Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists
Charity. Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
Pope Clement VII being dead and Paul III elected, M. Bindo Altoviti caused Francesco to paint on the fagade of his house at the Ponte S. Agnolo the arms of the new Pontiff, with some large nude figures, which gave infinite satisfaction. About the same time he made a portrait of that Messer Bindo, which was a very good figure and a beautiful portrait; and this was afterwards sent to his villa of S. Mizzano in the Valdarno, where it still is. He then painted for the Church of S. Francesco a Ripa a very beautiful altar-picture of the Annunciation in oils, which was executed with the greatest diligence. For the coming of Charles V to Rome in the year 1535, he painted for Antonio da San Gallo some scenes in chiaroscuro, which were placed on the arch that was made at S. Marco; and these pictures, as has been said in another place, were the best that there were in all those festive decorations.
Afterwards Signor Pier Luigi Farnese, who had been made Lord of Nepi at that time, wishing to adorn that city with new buildings and pictures, took Francesco into his service, giving him rooms in the Belvedere; and there Francesco painted for him on large canvases some scenes in gouache of the actions of Alexander the Great, which were afterwards carried into execution and woven into tapestries in Flanders. For the same Lord of Nepi he decorated a large and very beautiful bathroom with many scenes and figures executed in fresco. Then, the same lord having been created Duke of Castro, for his first entry rich and most beautiful decorations were made in that city under the direction of Francesco, and at the gate an arch all covered with scenes, figures, and statues, executed with much judgment by able men, and in particular by Alessandro, called Scherano, a sculptor of Settignano. Another arch, in the form of a facade, was made at the Petrone, and yet another on the Piazza, which arches, with regard to the woodwork, were executed by Battista Botticelli; and in these festive preparations, among other things, Francesco made a beautiful perspective-scene for a comedy that was performed.
About the same time, Giulio Camillo, who was then in Rome, having made a book of his compositions in order to send it to King Francis of France, had it all illustrated by Francesco Salviati, who put into it all the diligence that it is possible to devote to such a work. Cardinal Salviati, having a desire to possess a picture in tinted woods (that is, in tarsia) by the hand of Fra Damiano da Bergamo, a lay-brother of S. Domenico at Bologna, sent him a design done in red chalk by the hand of Francesco, as a pattern for its execution; which design, representing King David being anointed by Samuel, was the best thing that Cecchino Salviati ever drew, and truly most rare. After this, Giovanni da Cepperello and Battista Gobbo of San Gallo who had caused the Florentine painter Jacopo del Conte, then a young man, to paint in the Florentine Company of the Misericordia in S. Giovanni Decollate, under the Campidoglio at Rome, namely, in the second church where they hold their assemblies, a story of that same S. John the Baptist, showing the Angel appearing to Zacharias in the Temple commissioned Francesco to paint below that scene another story of the same Saint, namely, the Visitation of Our Lady to S. Elizabeth. That work, which was finished in the year 1538, he executed in fresco in such a manner, that it is worthy to be numbered among the most graceful and best conceived pictures that Francesco ever painted, in the invention, in the composition of the scene, in the method and the attention to rules for the gradation of the figures, in the perspective and the architecture of the buildings, in the nudes, in the draped figures, in the grace of the heads, and, in short, in every part ; wherefore it is no marvel if all Rome was struck with astonishment by it. Around a window he executed some bizarre fantasies in imitation of marble, and some little scenes that have marvellous grace. And since Francesco never wasted any time, while he was engaged on that work he executed many other things, and also drawings, and he colored a Phaethon with the Horses of the Sun, which Michelagnolo had drawn. All these things Salviati showed to Giorgio, who after the death of Duke Alessandro had gone to Rome for two months; saying to him that, once he had finished a picture of a young S. John that he was painting for his master Cardinal Salviati, a Passion of Christ on canvas that was to be sent to Spain, and a picture of Our Lady that he was painting for Raffaello Acciaiuoli, he wished to turn his steps to Florence in order to revisit his native place, his relatives, and his friends, for his father and mother were still alive, to whom he was always of the greatest assistance, and particularly in settling two sisters, one of whom was married, and the other is a nun in the Convent of Monte Domini.
Coming thus to Florence, where he was received with much re- joicing by his relatives and friends, it chanced that he arrived there at the very moment when the festive preparations were being made for the nuptials of Duke Cosimo and the Lady Donna Leonora di Toledo. Wherefore he was commissioned to paint one of the already mentioned scenes that were executed in the courtyard, which he accepted very willingly; and that was the one in which the Emperor was placing the Ducal crown on the head of Duke Cosimo. But being seized, before he had finished it, with a desire to go to Venice, Francesco left it to Carlo Portelli of Loro, who finished it after Francesco's design; which design, with many others by the same hand, is in our book.
