Contents

P.3 Assumption of the Virgin

P.3 Assumption of the Virgin

1513–1514

Florence, SS. Annunziata.

Fresco, 395 x 385.1

Fig.P.3a restored
Fig.P.3b bw, restored
Fig.P.3c James
Fig.P.3d
 before detachment
Fig.P.3e top half before detachment
Fig.P.3f as viewed at floor level
Fig.P.3g book

The height of the fresco should be measured from just below the tip of the drapery that illusionistically falls outside the space of the picture. Three bands of molding were added by Rosso to raise the lower edge of the scene so that this illusion could be incorporated into the fresco without breaking the lower limit common to all the frescoes in the atrium of SS. Annunziata. These three moldings were not removed with the fresco when it was detached in April 1957 by Dino Dini (not 1958 as Lapucci states; see Baldini and Berti, 1957, 23–24) thereby significantly lessening the intended illusionistic effect of the fresco as now seen reattached to the wall. On the frequent earlier restorations of the frescoes in the atrium of SS. Annunziata, see Lapucci, Roberta, “Restauri tardo settecenteschi alle pitture del Chiostrino dei Voti della SS. Annunziata,” Rivista d’Arte, Ser. 4, III, 1987, 461–474.

The surface of the fresco is pitted all over as is clearly visible in the series of photographs made before the fresco was detached. After its detachment the pitted areas were filled and inpainted. The losses were greatest in the lower left corner where the original description of the drapery is no longer clearly visible. In its restored state the fresco has an even granular texture that was not evident before and the contrast of light and dark is stronger now.

The Virgin’s dress is a dusty violet with a green belt. Her overgarment is light blue, now largely gone, with white highlights. The angels are blond with green, red, violet, and white wings; the shading of the angels is greenish gray. At the top the clouds are ochre, but a dusty violet elsewhere. The cherubs’ heads at the top of the fresco are ochre and violet. The first apostle, St. James, wears a black hat on brown hair; his undergarment is purple with yellow highlights and white at the neckline; his mantle is red. The second apostle has a gray heard and wears a russet undergarment, yellowish tan at the neckline, covered by a green cloak; his book is white with yellow edges. The third has gray-black hair and his only partially visible clothing is yellowish tan covered by a violet over-garment. The fourth figure has black hair and wears a red cloak over a purple undergarment with a green cast. The fifth, with white hair and beard, wears a light blue undergarment that is pink at the lower right; his cloak is yellowish tan. The sixth apostle has black hair and wears a barely visible green cloak over a black garment, purple at the neckline. The seventh, with blond hair, has a green cloak bordered with light tan decoration. The eighth figure has reddish hair and wears a pink garment under a red cloak with green decoration visible below just to the right of the seventh figure. The ninth apostle has white hair and beard and wears a rose-pink undergarment and a yellowish tan mantle edged with black decoration; his book is violet. The tenth wears a purple cloak with a large orange-tan collar. The eleventh has tan hair and wears a purple cloak over an orange-tan undergarment. The last apostle, with gray hair, wears a rose-pink cloak turned back and showing its light blue lining across the shoulders; blue also appears in the folds beneath his arm. The ground is olive green.

DOCUMENTS: Although the subject of the fresco is not mentioned in the following documents of payments to Rosso they would appear to be for his Assumption because of the amount of the total sum paid, the time covered, the location of the work in the “c[h]iostricino”, and the evidence of two other documents of 1515 and 1517 given below. The documents are preserved in A.S.F. Conv. Sopp. 119 (SS. Annunziata), 705 (Libro del Camarlingo, Entrata e Uscita, October 1512 to 1516):

c.112v., 20 November 1513: “A muraglie adì decto F. dua d’oro suon per parte de dipingnere un quadro nel c[h]iostricino, portò Giohanne batista di jacopo dipintore — L.14 – ”

c.123r., 18 March 1513/14: “A muraglia adì decto F. uno d’oro per resto d’uno quadro del c[h]iostricino, portò Giohanne batista decto el rosso dipintore — L.7 – ”

c.135r., 18 June 1514: “A muraglia [a] giovanni batista dipintore adì decto Fiorini tre largi d’oro, sono per oro per chapitegli a per el quadro, portò lui decto contanti — L.21 – ”2

Rosso’s fresco must have been judged unsatisfactory for the Assumption was later re-commissioned to Andrea del Sarto. A.S.F. Conv. Sopp. 119 (SS. Annunziata), 52 (Libro di Ricordanze, 1510–1559), fol. 98r.:

“Richordo chome questo dì 16 di giugno [1515] e nostri Signori Operai tutti raghunati insieme, absente solo Orlando de’Medici, vinsono con tutte fave nere d’achordo l’infrascritti partiti. E prima.

