Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists
WHEN Pietro Perugino, by that time an old man, was painting the altarpiece of the high altar of the Servites at Florence, a nephew of Giuliano and Antonio da San Gallo, called Bastiano, was placed with him to learn the art of painting. But the boy had not been long with Perugino, when he saw the manner of Michelagnolo in the cartoon for the Hall, of which we have already spoken so many times, in the house of the Medici, and was so struck with admiration, that he would not return any more to Pietro' s workshop, considering that his manner, beside that of Buonarroti, was dry, petty, and by no means worthy to be imitated. And since, among those who used to go to paint that cartoon, which was for a time the school of all who wished to attend to painting, the most able of all was held to be Ridolfo Ghirlandajo, Bastiano chose him as his companion, in order to learn colouring from him, and so they became fast friends. But not ceasing therefore to give his attention to that cartoon and to work at those nudes, Bastiano copied all together in a little cartoon the whole composition of that mass of figures, which not one of all those who had worked at it had ever drawn as a whole. And since he applied himself to it with all the earnestness that was in him, it proved that he was afterwards able on any occasion to render an account of the attitudes, muscles, and movements of those figures, and of the reasons that had caused Buonarroti to depict certain difficult postures; in doing which he would speak slowly and sententiously, with great gravity, so that a company of able craftsmen gave him the name of Aristotile, which, moreover, sat upon him all the better because it appeared that according to an ancient portrait of that supreme philosopher and confidant of Nature, Bastiano much resembled him.
But to return to the little cartoon drawn by Aristotile; he held it always so dear, that, after Buonarroti's original had perished, he would never let it go either at a price or on any other terms, or allow it to be copied; indeed, he would not show it, save only as a man shows precious things to his dearest friends, as a favour. Afterwards, in the year 1542, this drawing was copied in oils by Aristotile, at the persuasion of Giorgio Vasari, who was much his friend, in a picture in chiaroscuro, which was sent through Monsignor Giovio to King Francis of France, who held it very dear, and gave a handsome reward to San Gallo. This Vasari did in order that the memory of that work might be preserved, seeing that drawings perish very readily.
In his youth, then, Aristotile delighted, as the others of his house have done, in the matters of architecture, and he therefore gave his attention to measuring the ground-plans of buildings and with great diligence to the study of perspective; in doing which he was much assisted by a brother of his, called Giovan Francesco, who was employed as architect in the building of S. Pietro, under Giuliano Leno, the proveditor. Giovan Francesco, having drawn Aristotile to Rome, employed him to keep the accounts in a great business that he had of furnaces for lime and works in pozzolana and tufa, which brought him very large profits; and in this way Bastiano lived for a time, without doing anything but draw in the Chapel of Michelagnolo, and resort, by means of M. Giannozzo Pandolfini, Bishop of Troia, to the house of Raffaello da Urbino. After a time, Raffaello having made for that Bishop the design of a palace which he wished to erect in the Via di S. Gallo at Florence, the above- named Giovan Francesco was sent to put it into execution, which he did with all the diligence wherewith it is possible for such a work to be carried out. But in the year 1530, Giovan Francesco being dead, and the siege of Florence in progress, that work, as we shall relate, was left unfinished. Its completion was afterwards entrusted to his brother Aristotile, who, as will be told, had returned to Florence many and many a year before, after having amassed a large sum of money under the above-named Giuliano Leno, in the business that his brother had left him in Rome; with a part of which money Aristotile bought, at the persuasion of Luigi Alamanni and Zanobi Buondelmonte, who were much his friends, a site for a house behind the Convent of the Servites, near Andrea del Sarto, where, with the intention of taking a wife and living at leisure, he afterwards built a very commodious little house.
After returning to Florence, then, Aristotile, being much inclined to perspective, to which he had given his attention under Bramante in Rome, appeared to delight in scarcely any other thing; but nevertheless, besides executing a portrait or two from the life, he painted in oils, on two large canvases, the Eating of the Fruit by Adam and Eve and their Expulsion from Paradise, which he did after copies that he had made from the works painted by Michelagnolo on the vaulting of the Chapel in Rome. These two canvases of Aristotile's, because of his having taken them bodily from that place, were little extolled; but, on the other hand, he was well praised for all that he did in Florence for the entry of Pope Leo, making, in company with Francesco Granacci, a triumphal arch opposite to the door of the Badia, with many scenes, which was very beautiful. In like manner, at the nuptials of Duke Lorenzo de' Medici, he was of great assistance in all the festive preparations, and particularly in some prospect-views for comedies, to Franciabigio and Ridolfo Ghirlandajo, who had charge of everything.
