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L.26 Cartoons for the Fresco Project for the Church of S. Maria delle Lagrime, Arezzo

1528 and 1529

On this project and its documentation, see the Preface to D.31-34 and the related entries.  Both in the 1550 and 1568 editions of the Vite, Vasari wrote that Rosso completed four cartoons for this series of frescoes, but he described only three.  Visual evidence survives for only three scenes, but from another source (see below) four cartoons seem to have been made.  The cartoons were executed in a room that was assigned to Rosso by S. Maria delle Lagrime at a place called Murello in the vicinity of the church (see the Piaggia di Murello of present day Arezzo).

In the “Life” of Rosso, Vasari indicated that Rosso left the cartoons locked up in the Cittadella when he fled Arezzo, probably in September 1529, about ten months after he had begun the Lagrime project.  The inventory of 12 March 1532 of items that Rosso left behind (DOC.13) includes “Undici pezzi de cartoni in quattro guluppi.”  This entry could refer to eleven pieces of large and/or heavy paper in four bundles but then one might have expected the use of the word fogli to indicate unused sheets of paper, as Vasari employed this word in his “Della Pittura” (see Vasari, 1568, I, 46-47; Vasari-Milanesi, I, 174-177, for uses of the words foglio and cartone).  No other blank paper is recorded in the inventory.  It is very likely that what is meant here is eleven sections of cartoons that were made for the S. Maria delle Lagrime project.  As the commission of this project took place on 24 November 1528, the cartoons could not have been executed until 1529 after the preliminary designs had been made.  According to the inventory in 1532, these cartoons were held by the church that employed Rosso.  It is most probable that they are the same ones that Vasari said had been placed by Rosso in the Aretine citadel, which surrendered on 27 March 1530, and that by 12 March 1532 had been moved to S. Maria delle Lagrime (Compagnia della SS. Annunziata), to which they rightfully belonged.  It seems reasonable to assume that the estimate of them and of Rosso’s drawings for the project made by Vasari and others and mentioned in the “Life” of Lappoli took place only after the inventory was made.

From the books of the Compagnia, Silvano Pieri has recently given a history of these cartoons.1 The Compagnia had “uno catino e quattro cartoni,” the “catino” specified in an inventory of 1547 as “uno catino del disegno de la volta su la Madonna.”  The cartoons were several times restored, once around 17 November 1566 when the painter Antonio Pontenani was paid to “haver incollato li cartoni di desegni lasciatoci già dal Rosso,”2 suggesting that the “Undici pezzi di cartoni” of the 1532 inventory were in fact pieces of the cartoons for Rosso’s frescoes.  The “catino” may have been the “modello,” mentioned by Vasari, of Rosso’s entire project, made of wood and plaster, and painted (see L.23).  In 1582 Cardinal Giovanni de’Medici, the illegitimate son of Grand Duke Cosimo I, asked for the cartoons, a request that was discussed by the Compagnia on 13 March 1583, and at other times.3  A letter indicates that the “Cartoni” and the “Catino” were sent to Don Giovanni on 29 March 1583 as a gift from the Compagnia della Annunziata; another letter of 14 April 1583 expresses his appreciation for having received them so soon after his request, which followed his having so much enjoyed seeing them.4  On 23 June 1583 the Compagnia agreed to accept Giovanni de’Medici’s offer to send a painter to paint the frescoes “secondo il disegno che lassò il Rosso Fiorentino pittori nelli cartoni et catino” in exchange for the cartoons, which had already been sent to Florence.5  However, nothing came of the Cardinal’s promise and on 30 May 1587 expenses are recorded for the return of the cartoons – “pro vectura pro conducendis cartonis ab urbe Florentinae ad urbem Aretii.”6  Bottari, in Vasari-Bottari, II, 1759, 298, n. 2, stated that the cartoons remained in the rooms of the Compagnia della Madonna delle Lagrime, meaning, apparently, after Rosso’s departure, and that at the time of his writing “parte son pariti, e parte sono quasi svaniti,” that is, some were still visible but some were badly faded or deteriorated.  Nothing is known of them today.

