Francesco di Simone Mosca, detto il Moschino. (1523 circa - Pisa 1578). Fall of Phaeton. Marble. Berlin, Staatliche Museen Preussicher Kulturbesitz, Skulpturensammlung.
FROM the times of the ancient Greek and Roman sculptors to our own, no modern carver has equaled the beautiful and difficult works that they executed in their bases, capitals, friezes, cornices, festoons, trophies, masks, candelabra, birds, grotesques, or other carved cornice work, save only Simone Mosca of Settignano, who in our own days has worked in such a manner in those kinds of labor, that he has made it evident by his genius and art that all the diligence and study of the modern carvers who had come before him had not enabled them up to that time to imitate the best work of those ancients or to adopt the good method in their carvings, for the reason that their works incline to dryness, and the turn of their foliage to spikiness and crudeness. He, on the other hand, has executed foliage with great boldness, rich and abundant in new curves, the leaves being carved in various manners with beautiful indentations and with the most lovely flowers, seeds and creepers that there are to be seen, not to speak of the birds that he has contrived to carve so gracefully in various forms among his foliage and festoons, insomuch that it may be affirmed that Simone alone 9be it said without offense to the others 9has been able to remove from the marble that hardness which craftsmen are wont very often to leave in their sculptures, and has brought his works by his handling of the chisel to such a point that they have the appearance of things real to the touch, and the same may be said of the cornices and other suchlike labors, executed by him with most beautiful grace and judgment.
This Simone, having given his attention to design in his childhood with much profit, and having then become well-practiced in carving, was taken by Maestro Antonio da San Gallo, who recognized his genius and noble spirit, to Rome, where he caused him to execute, as his first works, some capitals and bases and several friezes of foliage for the Church of San Giovanni de' Fiorentini, and some works for the Palace of Alessandro, the first Cardinal Farnese. Simone meanwhile devoting himself, particularly on feast-days, and whenever he could snatch the time, to drawing the antiquities of that city, no long time passed before he was drawing and tracing ground-plans with more grace and neatness than did Antonio himself, insomuch that, having applied himself heart and soul to the study of designing foliage in the ancient manner, of giving a bold turn to the leaves, and of perforating his works in such a way as to make them perfect, taking the best from the best examples, one thing from one and one from another, in a few years he formed a manner of composition so beautiful and so catholic, that afterwards he did everything well, whether in company or by himself.
This may be seen in some coats of arms that were to be placed in the above-named Church of San Giovanni in the Strada Giulia; in one of which coats of arms, making a great lily, the ancient emblem of the Commune of Florence, he carved upon it some curves of foliage with creepers and seeds executed so well that they made everyone gasp with wonder. Nor had any long time passed when Antonio da San Gallo 9who was directing for Messer Agnolo Cesis the execution of the marble ornaments of a chapel and tomb for himself and his family, which were afterwards erected in the year 1550 in the Church of Santa Maria della Pace 9caused part of certain pilasters and socles covered with friezes, which were going into that work, to be wrought by Simone, who executed them so well and with such beauty, that they make themselves known among the others, without my saying which they are, by their grace and perfection; nor is it possible to see any altars for the offering of sacrifices after the ancient use more beautiful and fanciful than those that he made on the base of that work. Afterwards the same San Gallo, who was superintending the execution of the mouth of the well in the cloister of San Pietro in Vincula, caused Mosca to make the borders with some large masks of great beauty.
Not long afterwards he returned one summer to Florence, having a good name among craftsmen, and Baccio Bandinelli, who was making the Orpheus of marble that was placed in the court of the Medici Palace, after having the base for that work carried out by Benedetto da Rovezzano, caused Simone to execute the festoons and other carvings therein, which are very beautiful, although one festoon is unfinished and only worked over with the gradine. Having then done many works in gray sandstone, of which there is no need to make record, he was planning to return to Rome, when in the meantime the sack took place, and he did not go after all. But, having taken a wife, he was living in Florence with little to do: wherefore, being obliged to support his family, and having no income, he was occupying himself with any work that he could obtain. Now in those days there arrived in Florence one Pietro di Subisso, a master-mason of Arezzo, who always had under him a good number of workmen, for the reason that all the building in Arezzo passed through his hands; and he took Simone, with many others, to Arezzo. There he set Simone to making a chimney-piece of gray sandstone and a water-basin of no great cost, for a hail in the house of the heirs of Pellegrino da Fossombrone, a citizen of Arezzo; which house had been formerly erected by M. Piero Geri, an excellent astrologer, after the design of Andrea Sansovino, and had been sold by his nephews.
