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GIULIO ROMANO
PAINTER
Second Part

Vasari's Lives of the Artists




After passing the great loggia, which is adorned with stucco-work and with many arms and various other bizarre ornaments, one comes to some rooms filled with such a variety of fantasies, that the brain reels at the thought of them. For Giulio, who was very fanciful and ingenious, wishing to demonstrate his worth, resolved to make, at an angle of the palace which formed a corner similar to that of the room of Psyche described above, an apartment the masonry of which should be in keeping with the painting, in order to deceive as much as possible all who might see it. He therefore had double foundations of great depth sunk at that corner, which was in a marshy place, and over that angle he constructed a large round room, with very thick walls, to the end that the four external angles of the masonry might be strong enough to be able to support a double vault, round after the manner of an oven. This done, he caused to be built at the corners right round the room, in the proper places, the doors, windows, and fireplace, all of rustic stones rough-hewn as if by chance, and, as it were, disjointed and awry, insomuch that they appeared to be really hanging over to one side and falling down. Having built this room in such strange fashion, he set himself to paint in it the most fantastic composition that he was able to invent--namely, Jove hurling his thunderbolts against the Giants. And so, depicting Heaven on the highest part of the vaulting, he placed there the throne of Jove, representing it as seen in foreshortening from below and from the front, within a round temple, supported by open columns of the Ionic Order, with his canopy over the center of the throne, and with his eagle; and all was poised upon the clouds. Lower down he painted Jove in anger, slaying the proud Giants with his thunderbolts, and below him is Juno, assisting him; and around them are the Winds, with strange countenances, blowing towards the earth, while the Goddess Ops turns with her lions at the terrible noise of the thunder, as also do the other Gods and Goddesses, and Venus in particular, who is at the side of Mars; and Momus, with his arms outstretched, appears to fear that Heaven may be falling headlong down, and yet he stands motionless. The Graces, likewise, are standing filled with dread, and beside them, in like manner, the Hours.

All the Deities, in short, are taking to flight with their chariots. The Moon, Saturn, and Janus are going towards the lightest of the clouds, in order to withdraw from that terrible uproar and turmoil, and the same does Neptune, who, with his dolphins, appears to be seeking to support himself on his trident. Pallas, with the nine Muses, stands wondering what horrible thing this may be, and Pan, embracing a Nymph who is trembling with fear, seems to wish to save her from the glowing fires and the lightning-flashes with which the heavens are filled. Apollo stands in the chariot of the sun, and some of the Hours seem to be seeking to restrain the course of his horses. Bacchus and Silenus, with Satyrs and Nymphs, betray the greatest terror, and Vulcan, with his ponderous hammer on one shoulder, gazes towards Hercules, who is speaking of this event with Mercury, beside whom is Pomona all in dismay, as are also Vertumnus and all the other Gods dispersed throughout that Heaven, in which all the effects of fear are so well expressed, both in those who are standing and in those who are flying, that it is not possible, I do not say to see, but even to imagine a more beautiful fantasy in painting than this one.

In the parts below, that is, on the walls that stand upright, underneath the end of the curve of the vaulting, are the Giants, some of whom, those below Jove, have upon their backs mountains and immense rocks which they support with their stout shoulders, in order to pile them up and thus ascend to Heaven, while their ruin is preparing, for Jove is thundering and the whole Heaven burning with anger against them; and it appears not only that the Gods are dismayed by the presumptuous boldness of the Giants, upon whom they are hurling mountains, but that the whole world is upside down and, as it were, come to its last day. In this part Giulio painted Briareus in a dark cavern, almost covered with vast fragments of mountains, and the other Giants all crushed and some dead beneath the ruins of the mountains. Besides this, through an opening in the darkness of a grotto, which reveals a distant landscape painted with beautiful judgment, may be seen many Giants flying, all smitten by the thunderbolts of Jove, and, as it were, on the point of being overwhelmed at that moment by the fragments of the mountains, like the others. In another part Giulio depicted other Giants, upon whom are falling temples, columns, and other pieces of buildings, making a vast slaughter and havoc of those proud beings. And in this part, among those falling fragments of buildings, stands the fireplace of the room, which, when there is a fire in it, makes it appear as if the Giants are burning, for Pluto is painted there, flying towards the center with his chariot drawn by lean horses, and accompanied by the Furies of Hell; and thus Giulio, not departing from the subject of the story with this invention of the fire, made a most beautiful adornment for the fireplace.