Having departed from Florence and made his way to Bologna, Francesco found there Giorgio Vasari, who had returned two days before from Camaldoli, where he had finished the two altarpieces that are in the tramezzo* of the church, and had begun that of the high altar; and Vasari was arranging to paint three great panel pictures for the refectory of the Fathers of S. Michele in Bosco, where he kept Francesco with him for two days. During that time, some of his friends made efforts to obtain for him the commission for an altarpiece that was to be allotted by the men of the Delia Morte Hospital. But, although Salviati made a most beautiful design, those men, having little understanding, were not able to recognize the opportunity that Messer Domeneddio* had sent them of obtaining for Bologna a work by the hand of an able master. Wherefore Francesco went away in some disdain, leaving some very beautiful designs in the hands of Girolamo Fagiuoli, to the end that he might engrave them on copper and have them printed.
Having arrived in Venice, he was received courteously by the Patriarch Grimani and his brother Messer Vettorio, who showed him a thousand favors. For that Patriarch, after a few days, he painted in oils, in an octagon of four braccia, a most beautiful Psyche to whom, as to a Goddess, on account of her beauty, incense and votive offerings are presented; which octagon was placed in a hall in the house of that lord, wherein is a ceiling in the centre of which there curve some festoons executed by Camillo Mantovano, an excellent painter in representing landscapes, flowers, leaves, fruits, and other suchlike things. That octagon, I say, was placed in the midst of four pictures each two braccia and a half square, executed with stories of the same Psyche, as was related in the Life of Genga, by Francesco da Forli; and the octagon is not only beyond all comparison more beautiful than those four pictures, but even the most beautiful work of painting that there is in all Venice. After that, in a chamber wherein Giovanni Ricamatori of Udine had executed many works in stucco, he painted some little figures in fresco, both nude and draped, which are full of grace. In like manner, in an altarpiece that he executed for the Nuns of the Corpus Domini at Venice, he painted with much diligence a Dead Christ with the Maries, and in the air an Angel who has the Mysteries of the Passion in the hands. He made the portrait of M. Pietro Aretino, which, as a rare work, was sent by that poet to King Francis, with some verses in praise of him who had painted it. And for the Nuns of S. Cristina in Bologna, of the Order of Camaldoli, the same Salviati, at the entreaty of Don Giovan Francesco da Bagno, their Confessor, painted an altarpiece with many figures, a truly beautiful picture, which is in the church of that convent.
Then, having grown weary of the life in Venice, as one who remembered that of Rome, and considering that it was no place for men of design, Francesco departed in order to return to Rome. And so, making a detour by Verona and Mantua, in the first of which places he saw the many antiquities that are there, and in the other the works of Giulio Romano, he made his way back to Rome by the road through Romagna, and arrived there in the year 1541. There, having rested a little, the first works that he made were the portrait of Messer Giovanni Gaddi and that of Messer Annibale Caro, who were much his friends. Those finished, he painted a very beautiful altarpiece for the Chapel of the Clerks of the Chamber in the Pope's Palace. And in the Church of the Germans he began a chapel in fresco for a merchant of that nation, painting on the vault above the Apostles receiving the Holy Spirit, and in a picture that is half-way up the wall Jesus Christ rising from the dead, with the soldiers sleeping round the Sepulchre in various attitudes, fore- shortened in a bold and beautiful manner. On one side he painted S. Stephen, and on the other side S. George, in two niches; and at the foot he painted S. Giovanni Limosinario, who is giving alms to a naked beggar, with a Charity on one side of him, and on the other side S. Alberto, the Carmelite Friar, between Logic and Prudence. And in the great altar picture, finally, he painted in fresco the Dead Christ with the Maries.
Having formed a friendship with Piero di Marcone, a Florentine goldsmith, and having become his gossip, Francesco made to Piero' s wife, who was also his gossip, after her delivery, a present of a very beautiful design, which was to be painted on one of those round baskets in which food is brought to a newly-delivered woman. In that design there was the life of man, in a number of square compartments containing very beautiful figures, both on one side and on the other; namely, all the ages of human life, each of which rested on a different festoon appropriate to the particular age and the season. In that bizarre composition were included, in two long ovals, figures of the sun and moon, and between them Sais, a city of Egypt, standing before the Temple of the Goddess Pallas and praying for wisdom, as if to signify that on behalf of newborn children one should pray before any other thing for wisdom and goodness. That design Piero held ever afterwards as dear as if it had been, as indeed it was, a most beautiful jewel.
