Detail. Lorenzetto. Jonah from the Chigi Chapel, Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome. 1519/1520. Marble.
Vasari's Lives of the Artists
IT HAPPENS AT TIMES, after Fortune has kept the talent of some fine intellect subjected for a period by poverty, that she thinks better of it, and at an unexpected moment provides all sorts of benefits for one who has hitherto been the object of her hatred, so as to atone in one year for the affronts and discomforts of many. This was seen in Lorenzo, the son of Lodovico the bell-founder, a Florentine, who was engaged in the work both of architecture and of sculpture, and was loved so dearly by Raffaello da Urbino, that he not only was assisted by him and employed in many enterprises, but also received from the same master a wife in the person of a sister of Giulio Romano, a disciple of Raffaello.
Lorenzetto--for thus he was always called--finished in his youth the tomb of Cardinal Forteguerra, formerly begun by Andrea Verrocchio, which was erected in San Jacopo at Pistoia; and there, among other things, is a Charity by the hand of Lorenzetto, which is not otherwise than passing good. And a little afterwards he made a figure for Giovanni Bartolini, to adorn his garden; which finished, he went to Rome, where in his first years he executed many works, of which there is no need to make any further record. Then, receiving from Agostino Chigi, at the instance of Raffaello da Urbino, the commission to make a tomb for him in Santa Maria del Popolo, where Agostino had built a chapel, Lorenzo set himself to work on this with all the zeal, diligence, and labor in his power, in order to come out of it with credit and to give satisfaction to Raffaello, from whom he had reason to expect much favor and assistance, and also in the hope of being richly rewarded by the liberality of Agostino, a man of great wealth. Nor were these labors expended without an excellent result, for, assisted by Raffaello, he executed the figures to perfection: a nude Jonah delivered from the belly of the whale, as a symbol of the resurrection from the dead, and an Elijah, living by grace, with his cruse of water and his bread baked in the ashes, under the juniper-tree.
These statues, then, were brought to the most beautiful completion by Lorenzetto with all the art and diligence at his command, but he did not by any means obtain for them that reward which his great labors and the needs of his family called for, since, death having closed the eyes of Agostino, and almost at the same time those of Raffaello, the heirs of Agostino, with scant respect, allowed these figures to remain in Lorenzetto's workshop, where they stood for many years. In our own day, indeed, they have been set into place on that tomb in the aforesaid Church of Santa Maria del Popolo; but Lorenzo, robbed for those reasons of all hope, found for the present that he had thrown away his time and labor.
Next, by way of executing the testament of Raffaello, Lorenzo was commissioned to make a marble statue of Our Lady, four braccia high, for the tomb of Raffaello in the Temple of Santa Maria Ritonda, where the tabernacle was restored by order of that master. The same Lorenzo made a tomb with two children in half relief, for a merchant of the Perini family, in the Trinita at Rome. And in architecture he made the designs for many houses; in particular, that of the Palace of Messer Bernardino Caffarelli, and in the Valle, for Cardinal Andrea della Valle, the inner facade, and also the design of the stables and of the upper garden. In the composition of that work he included ancient columns, bases, and capitals, and around the whole, to serve as base, he distributed ancient sarcophagi covered with carved scenes. Higher up, below some large niches, he made another frieze with fragments of ancient works, and above this, in those niches, he placed some statues, likewise ancient and of marble, which, although they were not entire-some being with out the head, some without arms, others without legs, and every one, in short, with something missing--nevertheless he arranged to the best advantage, having caused all that was lacking to be restored by good sculptors.
This was the reason that other lords have since done the same thing and have restored many ancient works; as, for example, Cardinals Cesis, Ferrara, and Farnese, and, in a word, all Rome. And, in truth, antiquities restored in this way have more grace than those mutilated trunks, members without heads, or figures in any other way maimed and defective. But to return to the aforesaid garden: over the niches was placed the frieze that is still seen there, of supremely beautiful ancient scenes in half-relief; and this invention of Lorenzo's stood him in very good stead, since, after the troubles of Pope Clement had abated, he was employed by him with much honor and profit to himself. For the Pope had seen, when the fight for the Castello di SantU Angelo was raging, that two little chapels of marble, which were at the head of the bridge, had been a source of mischief, in that some harquebusiers, stand ing in them, shot down all who exposed themselves at the walls, and, themselves in safety, inflicted great losses and baulked the defence; and his Holiness resolved to remove those chapels and to set up in place of them two marble statues on pedestals. And so, after the St. Paul of Paolo Romano, of which there has been an account in another Life, had been set in place, the commission for the other, a St. Peter, was given to Lorenzetto, who acquitted himself passing well, but did not surpass the work of Paolo Romano. These two statues were set up, and are to be seen at the present day at the head of the bridge.
