Holy Family. 1540 circa. Vienna, Liechtenstein Museum.
Vasari's Lives of the Artists
A TRULY GREAT GIFT is art, who, paying no regard to abundance of riches, to high estate, or to nobility of blood, embraces, protects, and uplifts from the ground a child of poverty much more often than one wrapped in the ease of wealth. And this Heaven does in order to show how much power the influences of its stars and constellations have over us, distributing more of its favours to one, and to another less; which influences are for the most part the reason that we mortals come to be born with dispositions more or less fiery or sluggish, weak or strong, fierce or gentle, fortunate or unfortunate, and richer or poorer in talent. And whoever has any doubt of this, will be enlightened in this present Life of Perino del Vaga, a painter of great excellence and genius.
This Perino, the son of a poor father, having been left an orphan as a little child and abandoned by his relatives, was guided and governed by art, whom he always acknowledged as his true mother and honored without ceasing. And the studies of the art of painting were pursued by him with such zeal and diligence, that he was enabled in due time to execute those noble and famous decorations which have brought so much glory to Genoa and to Prince Doria. Wherefore we may believe without a doubt that it is Heaven that raises men from those infinite depths in which they were born, to that summit of greatness to which they ascend, when they prove by labouring valiantly at their works that they are true followers of the sciences that they have chosen to learn; even as Perino chose and pursued as his vocation the art of design, in which he proved himself full of grace and most excellent, or rather, absolutely perfect. And he not only equalled the ancients in stucco-work, but also equalled the best modern craftsmen in the whole field of painting, displaying all the excellence that could possibly be desired in a human intellect that seeks, in solving the difficulties of that art, to achieve beauty, grace, charm, and delicacy with colouring and with every other kind of ornament.
But let us speak more particularly of his origin. There lived in the city of Florence one Giovanni Buonaccorsi, who entered the service of Charles VIII, King of France, and fought in his wars, and, being a spirited and open-handed young man, spent all that he possessed in that service and in gaming, and finally lost his life therein. To him was born a son, who received the name of Piero; and this son, after being left as an infant of two months old without his mother, who died of plague, was reared in the greatest misery at a farm, being suckled by a goat, until his father, having gone to Bologna, took as his second wife a woman whose husband and children had died of plague; and she, with her plague-infected milk, finished nursing Piero, who was now called Pierino (a pet name such as it is a general custom to give to little children), and retained that name ever afterwards. He was then taken to Florence by his father, who, on returning to France, left him with some relatives; and they, either because they had not the means, or because they would not accept the burdensome charge of maintaining him and having him taught some ingenious vocation, placed him with the apothecary of the Pinadoro, to the end that he might learn that calling. But, not liking that profession, he was taken as shop boy by the painter Andrea de' Ceri, who was pleased with the air and the ways of Perino, and thought that he saw in him a certain lively spirit of intelligence from which it might be hoped that in time some good fruits would issue from him. Andrea was no great painter; quite commonplace, indeed, and one of those who stand openly and publicly in their workshops, executing any kind of work, however mean; and he was wont to paint every year for the festival of S. John certain wax tapers which were carried as offerings, as they still are, together with the other tributes of the city; for which reason he was called Andrea de' Ceri, and from that name Perino was afterwards called for some time Perino de' Ceri.
Andrea, then, took care of Perino for some years, teaching him the rudiments of art as well as he could; but when the boy had reached the age of eleven, he was forced to seek for him some master better than himself. And so, having a straight friendship with Ridolfo, the son of Domenico Ghirlandajo, who, as will be related, was held to be able and well practised in painting, Andrea de' Ceri placed Perino with him, to the end that he might give his attention to design, and strive with all the zeal and love at his command to make in that art the proficience of which his great genius gave promise. Whereupon, pursuing his studies, among the many young men whom Ridolfo had in his workshop, all engaged in learning art, in a short time Perino came to surpass all the rest, so great were his ardour and his eagerness. Among them was one named Toto del Nunziata, who was to him as a spur to urge him on continually; which Toto, likewise attaining in time to equality with the finest intellects, departed from Florence and made his way with some Florentine merchants to England, where he executed all his works, and was very richly rewarded by the King of that country, whom he also served in architecture, erecting, in particular, his principal palace. He and Perino, then, working in emulation of one another, and pursuing the studies of art with supreme diligence, after no long time became very excellent. And Perino, drawing from the cartoon of Michelagnolo Buonarroti in company with other young men, both Florentines and strangers, won and held the first place among them all, insomuch that he was regarded with that expectation which was afterwards fulfilled in the beautiful works that he executed with so much excellence and art.
There came to Florence at that time the Florentine painter Vaga, a master of no great excellence, who was executing commonplace works at Toscanella in the province of Rome. Having a superabundance of work, he was in need of assistance, and he desired to take back with him a companion and also a young man who might help him in design, in which he was wanting, and in the other matters of art. Now this painter, having seen Perino drawing in the workshop of Ridolfo together with the other young men, found him so superior to them all, that he was astonished; and, what is more, he was pleased with his appearance and his ways, for Perino was a very beautiful youth, most courteous, modest, and gentle, and every part of his body was in keeping with the nobility of his mind; wherefore Vaga was so charmed with him, that he asked him whether he would go with him to Rome, saying that he would not fail to assist him in his studies, and promising him such benefits and conditions as he might demand. So great was the desire that Perino had to attain to excellence in his profession, that, when he heard Rome mentioned, through his eagerness to see that city, he was deeply moved; but he told him that he must speak to Andrea de' Ceri, who had supported him up to that time, so that he was loth to abandon him. And so Vaga, having persuaded Ridolfo, Perino's master, and Andrea, who maintained him, so contrived that in the end he took Perino, with the companion, to Toscanella. There Perino began to work and to assist them, and they finished not only the work that Vaga had undertaken, but also many that they undertook afterwards. But Perino complained that the promise of seeing Rome, by which he had been brought from Florence, was not being fulfilled, in consequence of the profit and advantage that Vaga was drawing from his services, and he resolved to go thither by himself; which was the reason that Vaga, leaving all his works, took him to Rome. And there, through the love that he bore to art, Perino returned to his former work of drawing and continued at it many weeks, growing more ardent every day. But Vaga wished to return to Toscanella, and therefore made him known, as one belonging to himself, to many commonplace painters, and also recommended him to all the friends that he had there, to the end that they might assist and favour him in his absence; from which circumstance he was always called from that day onward Perino del Vaga.
Thus left in Rome, and seeing the ancient works of sculpture and the marvellous masses of buildings, reduced for the most part to ruins, Perino stood lost in admiration at the greatness of the many renowned and illustrious men who had executed those works. And so, becoming ever more and more aflame with love of art, he burned unceasingly to attain to a height not too far distant from those masters, in order to win fame and profit for himself with his works, even as had been done by those at whom he marvelled as he beheld their beautiful creations. And while he contemplated their greatness and the depths of his own lowliness and poverty, reflecting that he possessed nothing save the desire to rise to their height, and that, having no one who might maintain him and provide him with the means to live, he was forced, if he wished to remain alive, to labour at work for those ordinary shops, now with one painter and now with another, after the manner of the day laborers in the fields, a mode of life which so hindered his studies, he felt infinite grief and pain in his heart at not being able to make as soon as he would have liked that proficience to which his mind, his will, and his necessities were urging him. He made the resolve, therefore, to divide his time equally, working half the week at day work, and during the other half devoting his attention to design; and to this second half he added all the feast-days, together with a great part of the nights, thus stealing time from time itself, in order to become famous and to escape from the hands of others so far as it might be possible.
Having carried this intention into execution, he began to draw in the Chapel of Pope Julius, where the vaulting had been painted by Michelagnolo Buonarroti, following both his methods and the manner of Raffaello da Urbino. And then, going on to the ancient works in marble and also to the grotesques in the grottoes under the ground, which pleased him through their novelty, he learned the methods of working in stucco, gaining his bread meanwhile by grievous labor, and enduring every hardship in order to become excellent in his profession. Nor had any long time passed before he became the best and most finished draughtsman that there was among all who were drawing in Rome, for the reason that he had, perhaps, a better knowledge of muscles and of the difficult art of depicting the nude than many others who were held to be among the best masters at that time; which was the reason that he became known not only to the men of his profession, but also to many lords and prelates. And, in particular, Giulio Romano and Giovan Francesco, called Il Fattore, disciples of Raffaello da Urbino, having [Pg 194] praised him not a little to their master, roused in him a desire to know Perino and to see his works in drawing; which having pleased him, and together with his work his manner, his spirit, and his ways of life, he declared that among all the young men that he had known, Perino would attain to the highest perfection in that art.
