Allegory with Lovers. 1550. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

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PARIS BORDONE (1500-1570)

Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists


NOW, ALTHOUGH MANY HAVE BEEN WITH Tiziano in order to learn, yet the number of those who can truly be called his disciples is not great, for the reason that he has not taught much, and each pupil has gained more or less knowledge according as he has been able to acquire it from the works executed by Tiziano. There has been with him, among others, one Giovanni, a Fleming, who has been a much-extolled master in figures both small and large, and in portraits marvellous, as may be seen in Naples, where he lived some time, and finally died. By his hand and this must do him honor for all time were the designs of the anatomical studies that the most excellent Andrea Vessalio caused to be engraved and published with his work. But he who has imitated Tiziano more than any other is Paris Bordone, who, born in Treviso from a father of Treviso and a Venetian mother, was taken at the age of eight to the house of some relatives in Venice. There, having learned his grammar and become an excellent musician, he went to be with Tiziano, but he did not spend many years with him, for he perceived that man to be not very ready to teach his young men, although besought by them most earnestly and invited by their patience to do his duty by them; and he resolved to leave him. He was much grieved that Giorgione should have died in those days, whose manner pleased him vastly, and even more his reputation for having taught well and willingly, and with lovingness, all that he knew; but, since there was nothing else to be done, Paris resolved in his mind that he would follow the manner of Giorgione. And so, setting himself to labor and to counterfeit the work of that master, he became such that he acquired very good credit; wherefore at the age of eighteen there was allotted to him an altarpiece that was to be painted for the Church of S. Niccolo', of the Friars Minors. Which having heard, Tiziano so went to work with various means and favors that he took it out of his hands, either to prevent him from being able to display his ability so soon, or perhaps drawn by his desire of gain.

Afterwards Paris was summoned to Vicenza, to paint a scene in fresco in the Loggia of the Piazza, where justice is administered, beside that of the Judgment of Solomon which Tiziano had previously executed; and he went very willingly, and painted there a story of Noah with his sons, which was held to be a work passing good in diligence and in design, and not less beautiful than that of Tiziano, insomuch that by those who know not the truth they are considered to be both by the same hand. Having returned to Venice, Paris executed some nudes in fresco at the foot of the bridge of the Rialto; by reason of which essay he was commissioned to paint some facades of houses in Venice. Being then summoned to Treviso, he painted there likewise some facades and other works, and in particular many portraits, which gave much satisfaction; that of the Magnificent M. Alberto Unigo, that of M. Marco Seravalle, and of M. Francesco da Quer, of the Canon Rovere, and of Monsignor Alberti. For the Duomo of that city, in an altarpiece in the center of the church, at the instance of the reverend Vicar, he painted the Nativity of Jesus Christ, and then a Resurrection. For S. Francesco he executed another altarpiece at the request of the Chevalier Rovere, another for S. Girolamo, and one for Ognissanti, with different heads of Saints both male and female, all beautiful and varied in the attitudes and in the vestments. He executed another altarpiece for S. Lorenzo, and in S. Polo he painted three chapels, in the largest of which he depicted Christ rising from the dead, the size of life, and accompanied by a great multitude of Angels; in the second some Saints with many Angels about them, and in the third Jesus Christ upon a cloud, with Our Lady, who is presenting to Him S. Dominic. All these works have made him known as an able man and a lover of his city.

In Venice, where he has dwelt almost always, he has executed many works at various times. But the most beautiful, the most remarkable and the most worthy of praise that Paris ever painted, was a scene in the Scuola of S. Marco, at SS. Giovanni e Polo, wherein is the story of the fisherman presenting to the Signoria of Venice the ring of S. Mark, with a very beautiful building in perspective, about which is seated the Senate with the Doge; among which Senators are many portraits from nature, lifelike and well painted beyond belief. The beauty of this work, executed so well and colored in fresco, was the reason that he began to be employed by many gentlemen. Thus in the great house of the Foscari, near S. Barnaba, he executed many paintings and pictures, and among them a Christ who, having descended to the Limbo of Hell, is delivering the Holy Fathers; which is held to be a work out of the ordinary. For the Church of S. Giobbe in Canal Reio he painted a most beautiful altarpiece, and for S. Giovanni in Bragola another, and the same for S. Maria della Celeste and for S. Marina.

But, knowing that he who wishes to be employed in Venice is obliged to endure too much servitude in paying court to one man or another, Paris resolved, as a man of quiet nature and far removed from certain methods of procedure, whenever an occasion might present itself, to go abroad to execute such works as Fortune might set before him, without having to go about begging. Wherefore, having made his way with a good opportunity into France in the year 1538, to serve King Francis, he executed for him many portraits of ladies and other pictures with various paintings; and at the same time he painted for Monseigneur de Guise a most beautiful church picture, and a chamber picture of Venus and Cupid. For the Cardinal of Lorraine he painted a Christ in an " Ecce Homo," a Jove with lo, and many other works. He sent to the King of Poland a picture wherein was Jove with a Nymph, which was held to be a very beautiful thing. And to Flanders he sent two other most beautiful pictures, a S. Mary Magdalene in the Desert accompanied by some Angels, and a Diana who is bathing with her Nymphs in a fount; which two pictures the Milanese Candiano caused him to paint, the physician of Queen Maria, as presents for her Highness.