He afterwards executed many pictures of Our Lady in oils, partly from his own fancy, and partly copied from the works of others; and among them he painted one similar to that which Raffaello executed for S. Maria del Popolo in Rome, with the Madonna covering the Child with a veil, which now belongs to Filippo dell' Antella. And another is in the possession of the heirs of Messer Ottaviano de' Medici, together with the portrait of the above-named Lorenzo, which Aristotile copied from that which Raffaello had executed. Many other pictures he painted about the same time, which were sent to England. But, recognizing that he had no invention, and how much study and good grounding in design painting required, and that for lack of these qualities he would not be able to achieve any great excellence, Aristotile resolved that his pro- fession should be architecture and perspective, executing scenery for comedies, to which he was much inclined, on every occasion that might present itself to him. And so, the above-mentioned Bishop of Troia having once more set his hand to his palace in the Via di S. Gallo, the charge of this was given to Aristotile, who in time carried it with much credit to himself to the condition in which it is now to be seen.
Meanwhile Aristotile had formed a great friendship with Andrea del Sarto, his neighbor, from whom he learned to do many things to perfection, attending with much study to perspective; wherefore he was afterwards employed in many festivals that were held by certain companies of gentlemen who were living at Florence in those peaceful times. Thus, when the Mandragola, a most amusing comedy, was to be performed by the Company of the Cazzuola in the house of Bernardino di Giordano, on the Canto a Monteloro, Andrea del Sarto and Aristotile executed the scenery, which was very beautiful; and not long afterwards Aristotile executed the scenery for another comedy by the same author, in the house of the furnace-master Jacopo at the Port a S. Friano. From that kind of scenery and prospect-views, which much pleased the citizens in general, and in particular Signor Alessandro and Signer Ippolito de' Medici (who were in Florence at that time, under the care of Silvio Passerini, Cardinal of Cortona), Aristotile acquired so great a name, that it was ever afterwards his principal profession; indeed, so some will have it, his name of Aristotile was given him because he appeared in truth to be in perspective what Aristotle was in philosophy.
But, as it often happens that from the height of peace and tranquillity one falls into wars and discords, with the year 1527 all peace and gladness in Florence were changed into sorrow and distress, for by that time the Medici had been driven out, and then came the plague and the siege, and for many years life was anything but gay; wherefore no good could be done then by craftsmen, and Aristotile lived in those days always in his own house, attending to his studies and fantasies. Afterwards, however, when Duke Alessandro had assumed the government of Florence, and matters were beginning to clear up a little, the young men of the Company of the Children of the Purification, which is opposite to S. Marco, arranged to perform a tragi-comedy taken from the Book of Kings, of the tribulations that ensued from the violation of Tamar, which had been composed by Giovan Maria Primerani. Thereupon the charge of the scenery and prospect-views was given to Aristotile, and he prepared the most beautiful scenery, considering the capacity of the place, that had ever been made. And since, besides the beauty of the setting, the tragi-comedy was beautiful in itself and well performed, and very pleasing to Duke Alessandro and his sister, who heard it, their Excellencies caused the author, who was in prison, to be liberated, on the condition that he should write another comedy, but after his own fancy. Which having been done by him, Aristotile made in the loggia of the garden of the Medici, on the Piazza di S. Marco, a very beautiful scene and prospect-view, full of colonnades, niches, tabernacles, statues, and many other fanciful things that had not been used up to that time in festive settings of that kind; which all gave infinite satisfaction, and greatly enriched that sort of painting. The subject of the piece was Joseph falsely accused of having sought to violate his mistress, and therefore imprisoned, and then liberated after his interpretation of the King's dream.
