Francesco Salviati (1510-1563)
Part Three

Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists

Charity. Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

After that, Francesco painted for his Excellency the ceiling of the hall where he dines in winter, with many devices and little figures in distemper; and a most beautiful study which opens out over the Green Chamber. He made portraits, likewise, of some of the Duke's children; and one year, for the Carnival, he executed in the Great Hall the scenery and prospect-view for a comedy that was performed, and that with such beauty and in a manner so different from those that had been done in Florence up to that time, that they were judged to be superior to them all. Nor is this to be marvelled at, since it is very certain that Francesco was always in all his works full of judgment, and well- varied and fertile in invention, and, what is more, he had a perfect knowledge of design, and had a more beautiful manner than any other painter in Florence at that time, and handled colours with great skill and delicacy. He also made a head, or rather, a portrait, of Signer Giovanni de' Medici, the father of Duke Cosimo, which was very beautiful; and it is now in the guardaroba of the same Lord Duke. For Cristofano Rinieri, who was much his friend, he painted a most beautiful picture of Our Lady, which is now in the Udienza della Decima. For Ridolfo Landi he executed a picture of Charity, which could not be more lovely than it is; and for Simone Corsi, likewise, he painted a picture of Our Lady, which was much extolled. For M. Donato Acciaiuoli, a knight of Rhodes, with whom he always maintained a particular intimacy, he executed certain little pictures that are very beautiful. And he also painted in an altarpiece Christ showing to S. Thomas, who would not believe that He had newly risen from the dead, the marks of the blows and wounds that He had received from the Jews; which altarpiece was taken by Tommaso Guadagni into France, and placed in the Chapel of the Florentines in a church at Lyons.

Francesco also depicted at the request of the above-named Cristofano Rinieri and of Maestro Giovanni Rosto, the Flemish master of tapestry, the whole story of Tarquinius and the Roman Lucretia in many cartoons, which, being afterwards put into execution in tapestries woven in silk, floss-silk, and gold, proved to be a marvellous work. Which hearing, the Duke, who was at that time having similar tapestries, all in silk and gold, made in Florence by the same Maestro Giovanni for the Sala de' Dugento, and had caused cartoons with the stories of the Hebrew Joseph to be executed by Bronzino and Pontormo, as has been related, commanded that Francesco also should make a cartoon, which was that with the interpretation of the dream of the seven fat and seven lean kine. Into that cartoon Francesco put all the diligence that could possibly be devoted to such a work, and that is required for pictures that are to be woven; for there must be fantastic inventions and variety of composition in the figures, and these must stand out one from another, so that they may have strong relief, and they must come out bright in coloring and rich in the costumes and vestments. That piece of tapestry and the others having turned out well, his Excellency resolved to establish the art in Florence, and caused it to be taught to some boys, who, having grown to be men, are now executing most excellent works for the Duke.

Francesco also executed a most beautiful picture of Our Lady, likewise in oils, which is now in the chamber of Messer Alessandro, the son of M. Ottaviano de' Medici. For the above-named M. Pasquino Bertini he painted on canvas yet another picture of Our Lady, with Christ and S. John as little children, who are smiling over a parrot that they have in their hands; which was a very pleasing and fanciful work. And for the same man he made a most beautiful design of a Crucifix, about one braccio high, with a Magdalene at the foot, in a manner so new and so pleasing that it is a marvel; which design M. Salvestro Bertini lent to Girolamo Razzi, his very dear friend, who is now Don Silvano, and two pictures were painted from it by Carlo of Loro, who has since executed many others, which are dispersed about Florence.

Giovanni and Piero d'Agostino Dini had erected in S. Croce, on the right hand as one enters by the central door, a very rich chapel of grey sandstone and a tomb for Agostino and others of their family; and they gave the commission for the altarpiece of that chapel to Francesco, who painted in it Christ taken down from the Cross by Joseph of Arimath^ea and Nicodemus, and at the foot the Madonna in a swoon, with Mary Magdalene, S. John, and the other Maries. That altarpiece was executed by Francesco with so much art and study, that not only the nude Christ is very beautiful, but all the other figures likewise are well disposed and coloured with relief and force; and although at first the picture was cen- sured by Francesco's adversaries, nevertheless it won him a great name with men in general, and those who have painted others after him out of emulation have not surpassed him. The same Francesco, before he departed from Florence, painted the portrait of the above-mentioned M. Lelio Torelli, and some other works of no great importance, of which I know not the particulars. But, among other things, he brought to completion a design of the Conversion of S. Paul that he had drawn long before in Rome, which is very beautiful; and he had it engraved on copper in Florence by Enea Vico of Parma, and the Duke was content to retain him in Florence until that should be done, with his usual salary and allowances. During that time, which was in the year 1548, Giorgio Vasari being at Rimini in order to execute in fresco and in oils the works of which we have spoken in another place, Francesco wrote him a long letter, informing him in exact detail how his affairs were passing in Florence, and, in particular, that he had made a design for the principal chapel of S. Lorenzo, which was to be painted by order of the Lord Duke, but that with regard to that work infinite mischief had been done against him with his Excellency, and, among other things, that he held it almost as certain that M. Pier Francesco, the major-domo, had not presented his design, so that the work had been allotted to Pontormo. And finally he said that for these reasons he was returning to Rome, much dissatisfied with the men and the craftsmen of his native country.