Setting to work, therefore, and beginning with the chimney-piece, Simone placed it upon two pilasters, making two niches in the thickness of the wall, in the direction of the fire, and laying upon those pilasters architrave. frieze, and great cornice, and over all a pediment with festoons and with the arms of that family. And thus, proceeding with it, he executed it with carvings of such a kind and so well varied, and with such subtle craftsmanship, that, although that work was of gray sandstone, under his hands it became more beautiful than if it had been of marble, and more astounding; which, indeed, came to pass the more readily because that one is not as hard as marble and, if anything, rather sandy. Putting extraordinary diligence, therefore, into the work, he executed on the pilasters trophies in half relief and low relief, than which nothing more bizarre or more beautiful could be done, with helmets, buskins, shields, quivers, and various other arms; and he likewise made there masks, sea monsters, and other graceful fantasies, all so well figured and cut out that they have the appearance of silver. The frieze that is between the architrave and the great cornice he made with a most beautiful turn of foliage, all pierced through and full of birds that are executed so web, that they seem to be flying through the air; and it is a marvelous thing to see their little legs, no larger than life, and yet completely in the round and detached from the stone in such a way as one cannot believe to be possible; and, in truth, the work seems rather a miracle than a product of human art. Besides all this, he made there in a festoon some leaves and fruits so web cut out, and wrought with such delicacy and care, that in a certain sense they surpass the reality. Lastly, the work is finished off by some great masks and candelabra, which are truly most beautiful. Although Simone need not have given such care to a work of that kind, for which he was to be but poorly paid by those patrons, who could not afford much, yet, drawn by the love that he bore to art and by the pleasure that a man feels in working web, he chose to do so; but he did not do the same with the water-basin for the same patrons, for he made it beautiful enough, but simple.
At the same time he assisted Pietro di Subisso, who did not know much, to make many designs of buildings and plans of houses, doors, windows, and other things appertaining to that profession. On the Canto degli Albergotti, below the school and university of the Commune, there is a window of considerable beauty constructed after his design; and there are two of them in the house of Ser Bernardino Serragli in the Pelliceria. On the corner of the Palazzo de' Priori there is a large escutcheon of Pope Clement VII in gray sandstone, by the hand of the same master; and under his direction, and partly by his hand, was executed for Bernardino di Cristofano da Giuovi a chapel of gray sandstone in the Corinthian Order, which was erected in the Abbey of Santa Fiore, a passing handsome monastery of Black Friars in Arezzo. For this chapel the patron wished to have the altarpiece painted by Andrea del Sarto, and then by Rosso, but in this he never succeeded, seeing that, being hindered now by one thing and now by another, they were not able to serve him.
Finally Bernardino turned to Giorgio Vasari, but with him also he had difficulties, and there was much trouble in finding a way of arranging the matter, for the reason that, the chapel being dedicated to St. James and St. Christopher, he wished to have in the picture Our Lady with the Child in her arms, and also the giant St. Christopher with another little Christ on his shoulder; which composition, besides that it appeared monstrous, could not be accommodated, nor was it possible to paint a giant of six braccia in an altarpiece of four braccia. Giorgio, then, being desirous to serve Bernardino, made him a design in this manner: he placed Our Lady upon some clouds, with a sun behind her back, and on the ground he painted St. Christopher kneeling on one side of the picture, with one leg in the water, and with the other in the act of moving in order to rise, while Our Lady is placing upon his shoulders the Infant Christ with the globe of the world in His hands. In the rest of the altarpiece, also, were to be St. James and the other Saints, accommodated in such a manner that they would not have been in the way; and this design, pleasing Bernardino, would have been put into execution, but Bernardino in the meantime died, and the chapel was left in that condition to his heirs, who have not done anything more.
