Horse on the Fireplace. Stanza dei Cavalli, Palazzo del Te', Mantua. 1528.
Vasari's Lives of the Artists
AMONG HIS MANY, or rather innumerable, disciples, the greater number of whom became able masters, Raffaello da Urbino had not one who imitated him more closely in manner, invention, design, and coloring, than did Giulio Romano, nor one who was better grounded, more bold, resolute, prolific, and versatile, or more fanciful and varied than Giulio; not to mention for the present that he was very pleasant in his conversation, gay, amiable, gracious, and supremely excellent in character. These qualities were the reason that he was so beloved by Raffaello, that, if he had been his son, he could not have loved him more; wherefore it came to pass that Raffaello always made use of him in his most important works, and, in particular, in executing the Papal Loggie for Leo X; for after Raffaello had made the designs for the architecture, the decorations, and the scenes, he caused Giulio to paint many of the pictures there, among which are the Creation of Adam and Eve, that of the animals, the Building of Noah's Ark, his Sacrifice, and many other works, which are known by the manner, such as the one in which the daughter of Pharaoh, with her ladies, finds Moses in the little ark, which had been cast adrift on the river by the Hebrews--a work that is marvellous on account of a very well executed landscape.
Giulio also assisted Raffaello in painting many things in that apartment of the Borgia Tower which contains the Burning of the Borgo, more particularly the base, which is painted in the color of bronze, with the Countess Matilda, King Pepin, Charlemagne, Godfrey de Bouillon, King of Jerusalem, and other enefactors of the Church--all excellent figures; and prints of a part of this scene, taken from a drawing by the hand of Giulio, were published not long since. The same Giulio also executed the greater part of the scenes in fresco that are in the Loggia of Agostino Chigi; and he worked in oils on a very beautiful picture of S. Elizabeth, which was painted by Raffaello and sent to King Francis of France, together with another picture, of S. Margaret, painted almost entirely by Giulio after the design of Raffaello, who sent to the same King the portrait of the Vice-Queen of Naples, wherein Raffaello did nothing but the likeness of the head from life, and the rest was finished by Giulio. These works, which were very dear to that King, are still in the King's Chapel at Fontainebleau in France.
Working in this manner in the service of his master Raffaello, and learning the most difficult secrets of art, which were taught to him by Raffaello himself with extraordinary lovingness, before a long time had passed Giulio knew very well how to draw in perspective, take the measurements of buildings, and execute groundplans; and Raffaello, designing and sketching at times inventions after his own fancy, would afterwards have them drawn on a larger scale, with the proper measurements, by Giulio, in order to make use of them in his works of architecture. And Giulio, beginning to delight in that art, gave his attention to it in such a manner, that he afterwards practised it and became a most excellent master. At his death, Raffaello left as his heirs Giulio and Giovan Francesco, called Il Fattore, on the condition that they should finish the works begun by him; and they carried the greater part of these to completion with honor.
Now Cardinal Giulio de' Medici, who afterwards became Pope Clement VII, took a site under Monte Mario at Rome, in which, besides a beautiful view, there were running waters, with some woods on the banks and a lovely plain which, running along the Tiber as far as the Ponte Molle, formed on either side a wide expanse of meadowland that extended almost to the Porta di S. Pietro; and on the highest point of the bank, where there was a level space, he proposed to build a palace with all the best and most beautiful conveniences and adornments that could be desired in the form of apartments, loggie, gardens, fountains, groves, and other things. Of all this he gave the charge to Giulio, who, undertaking it willingly, and setting his hand to the work, brought that palace, which was then called the Vigna de' Medici, and is now known as the Villa Madama, to that condition which will be described below. Accommodating himself, then, to the nature of the site and the wishes of the Cardinal, he made the facade in the form of a semicircle, after the manner of a theatre, with a design of niches and windows of the Ionic Order; which was so excellent, that many believe that Raffaello made the first sketch for it, and that the work was afterwards pursued and carried to completion by Giulio. The same Giulio painted many pictures in the chambers and elsewhere; in particular, in a very beautiful loggia beyond the first entrance vestibule, which is adorned all around with niches large and small, wherein are great numbers of ancient statues; and among these was a Jupiter, a rare work, which was afterwards sent by the Farnese family to King Francis of France, with many other most beautiful statues. In addition to those niches, the said loggia is all wrought in stucco and has the walls and ceilings all painted with grotesques by the hand of Giovanni da Udine. At the head of this loggia Giulio painted in fresco an immense Polyphemus with a vast number of children and little satyrs playing about him, for which he gained much praise, even as he did for all the designs and works that he executed for that place, which he adorned with fish-ponds, pavements, rustic fountains, groves, and other suchlike things, all most beautiful and carried out with fine order and judgment.