In this work, moreover, in order to render it the more fearsome and terrible, Giulio represented the Giants, huge and fantastic in aspect, falling to the earth, smitten in various ways by the lightnings and thunderbolts; some in the foreground and others in the background, some dead, others wounded, and others again covered by mountains and the ruins of buildings. Wherefore let no one ever think to see any work of the brush more horrible and terrifying, or more natural than this one; and whoever enters that room and sees the windows, doors, and other suchlike things all awry and, as it were, on the point of falling, and the mountains and buildings hurtling down, cannot but fear that everything will fall upon him, and, above all, as he sees the Gods in the Heaven rushing, some here, some there, and all in flight. And what is most marvellous in the work is to see that the whole of the painting has neither beginning nor end, but is so well joined and connected together, without any divisions or ornamental partitions, that the things which are near the buildings appear very large, and those in the distance, where the landscapes are, go on receding into infinity; whence that room, which is not more than fifteen braccia in length, has the appearance of open country. Moreover, the pavement being of small round stones set on edge, and the lower part of the upright walls being painted with similar stones, there is no sharp angle to be seen, and that level surface has the effect of a vast expanse, which was executed with much judgment and beautiful art by Giulio, to whom our craftsmen are much indebted for such inventions.

In this work the above-mentioned Rinaldo Mantovano became a perfect colorist, for he carried the whole of it into execution after the cartoons of Giulio, as well as the other rooms. And if this painter had not been snatched from the world so young, even as he did honor to Giulio during his lifetime, so he would have done honor (to himself) after Giulio's death.

In addition to this palace, in which Giulio executed many other works worthy to be praised, of which, in order to avoid prolixity, I shall say nothing, he reconstructed with masonry many rooms in the castle where the Duke lives at Mantua, and made two very large spiral staircases, with very rich apartments adorned all over with stucco. In one hall he caused the whole of the story of Troy and the Trojan War to be painted, and likewise twelve scenes in oils in an antechamber, below the heads of the twelve Emperors previously painted there by Tiziano Vecelli, which are all held to be excellent. In like manner, at Marmirolo, a place five miles distant from Mantua, a most commodious building was erected after the design of Giulio and under his direction, with large paintings no less beautiful than those of the castle and of the palace of the T. The same master painted an altar-piece in oils for the Chapel of Signora Isabella Buschetta in S. Andrea at Mantua, of Our Lady in the act of adoring the Infant Jesus, who is lying on the ground, with S. Joseph, the ass and the ox near a manger, and on one side S. John the Evangelist, and S. Longinus on the other, figures of the size of life. Next, on the walls of the same chapel, he caused Rinaldo to paint two very beautiful scenes after his own designs; on one, the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, with the Thieves, some Angels in the air, and on the ground the ministers of the Crucifixion and the Maries, with many horses, in which he always delighted, making them beautiful to a marvel, and many soldiers in various attitudes; and, on the other, the scene when the Blood of Christ was discovered in the time of the Countess Matilda, which was a most beautiful work.

Giulio then painted with his own hand for Duke Federigo a picture of Our Lady washing the little Jesus Christ, who is standing in a basin, while a little S. John is pouring out the water from a vase. Both of these figures, which are of the size of life, are very beautiful; and in the distance are small figures, from the waist upwards, of some ladies who are coming to visit the Madonna. This picture was afterwards presented by the Duke to Signora Isabella Buschetta, of which lady Giulio subsequently made a most beautiful portrait in a little picture of the Nativity of Christ, one braccio in height, which is now in the possession of Signor Vespasiano Gonzaga, together with another picture presented to him by Duke Federigo, and likewise by the hand of Giulio, in which are a young man and a young woman embracing each other on a bed, in the act of caressing one another, while an old woman peeps at them secretly from behind a door--figures which are little less than life-size, and very graceful. In the house of the same person is another very excellent picture of a most beautiful S. Jerome, also by the hand of Giulio. And in the possession of Count Niccola Maffei is a picture of Alexander the Great, of the size of life, with a Victory in his hand, copied from an ancient medal, which is a work of great beauty.

