Pietro da Cortona


Pietro da Cortona

Pietro da Cortona, byname of "Pietro Berrettini" (November 1 1596- May 16, 1669) was an Italian artist and architect of High Baroque. He is best known for painting fresco ceilings, a pursuit in which he had ample competition in the Rome of his day, but he was equally adept and masterful with architectural design. While an influential contemporary and peer of the giants of the Roman Baroque, his present fame, somewhat undeservedly, does not match the reverence awarded the likes of Caravaggio, Bernini, and Borromini.

Biography

Berrettini was born to a family of artisans including his uncle Filippo Berrettini, in Cortona, then a town in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. He first apprenticed with Andrea Commodi in Florence. But soon departed for Rome at about 1612, where he joined the studio of Baccio Ciarpi. In Rome, he had encouragement from many prominent patrons including the Colonna. According to a biography, his deft copies of Raphael's Roman frescoes brought him to the attention and patronage (1623) of the Sacchetti brothers, Marcello and Giulio Sacchetti, who became respectively cardinal (1626) and papal treasurer during the Barberini papacy. In the Sacchetti orbit, he met Cardinal Francesco Barberini, the nephew of Pope Urban VIII, as well as Cassiano dal Pozzo.

These three men helped him gain a major commission in Rome (1624-1626), a fresco decoration in the newly constructed Bernini church of Santa Bibiana. In 1626, the Sacchetti engaged Cortona to paint for them three large canvases of "Sacrifice of Polyxena", "Triumph of Bacchus", and "Rape of the Sabines" (the latter, c. 1629) [Three canvases now in Capitoline Gallery] , and to paint a series of frescoes in the Villa Sacchetti in Castel Fusano, near Ostia, using a team that included the young Andrea Sacchi. Soon the rising progidy would attract the patronage of the powerful papal Barberini family. He had already been involved in the fresco decoration of the Palazzo Mattei. And Cardinal Orsini had commissioned from him an "Adoration of the Shepherds" (c. 1626) for San Salvatore in Lauro.

Grand Salon of Palazzo Barberini

Fresco cycles were numerous in Cortona's Rome; most represented framed episodes imitating canvases such as found in the Sistine Chapel ceiling or in Carraccis' "The Loves of the Gods" in the Farnese gallery (completed 1601). In 1633, Pope Urban VIII (Maffeo Barberini) commissioned from Cortona a large fresco painting for the ceiling of their family palace, [Palazzo Barberini is now the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome.] Completed six years later, the huge "Allegory of Divine Providence and Barberini Power" marks a watershed in Baroque painting. A putative sketch of the plan, of doubtful authenticity, is exhibited in the hall. The fresco is an illusion with the central field apparently open to the sky and scores of figures seen 'al di sotto in su' apparently coming into the room itself or floating above it. It contains endless number of heraldic symbols and subthemes.

Cortona's panegyric trompe l'oeil extavaganzas have lost favor in minimalist times; yet they are precursors of sunny and cherubim infested rococo excesses. They contrast starkly with darker renegade naturalism prominent in Caravaggisti, and reminds us that the Baroque style was not monolithic. Cortona, like Bernini in sculpture, appears reactionary, patronizing; yet if excellence in art is measured by the ability to match style to intent within the limitations of the medium, then Cortona was triumphant. He was among the first of the fresco painters that dispensed with the architectural masonry of the roof, erasing it away with painted integral architecture and a broad, non-framed vista. While rising heavenward, works like the Barberini Allegory are meant to stagger and humble the visitor, as if he (she) stood over, and not below, a looming abyss of mythic power that threatens to overwhelm the viewer.

By this time, Cortona was recognized among the top artists of his generation, and was elected director of the Academy of St Luke (Rome) during 1634-38.

Frescoes in Palazzo Pitti

Cortona had been patronized by the Tuscan community in Rome, hence it was not surprising when in 1637, he was asked to paint a series of frescoes for the Palatine Gallery in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence. These were meant to represent the "ages" of silver and gold. [ [http://gallery.euroweb.hu/html/p/pietro/cortona/golden_a.html| Age of Gold] ] The Grand Duke Ferdinando II de' Medici recalled him in 1641 to paint the 'Bronze Age' and 'Iron Age' frescoes. Intended to represent the four ages of man, they also celebrates to the Medici lineage. Cortona's next decorations for the Pitti were a series of allegorical, stucco framed ceiling frescoes for the grand-ducal apartments, depicting astrological deities such as Jupiter, Mars, and Venus. Pietro left Florence in 1647, and his pupil, Ciro Ferri, completed the cycle by the 1660s. [ [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02516a.htm Pietro Berrettini] -Catholic Encyclopedia article]

Late works

For a number of years, Cortona was involved for decades in the decoration of the ceiling frescoes in the Oratorian Chiesa Nuova (Santa Maria in Vallicella) in Rome, a work not finished until 1665 [http://www.romeartlover.it/Ceiling.html] . Other frescoes are in Palazzo Pamphilj in Piazza Navona (1651-4).

