1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Giulio Romano
GIULIO ROMANO, or Giulio Pippi (c. 1492–1546), the head of the Roman school of painting in succession to Raphael. This prolific painter, modeller, architect and engineer receives his common appellation from the place of his birth—Rome, in the Macello de’ Corbi. His name in full was Giulio di Pietro de Filippo de’ Giannuzzi—Giannuzzi being the true family name, and Pippi (which has practically superseded Giannuzzi) being an abbreviation from the name of his grandfather Filippo. The date of Giulio’s birth is a little uncertain. Vasari (who knew him personally) speaks of him as fifty-four years old at the date of his death, 1st November 1546; thus he would have been born in 1492. Other accounts assign 1498 as the date of birth. This would make Giulio young indeed in the early and in such case most precocious stages of his artistic career, and would show him as dying, after an infinity of hard work, at the comparatively early age of forty-eight.
Giulio must at all events have been quite youthful when he first became the pupil of Raphael, and at Raphael’s death in 1520 he was at the utmost twenty-eight years of age. Raphael had loved him as a son, and had employed him in some leading works, especially in the Loggie of the Vatican; the series there popularly termed “Raphael’s Bible” is done in large measure by Giulio,—as for instance the subjects of the “Creation of Adam and Eve,” “Noah’s Ark,” and “Moses in the Bulrushes.” In the saloon of the “Incendio del Borgo,” also, the figures of “Benefactors of the Church” (Charlemagne, &c.) are Giulio’s handiwork. It would appear that in subjects of this kind Raphael simply furnished the design, and committed the execution of it to some assistant, such as Giulio,—taking heed, however, to bring it up, by final retouching, to his own standard of style and type. Giulio at a later date followed out exactly the same plan; so that in both instances inferiorities of method, in the general blocking-out and even in the details of the work, are not to be precisely charged upon the caposcuola. Amid the multitude of Raphael’s pupils, Giulio was eminent in pursuing his style, and showed universal aptitude; he did, among other things, a large amount of architectural planning for his chief. Raphael bequeathed to Giulio, and to his fellow-pupil Gianfrancesco Penni (“Il Fattore”), his implements and works of art; and upon them it devolved to bring to completion the vast fresco-work of the “Hall of Constantine” in the Vatican—consisting, along with much minor matter, of the four large subjects, the “Battle of Constantine,” the “Apparition of the Cross,” the “Baptism of Constantine” and the “Donation of Rome to the Pope.” The two former compositions were executed by Pippi, the two latter by Penni. The whole of this onerous undertaking was completed within a period of only three years,—which is the more remarkable as, during some part of the interval since Raphael’s decease, the Fleming, Adrian VI., had been pope, and his anti-aesthetic pontificate had left art and artists almost in a state of inanition. Clement VII. had now, however, succeeded to the popedom. By this time Giulio was regarded as the first painter in Rome; but his Roman career was fated to have no further sequel.
Towards the end of 1524 his friend the celebrated writer Baldassar Castiglione seconded with success the urgent request of the duke of Mantua, Federigo Gonzaga, that Giulio should migrate to that city, and enter the duke’s service for the purpose of carrying out his projects in architecture and pictorial decoration. These projects were already considerable, and under Giulio’s management they became far more extensive still. The duke treated his painter munificently as to house, table, horses and whatever was in request; and soon a very cordial attachment sprang up between them. In Pippi’s multifarious work in Mantua three principal undertakings should be noted. (1) In the Castello he painted the “History of Troy,” along with other subjects. (2) In the suburban ducal residence named the Palazzo del Te (this designation being apparently derived from the form of the roads which led towards the edifice) he rapidly carried out a rebuilding on a vastly enlarged scale,—the materials being brick and terra-cotta, as there is no local stone,—and decorated the rooms with his most celebrated works in oil and fresco painting—the story of Psyche, Icarus, the fall of the Titans, and the portraits of the ducal horses and hounds. The foreground figures of Titans are from 12 to 14 ft. high; the room, even in its structural details, is made to subserve the general artistic purpose, and many of its architectural features are distorted accordingly. Greatly admired though these pre-eminent works have always been, and at most times even more than can now be fully ratified, they have suffered severely at the hands of restorers, and modern eyes see them only through a dull and deadening fog of renovation. The whole of the work on the Palazzo del Te, which is of the Doric order of architecture, occupied about five years. (3) Pippi recast and almost rebuilt the cathedral of Mantua; erected his own mansion, replete with numerous antiques and other articles of vertu; reconstructed the street architecture to a very large extent, and made the city, sapped as it is by the shallows of the Mincio, comparatively healthy; and at Marmiruolo, some 5 m. distant from Mantua, he worked out other important buildings and paintings. He was in fact, for nearly a quarter of a century, a sort of Demiurgus of the arts of design in the Mantuan territory.