“E più detti Signori Operai detto dì, tutti d’accordo con tutte fave nere, alloghorono el quadro del chiostricino dov’è la Assunsione di Nostra Donna, a dipignervi detta storia d’Assumpsione di Nostra Donna a Andrea d’Agnolo, che ha dipinto quasi tutto el resto di detto chiostricino, per pregio di fiorini sedici larghi d’oro in oro, cioè f.XVI larghi d’oro in oro, fatto patto con lui d’achordo, con questo patto ch’egli sia tenuto havere fornito di dipignere detto quadro per tutto el mese di genaio proximo avenire, con quella arte e diligenza a lui fia possibile.”

In the left margin: “Aloghagione a dipignere a Andrea d’Agnolo la storia dell’Assunsione.”3

The reference in this document to an already existing fresco in the atrium of SS. Annunziata in the phrase “dov’è la Assunsione di Nostra Donna” lends support to the supposition that the payments to Rosso of 1513 and 1514 were made for an Assumption. No other documents or sources contradict that this supposed Assumption is the still existing fresco by Rosso in the atrium of SS. Annunziata as Sarto never executed his.

Milanesi, in Vasari-Milanesi, V, 157, n. 1, published a document of 18 April 1517 that he, followed by most writers, erroneously accepted as recording the commission for Rosso’s existing fresco. But this document must be about an altogether different fresco at the Annunziata. However, it does contain a reference that supports an earlier dating for Rosso’s Assumption.

A.S.F. Conv. Sopp. 119 (SS. Annunziata), 52 (Ricordanza B, 1510–1559), fol. 103r.:

Above in the left margin: “Alloghagione di uno quadro del chiostrino a Giovan Batista di Iacopo, detto el Rosso.”

“ + 1517

“Richordo chome ogi, questo dì 18 d’aprile, e nostri padri insieme raghunati, di nuovo rialoghorono a dipignere el quadro che è presso alla porta di Sancto Bastiano, rivochando ogni altra alloghagione fatta in altri, a Giovan Batista di Iacopo, detto el Rosso, con questo patto che non si portando detto Rosso meglio che nel primo quadro da lui dipinto, egli non debba avere paghamento alchuno per detta dipintura, e nel chaso che egli havessi hauto da noi danaro alchuno, si obligha a restituirlo per lui Steffano d’Agnolo nostro legnaiuolo. E per l’uno e per l’altro di detti Rosso e Stefano intrò malevadore maestro Iacopo di Batista, nostro priore.”4

Although the subject of this picture is not specified, its intended location is given as “presso alla porta di Sancto Bastiano.” This door (actually a pair of doors) occupies the arched area of the atrium immediately to the right of Sarto’s Birth of the Virgin. The next area to the right of the door is that just to the left of Franciabigio’s Marriage of the Virgin. There is no fresco there, nor is there any evidence that there ever was one in this area to the right of the door that now contains a quattrocento Madonna relief placed there much later.5 The door to the Chapel of St. Sebastian is also mentioned in a contract made with Francesco di Lazzaro (Torni) on 1 December 1513 for the second of two frescoes in “due archi” that he was to execute in the “chiostricino” but never did: the first arch “… quello che è tra la porta grande e la pichola di chiesa, dove debe dipignere quando e magi andoron a parlare a Herode in Jerusalem; e l’altro archo è quello che è dove è la porta del fianco della chapella di san Bastiano, dove debe dipignere una visione della Natività di Nostra Donna con due Cibille et dua Astrolagi……”6 The space of the second fresco would have been that near to, that is, to the right of, the door, as suggested by Shearman and Freedberg.7 It follows, then, that this area would be the same one mentioned in the document of 18 April 1517. In that document the phrase “rivochando ogni altra alloghagione fatta in altri” could, and probably does, refer to the earlier commission to Torni (barring the unlikely discovery of a document of the commission of another fresco to another artist for the same space). The “primo quadro da lui dipinto” mentioned in 1517 would, in all likelihood, be Rosso’s existing Assumption of 1513–1514.8 Shearman, 1960, 154, points out that Eliseo Biffoli, in his Notizie delle cose memorabili del Convento e Chiesa dell Nunziata…, begun in 1587, noted the date 1513 in the margin against his reference to Rosso’s Assumption (see below), which accords with the supposition that the payments of November 1513, March 1513/14, and June 1514 are for this same fresco. Shearman, 1960, 154, n. 16, also gives Biffoli’s comment (slightly differently transcribed here but substantially the same): “Ricardo che l’anno 1517 si alogò el 4o del chiostricino a Giovan Battista detto el Rosso.”9 As, in 1517, this cannot mean the fourth fresco executed in the atrium within any period “si alogò el 4o” must refer to the fourth arched area of the right side of the atrium where frescoes were executed during the second decade of the sixteenth century. Counting either from Sarto’s Procession of the Magi, occupying the first space of this series to the right of the right portal into the church or from Rosso’s Assumption of 1513–14 occupying the last space to the left of the entrance into the atrium, the fourth space is that to the right of the door to the Chapel of St. Sebastian. This would seem to be the same space indicated in the document of 18 April 1517 in which Rosso was to paint a fresco but which he never executed (L.10).

