THE COURT OF ST. DAMASO, WITH THE LOGGIAS OF BRAMANTE AND RAPHAEL.
PLATES 1 TO 5.
For the magnificent structure, known under this name, Bramante and Raphael combined the strength and elegance of design for which they are celebrated (1). It forms the principal approach to the apartments of the Pope, to the chief offices of State, and to the gorgeous museums.
The building incloses three sides of the court of S. Damaso, which is situated upon a terrace, and has several entrances. The beautiful Loggias, or open corridors, rise in three stories one above the other, each exhibiting towards the East thirteen arcades, towards the North nine, and towards the West eight. They are supported by a solid basement of brickwork, and the two lower ranges are adorned by pilasters of travertine (2), of which those in the first are Tuscan, and those in the second, Doric.
In the third or highest Loggia, there are columns of the Roman or Composite order, formed of the same material. The pilasters support arches, while the columns above sustain the roof with a rich architrave. All these Loggias are provided with balustrades, and offer to the eye, either as a whole or in detail, a most harmonious effect. Although the architecture of this court was completed during the reign of Leo X., and in the lifetime of Raphael, its interior decorations remain to this day unfinished.
The early death of Raphael (3), followed almost immediately by that of Leo X.; the reign of Hadrian VI., a Pontiff who was indifferent, if not hostile, to the Fine Arts; but, above all, the dreadful pillage of the city in 1527, which dispersed the flourishing school of Raphael, and exhausted the Papal treasury; are the principal causes to which the incompleteness of this, and of so many other works of art in Rome, may be attributed.
Decorations on the vaults and walls of the first Loggia by Giovanni da Udine.
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(1) The building of the Loggie was begun under Pope Paul II., by Giuliano da Majano (Vasari calls him erroneously Guglielmo), 1404-70, but of bis constructions no part is now visible.
(2) For an account of the formation and qualities of this stone see the First Report of the Commissioners on the F. A., p. 39.
(3) Raphael died 1520. Leo X. 1521.
PERSPECTIVE VIEW OF THE FIRST LOGGIA.
GIOVANNI DA UDINE (1).
It appears from Vasari that we owe the decorations on the vaults and walls of this Loggia to Giovanni da Udine. Fertilized by the genius of Raphael, this Artist has displayed a wonderful facility and richness of fancy, particularly in the arrangement of the vaults. The-monotony of the structure is completely hidden by the surprising variety of the decorative paintings; while, at the same time, the architectural divisions have been so judiciously made the ground-work of the arabesques, that harmony prevails throughout.
The tasteful application of ornamental stucco, in which Giovanni had, by a close study of ancient models, attained to the greatest perfection, produces further variety in the composition; and, especially where relief is given, as in the archivolt (or voussure), by the oblique play of light, adds greatly to the effect.
This rare combination of merit has secured to this Loggia, from the time of its completion, the first place as a model for similar works. To name only the best of those in which it has been imitated, we may mention the open corridor of the Villa in the Via Flaminia at Rome, which Vignola built for Pope Julius III.
The freshness of the decorations in question, however, was early lost, the Loggia having apparently suffered even more than the rest of the Vatican from the violence of the soldiery in the pillage of 1527. Giovanni da Udine when an old man, was employed by Pius IV. to retouch in distemper the frescoes executed by him in his youth 2)
Of the walls which have also suffered very much, we shall have occasion to speak in describing the next Plate. The pavement is composed of thick bricks, and placed edgewise, in a simple but tasteful pattern; this is what the Romans called “opus spicatum” 3).
(1) Giovanni Nanni, called Giovanni da Udine, 1489-1564. Vasari; Le vite de’ più eccellenti pittori, scultori, e architettori, xiii. page 35, Milano, 1807; dalla Societa Typografica de’ Classici Italiani.
We have made use of this edition, on account of its notes and more general employment; but the best is the last Florentine edition of 1838.
Giovanni Nanni, also Giovanni de’ Ricamatori, better known as Giovanni da Udine (1487–1564) was an Italian painter of the Renaissance. In Raphael’s workshop he was the specialist for grotesques and stuccowork. Giovanni specialised particularly in stucco and ‘grotesque’ decorations, which were in vogue in the early 16th century. This style was inspired by ancient Roman decorations, particularly those that Renaissance artists could admire when they descended into the underground rooms of the Domus Aurea (the term “grotesque” in fact derives from “grotto”). His creations are the grotesques in the Vatican Loggias and the reliefs on the façade of the now defunct Branconio Palace in L’Aquila.