This scenery having also much pleased the Duke, he ordained, when the time came, that for his nuptials with Madama Margherita of Austria another comedy should be performed, with scenery by Aristotile, in the Company of Weavers, which is joined to the house of the Magnificent Ottaviano de' Medici, in the Via di S. Gallo. To which having set his hand with all the study, diligence, and labour of which he was capable, Aristotile executed all those preparations to perfection. Now Lorenzo di Pier Francesco de' Medici, having himself written the piece that was to be performed, had charge of the whole representation and the music; and, being such a man that he was always thinking in what way he might be able to kill the Duke, by whom he was so much favoured and beloved, he thought to find a way of bringing him to his end in the preparations for the play. And so, where the steps of the prospect-view and the floor of the stage ended, he caused the wing-walls on either side to be thrown down to the height of eighteen braccia, intending to build up in that space a room in the form of a purse-shaped recess, which was to be of considerable size, and a stage on a level with the stage proper, which might serve for the choral music. Above this first stage he wished to make another for harpsichords, organs, and other suchlike instruments that cannot be moved or changed about with ease; and the space where he had pulled down the walls, in front, he wished to have covered with curtains painted with prospect-views and buildings.
All which pleased Aristotile, because it enriched the proscenium, and left the stage free of musicians, but he was by no means pleased that the rafters upholding the roof, which had been left without the walls below to support them, should be arranged otherwise than with a great double arch, which should be very strong; whereas Lorenzo wished that it should be sustained by some props, and by nothing else that could in any way interfere with the music. Aristotile, knowing that this was a trap certain to fall headlong down on a multitude of people, would not on any account agree in the matter with Lorenzo, who in truth had no other intention but to kill the Duke in that catastrophe. Wherefore, perceiving that he could not drive his excellent reasons into Lorenzo's head, he had determined that he would withdraw from the whole affair, when Giorgio Vasari, who was the protege of Ottaviano de' Medici, and was at that time, although a mere lad, working in the service of Duke Alessandro, hearing, while he was painting on that scenery, the disputes and differences of opinion that there were between Lorenzo and Aristotile, set himself dexterously between them, and, after hearing both the one and the other and per- ceiving the danger that Lorenzo's method involved, showed that without making any arch or interfering in any other way with the stage for the music, those rafters of the roof could be arranged easily enough. Two double beams of wood, he said, each of fifteen braccia, should be placed along the wall, and fastened firmly with clamps of iron beside the other rafters, and upon them the central rafter could be securely placed, for in that way it would lie as safely as upon an arch, neither more nor less. But Lorenzo, refusing to believe either Giorgio, who proposed the plan, or Aristotile, who approved it, did nothing but oppose them with his cavillings, which made his evil intention known to everyone.
Whereupon Giorgio, having seen what a terrible disaster might result from this, and that it was nothing less than an attempt to kill three hundred persons, said that come what might he would speak of it to the Duke, to the end that he might send to examine and render safe the whole fabric. Hearing this, and fearing to betray himself, Lorenzo, after many words, gave leave to Aristotile that he should follow the advice of Giorgio; and so it was done. This scenery, then, was the most beautiful not only of all that Aristotile had executed up to that time, but also of all that had ever been made by others, for he made in it many corner pieces in relief, and also, in the opening of the stage, a representation of a most beautiful triumphal arch in imitation of marble, covered with scenes and statues, not to mention the streets receding into the distance, and many other things wrought with marvellous invention and incredible diligence and study.
After Duke Alessandro had been killed by the above-named Lorenzo, and Cosimo had been elected Duke; in 1536, there came to be married to him Signora Leonora di Toledo, a lady in truth most rare, and of such great and incomparable worth, that she may be likened without ques- tion, and perchance preferred, to the most celebrated and renowned woman in ancient history. And for the nuptials, which took place on the 27th of June in the year 1539, Aristotile made in the great court of the Medici Palace, where the fountain is, another scenic setting that represented Pisa, in which he surpassed himself, ever improving and achieving variety; wherefore it will never be possible to put together a more varied arrangement of doors and windows, or fagades of palaces more fantastic and bizarre, or streets and distant views that recede more beautifully and comply more perfectly with ,the rules of perspective. And he depicted there, besides all this, the Leaning Tower of the Duomo, the Cupola, and the round Temple of S. Giovanni, with other features of that city. Of the flights of steps that he made in the work, and how everyone was deceived by them, I shall say nothing, lest I should appear to be saying the same that has been said at other times; save only this, that the flight of steps which appeared to rise from the ground to the stage was octagonal in the centre and quadrangular at the sides an artifice extraordinary in its simplicity, which gave such grace to the prospect- view above, that it would not be possible to find anything better of that kind. He then arranged with much ingenuity a lantern of wood in the manner of an arch, behind all the buildings, with a sun one braccio high, in the form of a ball of crystal rilled with distilled water, behind which were two lighted torches, which rendered the sky of the scenery and prospect-view so luminous, that it had the appearance of the real and natural sun. This sun, which had around it an ornament of golden rays that covered the curtain, was drawn little by little by means of a small windlass that was there, in such a manner that at the beginning of the performance the sun appeared to be rising, and then, having climbed to the centre of the arch, it so descended that at the end of the piece it was setting and sinking below the horizon.