It is true that, the death of Leo supervening, for a time this work was carried no further, for when a new Pontiff had been elected in Adrian, and Cardinal de' Medici had returned to Florence, it was abandoned, together with all the public works begun by Adrian's predecessor. During this time Giulio and Giovan Francesco brought to completion many things that had been left unfinished by Raffaello, and they were preparing to carry into execution some of the cartoons that he had made for the pictures of the Great Hall of the Palace--in which he had begun to paint four stories from the life of the Emperor Constantine, and had, when he died, covered one wall with the proper mixture for painting in oils--when they saw that Adrian, being a man who took no delight in pictures, sculptures, or in any other good thing, had no wish that the Hall should be finished. Driven to despair, therefore, Giulio and Giovan Francesco, and with them Perino del Vaga, Giovanni da Udine, Sebastiano Viniziano, and all the other excellent craftsmen, were almost like to die of hunger during the lifetime of Adrian. But by the will of God, while the Court, accustomed to the magnificence of Leo, was all in dismay, and all the best craftsmen, perceiving that no art was prized any longer, were beginning to consider where they might take refuge, Adrian died, and Cardinal Giulio de' Medici was elected Supreme Pontiff under the name of Clement VII; and with him all the arts of design, together with the other arts, were restored to life in one day. Giulio and Giovan Francesco, full of joy, set themselves straightway by order of the Pope to finish the above-mentioned Hall of Constantine, and threw to the ground the preparation that had been laid on one wall for painting in oils; but they left untouched two figures that they had painted previously in oils, which serve as adornments to certain Popes; and these were a Justice and another similar figure.
The distribution of this Hall, which is low, had been designed with much judgment by Raffaello, who had placed at the corners, over all the doors, large niches with ornaments in the form of little boys holding various devices of Leo, such as lilies, diamonds, plumes, and other emblems of the House of Medici. In the niches were seated some Popes in pontificals, each with a canopy in his niche; and round those Popes were some little boys in the form of little angels, holding books and other appropriate things in their hands. And each Pope had on either side of him a Virtue, chosen according to his merits; thus, the Apostle Peter had Religion on one side and Charity, or rather Piety, on the other, and so all the others had similar Virtues; and the said Popes were Damasus I, Alexander I, Leo III, Gregory, Sylvester, and some others. All these figures were so well placed in position and executed by Giulio, who painted all the best parts of this work in fresco, that it is clear that he endured much labor and took great pains with them; as may also be seen from a drawing of S. Sylvester, which was designed very well by his own hand, and is perhaps a much more graceful work than the painted figure. It may be affirmed, indeed, that Giulio always expressed his conceptions better in drawings than in finished work or in paintings, for in the former may be seen more vivacity, boldness, and feeling; and this may have happened because he made a drawing in an hour, in all the heat and glow of working, whereas on paintings he spent months, and even years, so that, growing weary of them, and losing that keen and ardent love that one has at the beginning of a work, it is no marvel that he did not give them that absolute perfection that is to be seen in his drawings.