LITERATURE:

Mentioned by Vasari in 1550, 796–797 (Vasari-Ricci, IV, 243), immediately after the “Nostra donna, con la testa di San Giovanni Evangelista meza figura” painted for “maestro Iacopo frate de’Servi”: “persuaso da lui nel cortile de’detti Servi allato alla storia della Visitazione, che lavorò Iacopo da Pontormo, l’assunzione di Nostra Donna, nella quale fece un cielo d’Angeli tutti fanciulli ignudi, che ballano intorno alla Nostra Donna accerchiati, che scortano con bellissimo andare di contorni, et con graziosissimo garbo, girati per quella aria, di maniera che se il colorita fatto da lui fosse con quella maturità di arte, con ch’egli poi crebbe co’l tempo, avrebbe, come di grandezza et di buon disegno paragonò l’altre storie, di gran lunga ancora trapassatele. Fecevi gli Apostoli carichi molto di panni, et troppo di dovizia di essi pieni: ma le attitudini et alcune teste sono più che bellissime;…”

The same, but for a few words, in Vasari, 1568, II, 105 (Vasari-Milanesi, V, 156–157).

Bocchi, 1567 (see Williams, 1989 below).

Borghini, 1584, 192.

Biffoli, in his Notizie begun in 1587: “1513” (in the margin), “Giovambatista del Rosso, pittore fiorentino, dipinse l’historia dell’Assuntione di Nostra Donna ch’è a canto alla porta a mano manca: da’giuditiosi viene lodato quel coro d’Angeli, le figure sono biasimate come troppo dovitiose di panni.”10

Bocchi, 1591, 210–211, withdraws the criticism made in 1567, stating: “nelle teste apparische un’aria dicevole alla condizione di chi è dipinto.”

Bocchi-Cinelli, 1677, 423–424.

Migliore, 1684, 270.

Richa, III, 1759, 60.

Bottari in Vasari-Bottari, I, 1759, 294, n. 1, mentions St. James as a portrait of Francesco Berni which does not seem possible for the saint looks far older than seventeen, the oldest that Berni would have been when Rosso painted the fresco.

L’Etruria pittrice, 1791, Pl. XXXXVII (etching and engraving) and following 2 pp., mentions that St. James is a portrait of Berni (Franklin, 1994, 26 and Pl. 21, 273, n. 105, as M. Lastri, L’Etruria pittrice, Vol. I, Florence, 1791, Pl. XLVII).

Lanzi, 1795–96, I, 150.

Burckhardt, 1855 (1910, 838).

Milanesi, in Vasari-Milanesi, V (1878–85), 157, n. 1, connects the document of 1517 to this fresco.

Goldschmidt, 1911, 15–18, thinks the document of 1517 indicates the completion of the work, the execution of which he puts in 1514–16; he also recognizes the composition and the gesture of the Virgin as dependent upon Fra Bartolommeo’s Last Judgment for S. Maria Nuova.

Dated by Voss, 1920, I, 182–185, around 1515 and discussed as compositionally similar to Titian’s slightly later Frari Assumption.

Friedlaender, 1925, 70–71, Fig. 8, (1957, 28–29, Fig. 8), as Rosso’s earliest work done around 1515 or 1516; the same by Pevsner, 1928, 28.

Colnaghi, 1928, 236, connects the documents of 20 November (wrongly as 10 November) 1513 and 18 June 1514 to an Assumption painted by Rosso in 1513 which, found unsatisfactory, was re-commissioned in 1517 (wrongly as 17 August).

Frederick Antal, “Breu und Filippino,” Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst, 1928–29, 37, points out how the central figure is related to one in Dürer’s lost Heller Assumption.

Kusenberg, Strasbourg, 1931, 111–112, acknowledges a relation to Dürer’s Pentecost from the Small Passion.

