|Additional title||Design for a wall in the Massimi Chapel
|Materials and techniques|
Pen and ink and wash
Drawing, Design for the decoration of a wall, with three framed panels, each inscribed 'Storia', above two arched doorways, by Perino del Vaga, Italian School, pen and ink and wash, ca. 1538-1539
The drawing is a design for the Massimi Chapel; it shows two story-high architectural and sculptural decorations, with figures, floral decorations, and telamons.
- Height: 397mm
- Width: 257mm
|Marks and inscriptions|
- 'Massimi' (Inscribed within a tablet below the central panel)
- 'Di mano di mo. Perino del vaga alla Fornida d'Ori' (Inscribed along the lower edge, in a later hand.)
Sir T. Lawrence; S. Woodburn (sale, Christie, 4-8 June 1860, probably in lot 245 or 246, bought for the Museum)
This is the design for a wall of the Massimi chapel in the church of Trinità dei Monti, Rome, frescoed by Perino del Vaga and today dismantled.
- J. A. Gere, 'Two late fresco cycles by Perino del Vaga: the Massimi Chapel and the Sala Paolina', The Burlington Magazine, 102, 1960, pp. 9-19.
- Ward-Jackson, Peter, Italian Drawings Volume I. 14th-16th century, London, 1979, cat. 362, p. 171, illus.
The text is as follows:
VAGA, PERINO DEL
Piero Buonaccorsi (1501-47)
Design for the decoration of a wall, with three framed panels, each inscribed 'Storia', above two arched doorways
Inscribed within a tablet below the central panel 'Massimi' and along the lower edge in a later hand 'Di mano di mo. Perino del vaga alla Fornida d'Ori'
Pen and ink and wash
15 5/8 x 10 1/8 (397 x 257) 2270
PROVENANCE Sir T. Lawrence; S. Woodburn (sale, Christie, 4-8 June 1860, probably in lot 245 or 246, bought for the Museum)
LITERATURE J. A. Gere, 'Two late fresco cycles by Perino del Vaga: the Massimi Chapel and the Sala Paolina' in The Burlington Magazine, 102, 1960, pp. 9-19 and fig. 16; Pouncey and Gere, p. 101; K. Oberhuber, 'Observations on Perino del Vaga as a draughtsman' in Master Drawings, 4, 1966, p. 173
A variant of this design, with the subject intended for the central space indicated as 'probatica piscina', is in the British Museum (I961-10-14-1; Pouncey and Gere, no. 169 verso). Another drawing by Perino at Budapest appears to be an alternative solution for the same scheme (1838; repr. Gere, op. cit., fig. 7 and Il manierismo a Roma, Milan, 1971, pI. vii).
The word MASSIMI inscribed on our drawing suggests the possibility that it was made in connexion with the decoration
either of one of the two adjacent Massimi palaces in Rome, in both of which Perino worked, or of the Massimi Chapel in S. Trinita dei Monti, the side-walls of which he decorated in about 1538/39 not long after his return to Rome from Pisa. His work in this chapel was destroyed in about 1840, but Vasari (Milanesi's edition, 5, p. 621), gives an elaborate description which, as Gere demonstrated, corresponds in all essentials with our drawing.
On each side-wall were three frescoes, that in the centre being larger than tile other two. These were surrounded by grotesque decoration, partly painted and partly in stucco. The two larger paintings represented The Raising of Lazarus and the Pool of Bethesda - 'la probatica piscina', as indicated on the British Museum drawing. Vasari gives the subjects of three of the four smaller paintings as Christ and the Centurion, The Transfiguration and The Expulsion of the Money-Changers from the Temple. As Gere was the first to observe, this random selection of episodes from the life of Christ was repeated, with the addition of The Feeding of the Five Thousand, in a series of six circular engraved rock-crystals by Giovanni Bernardi, the designs of which were commissioned from Perino by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese. Drawings by Perino for five of the six are known and were published by Gere. Vasari stresses the point that it was Perino's satisfactory performance in the Massimi Chapel that decided the Cardinal to employ him, so it seems reasonable to assume some connexion between the two series; and there are in fact elaborated rectangular versions of two of the circular compositions, The Raising of Lazarus and The Pool of Bethesda, which correspond in format to the large central space in the drawings and which agree with what Vasari says of the two frescoes. The Pool of Bethesda is known from a chiaroscuro woodcut (Bartsch, 12, p. 38, 14), and The Raising of Lazarus from a drawing in the collection of Mr and Mrs Hugh Squire and a detached fresco now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, traditionally attributed to Perino and undoubtedly from his hand, which may be presumed to be the only known surviving fragment of the chapel decoration.
One discrepancy between our drawing and the chapel is that it shows the side-wall pierced by two small arched doors, whereas in the chapel there is only one; but Gere's suggestion, that Perino painted the second doorway in trompe-l'oeil in order to balance his symmetrical design, is confirmed by the use of this expedient elsewhere in the church where the cinquecento decoration has survived (e.g. the Della Rovere Chapel, decorated by Daniele da Volterra c. 1550).
Above each of the smaller frames in our drawing is an ornament consisting of two captives bound to a post decorated with trophies of arms. This motif (with captive fauns instead of men) occurs in Nero's Golden House on the Esquiline at Rome (illustrated in N. Ponce, Description des bains de Titus, 1786, p. 61, pl. 37). Perino may have seen the motif in Nero's palace, or he may have borrowed it from an engraving by Nicoletto Rosex da Modena (Bartsch, 13, p. 285, no. 56).
The words 'alla Fornida d'Ori' in the inscription on our drawing have not been explained.
- K. Oberhuber, 'Observations on Perino del Vaga as a draughtsman', Master Drawings, 4,1966, p. 173.
- E. Parma, Perino del Vaga tra Raffaello e Michelangelo, exh. cat. Mantua, Palazzo Te, Milan, 2001, p. 180.
PWJ 362 - Ward Jackson Catalogue Number