But to return to the stories: Giulio painted on one of the walls Constantine making an address to his soldiers; while in the air, in a splendour of light, appears the Sign of the Cross, with some little boys, and letters that run thus: "In hoc signo vinces." And there is a dwarf at the feet of Constantine, placing a helmet on his head, who is executed with great art. Next, on the largest wall, there is the battle of horsemen which took place at the Ponte Molle, in which Constantine routed Maxentius. This work is worthy of the highest praise, on account of the dead and wounded that may be seen in it, and the various extravagant attitudes of the foot-soldiers and horsemen who are fighting in groups, all painted with great spirit; not to mention that there are many portraits from life. And if this scene were not too much darkened and loaded with blacks, which Giulio always delighted to use in coloring, it would be altogether perfect; but this takes away much of its grace and beauty. In the same scene he painted the whole landscape of Monte Mario, and the River Tiber, in which Maxentius, who is on horseback, proud and terrible, is drowning. In short, Giulio acquitted himself in such a manner in this work, that it has been a great light to all who have painted battle-pieces of that kind since his day. He himself learned so much from the ancient columns of Trajan and Antoninus that are in Rome, that he made much use of this knowledge for the costumes of soldiers, armour, ensigns, bastions, palisades, battering rams, and all the other instruments of war that are painted throughout the whole of that Hall. And beneath these scenes, right round, he painted many things in the color of bronze, which are all beautiful and worthy of praise.
On another wall he painted S. Sylvester the Pope baptizing Constantine, representing there the very bath made by Constantine himself, which is at S. Giovanni Laterano at the present day; and he made a portrait from life of Pope Clement in the S. Sylvester who is baptizing, with some assistants in their vestments, and a crowd of people. Among the many attendants of the Pope of whom he painted portraits there, also from life, was the Cavalierino, who was very influential with His Holiness at that time, and Messer Niccolo' Vespucci, a Knight of Rhodes. And below this, on the base, he painted a scene with figures in imitation of bronze, of Constantine causing the Church of S. Pietro to be built at Rome, in allusion to Pope Clement. There he made portraits of the architect Bramante and of Giuliano Lemi, holding the design of the ground-plan of the said church, and this scene is very beautiful.
On the fourth wall, above the chimney piece of that Hall, he depicted in perspective the Church of S. Pietro at Rome, with the Pope's throne exactly as it appears when His Holiness chants the Pontifical Mass; the body of Cardinals and all the other prelates of the Court; the chapel of singers and musicians; and the Pope seated, represented as S. Sylvester, with Constantine kneeling at his feet and presenting to him a figure of Rome made of gold in the manner of those that are on the ancient medals, by which Giulio intended to signify the dowry which that Constantine gave to the Roman Church. In this scene Giulio painted many women kneeling there to see that ceremony, who are very beautiful; a beggar asking for alms; a little boy amusing himself by riding on a dog; and the Lancers of the Papal Guard, who are making the people give way and stand back, as is the custom. And among many portraits that are in this work may be seen portraits from life of Giulio himself, the painter; of Count Baldassarre Castiglioni, the author of the "Cortigiano," and very much his friend; of Pontano and Marullo; and of many other men of letters and courtiers. Right round the Hall and between the windows Giulio painted many devices and poetical compositions, which were pleasing and fanciful; and everything was much to the satisfaction of the Pope, who rewarded him liberally for his labors.
While this Hall was being painted, Giulio and Giovan Francesco, although they could not meet the demands of their friends even in part, executed an altarpiece with the Assumption of Our Lady, a very beautiful work, which was sent to Perugia and placed in the Convent of the Nuns of Monteluci. Then, having withdrawn to work by himself, Giulio painted a picture of Our Lady, with a cat that was so natural that it appeared to be truly alive; whence that picture was called the Picture of the Cat. In another picture, of great size, he painted a Christ being scourged at the Column, which was placed on the altar of the Church of S. Prassedia at Rome. And not long after this, M. Giovan Matteo Giberti, who was then Datary to Pope Clement, and afterwards became Bishop of Verona, commissioned Giulio, who was his very familiar friend, to make the design for some rooms that were built of brick near the gate of the Papal Palace, looking out upon the Piazza of S. Pietro, and serving for the accommodation of the trumpeters who blow their trumpets when the Cardinals go to the Consistory, with a most commodious flight of steps, which can be ascended on horseback as well as on foot. For the same M. Giovan Matteo he painted an altar-piece of the Stoning of S. Stephen, which M. Giovan Matteo sent to a benefice of his own, called S. Stefano, in Genoa. In this altarpiece, which is most beautiful in invention, grace, and composition, the young Saul may be seen seated on the garments of S. Stephen while the Jews are stoning him; and, in a word, Giulio never painted a more beautiful work than this, so fierce are the attitudes of the persecutors and so well expressed the patience of Stephen, who appears to be truly seeing Jesus Christ on the right hand of the Father in the Heaven, which is painted divinely well. This work, together with the benefice, M. Giovan Matteo gave to the Monks of Monte Oliveto, who have turned the place into a monastery.
