Isaac blessing Jacob. 1520 circa. Rouen. Musee des Beaux-Arts.
Vasari's Lives of the Artists
RARELY DOES IT HAPPEN that those who persist in working in the country in which they were born, are exalted by Fortune to that height of prosperity which their talents deserve; whereas, if a man tries many, he must in the end find one wherein sooner or later he succeeds in being recognized. And it often comes to pass that one who attains to the reward of his labours late in life, is prevented by the venom of death from enjoying it for long, even as we shall see in the case of Girolamo da Treviso.
This painter was held to be a very good master; and although he was no great draughtsman, he was a pleasing colorist both in oils and in fresco, and a close imitator of the methods of Raffaello da Urbino. He worked much in his native city of Treviso; and he also executed many works in Venice, such as, in particular, the facade of the house of Andrea Udoni, which he painted in fresco, with some friezes of children in the courtyard, and one of the upper apartments: all of which he executed in color, and not in chiaroscuro, because the Venetians like color better than anything else. In a large scene in the middle of this facade is a Juno, seen from the thighs upwards, flying on some clouds with the moon on her head, over which are raised her arms, one holding a vase and the other a bowl. He also painted there a Bacchus, fat and ruddy, with a vessel that he is upsetting, and holding with one arm a Ceres who has many ears of corn in her hands. There, too, are the Graces, with five little boys who are flying below and welcoming them, in order, so they signify, to make the house of the Udoni abound with their gifts; and to show that the same house was a friendly haven for men of talent, he painted Apollo on one side and Pallas on the other. This work was executed with great freshness, so that Girolamo gained from it both honor and profit.
The same master painted a picture for the Chapel of the Madonna in S. Petronio, in competition with certain painters of Bologna, as will be related in the proper place. And continuing to live in Bologna, he executed many pictures there; and in S. Petronio, in the Chapel of S. Antonio da Padova, he depicted in oils, in imitation of marble, all the stories of the life of the latter Saint, in which, without a doubt, there may be perceived grace, judgment, excellence, and a great delicacy of finish. He painted a panel picture for S. Salvatore, of the Madonna ascending the steps of the Temple, with some saints; and another of the Madonna in the sky, with some children, and S. Jerome and S. Catherine beneath, which is certainly the weakest work by his hand that is to be seen in Bologna. Over a great portal, also, in Bologna, he painted in fresco a Crucifix with Our Lady and S. John, all worthy of the highest praise. For S. Domenico, at Bologna, he executed a panel picture in oils of Our Lady with some saints, which is the best of his works; it is near the choir, as one ascends to the tomb of S. Dominic, and in it is the portrait of the patron who had it painted. In like manner, he painted a picture for Count Giovanni Battista Bentivogli, who had the cartoon by the hand of Baldassarre of Siena, representing the story of the Magi: a work which he carried to a very fine completion, although it contained more than a hundred figures. There are also many other works by the hand of Girolamo in Bologna, both in private houses and in the churches. In Galiera he painted in chiaroscuro the facade of the Palace of the Teofamini, with another facade behind the house of the Dolfi, which is considered in the judgment of many craftsmen to be the best work that he ever executed in that city.
He went to Trento, and, in company with other painters, painted the palace of the old Cardinal, from which he gained very great fame. Then, returning to Bologna, he gave his attention to the works that he had begun. Now it happened that there was much talk throughout Bologna about having a panel-picture painted for the Della Morte Hospital, for which various designs were made by way of competition, some in drawing and some in color. And since many thought that they had the first claim, some through interest and others because they held themselves to be most worthy of such a commission, Girolamo was left in the lurch; and considering that he had been wronged, not long afterwards he departed from Bologna. And thus the envy of others raised him to such a height of prosperity as he had never thought of; since, if he had been chosen for the work, it would have impeded the blessings that his good fortune had prepared for him. For, having made his way to England, he was recommended by some friends, who favored him, to King Henry; and presenting himself before him, he entered into his service, although not as painter, but as engineer. Then, making trial of his skill in various edifices, copied from some in Tuscany and other parts of Italy, that King pronounced them marvellous, rewarded him with a succession of presents, and decreed him a provision of four hundred crowns a year; and he was given the means to build an honorable abode for himself at the expense of the King.
Thereupon Girolamo, raised from one extreme of distress to the other extreme of grandeur, lived a most happy and contented life, thanking God and Fortune for having turned his steps to a country where men were so favorable to his talents. But this unwonted happiness was not destined to last long, for the war between the French and the English being continued, and Girolamo being charged with superintending all the work of the bastions and fortifications, the artillery, and the defences of the camp, it happened one day, when the city of Boulogne in Picardy was being bombarded, that a ball from a demi-cannon came with horrid violence and cut him in half on his horse's back. And thus, Girolamo being at the age of thirty-six, his life, his earthly honors, and all his greatness were extinguished at one and the same moment, in the year 1544.
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