Towards the end of his life he devoted much of his time to architecture, but he published a treatise on painting in 1652 under a pseudonym and in collaboration. He refused invitations to both France and Spain.

Cortona and Andrea Sacchi were involved in theoretical controversies regarding the number of figures that were appropriate in a painted work. These arguments were voiced in talks at the Accademia di San Luca, the painter's guild. Sacchi argued for few figures, since he felt it was not possible to grant meaningful individuality, a distinct role, to more than a few figures per scene. Cortona, on the other hand, lobbied for an art that could accommodate many subplots to a central concept. In addition, he also likely viewed the possibility of using many human figures in decorative detail or to represent a general concept. Sacchi's position would be reinforced in future years by Nicolas Poussin. Others have seen in this dichotomy, the long-standing debate whether visual art is about theoretical principles and meant to narrate a full story, or a painterly decorative endeavor, meant to delight the senses. Cortona was a director of the Accademia from 1634-1638.

Cortona employed or trained many prominent artists, who then disseminated his grand manner style. Other than Ferri, others that worked in his studio were

Romanelli and Camassei also trained under Domenichino. Giovanni Maria Bottalla was one of his assistants on the Barberini Ceiling. Sources for (W); [ Wittkower R. p 543 and p 550.] while sources for (H) [J.R. Hobbes, p. 58.] [*cite book | first= James R.|last= Hobbes| year= 1849|title=Picture collector's manual; Dictionary of Painters| editor = | pages= p. 63-65 |publisher= T. & W. Boone, 29 Bond Street, London; Digitized by Googlebooks (2006) from Oxford library| id= |url= http://books.google.com/books?q=intitle:picture+intitle:collector's| authorlink= ] . Source for MB is cite book| first=Michael| last=Bryan| year=1889| title="Dictionary of Painters and Engravers, Biographical and Critical" (Volume II L-Z)| editor = Walter Armstrong & Robert Edmund Graves| pages= | publisher=George Bell and Sons|location=York St. #4, Covent Garden, London; Original from Fogg Library, Digitized May 18, 2007 |id= |url=http://books.google.com/books?id=K2cCAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA1&dq=Michael+Bryan+Painters+Engravers#PPP7,M1| authorlink=

Architectural projects

Among Cortona's more important architectural projects are the church of Santi Luca e Martina(completed in 1664, the church of the Accademia di San Luca, located in the Roman Forum. While Cortona was "principe" or director of the Accademia from 1634-38, he obtained permission to dig in the crypt of the church, which led the likely mistaken finding of remains attributed to the first century Roman martyr and Saint Martina. This discovery led to further patronage for construction of the church. The layout is almost a Greek cross, with four nearly identical wings extending from the striking central dome. Much of the ground structure is undecorated, above intricately decorated. The overwhelmingly vertical decoration of the facade is granted liveliness by horizontal convexity. In his will, this bachelor called this church, his "beloved daughter".

He also renovated the exterior renewal of the ancient Santa Maria della Pace (1656-1667), and the façade (with an unusual loggia) of Santa Maria in Via Lata (appr. 1660).

Another influential work for its day was the design and decoration of the Villa Pigneto commissioned by the Marchese Sacchetti [http://www.romeartlover.it/Vasi183.htm] . This garden palace or casino gathered a variety of features in a novel fashion, including a garden facade with convex arms, and highly decorated niches, and elaborate tiered staircases surrounding a fountain.

Anatomical plates

Prior to becoming famous as an architect, Pietro drew anatomical plates that would not be engraved and published until a hundred years after his death. The plates in "Tabulae anatomicae" are now thought to have been started around 1618. The dramatic and highly studied poses effected by the figures are in keeping with the style of other Renaissance Baroque anatomical artists, although nowhere does such an approach find any fuller expression than in these plates.

References

*cite book|first=Claudio|last=Rendina|title=Enciclopedia di Roma|publisher=Newton Compton|location=Rome|year=2000
*cite book | first= Francis|last= Haskell| year=1980| title= Patrons and Painters; Art and Society in Baroque Italy| chapter= | editor= | others= | pages=38-40, 60-62 |Yale University Press| publisher= | id= | url= | authorlink=
*cite journal|first=Joseph |last=Connors|title=Pietro da Cortona 1597-1669|journal=The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians|date=1998|pages=318–321
*cite journal|first= Stéphane|last=Loire|title=Pietro da Cortona|journal=The Burlington Magazine|date=1998|pages=219–222

External links

* [http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/hardin/rbr/imaging/cortona/index.htm "Tabulae anatomicae"]
*Pietro da Cortona, " [http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/egallery/object.asp?maker=DACORTONAP&object=904448&row=1&detail=about A Design for a] Quarantore at San Lorenzo in Damaso", c.1632


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