After Pope Clement was dead, Baccio Bandinelli was given the commissions missions for the tombs of that Pope and of Leo X, and Lorenzo was entrusted with the marble masonry that was to be executed for them; whereupon the latter spent no little time over that work. Finally, at the election of Paul III as Pontiff, when Lorenzo was in sorry straits and almost worn out, having nothing but a house which he had built for himself in the Macello de' Corbi, and being weighed down by his five children and by other expenses, Fortune changed and began to raise him and to set him back on a better path; for Pope Paul wishing to have the building of San Pietro continued, and neither Baldassarre of Siena nor any of the others who had been employed in that work being now alive, Antonio da San Gallo appointed Lorenzo as architect for that structure, wherein the walls were being built at a fixed price of so much for every four braccia. Thereupon Lorenzo, without exerting himself, in a few years became more famous and prosperous than he had been after many years of endless labor, through having found God, mankind, and Fortune all propitious at that one moment. And if he had lived longer, he would have done even more towards wiping out those injuries that a cruel fate had unjustly brought upon him during his best period of work. But after reaching the age of forty-seven, he died of fever in the year 1541.
The death of this master caused great grief to his many friends, who had always known him as a loving and reasonable man. And since he had always lived like an upright and orderly citizen, the Deputati of San Pietro gave him honorable burial in a tomb, on which they placed the following epitaph:
SCULPTORI LAURENTIO FLORENTINO ROMA MIHI TRIBUIT TUMULUM, FLORENTIA VITAM: NEMO ALIO VELLET NASCI ET OBIRE LOCO. MDXLI VIX.AN N. XLVII, MEN. II, D. XV.
Boccaccino of Cremona, who lived about the same time, had acquired the name of a rare and excellent painter in his native place and through out all Lombardy, and his works were very highly extolled, when he went to Rome to see the works, so much renowned, of Michelangelo; but no sooner had he seen them than he sought to the best of his power to disparage and revile them, believing that he could exalt himself almost exactly in proportion as he vilified a man who truly was in the matters of design, and indeed in all others without exception, supremely excellent. This master, then, was commissioned to paint the Chapel of Santa Maria Traspontina; but when he had finished it and thrown it open to view, it was a revelation to all those who thought that he would soar above the heavens, for they saw that he could not reach even to the level of the lowest floor of a house. And so the painters of Rome, on seeing the Coronation of Our Lady that he had painted in that work, with some children flying around her, changed from marvel to laughter.
From this it may be seen that when people begin to exalt with their praise men who are more excellent in name than in deeds, it is a difficult thing to contrive to bring such men down to their true level with words, however reasonable, before their own works, wholly contrary to their reputation, reveal what the masters so celebrated really are. And it is a very certain fact that the worst harm that one man can do to another is the giving of praise too early to any intellect engaged in work , since such praise, swelling him with premature pride, prevents him from going any farther, and a man so greatly extolled, on finding that his works have not that excellence which was expected, takes the censure too much to heart, and despairs completely of ever being able to do good work. Wise men, therefore, should fear praise much more than censure, for the first flatters and deceives, and the second, revealing the truth, gives instruction.
Boccaccino, then, departing from Rome, where he felt himself wounded and torn to pieces, returned to Cremona, and there continued to practice painting to the best of his power and knowledge. In the Duomo, over the arches in the middle, he painted all the stories of the Madonna; and this work is much esteemed in that city. He also made other works throughout that city and in the neighborhood, of which there is no need to make mention.
He taught his art to a son of his own, called Camillo, who, applying himself to the art with more study, strove to make amends for the shortcomings of the boastful Boccaccino. By the hand of this Camillo are some works in San Gismondo, which is a mile distant from Cremona; and these are esteemed by the people of Cremona as the best paintings that they have. He also painted the facade of a house on their Piazza, all the compartments of the vaulting and some panels in Sant' Agata, and the facade of Sant' Antonio, together with other works, which made him known as a practiced master. If death had not snatched him from the world before his time, he would have achieved a most honorable success, for he was advancing on the good way; and even for those works that he has left to us, he deserves to have record made of him.
But returning to Boccaccino; without having ever made any improvement in his art, he passed from this life at the age of fifty-eight. In his time there lived in Milan a passing good illuminator, called Girolamo, whose works may be seen in good numbers both in that city and throughout all Lombardy. A Milanese, likewise, living about the same time, was Bernardino del Lupino, a very delicate and pleasing painter, as may be seen from many works by his hand that are in that city , and from a Marriage of Our Lady at Sarone, a place twelve miles distant from Milan, and other scenes that are in the Church of Santa Maria, executed most perfectly in fresco. He also worked with a very high finish in oils, and he was a courteous person, and very liberal with his possessions wherefore he deserves all the praise that is due to any craftsman who makes the works and ways of his daily life shine by the adornment of courtesy no less than do his works of art on account of their excellence.