Vasari's Lives of the Artists

FRANCESCO MARIA being Duke of Urbino, there was born in the township of Sant' Agnolo in Vado, a place in that State, on the ist of September in the year 1529, to the painter Ottaviano Zucchero, a male child to whom he gave the name of Taddeo; which boy having learned by the age of ten to read and write passing well, his father took him under his own discipline and taught him something of design. But, perceiving that his son had a very beautiful genius and was likely to become a better master in painting than he believed himself to be, Ottaviano placed him with* Pompeo da Fano, who was very much his friend, but a commonplace painter. Pompeo' s works not pleasing Taddeo, and likewise his w r ays, he returned to Sant' Agnolo, and there, as well as in other places, assisted his father to the best of his power and knowledge. Finally, being well grown in years and in judgment, and perceiving that he could not make much progress under the discipline of his father, who was burdened with seven sons and one daughter, and also that with his own little knowledge he could not be of as much assistance to his father as he might wish, he went off all alone, at the age of fourteen, to Rome.

There, at first, not being known by anyone, and himself knowing no one, he suffered some hardships; and, if he did know one or two persons, he was treated worse by them than by the others. Thus, having approached Francesco, called Sant' Agnolo, who was working by the day at grotesques under Perino del Vaga, he commended himself to him with all humility, praying him that, being his kinsman, he should consent to help him; but no good came of it, for Francesco, as certain kinds of kinsmen often do, not only did not assist him by word or deed, but reproved and repelled him harshly. But for all that, not losing heart and not being dismayed, the poor boy contrived to maintain himself (or we should rather say, to starve himself) for many months in Rome by grinding colors for a small price, now in one shop and now in another, at times also drawing something, as best he could. And although in the end he placed himself as an assistant with one Giovan Piero Calavrese, he did not gain much profit from that, for the reason that his master, together with his wife, a shrew of a woman, not only made him grind colors all day and all night, but even, among other things, kept him in want of bread, which, lest he should be able to have enough or to take it at his pleasure, they used to keep in a basket hung from the ceiling, with some little bells, which would ring at the least touch of a hand on the basket, and thus give the alarm. But this would have caused little annoyance to Taddeo, if only he had had any opportunity of drawing some designs by the hand of Raffaello da Urbino that his pig of a master possessed.

On account of these and many other strange ways Taddeo left Giovan Piero, and resolved to live by himself and to have recourse to the workshops of Rome, where he was by that time known, spending a part of the week in doing work for a livelihood, and the rest in drawing, particularly the works by the hand of Raffaello that were in the house of Agostino Chigi and in other places in Rome. And since very often, when the evening came on, he had no place wherein to sleep, many a night he took refuge under the loggie of the above-named Chigi's house and in other suchlike places; which hardships did something to ruin his constitution, and, if his youth had not helped him, they would have killed him altogether. As it was, falling ill, and not being assisted by his kinsman Francesco Sant' Agnolo any more than he had been before, he returned to his father's house at Sant' Agnolo, in order not to finish his life in such misery as that in which he had been living.

However, not to waste any more time on matters that are not of the first importance, now that I have shown at sufficient length with what difficulties and hardships he made his proficience, let me relate that Taddeo, at length restored to health and once more in Rome, resumed his usual studies, but with more care of himself than he had taken in the past, and learned so much under a certain Jacopone, that he came into some credit. Wherefore the above-mentioned Francesco, his kinsman, who had behaved so cruelly toward him, perceiving that he had become an able master, and wishing to make use of him, became reconciled with him; and they began to work together, Taddeo, who was of a kindly nature, having forgotten all his wrongs. And so, Taddeo making the designs, and both together executing many friezes in fresco in chambers and loggie, they went on assisting one another.

Meanwhile the painter Daniello da Parma, who had formerly been many years with Antonio da Correggio [Correggio], and had associated with Francesco Mazzuoli of Parma [Parmigianino], having undertaken to paint a church in fresco for the Office of Works of S. Maria at Vitto,* [* Alvito.] beyond Sora, on the borders of the Abruzzi, called Taddeo to his assistance and took him to Vitto. In which work, although Daniello was not the best painter in the world, nevertheless, on account of his age, and from his having seen the methods of Correggio and Parmigiano, and with what softness they executed their paintings, he had such experience that, imparting it to* Taddeo and teaching him, he was of the greatest assistance to him with his words; no less, indeed, than another might have been by working before him. In that work, which was on a groined vaulting, Taddeo painted the four Evangelists, two Sibyls, two Prophets, and four not very large stories of Jesus Christ and of the Virgin His Mother.

