Diana Mantovana. Achilles Bearing the Body of Patroclus. Print. British Museum, London.
AN EXCELLENT SCULPTOR, and likewise a Ferrarese, has been Maestro Girolamo, who, living at Recanati, has executed many works in marble at Loreto after his master, Andrea Contucci [Sansovino], and has made many of the ornaments round that Chapel or House of the Madonna. This master since the departure from that place of Tribolo, who was the last there, after he had finished the largest scene in marble, which is at the back of the chapel, wherein are the Angels carrying that house from Sclavonia into the forest of Loreto has labored there continually from 1534 to the year 1560, executing many works. The first of these was a seated figure of a Prophet of three braccia and a half, which, being good and beautiful, was placed in a niche that is turned towards the west; which statue, having given satisfaction, was the reason that he afterwards made all the other Prophets, with the exception of one, that facing towards the east on the outer side, over against the altar, which is by the hand of Simone Cioli of Settignano, likewise a disciple of Andrea Sansovino. The rest of those Prophets, I say, are by the hand of Maestro Girolamo, and are executed with much diligence and study and good skill of hand.
For the Chapel of the Sacrament the same master has made the candelabra of bronze about three braccia in height, covered with foliage and figures cast in the round, which are so well wrought that they are things to marvel at. And a brother of Maestro Girolamo's, who is an able master in similar works of casting, has executed many things in company with him at Rome, and in particular a very large tabernacle of bronze for Pope Paul III, which was to be placed in the chapel that is called the Pauline in the Palace of the Vatican.
Among the Modenese, also, there have been at all times craftsmen excellent in our arts, as has been said in other places, and as may be seen from four panel pictures, of which no mention was made in the proper place because the master was not known; which pictures were executed in distemper a hundred years ago in that city, and, for those times, they are painted with diligence and very beautiful. The first is on the high altar of S. Domenico, and the others in the chapels that are in the tramezzo of that church. And there is living in the same country at the present day a painter called Niccolo, who in his youth painted many works in fresco about the Beccherie, which have no little beauty, and for the high altar of S. Piero, a seat of the Black Friars, in an altarpiece, the Beheading of S. Peter and S. Paul, imitating in the soldier who is cutting off their heads a similar figure by the hand of Antonio da Correggio, much renowned, which is in S. Giovanni Evangelista at Parma. Niccolo' has been more excellent in fresco-painting than in the other fields of painting, and, in addition to many works that he has executed at Modena and Bologna, I understand that he has painted some very choice pictures in France, where he still lives, under Messer Francesco Primaticcio, Abbot of S. Martin, after whose designs Niccolo' has painted many works in those parts, as will be related in the Life of Primaticcio.
Giovan Battista, also, a rival of that Niccolo', has executed many works in Rome and elsewhere, and in particular he has painted at Perugia, in the Chapel of Signor Ascanio della Cornia, in S. Francesco, many pictures of the life of S. Andrew the Apostle, in which he has acquitted himself very well. In competition with the above-named Niccolo, the Fleming Arrigo. a master of glass windows, has painted in the same place an altarpiece in oils, containing the story of the Magi, which would be beautiful enough if it were not somewhat confused and overloaded with colors, which contlict with one another and destroy all the gradation; but he has acquitted himself better in a window of glass designed and painted by himself, and executed for the Chapel of S. Bernardino in S. Lorenzo, in the same city. But to return to Giovan Battista; having gone back after the above-named works to Modena, he has executed in the same S. Piero. for which Niccolo painted the altarpiece, two great scenes at the sides, of the actions of S. Peter and S. Paul, in which he has acquitted himself with no ordinary excellence.
