Battista del Moro. The Finding of Moses. Etching.  
Los Angeles County Museum of Art.



Part 4: FRANCESCO TORBIDO (d. after 1546), BATTISTA DEL MORO (1515 circa-1573), 

Vasari's Lives of the Artists

FRANCESCO TORBIDO [TURBIDO], called Il Moro, a painter of Verona, learned the first rudiments of art, when still quite young, from Giorgione da Castelfranco, whom he imitated ever afterwards in coloring and in softness of painting. But just when Il Moro was making progress, he came to words with I know not whom, and handled him so roughly, that he was forced to leave Venice and return to Verona. There, abandoning his painting, since he was somewhat ready with his hands and associated with the young noblemen, being a person of very good breeding, he lived for a time without doing any work. And associating in this way, in particular, with the Counts Sanbonifazi and the Counts Giusti, two illustrious families of Verona, he became so intimate with them that he lived in their houses as if he had been born in them; and, what is more, no long time passed before Count Zenovello Giusti gave him a natural daughter of his own for a wife, and granted him a commodious apartment in his own house for himself, his wife, and the children that were born to them.

It is said that Francesco, while living in the service of those noblemen, always carried a pencil in his pouch; and wherever he went, if only he had time, he would draw a head or something else on the walls. Wherefore the same Count Zenovello, seeing him to be so much inclined to painting, relieved him of his other duties, like the generous nobleman that he was, and made him give his whole attention to art; and since Francesco had all but forgotten everything, he placed himself, through the good offices of that patron, under Liberale, a famous painter and illuminator of that time. And thus, practising under that master without ever ceasing, he went on making such progress from one day to another, that not only did all that he had forgotten awaken in his memory, but he also acquired in a short time as much more knowledge as sufficed to make him an able craftsman. It is true, however, that, although he always held to the manner of Liberale, he yet imitated the softness and well-blended colouring of Giorgione, his first instructor, believing that the works of Liberale, while good in other respects, suffered from a certain dryness.

Now Liberale, having recognized the beauty of Francesco's spirit, conceived such an affection for him, that he loved him ever afterwards as a son, and, when death came upon him, left him heir to all his possessions. And thus, after the death of Liberale, Francesco followed in his steps and executed many works, which are dispersed among various private houses. Of those in Verona which deserve to be extolled above all others, the first is the great chapel of the Duomo, on the vaulting of which are four large pictures painted in fresco, wherein are the Nativity of the Madonna and the Presentation in the Temple, and, in the picture in the center, which appears to recede inwards, three Angels in the air, who are seen foreshortened from below, and are holding a crown of stars wherewith to crown the Madonna, who is in the recess, in the act of ascending into Heaven, accompanied by many Angels, while the Apostles are gazing upwards in attitudes of great variety; and these Apostles are figures twice the size of life. All these pictures were executed by Il Moro after the designs of Giulio Romano, according to the wish of Bishop Giovan Matteo Giberti, who gave the commission for the work, and who, as has been said, was very much the friend of that same Giulio.

After this Il Moro painted the facade of the house of the Manuelli, which stands on the abutment of the Ponte Nuovo, and a facade for Torello Saraina, the doctor, who wrote the above-mentioned book of the Antiquities of Verona. In Friuli, likewise, he painted in fresco the principal chapel of the Abbey of Rosazzo, for Bishop Giovan Matteo, who held it "in commendam," and, being a noble and truly religious dignitary, rebuilt it; for it had been allowed to fall completely into ruin, as such buildings are generally found to be, by those who had held it "in commendam" before him, attending only to the drawing of the revenues and spending not a farthing in the service of God and of the Church.

