Giovan Francesco Penni. Madonna with the Blue Diadem. Circa 1518. Louvre, Paris.
GIOVAN FRANCESCO PENNI, called Il Fattore, a painter of Florence, was no less indebted to Fortune than he was to the goodness of his own nature, in that his ways of life, his inclination for painting, and his other qualities brought it about that Raffaello da Urbino took him into his house and educated him together with Giulio Romano, looking on both of them ever afterwards as his children, and proving at his death how much he thought both of the one and of the other by leaving them heirs to his art and to his property alike. Now Giovan Francesco, who began from his boyhood, when he first entered the house of Raffaello, to be called Il Fattore, and always retained that name, imitated in his drawings the manner of Raffaello, and never ceased to follow it, as may be perceived from some drawings by his hand that are in our book. And it is nothing wonderful that there should be many of these to be seen, all finished with great diligence, because he delighted much more in drawing than in coloring.
The first works of Giovan Francesco were executed by him in the Papal Loggie at Rome, in company with Giovanni da Udine, Perino del Vaga, and other excellent masters; and in these may be seen a marvellous grace, worthy of a master striving at perfection of workmanship. He was very versatile, and he delighted much in making landscapes and buildings. He was a good colourist in oils, in fresco, and in distemper, and made excellent portraits from life; and he was much assisted in every respect by nature, so that he gained great mastery over all the secrets of art without much study. He was a great help to Raffaello, therefore, in painting a large part of the cartoons for the tapestries of the Pope's Chapel and of the Consistory, and particularly the ornamental borders. He also executed many other things from the cartoons and directions of Raffaello, such as the ceiling for Agostino Chigi in the Trastevere, with many pictures, panels, and various other works, in which he acquitted himself so well, that every day he won greater affection from Raffaello. On the Monte Giordano, in Rome, he painted a faŤade in chiaroscuro, and in S. Maria de Anima, by the side-door that leads to the Pace, a S. Christopher in fresco, eight braccia high, which is a very good figure; and in this work is a hermit with a lantern in his hand, in a grotto, executed with good draughtsmanship, harmony, and grace.
Giovan Francesco then came to Florence, and painted for Lodovico Capponi at Montughi, a place without the Porta a San Gallo, a shrine with a Madonna, which is much extolled.Raffaello having meanwhile been overtaken by death, Giulio Romano and Giovan Francesco, who had been his disciples, remained together for a long time, and finished in company such of Raffaello's works as had been left unfinished, and in particular those that he had begun in the Vigna of the Pope, and likewise those of the Great Hall in the Palace, wherein are painted by the hands of these two masters the stories of Constantine, with excellent figures, executed in an able and beautiful manner, although the invention and the sketches of these stories came in part from Raffaello. While these works were in progress, Perino del Vaga, a very excellent painter, took to wife a sister of Giovan Francesco; on which account they executed many works in company. And afterwards Giulio and Giovan Francesco, continuing to work together, painted a panel in two parts, containing the Assumption of Our Lady, which went to Monteluci, near Perugia; and also other works and pictures for various places.
Then, receiving a commission from Pope Clement to paint a panel-picture like the one by Raffaello (which is in S. Pietro a Montorio), which was to be sent to France, whither Raffaello had meant to send the first, they began it; but soon afterwards, having fallen out with each other, they divided their inheritance of drawings and everything else left to them by Raffaello, and Giulio went off to Mantua, where he executed an endless number of works for the Marquis. Thither, not long afterwards, Giovan Francesco also made his way, drawn either by love of Giulio or by the hope of finding work; but he received so cold a welcome from Giulio that he soon departed, and, after travelling round Lombardy, he returned to Rome. And from Rome he went to Naples by ship in the train of the Marchese del Vasto, taking with him the now finished copy of the panel-picture of S. Pietro a Montorio, with other works, which he left in Ischia, an island belonging to the Marquis, while the panel was placed where it is at the present day, in the Church of S. Spirito degli Incurabili at Naples. Having thus settled in Naples, where he occupied himself with drawing and painting, Giovan Francesco was entertained and treated with great kindness by Tommaso Cambi, a Florentine merchant, who managed the affairs of that nobleman. But he did not live there long, because, being of a sickly habit of body, he fell ill and died, to the great grief of the noble Marquis and of all who knew him.
