Ruggiero saving Angelica. El Paso Museum of Art, Texas. 


Part 2 of:

Vasari's Lives of the Artists

GIROLAMO, then, called Da Carpi, who was a Ferrarese and a disciple of Benvenuto, was employed at first by his father Tommaso, who was a kind of house-painter, in his workshop, to paint strong-boxes, stools, mouldings, and other suchlike commonplace things. After Girolamo had made some proficience under the discipline of Benvenuto, he began to think that he should be removed by his father from those base labors; but Tommaso, as one who had need of money, would do nothing of the kind, and Girolamo resolved at all costs to leave him. And so he went to Bologna, where he received no little favor from the gentlemen of that city; wherefore, having made some portraits, which were passing good likenesses, he acquired so much credit that he earned much money and assisted his father more while living at Bologna than he had done when staying in Ferrara. At that time there was brought to the house of the noble Counts Ercolani at Bologna a picture by the hand of Antonio da Correggio, in which Christ is appearing to Mary Magdalene in the form of a gardener, executed with incredible softness and excellence; and that manner so took possession of Girolamo's heart, that, not content with having copied that picture, he went to Modena to see the other works by the hand of Correggio.

Having arrived there, besides being filled with marvel at the sight of them, one among them in particular struck him with amazement, and that was the great picture, a divine work, in which is the Madonna, with the Child in her arms marrying S. Catharine, a S. Sebastian, and other figures, with an air of such beauty in the heads, that they appear as if made in Paradise; nor is it possible to find more beautiful hair, more lovely hands, or any coloring more pleasing and natural. Having then received permission to copy it from the owner of the picture, Messer Francesco Grillenzoni, a doctor, who was much the friend of Correggio, Girolamo copied it with the greatest diligence that it is possible to imagine. After that he did the same with the altar-picture of S. Peter Martyr, which Correggio had painted for a Company of Secular Priests, who hold it in very great price, as it deserves, there being in it, in particular, besides other figures, an Infant Christ in the lap of His Mother, who appears as if breathing, and a most beautiful S. Peter Martyr; and another little altarpiece by the same hand, painted for the Company of S. Bastiano, and no less beautiful than the other. All these works, thus copied by Girolamo, were the reason that he so improved his manner, that it did not appear like his original manner, or in any way the same thing.

From Modena Girolamo went to Parma, where he had heard that there were some works by the same Correggio, and he copied some of the pictures in the tribune of the Duomo, considering them extraordinary works, particularly the beautiful foreshortening of the Madonna, who is ascending into Heaven, surrounded by a multitude of Angels, with the Apostles, who are standing gazing on her as she ascends, and four Saints, Protectors of that city, who are in the niches S. John the Baptist, who is holding a lamb; S. Joseph, the husband of Our Lady; S. Bernardo degli Uberti the Florentine, a Cardinal and Bishop of Florence; and another Bishop. Girolamo likewise studied the figures by the hand of the same Correggio in the recess of the principal chapel in S. Giovanni Evangelista namely, the Coronation of the Madonna, with S. John the Evangelist, the Baptist, S. Benedict, S. Placido, and a multitude of Angels who are about them; and the marvellous figures that are in the Chapel of S. Gioseffo in the Church of S. Sepolcro a divine example of panel painting.

Now, since it is inevitable that those who are pleased to follow some particular manner, and who study it with lovingness, should acquire it at least, in some degree (whence it also happens that many become more excellent than their masters) Girolamo caught not a little of Correggio's manner; wherefore, after returning to Bologna, he imitated him always, not studying other thing but that manner and that altarpiece by the hand of Raffaello da Urbino which we mentioned as being in that city. And all these particulars I heard from Girolamo da Carpi, who was much my friend, at Rome in the year 1550; and he lamented very often to me that he had consumed his youth and his best years in Ferrara and Bologna, and not in Rome or some other place, where, without a doubt, he would have made much greater proficience. No little harm, also, did Girolamo suffer in matters of art from his having given too much attention to amorous delights and to playing the lute at the time when he might have been making progress in painting.

