Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists

Charity. Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

THE FATHER of Francesco Salviati, whose Life we are now about to write, and who was born in the year 1510, was a good man called Michelagnolo de' Rossi, a weaver of velvets; and he, having not only this child but also many others, both male and female, and being therefore in need of assistance, had determined in his own mind that he would at all costs make Francesco devote himself to his own calling of weaving velvets. But the boy, who had turned his mind to other things, and did not like the pursuit of that trade, although in the past it had been practised by persons, I will not say noble, but passing rich and prosperous, followed his father's wishes in that matter with no goodwill. Indeed, associating in the Via de' Servi, where his father had a house, with the children of Domenico Naldini, their neighbor and an honored citizen, he showed himself all given to gentle and honorable ways, and much inclined to design. In which matter he received no little assistance for a time from a cousin of his own called Diacceto, a young goldsmith, who had a passing good knowledge of design, in that he not only taught him all that he knew, but also furnished him with many drawings by various able men, over which, without telling his father, Francesco practised day and night with extraordinary zeal. And Domenico Naldini, having become aware of this, first examined the boy well, and then prevailed upon his father, Michelagnolo, to place him in his uncle's shop to learn the goldsmith's art; by reason of which opportunity for design Francesco in a few months made so much proficience, that everyone was astonished.

In those days a company of young goldsmiths and painters used to assemble together at times and go throughout Florence on feast-days drawing the most famous works, and not one of them labored more or with greater love than did Francesco. The young men of that company were Nanni di Prospero delle Corniole,the goldsmith Francesco di Girolamo dal Prato, Nannoccio da San Giorgio, and many other lads who afterwards became able men in their professions.

At this time Francesco and Giorgio Vasari, both being still boys, became fast friends, and in the following manner. In the year 1523, Silvio Passerini, Cardinal of Cortona, passing through Arezzo as the Legate of Pope Clement VII, Antonio Vasari, his kinsman, took Giorgio., his eldest son, to make his reverence to the Cardinal. And the Cardinal, finding that the boy, who at that time was not more than nine years of age, had been so well grounded in his first letters by the diligence of M. Antonio da Saccone and of Messer Giovanni Pollastra, an excellent poet of Arezzo, that he knew by heart a great part of the Aeneid of Virgil, which he was pleased to hear him recite, and that he had learned to draw from Guglielmo da Marcilla, the French painter the Cardinal, I say, ordained that Antonio should himself take the boy to Florence. There Giorgio was settled in the house of M. Niccolo Vespucci, Knight of Rhodes, who lived on the abutment of the Ponte Vecchio, above the Church of the Sepolcro, and was placed with Michelagiiolo Buonarroti; and this circumstance came to the knowledge of Francesco, who was then living in the Chiasso di Messer Bivigliano, where his father rented a great house that faced on the Vacchereccia, employing many workmen. Whereupon, since like always draws to like, he so contrived that he became the friend of Giorgio, by means of M. Marco da Lodi, a gentleman of the above-named Cardinal of Cortona, who showed to Giorgio a portrait, which much pleased him, by the hand of Francesco, who a short time before had been placed to learn painting with Giuliano Bugiardini. Meanwhile Vasari, not neglecting the study of letters, by order of the Cardinal spent two hours every day with Ippolito and Alessandro de' Medici, under their master Pierio, an able man. And this friendship, contracted as described above between Vasari and Francesco, became such that it never ceased to bind them together, although, by reason of their rivalry and a certain somewhat haughty manner of speech that Francesco had, some persons thought otherwise.

When Vasari had been some months with Michelagnolo, that excellent man was summoned to Rome by Pope Clement, to receive instructions for beginning the Library of S. Lorenzo; and he was placed by him, before he departed, with Andrea del Sarto. And devoting himself under him to design, Giorgio was continually lending his master's drawings in secret to Francesco, who had no greater desire than to obtain and study them, as he did day and night. Afterwards Giorgio was placed by the Magnificent Ippolito with Baccio Bandinelli, who was pleased to have the boy with him and to teach him; and Vasari contrived to obtain Francesco as his companion, with great advantage to them both, for the reason that while working together they learned more and made greater progress in one month than they had done in two years while drawing by themselves. And the same did another young man who was likewise working under Bandinelli at that time, called Nannoccio of the Costa San Giorgio, of whom mention was made not long ago.

