Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Week 2: “A Princely Collection.” Julius II’s Sculpture Collection and the View from the Belvedere.

Old St Peter’s. 

Old St Peter’s was built by the Emperor Constantine between 320-330 AD, confirmed by archaeological research. By the time of the Early Renaissance it was crammed with medieval altars and tombs that encompassed a millennium.[1] The Vatican holds certain paintings, mosaics, fresco fragments, that were associated with the Basilica in the late medieval and early renaissance periods- above.. The basilica of old St Peter’s stood until the early sixteenth-century when Julius II accomplished the aim of many popes: demolish Constantine’s basilica and replace it with a new one, the Basilica of St Peter’s which we see today. The shrine of Boniface IV which contained the sepulchre of Boniface VIII survived, though it’s not known where Arnoldo di Cambio’s bust of Boniface VIII was situated. 

Sixtus IV and Collecting in the Late Fifteenth-Century.

In the second half of the fifteenth century the collecting of antiquities was more widespread in Florence than Rome. In Rome there were two main collectors. Firstly Pietro Barbo, Pope Paul II (1464-71) had gathered large numbers of gems, coins and small bronzes, who looked upon the collections as his personal property, and worse he made no arrangements for their future.[2] At his death his collection was dispersed by his successor Pope Sixtus IV (1471-84), most of which went to Lorenzo di Medici in Florence, as there was little demand in Rome. Though not an avid collector of antiquities, Sixtus was shrewd enough to recognise their symbolic importance, and so he donated a number of bronze statues to the people of Rome. Francesco della Rovere, to give Sixtus’s real name,  was an extremely intelligent theologian before he was elected pontiff. He set in train grand plans for the re-building of Rome that would provide a symbol of the Vatican’s power and prestige, and that his successors would build on. Something of this vision is captured in Melozzo di Forli’s Sixtus IV Organizes the Vatican Library and Appoints Platina its Librarian- above. The inscription that the new post holder provides a mission statement: 

“With churches and palace restored, and the streets, for a, city walls, bridges,
Now that the Aqua Virgo at Trevi is back in repair,
Now you may open our age-old port for the shippers’ convenience
And girdle the Vatican grounds, Sixtus with a new wall.
Still Rome, Rome owes you more than this: where a library languished in squalor,
Now it is visible in a setting befitting its fame.”

Melozzo’s picture, now in the Vatican Pinacoteca, shows Sixtus with his nephews, including the future Julius II- Giuilano della Rovere- Platina and Cardinal Riario.[3] The lack of interest in classical sculpture was probably endemic to the papacy, but the discovery of the Apollo Belvedere probably galvanized Julius into action.  The Belvedere collection might, as Haskell and Penny surmise, may have been the result of an accident.[4]

Julius II and the Origins of the Vatican Sculpture Collection.

It was a papal official Francesco Albertini who first gives us some details about the famous statue of Apollo. His report of June 3rd, 1509, and published in 1510 says “What may I say about the beautiful statue of Apollo, which, if I may say so, appears alive, and which your Beatitude transferred to the Vatican?”[5] An earlier drawing in the Codex Excurialensis includes a notation that it was “in the garden of San Pietro in Vincoli.” From 1471, Giuliano della Rovere had been cardinal of that church, and so the owner of the statue. The earliest sighting of the statue is probably by Andrea del Castagno in the 1450s since this artist modelled his David on the pose and attitude of the sculpture.[6] The lack of documentation and evidence of the Apollo contrasts with the Laocoön Group which was discovered on January 4th, 1506, and was eventually purchased by Julius on March 23rd of the same year. The Laocoön was the most documented statue in Julius’s collection. Apollo did have a link with the Vatican as an ancient source recorded that St Peter was buried “in the sanctuary of Apollo, by the place where he was crucified.” And in his poem “Antiquaria Urbis,” written during Julius’s reign, Andreas Fulvius stated that the Vatican hill was sacred to Apollo. Fulvius described the hill as a place where Etruscan priests looked for auguries; “Vaticinia” means prophecies. This may have been why Julius placed the Apollo in his garden; it cemented links with the tradition that Fulvius wrote about.[7] A reference to this constellation of pagan religion, classical art and church history influenced the nature of the frescoes in the Vatican. A window, now closed, below Raphael’s Parnassus, looked down onto the Belvedere courtyard, a clear allusion to the Apollo situated there. The discovery of the Laocoön was interpreted by Julius as a symbol of the rebirth of Rome. After acquiring the sculpture in March, in the following month he laid the cornerstone of the new St Peter’s. One commentator tells us that on June 1, 1506 that Julius had made a space for the Laocoön “like a chapel.”  Mixing politics with archaeology, Julius had an epigram affixed to the statue which had the Trojan priest utter this warning. “If the example of my suffering is not enough for you, Let the downfall of the Bentivoglio be a warning.” This was the name of the rebellious family that Julius had crushed in Bologna in 1506. 