(2) For the colors of the first ceiling, see additional Plate 1, n. 1. Note,- The new and elaborately colored Keys have rendered all references to the additional plates superfluous.
3) Opus spicatum is a masonry structure made of stones or thin bricks arranged in courses on edge alternating diagonally against each other to form a spike or herringbone-like pattern.
SECTION OF PART OF THE FIRST LOGGIA, AND SOME OF THE PRINCIPAL DECORATIONS IN THE CUPOLAS.
GIOVANNI DA UDINE.
This Plate completes the illustration of Giovaimi da Udine’s Loggia; it gives what could not be included in the perspective view, viz., the walls on the inner side of the Loggia, adorned with doors and windows, corresponding with the openings and balustrades towards the Court. It affords an idea of the delicacy and skill with which Giovanni followed the architectural arrangement which he had before him; and by exhibiting the small cupolas, gives examples of his fancy.
Each of the elegant arabesques round the windows, and above these and the doors, has but one architectural principle, and yet not two are alike in detail.
Above the magnificently chiselled door is the name, in gold, of the Patron to whom we owe the production of this splendid work. The three domes, represented below, are included in the foregoing Plate, towards the end of the perspective view. The separate sections, marked by letters, are follows:-
A. ……….. Sections of the cornice in the archi-vaults in stucco.
B, C, and D… Sections of the cornice in the vaults themselves.
E. ……….. Profile of the marble architrave.
THE SECOND OR MIDDLE LOGGIA.
In the thirteen arcades, the perspective view of which this Plate represents, Raphael has conceived and executed the most perfect work of its kind which has been produced in modern times. All the Arts are here combined; and yet, amidst their variety, the most complete harmony prevails. There is a vulgar tradition, that Raphael derived the principal decorations in this Loggia from paintings in the Baths of Titus, and that he afterwards caused these paintings to be destroyed; but this probably has originated in a misapprehension of the meaning of a passage in Serlio’s Works of Balthazar
At any rate, it is a story which is unlikely to obtain credence with any one capable of appreciating either the Baths of Titus, or the Loggie. It is, however, very remarkable how great and beneficial an effect the study of these ancient paintings produced upon Raphael’s mind; how they tended, as it were, to impregnate his imagination with an inexhaustible variety of beautiful forms. The decorations of this Loggia have been rendered familiar to the world by so many descriptions and illustrations (2), that we do not propose to enter upon a minute description of them.
The Plate here given is rather intended to give a general idea of this remarkable work, than to show the splendor of its details. In each of the small cupolas of this Loggia four representations of sacred subjects, chiefly taken from the Old Testament, form the centre of the arabesques; and whatever train of thought each group of these subjects may suggest, is pursued in the surrounding ornaments.
Clear, however, and evident as is the leading idea of these decorations immediately round the painting to which they relate, it is so fancifully and vaguely expressed in the remote parts, as gradually to escape the common observer. In Raphael’s time, probably, this kind of symbolism was better understood than now; indeed we are commonly content to regard its language merely as an harmonious combination of form and colour; and unless some zealous inquirer should soon undertake to decipher its mystical intimations, decay will probably deprive us of its meaning altogether. In truth, it is revolting to see what havoc has been wrought in this Loggia, partly by the elements, but to a great and distressing extent by human hands.
The delicately-moulded stuccoes, in spite of the hardness of their material, have been broken; almost all the arabesques on the pilasters, especially where they could be reached by the hand, have been effaced; tasteless idlers have everywhere scratched their names at random; and of the chiaroscuro compositions in gold color under the windows, which repeated the subjects of the cupolas, hardly a vestige is to be found,—they are known only from the spirited etchings of P. Santi Bartoli (1).
Those versed in classical antiquity will be surprised at the traces of it which are here met with at every turn—coins, cameos, bas-reliefs, and statues, have been made to contribute to the compositions; they have not, however, been resorted to thoughtlessly and for mere ornament, but most always in relation to the higher object which they serve.
