Vasari's Lives of the Artists
In the year 1551, Stefano Veltroni, of Monte Sansovino having received orders from the Pope and from Vasari to have adorned with grotesques the apartments of the villa on the hill without the Porta del Popolo, which had belonged to Cardinal Poggio summoned Taddeo, and caused him to paint in the central picture a figure of Opportunity, who, having seized Fortune by the locks, appears to be about to cut them with her shears (the device of that Pope) ; in which Taddeo acquitted himself very well. Then, Vasari having made before any of the others the designs for the court and the fountain at the foot of the new Palace, which were afterwards carried on by Vignuola and Ammanati and built by Baronino, Prospero Fontana, in painting many pictures there, as will be related hereafter, availed himself not a little of Taddeo in many things. And these were the cause of even greater benefits for him, for the Pope, liking his method of working, commissioned him to paint in some apartments, above the corridor of the Belvedere, some little figures in colour that served as friezes for those apartments; and in an open loggia, behind those that faced towards Rome, he painted in chiaroscuro on the wall, with figures as large as life, all the Labours of Hercules, which were destroyed in the time of Pope Paul IV, when other apartments and a chapel were built there. At the Vigna of Pope Julius, in the first apartments of the Palace, he executed some scenes in colour, and in particular one of Mount Parnassus, in the centre of the ceilings, and in the court of the same he painted in chiaroscuro two scenes of the history of the Sabines, which are one on either side of the principal door of variegated marble that leads into the loggia, whence one descends to the fountain of the Acqua Vergine; all which works were much commended and extolled.
Now Federigo, while Taddeo was in Rome with the Duke, had returned to Urbino, and he had lived there and at Pesaro ever since; but Taddeo, after the works described above, caused him to return to Rome, in order to make use of him in executing a great frieze in a hall, with others in other rooms, of the house of the Giambeccari on the Piazza di S. Apostolo, and in other friezes that he painted in the house of M. Antonio Portatore at the Obelisk of S. Mauro, all full of figures and other things, which were held to be very beautiful. Maestro Mattivolo, the Master of the Post, bought in the time of Pope Julius a site on the Campo Marzio, and built there a large and very commodious house, and then commissioned Taddeo to paint the facade in chiaroscuro; which Taddeo executed there three stories of Mercury, the Messenger of the Gods, which were very beautiful, and the rest he caused to be painted by others after designs by his own hand. Meanwhile M. Jacopo Mattei, having caused a chapel to be built in the Church of the Consolazione below the Campidoglio, allotted it to Taddeo to paint, knowing already how able he was; and he willingly undertook to do it, and for a small price, in order to show to certain persons, who went about saying that he could do nothing save facades and other works in chiaroscuro, that he could also paint in color.
Having then set his hand to that work, Taddeo would only touch it when he was in the mood and vein to do well, spending the rest of his time on works that did not weigh upon him so much in the matter of honor; and so he executed it at his leisure in four years. On the vaulting he painted in fresco four scenes of the Passion of Christ, of no great size, with most beautiful fantasies, and all so well executed in invention, design, and coloring, that he surpassed his own self; which scenes are the Last Supper with the Apostles, the Washing of Feet, the Prayer in the Garden, and Christ taken and kissed by Judas. On one of the walls at the sides he painted in figures large as life Christ Scourged at the Column, and on the other Pilate showing Him after the scourging to the Jews, saying "Ecce Homo"; above this last, in an arch, is the same Pilate washing his hands, and in the other arch, opposite to that, Christ led before Annas. On the altar wall he painted the same Christ Crucified, and the Maries at the foot of the Cross, with Our Lady in a swoon; on either side of her is a Prophet, and in the arch above the ornament of stucco he painted two Sibyls; which four figures are discoursing of the Passion of Christ. And on the vaulting, about certain ornaments in stucco, are four half-length figures representing the Four Evangelists, which are very beautiful. The whole work, which was uncovered in the year 1556, when Taddeo was not more than twenty-six years of age, was held, as it still is, to be extraordinary, and he was judged by the craftsmen at that time to be an excellent painter.