The author of the piece was Antonio Landi. a gentleman of Florence, and the interludes and music were in the hands of Giovan Battista Strozzi. a man of very beautiful genius, who was then very young. But since enough was written at that time about the other things that adorned the performance, such as the interludes and music. I shall do no more than mention who they were who executed certain pictures, and it must suffice for the present to know that all the other things were carried out by the above-named Giovan Battista Strozzi, Tribolo. and Aristotile. Below the scenery of the comedy, the walls at the sides were divided into six painted pictures, each eight braccia in height and rive in breadth, and each having around it an ornamental border one braccio and two-thirds in width, which formed a frieze about it and was moulded on the side next the picture, containing four medallions in the form of a cross, with two Latin mottoes for each scene, and in the rest were suitable devices. Over all. right round, ran a frieze of blue baize, save where the scene was. above which was a canopy, likewise of baize, which covered the whole court. On that frieze of baize, above every painted story, were the arms of some of the most illustrious families with which the house of Medici had kinship.
Beginning with the eastern side, then, next to the stage, in the first picture, which was by the hand of Francesco Ubertini, called II Bacchiacca. was the Return from Exile of the Magnificent Cosimo de' Medici: the device consisted of two Doves on a Golden Bouqh, and the amis in the frieze were those of Duke Cosimo. In the second, which was by the same hand, was the Journey of the Magnificent Lorenzo to Naples; the device a Pelican, and the arms those of Duke Lorenzo namely, Medici and Savoy. In the third picture, painted by Pier Francesco di Jacopo di Sandro, was Pope Leo X on his visit to Florence, being carried by his fellow-citizens under the baldachin; the device was an Upright Arm, and the arms those of Duke Giuliano Medici and Savoy. In the fourth picture, by the same hand, was Biegrassa taken by Signer Giovanni, who was to be seen issuing victorious from that city; the device was Jove's Thunderbolt, and the arms in the frieze were those of Duke Alessandro Austria and Medici. In the fifth, Pope Clement was crowning Charles V at Bologna; the device was a Serpent that was biting its own tail, and the arms were those of France and Medici. That picture was by the hand of Domenico Conti, the disciple of Andrea del Sarto, who proved that he had no great ability, being deprived of the assistance of certain young men whose services he had thought to use, since all, both good and bad, were employed; wherefore he was laughed at, who, much presuming, at other times with little discretion had laughed at others. In the sixth scene, the last on that side, by the hand of Bronzino, was the Dispute that took place at Naples, before the Emperor, between Duke Alessandro and the Florentine exiles, with the River Sebeto and many figures, and this was a most beautiful picture, and better than any of the others; the device was a Palm, and the arms those of Spain.
