DOC.1 Florence, March 9, 1494 (modern style)

Rosso’s baptismal record giving the date of his birth as Saturday, March 8, 1494 (modern style), at 18 hours.

Florence, Archivio dell’Opera del Duomo, Libro dei battezzati maschi, 1492-1501, fol. 34 recto, March 9, 1493:

“Domenicha adì 9 di detto [=March 1493/4] Giovanbaptista et Romolo di Iacopo di Ghuasparre, popolo di Santo Michele Bisdomini, nacque adì 8, hore 18.”1

Berti, 1983, 58, brought up the possibility that Fra Jacopo at SS. Annunziata, who was an early patron of Rosso (see P.2 and P.3) and whose family name seems to have been Rossi or de’Rossi, may have been a relative of the painter.  Béguin thought (in September 1994) that because of his surname the frate was Rosso’s father and that Vasari deliberately left out this information of Rosso’s illegitimate birth.  Costamagna, 1994, 20, 94, n. 24, 102, under Cat. 2, with reference to Béguin’s oral opinion, and 120, under Cat. 16, that the frate’s name lends support to the artist being his natural son, as he used the name Rosso, adopted also because of his red hair.  Nova, 1995, 553, also thought Rosso may have taken his name from “Fra Jacopo di Battista de Rubeis,” as well as from his red hair.

This fanciful conjecture is belied by the fact that Rosso’s name in the baptismal record gives, as part of his name, his father’s: Jacopo di Guasparre.  In a document of 18 April 1517 related to a commission at the Annunziata (see P.3 for the document also mentioned in L.10) both the artist and his patron are named, the first as “Giovan Batista di Iacopo,” the friar as “Iacopo di Batista,” not as Jacopo di Guasparre.  A document of 30 June 1518 (DOC.2a) gives the artist’s name as: “Iohanni Baptiste olim Iacopi Gasparis, vocato il Rosso, pictori.”  An Aretine document of 29 November 1528 (see document in the Preface to D.31-34) gives the artist’s name as: “Maestro Rosso di Iacopo di Guaspari.”  Many other documents refer to him as “Rubeus Iacopi Gasparis” or in a similar fashion using the name that appears in his baptismal record.  Thus there is no reason to conclude that the Fra Jacopo of the Servites was a relative, much less the father of Rosso, even if the friar’s family name was Rossi, a very common surname.  Vasari says the artist was called Rosso because of his “pelo rosso” (Vasari-Milanesi, V, 167).

For the fullest record of the name of Rosso’s father, see the documents published in Waldman, 2000, 607, 612, Doc. 1 (DOC.1a) and Doc. 3 (DOC.1d).

Costamagna, 1994, 24, 42, 119-120, Cat. 16, with Color Fig., thought Pontormo’s Portrait of a Young Man in the Uffizi (Inv. 1890, no. 743) might be a portrait of Rosso.  His argument is related to the book of musical scores that the figure holds, an allusion to Rosso’s interest in music rather than to the sitter’s profession, and to the red of the book’s covers and of the back of the chair; Costamagna also thought the red hair of the sitter may be dyed to conform to his name, which he would have taken from his frate father.  I cannot accept any of this.  On the subject of Rosso’s appearance, and on the supposition that he was, like Pontormo, bearded already as a young man, see Carroll, 1987, 50-53, no. 1.

1 The date of Rosso’s birth was given correctly by Milanesi in Vasari-Milanesi, V, 1881, 155, n. 1.  Milanesi did not mention that the year he gave was in modern reckoning and hence later authors have sometimes supposed that the date he gave was in Florentine style and consequently put Rosso’s year of birth a year later by modern reckoning (Colnaghi, 1928, 236; Venturi, IX, 5, 1932, 193; Carroll, 1964 [1976], I, Bk. II, 1, 67, n. 1; Vasari-Darragon, 1984, 177, 192, n. 1; Vasari-Turin, 1986, 749, n. 1; A. Giovanetti, in Pittura. Cinquecento, 1988, II, 825).  The document was published by Franklin, 1987, 652, n. 1, mistakenly giving the date of the document as March 8 and omitting the reference to that date in the document itself.  Franklin mentioned Gino Corti’s explanation that the name Romolo was given as a second name by the parish priest for its talismanic properties and was then dropped.  Corti wrote me that Romolo was frequently used as a second name in the second half of the fifteenth century and the first half of the sixteenth century but he did not know why, but it was not his suggestion that it was for its talismanic properties.  For the correct date, see also Carroll, 1987, 13, 14, 33, n. 7; Franklin, 1994, 296, 1, 271, n. 1, 296, Appendix H, DOCUMENT 1, 316, mentioning again the talismanic properties of the name Romolo; and Ciardi, 1994, 1, 271, n. 1, where the document is transcribed.

According to the translator, Alice de Rosen Jervis, in Landucci, 1927, 9, n. 1, the Florentine day began at 8 p.m. (sunset) so that the “hore 18” mentioned in the document gives 2 p.m. in modern reckoning as the hour of Rosso’s birth.  Gius. Odoardo Corrazzini, the editor of Agostino Lapini, Diario Fiorentino, Florence, 1900, XIII, n. 1, gives 6 a.m. as the modern equivalent of the baptismal record’s “a hore 12” for the hour of Lapini’s birth on 26 October 1515.  According to this reckoning, Rosso would have been born at noon.  Knowledge of the exact hour of Rosso’s birth might at some time be valuable for astrological calculations in relation to Rosso’s art, but I have not yet found this need, although I had once suspected it in regard to the Fury (E.18).  It may be of some interest in relation to Rosso’s baptismal record giving his name as Giovanbaptista et Romolo that Lapini’s name in his baptismal record is Agostino, Fabiano et Romolo.