Thursday, December 7, 2017

Art in Rome 1555-1572 (Popes Paul IV, Pius IV and Pius V)

Saint Peter
ca. 1550-60
National Gallery of Canada

"The drawing is not an original composition but a complete copy after the Saint Peter frescoed by Sebastiano del Piombo in the Borgherini chapel in San Pietro in Montorio on the Janiculum hill in Rome, ca. 1520.  The principal painting in this chapel was the Flagellation of Christ executed by Sebastiano from Michelangelo's drawn designs  one of the most celebrated and influential new works produced in Rome during the first part of the sixteenth century  and it is not surprising that Stradanus, like so many artists, was attracted to the site.  Stradanus copied ones of the massive saints from the lower part of the chapel, accentuating the audacious figure-eight pose and active, circulatory folds of the drapery.  It is not clear if the inscription on the drawing itself identifying the source is in the copyist's own hand, but it is certainly old.  Stradanus, who was Flemish-born but spent most of his career in Florence, is known to have visited Rome as a young artist around 1550 and again a decade later.  Presumably he made this drawing as a relative youth on one of these occasions, although precise dates for copies are generally difficult to settle.  In addition to the evidence that it provides for his source material, the copy is significant in helping to reconstruct Sebastiano's original, especially in the now-damaged areas of the fresco.  In creating this work, Sebastiano experimented  much to the displeasure of Michelangelo, who was always an advocate of pure fresco  with a hybrid technique blending fresco and oil in an attempt to slow the drying process and also to introduce darker tonalities into the final work, such that the original is now in a poor state of preservation."

Federico Zuccaro
Vision of St Eustace
ca. 1558
wash drawing
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

"While nearly all of the famous Renaissance frescoes painted on the façades of Roman palaces have been worn away by the ravages of weather and time, one of the most significant early works in Federico Zuccaro's career can still be seen today, and this colourful drawing is the modello for it.  The commission came in 1559, when Federico was only about eighteen years old, from Tizio Chermandio da Spoleto, master of the household to the powerful Cardinal Alessandro Farnese.  Federico had been studying and working in Rome with his older brother Taddeo since the age of about ten, having been left there by his parents during a visit from the Marches for the 1550 Jubilee.  Chermandio's commission, which came to Federico via Taddeo, who was then busy with his own projects, involved the decoration of scenes from the life of Saint Eustace on the façades of the patron's corner house on Piazza della Dogana (now Piazza Sant' Eustachio).  Judging from this modello and the remnants that survive today, one of the most remarkable aspects is the bright colouring used by Federico, in contrast to the monochrome brown or grey decorative schemes of Taddeo, who followed the chiaroscuro tradition of Polidoro.  Federico in effect treated the walls as if they were an interior surface, employing bright reds, blues and greens." 

Francesco Salviati
The Siege of Parma
National Gallery of Canada

"In 1551-1552 Ottavio Farnese, aided by French forces, successfully defended his illegitimately obtained family duchy of Parma (created by Pope Paul III) against papal and imperial troops.  This celebrated event in Farnese history then became the subject of one of the major frescoes recording the great accomplishments of the family.  Ottavio's younger brother, Cardinal Ranuccio Farnese, commissioned the project, consisting of five vertical sections on each wall, with an alternation of allegorical and historical subjects.  . . .  At some point it was deemed politically unwise to prominently display a Farnese victory against papal forces in a reception room where the guests frequently might include cardinals and other leading members of the Church.  Accordingly, the scene was replaced by the more neutral subject of Pope Eugenius I appointing Ranuccio Farnese commander of the papal army.  Tactfully, a Farnese military triumph is replaced by a Farnese achievement on behalf of the Church.  Another Farnese, Ranuccio, now leads papal troops rather than his own."

Federico Barocci
ca. 1561-63
National Gallery of Canada

Orlando Parentini
Study for wall decoration and allegorical figure of Concord
ca. 1559-63
National Gallery of Canada

"This drawing is preparatory for frescoes in the apartments of Pope Pius IV in the Vatican Belvedere  what is today the Etruscan Museum.  Formerly attributed to the workshop of Lelio Orsi, this is, in fact, the only drawing that has been ascribed with certainty to the obscure artist Orlando Parentini, and so is of extreme interest to scholars of the period.  It will become the touchstone for any future attributions to the painter.  Orlando Parentini is cited in various archival sources as active in Rome with his brother Dante from about the 1550s to the 1590s. Orlando and Dante, who appears to have worked more as a sculptor and stuccoist, participated on decorations in the Vatican ordered by Pius IV during his relatively short pontificate (1559-1565).  The two artists are documented as having decorated a number of rooms, including the Sala del Buon Governo in 1563, represented in its planning phase here." 