Kusenberg, 1931, 8–11, 182, ns. 8, 15, 127, Pl. III, mentions the 1515 commission to Sarto and accepts 1517 as the date of Rosso’s fresco. However, he notes that the door of the Chapel of St. Sebastian in the document of 1517 is not next to the fresco, and states that the earlier work referred to would have been either the Pucci arms or those of Leo X. He sees the drapery in general as related to that in Sarto’s Magi and in Pontormo’s Visitation, and finds the latter picture influential on Rosso’s figure with the white beard just right of center. This, of course, cannot be true as Pontormo’s fresco dates later.

Meder, 1932, 78, as done in 1515.

Venturi, 1932, 194 (document of 18 June 1514 mentioned), 201, 203, Fig. 111, 230, states that the documents of 1513 and 1514 published by Colnaghi may refer to the Assumption which must have been already finished by 1517 when the document of that year refers to a renewal of the commission for it. Venturi is understandably confused here. He stresses the influence of Fra Bartolommeo.

Kusenberg, 1935, 62, as Rosso, in 1517.

Salmi, 1940, 79, as among Rosso’s early works where he appears as a reactionary.

Paatz, I, 1940, 93.

Sabatini, 1941, 423–424.

Becherucci, 1944, 25, 56, accepts the date of 1517 and remarks on the “volti d’una quasi secentesca potenza di realizzazione.”

Briganti, 1945, 100f., n. 14, as Rosso’s first work done in 1513.

Barocchi, 1950, 27–31, 245, Figs. 4–5, 7, as done in 1517.

U. Baldini and L. Berti, Mostra di affreschi staccati, Florence, 1957, 23–24, accept the 1517 date for the picture and state that the fresco was detached in April 1957 by Dino Dini.

Shearman, 1960, 153f., follows Venturi in associating the payments of 1513 and 1514 with the Assumption and suggests that the present fresco, related to the document of 1517, is a replacement of an earlier one. However, Shearman does not take into account the location “presso alla porta di Sancta Bastiano” specified in the later document.

Shearman, 1960, 154, n. 16, says that evidently Vasari was one of the “giuditiosi”, and reports that the fresco was attributed around 1580 (Shearman, 1965, 404) to Jacopo Sansovino in the Ricordi Antichi d’Arte Fiorentina.11

Sinibaldi, 1960–1961, 34, as 1517.

Freedberg, 1961, I, 541–544, 607, II, Figs. 664–665, as 1517, and showing the influence of Dürer and Fra Bartolommeo, including that of his Misericordia altar in Lucca, the 1515 date of which would not make this possible.

Briganti, 1961, 20, 22, 25, 27 (1962, 19, 20, 23, 25), as begun, along with Pontormo’s Visitation, in 1513 and completed between 1515 and 1517; he sees the influence of Sarto and the Frate but also the evidence of a new kind of art possibly influenced by Michelangelo.

Brugnoli, 1962, 344. The first (St. James) and the sixth apostles were attributed by C. L. Ragghianti to Cecco Bravo, as reported in Anna Rosa Masetti, Cecco Bravo pittore toscano del Seicento, Venice, 1962, 39, 44–45, 91–92, cat. no. 20, with Fig. 40, as “Rosso o Cecco Bravo (?).” Masetti argues that they follow only partially the scheme of the design of Rosso’s figures which, to her, had apparently deteriorated; she comments that Ragghianti, at the time of the restoration of the fresco, had noted them as insertions “ben visibili anche tecnicamente.” No mention of this appears in the catalogue of the exhibition of detached frescoes of 1957 (see above). Nor is there any visible evidence of these supposed later insertions in the fresco in its present condition. Becherucci (see above) had commented upon the secentesque character of the heads in general in the fresco but in no way implied that they were actually of that period. The heads selected by Ragghianti have something of the special appearance of portraits and yet, in the ways that they are particularly characterized, they are very similar to the last apostle, and, though somewhat less so, to the one immediately before him. In its structure the head of the sixth apostle very much resembles that of the Virgin. The painting of the hair of all four of these apostles is handled exactly the same way; this is true of the draperies as well. There also does not seem to be any close stylistic relationship between the first two figures and any figures by Cecco Bravo, and Masetti makes no specific comparisons to support Ragghianti’s attributions.

Berenson, 1963, 194, as 1517.

Carroll, 1964 (1976), I, Bk. I, 41–43, 47, Bk. II, 1–2, 5, 7–9, 11–12, 16–18, 43, 112, P. 9, II, Bk. III, Fig. 14 (before restoration), as commissioned in 1517; Addition to the Preface, 1976, vii, as entirely executed in 1513–14.

