Bramantino. Madonna of the Towers. 1520 circa. Pinacotheca Ambrosiana, Milan.
N0W, HAVING SPOKEN in this part of our book, up to the present, of the craftsmen of design in the cities of Lombardy, it cannot but be well to say something about those of the city of Milan, the capital of that province, of whom no mention has been made here, although of some of them we have spoken in many other places in this our work. To begin, then, with Bramantino, of whom mention has been made in the Life of Piero della Francesca of the Borgo, I find that he executed many more works than I have enumerated above; and, in truth, it did not then appear to me possible that a craftsman so renowned, who introduced good design into Milan, should have executed works so few as those that had come to my notice. Now, after he had painted in Rome, as has been related, some apartments for Pope Nicholas V, and had finished over the door of S. Sepolcro, in Milan, the Christ in foreshortening, the Madonna who has Him on her lap, the Magdalene, and S. John, which was a very rare work, he painted in fresco, on a facade in the court of the Mint in Milan, the Nativity of Christ our Saviour, and, in the Church of S. Maria di Brera, in the tramezzo, the Nativity of Our Lady, with some Prophets on the doors of the organ, which are foreshortened very well to be seen from below, and a perspective-view which recedes with a beautiful gradation excellently contrived; at which I do not marvel, he having always much delighted in the studies of architecture, and having had a very good knowledge of them.
Thus I remember to have seen once in the hands of Valerio Vicentino a very beautiful book of antiquities, drawn with all the measurements by the hand of Bramantino, wherein were those of Lombardy and the groundplans of many well-known edifices, which I drew from that book, being then a lad. In it was the Temple of S. Ambrogio in Milan, built by the Lombards, and all full of sculptures and pictures in the Greek manner, with a round tribune of considerable size, but not well conceived in the matter of architecture; which temple was rebuilt in the time of Bramantino, after his design, with a portico of stone on one side, and with columns in the manner of trunks of trees that have been lopped, which have in them something of novelty and variety. There, likewise, was drawn the ancient portico of the Church of S. Lorenzo in the same city, built by the Romans, which is a great work, beautiful and well worthy of note; but the temple there, or rather, the church , is in the manner of the Goths. In the same book was drawn the Temple of S. Aquilino, which is very ancient, and covered with incrustations of marble and stucco, very well preserved, with some large tombs of granite. In like manner, there was the Temple of S. Piero in Ciel d' Oro at Pavia, in which place is the body of S. Augustine, in a tomb that is in the sacristy, covered with little figures, which, according to my belief, is by the hands of Agostino and Agnolo, the sculptors of Siena.
There, also, was drawn the tower of brick built by the Goths, which is a beautiful work, for there may be seen in it, besides other things, some figures fashioned of terracotta after the antique, each six braccia high, which have remained in passing good preservation down to the present day. In that tower, so it is said, died Boetius, who was buried in the above- named S. Piero in Ciel d' Oro, now called S. Agostino, where there may be seen, even at the present day, the tomb of that holy man, with the inscription placed there by Aliprando, who restored and rebuilt the church in the year 1222. And, besides all these, there was in that book, drawn by the hand of Bramantino himself, the very ancient Temple of S. Maria in Pertica, round in shape, and built with fragments by the Lombards; in which place now lie the bones from the slaughter of the Frenchmen and others who were routed and slain before Pavia, when King Francis I of France was taken prisoner there by the Emperor Charles V.
But let us now leave drawings on one side: Bramantino painted in Milan the facade of the house of Signor Giovan Battista Latuate, with a most beautiful Madonna, and on either side of her a Prophet. On the facade of Signor Bernardo Scacalarozzo he painted four Giants in imitation of bronze, which are reasonably good; with other works that are in Milan, which brought him credit, from his having been the first light of a good manner of painting that was seen in Milan, and the reason that after him Bramante became, on account of the good form that he gave to his buildings and perspective-views, an excellent master in the matters of architecture; for the first things that Bramante studied were the works of Bramantino. Under the direction of Bramante was built the Temple of S. Satiro, which pleases me exceedingly, for it is a very rich work, adorned both within and without with columns, double corridors, and other ornaments, with the accompaniment of a most beautiful sacristy all full of statues. But above all does the central tribune of that place merit praise, the beauty of which, as has been related in the Life of Bramante, was the reason that Bernardino da Trevio followed that method in the Duomo of Milan, and gave his attention to architecture, although his first and principal art was painting; having executed, as has been related, in a cloister of the Monastery of S. Maria delle Grazie, four scenes of the Passion in fresco, and some others in chiaroscuro.
