring, and mastery of art—in a word, on account of its absolute perfection—beyond any other work whatsoever that had been executed by any Venetian painter up to that time, since, besides other things, there may be seen in the eyes a roundness so perfect, that Leonardo da Vinci and Michelagnolo Buonarroti would not have done it in any other way. But it is better to say nothing of the grace, the dignity, and the other qualities that are to be seen in this portrait, because it is not possible to say as much of its perfection as would exhaust its merits. If Fate had decreed that Palma should die after this work, he would have carried off with him the glory of having surpassed all those whom we celebrate as our rarest and most divine intellects; but the duration of his life, keeping him at work, brought it about that, not maintaining the high beginning that he had made, he came to deteriorate as much as most men had thought him destined to improve. Finally, content that one or two supreme works should have cleared him of some of the censure that the others had brought upon him, he died in Venice at the age of forty-eight.
A friend and companion of Palma was Lorenzo Lotto, a painter of [Pg 262] Venice, who, after imitating for some time the manner of the Bellini, attached himself to that of Giorgione, as is shown by many pictures and portraits which are in the houses of gentlemen in Venice. In the house of Andrea Odoni there is a portrait of him, which is very beautiful, by the hand of Lorenzo. And in the house of Tommaso da Empoli, a Florentine, there is a picture of the Nativity of Christ, painted as an effect of night, which is one of great beauty, particularly because the splendour of Christ is seen to illuminate the picture in a marvellous manner; and there is the Madonna kneeling, with a portrait of Messer Marco Loredano in a full-length figure that is adoring Christ. For the Carmelite Friars the same master painted an altar-piece showing S. Nicholas in his episcopal robes, poised in the air, with three Angels; below him are S. Lucia and S. John, on high some clouds, and beneath these a most beautiful landscape, with many little figures and animals in various places. On one side is S. George on horseback, slaying the Dragon, and at a little distance the Maiden, with a city not far away, and an arm of the sea. For the Chapel of S. Antonino, Archbishop of Florence, in SS. Giovanni e Paolo, Lorenzo executed an altar-piece containing the first-named Saint seated with two priests in attendance, and many people below.
While this painter was still young, imitating partly the manner of the Bellini and partly that of Giorgione, he painted an altar-piece, divided into six pictures, for the high-altar of S. Domenico at Recanati. In the central picture is the Madonna with the Child in her arms, giving the habit, by the hands of an Angel, to S. Dominic, who is kneeling before the Virgin; and in this picture are also two little boys, one playing on a lute and the other on a rebeck. In the second picture are the Popes S. Gregory and S. Urban; and in the third is S. Thomas Aquinas, with another saint, who was Bishop of Recanati. Above these are the three other pictures; and in the centre, above the Madonna, is a Dead Christ, supported by an Angel, with His Mother kissing His arm, and S. Magdalene. Over the picture of S. Gregory are S. Mary Magdalene and S. Vincent; and in the third—namely, above the S. Thomas Aquinas—are S. Gismondo and S. Catharine of Siena. In the predella, which is a [Pg 263] rare work painted with little figures, there is in the centre the scene of S. Maria di Loreto being carried by the Angels from the regions of Sclavonia to the place where it now stands. Of the two scenes that are on either side of this, one shows S. Dominic preaching, the little figures being the most graceful in the world, and the other Pope Honorius confirming the Rule of S. Dominic. In the middle of this church is a figure of S. Vincent, the Friar, executed in fresco by the hand of the same master. And in the Church of S. Maria di Castelnuovo there is an altar-piece in oils of the Transfiguration of Christ, with three scenes painted with little figures in the predella—Christ leading the Apostles to Mount Tabor, His Prayer in the Garden, and His Ascension into Heaven.
After these works Lorenzo went to Ancona, at the very time when Mariano da Perugia had finished a panel-picture, with a large ornamental frame, for the high-altar of S. Agostino. This did not give much satisfaction; and Lorenzo was commissioned to paint a picture, which is placed in the middle of the same church, of Our Lady with the Child in her lap, and two figures of Angels in the air, in foreshortening, crowning the Virgin.
Finally, being now old, and having almost lost his voice, Lorenzo made his way, after executing some other works of no great importance at Ancona, to the Madonna of Loreto, where he had already painted an altar-piece in oils, which is in a chapel at the right hand of the entrance into the church. There, having resolved to finish his life in the service of the Madonna, and to make that holy house his habitation, he set his hand to executing scenes with figures one braccio or less in height round the choir, over the seats of the priests. In one scene he painted the Birth of Jesus Christ, and in another the Magi adoring Him. Next came the Presentation to Simeon, and after that the Baptism of Christ by John in the Jordan. There was also the Woman taken in Adultery being led before Christ, and all these were executed with much grace. Two other scenes, likewise, did he paint there, with an abundance of figures; one of David causing a sacrifice to be offered, and in the other was the Archangel Michael in combat with Lucifer, after having driven him out of Heaven.