Meanwhile Raffaello da Urbino had built the Papal Loggie, by the command of Leo X; and the same Pope ordered that Raffaello should also have them adorned with stucco, painted, and gilded, according as it should seem best to him. Thereupon Raffaello placed at the head of that enterprise, for the stucco work and the grotesques, Giovanni da Udine, who was very excellent and without an equal in such works, but mostly in executing animals, fruits, and other little things. And since he had chosen in Rome and summoned from other parts a great number of masters, he had assembled together a company of men each very able at his own work, one in stucco, another in grotesques, a third in foliage, a fourth in festoons, another in scenes, and others in other things; and according as they improved they were brought forward and paid higher salaries, so that by competing in that work many young men attained to great perfection, who were afterwards held to be excellent in their various fields of art. Among that company Perino was assigned to Giovanni da Udine by Raffaello, to the end that he might execute grotesques and scenes together with the others; and he was told that according as he should acquit himself, so he would be employed by Giovanni. And thus, laboring out of emulation and in order to prove his powers and make proficience, before many months had passed Perino was held to be the first among all those who were working there, both in drawing and in coloring; the best, I say, the most perfect in grace and finish, and he who could execute both figures and grotesques in the most delicate and beautiful manner; to which clear testimony and witness are borne by the grotesques, festoons, and scenes by his hand that are in that work, which, besides surpassing the others, are executed in much more faithful accord with the designs and sketches that Raffaello made for them. This may be seen from a part of those scenes in the center of the loggia, on the vaulting, where the Hebrews are depicted crossing over the Jordan with the sacred Ark, and also marching round the walls of Jericho, which fall into ruin; and the other scenes that follow, such as that of Joshua causing the sun to stand still during the combat with the Amorites. Among those painted in imitation of bronze on the base the best are likewise those by the hand of Perino--namely, Abraham sacrificing his son, Jacob wrestling with the Angel, Joseph receiving his twelve brethren, the fire descending from Heaven and consuming the sons of Levi, and many others which there is no need to name, for their number is very great, and they can be distinguished from the rest. At the beginning of the loggia, also, where one enters, he painted scenes from the New Testament, the Nativity and the Baptism of Christ, and His Last Supper with the Apostles, which are very beautiful; besides which, below the windows, as has been said, are the best scenes painted in the colour of bronze that there are in the whole work. These labors cause every man to marvel, both the paintings and the many works in stucco that he executed there with his own hand; and his colouring, moreover, is much more pleasing and more highly finished than that of any of the others.
This work was the reason that he became famous beyond all belief, yet this great praise did not send him to sleep, but rather, since genius grows with praise, inspired him with even more zeal, and made him almost certain that by persisting he would come to win those fruits and honors that he saw every day in the possession of Raffaello da Urbino and Michelagnolo Buonarroti. And he laboured all the more willingly, because he saw that he was held in estimation by Giovanni da Udine and by Raffaello, and was employed in works of importance. He always showed extraordinary deference and obedience towards Raffaello, honoring him in such a manner that he was beloved by Raffaello as a son.
There was executed at this time, by order of Pope Leo, the vaulting of the Hall of the Pontiffs, which is that through which one passes by way of the Loggie into the apartments of Pope Alexander VI, formerly painted by Pinturicchio; and that vaulting was painted by Giovanni da Udine and Perino. They executed in company the stucco work and all those ornaments, grotesques, and animals that are to be seen there, in addition to the varied and beautiful inventions that were depicted by them in the compartments of the ceiling, which they had divided into certain circles and ovals to contain the seven Planets of Heaven drawn by their appropriate animals, such as Jupiter drawn by Eagles, Venus by Doves, the Moon by Women, Mars by Wolves, Mercury by Cocks, the Sun by Horses, and Saturn by Serpents; besides the twelve Signs of the Zodiac, and some figures from the forty-eight Constellations of Heaven, such as the Great Bear, the Dog Star, and many others, which, by reason of their number, we must pass over in silence, without recounting them all in their order, since anyone may see the work; which figures are almost all by the hand of Perino. In the center of the vaulting is a circle with four figures representing Victories, seen foreshortened from below upwards, who are holding the Pope's Crown and the Keys; and these are very well conceived and wrought with masterly art, to say nothing of the delicacy with which he painted their vestments, veiling the nude with certain light draperies that partly reveal the naked legs and arms, a truly graceful and beautiful effect. This work was justly held, as it still is at the present day, to be very magnificent and rich in craftsmanship, and also cheerful and pleasing; worthy, in short, of that Pontiff, who did not fail to reward their labors, which truly deserved some signal remuneration.
Perino decorated a facade in chiaroscuro--a method brought into use at that time by the example of Polidoro and Maturino--which is opposite to the house of the Marchioness of Massa, near Maestro Pasquino, executing it with great boldness of design and with supreme diligence. In the third year of his pontificate Pope Leo paid a visit to Florence, for which many triumphal preparations were made in that city, and Perino went thither before the Court, partly in order to see the pomps of the city, and partly from a wish to revisit his native country; and on a triumphal arch at S. Trinita' he made a large and very beautiful figure, seven braccia high, while another was executed in competition with him by Toto del Nunziata, who had already been his rival in boyhood. But to Perino every hour seemed a thousand years until he could return to Rome, for he perceived that the rules and methods of the Florentine craftsmen were very different from those that were customary in Rome; wherefore he departed from Florence and returned to Rome, where he resumed his usual course of work. And in S. Eustachio dalla Dogana he painted a S. Peter in fresco, which is a figure that has very strong relief, executed with a simple flow of folds, and yet wrought with much design and judgment.
There was in Rome at this time the Archbishop of Cyprus, a man who was a great lover of the arts, and particularly of painting; and he, having a house near the Chiavica, where he had laid out a little garden with some statues and other antiquities of truly noble beauty, and desiring to enhance their effect with some fine decorations, sent for Perino, who was very much his friend, and they came to the decision that he should paint round the walls of that garden many stories of Bacchantes, Satyrs, Fauns, and other wild things, in reference to an ancient statue of Bacchus, seated beside a tiger, which the Archbishop had there. And so Perino adorned that place with a variety of poetical fancies; and, among other things, he painted there a little loggia with small figures, various grotesques, and many landscapes, colored with supreme grace and diligence. This work has been held by craftsmen, as it always will be, to be worthy of the highest praise; and it was the reason that he became known to the Fugger family, merchants of Germany, who, having built a house near the Banchi, on the way to the Church of the Florentines, and having seen Perino's work and liked it, caused him to paint there a courtyard and a loggia, with many figures, all worthy of the same praise as the other works by his hand, for in them may be seen much delicacy and grace and great beauty of manner.
At this same time M. Marchionne Baldassini, having caused a house to be built for him near S. Agostino, as has been related, by Antonio da San Gallo, who designed it very well, desired that a hall which Antonio had constructed there should be painted all over; and after passing in review many of the young painters, to the end that it might be well and beautifully done, he finally resolved to give it to Perino. Having agreed about the price, Perino set his hand to it, nor did he turn his attention from that work to any other until he had brought it to a very happy conclusion in fresco. In that hall he made compartments by means of pilasters which have between them niches great and small; in the larger niches are various figures of philosophers, two in each niche, and in some one only, and in the smaller niches are little boys, partly naked and partly draped in veiling, while above those small niches are some heads of women, painted in imitation of marble. Above the cornice that crowns the pilasters there follows a second series of pictures, separated from the first series below, with scenes in figures of no great size from the history of the Romans, beginning with Romulus and ending with Numa Pompilius. There are likewise various ornaments in imitation of different kinds of marble, and over the beautiful chimney-piece of stone is a figure of Peace burning arms and trophies, which is very lifelike. This work was held in much estimation during the lifetime of M. Marchionne, as it has been ever since by all those who work in painting, and also by many others not of the profession, who give it extraordinary praise.