Opposite to the Return of Cosimo the Magnificent (that is, on the other side), was the happy day of the birth of Duke Cosimo; the device was a Phoenix, and the arms those of the city of Florence namely, a Red Lily. Beside this was the Creation, or rather, Election of the same Cosimo to the dignity of Duke; the device was the Caduceus of Mercury, and in the frieze were the arms of the Castellan of the Fortress; and this scene, which was designed by Francesco Salviati, who had to depart in those days from Florence, was finished excellently well by Carlo Portelli of Loro. In the third were the three proud Campanian envoys, driven out of the Roman Senate for their presumptuous demand, as Titus Livius relates in the twentieth book of his history; and in that place they represented three Cardinals who had come to Duke Cosimo, but in vain, with the intention of removing him from the government; the device was a Winged Horse, and the arms those of the Salviati and the Medici. In the fourth was the Taking of Monte Murlo; the device an Egyptian Horn-owl over the head of Pyrrhus, and the arms those of the houses of Sforza and Medici; in which scene, painted by Antonio di Donnino, a bold painter of things in motion, might be seen in the distance a skirmish of horsemen, which was so beautiful that this picture, by the hand of a person reputed to be feeble, proved to be much better than the works of some others who were able men only by report. In the fifth could be seen Duke Alessandro being invested by his Imperial Majesty with all the devices and insignia of a Duke; the device was a Magpie, with leaves of laurel in its beak, and in the frieze were the arms of the Medici and of Toledo; and that picture was by the hand of Battista Franco the Venetian. In the last of all those pictures were the Espousals of the same Duke Alessandro, which took place at Naples; the devices were two Crows, the ancient symbols of marriage, and in the frieze were the arms of Don Pedro di Toledo, Viceroy of Naples; and that picture, which was by the hand of Bronzino, was executed with such grace, that, like the first-named, it surpassed the scenes of all the others.
By the same Aristotile, likewise, there was executed over the loggia a frieze with other little scenes and arms, which was much extolled, and which pleased his Excellency, who rewarded him liberally for the whole work. Afterwards, almost every year, he executed scenery and prospect- views for the comedies that were performed at Carnival time; and he had in that manner of painting such assistance from nature and such practice, that he had determined that he would write of it and teach others; but this he abandoned, because the undertaking proved to be more difficult than he had expected, but particularly because afterwards commissions to execute prospect-views were given by new men in authority at the Palace to Bronzino and Francesco Salviati, as will be related in the proper place. Aristotile, therefore, perceiving that many years had passed during which he had not been employed, went off to Rome to find Antonio da San Gallo, his cousin, who, immediately after his arrival, having received and welcomed him very warmly, set him to press on certain buildings, with a salary of ten crowns a month, and then sent him to Castro, where he stayed some months, being commissioned by Pope Paul III to execute a great part of the buildings there after the designs and directions of Antonio. But, because Aristotile, having been brought up with Antonio from childhood, had become accustomed to treat him too familiarly, it is said that Antonio kept him at a distance, since Aristotile had never been able to accustom himself to calling him "you," insomuch that he gave him the "thou" even if they were before the Pope, to say nothing of a circle of nobles and gentlemen, even as is still done by Florentines used to the ancient fashions and to giving the "thou" to everyone, as if they were from Norcia, without being able to accommodate themselves to modern ways of life as others do, who march step by step with the times. And how strange this circumstance appeared to Antonio, accustomed as he was to be honored by Cardinals and other great men, everyone may imagine for himself. Having therefore grown weary of his stay at Castro, Aristotile besought Antonio that he should enable him to return to Rome; in which Antonio obliged him very readily, but said to him that he must behave towards him in a different manner and with better breeding, particularly whenever they were in the presence of great persons.
One year, at the time of the Carnival, when Ruberto Strozzi was giving a banquet at Rome to certain lords, his friends, and a comedy was to be performed at his house, Aristotile made for him in the great hall a prospect-scene, which, considering the little space at his disposal, was so pleasing, so graceful, and so beautiful, that Cardinal Farnese, among others, not only was struck with astonishment at it, but caused him to make one in his Palace of S. Giorgio, where is the Cancelleria, in one of those mezzanine halls that look out on the garden; but in such a way that it might remain there permanently, so that he might be able to make use of it whenever he so wished or required. This work, then, was carried out by Aristotile with all the study in his power and knowledge, and in such a manner, that it gave the Cardinal and the men of the arts infinite satisfaction. Now the Cardinal commissioned Messer Curzio Frangipane to remunerate Aristotile ; and he, as a man of prudence, wishing to do what was right by him, but also not to overpay him, asked Perino del Vaga and Giorgio Vasari to value the work. This was very agreeable to Perino, because, feeling hatred for Aristotile, and taking it ill that he had executed that prospect-scene, which he thought should have fallen to him as the servant of the Cardinal, he was living in apprehension and jealousy, and all the more because the Cardinal had made use in those days not only of Aristotile but also of Vasari, and had given him a thousand crowns for having painted in fresco, in a hundred days, the Hall of "Parco Majori" in the Cancelleria. For these reasons, therefore, Perino intended to value that prospect-view of Aristotile's at so little, that he would have to repent of having done it. But Aristotile, having heard who were the men who had to value his prospect-view, went to seek out Perino, and at the first word, according to his custom, began to give him the "thou" to his face, for he had been his friend in youth; whereupon Perino, who had already an ill-will against him, flew into a rage and all but revealed, without noticing, the malicious thing that he had it in his mind to do. Aristotile having therefore told the whole story to Vasari, Giorgio told him that he should have no anxiety and should be of good cheer, for no wrong would be done to him.