Having thus returned to Rome, he bought a house near the Palace of Cardinal Farnese, and, while he was occupying himself with executing some works of no great importance, he received from that Cardinal, through M. Annibale Caro and Don Giulio Clovio, the commission to paint the Chapel of the Palace of S. Giorgio, in which he executed an ornament of most beautiful compartments in stucco, and a vaulting in fresco with stories of S. Laurence and many figures, full of grace, and on a panel of stone, in oils, the Nativity of Christ, introducing into that work, which was very beautiful, the portrait of the above-named Car- dinal. Then, having another work allotted to him in the above-men- tioned Company of the Misericordia (where Jacopo del Conte had painted the Preaching and the Baptism of S. John, in which, although he had not surpassed Francesco, he had acquitted himself very well, and where some other works had been executed by the Venetian Battista Franco and by Pirro Ligorio), Francesco painted, on that part that is exactly beside his own picture of the Visitation, the Nativity of S. John, which, although he executed it excellently well, was nevertheless not equal to the first. At the head of that Company, likewise, he painted for M. Bartolommeo Bussotti two very beautiful figures in fresco S. Andrew and S. Bartholomew, the Apostles which are one on either side of the altar-piece, wherein is a Deposition from the Cross by the hand of the same Jacopo del Conte, which is a very good picture and the best work that he had ever done up to that time. In the year 1550, Julius III having been elected Supreme Pontiff, Francesco painted some very beautiful scenes in chiaroscuro for the arch that was erected above the steps of S. Pietro, among the festive prepara- tions for the coronation. And then, in the same year, a sepulchre with many steps and ranges of columns having been made in the Minerva by the Company of the Sacrament, Francesco painted upon it some scenes and figures in terretta, which were held to be very beautiful. In a chapel of S. Lorenzo in Damaso he executed two Angels in fresco that are holding a canopy, the design of one of which is in our book. In the refectory of S. Salvatore del Lauro at Monte Giordano, on the principal wall, he painted in fresco, with a great number of figures, the Marriage of Cana in Galilee, at which Jesus Christ turned water into wine; and at the sides some Saints, with Pope Eugenius IV, who belonged to that Order, and other founders. Above the door of that refectory, on the inner side, he painted a picture in oils of S. George killing the Dragon, and he executed that whole work with much mastery, finish, and charm of coloring. About the same time he sent to Florence, for M. Alamanno Salviati, a large picture in which are Adam and Eve beside the Tree of Life in the Earthly Paradise, eating the Forbidden Fruit, which is a very beautiful work.

For Signor Ranuccio, Cardinal Sant' Agnolo, of the House of Farnese, Francesco painted with most beautiful fantasy two walls in the hall that is in front of the great hall in the Farnese Palace. On one wall he depicted Signor Ranuccio the Elder receiving from Eugenius IV his baton as Captain-General of Holy Church, with some Virtues, and on the other Pope Paul III, of the Farnese family, who is giving the baton of the Church to Signor Pier Luigi, while there is seen approaching from a distance the Emperor Charles V, accompanied by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese and by other lords portrayed from life ; and on that wall, besides the things described above and many others, he painted a Fame and a number of other figures, which are executed very well. It is true, indeed, that the work received its final completion, not from him, but from Taddeo Zucchero of Sant' Agnolo, as will be related in the proper place. He gave completion and proportion to the Chapel of the Popolo, which Fra Sebastiano Veneziano had formerly begun for Agostino Chigi, but had not finished; and Francesco finished it, as has been described in the Life of Fra Sebastiano. For Cardinal Riccio of Montepulciano he painted a most beautiful hall in his Palace in the Strada Giulia, where he executed in fresco various pictures with many stories of David; and, among others, one of Bathsheba bathing herself in a bath, with many other women, while David stands gazing at her, is a scene very well composed and full of grace, and as rich in invention as any other that there is to be seen. In another picture is the Death of Uriah, in a third the Ark, before which go many musical instruments, and finally, after some others, a battle that is being fought between David and his enemies, very well composed. And, to put it briefly, the work of that hall is all full of grace, of most beautiful fantasies, and of many fanciful and ingenious inventions; the distribution of the parts is done with much consideration, and the coloring is very pleasing. To tell the truth, Francesco, feeling himself bold and fertile in invention, and having a hand obedient to his brain, would have liked always to have on his hands works large and out of the ordinary. And for no other reason was he strange in his dealings with his friends, save only for this, that, being variable and in certain things not very stable, what pleased him one day he hated the next; and he did few works of importance without having in the end to contend about the price, on which account he was avoided by many.