In the Convent of the Nuns of S. Anna, Perino painted a chapel in fresco with many figures, which was executed by him with his usual diligence. And on an altar in S. Stefano del Cacco he painted in fresco, for a Roman lady, a Pieta' with the Dead Christ in the lap of Our Lady, with a portrait from life of that lady, which still has the appearance of a living figure; and the whole work is very beautiful, and executed with great mastery and facility.
In those days Antonio da San Gallo had built at the corner of a house in Rome, which is known as the Imagine di Ponte, a tabernacle finely adorned with travertine and very handsome, in which something beautiful in the way of painting was to be executed; and he received a commission from the owner of that house to give the work to one whom he should consider capable of painting some noble picture there. Wherefore Antonio, who knew Perino to be the best of the young men who were in Rome, allotted it to him. And he, setting his hand to the work, painted there a Christ in the act of crowning the Madonna, and in the background he made a Glory, with a choir of Seraphim and Angels clothed in light and delicate draperies, who are scattering flowers, and other children of great beauty and variety; and on the sides of the tabernacle he painted Saints, S. Sebastian on one side and S. Anthony on the other. This work was executed truly well, and was equal to the others by his hand, which were always full of grace and charm.
A certain protonotary had erected a chapel of marble on four columns in the Minerva, and, desiring to leave an altarpiece there in memory of himself, even if it were but a small one, he came to an agreement with Perino, whose fame he had heard, and commissioned him to paint it in oils. And he chose that the subject should be the Deposition of Christ from the Cross, which Perino set himself to execute with the greatest possible zeal and diligence. In this picture he represented Him as already laid upon the ground, surrounded by the Maries weeping over Him, in whose gestures and attitudes he portrayed a melting pity and sorrow; besides which there are the Nicodemuses and other figures that are much admired, all woeful and afflicted at seeing the sinless Christ lying dead. But the figures that he painted most divinely were those of the two Thieves, left fixed upon the crosses, which, besides appearing to be real dead bodies, reveal a very good mastery over muscles and nerves, which this occasion enabled him to display; wherefore, to the eyes of him who beholds them, their limbs present themselves all drawn in that violent death by the nerves, and the muscles by the nails and cords. There is, in addition, a landscape wrapped in darkness, counterfeited with much judgment and art. And if the inundation which came upon Rome after the sack had not done damage to this work, covering more than half of it, its excellence would be clearly seen; but the water so softened the gesso, and caused the wood to swell in such sort, that all the lower part that was soaked has peeled off too much for the picture to give any pleasure; nay, it is a grief and a truly heartrending sorrow to behold it, for it would certainly have been one of the most precious things in all Rome.
There was being rebuilt at this time, under the direction of Jacopo Sansovino, the Church of S. Marcello in Rome, a convent of Servite Friars, which still remains unfinished; and when they had carried the walls of some chapels to completion, and had roofed them, those friars commissioned Perino to paint in one of these, as ornaments for a Madonna that is worshipped in that church, two figures in separate niches, S. Joseph and S. Filippo, a Servite friar and the founder of that Order, one on either side of the Madonna. These finished, he painted above them some little boys that are perfect, and in the centre of the wall he placed another standing upon a dado, who has upon his shoulders the ends of two festoons, which he directs towards the corners of the chapel, where there are two other little boys who support them, being seated upon them, with their legs in most beautiful attitudes. All this he executed with such art, such grace, and so beautiful a manner, and gave to the flesh a tint of color so fresh and soft, that one might say that it was real flesh rather than painted. And certainly these figures may be held to be the most beautiful that ever any craftsman painted in fresco, for the reason that there is life in their eyes and movement in their attitudes, and with the mouth they make as if to break into speech and say that art has conquered Nature, and that even art declares that nothing more than this can be done in her. This work was so excellent in the sight of all good judges of art, that he acquired a great name thereby, although he had executed many works and what was known of his great genius in his profession was well known; and he was therefore held in much more account and greater estimation than ever before.
For this reason Lorenzo Pucci, Cardinal Santiquattro, who had taken over a chapel on the left hand beside the principal chapel in the Trinita', a convent of Calabrian and French Friars who wear the habit of S. Francis of Paola, allotted it to Perino, to the end that he might paint there in fresco the life of Our Lady. Which having begun, Perino finished all the vaulting and a wall under an arch; and on the outer side, also, over an arch of the chapel, he painted two Prophets four braccia and a half in height, representing Isaiah and Daniel, who in their great proportions reveal all the art, excellence of design, and beauty of colouring that can be seen in their perfection only in a picture executed by a great craftsman. This will be clearly evident to one who shall consider the Isaiah, in whom, as he reads, may be perceived the thoughtfulness that study infuses in him, and his eagerness in reading new things, for he has his gaze fixed upon a book, with one hand to his head, exactly as a man often is when he is studying; and Daniel, likewise, is motionless, with his head upraised in celestial contemplation, in order to resolve the doubts of his people. Between these figures are two little boys who are upholding the escutcheon of the Cardinal, a shield of beautiful shape: and these boys, besides being so painted as to seem to be of flesh, also have the appearance of being in relief. The vaulting is divided into four scenes, separated one from another by the cross--that is, by the ribs of the vaulting. In the first is the Conception of Our Lady, in the second her Nativity, in the third the scene when she ascends the steps of the Temple, and in the fourth S. Joseph marrying her. On a wall-space equal in extent to the arch of the vaulting is her Visitation, in which are many figures that are very beautiful, but above all some who have climbed on certain socles and are standing in very spirited and natural attitudes, the better to see the ceremonious meeting of those women; besides which, there is something of the good and of the beautiful in the buildings and in every gesture of the other figures. He pursued this work no further, illness coming upon him; and when he was well, there began the plague of the year 1523, which raged so violently in Rome, that, if he wished to save his life, it became expedient for him to make up his mind to depart.
There was in the city of Rome at that time the goldsmith Piloto, who was much the friend and intimate companion of Perino, and he was desirous of departing; and so one morning, as they were breakfasting together, he persuaded Perino to take himself off and go to Florence, on the ground that it was many years since he had been there, and that it could not but bring him great honour to make himself known there and to leave some example of his excellence in that city; saying also that, although Andrea de' Ceri and his wife, who had brought him up, were dead, nevertheless, as a native of that country, if he had no possessions there, he had his love for it. Wherefore, after no long time, one morning Perino and Piloto departed and set out on the way to Florence. And when they had arrived there, Perino took the greatest pleasure in seeing once again the old works painted by the masters of the past, which had been as a school to him in the days of his boyhood, and likewise those of the masters then living who were the most celebrated and held to be the best in that city, in which, through the interest of friends, a work was allotted to him, as will be related below. It happened one day that many craftsmen having assembled in his presence to do him honour, painters, sculptors, architects, goldsmiths, and carvers in wood and marble, who had gathered together according to the ancient custom, some to see Perino, to keep him company, and to hear what he had to say, many to learn what difference in practice there might be between the craftsmen of Rome and those of Florence, but most of them to hear the praise and censure that craftsmen are wont often to give to one another; it happened, I say, that thus discoursing together of one thing and another, and examining the works, both ancient and modern, in the various churches, they came to that of the Carmine, in order to see the chapel of Masaccio. There everyone gazed attentively at the paintings, and many various opinions were uttered in praise of that master, all declaring that they marvelled that he should have possessed so much judgment as to be able in those days, without seeing anything but the work of Giotto, to work with so much of the modern manner in the design, in the colouring, and in the imitation of Nature, and that he should have solved the difficulties of his art in a manner so facile; not to mention that among all those who had worked at painting, there had not as yet been one who had equalled him in strength of relief, in resoluteness, and in mastery of execution.
