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Byzantine art



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Federico Zuccari

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Il Sodoma

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Lorenzo Ghiberti

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Luca Signorelli


masolino da panicale

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master of the osservanza

matteo di giovanni

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Raphael, View of the Stanza della Segnatura, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican

Travel guide for Tuscany

Stanze in the Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican

The Raphael Rooms (also called the Raphael Stanze) in the Palace of the Vatican are papal apartments with frescoes painted by Raphael. The Rooms were originally intended as a suite of apartments for Pope Julius II. He commissioned the relatively young artist Raffaello Sanzio and his studio in 1508 or 1509 to repaint the existing interiors of the rooms entirely. It was possibly Julius' intent to outshine the apartments of his predecessor (and rival) Pope Alexander VI as the Raphael Rooms are directly above Alexander's Borgia Apartment.

The Raphael Stanze are on the third floor, overlooking the south side of the Belvedere Courtyard. Running from East to West, the rooms are called: The Hall of Constantine, The Room of the Heliodorus, The Room of the Segnatura and the Room of the Fire of the Borgo.
The largest of the four rooms is the Hall of Constantine. Its paintings were not begun until Pope Julius and indeed, Raphael himself had died. The room is dedicated to the victory of Christianity over paganism. Its frescos depict this struggle from the life of the Roman Emperor Constantine. The fresco The Vision of Constantine depicts the legendary story of a cross appearing to Constantine as he marched to confront his rival Maxentius. In the vision he saw a great cross in the sky with the words "In Hoc Signo Vinces" (in this sign, conquer). The Battle of the Milvian Bridge shows the outcome of that contest. Also are the Baptism of Constantine on his deathbed, and the Donation of Constantine the presentation of a document allegedly granting the popes sovereignty over their territorial dominions. The artists were students of Raphael, Giulio Romano, Giovanni Francesco Penni and Raffaellino del Colle Because they are not by the master himself, the frescos are often less famous than works in the neighboring rooms. Continuing a long tradition of flattery, Raphael's apprentices gave the features of the current pontiff, Clement VII, to Pope Sylvester in the paintings.

The next room, going from East to West, is the Room of the Heliodorus. It takes its name from one of the paintings. The theme of this private chamber was the heavenly protection granted by Christ to the Church. The four paintings are The Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple, The Meeting of Leo I and Attila, The Mass at Bolsena and The Liberation of St. Peter. The Expulsion recounts an event from the Book of II Maccabees where the thief, Heliodorus was trampled by horses while trying to steal the treasure of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Meeting of Leo and Attila depicts the storied parley between the Pope and the Hun conqueror, and includes the legendary images of Saints Peter and Paul in the sky bearing swords. The Mass at Bolsena depicts the story of a Bohemian priest in 1263 who ceased to doubt the doctrine of Transubstantiation when he saw the bread begin to bleed during its consecration at Mass. The Liberation of St. Peter shows a story from chapter twelve of the Book of Acts of an angel setting Peter free from prison. In all these paintings, Raphael flatteringly includes his patron, Pope Julius as participant or an observer.

The theme of the Room of the Segnatura is worldly and spiritual wisdom and the harmony which Renaissance humanists perceived between Christian teaching and Greek philosophy. The theme of wisdom is appropriate as this room is a council chamber for the Apostolic Segnatura, where most of the important papal documents were signed and sealed. Two famous paintings are in this room: The School of Athens (representing worldly learning) and the Dispute over the Holy Sacrament (representing the church assembled in majesty). The other two frescos are Parnassus and another fresco divided into three sections. Above the window, in a lunette, is The Cardinal Virtues and beside the windows are Tribonian Consigns the Pandects to Emperor Justinian, and on the other side Pope Gregory IX Approves the Decretials.

Raphael, as noted above was famous for depicting illustrious figures of the past with the features of his contemporaries. School of Athens is perhaps the most extended study in this.

* Plato - holding the Timaeus - Pointing up as a sign of his metaphysical belief in the higher world of the forms, shown with the face of Leonardo.
* Aristotle - holding his Ethics with hand palm down, reflecting a more grounded approach to the problem of universals shown with the face of Bramante
* Heraclitus - melancholy and alone, shown with the face of Michelangelo
* Socrates - talking with Alexander the Great
* Euclid, Raphael and Sodoma, Zoroaster and Ptolemy

This room was named for Fire of the Borgo which depicts Pope Leo IV making the sign of the cross to extinguish a raging fire in the Borgo district of Rome near the Vatican. This room was prepared as a music room for Julius' successor, Leo X. The frescos depict events from the lives of Popes Leo III and Leo IV. The other paintings in the room are The Coronation of Charlemagne by Leo III, The Oath of Leo III before Charlemagne and The Naval Victory of Leo IV over the Sacracens at Ostia Though the Incident of the Borgo was based on Raphael's mature designs it was executed by his assistants, who painted the other thee paintings without his guidance.

The Fire in the Borgo (from the Stanza dell'Incendio di Borgo)

[1] Modern criticism follows Morelli in supposing that Raphael painted Bazzi's portrait in The School of Athens.