In the same city of Modena there have also been some sculptors worthy to be numbered among the good craftsmen, for, in addition to Modanino, of whom mention has been made in another place, there has been a master called Il Modena, who has executed most beautiful works in figures of terracotta, of the size of life and even larger; among others, those of a chapel in S. Domenico at Modena, and for the centre of the dormitory of S. Piero (a monastery of Hlack Friars, likewise in Modena), a Madonna, S. Benedict, S. Giustina, and another Saint. To all these figures he has given so well the color of marble, that they appear as if truly of that stone; not to mention that they all have beautiful expressions of countenance, lovely draperies, and admirable proportions. The same master has executed similar figures for the dormitory of S. Giovanni Evangelista at Parma; and he has made a good number of figures in the round and of the size of life for many niches on the outer side of S. Benedetto at Mantua, in the facade and under the portico, which are so fine that they have the appearance of marble.
In like manner Prospero Temente, a sculptor of Modena, has been, and still is, an able man in his profession, as is evident from the tomb of Bishop Rangone, by his hand, in the Duomo of Reggio, wherein is a seated statue of that prelate, as large as life, with two little boys, all very well executed; which tomb he made at the commission of Signor Ercole Rangone. In the Duomo of Parma, likewise, in the vaults below, there is by the hand of Prospero the tomb of the Blessed Bernardo degli Uberti, the Florentine, Cardinal and Bishop of that city, which was finished in the year 1548, and much extolled.
Parma, also, has had at various times many excellent craftsmen and men of fine genius, as has been said above, for, besides one Cristofano Castelli, who painted a very beautiful altarpiece for the Duomo in the year 1499, and Francesco Mazzuoli [Parmigianino], whose Life has been written, there have been many other able men in that city. Mazzuoli, as has been related, executed certain works in the Madonna della Steccata, but left that undertaking unfinished at his death, and Giulio Romano, having made a colored design on paper, which may be seen in that place by everyone, directed that a certain Michelagnolo Anselmi, a Sienese by origin, but a citizen of Parma by adoption, being a good painter, should carry that cartoon into execution, wherein is the Coronation of Our Lady. This he did excellently well, in truth, so that he well deserved that there should be allotted to him a great niche one of four very large niches that are in that temple opposite to that in which he had executed the above-mentioned work after the design of Giulio. Whereupon, setting his hand to this, he carried well on towards completion there the Adoration of the Magi, with a good number of beautiful figures, making on the flat arch, as was related before in the Life of Mazzuoli, the Wise Virgins and the design of copper rosettes; but, when about a third of that work remained for him to do, he died, and so it was finished by Bernardo Soiaro of Cremona, as we shall relate in a short time. By the hand of that Michelagnolo is the Chapel of the Conception in S. Francesco, in the same city; and a Celestial Glory in the Chapel of the Cross in S. Pier Martire.
Girolamo Mazzuoli, the cousin of Francesco, as has been told, continuing the work in that Church of the Madonna, left unfinished by his kinsman, painted an arch with the Wise Virgins and adorned it with rosettes. Then, in the recess at the end, opposite to the principal door he painted the Holy Spirit descending in Tongues of Fire on the Apostles, and in the last of the flat arches the Nativity of Jesus Christ, which, although not yet uncovered, he has shown to us this year of 1566, to our great pleasure, since it is a truly beautiful example of work in fresco.
The great central tribune of the same Madonna della Steccata, which is being painted by Bernardo Soiaro, the painter of Cremona, will also be, when finished, a rare work, and able to compare with the others that are in that place. But of all these it cannot be said that the cause has been any other than Francesco Mazzuoli, who was the first who with beautiful judgment began the magnificent ornamentation of that church, which, so it is said, was built after the designs and directions of Bramante.