This kind of discourse much pleased Perino, and to all those craftsmen who spoke thus he answered in these words: "I do not deny that what you say, and even more, may be true; but that there is no one among us who can equal this manner, that I will deny with my last breath. Nay, I will declare, if I may say it with the permission of the company, not in contempt, but from a desire for the truth, that I know many both more resolute and richer in grace, whose works are no less lifelike in the painting than these, and even much more beautiful. And I, by your leave, I who am not the first in this art, am grieved that there is no space near these works wherein I might be able to paint a figure; for before departing from Florence I would make a trial beside one of these figures, likewise in fresco, to the end that you might see by comparison whether there be not among the moderns one who has equalled him." Among their number was a master who was held to be the first painter in Florence; and he, being curious to see the work of Perino, and perhaps wishing to lower his pride, put forward an idea of his own, which was this: "Although," said he, "all the space here is full, yet, since you have such a fancy, which is certainly a good one and worthy of praise, there, on the opposite side, where there is the S. Paul by his hand, a figure no less good and beautiful than any other in the chapel, is a space in which you may easily prove what you say by making another Apostle, either beside that S. Peter by Masolino or beside the S. Paul of Masaccio, whichever you may prefer." The S. Peter was nearer the window, and the space beside it was greater and the light better; besides which, it was a figure no less beautiful than the S. Paul. Everyone, therefore, urged Perino to do it, because they had a great desire to see that Roman manner; besides which, many said that he would be the means of taking out of their heads the fancy that they had nursed in their minds for so many decades, and that if his figure should prove to be the best all would run after modern works. Wherefore, persuaded by that master, who told him at last that he ought not to disappoint the entreaties and expectations of so many lofty intellects, particularly since it would not take longer than two weeks to execute a figure in fresco, and they would not fail to spend years in praising his labors, Perino resolved to do it, although he who spoke thus had an intention quite contrary to his words, being persuaded that Perino would by no means execute anything much better than the work of those craftsmen who were considered to be the most excellent at that time. Perino, then, undertook to make this attempt; and having summoned by common consent M. Giovanni da Pisa, the Prior of the convent, they asked him for the space for the execution of the work, which he granted to them with truly gracious courtesy; and thus they took measurements of the space, with the height and breadth, and went away.
An Apostle was then drawn by Perino in a cartoon, in the person of S. Andrew, and finished with the greatest diligence; whereupon Perino, having first caused the staging to be erected, was prepared to begin to paint it. But before this, on his arrival in Florence, his many friends, who had seen most excellent works by his hand in Rome, had contrived to obtain for him the commission for that work in fresco which I mentioned, to the end that he might leave some example of his handiwork in Florence, which might demonstrate how spirited and how beautiful was his genius for painting, and also to the end that he might become known and perchance be set to work on some labour of importance by those who were then governing. There were at that time certain craftsmen who used to assemble in a company called the Company of the Martyrs, in the Camaldoli at Florence; and they had proposed many times to have a wall that was in that place painted with the story of the Martyrs being condemned to death before two Roman Emperors, who, after they had been taken in battle, caused them to be crucified in the wood and hanged on trees. This story was suggested to Perino, and, although the place was out of the way, and the price small, so much was he attracted by the possibilities of invention in the story and by the size of the wall, that he was disposed to undertake it; besides which, he was urged not a little by those who were his friends, on the ground that the work would establish him in that reputation which his talent deserved among the citizens, who did not know him, and among his fellow craftsmen in Florence, where he was not known save by report. Having then determined to do the work, he accepted the undertaking and made a small design, which was held to be a thing divine; and having set his hand to making a cartoon as large as the whole work, he never left off labouring at it, and carried it so far that all the principal figures were completely finished. And so the Apostle was abandoned, without anything more being done.
Perino drew this cartoon on white paper, well shaded and hatched, leaving the paper itself for the lights, and executing the whole with admirable diligence. In it were the two Emperors on the seat of judgment, condemning to the cross all the prisoners, who were turned towards [Pg 205] the tribunal, some kneeling, some standing, and others bowed, but all naked and bound in different ways, and writhing with piteous gestures in various attitudes, revealing the trembling of the limbs at the prospect of the severing of the soul from the body in the agony and torment of crucifixion; besides which, there were depicted in those heads the constancy of faith in the old, the fear of death in the young, and in others the torture that they suffer from the strain of the cords on their bodies and arms. And there could also be seen the swelling of the muscles and even the cold sweat of death, all depicted in that design. Then in the soldiers who were leading them there was revealed a terrible fury, most impious and cruel, as they presented them at the tribunal for condemnation and led them to the cross. The Emperors and the soldiers were wearing cuirasses after the ancient manner and garments very ornate and bizarre, with buskins, shoes, helmets, shields, and other pieces of armor wrought with all that wealth of the most beautiful ornamentation to which a craftsman can attain in imitating and reproducing the antique, and drawn with the greatest lovingness, subtlety, and delicacy that the perfection of art can display. When this cartoon was seen by the craftsmen and by other judges of discernment, they declared that they had never seen such beauty and excellence in design since the cartoon drawn by Michelagnolo Buonarroti in Florence for the Council Chamber; wherefore Perino acquired the greatest fame that he could have gained in art. And while he was engaged in finishing that cartoon, he amused himself by causing oil-colors to be prepared and ground in order to paint for his dearest friend, the goldsmith Piloto, a little picture of no great size, containing a Madonna, which he carried something more than half-way towards completion.
For many years past Perino had been intimately acquainted with a certain lame priest, Ser Raffaello di Sandro, a chaplain of S. Lorenzo, who always bore love to the craftsmen of design. This priest, then, persuaded Perino to take up his quarters with him, seeing that he had no one to cook for him or to keep house for him, and that during the time that he had been in Florence he had stayed now with one friend and now with another; wherefore Perino went to lodge with him, and stayed there many weeks. Meanwhile the plague began to appear in certain parts of Florence, and filled Perino with fear lest he should catch the infection; on which account he determined to go away, but wished first to recompense Ser Raffaello for all the days that he had eaten at his table. But Ser Raffaello would never consent to take anything, only saying: "I would be fully paid by having a scrap of paper from your hand." Seeing him to be determined, Perino took about four braccia of coarse canvas, and, after having it fixed to the wall between two doors in the priest's little room, painted on it in a day and a night a scene colored in imitation of bronze. On this canvas, which was to serve as a screen for the wall, he painted the story of Moses passing the Red Sea and Pharaoh being submerged with his horses and his chariots; and Perino painted therein figures in most beautiful attitudes, some swimming in armour and some naked, others swimming while clasping the horses round the neck, with their beards and hair all soaked, crying out in the fear of death and struggling with all their power to escape. On the other side of the sea are Moses, Aaron, and all the other Hebrews, male and female, who are thanking God, and a number of vases that he counterfeited, carried off by them from Egypt, varied and beautiful in form and shape, and women with head-dresses of great variety. Which finished, he left it as a mark of lovingness to Ser Raffaello, to whom it was as dear as the Priorate of S. Lorenzo would have been. This canvas was afterwards much extolled and held in estimation, and after the death of Ser Raffaello it passed, together with his other possessions, to his brother Domenico di Sandro, the cheesemonger.
Departing, then, from Florence, Perino abandoned the work of the Martyrs, which caused him great regret; and certainly, if it had been in any other place but the Camaldoli, he would have finished it; but, considering that the officials of health had taken that very Convent of Camaldoli for those infected with the plague, he thought it better to save himself than to leave fame behind him in Florence, being satisfied that he had proved how much he was worth in the design. The cartoon, with his other things, remained in the possession of the goldsmith Giovanni di Goro, his friend, who died in the plague; and after that it fell into the hands of Piloto, who kept it spread out in his house for many years, showing it readily as a very rare work to every person of intelligence; but I do not know what became of it after the death of Piloto.
Perino stayed for many months in various places, seeking to avoid the plague, but for all this he never spent his time in vain, for he was continually drawing and studying the secrets of art; and when the plague had ceased, he returned to Rome and gave his attention to executing little works of which I shall say nothing more. In the year 1523 came the election of Pope Clement VII, which was the greatest of blessings for the arts of painting and sculpture, which had been so kept down by Adrian VI during his lifetime, that not only had nothing been executed for him, but, as has been related in other places, not delighting in them, or rather, holding them in detestation, he had brought it about that no other person delighted in them, or spent money upon them, or employed a single craftsman. Then, therefore, after the election of the new Pontiff, Perino executed many works.