Not long afterwards, the above-named Piero and other friends having written to Francesco that he would do well to return to his native place, for the reason that it was held to be certain that he would be employed by the Lord Duke Cosimo, who had no masters about him save such as were slow and irresolute, he finally determined (trusting much, also, in the favour of M. Alamanno, the brother of the Cardinal and uncle of the Duke) to return to Florence. Having arrived, therefore, before attempting any other thing, he painted for the above-named M. Alamanno Salviati a very beautiful picture of Our Lady, which he executed in a room in the Office of Works of S. Maria del Fiore that was occupied by Francesco dal Prato, who at that time, from being a goldsmith and a master of tausia,* [* Damascening.] had set himself to casting little figures in bronze and to painting, with much profit and honor. In that same place, then, which that master held as the official in charge of the woodwork of the Office of Works, Francesco made portraits of his friend Piero di Marcone and of Avveduto del Cegia, the dresser of minever furs, who was also much his friend; which Avveduto, besides many other things by the hand of Francesco that he possesses, has a portrait of Francesco himself, executed in oils with his own hand, and very lifelike.
The above-mentioned picture of Our Lady, being, after it was finished, in the shop of the woodcarver Tasso, who was then architect of the Palace, was seen by many persons and vastly extolled; but what caused it even more to be considered a rare picture was that Tasso, who was accustomed to censure almost everything, praised it to the skies. And, what was more, he said to M. Pier Francesco, the major-domo, that it would be an excellent thing for the Duke to give Francesco some work of importance to execute; whereupon M. Pier Francesco and Cristofano Rinieri, who had the ear of the Duke, played their part in such a way, that M. Alamanno spoke to his Excellency, saying to him that Francesco desired to be commissioned to paint the Hall of Audience, which is in front of the Chapel of the Ducal Palace, and that he cared nothing about payment; and the Duke was content that this should be granted to him. Whereupon Francesco, having made small designs of the Triumph of Furius Camillus and of many stories of his life, set himself to contrive the division of that hall according to the spaces left by the windows and doors, some of which are high and some low; and there was no little difficulty in making that division in such a way that it might be well-ordered and might not disturb the sequence of the stories. In the wall where there is the door by which one enters into the hall, there were two large spaces, divided by the door.
Opposite to that, where there are the three windows that look out over the Piazza, there were four spaces, but not wider than about three braccia each. In the end- wall that is on the right hand as one enters, wherein are two windows that likewise look out on the Piazza, but in another direction, there were three similar spaces, each about three braccia wide; and in the end-wall that is on the left hand, opposite to the other, what with the marble door that leads into the chapel, and a window with a grating of bronze, there remained only one space large enough to contain a work of importance. On the wall of the chapel, then within an ornament of Corinthian columns that support an architrave, which has below it a recess, wherein hang two very rich festoons, and two pendants of various fruits, counter- feited very well, while upon it sits a naked little boy who is holding the Ducal arms, namely, those of the Houses of Medici and Toledo he painted two scenes; on the right hand Camillus, who is commanding that the schoolmaster shall be given up to the vengeance of his young scholars, and on the other the same Camillus, while the army is in combat and fire is burning the stockades and tents of the camp, is routing the Gauls. And beside that, where the same range of pilasters continues, he painted a figure of Opportunity, large as life, who has seized Fortune by the locks, and some devices of his Excellency, with many ornaments executed with marvellous grace. On the main wall, where there are two great spaces divided by the principal door, he painted two large and very beautiful scenes. In the first are the Gauls, who, weighing the gold of the tribute, add to it a sword, to the end that the weight may be the greater, and Camillus, full of rage, delivers himself from the tribute by force of arms; which scene is very beautiful, and crowded with figures, landscapes, antiquities, and vases counterfeited very well and in various manners in imitation of gold and silver. In the other scene, beside the first, is Camillus in the triumphal chariot, drawn by four horses; and on high is Fame, who is crowning him. Before the chariot are priests very richly apparelled, with the statue of the Goddess Juno, and holding vases in their hands, and with some trophies and spoils of great beauty. About the chariot are innumerable prisoners in various attitudes, and behind it the soldiers of the army in their armour, among whom Francesco made a portrait of himself, which is so good that it seems as if alive. In the distance, where the triumphal procession is passing, is a very beautiful picture of Rome, and above the door is a figure of Peace in chiaroscuro, who is burning the arms, with some prisoners; all which was executed by Francesco with such diligence and study, that there is no more beautiful work to be seen.