As for the masters of our arts in Mantua, besides what has been said of them up to the time of Giulio Romano, I must say that he sowed the seeds of his art in Mantua and throughout all Lombardy in such a manner that there have been able men there ever since, and his own works are every day more clearly recognized as good and worthy of praise. And although Giovan Battista Bertano, the principal architect for the buildings of the Duke of Mantua, has constructed in the Castle, over the part where there are the waters and the corridor, many apartments that are magnificent and richly adorned with stucco-work and pictures, executed for the most part by Fermo Ghisoni, the disciple of Giulio, and by others, as will be related, nevertheless he has not equalled those made by Giulio himself. The same Giovan Battista has caused Domenico Brusciasorzi to execute after his design for S. Barbara, the church of the Duke's Castle, an altarpiece in oils truly worthy to be praised, in which is the Martyrdom of that Saint. And, in addition, having studied Vitruvius, he has written and published a work on the Ionic volute, showing how it should be turned, after that author; and at the principal door of his house at Mantua he has placed a complete column of stone, and the flat module of another, with all the measurements of that Ionic Order marked, and also the palm, inch, foot, and braccio of the ancients, to the end that whoever so desires may be able to see whether those measurements are correct or not. In the Church of S. Piero, the Duomo of Mantua,which was the work and architecture of the above-named Giulio Romano, since in renovating it he gave it a new and modern form, the same Bertano has caused an altarpiece to be executed for each chapel by the hands of various painters; and two of these he has had painted after his own designs by the above-mentioned Fermo Ghisoni, one for the Chapel of S. Lucia, containing that Saint and two children, and the other for that of S. Giovanni Evangelista.
Another similar picture he caused to be executed by Ippolito Costa of Mantua, in which is S. Agata with the hands bound and between two soldiers, who are cutting and tearing away her breasts. Battista d' Agnolo del Moro of Verona painted for the same Duomo, as has been told, the altarpiece that is on the altar of S. Maria Maddalena, and Girolamo Parmigiano that of S. Tecla. Paolo Farinato of Verona Bertano commissioned to execute the altarpiece of S. Martino, and the above-named Domenico Brusciasorzi that of S. Margherita; and Giulio Campo of Cremona painted that of S. Gieronimo. And one that was better than any other, although all are very beautiful, in which is S. Anthony the Abbot beaten by the Devil in the form of a woman, who tempts him, is by the hand of Paolo Veronese. But of all the craftsmen of Mantua, that city has never had a more able master in painting than Rinaldo, who was a disciple of Giulio. By his hand is an altarpiece in S. Agnese in that city, wherein is Our Lady in the air, with S. Augustine and S. Jerome, which are very good figures; but him death snatched from the world before his time.
In a very beautiful antiquarium and study made by Signer Cesare Gonzaga, which is full of ancient statues and heads of marble, that lord has had the genealogical tree of the House of Gonzaga painted, in order to adorn it, by Fermo Ghisoni, who has acquitted himself very well in everything, and especially in the expressions of the heads. The same Signer Cesare has placed there, in addition, some pictures that are certainly very rare, such as that of the Madonna with the Cat which Raffaello da Urbino painted, and another wherein Our Lady with marvellous grace is washing the Infant Jesus. In another little cabinet made for medals, which has been beautifully wrought in ebony and ivory by one Francesco da Volterra, who has no equal in such works, he has some little antique figures in bronze, which could not be more beautiful than they are.
In short, between the last time that I saw Mantua and this year of 1566, when I have revisited that city, it has become so much more beautiful and ornate, that, if I had not seen it for myself, I would not believe it; and, what is more, the craftsmen have multiplied there, and they still continue to multiply. Thus, to that Giovan Battista Mantovano, an excellent sculptor and engraver of prints, of whom we have spoken in the Life of Giulio Romano and in that of Marc' Antonio Bolognese, have been born two sons, who engrave copper-plates divinely well, and, what is even more astonishing, a daughter, called Diana, who also engraves so well that it is a thing to marvel at; and I who saw her, a very gentle and gracious girl, and her works, which are most beautiful, was struck with amazement. Nor will I omit to say that in S. Benedetto, a very celebrated monastery of Black Friars at Mantua, renovated by Giulio Romano after a most beautiful design, are many works executed by the above-named craftsmen of Mantua and other Lombards, in addition to those described in the Life of the same Giulio. There are, then, works by Fermo Ghisoni, such as a Nativity of Christ, two altarpieces by Girolamo Mazzuoli, three by Lattanzio Gambara of Brescia, and three others by Paolo Veronese, which are the best. In the same place, at the head of the refectory, by the hand of a certain Fra Girolamo, a lay-brother of S. Dominic, as has been related elsewhere, is a picture in oils which is a copy of the very beautiful Last Supper that Leonardo painted in S. Maria delle Grazie at Milan, and copied so well, that I was amazed by it. Of which circumstance I make mention again very willingly, having seen Leonardo's original in Milan, this year of 1566, reduced to such a condition, that there is nothing to be seen but a mass of confusion; wherefore the piety of that good father will always bear testimony in that respect to the genius of Leonardo da Vinci. By the hand of the same monk I have seen in the above-named house of the Mint, at Milan, a picture copied from one by Leonardo, in which are a woman that is smiling and S. John the Baptist as a boy, counterfeited very well.