The same Giulio executed at the commission of the German Jacob Fugger, for a chapel that is in S. Maria de Anima at Rome, a most lovely altarpiece in oils, in which are the Madonna, S. Anne, S. Joseph, S. James, S. John as a little boy kneeling, and S. Mark the Evangelist with a lion at his feet, which is lying down with a book, its hair curving in accordance with its position, which was a beautiful consideration, and difficult to execute; not to mention that the same lion has short wings on its shoulders, with feathers so soft and plumy, that it seems almost incredible that the hand of a craftsman could have been able to imitate nature so closely. Besides this, he painted there a building that curves in a circular form after the manner of a theatre, with some statues so beautiful and so well placed that there is nothing better to be seen. Among other figures there is a woman who is spinning and gazing at a hen with some chickens, than which nothing could be more natural; and above Our Lady are some little boys, very graceful and well painted, who are upholding a canopy. And if this picture, also, had not been so heavily loaded with black, by reason of which it has become very dark, it would certainly have been much better; but this blackness has brought it about that the greater part of the work that is in it is lost or destroyed, and that because black, even when fortified with varnish, is the ruin of all that is good, always having in it a certain desiccative quality, whether it be made from charcoal, burnt ivory, smoke-black, or burnt paper.
Among the many disciples that Giulio had while he was executing these works, such as Bartolommeo da Castiglione, Tommaso Papacello of Cortona, and Benedetto Pagni of Pescia, those of whom he made the most particular use were Giovanni da Lione and Raffaello dal Colle of Borgo a San Sepolcro, both of whom assisted him in the execution of many things in the Hall of Constantine and in the other works of which we have spoken. Wherefore I do not think it right to refrain from mentioning that these two, who were very dexterous in painting, and followed the manner of Giulio closely in carrying into execution the works that he designed for them, painted in colors after his design, near the old Mint in the Banchi, the escutcheon of Pope Clement VII, each of them doing one-half, with two terminal figures, one on either side of that escutcheon. And the same Raffaello, not long after, painted in fresco from a cartoon drawn by Giulio, in a lunette within the door of the Palace of Cardinal della Valle, a Madonna who is covering the Child, who is sleeping, with a piece of drapery, with S. Andrew the Apostle on one side and S. Nicholas on the other, which was held, with justice, to be an excellent picture.
Giulio, meanwhile, being very intimate with Messer Baldassarre Turini da Pescia, built for him on Mount Janiculum, where there are some villas that have a most beautiful view, after making the design and model, a palace so graceful and so well appointed, from its having all the conveniences that could be desired in such a place, that it defies description. Moreover, the apartments were adorned not only with stucco, but also with paintings, for he himself painted there some stories of Numa Pompilius, who was buried on that spot; and in the bathroom of this palace, with the help of his young men, Giulio painted some stories of Venus, Love, Apollo, and Hyacinthus, which are all to be seen in engraving.
After having separated himself completely from Giovan Francesco, he executed various architectural works in Rome, such as the design of the house of the Alberini in the Banchi (although some believe that the plan of this work came from Raffaello), and likewise a palace that may be seen at the present day on the Piazza della Dogana in Rome, which, being beautiful in design, has been reproduced in engraving. And for himself, on a corner of the Macello de' Corbi, where stood his own house, in which he was born, he made a beginning with a beautiful range of windows, which is a small thing, but very graceful.