Having returned, then, to Bologna, he made a portrait, among others, of Messer Onofrio Bartolini, a Florentine, who was then in that city for his studies, and afterwards became Archbishop of Pisa; and that head, which is now in the possession of the heirs of that Messer Noferi, is very beautiful and in a manner full of grace. There was working in Bologna at this time a certain Maestro Biaglo, a painter, who, perceiving that Girolamo was coming into good repute, began to be afraid lest he might outstrip him and deprive him of all his profits. Wherefore, seizing a good occasion, he established a friendship with Girolamo, with the intention of hindering him in his work, and became his intimate companion to such purpose, that they began to work in company; and so they continued for a while. This friendship was harmful to Girolamo, not only in the matter of his earnings, but likewise with respect to art, for the reason that he followed in the footsteps of Maestro Biagio (who worked by rule of thumb, and took everything from the designs of one master or another), and he, also, put no more diligence into his pictures.

Now in the monastery of S. Michele in Bosco, without Bologna, a certain Fra Antonio, a monk of that convent, had painted a S. Sebastian of the size of life, besides executing an altarpiece in oils for a convent of the same Order of Monte Oliveto at Scaricalasino, and some figures in fresco in the Chapel of S. Scholastica, in the garden of Monte Oliveto Maggiore, and Abbot Ghiaccino, who had compelled him to stay that year in Bologna, desired that he should paint the new sacristy of his church there. But Fra Antonio, who did not feel it in him to do so great a work, and perchance was not very willing to undergo such fatigue, as is often the case with that kind of man, so contrived that the work was allotted to Girolamo and Maestro Biagio, who painted it all in fresco. In the compartments of the vaulting they executed some little boys and Angels, and at the head, in large figures, the story of the Transfiguration of Christ, availing themselves of the design of that which Raff aello da Urbino painted for S. Pietro in Montorio at Rome; and on the other walls they painted some Saints, in which, to be sure, there is something of the good. But Girolamo, having recognized that to stay in company with Maestro Biagio was not the course for him, and, indeed, that it was his certain ruin, broke up the partnership when that work was finished, and began to work for himself.

The first work that he executed on his own account was an altarpiece for the Chapel of S. Bastiano in the Church of S. Salvadore, in which he acquitted himself very well. But then, having heard of the death of his father, he returned to Ferrara, where for a time he did nothing save some portraits and works of little importance. Meanwhile, Tiziano Vecelli went to Ferrara to execute certain things for Duke Alfonso, as will be related in his Life, in a little closet, or rather, study, where Giovanni Bellini had already painted some pictures, and Dosso a Bacchanal rout of men which was so good, that, even if he had never done any other thing, for that alone he would deserve praise and the name of an excellent painter; and Girolamo, by means of Tiziano and others, began to have dealings with the Court of the Duke. And so, as it were to give a proof of his powers before he should do anything else, he copied the head of Duke Ercole of Ferrara from one by the hand of Tiziano, and counterfeited it so well, that it seemed the same as the original; wherefore it was sent, as a work worthy of praise, into France. Afterwards, having taken a wife and had children by her, sooner, perchance, than he should have done, Girolamo painted in S. Francesco at Ferrara, in the angles of the vaulting, the four Evangelists in fresco, which were passing good figures. In the same place he executed a frieze right round the church, which was a very large and abundant work, being full of half-length figures and little boys linked together in a very pleasing manner; and for that church, also, he painted an altar picture of S. Anthony of Padua, with other figures, and another altarpiece of Our Lady in the air with two Angels, which was placed on the altar of Signora Giulia Muzzarelli, whose portrait was executed very well therein by Girolamo.

At Rovigo, in the Church of S. Francesco, the same master painted the Holy Spirit appearing in Tongues of Fire, which was a work worthy of praise for the composition and for the beauty of the heads. At Bologna, for the Church of S. Martino, he painted an altarpiece of the three Magi, with most beautiful heads and figures; and at Ferrara, in company with Benvenuto Garofalo, as has been related, the fagade of the house of Signor Battista Muzzarelli, and also the Palace of Coppara, a villa of the Duke's, distant twelve miles from Ferrara; and, again, in Ferrara, the fa$ade of Piero Soncini in the Piazza near the Fishmarket, painting there the Taking of Goletta by the Emperor Charles V. The same Girolamo painted for S. Polo, a church of the Carmelite Friars in the same city, a little altarpiece in oils of S. Jerome with two other Saints, of the size of life; and for the Duke's Palace a great picture with a figure large as life, representing Opportunity, and executed with beautiful vivacity, movement and grace, and fine relief. He also painted a nude Venus, life-size and recumbent, with Love beside her, which was sent to Paris for King Francis of France; and I, who saw it at Ferrara in the year 1540, can with truth affirm that it was very beautiful. He also made a beginning with the decorations in the Refectory of S. Giorgio, a seat of the Monks of Monte Oliveto at Ferrara, and executed a great part of them ; but he left the work unfinished, and it has been completed in our own day by Pellegrino Pellegrini, a painter of Bologna.