Afterwards it was proposed that Giulio Romano and Giovan Francesco, called Il Fattore, should be made heads of the world of art in place of Raffaello, who was dead, to the end that they might distribute the various works to the others, according to the previous custom. But Perino, in executing an escutcheon of the Pope in fresco over the door of Cardinal Cesarino, after the cartoon of Giulio Romano, acquitted himself so excellently well, that they doubted whether he would not be preferred to themselves, because, although they were known as the disciples of Raffaello and as the heirs to his possessions, they had not inherited the whole of the art and grace that he used to give to his figures with colors. Giulio and Giovan Francesco therefore made up their minds to attach Perino to themselves; and so in the holy year of Jubilee, 1525, they gave him Caterina, the sister of Giovan Francesco, for wife, to the end that the perfect friendship which had been maintained between them for so long might be converted into kinship. Thereupon, continuing the works that he had in hand, no long time had passed when, on account of the praises bestowed upon him for the first work executed by him in S. Marcello, it was resolved by the Prior of that convent and by certain heads of the Company of the Crocifisso, which has a chapel there built by its members as a place of assembly, that the chapel should be painted; and so they allotted this work to Perino, in the hope of having some excellent painting by his hand. Perino, having caused the staging to be erected, began the work; and in the centre of the barrel shaped vaulting he painted the scene when God, after creating Adam, takes his wife Eve from his side. In this scene Adam, a most beautiful naked figure painted with perfect art, is seen lying overcome by sleep, while Eve, with great vivacity, rises to her feet with the hands clasped and receives the benediction of her Maker, the figure of whom is depicted grave in aspect and sublime in majesty, standing with many draperies about Him, which curve round His nude form with their borders. On one side, on the right hand, are two Evangelists, S. Mark and S. John, the first of whom Perino finished entirely, and also the second with the exception of the head and a naked arm. Between these two Evangelists, by way of ornament, he made two little boys embracing a candelabrum, which are truly of living flesh; and the Evangelists, likewise, in the heads, the draperies, the arms, and all that he painted in them with his own hand, are very beautiful.
While he was executing this work, he suffered many interruptions from illness and from other misfortunes, such as happen every day to all who live in this world; besides which, it is said that the men of the Company also ran short of money. And so long did this business drag on, that in the year 1527 there came upon them the ruin of Rome, when that city was given over to sack, many craftsmen were killed, and many works destroyed or carried away. Whereupon Perino, caught in that turmoil, and having a wife and a baby girl, ran from place to place in Rome with the child in his arms, seeking to save her, and finally, poor wretch, was taken prisoner and reduced to paying a ransom, which hit him so hard that he was like to go out of his mind. When the fury of the sack had abated, he was so crushed down by the fear that still possessed him, that all thought of art was worlds away from him, but nevertheless he painted canvases in gouache and other fantasies for certain Spanish soldiers; and after regaining his composure, he lived like the rest in some poor fashion. Alone among so many, Baviera, who had the engravings of Raffaello, had not lost much; wherefore, moved by the friendship that he had with Perino, and wishing to employ him, he commissioned him to draw some of the stories of the Gods transforming themselves in order to achieve the consummation of their loves. These were engraved on copper by Jacopo Caraglio, an excellent engraver of prints, who acquitted himself so well in the matter of these designs, that, preserving the outlines and manner of Perino, and hatching the work with beautiful facility, he sought also to impart to the engravings that grace and that delicacy which Perino had given to the drawings.
While the havoc of the sack had destroyed Rome and driven away the inhabitants and the Pope himself, who was living at Orvieto, not many remaining in the city, and no business of any kind being done there, there arrived in Rome one Niccola Viniziano, a rare and even unrivalled master of embroidery, the servant of Prince Doria. He, moved by his long-standing friendship with Perino, and being a man who always favoured and wished well to the men of our arts, persuaded him to leave that misery and set out for Genoa, promising that he would so go to work with that Prince, who was a lover of art and delighted in painting, that he would commission Perino to execute some big works, and saying, moreover, that His Excellency had often told him that he would like to have a suite of rooms adorned with handsome decorations. It did not take much to persuade Perino, for he was oppressed by want and burning with desire to leave Rome; and he determined to depart with Niccola. Having therefore made arrangements for leaving his wife and daughter well cared for by relatives in Rome, and having put all his affairs in order, he set off for Genoa. Arriving there, and making himself known to that Prince by means of Niccola, his coming was as welcome to His Excellency as any agreeable experience that he had ever had in all his life. He was received, therefore, with the greatest possible warmth and gladness, and after many conversations and discussions they finally arranged that he should begin the work; and they decided that he should execute a palace adorned with stucco work and with pictures in fresco, in oils, and of every kind, which I will strive to describe as briefly as I am able, with all the rooms, pictures, and general arrangement, saying nothing as to where Perino first began to labour, to the end that I may not obscure this work, which is the best of all those by his hand, with words.
I begin, then, by saying that at the entrance of the Prince's Palace there is a marble portal composed in the Doric Order, and built after designs and models by the hand of Perino, with all its appurtenances of pedestals, socles, shafts, capitals, architrave, frieze, cornice and pediment, and with some most beautiful seated figures of women, who are supporting an escutcheon. The masonry and carving of this work were executed by Maestro Giovanni da Fiesole, and the figures were finished to perfection by Silvio, the sculptor of Fiesole, a bold and resolute master. Entering within the portal, one finds over the vestibule a vault covered with stucco-work, varied scenes, and grotesques, and little arches in each of which are scenes of war and various kinds of battles, some fighting on foot and others on horseback, and all wrought with truly extraordinary diligence and art. On the left one finds the staircase, which has decorations of little grotesques after the antique that could not be richer or more beautiful, with various scenes and little figures, masks, children, animals, and other things of fancy, executed with that invention and judgment that always marked his work, insomuch that of their kind they may well be called divine. Having ascended the staircase, one comes into a most beautiful loggia, which has at each end a very handsome door of stone; and over each of these doors, in the pediment, are painted two figures, one male and the other female, represented in directly opposite attitudes, one showing the front view and the other the back. The vaulting has five arches, and is wrought superbly in stucco, and it is also divided by pictures in certain ovals, containing scenes executed with the most perfect beauty that could be achieved; and the walls are painted down to the floor with many seated figures of captains in armour, some drawn from life and some from imagination, and representing all the ancient and modern captains of the house of Doria, and above them are large letters of gold, which run thus: "Magni viri, maximi duces, optima fecere pro patria." In the first hall, which opens into the loggia and is entered by one of the two doors, that on the left hand, there are most beautiful ornaments of stucco on the corners of the vaulting, and in the center there is a large scene of the Shipwreck of Aeneas in the sea, in which are nude figures, living and dead, in attitudes infinite variety, besides a good number of ships and galleys, some sound and some shattered by the fury of the tempest; not without beautiful considerations in the figures of the living, who are striving to save themselves, and expressions of terror that are produced in their features by the struggle with the waves, the danger of death, and all the emotions aroused by the perils of the sea.
This was the first scene and the first work that Perino began for the Prince. It is said that when he arrived in Genoa, Girolamo da Treviso had already appeared there in advance of him in order to execute certain pictures, and was painting a wall that faced towards the garden. And after Perino had begun to draw the cartoon for the scene of the Shipwreck that has been described above, while he was taking his time about it, amusing himself and seeing Genoa, and laboring only at intervals at the cartoon, although a great part was finished in various ways and those nudes were drawn, some in chiaroscuro, some in charcoal, and others in black chalk, some being drawn in imitation of gradine-work, others shaded, and others again only outlined; while, I say, Perino was going on in this way, without beginning to paint, Girolamo da Treviso murmured against him, saying, "Cartoons, and nothing but cartoons! I have my art at the tip of my brush." Decrying him very often in this or some other similar manner, it came to the ears of Perino, who, taking offence, straightway caused his cartoon to be fixed to the vaulting where the scene was to be painted, and the boards of his staging to be removed in many places, to the end that the work might be seen from below; and then he threw open the hall. Which hearing, all Genoa ran to see it, and, amazed by Perino's grand design, they praised him to the skies. Thither, among others, went Girolamo da Treviso, who saw what he had never thought to see from the hand of Perino; whereupon, dumbfoundered by the beauty of the work, he departed from Genoa without asking leave of Prince Doria, and returned to Bologna, where he lived. Perino was thus left alone in the service of the Prince, and finished that hall, painting it in oils on the surface of the walls; and it was held to be, as indeed it is, a thing unrivalled in its beauty, with its lovely work in stucco in the center of the vaulting and all around, even below the lunettes, as I have described.