circle of Guglielmo della Porta
Project for the tomb of Pope Pius IV (Gian Angelo de' Medici) 
ca. 1565
Victoria & Albert Museum, London

"This drawing shows the plan and foreshortened elevation of a papal tomb which has been connected with Pope Pius IV through the coat of arms on the main relief's pediment. However, there is no further evidence beyond this drawing that there were ever plans for such a lavish, free-standing monument for Pius IV (whose body was first humbly buried in Satin Peter's Basilica, and later transferred to Santa Maria degli Angeli, where Alessandro Cioli carved a simple wall monument in his memory in 1582-1583).  . . .  The coronation of the pope with the tiara is the drawn tomb's central theme, appearing twice: the large relief on its front depicts the pope's coronation in the church of Saint Peter in his present life; his coronation by two angels hovering above the throne in the three-dimensional group on top represents the pope's eternal coronation."

Bartolomeo Passarotti and workshop
Portrait of Pope Pius V (Antonio Ghislieri)
ca. 1566
oil on canvas
Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

"Pius V (1504-1572) was born Antonio Ghislieri into a modest family in the duchy of Milan.  In the portrait he wears the white of the Dominican order he had entered as a youth (taking the name Michele).  Until his death he maintained their austere lifetstyle, combating lax discipline and heresy throughout his rise within the church.  . . .  Central to his reign was the implementation of the reforms decreed by the Council of Trent (1545-63).  . . .  The new pope probably sat for Passarotti in Rome shortly after his coronation.  The artist moved between his native Bologna and Rome throughout his career, at times working with Taddeo Zuccaro." 

Taddeo Zuccaro
Marine Deities in Cartouche
ca. 1566
National Gallery of Canada

"While Taddeo's art in general is distinguished by its blend of stylistic elements derived from both Raphael and Michelangelo, this drawing shows him engaged directly with ancient art.  Several different sarcophagi were known by the Renaissance period that provided models for this type of image, featuring such marine deities as nereids, sea centaurs, tritons and amoretti, often moving excitedly in procession or in combat.  Taddeo's representation appears to show an awareness of one sarcophagus then in the church of San Francesco a Ripa in Trastevere in Rome, though not surprisingly, given the artist's love of creativity, none of the correspondences are very precise.  In developing the subject matter, artists such as Taddeo ignored the funerary implications of the sarcophagi and instead heightened the vigorous action and abandoned eroticism of the naked human and half-human creatures." 

Giovanni Antonio Dosio
Design for the Tomb of Pope Paul IV Carafa
British Museum

"Compared with his namesake Paul III Farnese or his successor Pius IV Medici, Paul IV Carafa managed to carry out relatively little architectural patronage.  Though Paul was interested in art and architecture, his brief papacy was harried by financial woes, and his great unpopularity  accruing from his war against Spain and the scandalous behaviour of his nephews  drew other obstacles into his path.  . . .  Such was Paul's unpopularity that after his death in 1559 his remains were deposited unceremoniously in the Crypt at Saint Peter's.  Only seven years later, in 1566, the newly elected pope, Pius V, announced plans to erect a tomb for him in the chapel of his relative, Cardinal Oliviero Carafa, at Santa Maria sopra Minerva.  Though he ultimately awarded the commission to Pirro Ligorio, Pius V had solicited designs from other artists, and it is likely that the drawing by Giovanni Antonio Dosio shown here represents one of the competing proposals.  The inscription in capital letters along the plinth of the tomb, attributing the drawing to Dosio, appears to have been added by Giorgio Vasari, a contemporary of the artist who probably owned the drawing." 

St Mary Magdalene in Penitence
oil on canvas
Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples

"Renaissance viewers believed that Saint Mary Magdalene was a prostitute who converted to Christianity and became a devoted follower of Christ.  According to apocryphal accounts, she later went to France, where she lived as a hermit in penitence, naked in the wilderness, clothed only in her miraculously long hair.  Titian made this painting of the penitent Magdalene and sent it to Cardinal Alessandro Farnese in 1567.  Cardinal Farnese had previously commissioned from Titian a painting of Danaë.  Titian delivered this work during his only trip to Rome in 1545-46.  . . .  This image of the weeping sinner seems antithetical to the Danaë, except that Titian did not envision the Magdalene as a wasted hermit but rather as a beauty, much like Danaë, with rounded flesh, richly curled golden hair and drapery slipping off her shoulder, clinging closely enough to her breast to reveal the nipple.  When the writer Valori visited Titian's house a few years earlier, the elderly Titian showed him a painting of "a very pleasant Magdalene."  When Valori told the painter that the Magdalene was "too fresh and dewy in her penance," Titian "responded, smirking, that it was a portrait of the first day of her penance before she began to fast."  