[Pg 264] These works finished, no long time had passed when, even as he had lived like a good citizen and a true Christian, so he died, rendering up his soul to God his Master. These last years of his life he found full of happiness and serenity of mind, and, what is more, we cannot but believe that they gave him the earnest of the blessings of eternal life; which might not have happened to him if at the end of his life he had been wrapped up too closely in the things of this world, which, pressing too heavily on those who put their whole trust in them, prevent them from ever raising their minds to the true riches and the supreme blessedness and felicity of the other life.
There also flourished in Romagna at this time the excellent painter Rondinello, of whom we made some slight mention in the Life of Giovanni Bellini, whose disciple he was, assisting him much in his works. This Rondinello, after leaving Giovanni Bellini, laboured at his art to such purpose, that, being very diligent, he executed many works worthy of praise; of which we have witness in the panel-picture of the high-altar in the Duomo at Forlì, showing Christ giving the Communion to the Apostles, which he painted there with his own hand, executing it very well. In the lunette above this picture he painted a Dead Christ, and in the predella some scenes with little figures, finished with great diligence, representing the actions of S. Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, in the finding of the Cross. He also painted a single figure of S. Sebastian, which is very beautiful, in a picture in the same church. For the altar of S. Maria Maddalena, in the Duomo of Ravenna, he painted a panel-picture in oils containing the single figure of that Saint; and below this, in a predella, he executed three scenes with very graceful little figures. In one is Christ appearing to Mary Magdalene in the form of a gardener, in another S. Peter leaving the ship and walking over the water towards Christ, and between them the Baptism of Jesus Christ; and all are very beautiful. For S. Giovanni Evangelista, in the same city, he painted two panel-pictures, one with that Saint consecrating the church, and in the other three martyrs, S. Cantius, S. Cantianus, and S. Cantianilla, figures of great beauty. In S. Apollinare, also in that city, are two pictures, highly extolled, each with a single figure, S. John the Baptist [Pg 265] and S. Sebastian. And in the Church of the Spirito Santo there is a panel, likewise by his hand, containing the Madonna placed between the Virgin Martyr S. Catharine and S. Jerome. For S. Francesco, likewise, he painted two panel-pictures, one of S. Catharine and S. Francis, and in the other Our Lady with S. James the Apostle, S. Francis, and many figures. For S. Domenico, in like manner, he executed two other panels, one of which, containing the Madonna and many figures, is on the left hand of the high-altar, and the other, a work of no little beauty, is on a wall of the church. And for the Church of S. Niccolò, a convent of Friars of S. Augustine, he painted another panel with S. Laurence and S. Francis. So much was he commended for all these works, that during his lifetime he was held in great account, not only in Ravenna but throughout all Romagna. Rondinello lived to the age of sixty, and was buried in S. Francesco at Ravenna.
This master left behind him Francesco da Cotignola, a painter likewise held in estimation in that city, who painted many works; in particular, for the high-altar of the Church of the Abbey of Classi in Ravenna, a panel-picture of some size representing the Raising of Lazarus, with many figures. There, opposite to that work, in the year 1548, Giorgio Vasari executed for Don Romualdo da Verona, Abbot of that place, another panel-picture containing the Deposition of Christ from the Cross, with a large number of figures. Francesco also painted a panel-picture of the Nativity of Christ, which is of great size, for S. Niccolò, and likewise two panels, with various figures, for S. Sebastiano. For the Hospital of S. Catarina he painted a panel-picture with Our Lady, S. Catharine, and many other figures; and for S. Agata he painted a panel with Christ Crucified, the Madonna at the foot of the Cross, and a good number of other figures, for which he won praise. And for S. Apollinare, in the same city, he executed three panel-pictures; one for the high-altar, containing the Madonna, S. John the Baptist, and S. Apollinare, with S. Jerome and other saints; another likewise of the Madonna, with S. Peter and S. Catharine; and in the third and last Jesus Christ bearing His Cross, but this he was not able to finish, being overtaken by death.
[Pg 266] Francesco was a very pleasing colourist, but not so good a draughtsman as Rondinello; yet he was held in no small estimation by the people of Ravenna. He chose to be buried after his death in S. Apollinare, for which he had painted the said figures, being content that his remains, when he was dead, should lie at rest in the place for which he had laboured when alive.
PRINTED UNDER THE SUPERVISION OF CHAS. T. JACOBI OF THE CHISWICK PRESS, LONDON. THE COLOURED REPRODUCTIONS ENGRAVED AND PRINTED BY HENRY STONE AND SON, LTD., BANBURY
 See note on p. 57, Vol. I.
 In the original edition of 1568.
 See note on p. 57, Vol. I.
 Diminutive of Lorenzo.
 Jacques de Beaune.
 There is here a gap in the text.
 The translator is unwilling to use the somewhat ugly word "sculptress."
 "What is it that I feel, if it is not love?"
 This seems to be an error for Melozzo.
 I.e., singular or rare.
 Francesco Ubertini, called Il Bacchiacca.
 From the word "Morto," which means "dead."
Transcriber's note: Bold text is marked with =."
Obvious printer's errors have been corrected, all other inconsistencies are as in the original. The author's spelling has been maintained.
"Elecate" should be "Elacate".