In the other hall, into which one enters by the right-hand door in the loggia, he executed on the vaulting works in stucco almost similar in design to those of the other, and painted pictures in fresco of Jove slaying the Giants with his thunderbolts, in which are many very beautiful nudes, larger than life. In the Heaven, likewise, are all the Gods, who are making gestures of great vivacity and truly appropriate to their natures, amid the terrible uproar of the thunder; besides which, the stucco-work is executed with supreme diligence, and the fresco-colouring could not be more beautiful, seeing that Perino was very ableindeed, a perfect masterin that field. Near this he adorned four chambers, the ceilings of which are all wrought in stucco, and distributed among them, in fresco, are the most beautiful fables from Ovid, which have all the appearance of reality, nor could any one imagine the beauty, the abundance, the variety, and the great numbers of the little figures, animals, foliage, and grotesques that are in them, all executed with lively invention. Beside the other hall, likewise, he adorned four more chambers, but only directing the work, which was carried out by his assistants, although he gave them the designs both of the stucco-decorations and of the scenes, figures, and grotesques, upon which a vast number of them worked, some little and some much; such as Luzio Romano, who did much work in stucco there and many grotesques, and a number of Lombards. Let it suffice to say that there is no room there that has not something by his hand and is not full of ornaments, even to the space below the vaulting, with various compositions full of children, bizarre masks, and animals, which all defies description; not to mention that the little studies, the antechambers, the closets, and all other parts of the palace, are painted and made beautiful. From the palace one passes into the garden and into a low building, which has the most ornate decorations in all the rooms, even below the ceilings, and so also the halls, chambers, and anterooms, all adorned by the same hand. In this work Pordenone also took a part, as I said in his Life, and likewise Domenico Beccafumi of Siena, a very rare painter, who showed that he was not inferior to any of the others, although the works by his hand that are in Siena are the most excellent among the vast number that he painted.
But to return to the works that Perino executed after those that he did in the Palace of the Prince; he executed a frieze in a room in the house of Giannetin Doria, containing most beautiful women, and he did many works for various gentlemen throughout the city, both in fresco and in oil colors. He painted a most beautiful altarpiece, very finely designed, for S. Francesco, and another for a church called S. Maria "de Consolatione," at the commission of a gentleman of the house of Baciadonne: in which picture he painted the Nativity of Christ, a work that is much extolled, but it was placed in a position so dark, that, by reason of the light not being good enough, one is not able to recognize its perfection, and all the more because Perino strove to paint it in a dark manner, so that it has need of a strong light. He also made drawings of the greater part of the neid, with the stories of Dido, from which tapestries were woven; and he likewise drew beautiful ornaments for the poops of galleys, which were carved and finished to perfection by Carota and Tasso, woodcarvers of Florence, who proved excellently well how able they were in that art. And in addition to all these things he also executed a vast number of works on cloth for the galleys of the Prince, and the largest standards that could be made for their adornment and embellishment. Wherefore he was so beloved by that Prince for his fine qualities, that, if he had continued to serve him, the Prince would have richly rewarded his abilities.
But while he was working in Genoa, the fancy came to him to fetch his wife from Rome, and so he bought a house in Pisa, being pleased with that city and half thinking of choosing it as his place of habitation when old age should come upon him. Now at that time the Warden of the Duomo at Pisa was M. Antonio di Urbano, who had a very great desire to embellish that temple, and had already caused a beginning to be made with some very beautiful ornaments of marble for the chapels of the church, which had been executed by the hand of Stagio da Pietrasanta, a very able and well practised carver of marble: removing some old, clumsy, and badly proportioned chapels that were there. Having thus made a beginning, the Warden proposed to fill up those ornaments in the interior with altar-pieces in oils, and on the outer side with a series of scenes in fresco and decorations in stucco, by the hands of the best and most excellent masters that he could find, without grudging any expense that might be incurred. He had already set to work on the sacristy, which he had placed in the great recess behind the high altar, and there the ornamentation of marble was already finished, and many pictures had been painted by the Florentine painter Giovanni Antonio Sogliani, the rest of which, together with the altar-pieces and the chapels that were wanting, were finished many years afterwards by order of M. Sebastiano della Seta, the Warden of the Duomo in those days.
At that time Perino returned from Genoa to Pisa, and, having seen that beginning, at the instance of Battista del Cervelliera, a person well conversant with art and a most ingenious master of wood-carving, perspective, and inlaying, he was presented to the Warden. After they had discoursed together on the subject of the works of the Duomo, Perino was asked to paint an altar-piece for an ornament immediately within the ordinary door of entrance, the ornamental frame being already finished, and above that a scene of S. George slaying the Dragon and delivering the King's Daughter. Perino therefore made a most beautiful design, which included a row of children and other ornaments in fresco between one chapel and the other, and niches with Prophets and scenes of various kinds; and this design pleased the Warden. And so, having made the cartoon for one of them, the first one, that opposite to the door mentioned above, he began to execute it in color, and finished six children, which are very well painted. He was to have continued this right round, which would have made a very rich and very beautiful decoration; and the whole work together would have proved to be something very handsome. But he was seized with a desire to return to Genoa, where he had involved himself in love affairs and other pleasures, to which he was inclined at certain times: and on his departure he gave to the Nuns of S. Maffeo a little altarpiece that he had painted for them in oils, which is now in their possession in the convent. Then, having arrived in Genoa, he stayed there many months, executing other works for the Prince.
His departure from Pisa displeased the Warden greatly, and even more the circumstance that the work remained unfinished; wherefore he did not cease to write to him every day that he should return, or to make inquiries from Perino's wife, whom he had left in Pisa. But finally, perceiving that the matter would never end, Perino neither answering nor returning, he allotted the altarpiece of that chapel to Giovanni Antonio Sogliani, who finished it and set it into its place. Not long after this Perino returned to Pisa, and, seeing the work of Sogliani, flew into a rage, and would on no account continue what he had begun, saying that he did not choose that his pictures should serve as ornaments for those of other masters; wherefore, so far as concerned him, that work remained unfinished. Giovanni Antonio carried it on to such purpose that he painted four altarpieces: but these, at a later date, appeared to Sebastiano della Seta, the new Warden, to be all in the same manner, somewhat less beautiful than the first, and he allotted to Domenico Beccafumi of Siena after proving his worth from some pictures that he painted round the sacristy, which are very beautiful--an altarpiece which he executed in Pisa. This not giving as much satisfaction as the first pictures, he caused the two last that were wanting to be painted by Giorgio Vasari of Arezzo; and they were placed at the two doors beside the corner walls of the main faade of the church. Of these, as well as of many other works, both large and small, that are dispersed throughout Italy and various places abroad, it does not become me to say more, and I will leave the right of free judgment about them to all who have seen or may see them. The loss of this work caused real vexation to Perino, he having already made the designs for it, which gave promise that it would prove to be something worthy of him, and likely to give that temple great fame over and above that of its antiquities, and also to make Perino immortal. During the many years of his sojourn in Genoa, although he drew both profit and pleasure from that city, Perino had grown weary of it, as he remembered Rome in the happy days of Leo. But although, during the lifetime of Cardinal Ippolito de' Medici, he had received letters inviting him into his service, and he had been disposed to enter it, the death of that lord brought it about that he hesitated to repatriate himself. While matters stood thus, with his many friends urging his return, himself desiring it infinitely more than any of them, and several letters being exchanged, one morning, in the end, the fancy took him, and without saying a word he set off from Pisa and made his way to Rome. There, after making himself known to the most reverend Cardinal Farnese, and then to Pope Paul, he stayed many months without doing anything; first, because he was put off from one day to another, and then because he was attacked by some infirmity in one of his arms, on account of which he spent several hundreds of crowns, to say nothing of the discomfort, before he could be cured of --- [sic]. Wherefore, having no one to maintain him, and being vexed by his cold welcome from the Court, he was tempted many times to go away; but Molza and many other friends exhorted him to have patience, telling him that Rome was no longer what she had been, and that now she expected that a man should be exhausted and weary of her before she would choose and cherish him as her own, and particularly if he were pursuing the path of some fine art.