That work finished, M. Mario Frangipane allotted to him his chapel in the Church of S. Marcello, in which Taddeo made use, as he also did in many other works, of the young foreigners who are always to be found ' in Rome, and who go about working by the day in order to learn and to gain their bread; but none the less for the time being he did not finish it completely. The same master painted in fresco in the Pope's Palace in the time of Paul IV, some rooms where Cardinal Caraffa lived, in the great tower above the Guard of Halberdiers; and two little pictures in oils of the Nativity of Christ and the Virgin flying with Joseph into Egypt, which were sent to Portugal by the Ambassador of that Kingdom. The Cardinal of Mantua, wishing to have painted with the greatest possible rapidity the whole interior of his Palace beside the Arco di Portogallo, allotted that work to Taddeo for a proper price; and Taddeo, beginning it with the help of a good number of men, in a short time carried it to completion, showing that he had very great judgment in being able to employ so many different brains harmoniously in so great a work, and in managing the various manners in such a way, that the work appears as if all by the same hand. In short, Taddeo satisfied in that undertaking, with great profit to himself, the Cardinal and all who saw it, disappointing the expectations of those who could not believe that he was likely to succeed amid the perplexities of such a great work.
In like manner, he painted some scenes with figures in fresco for M. Alessandro Mattei in some recesses in the apartments of his Palace near the Botteghe Scure, and some others he caused to be executed by his brother Federigo, to the end that he might become accustomed to the work. Which Federigo, having taken courage, afterwards executed by himself a Mount Parnassus in the recess of a ceiling in the house of a Roman gentleman called Stefano Margani, below the steps of the Araceli. Whereupon Taddeo, seeing Federigo confident and working by himself from his own designs, without being assisted more than was reasonable by anyone, contrived to have a chapel allotted to him by the men of S. Maria dell' Orto a Ripa, making it almost appear that he intended to do it himself, for the reason that it would never have been given to Federigo alone, who was still a mere lad. Taddeo, then, in order to satisfy these men, painted there the Nativity of Christ, and Federigo afterwards executed all the rest, acquitting himself in such a manner that there could be seen the beginning of that excellence which is now made manifest in him.
In those same times the Duke of Guise, who was then in Rome, desiring to take an able and practised painter to paint his Palace in France, Taddeo was proposed to him; whereupon, having seen some of his works, and liking his manner, he agreed to give him a salary of six hundred crowns a year, on condition that Taddeo, after finishing the work that he had in hand, should go to France to serve him. And so Taddeo would have done, the money for his preparations having been deposited in a bank, if it had not been for the wars that broke out in France at that time, and shortly afterwards the death of that Duke. Taddeo then went back to finish the work for Frangipane in S. Marcello, but he was not able to work for long without being interrupted, for, the Emperor Charles V having died, preparations were made for giving him most honorable obsequies in Rome, fit for an Emperor of the Romans, and to Taddeo were allotted many scenes from the life of that Emperor, and also many trophies and other ornaments, which were made by him of pasteboard in a very sumptuous and magnificent manner; and he finished the whole in twenty-five days. For his labors, therefore, and those of Federigo and others who had assisted him, six hundred crowns of gold were paid to him.
Shortly afterwards he painted two great chambers at Bracciano for Signer Paolo Giordano Orsini, which were very beautiful and richly adorned with stucco-work and gold; in one the stories of Cupid and Psyche, and in the second, which had been begun previously by others, some stories of Alexander the Great; and others that remained for him to paint, continuing the history of the same Alexander, he caused to be executed by his brother Federigo, who acquitted himself very well. And then he painted in fresco for M. Stefano del Bufalo, in his garden near the fountain of Trevi, the Muses around the Castalian Fount and Mount Parnassus, which was held to be a beautiful work.
The Wardens of Works of the Madonna of Orvieto, as has been related in the Life of Simone Mosca, had caused some chapels with ornaments of marble and stucco to be built in the aisles of their church, and had also had some altarpieces executed by Girolamo Mosciano of Brescia; and, having heard the fame of Taddeo by means of friends, they sent a summons to him, and he went to Orvieto, taking with him Federigo. There, settling to work, he executed two great figures on the wall of one of those chapels, one representing the Active Life, and the other the Contemplative, which were despatched with a very sure facility of hand, in the manner wherein he executed works to which he gave little study ; and while Taddeo was painting those figures, Federigo painted three little stories of S. Paul in the recess of the same chapel. At the end of which, both having fallen ill, they went away, promising to return in September. Taddeo returned to Rome, and Federigo to Sant' Agnolo with a slight fever; which having passed, at the end of two months he also returned to Rome. There, Holy Week being close at hand, the two together set to work in the Florentine Company of S. Agata, which is behind the Banchi, and painted in four days on the vaulting and the recess of that oratory, for a rich festival that was prepared for Holy Thursday and Good Friday, scenes in chiaroscuro of the whole Passion of Christ, with some Prophets and other pictures, which caused all who saw them to marvel.