The Vatican Sculptures after Julius. 

After Julius’s death in 1513, the sculpture gallery changed under his successor, the Medici pope Leo X (1513-21). Leo had the reclining figure of the Nile placed in it- probably discovered a year after his accession. Rather than fortify the Vatican collections, Leo was eager to increase the family’s collections. His cousin, Clement VII (1523-34) took the same view, but he did add the Belvedere Torso, and some more statues of reclining river gods. The Farnese pope Paul III (1534-49) added a number of sculptures the Antinous, statues of Venus and a statue of Flora. Perhaps the most prestigious find during the Farnese’s watch was a huge statue of Hercules, much admired and copied by artists. 

The Construction of a Cannon of Taste. 

As Haskell and Penny state, “for many centuries it was accepted by everyone with a claim to taste that the height of artistic creation had been reached in a limited number of antique sculptures.”[8] This is not the case anymore; if anyone thinks about Greek art for example, they are more likely to recall the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum, not a core collection of sculptures owned by the Vatican. In the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel is the main attraction, and even art schools seldom, if ever ask their students to copy plaster casts of the Belvedere Torso and Farnese Hercules. 

Slides (with my notes) 

1)      Unknown, Two Mosaic Fragments, Pope John VII (705-7), height, 33 ½ inches (85.5 cm) x 25 1/8 (64.5 cm); The Bath of the Christ Child, height 23 5/8 (60 cm) x 21 ¼ (54 cm). Pope John VII ( of Greek ancestry, had an oratory built into the north aisle of Old St Peter’s. He dedicated it to the Virgin and was buried before it in 707. During the renaissance the oratory was thought to contain a relic of Christ’s crib. When the chapel was destroyed in the seventeenth-century sketches were made of its mosaic decorations- these two fragments survived. The mosaic fragment have been immensely restored; the upper part of the pope’s head contains the original marble and tesserae in tones of white and beige. The fragment with the Christ child is in better condition.

2)      Attributed to Giotto, Bust of an Angel, c. 1310, mosaic, diameter 203 13/16 (60. 5 cm), Reverenda Fabricca di San Pietro. It’s documented that Giotto was invited to Rome by Pope Boniface VIII (1295-1303) for the celebration of a jubilee during which he painted several frescoes at San Giovanni in Laterano.

3)      Arnoldo di Cambio, Portrait Bust of Pope Boniface VIII, (1295-1303), marble, height 47 ¼ “ (120 cm) x width 37 1/8 “ (95 cm) x depth 13 ¾ (35 cm), Reverenda Fabricca di San Pietro. Detail- arnoldio may have been influenced by Giotto.

4)      Martin van Heemskerck, Construction of the New St Peter's in Rome, c. 1536, Drawing, Staatliche Museen, Berlin.