By that Bernardino was brought forward and much assisted the sculptor Agostino Busto, called II Bambaja, of whom there has been an account in the Life of Baccio da Montelupo. Agostino executed some works in S. Marta, a convent of nuns in Milan, among which, although it is difficult to obtain leave to enter that place, I have seen the tomb of Monsignor de Foix, who died at Pavia,* [* Ravenna.] in the form of many pieces of marble, wherein are about ten scenes with little figures, carved with much diligence, of the deeds, battles, victories, and triumphant assaults on strongholds of that lord, and finally his death and burial. To put it briefly, that work is such that I, gazing at it in amazement, stood for a while marvelling that it was possible for works so delicate and so extraordinary to be done with the hand and with tools of iron; for there may be seen in that tomb, executed with the most marvellous carving, decorations of trophies, arms of every kind, chariots, artillery, and many other engines of war, and, finally, the body of that lord in armour, large as life, and almost seeming to be full of gladness, as he lies dead, at the victories that he had gained. And certainly it is a pity that this work, which is well worthy to be numbered among the most stupendous examples of the art, should be unfinished and left to lie on the ground in pieces, and not built up in some place; wherefore I do not marvel that some figures have been stolen from it, and then sold and set up in other places. The truth is that there is so little humanity, or rather, piety, to be found among men at the present day, that of all those who were benefited and beloved by De Foix not one has ever felt a pang for his memory or for the beauty and excellence of the work. By the hand of the same Agostino Busto are some works in the Duomo, and, as has been related, the tomb of the Biraghi in S. Francesco, with many others that are very beautiful in the Certosa of Pavia.
A rival of Agostino was one Cristofano Gobbo, who also executed many works in the facade of the above-named Certosa and in the church, and that so well, that he can be numbered among the best sculptors that there were in Lombardy at that time. And the Adam and Eve that are in the east front of the Duomo of Milan, which are by his hand, are held to be rare works, and such as can stand in comparison with any that have been executed by other masters in those parts.
Almost at the same time there lived at Milan another sculptor called Angelo, and by way of surname Ciciliano, who executed on the same side (of the Duomo), and of equal size, a S. Mary Magdalene raised on high by four little Angels, which is a very beautiful work, and by no means inferior to those of Cristofano. That sculptor also gave his attention to architecture, and executed, among other works, the portico of S. Celso in Milan, which was finished after his death by Tofano, called Lombardino, who, as was said in the Life of Giulio Romano, built many churches and palaces throughout all Milan, and, in particular, the convent, church, and facade of the Nuns of S. Caterina at the Porta Ticinese, with many other buildings similar to these.
Silvio da Fiesole, laboring at the instance of Tofano in the works of that Duomo, executed in the ornament of a door that faces between the west and the north, wherein are several scenes from the life of Our Lady, the scene containing her Espousal, which is very beautiful; and that of equal size opposite to it, in which is the Marriage of Cana in Galilee, is by the hand of Marco da Gra, a passing well-practised sculptor. The work of these scenes is now being continued by a very studious young man called Francesco Brambilari, who has carried one of them almost to completion, a very beautiful work, in which are the Apostles receiving the Holy Spirit. He has made, also, a drop-shaped console of marble, all in open-work, ith foliage and a group of children that are marvellous; and over that work, which is to be placed in the Duomo, there is to go a statue in marble of Pope Pius IV, one of the Medici, and a citizen of Milan.
If there had been in that place the study of those arts that there is in Rome and in Florence, those able masters would have done, and would still be doing, astonishing things. And, in truth, they are greatly indebted at the present day to the Chevalier Leone Lioni of Arezzo, who, as will be told, has spent much time and money in bringing to Milan casts of many ancient works, taken in gesso, for his own use and that of the other craftsmen.
But to return to the Milanese painters; after Leonardo da Vinci had executed there the Last Supper already described, many sought to imitate him, and these were Marco Oggioni and others, of whom mention has been made in Leonardo's Life. In addition to them, Cesare da Sesto, likewise a Milanese, imitated him very well; and, besides what has been mentioned in the Life of Dosso, he painted a large picture that is in the house of the Mint in Milan, a truly abundant and beautiful work, in which is Christ being baptized by John. By the same hand, also, in that place, is a head of Herodias, with that of S. John the Baptist in a charger, executed with most beautiful artistry. And finally he painted for S. Rocco, without the Porta Romana, an altarpiece containing that Saint as a very young man; with other pictures that are much extolled.
Gaudenzio, a Milanese painter, who in his lifetime was held to be an able master, painted the altarpiece of the high altar in S. Celso. In a chapel of S. Maria delle Grazie he executed in fresco the Passion of Jesus Christ, with figures of the size of life in strange attitudes; and then, in competition with Tiziano, he painted an altarpiece for a place below that chapel, in which, although he was very confident, he did not surpass the works of the others who had labored in that place.
Bernardino del Lupino, of whom some mention was made not very far back, painted in Milan, near S. Sepolcro, the house of Signer Gian Francesco Rabbia that is, the facade, loggie, halls, and apartments- depicting there many of the Metamorphoses of Ovid and other fables, with good and beautiful figures, executed with much delicacy. And in the Monastero Maggiore he painted all the great altar wall with different stories, and likewise, in a chapel, Christ scourged at the Column, with many other works, which are all passing good.
And let this be the end of the above-written Lives of various Lombard craftsmen.