L.16 A Small Chapel


Piombino, Chapel of the Confraternity of the Corpus in the Pieve di Santi Lorenzo e Antimo.

Vasari, 1550, 797, in the “Life” of Rosso: “Poi lavorò al Signor di Piombino una tavola, con un Christo morto bellissimo, e gli fece ancora una cappelluccia,…”  Vasari, 1568, II, 205 (Vasari-Milanesi, V, 158), the same.

It is probable that Rosso’s lost panel painting of the Dead Christ was made as the altarpiece of the cappelluccia and that both were done in 1520 (see L.15). That year Jacopo V asked for and received from the emperor Charles V confirmation and investiture of the state of Piombino with the same privileges accorded to his father (A. Cesaretti,  Istoria del principato di Piombino…, Florence, II, 1789, 104). One of these privileges may have been related to the commissioning of an altarpiece and a small chapel. The documentary discovery published by Waldman and Franklin in 1999 (DOC.7a) that on September 9, 1521 Rosso, back in Florence, was still owed money by the confraternity of the Corpus Christi in Piombino surely allows for the possibility that the artist’s Christo morto and cappelluccia had been made for this brotherhood. By 1994 Falciani (Empoli e Volterra, 1996(1994), 265-266] had come upon the site of the confraternity’s (destroyed) altar in the Pieve di Santi Lorenzo e Antimo, the most important church in Piombino. In 1517 Jacopo V d’Appiano received from Pope Leo X the giuspatornato of the piece. Hence, quite possibly, Vasari’s comment that Rosso created the altarpiece and the chapel for Jacopo V. Franklin, 1994, 55-56, thought, in spite of Vasari calling it a cappelluccia, that the chapel was a large one. Whatever its size – and why Franklin should question Vasari’s description – its importance lies in the support it gives to Vasari’s praise of Rosso as an architect (1550, 796; 1568, 205, Vasari-Milanesi, V, 156). Rosso might have been called to Piombino by Jacopo V Appiano because of a certain reputation the artist had acquired from the triumphal arch he designed for the entry of Leo X into Florence on 30 November 1515 (see L.12). Bartolommeo Masi reported that many thought it was the most beautiful arch made for the occasion.

The subject of Rosso’s panel painting, the image of the Dead Christ, would have been appropriate as the focus of veneration of the Corpus Christ.1

1 Earlier thoughts no longer especially relevant to an understanding of this chapel began with Kusenberg, 1931, 182, n. 7, and 1935, 62, thought Vasari’s sentence meant the decoration of a chapel, and possibly it does. Costamagna, 1994, 36, thought the same.  George Bull’s 1987 Penquin Classics translation of Vasari’s sentence specifically states the Rosso “decorated a little chapel.” But Vasari mentions only a “cappelluccia” indicating only the architecture of a chapel, which, then, so I once thought, could also have been decorated by Rosso with frescoes (Carroll, 1987, 19), in spite of the artist’s dislike of working in this medium. Valle, 1994, 25, 26, 31, 67-70, suggested that the cappelluccia was a funeral chapel in the Cittadella of Piombino, and that its decoration and that of the palace were done in anticipation of Jacopo V’s marriage to Clarice Ridolfi. For the suggestion that Rosso’s painting and chapel may be related to Jacopo V having received from Charles V in 1920 confirmation and investiture of the state of Piombino, see L.15.   The subject of Rosso’s panel painting would be appropriate for a funerary chapel.

Ciardi, 1987; Ciardi and Mugnaini, 1991, 149; and Ciardi, 1994, 55, 95, n. 121, indicated that the Signor di Piombino had many possessions, including a residence and palazzi in and near Pisa. The Appiani were also patrons of the church of San Piero near Ponsacco, not far from Volterra.  But it seems very probable that Vasari would have specifically stated where he worked if it had not been Piombino.  Ciardi and Mugnaini thought the work mentioned by Vasari was frescoes in a chapel.