Now, while Simone was laboring at that chapel, there passed through Arezzo Antonio da San Gallo, who was returning from the work of fortifying Parma and was going to Loreto to finish the work of the Chapel of the Madonna, to which he had sent Tribolo, Raffaello da Montelupo, the young Francesco da San Gallo, Girolamo da Ferrara, Simone Cioli, and other carvers, masons, and stonecutters, in order to finish that which Andrea Sansovino at his death had left incomplete; and he contrived to take Simone to work there. He ordained that Simone should have charge not only of the carvings, but also of the architecture and of the other ornaments of that work; in which commissions Mosca acquitted himself very well, and, what is more, executed many things perfectly with his own hands, particularly some little boys of marble in the round, which are on the pediments of the doors; and although there are also some by the hand of Simone Cioli, the best 9-and rare indeed they are- 9are all by Mosca. He made, likewise, all the festoons of marble that are around all that work, with most beautiful artistry and carvings full of grace and worthy of all praise; wherefore it is no marvel that these works are so esteemed and admired, that many craftsmen from distant parts have set off in order to go to see them.
Antonio da San Gallo, then, recognizing how much Mosca was worth, made use of him in any undertaking of importance, with the intention of remunerating him some day when the occasion might present itself, and of giving him to know how much he loved him for his abilities. When, therefore, after the death of Pope Clement, a new Supreme Pontiff had been elected in Paul III of the Farnese family, who ordained that, the mouth of the well at Orvieto having remained unfinished, Antonio should have charge of it. Antonio took Mosca thither, to the end that he might carry that work to completion, which presented some difficulties, and particularly in the ornamentation of the doors, for the reason that, the curve of the mouth being round, convex without and concave within, those two circles conflicted with each other and caused a difficulty in accommodating the squared doors with the ornaments of stone.
But the virtue of that singular genius of Simone's solved every difficulty, and executed the whole work with such grace and perfection, that no one could see that there had ever been any difficulty. He finished off the mouth and border of the well in gray sandstone, filled in with bricks, together with some very beautiful inscriptions on white stone and other ornaments, making the doors correspond with one another. He also made there in marble the arms of the above-named Pope Paul Farnese, or rather, where they had previously been made of balls for Pope Clement, who had carried out that work, Mosca was forced 9and he succeeded excellently well 9to make lilies out of the balls in relief, and thus to change the arms of the Medici into those of the house of Farnese; notwithstanding, as I have said (for so do things go in this world), that the author of that vast, regal, and magnificent work was Pope Clement VII, of whom in this last and most imposing part no mention whatever was made.
While Simone was engaged in finishing this well, the Wardens of Works of Santa Maria, the Duomo of Orvieto, desiring to give completion to the chapel of marble that had been carried as far as the socle under the direction of Michele San Michele of Verona, with some carvings, besought Simone, whom they had come to know as a master of true excellence, that he should attend to it. Whereupon they came to terms, and Simone, liking the society of the people of Orvieto, brought his family thither, in order to live in greater comfort; and then he set himself to work with a quiet and composed mind, being greatly honored by everyone in that place. When, therefore, as it were by way of sample, he had made a beginning with some pilasters and friezes, the excellence and ability of Simone were recognized by those men, and there was assigned to him a salary of two hundred crowns of gold a year, and with this, continuing to labor, he carried that work well forward. Now in the center, to fill up the ornaments, there was to go a scene of marble in half relief, representing the Adoration of the Magi; and there was summoned at the suggestion of Simone his very dear friend Raffaello da Montelupo, the Florentine sculptor, who, as has been related, executed half of that scene in a very beautiful manner.