Hauser, 1965, 191, as 1517.

Borea, 1965, as 1517, showing the influence of Dürer’s prints, Leonardo’s Adoration and the Battle of Anghiari.

Shearman, 1965, II, 392, repeats his earlier opinion.

Shearman, 1966, 158, 170f., n. 32, 171, n. 33, accepts Ragghianti’s observations and suggests that in 1517 Rosso repainted his earlier fresco by replacing only the upper part. He also states that the fourth apostle from the left reflects, in reverse, a figure at the right of the “Bathers” group in Michelangelo’s Cascina cartoon.

Freedberg, 1966, 583, as done in 1517.

Clark, 1967, 11, 17, speaks of the Germanic intensity of the apostles’ expressions.

Hartt, 1969, 508–509 (1987, 559, 560, Fig. 598), as 1517, and as showing two putti dangling the Virgin’s girdle before St. Thomas’ nose.

Freedberg, 1971, 126–127, as 1516–1517.

Weiss, 1971, 35–36, Pl. XVIII, Fig. 25 (lower half before restoration), as 1517, as showing the massive and vigorous forms and exuberant gestures and movements of Sarto’s recent classic art preceding the return of the gothic asceticism of Rosso’s later S. Maria Nuova Altarpiece and the Volterra Deposition.

Ragghianti, 1972, 44.

McKillop, 1974, 11, n. 62, 31, 138, 139, n. 1, as commissioned in 1515.

Carroll, 1976: see Carroll [1964] above, as executed in 1513–14.

Dunkelman, 1976, 96, believes that the putti linking hands and with legs flying up behind indicate that Rosso had some knowledge of the conception of Donatello’s Assumption relief in Naples.

Nyholm, 1977, 143–144, 149, 154, Fig. 71, as 1517, pointed out the relation of figures beyond spatial limits of fresco.

Barolsky, 1978, 102, 112, speaks of the apostles’ faces as caricatures, and connects Rosso’s work to “a nasty wit that relates to the general mood of skeptical humor in early sixteenth-century Italy.”

Berti, 1982, 45, 52, 55–59, 60, n. 31, as painted in 1517, but replacing an earlier Assumption of 1513–1514. He accepts Bottari’s identification of the first apostle, St. James, as a portrait of Francesco Berni, and recognizes the last two apostles as portraits of Rosso and his supposed natural father Fra Jacopo who commissioned the fresco, on whom he gives specific biographical information.

Darragon, 1983, 23, 37, 56, Fig. 4 (before detachment), as of 1517; he interprets Vasari’s comments as indicating its “anti-sprezzatura” and sees other aspects of the fresco as bordering on caricature.

Caron, 1983, 5, 7, n. 3, believes that the documents published by Shearman demonstrate that the fresco was completed in 1513–1514.

Vasari-Darragon, 1984, 178, 192, n. 7, as commissioned in 1517.

Dacos, 1984, 337, as 1517, and influential on Machuca’s Vierge du Suffrage in Madrid.

Wilmes, 1985, 63, 66, 70, 76, 81, 88, 96–97, 99–107, 132, 148, 163, 173, Fig. 3, as done after Pontormo’s Visitation next to it.

Fischer, 1986, 156–157, under no. 97, as Rosso, 1517, and presupposes knowledge of Fra Bartolommeo’s treatment of the subject in a drawing in Munich of around 1516.

Paolucci, Pittura, Cinquecento, 1987, I, 300, 308, Fig. 459, as 1517.

Carroll, 1987, 14, 15, 16, 33, ns. 17–19.

Caron, 1988, 356–359, 362, Fig. 1, as 1513–1514, its color shows a more limited range of values than Sarto’s, and more like Michelangelo’s color.

A. Giovanetti, in Pittura, Cinquecento, 1988, II, 825, accepted Shearman’s chronology.

Williams, Robert, “A Treatise by Francesco Bocchi in Praise of Andrea del Sarto,” JWCI, 52, 1989, 116, 126–127, presents Bocchi’s criticism of 1567, after praising Sarto’s “costume”, noting that Rosso “mancandoci questo costume, il quale è l’imitatione de’migliore, che in dipignere gli apostoli di necessità si richiedeva, non reca agli occhi nostre quel piacere che ad un opera tale bisognava.”

Kaskinen, 1989, thought the ring of angels goes back to Botticelli’s Mystic Nativity of 1501 which has been related by Olson to stage machinery created by Brunelleschi.

Natali, Paragone, 1989, 27.

Natali, in Natali and Cecchi, 1989, 7, 14, seems to have accepted the date of 1513–1514, and believed the fresco gives evidence of a trip to Rome.