After these works, Giulio painted in fresco over a chimney-piece, for M. Girolamo, the organist of the Duomo at Mantua, who was very much his friend, a Vulcan who is working his bellows with one hand and holding with the other, with a pair of tongs, the iron head of an arrow that he is forging, while Venus is tempering in a vase some already made and placing them in Cupid's quiver. This is one of the most beautiful works that Giulio ever executed; and there is little else in fresco by his hand to be seen. For S. Domenico, at the commission of M. Lodovico da Fermo, he painted an altarpiece of the Dead Christ, whom Joseph and Nicodemus are preparing to lay in the sepulchre, and near them are His Mother, the other Maries, and S. John the Evangelist. And a little picture, in which he also painted a Dead Christ, is in the house of the Florentine Tommaso da Empoli at Venice.

At the same time when he was executing these and other pictures, it happened that Signor Giovanni de' Medici, having been wounded by a musket-ball, was carried to Mantua, where he died. Whereupon M. Pietro Aretino, who was the devoted servant of that lord, and very much the friend of Giulio, desired that Giulio should mould a likeness of him with his own hand as he lay dead; and he, therefore, having taken a cast from the face of the dead man, executed a portrait from it, which remained for many years afterwards in the possession of the same Aretino.

For the entry of the Emperor Charles V into Mantua, Giulio, by order of the Duke, made many most beautiful festive preparations in the form of arches, scenery for dramas, and a number of other things; in which inventions Giulio had no equal, nor was there ever any man more fanciful in preparing masquerades and in designing extravagant costumes for jousts, festivals, and tournaments, as was seen at that time with amazement and marvel by the Emperor Charles and by all who were present. Besides this, at different times he gave so many designs for chapels, houses, gardens, and faades throughout the whole of Mantua, and he so delighted to embellish and adorn the city, that, whereas it was formerly buried in mud and at times full of stinking water and almost uninhabitable, he brought it to such a condition that at the present day, thanks to his industry, it is dry, healthy, and altogether pleasing and delightful.

While Giulio was in the service of that Duke, one year the Po, bursting its banks, inundated Mantua in such a manner, that in certain low-lying parts of the city the water rose to the height of nearly four braccia, insomuch that for a long time frogs lived in them almost all the year round. Giulio, therefore, after pondering in what way he might put this right, so went to work that for the time being the city was restored to its former condition; and to the end that the same might not happen another time, he contrived to have the streets on that side raised so much, by command of the Duke, that they came above the level of the water, and the buildings stood in safety. In that part of the city the houses were small, slightly built, and of no great importance, and he gave orders that they should be pulled down, in order to raise the streets and bring that quarter to a better state, and that new houses, larger and more beautiful, should be built there, to the advantage and improvement of the city. To this measure many opposed themselves, saying to the Duke that Giulio was doing too much havoc; but he would not hear any of them--nay, he made Giulio superintendent of the streets at that very time, and decreed that no one should build in that city save under Giulio's direction. On which account many complaining and some even threatening Giulio, this came to the ears of the Duke, who used such words in his favor as made it known that if they did anything to the despite or injury of Giulio, he would count it as done to himself, and would make an example of them.

The Duke was so enamoured of the excellence of Giulio, that he could not live without him; and Giulio, on his part, bore to that lord the greatest reverence that it is possible to imagine. Wherefore he never asked a favor for himself or for others without obtaining it, and when he died it was found that with all that he had received from the Duke he had an income of more than a thousand ducats.

Giulio built a house for himself in Mantua, opposite to S. Barnaba, on the outer side of which he made a fantastic facade, all wrought with colored stucco, and the interior he caused to be all painted and wrought likewise with stucco; and he found place in it for many antiquities brought from Rome and others received from the Duke, to whom he gave many of his own. He made so many designs both for Mantua and for places in its neighborhood, that it was a thing incredible; for, as has been told, no palaces or other buildings of importance could be erected, particularly in the city, save after his design. He rebuilt upon the old walls the Church of S. Benedetto, a rich and vast seat of Black Friars at Mantua, near the Po; and the whole church was embellished with most beautiful paintings and altarpieces from designs by his hand. And since his works were very highly prized throughout Lombardy, it pleased Gian Matteo Giberti, Bishop of Verona, to have the tribune of the Duomo of that city all painted, as has been related in another place, by Il Moro the Veronese, after designs by Giulio. For the Duke of Ferrara, also, he executed many designs for tapestries, which were afterwards woven in silk and gold by Maestro Niccolo' and Giovan Battista Rosso, both Flemings; and of these there are engravings to be seen, executed by Giovan Battista Mantovano, who engraved a vast number of things drawn by Giulio, and in particular, besides three drawings of battles engraved by others, a physician who is applying cupping-glasses to the shoulders of a woman, and the Flight of Our Lady into Egypt, with Joseph holding the ass by the halter, and some Angels bending down a date palm in order that Christ may pluck the fruit. The same master engraved, also after the designs of Giulio, the Wolf on the Tiber suckling Romulus and Remus, and four stories of Pluto, Jove and Neptune, who are dividing the heavens, the earth, and the sea among them by lot; and likewise the goat Amaltheia, which, held by Melissa, is giving suck to Jove, and a large plate of many men in a prison, tortured in various ways. There were also printed, after the inventions of Giulio, Scipio and Hannibal holding a parley with their armies on the banks of the river; the Nativity of S. John the Baptist, which was engraved by Sebastiano da Reggio, and many other works engraved and printed in Italy. In Flanders and in France, likewise, have been printed innumerable sheets from designs by Giulio, of which, although they are very beautiful, there is no need to make mention, nor of all his drawings, seeing that he made them, so to speak, in loads. Let it be enough to say that he was so facile in every field of art, and particularly in drawing, that we have no record of any one who has produced more than he did.