On the wall towards the west he painted in a niche in one of the larger spaces, in the center, a Mars in armour, and below that a nude figure representing a Gaul,* [* A play on the word Gallo, which means both Gaul and cock.] with a crest on the head similar to that of a cock; and in another niche a Diana with a skin about her waist, who is drawing an arrow from her quiver, with a dog. In the two corners next the other two walls are two figures of Time, one adjusting weights in a balance, and the other tempering the liquid in two vases by pouring one into the other. On the last wall, which is opposite to the chapel and faces towards the north, in a corner on the right hand, is the Sun figured in the manner wherein the Egyptians represent him, and in the other corner the Moon in the same manner. In the middle is Favor, represented as a nude young man on the summit of the wheel, with Envy, Hatred, and Malice on one side, and on the other side Honors, Pleasure, and all the other things described by Lucian. Above the windows is a frieze all full of most beautiful nudes, as large as life, and in various forms and attitudes; with some scenes likewise from the life of Camillus. And opposite to the Peace that is burning the arms is the River Arno, who, holding a most abundant horn of plenty, raises with one hand a curtain and reveals Florence and the greatness of her Pontiffs and the heroes of the House of Medici. He painted there, besides all that, a base that runs round below those scenes, and niches with some terminal figures of women that support festoons; and in the centre are certain ovals with scenes of people adorning a Sphinx and the River Arno.
Francesco put into the execution of that work all the diligence and study that are possible; and, although he had many contradictions, he carried it to a happy conclusion, desiring to leave in his native city a work worthy of himself and of so great a Prince. Francesco was by nature melancholy, and for the most part he did not care to have anyone about him when he was at work. But nevertheless, when he first began that undertaking, almost doing violence to his nature and affecting an open heart, with great cordiality he allowed Tasso and others of his friends, who had done him some service, to stand and watch him at work, showing them every courtesy that he was able. But when he had gained a footing at Court, as the saying goes, and it seemed to him that he was in good favour, returning to his choleric and biting nature, he paid them no attention. Nay, what was worse, he used the most bitter words according to his wont (which served as an excuse to his adversaries), censuring and decrying the works of others, and praising himself and his own works to the skies. These methods, which displeased most people and likewise certain craftsmen, brought upon him such odium, that Tasso and many others, who from being his friends had become his enemies, began to give him cause for thought and for action.
For, although they praised the excellence of the art that was in him, and the facility and rapidity with which he executed his works so well and with such unity, they were not at a loss, on the other hand, for something to censure. And since, if they had allowed him to gain a firm footing and to settle his affairs, they would not have been able afterwards to hinder or hurt him, they began in good time to give him trouble and to molest him. Whereupon many of the craftsmen and others, banding themselves together and forming a faction, began to disseminate among the people of importance a rumor that Salviati's work was not succeeding, and that he was laboring by mere skill of hand, and devoting no study to anything that he did. In which, in truth, they accused him wrongly, for, although he never toiled over the execution of his works, as they themselves did, yet that did not mean that he did not study them and that his works had not infinite grace and invention, or that they were not carried out excellently well. Not being able to surpass his excellence with their works,, those adversaries wished to overwhelm it with such words and reproaches; but in the end truth and excellence have too much force. At first Francesco made light of such rumors, but later, perceiving that they were growing beyond all reason, he complained of it many times to the Duke. But, since it began to be seen that the Duke, to all appearance, was not showing him such favours as he would have liked, and it seemed that his Excellency cared nothing for those complaints, Francesco began to fall from his position in such a manner, that his adversaries, taking courage from that, sent forth a rumor that his scenes in the hall were to be thrown to the ground, because they did not give satisfaction and had in them no particle of excellence. All these calumnies, which were pressed against him with incredible envy and malice by his adversaries, had reduced Francesco to such a state, that, if it had not been for the goodness of Messer Lelio Torelli, Messer Pasquino Bertini, and others of his friends, he would have retreated before them, which was exactly what they desired.
But the above-named friends, exhorting him continually to finish the work of the hall and others that he had in hand, restrained him, even as was done by many other friends not in Florence, to whom he wrote of these persecutions. And Giorgio Vasari, among others, answering a letter that Salviati wrote to him on the matter, exhorted him always to have patience, because excellence is refined by persecution as gold by fire; adding that a time was about to come when his art and his genius would be recognized, and that he should complain of no one but himself, in that he did not yet know men's humors, and how the people and the craftsmen of his own country were made. Thus, notwithstanding all these contradictions and persecutions that poor Francesco suffered, he finished that hall namely, the work that he had undertaken to execute in fresco on the walls, for the reason that on the ceiling, or rather, soffit, there was no need for him to do any painting, since it was so richly carved and all overlaid with gold, that among works of that kind there is none more beautiful to be seen. And as a finish to the whole the Duke caused two new windows of glass to be made, with his devices and arms and those of Charles V; and nothing could be better in that kind of work than the manner in which they were executed by Battista del Borro, an Aretine painter excellent in that field of art.