Painter of Florence

JUST as many are aided by Fortune without being endowed with great talent, so many men of talent are pursued by a hostile fortune. Thus she seems to adopt as her children those who depend upon her, without the aid of any ability, and is pleased that some should rise by her favour who would never have attracted notice by their own merits. Thus it was with Pinturicchio of Perugia, who, prolific as he was, and enjoying the assistance of others, nevertheless possessed a far higher reputation than his works warranted. At the same time, he had great skill in large works, and always employed a number of assistants. 1

After working in his early youth for some time with Pietro Perugino, 2 his master, doing many things, and receiving a third of the profits, he was invited to Siena by Cardinal Francesco Piccolomini to paint the library built by Pope Pius II. in the Duomo there. It is indeed true that the sketches and cartoons for all the scenes there were by Raphael of Urbino, then a youth, who had been his companion and fellow-pupil under Piero, whose style Raphael had thoroughly mastered. One of these cartoons may still be seen at Siena, and some of these sketches of Raphael are in our book. The scenes of this work were divided into ten pictures, Pinturicchio being assisted by many boys and workmen of Pietro's school. The first shows the birth of Pius II., with his parents, Silvio Piccolomini and Vittoria, in 1405, in Valdorcia, in the district of Corsignano (now called Pienza, after him, because he made it into a city), and his being called Aeneas. His parents are drawn from life. In the same scene is Domenico, cardinal of Capranica crossing the Alps in the ice and snow to attend the council at Basel. The second scene represents the missions on which Aeneas was sent by the council: to Strasburg thrice, to Trent, Constance, Frankfurt and Savoy. In the third, Aeneas is sent as ambassador by the anti-Pope Felix to the Emperor Frederick III., who was so much struck lay his dexterity, ability, eloquence and grace that he caused him to be crowned with laurel as a poet, after which he is made protonotary, received among his friends, and appointed chief secretary. The fourth shows him being sent by Frederick to Eugenius IV., 3 who made him Bishop of Triest, and subsequently Archbishop of Siena. In the fifth, the emperor, who is anxious to come to Italy to receive the imperial crown, sends Aeneas to Telamone, a port of the Sienese, to meet his wife Leonora, who is coming from Portugal. In the sixth, Aeneas is sent by the emperor to Calixtus IV. to persuade him to make war on the Turks; and, as Siena has been harassed by the Count of Pitigliano and others, at the instigation of King Alfonso of Naples, the Pope is sending Aeneas to treat for peace. This done, a war is planned against the Orientals, and, on returning to Rome, Aeneas is created cardinal by the Pope. The seventh shows the death of Calixtus and the election of Aeneas to be Pope as Pins II. In the eighth the Pope is going to the council at Mantua for the expedition against the Turks, where the Marquis Ludovico receives him with great pomp and extraordinary magnificence. In the ninth the Pope is canonising Catherine of Siena, a nun and holy lady of the order of the Friar Preachers. In the tenth and last the Pope, while preparing a great fleet against the Turks, with the aid of all the Christian princes, dies at Ancona, and a holy hermit of Camaldoli sees his soul carried to heaven by angels at the moment of his death, as we read. The same picture shows the body brought from Ancona to Rome, accompanied by a crowd of lords and prelates weeping for the death of such a man, and of so rare and so holy a Pope. 4 This work is full of portraits, which it would take too long to enumerate; the colouring is fine and vigorous; it is enriched with gold ornaments, while the ceiling decoration is admirably devised. Under each scene is a Latin inscription describing its nature. To this library the three Graces were brought by Cardinal Francesco Piccolomini, the Pope's nephew, and placed in the middle. These are fine marble antiques, and the first which excited admiration. Before the library was finished, 5 which contained the books left by Pius II., Cardinal Francesco was created Pope, and chose the title of Pius III. in memory of his uncle. Over the door of the library leading to the Duomo, and occupying the whole of the wall space, Pinturicchio painted the coronation of Pius III., with many portraits from life. Beneath it are these words:

(1) Pius III. Senensis, Pii II. nepos MDIII. Septembris XXI.apertis electus suffragiis, octavo Octobris coronattts est.

Pinturicchio, having worked at Rome in the time of Pope Sixtus, while he was with Pietro Perugino, had served Domenico della Rovere, cardinal of S. Clemente. The cardinal having erected a fine palace in the Borgo Vecchio, wished Pinturicchio to decorate it and paint the arms of Pope Sixtus on the facade, supported by two infants. He did some things in the palace of S. Apostolo for Sciarra Colonna‚ Not long after, in 1484, the Genoese Pope Innocent VIII. employed him to decorate some rooms and loggias in the palace of the Belvedere, where, among other things, he painted a loggia full of landscapes at the Pope's desire, with views of Rome, Milan, Genoa, Florence, Venice and Naples, in the Flemish style. 6 This being unusual at the time, gave considerable satisfaction. In the same place he did a Madonna in fresco at the entrance to the principal door. In the chapel in S. Pietro containing the lance which pierced the side of Christ, he painted a Madonna of more than life-size in tempera on a panel for Innocent VIII. In the church of S. Maria del Popolo he painted two chapels, 7 one for Domenico della Rovere, cardinal of S. Clemente, where he was afterwards buried, and the other for Cardinal Innocenzio Cibo, where he also was interred, introducing the portrait of each in his respective chapel. In the Pope's palace he painted some apartments communicating with the court of S. Pietro, the ceilings and paintings of which were restored a few years ago by Pope Pius IV. In the same palace Alexander VI. employed him to paint his own apartments and all the Borgia tower, where he decorated one room with representations of the liberal arts, doing the vaulting with stucco and gold. But, as the modem manner of making stucco was not then known, these ornaments are all but entirely destroyed. Over the door of a room in this palace he painted a portrait of Signora Giulia Farnese as Our Lady, with the head of Pope Alexander adoring her. 8