Giulio, who was very versatile, was able to discourse on every subject, but above all on medals, upon which he spent large sums of money and much time, in order to gain knowledge of them. And although he was employed almost always in great works, this did not mean that he would not set his hand at times to the most trifling matters in order to oblige his patron and his friends; and no sooner had one opened his mouth to explain to him his conception than he had understood it and drawn it. Among the many rare things that he had in his house was the portrait from life of Albrecht Drer on a piece of fine Rheims cloth, by the hand of Albrecht himself, who sent it, as has been related in another place, as a present to Raffaello da Urbino. This portrait was an exquisite thing, for it had been colored in gouache with much diligence with watercolors, and Albrecht had executed it without using lead white, availing himself in its stead of the white of the cloth, with the delicate threads of which he had so well rendered the hairs of the beard, that it was a thing scarcely possible to imagine, much less to do; and when held up to the light it showed through on either side. This portrait, which was very dear to Giulio, he showed to me himself as a miracle, when I went during his lifetime to Mantua on some affairs of my own.

At the death of Duke Federigo, by whom Giulio had been beloved beyond belief, he was so overcome with sorrow, that he would have left Mantua, if the Cardinal, the brother of the Duke, on whom the government of the State had descended because the sons of Federigo were very young, had not detained him in that city, where he had a wife and children, houses, villas, and all the other possessions that are proper to a gentleman of means. And this the Cardinal did (aided by those reasons) from a wish to avail himself of the advice and assistance of Giulio in renovating, or rather building almost entirely anew, the Duomo of that city; to which work Giulio set his hand, and carried it well on in a very beautiful form.

At this time Giorgio Vasari, who was much the friend of Giulio, although they did not know one another save only by reputation and by letters, in going to Venice, took the road by Mantua, in order to see Giulio and his works. And so, having arrived in that city, and going to find his friend, when they met, although they had never seen each other, they knew one another no less surely than if they had been together in person a thousand times. At which Giulio was so filled with joy and contentment, that for four days he never left him, showing him all his works, and in particular all the groundplans of the ancient edifices in Rome, Naples, Pozzuolo, and Campania, and of all the other fine antiquities of which anything is known, drawn partly by him and partly by others. Then, opening a very large press, he showed to Giorgio the groundplans of all the buildings that had been erected after his designs and under his direction, not only in Mantua and in Rome, but throughout all Lombardy, which were so beautiful, that I, for my part, do not believe that there are to be seen any architectural inventions more original, more lovely, or better composed. After this, the Cardinal asking Giorgio what he thought of the works of Giulio, Giorgio answered in the presence of Giulio that they were such that he deserved to have a statue of himself placed at every corner of the city, and that, since he had given that city a new life, the half of the State would not be a sufficient reward for the labours and abilities of Giulio; to which the Cardinal answered that Giulio was more the master of that State than he was himself. And since Giulio was very loving, especially towards his friends, there was no mark of love and affection that Giorgio did not receive from him. The same Vasari, having left Mantua and gone to Venice, returned to Rome at the very time when Michelagnolo had just uncovered his Last Judgment in the Chapel; and he sent to Giulio by M. Nino Nini of Cortona, the secretary of the aforesaid Cardinal of Mantua, three sheets containing the Seven Mortal Sins, copied from that Last Judgment of Michelagnolo, which were welcome in no ordinary manner to Giulio, both as being what they were, and because he had at that time to paint a chapel in the palace for the Cardinal, and they served to inspire him to greater things than those that he had in mind. Putting forward all possible effort, therefore, to make a most beautiful cartoon, he drew in it with fine fancy the scene of Peter and Andrew leaving their nets at the call of Christ, in order to follow Him, and to be thenceforward, not fishers of fishes, but fishers of men. And this cartoon, which proved to be the most beautiful that Giulio had ever made, was afterwards carried into execution by the painter Fermo Ghisoni, a pupil of Giulio, and now an excellent master.