In the year 1527, the Medici being expelled from Florence, there was a fight for the Palace of the Signoria, and a bench was thrown down from on high so as to fall upon those who were assaulting the door; but, as fate would have it, that bench hit an arm of the David in marble by Buonarroti, which is beside the door on the Ringhiera, and broke it into three pieces. These pieces having remained on the ground for three days, without being picked up by anyone, Francesco went to the Ponte Vecchio to find Giorgio, and told him his intention; and then, children as they were, they went to the Piazza, and, without thinking of any danger, in the midst of the soldiers of the guard, they took the pieces of that arm and carried them to the house of Michelagnolo, the father of Francesco, in the Chiasso di M. Bivigliano. From which house having afterwards recovered them, Duke Cosimo in time caused them to be restored to their places with pegs of copper.

After this, the Medici being in exile, and with them the above- mentioned Cardinal of Cortona, Antonio Vasari took his son back to Arezzo, to the no little regret of Giorgio and Francesco, who loved one another as brothers. But they did not long remain separated from each other, for the reason that after the plague, which came in the following August, had killed Giorgio' s father and the best part of his family, he was so pressed with letters by Francesco, who also came very near dying of plague, that he returned to Florence. There, working with incredible zeal for a period of two years, being driven by necessity and by the desire to learn, they made marvellous proficience, having recourse, together with the above-named Nannoccio da San Giorgio, to the workshop of the painter Raffaello da Brescia, under whom Francesco, being the one who had most need to provide himself with the means to live, executed many little pictures.

Having come to the year 1529, since it did not appear to Francesco that staying in Brescia's workshop was doing him much good, he and Nannoccio went to work with Andrea del Sarto, and stayed with him all the time that the siege lasted, but in such discomfort, that they repented that they had not followed Giorgio, who spent that year in Pisa with the goldsmith Manno, giving his attention for four months to the goldsmith's craft to occupy himself. Vasari having then gone to Bologna, at the time when the Emperor Charles V was crowned there by Clement VII, Francesco, who had remained in Florence, executed on a little panel a votive picture for a soldier who had been murderously attacked in bed by certain other soldiers during the siege; and although it was a paltry thing, he studied it and executed it to perfection. That votive picture fell not many years ago into the hands of Giorgio Vasari, who presented it to the reverend Don Vincenzio Borghini, the Director of the Hospital of the Innocenti, who holds it dear. For the Black Friars of the Badia Francesco painted three little scenes on a Tabernacle of the Sacrament made by the carver Tasso in the manner of a triumphal arch. In one of these is the Sacrifice of Abraham, in the second the Manna, and in the third the Hebrews eating the Paschal Lamb on their departure from Egypt ; and the work was such that it gave an earnest of the success that he has since achieved. He then painted in a picture for Francesco Sertini, who sent it to France, a Dalilah who was cutting off the locks of Samson, and in the distance Samson embracing the columns of the temple and bringing it down upon the Philistines; which picture made Francesco known as the most excellent of the young painters that were then in Florence.

Not long afterwards the elder Cardinal Salviati having requested Benvenuto della Volpaia, a master of clock-making, who was in Rome at that time, to find for him a young painter who might live with him and paint some pictures for his delight, Benvenuto proposed to him Francesco, who was his friend, and whom he knew to be the most com-petent of all the young painters of his acquaintance; which he did all the more willingly because the Cardinal had promised that he would give the young man every facility and all assistance to enable him to study. The Cardinal, then, liking the young Francesco's qualities, said to Benvenuto that he should send for him, and gave him money for that purpose. And so, when Francesco had arrived in Rome, the Cardinal, being pleased with his method of working, his ways, and his manners, ordained that he should have rooms in the Borgo Vecchio, and four crowns a month, with a place at the table of his gentlemen. The first works that Francesco (to whom it appeared that he had been very fortunate) executed for the Cardinal were a picture of Our Lady, which was held to be very beautiful, and a canvas of a French nobleman who is running in chase of a hind, which, flying from him, takes refuge in the Temple of Diana: of which work I keep the design, drawn by his hand, in my book, in memory of him. That canvas finished, the Cardinal caused him to portray in a very beautiful picture of Our Lady a niece of his own, married to Signor Cagnino Gonzaga, and likewise that lord himself.