Il Moro afterwards painted many works in oils at Verona and in Venice. On the outer wall (of a chapel) in S. Maria in Organo he executed in fresco the figures that are still there, with the exception of the Angel Michael and the Angel Raphael, which are by the hand of Paolo Cavazzuola. For the same chapel he painted an altarpiece in oils, wherein he made a portrait of Messer Jacopo Fontani, who gave the commission for the work, in a figure of S. James, in addition to the Madonna and other very beautiful figures. And in a large semicircle above that altarpiece, occupying the whole width of the chapel, he painted the Transfiguration of Our Lord, and the Apostles beneath, which were held to be among the best figures that he ever executed. For the Chapel of the Bombardieri, in S. Eufemia, he painted an altarpiece with S. Barbara in the heavens, in the centre, and a S. Anthony below, with his hand on his beard, which is a most beautiful head, and on the other side a S. Rocco, which is also held to be a very good figure; whence this work is rightly looked upon as one executed with supreme diligence and unity of coloring. In a picture on the altar of the Santificazione, in the Madonna della Scala, he painted a S. Sebastian, in competition with Paolo Cavazzuola, who executed a S. Rocco in another picture; and he afterwards painted an altarpiece that was taken to Bagolino, a place in the mountains of Brescia.

Il Moro executed many portraits, and his heads are in truth beautiful to a marvel, and very good likenesses of those whom they were meant to represent. At Verona he executed a portrait of Count Francesco Sanbonifazio, who, on account of the length of his body, was called the Long Count; with that of one of the Franchi, which was an amazing head. He also painted the portrait of Messer Girolamo Verita', which remained unfinished, because Il Moro was inclined to be dilatory in his work; and this, still unfinished, is in the possession of the sons of that good nobleman. Among many other portraits, likewise, he executed one of the Venetian, Monsignor de' Martini, a knight of Rhodes, and to the same man he sold a head of marvellous beauty and excellence, which he had painted many years before as the portrait of a Venetian gentleman, the son of one who was then Captain in Verona. This head, through the avarice of the Venetian, who never paid him, was left in the hands of Francesco, and he disposed of it to Monsignor de' Martini, who had the Venetian dress changed into that of a shepherd or herdsman. It is as rare a portrait as ever issued from the hand of any craftsman, and it is now in the house of the heirs of the same Monsignor de' Martini, where it is rightly held in vast veneration. In Venice he painted a portrait of Messer Alessandro Contarini, Procurator of S. Mark and Proveditor of the forces, and one of Messer Michele San Michele for one of Messer Michele's dearest friends, who took the portrait to Orvieto; and it is said that he executed another of the same architect, Messer Michele, which is now in the possession of Messer Paolo Ramusio, the son of Messer Giovan Battista. He also painted a portrait of Fracastoro, a very famous poet, at the instance of Monsignor Giberti, by whom it was sent to Giovio, who placed it in his museum.

Il Moro executed many other works, of which there is no need to make mention, although they are all well worthy of remembrance, because he was as diligent a colourist as any master that lived in his day, and because he bestowed much time and labour on his work. So great, indeed, was his diligence, that it brought upon him more blame than praise, as may also be seen at times to happen to others, for the reason that he accepted any commission and took the earnest-money from every patron, and trusted to the will of God to finish the work; and if he did this in his youth, everyone may imagine what he must have done in his last years, when to his natural slowness there was added that which old age brings in its train. By this method of procedure he brought upon himself more entanglements and annoyances than he cared for; and Messer Michele San Michele, therefore, moved by compassion for him, took him into his house in Venice and treated him like a friend and man of talent.

Finally, having been invited back to Verona by his former patrons, the Counts Giusti, Il Moro died among them in their beautiful Palace of S. Maria in Stella, and was buried in the church of that villa, being accompanied to his tomb by all those loving noblemen, and even laid to rest with extraordinary affection by their own hands; for they loved him as a father, since they had all been born and brought up while he was living in their house. In his youth Il Moro was very courageous and agile in body, and handled all kinds of arms with great skill. He was most faithful to his friends and patrons, and he showed spirit in all his actions. His most intimate friends were the architect, Messer Michele San Michele, Danese da Carrara, an excellent sculptor, and the very reverend and most learned Fra Marco de' Medici, who often went after his studies to sit with him, watching him at work, and discoursing lovingly with him, in order to refresh his mind when he was weary with labor.