Not long afterwards the superintendents of the building of S. Petronio at Bologna, being desirous to make a beginning with the facade of that church, succeeded after great difficulty in inducing Giulio to go there, in company with a Milanese architect called Tofano Lombardino, a man in great repute at that time in Lombardy for the many buildings by his hand that were to be seen in that country. These masters, then, made many designs, those of Baldassarre Peruzzi of Siena having been lost; and one that Giulio made, among others, was so beautiful and so well ordered, that he rightly received very great praise for it from that people, and was rewarded with most liberal gifts on his return to Mantua.

Meanwhile, Antonio da San Gallo having died at Rome about that time, the superintendents of the building of S. Pietro had been thereby left in no little embarrassment, not knowing to whom to turn or on whom to lay the charge of carrying that great fabric to completion after the plan already begun; but they thought that no one could be more fitted for this than Giulio Romano, for they all knew how great were his worth and excellence. And so, surmising that he would accept such a charge more than willingly in order to repatriate himself in an honorable manner and with a good salary, they caused some of his friends to approach him, but in vain, for the reason that, although he would have gone with the greatest willingness, two things prevented him--the Cardinal would in no way consent to his departure, and his wife, with her relatives and friends, used every possible means to dissuade him. Neither of these two reasons, perchance, would have prevailed with him, if he had not happened to be in somewhat feeble health at that time; for, having considered how much honor and profit he might secure for himself and his children by accepting so handsome a proposal, he was already fully disposed to make every effort not to be hindered in the matter by the Cardinal, when his malady began to grow worse. However, since it had been ordained on high that he should go no more to Rome, and that this should be the end and conclusion of his life, in a few days, what with his vexation and his malady, he died at Mantua, which city might well have allowed him, even as he had embellished her, so also to honor and adorn his native city of Rome.

Giulio died at the age of fifty-four, leaving only one male child, to whom he had given the name of Raffaello out of regard for the memory of his master. This young Raffaello had scarcely learned the first rudiments of art, showing signs of being destined to become an able master, when he also died, not many years after, together with his mother, Giulio's wife; wherefore there remained no descendant of Giulio save a daughter called Virginia, who still lives in Mantua, married to Ercole Malatesta. Giulio, whose death was an infinite grief to all who knew him, was given burial in S. Barnaba, where it was proposed that some honorable memorial should be erected to him; but his wife and children, postponing the matter from one day to another, themselves died for the most part without doing anything. It is indeed a sad thing that there has been no one who has treasured in any way the memory of a man who did so much to adorn that city, save only those who availed themselves of his services, who have often remembered him in their necessities. But his own talent, which did him so much honor in his lifetime, has secured for him after death, in the form of his own works, an everlasting monument which time, with all its years, can never destroy.

Giulio was neither tall nor short of stature, and rather stout than slight in build. He had black hair, beautiful features, and eyes dark and merry, and he was very loving, regular in all his actions, and frugal in eating, but fond of dressing and living in honorable fashion. He had disciples in plenty, but the best were Giovanni da Lione, Raffaello dal Colle of Borgo, Benedetto Pagni of Pescia, Figurino da Faenza, Rinaldo Mantovano, Giovan Battista Mantovano, and Fermo Ghisoni, who still lives in Mantua and does him honor, being an excellent painter. And the same may be said for Benedetto, who has executed many works in his native city of Pescia, and an altarpiece for the Duomo of Pisa, which is in the Office of Works, and also a picture of Our Lady in which, with a poetical invention full of grace and beauty, he painted a figure of Florence presenting to her the dignities of the House of Medici; which picture is now in the possession of Signor Mondragone, a Spaniard much in favor with that most illustrious lord the Prince of Florence.

Giulio died on the day of All Saints in the year 1546, and over his tomb was placed the following epitaph:

ROMANUS MORIENS SECUM TRES JULIUS ARTES
ABSTULIT, HAUD MIRUM, QUATUOR UNUS ERAT.



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