5)      Raphael, The Fire in the Borgo, 1514, Fresco, width at base: 670 cm, Stanza dell'Incendio di Borgo, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican. The Fire in the Borgo is the most complex of the four episodes in the Stanza dell'Incendio di Borgo. It is full of references to classical antiquity, to medieval architecture at the time of the affirmation of the Church, and to themes used by contemporary artists. It celebrates the intercession of Leo IV, by whose grace a fire which spread through the Borgo, a popular section of Rome near the Basilica of St Peter, was extinguished. The event depicted happened in AD 847 and is documented in the "Liber Pontificalis" (a collection of early papal biographies). Pope Leo IV managed miraculously to halt the raging fire, which was threatening an area of the city, by his benediction from the loggia of Old St Peter's. The structure of the composition is complex: two colonnades of clear classical derivation define a square. The Pope, who again bears the features of Leo X, blesses the frightened crowd from a gallery located beyond the colonnades. The façade of old St Peter's appears behind him, in the background. While those in the foreground are desperately trying to put out the fire, the female figure in yellow with her back to us is begging them to look at the only effective source of help, the pope. The term `scenographic' can appropriately be applied to this painting. Clearly, Raphael was concentrating on richer, more varied, but less harmonious compositional solutions than those of his previous paintings. The figure groups express great formal beauty, but they lack harmonious relationships and remain pure examples of episodical representation. The group in the left foreground, for example (made up of an old man on the shoulders of a young man, and a child), may be drawn from the episode of the Aeneid in which Aeneas escapes with his father, Anchises and his son, Ascanius. The woman with children in the centre of the fresco and the water carrier at right, whose clothes blow in the wind, represent similar stereotypes. The nude descending from the wall at left recalls the heroic figures of Michelangelo. Notwithstanding these limitations, the scene is highly effective and demonstrates Raphael's skill as an illustrator, although, as the critics maintain, it was executed largely by his pupils.

6)      Melozzo di Forlì, Sixtus IV and his Nephews,1477, Fresco, Pinacoteca, Vatican. History was not kind to the Emilian painter Melozzo da Forli, since his only work that survives in excellent condition is this group portrait executed in fresco for the Vatican Palace. The reigning pope, Sixtus IV, seated on the right, is shown in the company of several individuals, including two of his nephews. The standing figure in the centre of the composition facing Sixtus can be identified as his nephew Giuliano, later Pope Julius II. Melozzo's manner recalls that of Mantegna, although it is somewhat less insistent and more approachable. The fresco represents the historical event of the foundation of the library in 1475 and the nomination of its first head, Bartolomeo Platina. He is kneeling in front of Pope Sixtus IV, the cardinal standing beside him is Giuliano della Rovere, the future Pope Julius II. The man standing beside the throne is Apostolic Protonotary Raffaello Riario, and behind Platina are Girolamo Riario and Giovanni della Rovere. Platina points his finger to the Latin inscription below.

7)      Spinario (Boy with Thorn in his Foot), Rome, Musei Capitolini, bronze, height (without plinth), 0.73 m, proposed that the Spinario is a pastiche of the late Republican or early Imperial period in which the naturalism of the Hellenistic prototype is made more piquant by the addition of a head copied (or, possibly literally taken)  from an earlier Greek statue.  Recorded between 1165 and 1167 as outside the Lateran Palace. Transferred to the Capitoline by Sixtus IV after 1471. Recorded there definitely 1499-1500. Taken to Paris. One of the first antiques to be copied. Described as “Absalom.”  Always admired but conflicting themes ( a shepherd boy with a heroic story; easy naturalism, but a stiffness in its pose.

8)      Raphael, Portrait of Julius II, 1511-12, Oil on wood, 108 x 80,7 cm, National Gallery, London.

9)      Apollo Belvedere, catalogued as copy of the early Hadrianic period of a bronze original by Leochares. A drawing made before 1509 records the Apollo in the garden of San Pietro in Vincoli, that is in the garden of Cardinal Giuilano della Rovere. Recorded in the Vatican by 1509, and in the Belvedere by 1511. It was in a niche by 1523, and remained there until it went to Paris in 1798. Earliest copy is a small bronze statuette at the Ca d’Oro in Venice. Many copies made from the 1540s and universally celebrated right into the nineteenth-century. Schiller rhapsodized about “this celestial mixture of accessibility and severity, benevolence and gravity, majesty and mildness.”  In early drawings much of the left forearm and some of the right hand are missing, but additions were made in the 18th century. Reynolds wanted to refute the idea that the antomy was distorted, but he always maintained the statue was ideal. Winckelmann went completely over the top saying that the statue had been removed from Greece by Nero, and Augustus had had it taken to Apollo’s temple at Delphi. Benjamin West the American artist compared the Apollo to a Mohawk. Noble savage idea. Flaxman argued that it was even better than the Theseus on the Elgin Marbles. However French students in early-nineteenth century Paris dismissed the statue as a “scraped turnip”.

10)   Probably a pupil of Domenico Ghirlandaio, Codex Escurialensis, drawing of Apollo Belvedere, late fifteenth century.