He then returned to Rome, where, M. Jacopo Mattei, a Roman gentleman, discoursing with Francesco Sant' Agnolo of his desire to have the f agade of his house painted in chiaroscuro, Francesco proposed Taddeo to him; but he appeared to that gentleman to be too young, wherefore Francesco said to him that he should make trial of Taddeo in two scenes, which, if they were not successful, could be thrown to the ground, and, if successful, could be continued. Taddeo having then set his hand to the work, the two first scenes proved to be such, that M. Jacopo was not only satisfied with them, but astonished. In the year 1548, therefore, when Taddeo had finished that work, he was vastly extolled by all Rome, and that with good reason, because after Polidoro, Maturino, Vincenzio da San Gimignano, and Baldassarre da Siena, no one had attained in works of that kind to the standard that Taddeo had reached, who was then a young man only eighteen years of age. The stories of the work may be understood from these inscriptions, of the deeds of Furius Camillus, one of which is below each scene.


From that time until the year 1550, when Julius III was elected Pope, Taddeo occupied himself with works of no great importance, yet with considerable profits. In which year of 1550, the year of the Jubilee, Ottaviano, the father of Taddeo, with his mother and another of their sons, went to Rome to take part in that most holy Jubilee, and partly, also, to see their son. After they had been there some weeks with Taddeo, on departing they left with him the boy that they had brought with them, who was called Federigo, to the end that he might cause him to study letters. But Taddeo judged him to be more fitted for painting, as indeed Federigo has since been seen to be from the excellent result that he has achieved; and so, after he had learned his first letters, Taddeo began to make him give his attention to design, with better fortune and support than he himself had enjoyed. Meanwhile Taddeo painted in the Church of S. Ambrogio de' Milanesi, on the wall of the high altar, four stories of the life of that Saint, colored in fresco and not very large, with a frieze of little boys, and women after the manner of terminal figures; which was a work of no little beauty. That finished, he painted a facade full of stories of Alexander the Great, beside S. Lucia della Tinta, near the Orso, beginning from his birth and continuing with five stories of the most noteworthy actions of that famous man; which work won him much praise, although it had to bear comparison with another facade near it by the hand of Polidoro.

About that time Guidobaldo, Duke of Urbino, having heard the fame of the young man, who was his vassal, and desiring to give completion to the walls of the chapel in the Duomo of Urbino, wherein Battista Franco, as has been related, had painted the vaulting in fresco, caused Taddeo to be summoned to Urbino. And he, leaving Federigo in Rome, under the care of persons who might make him give his attention to his studies, and likewise another of his brothers, whom he placed with some friends to learn the goldsmith's art, went off to Urbino, where many attentions were paid him by that Duke ; and then orders were given to him as to all that he was to design in the matter of the chapel and other works. But in the meantime the Duke, as General to the Signori of Venice, had to visit Verona and the other fortified places of that dominion, and he took with him Taddeo, who copied for him the picture by the hand of Raffaello da Urbino which, as has been related in another place, is in the house of the noble Counts of Canossa. And he afterwards began, also for his Excellency, a large canvas with the Conversion of S. Paul, which, unfinished as he left it, is still in the possession of his father Ottaviano at Sant' Agnolo.

Then, having returned to Urbino, he occupied himself for a time with continuing the designs for the above-mentioned chapel, which were of the life of Our Lady, as may be seen from some of them that are in the possession of his brother Federigo, drawn in chiaroscuro with the pen. But, whether it was that the Duke had not made up his mind or con- sidered Taddeo to be too young, or for some other reason, Taddeo remained with him two years without doing anything but some pictures in a little study at Pesaro, a large coat of arms in fresco on the fagade of the Palace, and a picture with a lifesize portrait of the Duke, which were all beautiful works. Finally the Duke, having to depart for Rome to receive from Pope Julius III his baton as General of Holy Church, left directions that Taddeo was to proceed with the above-named chapel, and that he was to be provided with all that he required for that purpose. But the Duke's ministers, keeping him, as such men generally do, in want of everything, brought it about that Taddeo, after having lost two years of his time, had to go off to Rome, where, having found the Duke, he excused himself adroitly, without blaming anyone, and promised that he would not fail to do the work when the time came.

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