attributed to Ventura di Vincenzio Ulvieri after Giorgio Vasari
Conversion of St Paul
ca. 1567
oil on panel
Bob Jones University Museum, Greenville, South Carolina

"This painting is one of several Vasarian replicas that belonged to Vincenzo Borghini, the Benedictine Prior of the Foundling Hospital in Florence.  The surviving replicas, representing works by Vasari from the 1540s to the 1570s, share a high standard of finish, an attention to detail and a lucid colouring that renders them jewel-like.  However, this Conversion of Saint Paul is unusual in two respects.  First, because it is not so much a replica, as a variation on Vasari's altarpiece for the Del Monte Chapel in San Pietro in Montorio, Rome; second, because it was not executed by Vasari, but by a studio member whose identity has been something of a mystery.  . . .  The Greenville painting is patently by an inexperienced hand.  In the past it has been attributed to Morandini, but this has since been contested.  It may represent the earliest known work attributable to another of Borghini's protégés, Ventura di Vincenzio Ulvieri.  He was a foundling who grew up at the Ospedale, a likable and capricious character who endeared himself to Borghini, who affectionately called him "Livo" or "Ulivo."  By 1565 Livo was working for Vasari and later began assisting Morandini, before ultimately assuming responsibility for the tapestry workshop at the Ospedale."

Federico Zuccaro
Calumny of Apelles
ca. 1569
oil on canvas
Royal Collection, Great Britain

"While large numbers of ancient sculptures were rediscovered during the Renaissance and Baroque periods, virtually none of the paintings of the ancients came to light.  Artists, antiquarians and patrons had to turn to literary descriptions by Pliny, Lucian or Achilles Tatius to learn about the works of Apelles, Zeuxis, Timanthes, Aristeides of Thebes and their like.  In his famous essay on Slander, Lucian of Samosata recounts the story of the Calumny of Apelles.  Out of envy, Antiphilus traduced his fellow painter Apelles, accusing him of conspiracy against King Ptolemy of Egypt.  The king accepted these denunciations without verifying the facts, and Apelles would have paid for them with his life if not for an eye witness who declared his innocence.  The deceived king compensated the artist with a gift of 100 talents and gave him Antiphilus as a slave.  . . .  This famous example prompted Federico Zuccaro, following in the footsteps of Andrea Mantegna, Sandro Botticelli and other Renaissance masters, to transform his own bitter experiences with Cardinal Alessandro Farnese into a painted allegory of the Calumny of Apelles.  After the sudden death of his brother Taddeo in 1566, the artist had continued to work on the decoration of the Palazzo Farnese at Caprarola, but soon frictions with his powerful patron arose and in 1569 he was supplanted by Jacopo Bertoja." 

Alessandro Allori
ca. 1570
oil on panel
private collection, USA

"Following the antique sculpture as faithfully as he does, even including the base, Allori creates a certain ambiguity as to whether we are intended to perceive the Laocoön group as a polychrome sculpture placed on a loggia or as fleshly figures.  Such aesthetic tension recalls earlier paintings by Daniele da Volterra, particularly the David and Goliath now in the Louvre, which intended to evoke the issue of the Paragone, the debate about the comparative merits of painting and sculpture." 

El Greco
Boy blowing on an ember to light a candle
ca. 1570-75
oil on canvas
Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples

"Although El Greco was born in Crete, then a Venetian colony, and spent the latter part of his life in Spain, he resided in Rome for about six years in the 1570s.  There, he enjoyed ties with prominent members of the papal court, though he is not known to have worked for the papacy itself.  El Greco is first mentioned in Rome in a letter of introduction from Giulio Clovio to Cardinal Alessandro Farnese.  . . .  The first owner of El Greco's Boy Blowing on an Ember to light a Candle is not known, although it could well have been the Cardinal.  Certainly the canvas was amongst the family's possessions, being first mentioned in 1644 in an inventory of the picture gallery in Palazzo Farnese, Rome." 

 quoted passages from a 2009 exhibition catalogue issued by the National Gallery of Canada – From  Raphael to Carracci: The Art of Papal Rome, edited by David Franklin