Now, while Francesco was living in Rome, with no greater desire than to see his friend Giorgio Vasari in that city, Fortune was favorable to his wishes in that respect, and even more to Vasari. For, Cardinal Ippolito having parted in great anger from Pope Clement for reasons that were discussed at the time, but returning not long afterwards to Rome accompanied by Baccio Valori, in passing through Arezzo he found Giorgio, who had been left without a father and was occupying himself as best he could; wherefore, desiring that he should make some proficience in art, and wishing to have him near his person, he commanded Tommaso de' Nerli, who was Commissary there, that he should send him to Rome as soon as he should have finished a chapel that he was painting in fresco for the Monks of S. Bernardo, of the Order of Monte Oliveto, in that city. That commission Nerli executed immediately, and Giorgio, having thus arrived in Rome, went straightway to find Francesco, who joyfully described to him in what favour he was with his lord the Cardinal, and how he was in a place where he could satisfy his hunger for study; adding, also: " Not only do I enjoy the present, but I hope for even better things, for, besides seeing you in Rome, with whom, as the young friend nearest to my heart, I shall be able to study and discuss the matters of art, I also live in hope of entering the service of Cardinal Ippolito de' Medici, from whose liberality, as well as from the favor of the Pope, I may look for greater things than I have at present; and this will happen with- out a doubt if a certain young man, who is expected from abroad, does not arrive." Giorgio, although he knew that the young man who was expected was himself, and that the place was being kept for him, yet would not reveal himself, because of a certain doubt that had entered his mind as to whether the Cardinal might not have another in view, and also from a wish not to declare a circumstance that might afterwards fall out differently. Giorgio had brought a letter from the above-named Commissary Nerli to the Cardinal, which, after having been five days in Rome, he had not yet presented. Finally Giorgio and Francesco went to the Palace and found in what is now the Hall of Kings Messer Marco da Lodi, who had formerly been with the Cardinal of Cortona, as was related above, but was then in the service of Medici. To him Giorgio presented himself, saying that he had a letter from the Commissary of Arezzo that was to be delivered to the Cardinal, and praying that he should give it to him; which Messer Marco was promising to do immediately, when at that very moment the Cardinal himself appeared there. Whereupon Giorgio, coming forward before him, presented the letter and kissed his hands; and he was received graciously, and shortly afterwards given into the charge of Jacopone da Bibbiena, the master of the household, who was commanded to provide him with rooms and with a place at the table of the pages. It appeared a strange thing to Francesco that Giorgio should not have confided the matter to him; but he was persuaded that he had done it for the best and with a good intention.

When the above-named Jacopone, therefore, had given Giorgio some rooms behind S. Spirito, near Francesco, the two devoted themselves in company all that winter to the study of art, with much profit, leaving no noteworthy work, either in the Palace or in any other part of Rome, that they did not draw. And since, when the Pope was in the Palace, they were not able to stay there drawing at their ease, as soon as his Holiness had ridden forth to the Magliana, as he often did, they would gain admittance by means of friends into those apartments to draw, and would stay there from morning till night without eating anything but a little bread, and almost freezing with cold. Cardinal Salviati having then commanded Francesco that he should paint in fresco in the chapel of his Palace, where he heard Mass every morning, some stories of the life of S. John the Baptist, Francesco set himself to study nudes from life, and Giorgio with him, in a bath house near there; and afterwards they made some anatomical studies in the Campo Santo.

The spring having then come, Cardinal Ippolito, being sent by the Pope to Hungary, ordained that Giorgio should be sent to Florence, and should there execute some pictures and portraits that he had to despatch to Rome. But in the July following, what with the fatigues of the past winter and the heat of summer, Giorgio fell ill and was carried by litter to Arezzo, to the great sorrow of Francesco, who also fell sick and was like to die. However, being restored to health, Francesco was commissioned by Maestro Filippo da Siena, at the instance of Antonio L'Abacco, a master-worker in wood, to paint in fresco in a niche over the door at the back of S. Maria della Pace, a Christ speaking with S. Filippo, and in two angles the Virgin and the Angel of the Annunciation; which pictures, much pleasing Maestro Filippo, were the reason that he caused him to paint the Assumption of Our Lady in the same place, in a large square space that was not yet painted in one of the eight sides of that temple. Whereupon Francesco, reflecting that he had to execute that work not merely in a public place, but in a place where there were pictures by the rarest masters Raffaello da Urbino, Rosso, Baldassarre da Siena, and others put all possible study and diligence into executing it in oils on the wall, so that it proved to be a beautiful picture, and was much extolled; and excellent among other figures is held to be the portrait that he painted there of the above-named Maestro Filippo with the hands clasped. And since Francesco lived, as has been told, with Cardinal Salviati, and was known as his protege, he began to be called and known by no other name but Cecchino Salviati, and he kept that name to the day of his death.

On to Part Two
Return to Mannerism

Return to Vasari's Lives

This Web Site Created and Maintained by Adrienne DeAngelis