Giulio’s activity was interrupted but not terminated by the death of Duke Federigo. The duke’s brother, a cardinal who became regent, retained him in full employment. For a while he went to Bologna, and constructed the façade of the church of S. Petronio in that city. He was afterwards invited to succeed Antonio Sangallo as architect of St Peter’s in Rome,—a splendid appointment, which, notwithstanding the strenuous opposition of his wife and of the cardinal regent, he had almost resolved to accept, when a fever overtook him, and, acting upon a constitution somewhat enfeebled by worry and labour, caused his death on the 1st of November 1546. He was buried in the church of S. Barnaba in Mantua. At the time of his death Giulio enjoyed an annual income of more than 1000 ducats, accruing from the liberalities of his patrons. He left a widow, and a son and daughter. The son, named Raffaello, studied painting, but died before he could produce any work of importance; the daughter, Virginia, married Ercole Malatesta.
Wide and solid knowledge of design, combined with a promptitude of composition that was never at fault, formed the chief motive power and merit of Giulio Romano’s art. Whatever was wanted, he produced it at once, throwing off, as Vasari says, a large design in an hour; and he may in that sense, though not equally so when an imaginative or ideal test is applied, be called a great inventor. It would be difficult to name any other artist who, working as an architect, and as the plastic and pictorial embellisher of his architecture, produced a total of work so fully and homogeneously his own; hence he has been named “the prince of decorators.” He had great knowledge of the human frame, and represented it with force and truth, though sometimes with an excess of movement; he was also learned in other matters, especially in medals, and in the plans of ancient buildings. In design he was more strong and emphatic than graceful, and worked a great deal from his accumulated stores of knowledge, without consulting nature direct. As a general rule, his designs are finer and freer than his paintings, whether in fresco or in oil—his easel pictures being comparatively few, and some of them the reverse of decent; his colouring is marked by an excess of blackish and heavy tints.
Giulio Romano introduced the style of Raphael into Mantua, and established there a considerable school of art, which surpassed in development that of his predecessor Mantegna, and almost rivalled that of Rome. Very many engravings—more than three hundred are mentioned—were made contemporaneously from his works; and this not only in Italy, but in France and Flanders as well. His plan of entrusting principally to assistants the pictorial execution of his cartoons has already been referred to; Primaticcio was one of the leading coadjutors. Rinaldo Mantovano, a man of great ability who died young, was the chief executant of the “Fall of the Giants”; he also co-operated with Benedetto Pagni da Pescia in painting the remarkable series of horses and hounds, and the story of Psyche. Another pupil was Fermo Guisoni, who remained settled in Mantua. The oil pictures of Giulio Romano are not generally of high importance; two leading ones are the “Martyrdom of Stephen,” in the church of that saint in Genoa, and a “Holy Family” in the Dresden Gallery. Among his architectural works not already mentioned is the Villa Madama in Rome, with a fresco of Polyphemus, and boys and satyrs; the Ionic façade of this building may have been sketched out by Raphael.
Vasari gives a pleasing impression of the character of Giulio. He was very loving to his friends, genial, affable, well-bred, temperate in the pleasures of the table, but liking fine apparel and a handsome scale of living. He was good-looking, of middle height, with black curly hair and dark eyes, and an ample beard; his portrait, painted by himself, is in the Louvre.
Besides Vasari, Lanzi and other historians of art, the following works may be mentioned: C. D. Arco, Vita di G. Pippi (1828); G. C. von Murr, Notice sur les estampes gravées après dessins de Jules Romain (1865); R. Sanzio, two works on Etchings and Paintings (1800, 1836). (W. M. R.)