Afterwards, Perino and Giorgio coming together to settle that affair, Perino, as the older man, began to speak, and set himself to censure that prospect-scene and to say that it was a work of a few halfpence, and that Aristotile, having received money on account and having been paid for those who had assisted him, had been overpaid, adding: "If I had been commissioned to do it, I would have done it in another manner, and with different scenes and ornaments from those used by that fellow; but the Cardinal always chooses to favour some person who does him little honor." From these words and others Giorgio recognized that Perino wished rather to avenge himself on Aristotile for the grievance that he had against the Cardinal than to ensure with friendly affection the remuneration of the talents and labours of a good craftsman; and he spoke these soft words to Perino: "Although I have not as much knowledge of such works as I might have, nevertheless, having seen some by the hands of those who know how to do them, it appears to me that this one is very well executed, and worthy to be valued at many crowns, and not, as you say, at a few halfpence. And it does not seem to me right that he who sits in his workroom drawing cartoons, in order afterwards to reproduce in great works such a variety of things in perspective, should be paid for the labor of his nights and perhaps for the work of many weeks into the bargain on the same scale as are paid the days of those who have to undergo no fatigue of the mind and hand, and little of the body, it being enough for them to imitate, without in any way racking their brains, as Aristotile has done. And if you, Perino, had executed it, as you say, with more scenes and ornaments, perhaps you might not have done it with that grace which has been achieved by Aristotile, who in that kind of painting has been esteemed with much judgment by the Cardinal to be a better master than you. Remember that in the end, by giving a wrong and unjust estimate, you do harm not so much to Aristotile as to art and excellence in general, and even more to your own soul, if you depart from what is right for the sake of some private grievance; not to mention that all who recognize the work as a good one, will censure not it but our weak judgment, and may even put it down to envy and malice in our natures. And whoever seeks to ingratiate himself with another, to glorify his own works, or to avenge himself for any injury by censuring or estimating at less than their true value the good works of others, is finally recognized by God and man as what he is, namely, as malignant, ignorant, and wicked. Consider, you who do all the work in Rome, how it would appear to you if others were to value your labors as you do theirs ? Put yourself, I beg you, in the shoes of this poor old man, and you will see how far you are from reason and justice."
Of such force were these and other words that Giorgio spoke lovingly to Perino, that they arrived at a just estimate, and satisfaction was given to Aristotile, who, with that money, with the payment for the picture sent, as was related at the beginning, to France, and with the savings from his salaries, returned joyously to Florence, notwithstanding that Michelagnolo, who was his friend, had intended to make use of him in the building that the Romans were proposing to erect on the Campidoglio. Having thus returned to Florence in the year 1547, Aristotile went to kiss the hands of the Lord Duke Cosimo, and besought his Excellency, since he had set his hand to many buildings, that he should assist him and make use of his services. And that lord, having received him graciously, as he has always received men of excellence, ordained that an allowance of ten crowns a month should be given to him, and said to him that he would be employed according as occasion might arise. With that allowance Aristotile lived peacefully for some years, without doing anything more, and then died at the age of seventy, on the last day of May in the year 1551, and was buried in the Church of the Servites. In our book are some drawings by the hand of Aristotile, and there are some in the possession of Antonio Particini; among which are some very beautiful sheets drawn in perspective.