Ciardi and Mugnaini, 1991, 7, 9–10, 11, 18, 34–99, no. 1, with four Color Pls., 60, 130, as 1513–1514, and with an excellent discussion of its color.

Natali, 1991, 142–144, 147, with Figs.

Natali, 1992, 210–212, with Color Figs. (details).

Hall, 1992, 152, Fig. 49, 153, as 1517, as not related to Sarto’s sfumato in his Birth of the Virgin, and almost belligerently hard-edged like Michelangelo’s Doni tondo.

Stefaniak, 1992, 715, n. 60, as of 1514.

Del Bravo, 1993, 214, in relation to Michelangelo’s “scala di immaginazioni” the piece of drapery that extends over the frame indicates an introverted and contemplative imagination.

Falciani, in Gnocchi and Falciani, 1994, 58, Color Fig., 59.

Mugnaini, 1994, 103.

Ciardi, 1994, 22, 23, Fig., 24, 57–58, 60, Fig., 61, 66, 68, 71, 72, 81, 95, n. 122, 96, n. 136, as showing traces of Rosso’s study of Masaccio’s Brancacci frescoes and his study of Fra Bartolommeo but without the architectural support that accompanies his dancing putti; the absence of an empty sarcophagus, the usual semantic key to the scene, related to the fact that there is no canonical text for this scene and its details, and thus reflecting the scruples for a correct iconology on the part of the Servite order dedicated to the Virgin.

Franklin, 1994, 1, 8, 10–12, 14–15, 17–30, 32–4, 35, 42, 44, 46, 50, 52–53, 56, 68, 70, 125, 206, 212, 250, 316, Color Pls. 18, 19, 22, 23, Pls. 17, 20, as done in 1513–1514 and Rosso’s earliest surviving work, for which he must have been paid the standard 16 florins although the documents show only 6 suggesting that he may have worked longer than indicated by the documents although it can be assumed from the mention of gilding of the capitals that the work was completed at the date of the last document; its condition deplorable and frequently repainted; the first saint identified as St. James the Greater, the second holding a book and a cross as St. Andrew, the third looking up as possibly St. John the Evangelist, the fifth with white hair and beard as St. Peter, the beardless eighth dressed in red and green as St. Thomas looking up at the dangling girdle of the Virgin; he suggests that the angels were based on sculptural models perhaps by Jacopo Sansovino.

Brilli, 1994, 23, 41, 42, 44, Color Pl., 45–46, as 1513–1514, with reference to a nineteenth century guidebook by Susan and Joanna Horner that dates it 1513.

Costamagna, 1994, 22 and Fig. 5, 24, 94, n. 14, and 121, 122, ns. 2–3, under Cat. 17, as marked by the School of San Marco and giving no evidence of an early trip to Rome as thought by some historians; commissioned and dedicated to Fra Jacopo, probably Rosso’s father, and in effect a visionary work that announces the art of the Counter-Reformation.

Marchetti Letta, 1994, 7, 9, 10, Color Pl., 76, as recalling Fra Bartolommeo.

Nova, 1995, 553.

It should be clear that the document of 1517 that has been associated with this fresco records the commission of another work and that the documents of 1513 and 1514 refer to Rosso’s Assumption, a conclusion that is in accord with Biffoli’s sixteenth-century marginal note indicating that the fresco was done in 1513. No aspects of its style nor of its surface indicate that any part of it was executed at another time, a conclusion confirmed by the appearance of the lower half of the fresco in the sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century copies listed below.  The first apostle can hardly be a portrait of Francesco Berni, as suggested by Bottari, as that poet was no more than seventeen years old when the fresco was executed. It also seems unlikely that the eleventh apostle with dark blond hair can be identified, following Berti’s suggestion, as a portrait of Rosso whose name signifies that his hair was red. Berti’s identification of the last apostle as a portrait of Fra Jacopo who commissioned the work is pure speculation. One might ask, however, why only one of the twelve apostles, the first, can be named with certainty, and then why that one happens to be St. James (S. Jacopo). It seems possible that this saint is a portrait of that Fra Jacopo who was so important to the career of the young artist, or at least in its specific identification, a reference to him.12

It is not clear to me that the drapery falling from around the body of the lowest angel is intended to be the Virgin’s girdle. It is not held by the Virgin nor does the supposed St. Thomas reach up to receive it. Similar drapery also swirls around the bodies of other angels, mostly visible now by incised lines. It might also be noted that the Virgin wears a belt.