At this time M. Pietro de' Massimi bought a chapel in the Trinita', with the vaulting and the lunettes painted and adorned with stucco, and the altarpiece painted in oils, all by Giulio Romano and Perino's brother-in-law, Giovan Francesco; and that gentleman was desirous to have it finished. In the lunettes were four stories of S. Mary Magdalene in fresco, and in the altarpiece in oils was Christ appearing to Mary Magdalene in the form of a gardener; and M. Pietro first caused a gilt frame of wood to be made for the altar-piece, which had a miserable one of stucco, and then allotted the walls to Perino, who, having caused the staging and the screen to be erected, set his hand to the work, and after many months brought it to completion. He made a design of bizarre and beautiful grotesques, partly in low-relief and partly painted; and he executed two little scenes of no great , one on each wall, surrounding them with an ornament in stucco of great variety. In one scene was the Pool of Bethesda, with all the cripples and sick persons, and the Angel who comes to move the waters, the porticoes seen most beautifully foreshortened in perspective, and the movements and vestments of the priests, all painted with great grace and vivacity, although the figures are not very large. In the other, he painted the Raising of Lazarus after he had been dead four days, wherein he is seen newly restored to life, and still marked by the pallor and fear of death: and round him are many who are unswathing him, and not a few who are marvelling, and others struck with awe, besides which the scene is adorned with some little temples that recede into the distance, executed with supreme lovingness, as are also the works in stucco all around.
There are likewise four very small scenes, two to each wall, and one on either side of the larger scene; in one of which is the Centurion beseeching Christ that He should heal with a word his son who is dying, in another driving the traders from the Temple, in a third the Transfiguration, and in the last a similar scene. And on the projections of the pilasters within the chapel he painted four figures in the guise of Prophets, which, in their proportions, their excellence, and their beauty, are as well executed and finished as they could well be. In a word, the whole work was carried out with such diligence, and is so delicate, that it resembles miniature rather than painting. In it may be seen much charm and vivacity of coloring, and signs of great patience in its execution, revealing that true love which should be felt for art; and he painted this whole work with his own hand, although he had a great part of the stucco-work executed after his designs by Guglielmo Milanese, whom he had formerly had with him at Genoa, loving him much, and once even offering to give him his daughter in marriage. This Guglielmo, in reward for restoring the antiquities of the house of Farnese, has now been made Friar of the Piombo, in the place of Fra Sebastiano Veneziano.
I must not omit to tell that against one wall of this chapel was a most beautiful tomb of marble, with a dead of marble, beautifully carved by the sculptor Bologna, on the sarcophagus, and two little naked boys at the sides. The countenance of that woman was a lifelike portrait of a very famous courtezan of Rome, who left that memorial of herself, which was removed by the friars because they felt scruples that such a woman should have been laid to rest there with so much honor.
This work, with many designs that he made, was the reason that the very reverend Cardinal Farnese began to him an allowance and to make use of him in many works. By order of Pope Paul, a chimney piece that was in the Chamber of the Burning of the Borgo was placed in that of the Segnatura, where there were the panellings with perspective views in wood executed by the hand of the carver Fra Giovanni for Pope Julius. Raffaello had painted both of those chambers; but it became necessary to repaint all the base to the scenes in the Chamber of the Segnatura, which is that in which is the picture of Mount Parnassus. On which account a decorative design in imitation of marble was painted by Perino, with various terminal figures, festoons, masks, and other ornaments; and, in certain spaces, scenes painted to look like bronze, which are very beautiful for works in fresco. In these scenes, even as above them were Philosophers discoursing on Philosophy, Theologians on Theology, and Poets on Poetry, were all the actions of those who have been eminent in those professions. And although he did not execute them all with his own hand, he retouched them so much "a secco," besides making perfectly finished cartoons, that they may almost be said to be entirely by his hand; which method he employed because, being troubled by a catarrh, he was not fit for so much labor. Whereupon the Pope, recognizing that he deserved something both on account of his age and for all his work, and hearing him much recommended, gave him an allowance of twenty-five ducats a month, which lasted up to his death, on the condition that he should have charge of the Palace and of the house of the Farnese family.
By this time Michelagnolo Buonarroti had uncovered the wall with the Last Judgment in the Papal Chapel, and there remained still unpainted the base below, where there was to be fixed a screen of arras woven in silk and gold, like the tapestries that adorn the Chapel. Wherefore, the Pope having ordained that the weaving should be done in Flanders, it was arranged with the consent of Michelagnolo that Perino should begin to paint a canvas of the same size, which he did, executing in it women, children and terminal figures, holding festoons, and all very lifelike, with the most bizarre things of fancy; but this work, which was truly worthy of him and of the divine picture that it was to adorn, remained unfinished after his death in some apartments of the Belvedere.
After this, Antonio da San Gallo having finished the building of the Great Hall of Kings in front of the of Sixtus IV in the Papal Palace, Perino divided the ceiling into a large pattern of octagonal compartments, crosses, and ovals, both sunk and in relief; which done, Perino was also commissioned to adorn it with stucco-work, with the richest and most beautiful ornaments that could be produced by all the resources of that art. He thus began it, and in the octagons, in place of rosettes, he made four little boys in full relief, who, with their feet pointing to the centre and their arms forming a circle, make a most beautiful rosette, and in the rest of the compartments are all the devices of the house of Farnese, with the arms of the Pope in the centre of the vaulting. And this work in stucco may be said with truth to have surpassed in mastery of execution, in beauty, and in delicacy, all those that have ever been done by ancients or moderns, and to be truly worthy of the head of the Christian religion. After the designs of the same man, likewise, the glass windows were executed by Pastorino da Siena, an able master of that craft; and Perino caused the walls below to be prepared with very beautiful ornaments in stucco, intending to paint scenes there with his own hand, which were afterwards continued by the painter Daniello Ricciarelli of Volterra, who, if death had not cut short the noble aspirations that he had, would have proved how the moderns have the courage not only to equal the ancients with their works, but perhaps even to surpass them by a great measure.
While the stucco-work of this vaulting was in progress, and Perino was considering the designs for his scenes, the old walls of the Church of S. Pietro at Rome were being pulled down to make way for those of the new building, and the masons came to a wall where there was a Madonna, with other pictures, by the hand of Giotto; which being seen by Perino, who was in the company of Messer Niccolo' Acciaiuoli, a Florentine doctor and much his friend, both of them were moved to pity for that picture and would not allow it to be destroyed; nay, having caused the wall to be cut away around it, they had it well braced with beams and bars of iron and deposited below the organ of S. Pietro, in a place where there was neither altar nor any other consecrated object. And before the wall that had been round the Madonna was pulled down, Perino copied the figure of Orso dell' Anguillara, the Roman Senator who had crowned M. Francesco Petrarca on the Campidoglio, and who was at the feet of that Madonna. Round the picture of the Madonna were to be made some ornaments in stucco and painting, and together with them a memorial to a certain Niccolo' Acciaiuoli, who had formerly been a Roman Senator; and Perino, having made the designs, straightway set his hand to the work, and, assisted by his young men and by Marcello Mantovano, his disciple, carried it out with great diligence.
In the same S. Pietro the Sacrament did not occupy, with regard to masonry, a very honourable position; wherefore certain deputies were appointed from the Company of the Sacrament, who ordained that a chapel should be built in the centre of the old church by Antonio da San Gallo, partly with remains in the form of ancient marble columns, and partly with other ornaments of marble, bronze, and stucco, placing in the centre a tabernacle by the hand of Donatello, by way of further adornment; and Perino executed there a very beautiful ceiling with many minute scenes full of figures from the Old Testament, symbolical of the Sacrament. In the middle of it, also, he painted a somewhat larger scene, containing the Last Supper of Christ with the Apostles, and below it two Prophets, one on either side of the body of Christ.
The same master, likewise, caused his young men to paint in the Church of S. Giuseppe, near the Ripetta, the chapel of that church, which was afterwards retouched and finished by himself; and he also had a chapel painted after his designs in the Church of S. Bartolommeo in Isola, which he retouched in like manner, and caused some scenes to be painted at the high altar of S. Salvatore del Lauro, with some grotesques on the vaulting, and likewise an Annunciation on the facade outside, which was executed by his pupil, Girolamo Sermoneta. Thus, then, partly because he was not able, and partly because the labor wearied him, liking to design his works rather than to execute them, he pursued the same course that Raffaello da Urbino had formerly followed at the end of his life. How harmful and how blameworthy is this practice, is proved by the Chigi works and by all those carried out by other hands, and is also shown by those that Perino caused to be executed in the same way; besides which, those works of Giulio Romano's that he did not paint with his own hand have not done him much honor. And although this method pleases Princes, giving them their works quickly, and perhaps benefits the craftsmen who labor upon them, yet, if they were the ablest men in the world, they could never feel that love for the works of others which a man feels for his own. Nor, however well drawn the cartoons may be, can they be imitated as exactly and as thoroughly as by the hand of their author, who, seeing the work going to ruin, in despair leaves it to fall into complete destruction. He, then, who thirsts for honor, should do his own painting. This I can say from experience, for after I had labored with the greatest possible pains on the cartoons for the Hall of the Cancelleria in the Palace of S. Giorgio in Rome, the work having to be executed with great haste in a hundred days, a vast number of painters were employed to paint it, who departed so far from their outlines and their true form, that I made a resolution, to which I have adhered, that from that time onward no one should lay a hand on any works of mine. Whoever, therefore, wishes to ensure long life for his name and his works, should undertake fewer and do them all with his own hand, if he desires to obtain that full meed of honor that a man of exalted genius seeks to acquire.