By reason of all these excellent qualities, Giulio, after the death of Raffaello, was celebrated as the best craftsman in Italy. And Count Baldassarre Castiglioni, who was then in Rome as ambassador from Federigo Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua, and was much the friend, as has been related, of Giulio, having been commanded by his master the Marquis to send him an architect of whom he might avail himself for the necessities of his palace and of the city, the Marquis adding that he would particularly like to have Giulio--the Count, I say, so wrought upon him with entreaties and promises, that Giulio said that he would go, provided that he could do this with the leave of Pope Clement; which leave having been obtained, the Count, setting out for Mantua, from which he was then to go on behalf of the Pope to the Emperor, took Giulio with him; and having arrived there, he presented him to the Marquis, who, after welcoming him warmly, caused an honorably appointed house to be given to him, together with a salary and also a good table for himself, for his disciple Benedetto Pagni, and for another young man who was in his service; and, what is more, the Marquis sent him several canne of velvet, satin, and other kinds of silk and cloth wherewith to clothe himself. Then, hearing that he had no horse to ride, he sent for a favorite horse of his own, called Luggieri, and presented it to him; and when Giulio had mounted upon it, they rode to a spot a bow-shot beyond the Porta di S. Bastiano, where His Excellency had a place with some stables, called the Te', standing in the middle of a meadow, in which he kept his stud of horses and mares. Arriving there, the Marquis said that he would like, without destroying the old walls, to have some sort of place arranged to which he might resort at times for dinner or supper, as a recreation.
Giulio, having heard the will of the Marquis, and having examined the whole place, took a groundplan of that site and set his hand to the work. Availing himself of the old walls, he made in the principal part the first hall that is to be seen at the present day as one enters, with the suite of rooms that are about it. And since the place has no living rock, and no quarries from which to excavate material for hewn and carved stone, such as are used in building by those who can obtain them, he made use of brick and baked stone, which he afterwards worked over with stucco; and with this material he made columns, bases, capitals, cornices, doors, windows, and other things, all with most beautiful proportions. And he executed the decorations of the vaults in a new and fantastic manner, with very handsome compartments, and with richly adorned recesses, which was the reason that the Marquis, after a beginning so humble, then resolved to have the whole of that building reconstructed in the form of a great palace.
Thereupon Giulio made a very beautiful model, all of rustic work both without and within the courtyard, which pleased that lord so much, that he assigned a good sum of money for the building; and after Giulio had engaged many masters, the work was quickly carried to completion. The form of the palace is as follows: The building is quadrangular, and has in the centre an open courtyard after the manner of a meadow, or rather, of a piazza, into which open four entrances in the form of a cross. The first of these traverses straightway, or rather, passes, into a very large loggia, which opens by another into the garden, and two others lead into various apartments; and these are all adorned with stucco-work and paintings. In the hall to which the first entrance gives access the vaulting is wrought in various compartments and painted in fresco, and on the walls are portraits from life of all the favorite and most beautiful horses from the stud of the Marquis, together with the dogs of the same coat or marking as the horses, with their names; which were all designed by Giulio, and painted in fresco on the plaster by the painters Benedetto Pagni and Rinaldo Mantovano, his disciples, and so well, in truth, that they seem to be alive.
From this hall one passes into a room which is at one corner of the palace, and has the vaulting most beautifully wrought with compartments in stucco work and varied mouldings, touched in certain places with gold. These mouldings divide the surface into four octagons, which enclose a picture in the highest part of the vaulting, in which is Cupid marrying Psyche in the sight of Jove, who is on high, illumined by a dazzling celestial light, and in the presence of all the Gods. It would not be possible to find anything executed with more grace or better draughtsmanship than this scene, for Giulio foreshortened the figures so well, with a view to their being seen from below, that some of them, although they are scarcely one braccio in length, appear when seen from the ground to be three braccia high; and, in truth, they are wrought with marvellous art and ingenuity, Giulio having succeeded in so contriving them, that, besides seeming to be alive (so strong is the relief), they deceive the human eye with a most pleasing illusion. In the octagons are all the earlier stories of Psyche, showing the adversities that came upon her through the wrath of Venus, and all executed with the same beauty and perfection; in other angles are many Loves, as likewise in the windows, producing various effects in accordance with the spaces where they are; and the whole of the vaulting is painted in oils by the hands of the above-mentioned Benedetto and Rinaldo. The rest of the stories of Psyche are on the walls below, and these are the largest. In one in fresco is Psyche in the bath; and the Loves are bathing her, and then wiping her dry with most beautiful gestures.