The beautiful festoons of flowers and fruit which fall from the top of the windows on each side, painted upon a deep ultramarine ground, and representing nature with a fidelity such as few but Giovanni da Udine could have observed, afford at once repose to the eye and the mind. Of the pavement, which originally was in keeping with the rest of the work (having been executed at Florence from the designs of the same great master), too little remains to enable us to follow its arrangement.
PERSPECTIVE VIEW OF THE THIRD LOGGIA. 1520-1650.
The rich and pleasing architecture of this Loggia, its walls resplendent with gold and every bright colour, and, above all, the indescribable grandeur of the view which it commands over Rome and Latium, render this gallery one of the most attractive spots of the palace.
But in examining the ornamental details of this portion of the building, we become aware of the great and disadvantageous contrast between its overcharged decorations, and the pure style of the first and second Loggia. We feel that the golden age of art is past;— that richness in quantity and materials has been substituted for that tasteful economy which ensures attention to the sense and meaning of every part, and yet never interferes with the effect of the whole, and which, by the distribution and scale of its ornaments, produces an appearance of breadth and space not otherwise attainable.
Even Giovanni da Udine, who did the better portions of these paintings, which he began under Leo X,. was no longer the same great master,— seemed no longer to be endowed with the same powers as when he worked under Raphael, while his assistants and their successors, the perverted school of the close of the sixteenth century, were still less fitted for the task; and when the learned Padre Ignazio Danti assumed the direction of the work under Gregory XIII. about 1580, it soon appeared to what extent this kind of decoration may be abused.
Upon the inner walls, Padre Ignazio drew the maps of ancient and modern Italy, in connection with which Paul Brill and Tempesta painted towns and landscapes. Numerous artists were employed successively in this Loggia by the Popes, Leo X., Pius IV., Gregory XIII, and Clement X., under the direction of Niccolò Circignani (also Nicolò und Cercignani, Cincignani, Cirgnani), called il Pomarancio (1517-1590); and as their names are given in every description of the Vatican, it is unnecessary to repeat them here (1). That part of the Loggia which was of the time of Leo X., has been lately restored under the direction of Cav. Agricola, and though most of the principal compositions in the ceilings have been altered, the whole work has been performed with skill and care; and as the original decorations were of so inferior a kind, there can he no ground for objection, particularly as the gallery has gained very much in general appearance. The pavement, composed of glazed tiles, and representing arms, &c., &c., has been restored to great perfection.
(1) See also Lanzi Storia Pittorica dell’ Italia. Scuola Romana; epoca terza.
DETAILS OF THE PAVEMENT OF THE THIRD LOGGIA.
The present Plate offers six different designs of glazed tiles which decorate the pavement of the third Loggia. In the centre we have given the patterns in eight compartments on a large scale. This kind of earthenware, which received its name of Majolica from the island of Majorca, where from time immemorial it has been an article of great use and traffic, is employed here as a kind of mosaic, in which sometimes a single tile, sometimes two, and (as in the 1st, 3rd, 6th, and 7th examples) sometimes four, are required to compose one design.
The colors mostly used in the tiles of this gallery are blue and yellow; the principal design is usually encompassed by tiles of one colour. Similar broad lines are also employed to mark the leading subdivisions; the groundwork, outlines in detail, and inscriptions, are often in black.
In the present specimen the date of the work and the name of the then reigning Pope are given. The Tuscan family of the Robbia, who at an early age adapted the invention of glazing earthenware to the purpose of refined art, furnished tiles for the Vatican, and particularly for the pavement of the second Loggia, of which, however, few remains exist. These tiles are easily kept clean, and combine great durability with elegance; and considering the astonishing variety of patterns which may he formed by the combination of diagonal segments of only two kinds of tiles painted in two tints, it is evident that this beautiful style of pavement may be provided at a very moderate cost.
Source: Fresco decorations and stuccoes of churches & palaces, in Italy, during the fifteenth & sixteenth centuries with descriptions by Lewis Gruner (Ludwig Gruner 1801-1882 Engraver and Director of the Royal Cabinet of Engravings in Dresden). London 1844, 2nd Edition 1854 Published by Thomas-McLean.