Baccio Bandinelli: Self-Portrait, c. 1530

Giulio Romano: The Birth of Bacchus, c. 1530.

After the Sack of Rome in 1527 and the death of Leo X, artistic patronage in Rome slackened. Federico Gonzaga sent Baldassare Castiglione to procure Giulio to execute paintings and architectural and engineering projects for the duchy of Mantua. His masterpiece of architecture and fresco painting in that city is the suburban Palazzo Te, with its famous illusionistic frescos. Another product of this era is this painting of the birth of Bacchus, now at the Getty Museum.

Lucas Cranach the Elder: The Three Graces, 1531.

There are at least three paintings of the Three Graces by Lucas Cranach the Elder, all from within a few years. This is the middle and maybe most appealing one. Note his obvious interest in natural poses. I do wonder a bit about his fascination with big hats though.

The young lady on this portrait by Parmigianino has often, but implausibly, been identified as Antea, a popular Roman courtesan who was the painter’s lover and is mentioned by Pietro Aretino and Benvenuto Cellini.

Michelangelo’s original painting was commissioned in 1529 by Alfonso d’Este for his palazzo in Ferrara, but taken to France for the royal collection in 1532. It was at Fontainebleau in 1536. Michelangelo gave the cartoon to his assistant Antonio Mini, who used it for several copies for French patrons before his death in 1533. It survived for over a century. The original was probably deliberately destroyed at some point, that happened to many “pagan” paintings. All that is left is an engraving by Cornelis Bos and this copy by an unknown hand, now located in the National Gallery in London. For a long time, it was kept in the director’s office because it was considered unfit for public exhibition. How close it is to the original, we can only guess.

Giovanni Antonio de’ Sacchis, whom Giorgio Vasari calls Giovanni Antonio Licinio but who is most commonly known as Il Pordenone, painted three Judiths. This is the third and most famous one, finished 1539, more than twenty years after the first two and is now located at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Giovanni Antonio wasn’t actually born in Pordenone, but in Corticelli, a small village nearby. He was active mostly in his native Friuli, which at the time was a Venetian province with some autonomy, but also in Cremona and Venice.

Jan van Scorel was a well-traveled man. He visited Dürer in Nuremberg, his early work is influenced by this artist. He spent several years in Italy and was for a while, under the Dutch pope Adrian VI, the keeper of the Cortile del Belvedere, where the popes kept their collection of antiques, and he made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He is often credited with having introduced the Italian style of painting to the Netherlands.

He painted this interesting, portrait-like Mary Magdalene after his return to the Netherlands, around 1530. It was long in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, which has an informative description page, and was transferred to the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem in 2004.

Young Alexander has a stormy affair with a kitchen maid named Phyllis. his teacher Aristotle thinks the boy should not waste his time on such trifles and has the two separated. As revenge, she seduces the old man, gets him to let her ride on his back, and of course makes sure they are seen.

This is how a longish German poem from the late 13th century tells the story. Older, slightly different versions exist as well, like this exemplum for preachers. Phyllis riding on Aristotle became a popular motif for two and a half centuries. You will find them as misericords in churches, as marginalia in manuscripts, on caskets, on tapestries, on prints.

But you’ll rarely find them as “serious” art. This painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder, which sold in January 2008 for more than four million dollars, may be the only one by a major artist.

Francis I was King of France from 1515 to 1547. He was the younger brother of Marguerite, Queen of Navarre, famous as author of the Heptameron. He allied with Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, mainly against Emperor Charles V. By doing so he became the first European monarch to establish diplomatic relations with the Ottoman Empire, which caused quite some scandal. After initial tolerance he persecuted protestants, culminating in a massacre of Waldensians in 1545. He was a man of letters and patron of the arts. Baccio Bandinelli’s Laocoon copy was originally intended as a present for him.

Jean Clouet painted this portrait of Francis around 1530.

Cardinal Andrea della Valle’s courtyard

BETWEEN 1532 and 1536, the Dutch painter Maarten van Heemskerck, who would become famous for his fanciful recreations of the seven wonders of the world, visited Rome, where he sketched various antiques and collections of antiques. One of the largest at the time was that of the Cardinal Andrea della Valle, who in 1520 had an open courtyard built into his new palace by Lorenzetto to display it properly.

Most of Maarten van Heemskerck’s Roman drawings are in the Kupferstichkabinett Berlin. It seems that this particular one is lost, but it is preserved in the 1553 etching by Hieronymus Cock that you see above.