 


1 Silvano Pieri, “La Compagnia della SS. Annunziata del XIV al XVIII Secolo,” in Annunziata Arezzo, 1990 (1993), 39-40, from which all subsequent citations from Pieri are taken.

2 A.S.F. 42, c. 2 and 6 s.n. (from Pieri).  Pieri also states that on 17 March 1567 (ivi, 6, s.n.), the Compagnia allowed for the sale of “li colori già lassati ne la nostra Compagnia dal Rosso pittore et la tavoletta di bosso.”

3 A.S.F. 8, c. 191, for the 13 March discussion (from Pieri).

4 The letters, apparently known to Milanesi (see Vasari-Milanesi, V, 165, n. 1), were kindly brought to my attention by David Franklin, who sent me his transcripts, which were checked by Gino Corti.  The second letter is mentioned in Franklin, 1988, 323, 326, n. 1; both are mentioned in Franklin, 1994, 236, 293, n. 60.State Archives, Florence, Conventi Soppressi, Arezzo, 20, SS. Annunziata, No. 18, c.216r:

[in the margin] “1583 Regalo a Don Giovanni de’Medici

“Molto Magnifici et miei Signori osservandissimi

“Da Francesco di Jacopo da Quarata, ho rece[v]uto una di Vostra Signoria nella quale mi dano conto che a viva voce tutta cotesta Compagnia deliberò mandare al’Illustrissimo Signore Don Giovanni li Cartoni, et Catino del Rosso et dal detto Quaratino questa mattina me è stata in Dogana consegnata la Cassa, che entro ve sono, sic[c]hé non mancherò recapitarla per detto Signore et insieme presentarli la lettera loro, con farli anche noto qual sia stata et serà sempre la voluntà de tutte Vostre Signorie per servitio di Sua Eccellentia, et di quanto ne rit[r]arrò non mancherò subito darnele conto.  Con che facendo fine, le pregho da nostro Signore ogni contento.  Di Fiorenze, li 29 di Marzo 1583.

“D. Vostre Signorie molto magnifice

“Affezionamento et per servirle

“Innocentio Bacci”

[written on the outside:] “Allo molto magnifici Signori Priore et opera della Compagnia della Annuntiata d’Arezzo miei osservandissimi miei[sic]”

c.217r:

“Magnifici e Carissimi miei, Messer Innocentio Bacci medesimo:

che à nome mio ve haveva richiesto i Cartoni del Rosso, me li ha insieme col Catino consegnati con una vostra ben conditionati, i quali ho veduti con mio gran piacere e non minore satisfattione della prontezza et amorevolezza dimostratami da voi in questo mio disiderio: del che vi ringratio molto con animo di giovare e far piacere a voi in ogni occasione, che mi si porgerà di vostro commodo.  Fratanto io me ne servirò nel mio intento, per rimettereveli ad ogni vostro piacimento, come meglio intendertete dal prefato Messer Innocentio.  Dio vi guardi.  Di Firenze, il dì XIIII d’Aprile M.D. LXXXIII.

“A’piacer vostri

“Don Giovanni Medici”

[written along the bottom:] “fraternità della Nuntiata d’Arezzo”

[written on the outside:] “Alli Magnifici e miei Carissinmi Il

Priore et houmini della Confraternita della Annuntiata d’Arezzo”

5 See Pieri, and Franklin, 1994, 236-237, 293, n. 61, the original document as located in A.S.F., Comp. RS. A188. Vol. 2203/2, Libro di Partiti e Ricordi, fol.rv.

6 A.S.F. 10, c.25, 30 May 1587, pp. L.9-8 (from Pieri; mentioned by Franklin, 1994, 237, 293, n. 62).