In the ornamentation of this chapel, then, are certain socles, each two and a half braccia in breadth, which are on either side of the altar, and upon these are pilasters five braccia high, two on either side, between which is the story of the Magi; and on the pilasters next to the story, of which two of the faces are seen, are carved some candelabra, with friezes of grotesques, masks, little figures, and foliage, which are things divine. In the predella at the foot, which runs right over the altar from pilaster to pilaster, is a little half-length Angel who is holding an inscription with his hands, with festoons over all, between the capitals of the pilasters, where the architrave, frieze and great cornice project to the extent of the depth of the pilasters. Above those in the center, in a space equal to their breadth, curves an arch that serves as an ornament to the above-named story of the Magi, and in this, namely, in the lunette, are many Angels; and above the arch is a cornice, which runs from one pilaster to another, that is, from those on the outside, which form a frontispiece to the whole work. In this part is a God the Father in half relief; and at the sides, where the arch rises over the pilasters, are two Victories in half relief. All this work, then, is so well composed, and executed with such a wealth of carvings, that one cannot have enough of examining the minute details of the perforations and the excellence of all the things that are in the capitals, cornices, masks, festoons, and candelabra in the round, which form the completion of a work truly worthy to be admired as something rare.
Simone Mosca thus dwelling in Orvieto, a son of his called Francesco, and as a bye-name il Moschino, a boy fifteen years of age, who had been produced by nature with chisels in his hand, as it were, and with so beautiful a genius, that he did with supreme grace whatsoever thing he desired to do, executed in this work under the discipline of his father, miraculously, so to speak, the Angels that are holding the inscriptions between the pilasters, then the God the Father in the pediment, as well as the Angels that are in the lunette of that work, above the Adoration of the Magi executed by Raffaello da Montelupo, and finally the Victories at the sides of the lunette; by which works he caused everyone to wonder and marvel. All this was the reason that, when the chapel was finished, Simone was commissioned by the Wardens of Works of the Duomo to make another similar to it, on the other side, to the end that the space of the Chapel of the High Altar might be suitably set off, on the understanding that the figures should be varied without varying the architecture, and that in the center there should be the Visitation of Our Lady, which was allotted to the above-named Moschino.
Then, having made an agreement about every matter, the father and son set their hands to the work; and, while they were engaged upon it, Mosca was very helpful and useful to that city, making for many citizens architectural designs of houses and many other edifices. Among other things, he executed in that city the groundplan and facade of the house of Messer Raffaello Gualtieri, father of the Bishop of Viterbo, and of Messer Felice, both noblemen and lords of great excellence and reputation; and likewise the ground-plans of some houses for the honorable Counts della Cervara. He did the same in many places near Orvieto, and made, in particular, the models of many structures and buildings for Signor Pirro Colonna da Stripicciano.
The Pope then causing the fortress to be built in Perugia where there had stood the houses of the Baglioni, Antonio da San Gallo, having sent for Mosca, gave him the charge of making the ornaments; where there were executed after his designs all the doors, windows, chimney pieces, and other suchlike things, and in particular two large and very beautiful escutcheons of his Holiness. In that work Simone formed a connection with M. Tiberio Crispo, who was Castellan there; and he was sent by M. Tiberio to Bolsena, where, on the highest point of that stronghold, overlooking the lake, he arranged a large and beautiful habitation, partly on the old structure and partly founding anew, with a very handsome flight of steps and many ornaments of stone. Nor did any long time pass before Messer Tiberio, having been made Castellan of the Castello di Sant' Angelo, caused Mosca to go to Rome, where he made use of him in many matters in renovating the apartments of that castle; and, among other things, he caused him to make over the arches that rise over the new loggia, which faces towards the meadows, two escutcheons of the above-named Pope in marble, which are so well wrought and perforated in the mitre, or rather, triple crown, in the keys, and in certain festoons and little masks, that they are marvelous.
Having then returned to Orvieto in order to finish the work of the chapel, he labored there continuously all the time that Pope Paul was alive, executing it in such a manner that it proved to be, as may be seen, no less excellent than the first, and perhaps even better. For Mosca, as has been said, bore such love to art, and took such pleasure in working, that he could never have enough of it, almost striving after the impossible, and that rather from a desire for glory than from any wish to accumulate gold, for he was more pleased to work well at his profession than to acquire property.