Cremona, as was said in the Life of Lorenzo di Credi and in other places, has had at various times men who have executed in painting works worthy of the highest praise. And we have already related that when Boccaccio Boccaccino was painting the great recess of the Duomo at Cremona and the stories of Our Lady throughout the church, Bonifazio Bembi was also a good painter, and Altobello executed in fresco many stories of Jesus Christ with much more design than have those of Boccaccino. After these works Altobello painted in fresco a chapel in S. Agostino of the same city, in a manner full of beauty and grace, as may be seen by everyone. At Milan, in the Corte Vecchia that is, the courtyard, or rather, piazza of the Palace he painted a standing figure armed in the ancient fashion, much better than any of the others that were executed there by many painters about the same time. After the death of Bonifazio, who left unfinished the above-mentioned stories of Christ in the Duomo of Cremona, Giovanni Antonio Licinio of Pordenone, called in Cremona De' Sacchi, finished those stories begun by Bonifazio, painting there in fresco five scenes of the Passion of Christ with a grand manner in the figures, bold coloring, and foreshortenings that have vivacity and force; all which things taught the good method of painting to the Cremonese, and not in fresco only, but likewise in oils, for the reason that in the same Duomo, placed against a pilaster in the center of the church, is an altarpiece by the hand of Pordenone that is very beautiful. Camillo, the son of Boccaccino, afterwards imitated that manner in painting in fresco the principal chapel of S. Gismondo, without the city, and in other works, and so succeeded much better than his father had done. That Camillo, however, being slow and even dilatory in his work, did not paint much save small things and works of little importance.
But he who imitated most the good manners, and who profited most by the competition of the above-named masters, was Bernardo de' Gatti, called II Soiaro, of whom mention has been made in speaking of Parma. Some say that he was of Verzelli, and others of Cremona; but, wherever he may have come from, he painted a very beautiful altarpiece for the high altar of S. Piero, a church of the Canons Regular, and in their refectory the story of the miracle that Jesus Christ performed with the five loaves and two fishes, satisfying an infinite multitude, although he retouched it so much "a secco," that it has since lost all its beauty. That master also executed under a vault in S. Gismondo, without Cremona, the Ascension of Jesus Christ into Heaven, which was a pleasing work and very beautiful in coloring. In the Church of S. Maria di Campagna at Piacenza, in competition with Pordenone and opposite to the S. Augustine that has been mentioned, he painted in fresco a S. George in armor and on horseback, who is killing the Serpent, with spirit, movement, and excellent relief. That done, he was commissioned to finish the tribune of that church, which Pordenone had left unfinished, wherein he painted in fresco all the life of the Madonna; and although the Prophets and Sibyls that Pordenone executed there, with some children, are beautiful to a marvel, nevertheless Soiaro acquitted himself so well, that the whole of that work appears as if all by one and the same hand. In like manner, some little altarpieces that he has executed at Vigevano are worthy of considerable praise for their excellence. Finally, after he had betaken himself to Parma to work in the Madonna della Steccata, the great niche and the arch that were left incomplete through the death of Michelagnolo of Siena were finished by the hands of Soiaro. And to him, from his having acquitted himself well, the people of Parma have since given the charge of painting the great tribune that is in the centre of that church, where he is now constantly occupied in executing in fresco the Assumption of Our Lady, which, it is hoped, is to prove a most admirable work.