Now, if we were to seek to make particular mention of the pictures that Girolamo executed for many lords and gentlemen, the story would be longer than is our desire, and I shall speak of two only, which are most beautiful. From a picture by the hand of Correggio that the Chevalier Baiardo has at Parma, beautiful to a marvel, in which Our Lady is putting a shirt on the Infant Christ, Girolamo made a copy so like it that it seems the very same picture, and he made another copy from one by the hand of Parmigiano, which is in the cell of the Vicar in the Certosa at Pavia, doing this so well and with such diligence, that there is no miniature to be seen that is wrought with more subtlety; and he executed innumerable others with great care. And since Girolamo delighted in architecture, and also gave his attention to it, in addition to many designs of buildings that he made for private persons, he served in that art, in particular, Cardinal Ippolito of Ferrara, who, having bought the garden at Monte Cavallo in Rome which had formerly belonged to the Cardinal of Naples, with many vineyards belonging to individuals around it, took Girolamo to Rome, to the end that he might serve him not only in the buildings, but also in the truly regal ornaments of woodwork in that garden. In this he acquitted himself so well, that everyone was struck with astonishment; and, indeed, I know not what other man could have done better than he did in executing in woodwork which has since been covered with most beautiful verdure works so fine and so pleasingly designed in various forms and in different kinds of temples, in which there may now be seen arranged the richest and most beautiful ancient statues that there are in Rome, some whole and some restored by Valerio Cioli, a Florentine sculptor, and by others.

By these works Girolamo came into very great credit in Rome, and in the year 1550 he was introduced by the above-named Cardinal, his lord, who loved him dearly, into the service of Pope Julius III, who made him architect over the works of the Belvedere, giving him rooms in that place and a good salary. But, since that Pontiff could never be satisfied in such matters, and, to make it worse, was hindered by understanding very little of design, and would not have in the evening a thing that had pleased him in the morning, and also because Girolamo had to be always contending with certain old architects, to whom it seemed strange to see a new man of little reputation preferred to themselves, he resolved, having perceived their envy and possible malignity, and also being rather cold by nature than otherwise, to retire. And so he chose, as the better course, to return to the service of the Cardinal at Monte Cavallo; for which action Girolamo was much commended, for it is too wretched a life to have to be always contending all day long and on every least detail with one person or another, and, as he used to say, it is at times better to enjoy peace of mind on bread and water than to sweat and strive amid grandeur and honors. Wherefore, after Girolamo had executed for his lord the Cardinal a very beautiful picture, which, when I saw it, pleased me very much, being now weary, he returned with him to Ferrara, to enjoy the peace of his home with his wife and children, leaving the hopes and rewards of fortune in the possession of his adversaries, who received from that Pope the same as he had done, neither more nor less.

While he was living thus at Ferrara, a part of the Castle was burned, I know not by what mischance, and Duke Ercole gave the charge of restoring it to Girolamo, who did it very well, adorning it as much as is possible in that district, which suffers from a great dearth of stone wherewith to make carvings and ornaments; for which he well deserved to be always held dear by that lord, who rewarded him liberally for his labors. Finally, after having executed these and many other works, Girolamo died in the year 1556, at the age of fifty-five, and was buried in the Church of the Angeli, beside his wife. He left two daughters, and also three sons, Giulio, Annibale, and another.

Girolamo was a blithe spirit, very sweet and pleasing in his conversation, and in his work somewhat slow and dilatory. He was of middle stature, and he delighted beyond measure in music, and more in the pleasures of love than was perhaps expedient. The buildings of his patrons have been carried on since his death by the Ferrarese architect Galasso, a man of the most beautiful genius, and of such judgment in matters of architecture, that, in so far as may be seen from the ordering of his designs, he would have demonstrated his worth much more than he has done, if he had been employed in works of importance.

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