IL SODOMA (1477-1549), the name given to the Italian painter Giovanni Antonio Bazzi. He is said to have borne also the name of "Sodona" as a family name, and likewise the name Tizzioni; Sodona is signed upon some of his pictures. While "Bazzi" was corrupted into "Razzi," "Sodona" may have been corrupted into "Sodoma"; Vasari, however, accounted for the name differently, as a nickname from his personal character. This version appears to have been inspired by Bazzi's pupil and subsequent rival Beccafumi. In R. H. Cust's recent work on the painter another suggestion is made. Vasari tells a story that, Bazzi's horse having won a race at Florence, a cry of "Who is the owner ?" went up, and Bazzi contemptuously answered "Sodoma," in order to insult the Florentines (according to Milanesi); and Mr Cust offers the suggestion of the Italian friend, that the racing name was really a clipped form of So doma, " I am the trainer." Whatever the real origin, the name was long supposed to indicate an immoral character.

Bazzi was of the family de Bazis, and was born at Vercelli in Lombardy in 1477. His first master was Martino Spanzotto, by whom one signed picture is known; and he appears to have been in his native place a scholar of the painter Giovenone. Acquiring thus the strong colouring and other distinctive marks of the Lombard school, he was brought to Siena towards the close of the 15th century by some agents of the Spannocchi family; and, as the bulk of his professional life was passed in this Tuscan city, he counts as a member of the Sienese school, although not strictly affined to it in point of style. He does not seem to have been a steady or laborious student in Siena, apart from some attention which he bestowed upon the sculptures of Jacopo della Quercia. Along with Pinturicchio, he was one of the first to establish there the matured style of the Cinquecento. His earliest works of repute are seventeen frescoes in the Benedictine monastery of Monte Oliveto, on the road from Siena to Rome, illustrating the life of St Benedict, in continuation of the series which Luca Signorelli had begun in 1498; Bazzi completed the set in 1502. Hence he was invited to Rome by the celebrated Sienese merchant Agostino Chigi, and was employed by Pope Julius II. in the Camera della Segnatura in the Vatican. He executed two great compositions and various ornaments and grotesques. The latter are still extant; but the larger works did not satisfy the pope, who engaged Raphael to substitute his "Justice," "Poetry," and "Theology." In the Chigi Palace (now Farnesina) Bazzi painted some subjects from the life of Alexander the Great; "Alexander in the Tent of Darius" and the "Nuptials of the Conqueror with Roxana" (by some considered his masterpiece) are more particularly noticed. When Leo X. was made pope (1513) Bazzi presented him with a picture of the "Death of Lucretia" (or of Cleopatra, according to some accounts); Leo gave him a large sum of money in recompense and created him a cavaliere. Bazzi afterwards returned to Siena and at a later date went in quest of work to Pisa, Volterra, and Lucca. From Lucca he returned to Siena, not long before his death, which took place on the 14th of February 1549 (the older narratives say 1554). He had squandered his property and is said (rather dubiously) to have died in penury in the great hospital of Siena. Bazzi had married in youth a lady of good position, but the spouses disagreed and separated pretty soon afterwards. A daughter of theirs married Bartolommeo Neroni, named also Riccio Sanese or Maestro Riccio, one of Bazzi's principal pupils.

It is said that Bazzi jeered at the History of the Painters written by Vasari, and that Vasari consequently traduced him; certainly he gives a bad account of Bazzi's morals and demeanour, and is niggardly towards the merits of his art. According to Vasari, the ordinary name by which Bazzi was known was "11 Mattaccio" (the Madcap, the Maniac) - this epithet being first bestowed upon him by the monks of Monte Oliveto. He dressed gaudily, like a mountebank; his house was a perfect Noah's ark, owing to the strange miscellany of animals which he kept there. He was a cracker of jokes and fond of music, and sang some poems composed by himself on indecorous subjects. In his art Vasari alleges that Bazzi was always negligent - his early success in Siena, where he painted many portraits, being partly due to want of competition. As he advanced in age he became too lazy to make any cartoons for his frescoes, but daubed them straight off upon the wall. Vasari admits, nevertheless, that Bazzi produced at intervals some works of very fine quality, and during his lifetime his reputation stood high.

The general verdict is that Bazzi was an able master in expression, motion and colour. His taste was something like that of Da Vinci, especially in the figures of women, which have grace, sweetness and uncommon earnestness. He is not eminent for drawing, grouping or general elegance of form. His easel pictures are rare; there are two in the National Gallery in London.

It is uncertain whether Bazzi was a pupil of Leonardo da Vinci, though Morelli (in his Italian Pictures in German Galleries) speaks of his having "only ripened into an artist during the two years (1498-1500) he spent at Milan with Leonardo"; and some critics see in Bazzi's "Madonna" in the Brera (if it is really by Bazzi) the direct influence of this master. Modern criticism follows Morelli in supposing that Raphael painted Bazzi's portrait in "The School of Athens"; and a drawing at Christ Church is supposed to be a portrait of Raphael by Bazzi.

His most celebrated works are in Siena. In S. Domenico, in the chapel of St Catherine of Siena, are two frescoes painted in 1526, showing Catherine in ecstasy, and fainting as she is about to receive the Eucharist from an angel - a beautiful and pathetic treatment. In the oratory of S. Bernardino, scenes from the history of the Madonna, painted by Bazzi in conjunction with Pacchia and Beccafumi (1536-1538) - the "Visitation" and the "Assumption"- are noticeable. In S. Francesco are the "Deposition from the Cross" (1513) and "Christ Scourged"; by many critics one or other of these paintings is regarded as Bazzi's masterpiece. In the choir of the cathedral at Pisa is the "Sacrifice of Abraham," and in the Uffizi Gallery of Florence as "St Sebastien." See for further details, Giovanni Antonio Bazzi, by Robert H. Hobart Cust (1906), which contains a full bibliography. (W. M. R.)



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