In another part is Mercury preparing the banquet, while Psyche is bathing, with the Bacchantes sounding instruments; and there are the Graces adorning the table with flowers in a beautiful manner. There is also Silenus supported by Satyrs, with his ass, and a goat lying down, which has two children sucking at its udder; and in that company is Bacchus, who has two tigers at his feet, and stands leaning with one arm on the credence, on one side of which is a camel, and on the other an elephant. This credence, which is barrel-shaped, is adorned with festoons of verdure and flowers, and all covered with vines laden with bunches of grapes and leaves, under which are three rows of bizarre vases, basins, drinking-cups, tazze, goblets, and other things of that kind in various forms and fantastic shapes, and so lustrous, that they seem to be of real silver and gold, being counterfeited with a simple yellow and other colors, and that so well, hat they bear witness to the extraordinary genius and art of Giulio, who proved in this part of the work that he was rich, versatile, and abundant in invention and craftsmanship. Not far away may be seen Psyche, who, surrounded by many women who are serving and attiring her, sees Phoebus appearing in the distance among the hills in the chariot of the sun, which is drawn by four horses; while Zephyr is lying nude upon some clouds, and is blowing gentle breezes through a horn that he has in his mouth, which make the air round Psyche balmy and soft. These stories were engraved not many years since after the designs of Battista Franco of Venice, who copied them exactly as they were painted from the great cartoons of Giulio by Benedetto of Pescia and Rinaldo Mantovano, who carried into execution all the stories except the Bacchus, the Silenus, and the two children suckled by the goat; although it is true that the work was afterwards retouched almost all over by Giulio, so that it is very much as if it had been all painted by him. This method, which he learned from Raffaello, his instructor, is very useful to young men, who in this way obtain practice and thereby generally become excellent masters. And although some persuade themselves that they are greater than those who keep them at work, such fellows, if their guide fails them before they are at the end, or if they are deprived of the design and directions for the work, learn that through having lost or abandoned that guidance too early they are wandering like blind men in an infinite sea of errors.
But to return to the apartments of the Te'; from that room of Psyche one passes into another full of double friezes with figures in low-relief, executed in stucco after the designs of Giulio by Francesco Primaticcio of Bologna, then a young man, and by Giovan Battista Mantovano, in which friezes are all the soldiers that are on Trajan's Column at Rome, wrought in a beautiful manner. And on the ceiling, or rather soffit, of an antechamber is painted in oils the scene when Icarus, having been taught by his father Daedalus, seeks to rise too high in his flight, and, after seeing the Sign of Cancer and the chariot of the sun, which is drawn by four horses in foreshortening, near the Sign of Leo, is left without his wings, the wax being consumed by the heat of the sun; and near this the same Icarus may be seen hurtling through the air, and almost falling upon those who gaze at him, his face dark with the shadow of death. This invention was so well conceived and imagined by Giulio, that it seems to be real and true, for in it one sees the fierce heat of the sun burning the wretched youth's wings, the flaming fire gives out smoke, and one almost hears the crackling of the burning plumes, while death may be seen carved in the face of Icarus, and in that of Daedalus the most bitter sorrow and agony. In our book of drawings by various painters is the original design of this very beautiful scene, by the hand of Giulio himself, who executed in the same place the stories of the twelve months of the year, showing all that is done in each of them in the arts most practised by mankind--paintings which are notable no less for their fantastic and delightful character and their beauty of invention than for the judgment and diligence with which they were executed.