Finally, Julius III having been elected Pope in the year 1550, and all men thinking that work would be begun in earnest on the building of San Pietro, Mosca went off to Rome and sought to obtain at a fixed price from the superintendents of that building the commission for some capitals of marble, but more to accommodate Gian Domenico, his son-in-law, than for any other reason. Now Giorgio Vasari, who always bore love to Mosca, found him in Rome, whither he also had been summoned to the service of the Pope, and he thought that without fail he would have some work to offer him, for the reason that the old Cardinal dal Monte, when he died, had left directions with his heirs that a tomb of marble should be built for him in San Pietro a Montorio, and the above-named Pope Julius, his nephew and heir, had ordained that this should be done, and had given the charge of the matter to Vasari; and Giorgio wished that in that tomb Mosca should execute some extraordinary work in carving But, after Giorgio had made some models for that tomb, the Pope discussed the whole matter with Michelangelo Buonarroti before he would make up his mind; whereupon Michelangelo told his Holiness that he should not involve himself with carvings, saying that, although they enrich a work, they confuse the figures, whereas squared work, when it is well done, is much more beautiful than carving and is a better accompaniment for the figures, for the reason that figures do not brook other carvings about them: and even so did his Holiness order the work to be done. Wherefore Vasari was not able to give Mosca anything to do in that work, and he was dismissed; and the tomb was finished without any carvings, which made it much better than it would have been with them.
Simone having then returned to Orvieto, arrangements were made to erect after his designs, in the cross at the head of the church, two great tabernacles of marble, works truly graceful, beautiful, and well-proportioned, for one of which Raffaello da Montelupo made in marble a nude Christ with the Cross on His shoulder in a niche, and for the other Moschino made a St. Sebastian, likewise nude. Work being then continued on the execution of the Apostles for the church, Moschino made a St. Peter and a St. Paul of the same size, which were held to be creditable statues. Meanwhile the work of the above-mentioned Chapel of the Visitation was not abandoned, and it was carried so far forward during the lifetime of Mosca, that there was nothing left to do save two birds, and even these would not have been wanting, had not M. Bastiano Gualtieri, Bishop of Viterbo, as has been related, kept Simone occupied with an ornament of marble in four pieces, which, when finished, he sent to France to the Cardinal of Lorraine, who held it very dear, for it was beautiful to a marvel, all full of foliage and wrought with such diligence, that it is believed to have been one of the best that Simone ever executed.
Not long after he had finished that work, in the year 1554, Simone died, at the age of fifty-eight, to the no small loss of that church of Orvieto, in which he was buried with honor.
Francesco Moschino was then elected to his father's place by the Wardens of Works of that same Duomo, but, thinking nothing of it, he left it to Raffaello da Montelupo, and went to Rome, where he finished for M. Ruberto Strozzi two very graceful figures in marble, the Mars and Venus, namely, which are in the court of his house in the Banchi. Afterwards he executed a scene with little figures, almost in full-relief, in which is Diana bathing with her Nymphs, who changes Actaeon into a stag, and he is devoured by his own hounds; and then Francesco came to Florence, and gave the work to the Lord Duke Cosimo, whom he much desired to serve. Whereupon his Excellency, having accepted and much commended it, did not disappoint the desire of Moschino, even as he has never disappointed anyone who has sought to work valiantly in any calling. For he was attached to the Works of the Duomo at Pisa, and has labored up to the present day with great credit to himself in the Chapel of the Nunziata, formerly built by Stagio da Pietrasanta, executing the Angel and the Madonna in figures of four braccia, together with the carvings and every other thing; in the center, Adam and Eve, who have the apple-tree between them; and a large God the Father with certain little boys on the vaulting of that chapel, which is all of marble, as are also the two statues, which have gained for Moschino no little fame and honor. And since that chapel is little less than finished, his Excellency has given orders that the chapel opposite to it should be taken in hand, which is called the Chapel of the Incoronata and stands immediately at the entrance of the church, on the left hand. The same Moschino, in connection with the nuptial festivities of her most serene Majesty. Queen Joanna and the most illustrious Prince of Florence, has acquitted himself very well in those works that were given him to do.