After these works, Andrea Tassini, having to send a painter to the King of France, in the year 1554 sought out Giorgio Vasari, but in vain, for he said that not for any salary, however great, or promises, or expectations, would he leave the service of his lord, Duke Cosimo; and finally Andrea came to terms with Francesco and took him to France, undertaking to recompense him in Rome if he were not satisfied in France. Before Francesco departed from Rome, as if he thought that he would never return, he sold his house, his furniture, and every other thing, excepting the offices that he held. But the venture did not succeed as he had expected, for the reason that, on arriving in Paris, where he was received kindly and with many courtesies by M. Francesco Primaticcio, painter and architect to the King, and Abbot of S. Martin, he was straightway recognized, so it is said, as the strange sort of man that he was, for he saw no work either by Rosso or by any other master that he did not censure either openly or in some subtle way. Everyone therefore expecting some great work from him, he was set by the Cardinal of Lorraine, who had sent for him, to execute some pictures in his Palace at Dampierre. Whereupon, after making many designs, finally he set his hand to the work, and executed some pictures with scenes in fresco over the cornices of chimney-pieces, and a little study full of scenes, which are said to have shown great mastery; but, whatever may have been the reason, these works did not win him much praise. Besides that, Francesco was never much liked there, because he had a nature altogether opposed to that of the men of that country, where, even as those merry and jovial men are liked and held dear who live a free life and take part gladly in assemblies and banquets, so those are, I do not say shunned, but less liked and welcomed, who are by nature, as Francesco was, melancholy, abstinent, sickly, and cross-grained. For some things he might have deserved to be excused, since his habit of body would not allow him to mix himself up with banquets and with eating and drinking too much, if only he could have been more agreeable in conversation. And, what was worse, whereas it was his duty, according to the custom of that country and that Court, to show himself and pay court to others, he would have liked, and thought that he deserved, to be himself courted by everyone.

In the end, the King being occupied with matters of war, and likewise the Cardinal, and himself being disappointed of his salary and promised benefits, Francesco, after having been there twenty months, resolved to return to Italy. And so he made his way to Milan, where he was courteously received by the Chevalier Leone Aretino in the house that he has built for himself, very ornate and all filled with statues ancient and modern, and with figures cast in gesso from rare works, as will be told in another place; and after having stayed there a fortnight and rested himself, he went on to Florence. There he found Giorgio Vasari and told him how well he had done not to go to France, giving him an account that would have driven the desire to go there, no matter how great, out of anyone. From Florence he returned to Rome, and there entered an action against those who had guaranteed his allowances from the Cardinal of Lorraine, and compelled them to pay him in full; and when he had received the money he bought some offices, in addition to others that he held before, with a firm resolve to look after his own life, knowing that he was not in good health and that he had wholly ruined his constitution. Notwithstanding that, he would have liked to be employed in great works ; but in this he did not succeed so readily, and he occupied himself for a time with executing pictures and portraits.