11)   Andrea dal Castagno, The Youthful David, c. 1450, Tempera on leather on wood, width at bottom 115,6 x 41 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington.

12)   Unknown, Two fresco fragments, St Peter height 15 1/8 (39 cm) x 10 7/8 (27.6 cm); St Paul, height 15 “ (38 cm) x 10 1/8 (27 cm). These fragments came from a 13th century painted fresco cycle on the life of St Peter which decorated the portico of Old St Peter’s- they survived after the portico’s destruction in the 17th century. They may have come from a scene in which they appear to the emperor Constantine. They show only the busts of what were originally half-length figures behind the emperor’s bed. The figures are modelled in shades of olive green, ochre and red, with a deep russet outlining their facial features. Some art historians believe they were painted in the 13th century- consensus seems to be about 1270 with links to painting in the church of St Francesca in Assisi.  

13)   Raphael, The Parnassus, 1509-10, Fresco, width at base 670 cm, Stanza della Segnatura, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican.

14)   Marcus Aurelius on Horseback, Rome, Palazzo del Campodoglio, bronze, height, 4.24 m., thought to be a Roman work contemporary with the Emperor himself.  In your groups discuss what this artist's impression of Jan van Eyck's studio tells us about the training and education of artists?

15)   Laocoön and his Sons, height (from Laocoön’s right hand to the base of the statue) 2.42 m, probably a late Hellenistic group more recent in date than the mid first century A.D. . Discovered  on 14th Jan, 1506 on the property of Felice de’ Freddi near s. Maggiore Rome. Bought by Pope Julius II soon afterwards, taken to the Belvedere, and by 1st June installed there. By 1523 its fame was said to have had eclipsed the Apollo, though for several centuries  the two sculptures were ranked together. Today, unlike the Apollo, the L retains much of its original reputation. Admired for the realism of its anatomy and physiognomy. Pliny said it had been carved from one block of marble, but disparities in the marble have been discovered- there’s never been universal acceptance of it as a copy. Second problem had to do with its relevance to a famous passage in Virgil. .

16)   Baccio Bandinelli, Laocoön, 1525, Marble, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.

17)   Peter Paul Rubens, Vision of Ezekiel, 1605-08, Red and black pencil, grey watercolour on white paper, 300 x 225 mm, Museo Horne, Florence.

18)   Belvedere Torso, marble, height  1.59 m, Musei Vaticani, catalogued as the work of an eclectic artist of great virtuosity of the first century B.C. reflecting a conception of the third century B.C. t was once believed to be a 1st century BC original, but is now believed to be a copy of an older statue, likely dating to the 2nd century BC. The statue's figure is portrayed seated on an animal hide; the exact figure represented remains open to debate (possibilities include Hercules, Polyphemus and Marsyas, among others).The contorted pose of the torso and musculature were highly influential on late Renaissance, Mannerist, and Baroque artists, including Michelangelo and Raphael. Michelangelo's admiration of the Torso was widely known in his lifetime,[6] to the extent that the Torso gained the sobriquet, "The School of Michelangelo"Legend has it that Pope Julius II requested that Michelangelo complete the statue fragment with arms, legs and a face. He respectfully declined, stating that it was too beautiful to be altered, and instead used it as the inspiration for the majority of the figures in the Sistine Chapel, including, but not limited to, the Sibyls and Prophets bordering the ceiling. The Belvedere Torso remains one of the few ancient sculptures admired in the 17th and 18th centuries whose reputation has not suffered in modern times.[8]Several small bronze reductions of it were made during the 16th century,[9] often restoring it as a seated Hercules.  Made little impression Stendhal: “we studied it like something from China, but it aroused neither pain nor pleasure.”

19)   Signature on Belvedere Torso, "Apollonios son of Nestor." Acc to Winckelmann, the inscription dates after Alexander the Great.

20)   Michelangelo, Detail of Last Judgement, Sistine Chapel, St Bartholomew.

21)   Bernardino Licinio, Portrait of Arrigo Licinio and His Family, 1530s, Oil on canvas, 118 x 165 cm, Galleria Borghese, Rome. Arrigo Licinio, also a painter, was the elder brother of the artist. Reduction of BT (and somewhat restored version) held by Fabio, nephew of the painter.

