Bernardo Buontalenti. Costume Designs. 1589. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

On the Academy of Design

Part 2: Painters and the Foreign Members of the Academy of Design

Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists

On to Part 3: Sculptors and Other Artists

Not inferior to any of these named above in talent, art, and merit, is Maso Manzuoli, called Maso da San Friano, a young man of about thirty or thirty-two years, who had his first principles from Pier Francesco di Jacopo di Sandro, one of our Academicians, of whom we have spoken in another place. This Maso, I say, besides having shown how much he knows and how much may be expected of him in many pictures and smaller paintings, has demonstrated this recently in two altar-pictures with much honor to himself and full satisfaction to everyone, having displayed in them invention, design, manner, grace, and unity in the coloring. In one of these altarpieces, which is in the Church of SantU Apostolo at Florence, is the Nativity of Jesus Christ, and in the other, which is placed in the Church of San Pietro Maggiore, and is as beautiful as an old and well-practiced master could have made it, is the Visitation of Our Lady to St. Elizabeth, executed with judgment and with many fine considerations, insomuch that the heads, the draperies, the attitudes, the buildings, and all the other parts are full of loveliness and grace. This man acquitted himself with no ordinary excellence in the obsequies of Buonarroti, as an Academician and very loving, and then in some scenes for the nuptials of Queen Joanna.

Now, since not only in the Life of Ridolfo Ghirlandaio I have spoken of his disciple Michele and of Carlo da Loro, but also in other places, I shall say nothing more of them here, although they are of our Academy, enough having been said of them. But I will not omit to tell that other disciples and pupils of Ghirlandaio have been Andrea del Minga, likewise one of our Academicians, who has executed many works, as he still does; Girolamo di Francesco Crocifissaio, a young man of twenty-six, and Mirabelilo di Salincorno, both painters, who have done and continue to do such works of painting in oils and in fresco, and also portraits, that a most honorable result may be expected from them. These two executed together, now several years ago, some pictures in fresco in the Church of the Capuchins without Florence, which are passing good; and in the obsequies of Michelangelo and the above-mentioned nuptials, also they did themselves much honor. Mirabello has painted many portraits, and in particular that of the most illustrious Prince more than once, and many others that are in the hands of various gentlemen of Florence.

Another, also, who has done much honor to our Academy and to himself, is Federigo di Lamberto of Amsterdam, a Fleming, the son-in-law of the Paduan Cartaro, working in the said obsequies and in the festive preparations for the nuptials of the Prince, and besides this he has shown in many pictures painted in oils, both large and small, and in other works that he has executed, a good manner and good design and judgment. And if he has merited praise up to the present, he will merit even more in the future, for he is laboring constantly with much advantage in Florence, which he appears to have chosen as his country, that city being one where young men derive much benefit from competition and emulation.

A beautiful genius, also, universal and abundant in fine fantasies, has been shown by Bernardo Timante Buontalenti, who had his first principles of painting in his youth from Vasari, and then, continuing, has made so much proficiency that he has now served for many years, and still serves with much favor, the most illustrious Lord Don Francesco deU Medici, Prince of Florence. That lord has kept him continually at work; and he has executed for his Excellency many works in miniature after the manner of Don Giulio Clovio, such as many portraits and scenes with little figures, painted with much diligence. The same Bernardo has made with a beautiful architectural design, by order of the said Prince, a cabinet with compartments of ebony and columns of heliotrope, oriental jasper, and lapis lazuli, which have bases and capitals of chased silver; and besides this he has filled the whole surface of the work with jewels and most lovely ornaments of silver and beautiful little figures, within which ornaments are to be miniatures, and, between terminals placed in pairs, figures of silver and gold in the round, separated by other compartments of agate, jasper, heliotrope, sardonyx, cornelian, and others of the finest stones, to describe all which here would make a very long story.

It is enough that in this work, which is near completion, Bernardo has displayed a most beautiful genius, equal to any work. Thus that lord makes use of him for many ingenious fantasies of his own of cords for drawing weights, of windlasses, and of lines; besides that he has discovered a method of fusing rock-crystal with ease and of purifying it, and has made with it scenes and vases of several colors; for Bernardo occupies himself with everything. This, also, will be seen in a short time in the making of vases of porcelain with all the perfection of the most ancient and most perfect; in which at the present day a most excellent master is Giulio da Urbino, who is in the service of the most illustrious Duke Alfonso II of Ferrara, and does stupendous things in the way of vases with several kinds of clay, and to those in porcelain he gives the most beautiful shapes, besides fashioning with the same earth little squares, octagons, and rounds, hard and with an extraordinary polish, for making pavements counterfeiting the appearance of variegated marbles; of all which things our Prince has the methods of making them.

His Excellency has also caused a beginning to be made with the executing of a study-table with precious stones, richly adorned, as an accompaniment to another belonging to his father, Duke Cosimo. And not long ago he had one finished after the design of Vasari, which is a rare work, being of oriental alabaster all inlaid with great pieces of jasper, heliotrope, cornelian, lapis lazuli, and agate, with other stones and jewels of price that are worth twenty thousand crowns. This study-table has been executed by Bernardino di Porfirio of Leccio in the neighborhood of Florence, who is excellent in such work, and who made for Messer Bindo Altoviti an octagon of ebony and ivory inlaid likewise with jaspers, after the design of the same Vasari; which Bernardino is now in the service of their Excellencies. But to return to Bernardo: in painting, also, beyond the expectation of many, he showed that he is able to execute large figures no less well than the small, when he painted for the obsequies of Michelangelo that great canvas of which we have spoken.