At Augsburg, in the Palace of the Fugger family, he executed many works of the greatest importance, to the value of three thousand crowns. And in the same city he painted for the Prineri, great men in that place, a large picture wherein he counterfeited in perspective all the five Orders of architecture, which was a very beautiful work; and another chamber picture, which is in the possession of the Cardinal of Augsburg. At Crema he has executed two altarpieces for S. Agostino, in one of which is portrayed Signor Giulio Manfrone, representing a S. George, in full armour. The same master has painted many works at Civitale di Belluno, which are extolled, and in particular an altarpiece in S. Maria and another in S. Giose, which are very beautiful. He sent to Signor Ottaviano Grimaldo a portrait of him the size of life and most beautiful, and with it another picture, equal in size, of a very lustful woman. Having then gone to Milan, Paris painted for the Church of S. Celso an altarpiece with some figures in the air, and beneath them a very beautiful landscape, at the instance, so it is said, of Signor Carlo da Roma; and for the palace of the same lord two large pictures in oils, in one Venus and Mars under Vulcan's net, and in the other King David seeing Bathsheba being bathed by her serving women in the fount; and also the portrait of that lord and that of Signora Paola Visconti, his consort, and some pieces of landscape not very large, but most beautiful. At this same time he painted many of Ovid's Fables for the Marchese d'Astorga, who took them with him to Spain; and for Signor Tommaso Marini, likewise, he painted many things of which there is no need to make mention.

And this much it must suffice to have said of Paris, who, being seventy-five years of age, lives quietly at home with his comforts, and works for pleasure at the request of certain Princes and others his friends, avoiding rivalries and certain vain ambitions, lest he should suffer some hurt and have his supreme tranquillity and peace disturbed by those who walk not, as he says, in truth, but by dubious ways, malignantly and without charity; whereas he is accustomed to live simply and by a certain natural goodness, and knows nothing of subtleties or astuteness in his life. He has executed recently a most beautiful picture for the Duchess of Savoy, of a Venus and Cupid that are sleeping, guarded by a servant; all executed so well, that it is not possible to praise them enough. But here I must not omit to say that a kind of painting which is almost discontinued in every other place, namely, mosaic, is kept alive by the most Serene Senate of Venice. Of this the benign and as it were the principal reason has been Tiziano, who, so far as it has lain in him, has always taken pains that it should be practised in Venice, and has caused honorable salaries to be given to those who have worked at it. P>Wherefore various works have been executed in the Church of S. Marco, all the old works have been almost renewed, and this sort of painting has been carried to such a height of excellence as is possible, and to a different condition from that in which it was in Florence and Rome at the time of Giotto, Alesso Baldovinetti, the Ghirlandaio family, and the miniaturist Gherardo. And all that has been done in Venice has come from the design of Tiziano and other excellent painters, who have made drawings and colored cartoons to the end that the works might be carried to such perfection as may be seen in those of the portico of S. Marco, where in a very beautiful niche there is a Judgment of Solomon so lovely, that in truth it would not be possible to do more with colors.

In the same place is the genealogical tree of Our Lady by the hand of Lodovico Rosso, all full of Sibyls and Prophets executed in a delicate manner and put together very well, with a relief that is passing good. But none have worked better in this art in our times than Valerio and Vincenzio Zuccheri of Treviso, by whose hands are stories many and various that may be seen in S. Marco, and in particular that of the Apocalypse, wherein around the Throne of God are the Four Evangelists in the form of animals, the Seven Candlesticks, and many other things executed so well, that, looking at them from below, they appear as if done in oil colors with the brush; besides that there may be seen in their hands and about them little pictures full of figures executed with the greatest diligence, insomuch that they have the appearance not of paintings only, but of miniatures, and yet they are made of stones joined together.

There are also many portraits; the Emperor Charles V, Ferdinand his brother, who succeeded him in the Empire, and Maximilian, son of Ferdinand and now Emperor; likewise the head of the most illustrious Cardinal Bembo, the glory of our age, and that of the Magnificent . . . ; [sic] all executed with such diligence and unity, and so well harmonized in the lights, flesh-colors, tints, shadows, and every other thing, that there is nothing better to be seen, nor any more beautiful work in a similar material. And it is in truth a great pity that this most excellent art of working in mosaic, with its beauty and everlasting life, is not more in use than it is, and that, by the fault of the Princes who have the power, no attention is given to it.

In addition to those named above, there has worked in mosaic at S. Marco, in competition with the Zuccheri, one Bartolommeo Bozzato, who also has acquitted himself in his works in such a manner as to deserve undying praise. But that which has been of the greatest assistance to all in this art, is the presence and advice of Tiziano; of whom, besides the men already named and many more, another disciple, helping him in many works, has been one Girolamo, whom I know by no other name than Girolamo di Tiziano.



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