22)   River Nile, sculpture copied under the Roman Empire from a Hellenistic statue probably of Alexandrian origin, perhaps with some elaboration.  First recorded in 1523 when it was installed as a fountain in the middle of the Vatican sculpture court, facing the Tiber (Louvre). When the Pio-Clementino was created in the 1770s, the Nile was put in a room named after it. It went to Paris with the Tiber, but that stayed in the Louvre. It was excavated on the site of two churches thought originally to have been the site of Isis and Serapis, probably about 1513. The Nile excited antiquarian curiosity more because of its rich iconography: putti, crocodile, ibis, hippopotamus. The 16 putti are thought to refer to the 16 cubits by which the river could rise in the rainy season, an interpretation from Pliny. He was describing a different statue, but the reading can stand as this is thought to be a variant of that statue.

23)   Antinous, marble, height 1.95 m, Musei Vaticani, Hadrianic copy of a bronze original possibly by a pupil of Praxiteles. First recorded in 1543 in the Palis family. Went to Paris in 1798. Very popular with cognoscenti. Admired by Bernini, Poussin- who measured it. Winckelmann the first to give it another name- Meleager- but Stosch  re-baptized it a Mercury or Hermes, an identification that has lasted to the present. Not as famous these days, especially with discovery of Greek art of the same figure.

24)   Head of Lucius Junius Brutus, bronze, height 0. 32 m; with bust 0.69 m, Museo Capitolini, central Italian work inspired by Greek portrait busts of the third century. First recorded in 1556 (Aldrovandi), collection of Cardinal Rodolfo Pio da Carpi, bequeathed by Cardinal to city of Rome in 1564. Went to Paris. Praised for its sad, melancholy, austere look- but enamelled eyes drew contradictory reactions. Linked with French Rev ideals- part of celebrations of downfall of Robespierre. Diana Kleiner says the style of the hair suggests an Etruscan artist

25)   Meleager, marble, height, 2.10 m, Musei Vaticani, Roman copy of the early Antonine period  of a Hellenistic figure of the middle of the fourth century B.C., the dog and boar’s head added by a copyist. Recorded in the house of the pope’s doctor Francesco Fusini in 1546. In this year described as one of the most beautiful in Rome. Many other writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth-century described it as an Adonis. Only in the eighteenth-century was it called a Meleager. Statue carved out of Parian marble- yellowish brown complexion attracted attention. Its fame is proved by the attempts of collectors and artists to secure it, Earl of Arundel, Bernini for Louis XIV. Its reputation declined when it was placed next to the more famous statues. Story about Michelangelo being unwilling, or unablew to supply a left hand to its stump. It gradually disappeared from the catalogues of sculpture. Winckelmann thought it was a copy.

26)   Cleopatra/Ariadne, marble, height 1.62 m, length 1.95 m, Museo Vaticani, copy of late Hadrianic (or early Antonine) period of a masterpiece of the Pergamene school dating from the second century B.C., and originating in the workshop of Dionysos.  First recorded on 2nd Feb, 1512 asw having been recently acquired by Pope Julius II from Angelo Maffei, and taken to the Belvedere. In the 1550s on the advice of Vasari the statue was set up in a room as a fountain, and it was described by many in the eighteenth century as that.  George Eliot’s Middlemarch: “ ..the two figures passed lightly along by the Meleager towards the hall where the reclining Ariadne, then called the Cleopatra, lies in the marble voluptuousness of her beauty, the drapery folding around her with a petal-like ease and tenderness.” (Chap. 19).  Poems were written about the statue whose serpent like bracelet was thought to identify her as the Queen of Egypt, though Winckelmann didn’t accept the identification. These poems associated it with a description by the Roman writer Dio Cassius with the effigy of the dead Cleopatra on a couch.  

Week 2 images available here.

[1] Various, The Vatican Collections: the Papacy and Art (New York, 1983), 27.
[2] Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny, Taste and the Antique: The Lure of Classical Sculpture 1500-1900 (Yale University Press, 1981), 8.
[3] See the discussion in Ingrid D. Rowland’s The Culture of the High Renaissance: Ancients and Moderns in Sixteenth-Century Rome (Cambridge, 1998), 31-33.
[4] Taste and the Antique, 8-9.
[5] The Vatican Collections, 57.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid, 58.
[8] Taste and the Antique, xiii.

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