There lived in the same times as Aristotile, and were his friends, two painters of whom I shall make brief mention here, because they were such that they deserve to have a place among these rare intellects, on account of some works executed by them that were truly worthy to be extolled. One was Jacone, and the other Francesco Ubertini, called II Bacchiacca. Jacone, then, did not execute many works, being one who lost himself in talking and jesting, and contented himself with the little that his fortune and his idleness allowed him, which was much less than what he required. But, since he was closely associated with Andrea del Sarto, he drew very well and with great boldness; and he was very fantastic and bizarre in the posing of his figures, distorting them and seeking to make them varied and different from those of others in all his compositions. In truth, he had no little design, and when he chose he could imitate the good. In Florence, when still young, he executed many pictures of Our Lady, many of which were sent by Florentine merchants into France. For S. Lucia, in the Via de' Bardi, he painted in an altarpiece God the Father, Christ, and Our Lady, with other figures, and at Montici, about a tabernacle on the corner of the house of Lodovico Capponi, he executed two figures in chiaroscuro. For S. Romeo, in an altarpiece, he painted Our Lady and two Saints.
Then, hearing once much praise spoken of the faades executed by Polidoro and Maturino at Rome, without anyone knowing about it he went off to that city, where he stayed some months and made some copies, gaining such proficience in matters of art, that he afterwards proved himself in many works a passing good painter. Wherefore the Chevalier Buondelmonte commissioned him to paint in chiaroscuro a house that he had built opposite to S. Trinita, at the beginning of the Borgo S. Apostolo; wherein Jacone painted stories from the life of Alexander the Great, very beautiful in certain parts, and executed with so much grace and design, that many believe that the designs for the whole work were made for him by Andrea del Sarto. To tell the truth, from the proof of his powers that Jacone gave in that work, it was thought that he was likely to produce some great fruits. But, since he always had his mind set more on giving himself a good time and every possible amusement, living in a round of suppers and f eastings with his friends, than on studying and working, he was for ever forgetting rather than learning. And that which was a thing to laugh at or to pity, I know not which, was that he belonged to a company, or rather, gang, of friends who, under the pretence of living like philosophers, lived like swine and brute-beasts; they never washed their hands, or face, or head, or beard; they did not sweep their houses, and never made their beds save only once every two months; they laid their tables with the cartoons for their pictures, and they drank only from the flask or the jug; and this miserable existence of theirs, living, as the saying goes, from hand to mouth, was held by them to be the finest life in the world. But, since the outer man is wont to be a guide to the inner, and to reveal what our minds are, I believe, as has been said before, that they were as filthy and brutish in mind as their outward appearance suggested.
For the festival of S. Felice in Piazza that is, the representation of the Annunciation of the Madonna, of which there has been an account in another place which was held by the Company of the Orciuolo in the year 1525, Jacone made among the outer decorations, according to the custom of those times, a most beautiful triumphal arch standing by itself, large, double, and very high, with eight columns, pilasters, and pediments; all of which he caused to be carried to completion by Piero da Sesto, a well-practised master in wood-work. On this arch, then, were painted nine scenes, part of which, the best, he executed himself, and the rest Francesco Ubertini, II Bacchiacca; and these scenes were all from the Old Testament, and for the greater part from the life of Moses. Having then been summoned by a Scopetine friar, his kinsman, to Cortona, Jacone painted two altarpieces in oils for the Church of the Madonna, which is without the city. In one of these is Our Lady with S. Rocco, S. Augustine, and other Saints, and in the other a God the Father who is crowning Our Lady, with two Saints at the foot, and in the centre is S. Francis, who is receiving the Stigmata; which two works were very beautiful. Then, having returned to Florence, he decorated for Bongianni Capponi a vaulted chamber in that city; and he executed certain others for the same man in his villa at Montici. And finally, when Jacopo da Pontormo painted for Duke Alessandro, in his villa at Careggi, that loggia of which there has been an account in his Life, Jacone helped to execute the greater part of the ornaments, such as grotesques, and other things. After this he occupied himself with certain insignificant works, of which there is no need to make mention.