After that, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, having brought very near completion his Palace of Caprarola, with Vignuola as architect, of whom there will be an account in a short time, gave the charge of painting it all to Taddeo, on these conditions: that, since Taddeo did not wish to abandon his other works in Rome, he should be obliged to make all the cartoons, designs, divisions, and arrangements for the works in painting and in stucco that were to be executed in that place ; that the men who were to carry them into execution should be chosen by Taddeo, but paid by the Cardinal ; and that Taddeo should be obliged to work there him- self for two or three months in the year, and to go there as many times as it might be necessary to see how things were progressing, and to retouch all that was not to his satisfaction. And for all these labours the Cardinal promised him a salary of two hundred crowns a year. Whereupon Taddeo, having so honourable an appointment and the support of so great a lord, determined that he would give himself some peace of mind, and would no longer accept any mean work in Rome, as he had done up to that time ; desiring, above all, to avoid the censure that many men of art laid upon him, saying that from a certain grasping avarice he would accept any kind of work, in order to gain with the arms of others that which would have been to many of them an honest means to enable them to study, as he himself had done in his early youth. Against which reproaches Taddeo used to defend himself by saying that he did it on account of Federigo and the other brothers that he had on his shoulders, desiring that they should learn with his assistance.
Having thus resolved to serve Farnese and also to finish the chapel in S. Marcello, he obtained for Federigo from M. Tizio da Spoleti, the master of the household to the above-named Cardinal, the commission to paint the facade of a house that he had on the Piazza della Dogana, near S. Eustachio; which was very welcome to Federigo, for he had never desired anything so much as to have some work altogether for himself.
On one part of the facade, therefore, he painted in colors the scene of S. Eustachio causing himself to be baptized with his wife and children, which was a very good work; and on the center of the facade he painted the same Saint, when, while hunting, he sees Jesus Christ on the Cross between the horns of a stag. Now since Federigo, when he executed that work, was not more than twenty-eight* [* An error of the copyist or printer for eighteen.] years of age, Taddeo, who reflected that the work was in a public place, and that it was of great importance to the credit of Federigo, not only went sometimes to see him at his painting, but also at times insisted on retouching and improving some part. Wherefore Federigo, after having had patience for a time, finally, carried away on one occasion by the anger natural in one who would have preferred to work by himself, seized a mason's hammer and dashed to the ground something (I know not what) that Taddeo had painted; and in his rage he stayed some days without going back to the house. Which being heard by the friends of both the one and the other of them, they so went to work that the two were reconciled, on the under- standing that Taddeo should be able to set his hand on the designs and cartoons of Federigo and correct them at his pleasure, but never the works that he might execute in fresco, in oils, or in any other medium.
Federigo having then finished the work of that house, it was universally extolled, and won him the name of an able painter. After that, Taddeo was ordered to repaint in the Sala de' Palafrenieri those Apostles which Raffaello had formerly executed there in terretta, and which had been thrown to the ground by Paul IV; and he, having painted one, caused all the others to be executed by his brother Federigo, who acquitted himself very well. Next, they painted together a frieze in fresco-colours in one of the halls of the Palace of the Araceli. Then, a proposal being discussed, about the same time that they were working at the Araceli, to give to Signor Federigo Borromeo as a wife the Lady Donna Virginia, the daughter of Duke Guidobaldo of Urbino, Taddeo was sent to take her portrait, which he did excellently well; and before he departed from Urbino he made all the designs for a credence, which that Duke afterwards caused to be made in clay at Castel Durante, for sending to King Philip of Spain. Having returned to Rome, Taddeo presented to the Pope that portrait, which pleased him well enough; but such was the discourtesy of that Pontiff, or of his ministers, that the poor painter was not recompensed even for his expenses.