It was a habit of Bernardino to decorate his paintings with gold ornaments in relief to please some who had little knowledge of art, and to create an imposing appearance, but it is a clumsy device in a picture. After painting a story of St. Catherine in these apartments, he made the arches of Rome in relief, and painted the scene so that, the figures being in front and the buildings behind, the receding objects are more prominent than the figures in the foreground, a capital heresy in our art. In the castle of S. Angelo he painted a number 9 of rooms with grotesques, and in the garden at the base of the great tower he did scenes of Pope Alexander, with portraits of Isabella, the Catholic queen, Niccolo Orsino, Count of Pitigliano, Gianjacomo Triulzi, with many other relations and friends of the Pope, notably Cesare Borgia, his brother, his sisters, and many prominent men of the day. In the Chapel of Paolo Tolosa at Monte Oliveto of Naples there is an Assumption 10 by Pinturicchio. He did number of other works all over Italy, but, as they are not very excellent, though skilful, I pass them over in silence.

Pinturicchio used to say that painters could give the best relief to their works by relying on themselves without owing anything to princes or others. He worked also at Perugia, but did only a few things. At Araceli he painted the chapel of St. Bernardino, 11 and in the vaulting of the principal chapel of St. Maria del Popolo, where, as I have said, he did the two chapels, he painted the four Doctors of the Church. 12 When he had attained the age of fifty-nine he was employed to paint a Nativity of the Virgin in S. Francesco at Siena. After he had begun it, the friars gave him a room to dwell in, entirely bare, as he desired, except for a large antique trunk, which they found too heavy to move; but Pinturicchio, who was very eccentric, made such a clamour that the friars in despair determined to take it away. In removing it they broke a plank, and out came 500 gold ducats. Pinturicehio was chagrined at this, and bore such a grudge against the poor friars for their good fortune, that he could think of nothing else, and it so weighed upon his mind that it caused his death. His works were executed about 1513.

Benedetto Buonfiglio, 13 a painter of Perugia, was his companion and friend, although older than he, and painted several things in the Pope's palace at Rome with other masters. In the Chapel of the Signoria in his native Perugia he did scenes from the life of St. Frcolano, 14 bishop and protector of that city, as well as some miracles of St. Louis. 15 In S. Domenico he painted the story of the Magi in tempera on a panel, and a number of saints on another. In the church of S. Bernardino he painted Christ in the air, with the saint and the people below. 16 In short, he enjoyed a considerable reputation in those parts before the rise of Pietro Perugino. Another friend and a fellow-worker of Pinturicchio was Gerino of Pistoia, who was considered a careful colourist and a successful imitator of the style of Pietro Perugino, with whom he worked until his death. He did a few things in his native Pistoia. At Borgo S. Sepolcro he did a meritorious oil-painting of the Circumcision for the company of the Buon Gesu. He painted a chapel in fresco in the Pieve there, as well as another chapel for the community on the Tiber on the way to Anghiari, also in fresco. In S. Lorenzo, an abbey of the Camaldolite monks there, he did another chapel. He stayed a long while at the Borgo while engaged upon these works, so that‚he almost made it his home. He was quite insignificant as an artist but a most laborious worker, so much so that it amounted to drudgery.

There was an excellent painter in the city of Fuligno at that time named Niccolo Alunno, because, as oils were not in general use before Pietro Perugino, many men were considered able who did not afterwards come to the fore. Niccolo gave considerable satisfaction by his works, although tempera was his only medium, because all his heads were portraits and seemed alive. There is a Nativity of Christ by him in S. Agostino at Fuligno, with a predella of small figures. At Assisi he made a processional banner, the high-altar picture in the Duomo, and another picture in S. Francesco. But his best painting was a chapel in the Duomo containing a Pieta and two angels holding torches and weeping so naturally that I do not think any painter could have done better, however excellent. He painted the facade of S. Maria degli Angeli at the same place, and did many other works which I need not mention, as I have spoken of the best. This is the end of the Life of Pinturicchio, who, among other things, pleased many princes and lords because he finished his works quickly, though perhaps less excellently than if he had gone slowly and carefully.

  • 1 Bernardino di Betto.
  • 2 He did this work between 1503 and1508.
  • 3 It was Nicholas V. who gave him this preferment.
  • 4 Now in the Galleria.
  • 5 In 1482.
  • 6 Done in 1487.
  • 7 In 1505.
  • 8 Between 1492 and 1495.
  • 9 In 1495, now all destroyed.
  • 10 Now in the Naples Museum.
  • 11 1497-1500.
  • 12 In 1489.
  • 13 c. 1420-96.
  • 14 Begun in 1454.
  • 15 c. 1466.
  • 16 1465. All these works in the Signoria Chapel. St. Domenico and St. Bernardino are now in the Perugia Gallery.

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