The sum of the matter is that Jacone spent the best part of his life in jesting, in going off into cogitations, and in speaking evil of all and sundry. For in those days the art of design in Florence had fallen into the hands of a company of persons who paid more attention to playing jokes and to enjoyment than to working, and whose occupation was to assemble in shops and other places, and there to spend their time in criticizing maliciously, in their own jargon, the works of others who were persons of excellence and lived decently and like men of honor. The heads of this company were Jacone, the goldsmith Piloto, and the wood-carver Tasso; but the worst of them all was Jacone, for the reason that, among his other fine qualities, his every word was always a foul slander against somebody. Wherefore it was no marvel that from such a company there should have sprung in time, as will be related, many evil happenings, or that Piloto, on account of his slanderous tongue, was killed by a young man. And since their habits and proceedings were displeasing to honest men, they were generally to be found I do not say all of them, but some at least like wool-carders and other fellows of that kidney, playing at chuck-stones at the foot of a wall, or making merry in a tavern.
One day that Giorgio Vasari was returning from Monte Oliveto, a place without Florence, after a visit to the reverend and most cultured Don Miniato Pitti, who was then Abbot of that monastery, he found Jacone, with a great part of his crew, at the Canto de' Medici; and Jacone thought to attempt, as I heard afterwards, with some of his idle talk, speaking half in jest and half in earnest, to hit on some phrase insulting to Giorgio. And so, when Vasari rode into their midst on his horse, Jacone said to him: " Well, Giorgio, how goes it with you ?" "Finely, my Jacone," answered Giorgio. "Once I was poor like all of you, and now I find myself with three thousand crowns or more. You thought me a fool, and the priests and friars think me an able master. I used to be your servant, and here is a servant of my own, who serves me and looks after my horse. I used to dress in the clothes that beggarly painters wear, and here am I dressed in velvet. Once I went on foot, and now I go on horseback. So you see, my Jacone, it goes exceeding well with me. May God be with you."
When poor Jacone had heard all this recital in one breath, he lost all his presence of mind and stood confused, without saying another word, as if reflecting how miserable he was, and how often the engineer is hoist with his own petard. Finally, having become much reduced by an infirmity, and being poor, neglected, and paralysed in the legs, so that he could do nothing to better himself, Jacone died in misery in a little hovel that he had on a mean street, or rather, alley, called Codarimessa, in the year 1553.
Francesco Ubertini, called II Bacchiacca, was a diligent painter, and, although he was the friend of Jacone, he always lived decently enough and like an honest man. He was likewise a friend of Andrea del Sarto, and much assisted and favored by him in matters of art. Francesco, I say, was a diligent painter, and particularly in painting little figures, which he executed to perfection, with much patience, as may be seen from a predella with the story of the Martyrs, below the altarpiece of Giovanni Antonio Sogliani, in S. Lorenzo at Florence, and from another predella, executed very well, in the Chapel of the Crocifisso. For the chamber of Pier Francesco Borgherini, of which mention has already been made so many times, II Bacchiacca, in company with the others, executed many little figures on the coffers and the panelling, which are known by the manner, being different from the others. For the antechamber of Giovan Maria Benintendi, which likewise has been already mentioned, he painted two very beautiful pictures with little figures, in one of which, the most beautiful and the most abundant in figures, is the Baptist baptizing Jesus Christ in the Jordan. He also executed many others for various persons, which were sent to France and England. Finally, having entered the service of Duke Cosimo, since he was an excellent painter in counterfeiting all the kinds of animals, II Bacchiacca painted for his Excellency a cabinet all full of birds of various kinds, and rare plants, all of which he executed divinely well in oils. He then made, with a vast number of little figures, cartoons of all the months of the year, which were woven into most beautiful tapestries in silk and gold, with such industry and diligence that there is nothing better of that kind to be seen, by Marco, the son of Maestro Giovanni Rosto the Fleming. After these works, II Bacchiacca decorated in fresco the grotto of a water fountain that is at the Pitti Palace. Lastly, he made the designs for a bed that was executed in embroidery, all full of scenes and little figures. This is the most ornate work in the form of a bed, in such a kind of workmanship, that there is to be seen, the embroidering having been made rich with pearls and other things of price by Antonio Bacchiacca, the brother of Francesco, who is an excellent embroiderer; and, since Francesco died before the completion of the bed, which has served for the happy nuptials of the most illustrious Lord Prince of Florence, Don Francesco de' Medici, and of her serene Highness Queen Joanna of Austria, it was finished in the end after the directions and designs of Giorgio Vasari.
Francesco died at Florence in the year 1557.