In spite of the record of frequent restorations of the frescoes in the atrium and the evident damaged surface of Rosso’s fresco, Franklin may be too severe in finding its state so deplorable that the heads of the apostles cannot be recognized as Rosso’s by saying that some unspecified heads have survived only as repaint. Ragghianti had thought the first and sixth were by Cecco Bravo but Franklin thought these could not be singled out as all the heads share the same qualities. Much indeed is missing and some of what is seen is very probably not original, but there is in the individual characterization of the heads a great deal that seems due to Rosso and that resembles the variety of heads that appear in his later and better preserved pictures.

I do not see that this fresco gives any indication of a trip to Rome where Rosso is first documented as being in April 1524 at the time of the commission of the Cesi Chapel frescoes (P.17). All of its sources can easily be recognized in the immediately preceding work of Sarto and Fra Bartolommeo.

COPIES: Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz Museum, unnumbered (neg. no. 5/27), Anonymous, Copy of the fourth apostle (Fig.P.3Copy, Cologne). Black chalk and brown wash (over outlines in black chalk?), 22.5 x 15.6 (max. measurements); horizontal tear at the right center; coll.’s mark, upper right corner: Col. The figure in the drawing differs by having more and curlier hair, an undergarment with a squared neckline across the back and a sleeve covering the right arm to the elbow, a large round brooch fastening the cloak on the left shoulder, and his right heel raised from the ground. These difference could indicate that the drawing is copied from a lost study by Rosso for his fresco. But there is nothing in the style of the drawing itself nor in these differences that suggests such a conclusion. It seems more likely that the copyist in a sense “corrected” the figure in the more academic taste of the end of the century.

Florence, Uffizi, 15112F, as Giovanni Battista Fiammeri, Copy of the upper half of the fresco, red chalk, 35.6 x 48.3 (arched), laid down; three vertical creases. Inscribed in red chalk across the bottom: Se tu beato chi la vidde intera // che sarà dunelle[?] arivederla in cielo? In pencil on the sheet on which the drawing is laid down: Fiammeri (dal Rosso dell’Annunziata and Fiammeri Giov. Batista. LITERATURE: Ragghianti Collobi, 1974, I, 164, as by Fiammeri and perhaps once in Vasari’s Libro de’disegni. This copy makes Rosso’s figures more full-bodied and more Sartesque.

Venice, Cini Foundation, ref. no. 30.938, Anonymous, Copy of the lower half of the fresco, (Fig.P.3Copy, Venice). Black chalk and brown wash, 21 x 30.9 (ragged at the top and bottom); what appears to be a number in ink in the lower right corner; coll.’s mark at lower right; on the verso is an architectural sketch in black chalk of part of an arch and the upper half of a flanking column; also on the verso, inscribed in pencil, in English: gray br…[?] [-]ol[-]berg [?], and Pentecost and measurements (on a piece of brown mending paper). Dr. Silvano De Tuoni informed me that the drawing came from the Pozzi-Fissore Collection that Cini acquired in 1961. I believe that this is the drawing that I saw at De Beers Fine Arts Ltd. in London in the 1950s and that was brought to my attention by Philip Pouncey. The drawing copies the entire lower half of the fresco including the illusion of the piece of drapery hanging over the lower edge. The tail ends of the sash hanging around the bottom cherub in the fresco are visible at the top of the drawing but farther above the heads of the apostles than appears in the painting. This makes it unlikely that the drawing once also showed the upper half of the Assumption. The drawing copies the fresco fairly accurately but in a somewhat abbreviating style.


1According to Kusenberg, 1931, 182, n. 8, and repeated by Barocchi, 1950, 245.

2 The documents are slightly corrected from Shearman, 1960, 153. See also Franklin, 1994, 296, Appendix A, DOCUMENTS 6a–c; also 272, n. 71, as noted under 1513 in the last insert in ASF, Corp. RS, 119, vol. 59, fol. 8v.

3 Also published by Milanesi in Vasari-Milanesi, V, 67–68, without the first paragraph and the marginal note. Milanesi accidentally states that the Assumption was painted by Pontormo. See also Clapp, 1916, 119, 200, Shearman, 1960, 153, Shearman, 1965, II, 392, doc. 31, and Franklin, 1994, 272, n. 74. McKillop, 1974, 138, reports Shearman’s suggestion that Franciabigio was to have had the commission but lost it because of his temperament and his refusal to repair his Sposalizio which he had damaged. This possibility is indicated by the fact that the record of the threatened legal action against Franciabigio (McKillop, 1974, 248, doc.30) in regard to his painting is actually part of the same document that gives the commission of an Assumption to Sarto.

