Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists
The same master once executed a small picture with little figures for the Cardinal of Trent, so pleasing and so beautiful that that lord made a present of it to the Emperor Charles V; and afterwards, for the same lord, he painted another of Our Lady, and with it the portrait of King Philip, which were very beautiful and therefore presented to the said Catholic King. For the above-named Cardinal Farnese he painted a little picture of Our Lady with her Son in her arms, S. Elizabeth, a young S. John, and other figures, which was sent to Ruy Gomez in Spain. In another, which the above-named Cardinal now has, he painted S. John the Baptist in the Desert, with landscapes and animals of great beauty, and another like it he executed afterwards for the same lord, for sending to King Philip; and a Pieta', which he painted with the Madonna and many other figures, was presented by the same Farnese to Pope Paul IV, who as long as he lived would always have it beside him. And a scene in which David is cutting off the head of the giant Goliath, wa presented by the same Cardinal to Madonna Margherita of Austria, who sent it to King Philip, her brother, together with another which that most illustrious lady caused Dopn Giulio to execute as a companion to it, wherein was Judith severing the head of Holofernes.
Many years ago Don Giulio stayed many months with Duke Cosimo, and during that time executed some works for him, part of which were sent to the Emperor and other lords, and part remained with his most illustrious Excellency, who, among other things, caused him to copy a little head of Christ from one of great antiaquity that his Excellency himself posseses, which once belonged to Godfrey of Bouillon, King of Jerusalem; which head, they say, is more like the true image of the Saviour than any other that there may be. Don Giulio painted for the said Lord Duke a Christ on the Cross with the Magdalene at the foot, which is a marvellous thing, and a little picture of a Pieta', of which we have the design in our book together with another, also by the hand of Don Giulio of Our Lady standing with her Son in her arms, dressed in the Jewish manner, with a choir of Angels about her, and many nude souls in the act of commending themselves to her. But to return to the Lord Duke; he has always loved dearly the excellence of Don Giulio, and sought to obtain works by his hand; and if it had not been for the regard that he felt for Farnese, he would not have let him go when he stayed some months, as I have said, in his service in Florence. The Duke, then, besides the works mentioned, has a little picture by the hand of Don Giulio, wherein is Ganymede borne to Heaven by Jove transformed into an Eagle, copied from the one that Michelangelo once drew, which is now in the possession of Tommaso de'Cavalleri, as has been told elsewhere. In like manner, the Duke has in his study a S. John the Baptist seated upon a rock, and some portraits by the same hand, which are admirable.
Don Giulio once executed a picture of a Pieta', with the Maries and other figures around for the Marchioness of Pecara, and another like it in every part for Cardinal Farnese, who sent it to the Empress, who is now the wife of Maximilian and sister of King Philip; and another little picture by the same master's hand he sent to his Imperial Majesty, in which, in a most beautiful little landscape, is S. George killing the serpent, executed with supreme diligence. But this was surpassed in beauty and design by a larger picture that Don Giulio painted for a Spanish gentleman, in which is the Emperor's Trajan, as he is seen in medals with the Province of Judea on the reverse, which picture was sent to the above-named Maximilian, now Emperor.
For the same Cardinal Farnese he has executed two other little pictures; in one is Jesus Christ nude, with the Cross in His hands, and in the other is Christ led by the Jews and accompanied by a vast multitude to Mount Calvary, with the Cross on His shoulder, and behind him Our Lady and the other Maries in attitudes full of grace, such as might move to pity a heart of stone. And in two large sheets, for a Missal, he has painted for that Cardinal Jesus Christ instructing the Apostles in the doctrine of the Holy Evangel, and the Universal Judgment--a work so beautiful, nay, so marvellous, so stupendous, that I am confounded at the thought of it; and I hold it as certain that it is not possible, I do not say to execute, but to see or even imagine anything in miniature more beautiful.
It is a notable thing that in many of these works, and particularly in the Office of the Madonna described above. Don Giulio has made some little figures not larger than very small ants, with all the members so depicted and distinguished, that more could not have been done in figures of the size of life; and that everywhere there are dispersed portraits from nature of men and women, not lesse like the reality than if they had been executed, large as life and very natural, by Tiziano or Bronzino. Besides which, in some ornaments of the borders there may be seen little figures, both made and in other manners, painted in the likeness of camels, which, marvellously small as they are, resemble in those proportions the mosg colassal giants; such is the art and surpassing diligence that Don Giulio uses in his work. Of him I have wished to give to the world this information, to the end that these may know something of him who are not or will not be able to see any of his works, from their being almost all in the hands of great lords and personages, I say almost all, because I know that some private persons have in little cases most beautiful portraits by his hand, of various lords, their friends, or ladies loved by them. But, however that may be, it is certain that the works of men such as Don Giulio are not public, not in places where they can be seen by everyone, like the pictures, sculptures, and buildings of the other masters of these arts.
At the present day Don Giulio, although he is old and does not study or attend to anything save to seeking the salvation of his soul by good and holy works and by a life wholly apart from the things of the world, and is in every way an old man, yet continues constantly to work at something, there where he lives well attended and in perfect peace in the Palace of the Farnesi, where he is most courteous in showing his work with much willingness to all who go to visit and see him, as they visit the other marvels of Rome.