Bernardo was employed, also, with much credit to him, for the nuptials of his and our Prince, in certain masquerades, in the Triumph of Dreams, as will be told, and in the interludes of the comedy that was performed in the Palace, as has been described exhaustively by others. And if this man, when he was a youth (although even now he is not past thirty), had given his attention to the studies of art as he gave it to the methods of fortification, in which he spent no little time, he would be perchance now at such a height of excellence as would astonish everyone; none the less, it is believed that he is bound for all that to achieve the same end, although something later, for the reason that he is all genius and art, to which is added this also, that he is continually employed and exercised by his sovereign, and in the most honorable works.

Of our Academy, also, is Giovanni della Strada, a Fleming, who has good design, the finest fantasy, much invention, and a good manner of coloring; and, having made much proficience during the ten years that he has worked in the Palace in distemper, fresco, and oils, after the designs and directions of Giorgio Vasari, he can bear comparison with any of the many painters that the said Lord Duke has in his service. But at the present day the principal task of this man is to make cartoons for various arras-tapestries that the Duke and the Prince are having executed, likewise under the direction of Vasari, of divers kinds in accordance with the stories in painting that are on high in the rooms and chambers painted by Vasari in the Palace, for the adornment of which they are being made, to the end that the embellishment of tapestries below may correspond to the pictures above. For the chambers of Saturn, Ops, Ceres, Jove, and Hercules, he has made most lovely cartoons for about thirty pieces of tapestry; and for the upper chambers where the Princess has her habitation, which are four, dedicated to the virtues of woman, with stories of Roman, Hebrew, Greek, and Tuscan women (namely, the Sabines, Esther, Penelope, and Gualdrada), he has made, likewise, very beautiful cartoons for tapestries.

In like manner, he has done the same for ten pieces of tapestry in a hall, in which is the Life of Man; and also for the five lower rooms where the Prince dwells, dedicated to David, Solomon, Cyrus, and others. And for twenty rooms in the Palace of Poggio a Caiano, for which the tapestries are even now being woven, he has made after the inventions of the Duke cartoons of the hunting of every kind of animal, and the methods of fowling and fishing, with the strangest and most beautiful inventions in the world; in which variety of animals, birds, fishes, landscapes, and vestments, with huntsmen on and on horseback, fowlers in various habits, and nude fishermen, he has shown and still shows that he is a truly able man, and that he has learned well the Italian manner, being minded to live and die in Florence in the service of his most illustrious lords, in company with Vasari and the other Academicians.

Another pupil of Vasari, likewise, and also an Academician, is Jacopo di Maestro Piero Zucca, a young Florentine of twenty-five or twenty-six years, who, having assisted Vasari to execute the greater part of the works in the Palace, and in particular the ceiling of the Great Hall, has made so much proficience in design and in the handling of colors, laboring with much industry, study, and assiduity, that he can now be numbered among the first of the young painters in our Academy. And the works that he has done by himself alone in the obsequies of Michelangelo, in the nuptials of the most illustrious Lord Prince, and at other times for various friends, in which he has shown intelligence, boldness, diligence, grace, and good judgment, have made him known as a gifted youth and an able painter; but even more will those make him known that may be expected from him in the future, doing as much honor to his country as has been done to her by any painter at any time.

In like manner, among other young painters of the Academy, Santi Titi may be called ingenious and able, who, as has been told in other places, after having practiced for many years in Rome, has returned finally to enjoy Florence, which he regards as his country, although his elders are of Borgo a San Sepolcro and of a passing good family in that city. This Santi acquitted himself truly excellently in the works that he executed for the obsequies of Buonarroti and the above-mentioned nuptials of the most illustrious Princess, but even more, after great and almost incredible labors, in the scenes that he painted in the theater which he made for the same nuptials on the Piazza di San Lorenzo, for the most illustrious Lord Paolo Giordano Orsino, Duke of Bracciano; wherein he painted in chiaroscuro, on several immense pieces of canvas, stories of the actions of various illustrious men of the Orsini family.

But how able he is can be perceived best from two altarpieces by his hand that are to be seen, one of which is in Ognissanti, or rather, San Salvadore di Fiorenza (as it is now called), once the church of the Padri Umiliati, and now of the Zoccolanti, and contains the Madonna on high and at the foot St. John, St. Jerome, and other Saints; and in the other, which is in San Giuseppe, behind Santa Croce, in the Chapel of the Guardi, is a Nativity of Our Lord executed with much diligence, with many portraits from life. Not to speak of many pictures of Our Lady and various portraits that he has painted in Rome and in Florence, and pictures executed in the Vatican, as has been related above.

There are also certain other young painters of the same Academy who have been employed in the above-mentioned decorations, some of Florence and some of the Florentine States. Alessandro del Barbiere, a young Florentine of twenty-five, besides many other works, painted for the said nuptials in the Palace, after the designs and directions of Vasari, the canvases of the walls in the Great Hall, wherein were depicted the squares of all the cities in the dominion of the Lord Duke; in which he certainly acquitted himself very well, and proved himself a young man of judgment and likely to achieve any success. In like manner, Vasari has been assisted in these and other works by many other disciples and friends; Domenico Benci, Alessandro Fortori of Arezzo, his cousin Stefano Veltroni, and Orazio Porta, both of Monte Sansovino, and Tommaso del Verrocchio.

In the same Academy there are also many excellent craftsmen who are foreigners, of whom we have spoken at length in various places above; and therefore it shall suffice here to make known their names, to the end that they may be numbered in this part among the other Academicians. These, then, are Federigo Zucchero; Prospero Fontana and Lorenzo Sabatini, of Bologna; Marco da Faenza, Tiziano Vecelli, Paolo Veronese, Giuseppe Salviati, Tintoretto, Alessandro Vittoria, the sculptor Danese [Cattaneo], the painter Battista Farinato of Verona, and the architect Andrea Palladio.

On to Part 3: Sculptors and Other Artists of the Academy

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