4 Franklin, 1994, 297, Appendix A, DOCUMENT 11; also 273, n. 87, where it is stated that the document is noted in ASF, Corp. RS, 119, vol. 59, insert marked 10, fol. 18v, and vol. 58, fol. 71. Andreucci, Ottavio, Il Fiorentino Istruito nella Chiesa della Nunziata di Firenze, Florence, 1857 (cover 1858), 119, 308, had earlier connected the document to Rosso’s Assumption, as noted by Franklin.

5 See Shearman, 1960, 155, n. 31.

6 A.S.F. Conv. Sopp. 119 (SS. Annunziata), 52 (Ricordanze B, 1510–1559), c. 91r. Transcribed by Milanesi, in Vasari-Milanesi, III, 679–680, n. 1, with a few errors, the most significant being the name of the prior of SS. Annunziata which should be “Aurelio” and not Tirentio. See also Franklin, 1994, 272, n. 72.

7 Shearman, 1960, 155, n. 31; Freedberg, 1963, II, 31–32, n. 2. On the suggestion that the area above this door was the site of Rosso’s lost fresco of the arms of Cardinal Lorenzo Pucci, see L.8.

8 As the “maestro Iacopo di Batista, nostro priore,” mentioned in the document of 1517 would seem to be the same “maestro Giacopo frate de’Servi” for whom Rosso, according to Vasari, had painted a Madonna and Child with St. John the Evangelist (P.2) it could be that the “prima quadro” was instead that panel picture, as possibly suggested by Milanesi, in Vasari-Milanesi, V. 157. But it does not seem very probable that this apparently private work would be referred to in a commission for a fresco in the atrium of SS. Annunziata, especially as one might assume that Fra Jacopo was himself satisfied with the painting that Rosso painted for him.

9 A.S.F. Conv. Sopp. 119, 59, no. 19 (Notizie delle cose memorabili del Convento e Chiesa della Nunziata dell’Ordine de’Servi di Firenze, con Lodo di S. Antonio Arc.vo Fiorno e con le notizie dell’Altar Maggiore, e alcune cappelle della detta Chiesa, scritte dal Preo Medo Eliseo Biffoli), c. 8v. The full title and the quotation are taken from Shearman, 1960, 152, n. 3, 154, n. 16.

10 See preceding note.

11 P. Galletti, Rivista Fiorentina, I, 2, 1908, 21.

12 Because of similarities between elements in Rosso’s Assumption and in Sarto’s Procession of the Magi and Birth of the Virgin at SS. Annunziata, Antonio Natali, in Sarto, 1986, 99, 100, n. 7 and Fig., under nos. VI–VIII, believed that Rosso may have executed parts of those frescoes, the heavily draped figure in the left foreground (and the figure of Jacopo Sansovino at the far right?) in the Procession, done fresh upon a trip to Rome, and some of the angels above the bed and the figure behind St. Anne in the other fresco. The heavily draped figure is also recognized as a self-portrait of Rosso, again done after a trip to Rome with Sarto and Pontormo, by Natali in Natali and Cecchi, 1989, 607, 40, and in Natali, Paragone, 1989, 27, Fig. 17. Valle, 1994, 42, noted the presumed self-portrait in the Procession of the Magi. Ciardi, 1994, 58, 59, Fig. thought the attribution of the figure to Rosso merited attention and reproduced it as Rosso’s; Ciardi also mentioned a drawing in the Koenig Collection, Haarlem, related to Sarto’s figure and certainly not by Rosso, but that “pare assegnabile ad Andrea.” Franklin, 1994, 273, n. 100, thought the suggestion of Rosso’s participation in Sarto’s fresco a romantic one. Costamagna, 1994, 94, n. 14, and 114, n. 1 under Cat. 10, found it difficult to accept Rosso’s intervention in Sarto’s fresco, and inconceivable that such an important figure in the Procession was not by Sarto himself.

While Rosso used aspects of Sarto’s figure in the Procession as a point of departure for his own in the Assumption I cannot see that he had anything to do with the invention or execution of Sarto’s painting of 1511. Nor with the Birth of the Virgin which he may not have seen until his Assumption, executed approximately at the same time, was completed. It should be noted that none of the drapery in Rosso’s fresco turns much around the figures, which the drapery certainly does in Sarto’s frescoes.

Berti, 1993, 182, brought up Pontormo and Rosso in relation to the execution of Sarto’s Madonna and Child with St. Elizabeth, the Young St. John the Baptist and Two Angels of around 1515 in the Louvre (no. 1515), suggesting evidence of Rosso in the profile angel, and of Pontormo in the other angel. The picture seems to me stylistically consistent everywhere as Sarto’s.