Detail. Adoration of the Magi. 1519. Museo del Castelnuovo, Naples.

MARCO CALAVRESE [CARDISCO] (1486 circa-1542 circa)

Vasari's Lives of the Artists

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 labors 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 oils on the high-altar of the Church of S. Agostino, with a large ornamental frame, and various pictures painted with scenes 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 labors 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 facades in chiaroscuro. The same Calabrian also painted in fresco the Chapel of the Conception in the Church of the Trinita', 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 honorable family, and endowed with extraordinary nobility of spirit, as was proved when the strife of 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 honor 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,[14] took Maestro Cola, now an old man, to Citta' 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.


[14] Amatrice.

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