A disciple and son-in-law of Il Moro, who had two daughters, was Battista d' Agnolo, who was afterwards called Battista del Moro. This master, although he had his hands full for a time with the complications of the inheritance that Il Moro bequeathed to him, has yet executed many works which are not otherwise than passing good. In Verona he has painted a S. John the Baptist in the Church of the Nuns of S. Giuseppe, and in the tramezzo of S. Eufemia, above the altar of S. Paolo, a scene in fresco showing the latter Saint presenting himself to Ananias after being converted by Christ; which work, although he executed it when still a lad, is much extolled. For the noble Counts Canossi he painted two apartments, and in a hall two friezes with battle pieces, which are very beautiful and praised by everyone. In Venice he painted the facade of a house near the Carmine, a work of no great size, but much extolled, in which he executed a figure of Venice crowned and seated upon a lion, the device of that Republic. For Camillo Trevisano he painted the facade of his house at Murano, and in company with his son Marco he decorated the inner court with very beautiful scenes in chiaroscuro. And in competition with Paolo Veronese he painted a large chamber in the same house, which proved to be so beautiful that it brought him much honor and profit.

The same master has also executed many works in miniature, of which the most recent is a very beautiful drawing of S. Eustachio adoring Christ, who has appeared to him between the horns of a deer, with two dogs near him, which could not be more excellent, and a landscape full of trees, receding and fading away little by little into the distance, which is an exquisite thing. This drawing has been very highly praised by the many persons who have seen it, and particularly by Danese da Carrara, who saw it when he was in Verona, carrying out the work of the Chapel of the Signori Fregosi, which is one of rare distinction among all the number that there are in Italy at the present day. Danese, I say, having seen this drawing, was lost in astonishment at its beauty, and exhorted the above-mentioned Fra Marco de' Medici, his old and particular friend, not for anything in the world to let it slip through his hands, but to contrive to place it among the other choice examples of all the arts in his possession. Whereupon Battista, having heard that Fra Marco desired it, and knowing of his friendship with his father-in-law, gave it to him, almost forcing him to accept it, in the presence of Danese; nor was that good Father ungrateful to him for so much courtesy. However, since that same Battista and his son Marco are alive and still at work, I shall say nothing more of them for the present.

Il Moro had another disciple, called Orlando Fiacco, who has become a good master and a very able painter of portraits, as may be seen from the many that he has painted, all very beautiful and most lifelike. He made a portrait of Cardinal Caraffa when he was returning from Germany, which he took secretly by torch light while the Cardinal was at supper in the Vescovado of Verona; and this was such a faithful likeness that it could not have been improved. He also painted a very lifelike portrait of the Cardinal of Lorraine, when, coming from the Council of Trent, he passed through Verona on his return to Rome; and likewise portraits of the two Bishops Lippomani of Verona, Luigi the uncle and Agostino the nephew, which Count Giovan Battista della Torre now has in a little apartment. Other portraits that he painted were those of Messer Adamo Fumani, a Canon and a very learned gentleman of Verona, of Messer Vincenzio de' Medici of Verona, and of his consort, Madonna Isotta, in the guise of S. Helen, and of their grandson, Messer Niccolo'. He has likewise executed portraits of Count Antonio della Torre, of Count Girolamo Canossi, and his brothers, Count Lodovico and Count Paolo, of Signor Astorre Baglioni, Captain-General of all the light cavalry of Venice and Governor of Verona, the latter clad in white armor and most beautiful in aspect, and of his consort, Signora Ginevra Salviati. In like manner, he has portrayed the eminent architect Palladio and many others; and he still continues at work, wishing to become in the art of painting as true an Orlando as once was that great Paladin of France.

In Verona, where an extraordinary degree of attention has been given to design ever since the death of Fra Giocondo, there have flourished at all times men excellent in painting and architecture, as will now be seen, in addition to what has been observed hitherto, in the Lives of Francesco Monsignori, of Domenico Morone and his son Francesco, of Paolo Cavazzuola, of the architect Falconetto, and, lastly, of the miniaturists Francesco and Girolamo.

On to Part 5

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