Pope Paul IV having died, Pius was elected, likewise the Fourth of that name, who, much delighting in building, availed himself of Pirro Ligorio in matters of architecture; and his Holiness ordained that Cardinals Alessandro Farnese and Emulio should cause the Great Hall, called the Hall of Kings, to be finished by Danielle da Volterra, who had begun it. That very reverend Farnese did his utmost to obtain the half of that work for Francesco, and in consequence there was a long contention between Danielle and Francesco, particularly because Michel - agnolo Buonarroti exerted himself in favor of Daniello, and for a time they arrived at no conclusion. Meanwhile, Vasari having gone with Cardinal Giovanni de' Medici, the son of Duke Cosimo, to Rome, Francesco related to him his many difficulties, and in particular that in which, for the reasons just given, he then found himself; and Giorgio, who much loved the excellence of the man, showed him that up to that time he had managed his affairs very badly, and that for the future he should let him (Vasari) manage them, for he would so contrive that in one way or another the half of that Hall of Kings would fall to him to execute, which Daniello was not able to finish by himself, being a slow and irresolute person, and almost certainly not as able and versatile as Francesco. Matters standing thus, and nothing more being done for the moment, not many days afterwards Giorgio himself was requested by the Pope to paint part of that Hall, but he answered that he had one three times larger to paint in the Palace of his master, Duke Cosimo, and, in addition, that he had been so badly treated by Pope Julius III, for whom he had executed many labours in the Vigna on the Monte and elsewhere, that he no longer knew what to expect from certain kinds of men; adding that he had painted for the Palace of the same Pontiff, without being paid, an altar-piece of Christ calling Peter and Andrew from their nets on the Sea of Tiberias (which had been taken away by Pope Paul IV from a chapel that Julius had built over the corridor of the Belvedere, and which was to be sent to Milan), and that his Holiness should cause it to be either paid for or restored to him. To which the Pope said in answer and whether it was true or not, I do not know that he knew nothing of that altarpiece, but wished to see it; whereupon it was sent for, and, after his Holiness had seen it, but in a bad light, he was content that it should be restored.

The discussion about the Hall being then resumed, Giorgio told the Pope frankly that Francesco was the first and best painter in Rome, that his Holiness would do well to employ him, since no one could serve him better, and that, although Buonarroti and the Cardinal of Carpi favored Daniello, they did so more from the motive of friendship, and perhaps out of animosity, than for any other reason. But to return to the altarpiece; Giorgio had no sooner left the Pope than he sent it to the house of Francesco, who afterwards had it taken to Arezzo, where, as we have related in another place, it has been deposited by Vasari with a rich, costly, and handsome ornament, in the Pieve of that city. The affairs of the Hall of Kings remaining in the condition that has been described above, when Duke Cosimo departed from Siena in order to go to Rome, Vasari, who had gene as far as that with his Excellency, recommended Salviati warmly to him, beseeching him to make interest on his behalf with the Pope, and to Francesco he wrote as to all that he was to do when the Duke had arrived in Rome. In all which Francesco departed in no way from the advice given him by Giorgio, for he went to do reverence to the Duke, and was welcomed by his Excellency with an aspect full of kindness, and shortly afterwards so much was said to his Holiness on his behalf, that the half of the above-mentioned Hall was allotted to him. Setting his hand to the work, before doing any other thing he threw to the ground a scene that had been begun by Daniello; on which account there were afterwards many contentions between them. The Pontiff was served in matters of architecture, as has been already related, by Pirro Ligorio, who at first had much favored Francesco, and would have continued to favor him; but Francesco paying no more attention either to Pirro or to any other after he had begun to work, this was the reason that Ligorio, from being his friend, became in a certain sort his adversary, and of this very manifest signs were seen, for Pirro began to say to the Pope that since there were many young painters of ability in Rome, and he wished to have that Hall off his hands, it would be a good thing to allot one scene to each of them, and thus to see it finished once and for all.

These proceedings of Pirro' s, to which it was evident that the Pope was favorable, so displeased Francesco, that in great disdain he retired from the work and all the contentions, considering that he was held in little estimation. And so, mounting his horse and not saying a word to anyone, he went off to Florence, where, like the strange creature that he was, without giving a thought to any of the friends that he had there, he took up his abode in an inn, as if he did not belong to the place and had no acquaintance there nor anyone who cared for him in any way. Afterwards, having kissed the hands of the Duke, he was received with such kindness, that he might well have looked for some good result, if only he had been different in nature and had adhered to the advice' of Giorgio, who urged him to sell the offices that he had in Rome and to settle in Florence, so as to enjoy his native place with his friends and to avoid the danger of losing, together with his life, all the fruits of his toil and grievous labours. But Francesco, moved by sensitiveness and anger, and by his desire to avenge himself, resolved that he would at all costs return to Rome in a few days. Meanwhile, moving from that inn at the entreaty of his friends, he retired to the house of M. Marco Finale, the Prior of S. Apostolo, where he executed a Pieta in colors on cloth of silver for M. Jacopo Salviati, as it were to pass the time, with the Madonna and the other Maries, which was a very beautiful work. He renewed in colors a medallion with the Ducal arms, which he had made on a former occasion and placed over a door in the Palace of Messer Alamanno. And for the above-named M. Jacopo he made a most beautiful book of bizarre costumes and various headdresses of men and horses for masquerades, for which he received innumerable courtesies from the liberality of that lord, who lamented the strange and eccentric nature of Francesco, whom he was never able to attract into his house on this occasion, as he had done at other times.

Return to Mannerism

Return to Vasari's Lives

This Web Site Created and Maintained by Adrienne DeAngelis