He had a brother called Luca, likewise a painter, who worked in Genoa with his brother-in-law Perino, as well as at Lucca and many other places in Italy. In the end he went to England, where, after executing certain works for the King and for some merchants, he finally devoted himself to making designs for copper-plates for sending abroad, which he had engraved by Flemings. Of such he sent abroad a great number, which are known by his name as well as by the manner; and by his hand, among others, is a print wherein are some women in a bath, the original of which, by the hand of Luca himself, is in our book.
A disciple of Giovan Francesco was Leonardo, called Il Pistoia because he came from that city, who executed some works at Lucca, and made many portraits from life in Rome. At Naples, for Diomede Caraffa, Bishop of Ariano, and now a Cardinal, he painted a panel-picture of the Stoning of S. Stephen for his chapel in S. Domenico. And for Monte Oliveto he painted another, which was placed on the high-altar, although it was afterwards removed to make room for a new one, similar in subject, by the hand of Giorgio Vasari of Arezzo. Leonardo earned large sums from these Neapolitan nobles, but he accumulated little, for he squandered it all as it came to his hand; and finally he died in Naples, leaving behind him the reputation of having been a good colorist, but not of having shown much excellence in draughtsmanship.
Giovan Francesco lived forty years, and his works date about 1528.
A friend of Giovan Francesco, and likewise a disciple of Raffaello, was Pellegrino da Modena, who, having acquired in his native city the name of a man of fine genius for painting, and having heard of the marvels of Raffaello da Urbino, determined, in order to justify by means of labour the hopes already conceived of him, to go to Rome. Arriving there, he placed himself under Raffaello, who never refused anything to men of ability. There were then in Rome very many young men who were working at painting and seeking in mutual rivalry to surpass one another in draughtsmanship, in order to win the favour of Raffaello and to gain a name among men; and thus Pellegrino, giving unceasing attention to his studies, became not only a good draughtsman, but also a well-practised master of the whole of his art. And when Leo X commissioned Raffaello to paint the Loggie, Pellegrino also worked there, in company with the other young men; and so well did he succeed, that Raffaello afterwards made use of him in many other things.
He executed three figures in fresco in S. Eustachio at Rome, over an altar near the entrance into the church; and in the Church of the Portuguese, near the Scrofa, he painted in fresco the Chapel of the High-Altar, as well as the altarpiece. Afterwards, Cardinal Alborense having caused a chapel richly adorned with marbles to be erected in S. Jacopo, the Church of the Spanish people, with a S. James of marble by Jacopo Sansovino, four braccia and a half in height, and much extolled, Pellegrino painted there in fresco the stories of that Apostle, giving an air of great sweetness to his figures in imitation of his master Raffaello, and designing the whole composition so well, that the work made him known as an able man with a fine and beautiful genius for painting. This work finished, he made many others in Rome, both by himself and in company with others.
But finally, when death had come upon Raffaello, Pellegrino returned to Modena, where he executed many works; among others, he painted for a Confraternity of Flagellants a panel-picture in oils of S. John baptizing Christ, and another panel for the Church of the Servi, containing S. Cosimo and S. Damiano, with other figures. Afterwards, having taken a wife, he had a son, who was the cause of his death. For this son, having come to words with some companions, young men of Modena, killed one of them; the news of which being carried to Pellegrino, he, in order to help his son from falling into the hands of justice, set out to smuggle him away. But he had not gone far from his house, when he stumbled against the relatives of the dead youth, who were going about searching for the murderer; and they, confronting Pellegrino, who had no time to escape, and full of fury because they had not been able to catch his son, gave him so many wounds that they left him dead on the ground. This event was a great grief to the people of Modena, who knew that by the death of Pellegrino they had been robbed of a spirit truly excellent and rare.
A contemporary of this craftsman was the Milanese Gaudenzio, a resolute, well-practised, and excellent painter, who made many works in fresco at Milan; and in particular, for the Frati della Passione, a most beautiful Last Supper, which remained unfinished by reason of his death. He also painted very well in oils, and there are many highly-esteemed works by his hand at Vercelli and Veralla.