I say, then, that Perino, by reason of the number of the labors committed to his care, was forced to employ many persons; and he thirsted rather for gain than for glory, considering that he had thrown away his life and had saved nothing in his youth. And it vexed him so much to see young men coming forward to undertake work, that he sought to enroll them all under his own command, to the end that they might not encroach on his position. Now in the year 1546 there came to Rome the Venetian Tiziano da Cadore, a painter highly celebrated for his portraits, who, having formerly taken a portrait of Pope Paul at the time when His Holiness went to Busseto, without exacting any remuneration either for that or for some others that he had executed for Cardinal Farnese and Santa Fiore, was received by those prelates with the greatest honour in the Belvedere; at which a rumor arose in the Court, and then spread throughout Rome, to the effect that he had come in order to paint scenes with his own hand in the Hall of Kings in the Palace, where Perino was to paint them and the stucco-work was already in progress. This arrival caused much vexation to Perino, and he complained of it to many of his friends, not because he believed that Tiziano was likely to surpass him at painting historical scenes in fresco, but because he desired to occupy himself with that work peacefully and honorably until his death, and, if he was to do it, he wished to do it without competition, the wall and the vaulting by Michelagnolo in the Chapel close by being more than enough for him by way of comparison. That suspicion was the reason that while Tiziano stayed in Rome, Perino always avoided him, and remained in an ill-humor until his departure.
The Castellan of the Castello di S. Angelo, Tiberio Crispo, who was afterwards made a Cardinal, being a person who delighted in our arts, made up his mind to beautify the Castle, and rebuilt loggie, chambers, halls, and apartments in a very handsome manner, in order to be able to receive His Holiness more worthily when he went there. Many rooms and other ornaments were executed from the designs and under the direction of Raffaello da Montelupo, and then in the end by Antonio da San Gallo, and a loggia was wrought in stucco under the supervision of Raffaello, who also made the Angel of marble, a figure six braccia high, which was placed on the summit of the highest tower in the Castle. Tiberio then caused the said loggia, which is the one facing the meadows, to be painted by Girolamo Sermoneta; which finished, the rest of the rooms were entrusted in part to Luzio Romano, and finally the halls and other important apartments were finished partly by Perino with his own hand, and partly by others after his cartoons. The principal hall is very pleasing and beautiful, being wrought in stucco and all filled with scenes from Roman history, executed for the most part by Perino's young men, and not a few by the hand of Marco da Siena, the disciple of Domenico Beccafumi; and in certain rooms there are most beautiful friezes.
Perino, when he could find young men of ability, was wont to make use of them willingly in his works; but for all that he never ceased to execute any commonplace commission. He very often painted pennons for trumpets, banners for the Castle, and those of the fleet of the Militant Order; and he executed hangings, tabards, door-curtains, and the most insignificant works of art. He began some canvases from which tapestries were to be woven for Prince Doria, and he painted a chapel for the very reverend Cardinal Farnese, and a writing-study for the most illustrious Madama Margherita of Austria. He caused an ornamental frame to be made round the Madonna in S. Maria del Pianto, and also another ornamental frame round the Madonna in Piazza Giudea; and he executed many other works, of which, by reason of their number, I will not now make any further mention, particularly because he was accustomed to accept any sort of work that came to his hand. This disposition of Perino's, which was well known to the officials of the Palace, was the reason that he always had something to do for one or another of them, and he did it willingly, in order to bind them to himself, so that they might be obliged to serve him in the payment of his allowances and in his other requirements. In addition to this, Perino had acquired such authority that all the work in Rome was allotted to him, for the reason that, besides the circumstance that it appeared to be in a certain sense his due, he would sometimes execute commissions for the most paltry prices; whereby he did little good, nay rather, much harm, to himself and to art. That these words are true is proved by this, that if he had undertaken to paint the Hall of Kings in the Palace on his own account, and had worked at it together with his own assistants, he would have saved several hundreds of crowns, which all went to the overseers who had charge of the work and paid the daily wages to those who worked there.
Thus, having undertaken a burden so heavy and so laborious, and being infirm and enfeebled by catarrh, he was not able to endure such discomforts, having to draw day and night and to meet the demands of the Palace, and, among other things, to make the designs of embroideries, of engravings for banner-makers, and of innumerable ornaments required by the caprice of Farnese and other Cardinals and noblemen. In short, having his mind incessantly occupied, and being always surrounded by sculptors, masters in stucco, wood-carvers, seamsters, embroiderers, painters, gilders, and other suchlike craftsmen, he had never an hour of repose; and the only happiness and contentment that he knew in this life was to find himself at times with some of his friends at a tavern, which was his favourite haunt in all the places where it fell to his lot to live, considering that this was the true blessedness and peace of this world, and the only repose from his labours. And thus, having ruined his constitution by the fatigues of his art and by his excesses in eating and in love, he was attacked by asthma, which, sapping his strength little by little, finally caused him to sink into consumption; and one evening, while talking with a friend near his house, he fell dead of an apoplectic seizure in his forty-seventh year. At this many craftsmen felt infinite sorrow, it being a truly great loss that art suffered; and he received honorable burial from his son-in-law, M. Gioseffo Cincio, the physician of Madama, and from his wife, in the Chapel of S. Giuseppe in the Ritonda at Rome, with the following epitaph:PERINO BONACCURSIO VAG FLORENTINO, QUI INGENIO ET ARTE SINGULARI EGREGIOS CUM PICTORES PERMULTOS, TUM PLASTAS OMNES FACILE SUPERAVIT, CATHERINA PERINI CONJUGI, LAVINIA BONACCURSIA PARENTI, JOSEPHUS CINCIUS SOCERO CARISSIMO ET OPTIMO FECERE. VIXIT ANN. 46, MEN. 3, DIES 21. MORTUUS EST 14 CALEND. NOVEMB. ANN. CHRIST. 1547.
The place of Perino was filled by Daniello of Volterra, who had worked much with him, and who finished the two other Prophets that are in the Chapel of the Crocifisso in S. Marcello. Daniello has also adorned a chapel in S. Trinita' most beautifully with stucco-work and painting, for Signora Elena Orsina; with many other works, of which mention will be made in the proper place.
Perino, then, as may be seen from the works described and from many others that might be mentioned, was one of the most versatile [Pg 225] painters of our times, in that he assisted the craftsmen to work excellently in stucco, and executed grotesques, landscapes, animals, and all the other things of which a painter can have knowledge, using colours in fresco, in oils, and in distemper. Whence it may be said that he was the father of these most noble arts, seeing that his talents live in those who are continually imitating him in every honourable field of art. After Perino's death were published many prints taken from his drawings, such as the Slaying of the Giants that he executed in Genoa, eight stories of S. Peter taken from the Acts of the Apostles, of which he made designs for the embroidering of a cope for Pope Paul III, and many other things, which are known by the manner.
Perino made use of many young men, and taught the secrets of art to many disciples; but the best of them all, and the one of whom he availed himself more than of any other, was Girolamo Siciolante of Sermoneta, of whom there will be an account in the proper place. His disciple, likewise, was Marcello Mantovano, who executed on a wall at the entrance of the Castello di S. Angelo, after the design and under the direction of Perino, a Madonna with many Saints in fresco, which was a very beautiful thing; but of his works as well there will be an account elsewhere.
Perino left many designs at his death, some by his hand and some by others; among the latter, one of the whole Chapel of Michelagnolo Buonarroti, drawn by the hand of Leonardo Cungi of Borgo a San Sepolcro, which was an excellent work. All these designs, with other things, were sold by his heirs; and in our book are many drawings done by him with the pen, which are very beautiful.