Late Spring, 1528
Drawing made for Giorgio Vasari, Arezzo.
Vasari, 1568, III, 981 (Vasari-Milanesi, VII, 651-652), in the “Descrizione dell’opere di Giorgio Vasari:”
“L’anno poi 1528, finita la peste, la prima opera, che io fece fu una tavoletta nella Chiesa di san Piero d’Arezo de’frati de servi, nella quale, che è appoggiata a un pilastro, sono tre mezze figure, sant’Agata, san Roccho, e san Bastiano. La qual pittura; vendendola il Rosso, pittore famosissimo, che di que giorni venne in Arezzo, fu cagione, che conoscendovi qualche cosa di buono, cavata dal naturale, mi volle conoscere; e che poi m’aiuto di disegni, e di consiglio. Ne passò molto, che per suo mezo, mi diede M. Lorenzo Gamurrini fare una tavola, della quale mi fece il Rosso il disegno; e io poi la condussi con quanto piu studio, fatica, e diligenza mi fu possible, per imparare, e acquistarmi un poco di nome.”
In his Libro delle Ricordanze (Vasari-Frey, 1930, 848, and Vasari-Del Vita, 1938, 9), Vasari records that he was commissioned the panel painting of the three half-length saints on 1 March 1528. Given that it might have taken about a month to execute this not very large painting, Rosso could already have seen it in Arezzo toward the end of that month. For 20 April 1528 Vasari records the commissioning of the painting from Lorenzo Gamurrini (Vasari-Frey, 1930, 848, and Vasari-Del Vita, 1938, 10), and specifies that it was a panel painting depicting “Nostro Signore Jesu cristo che resuscita del Sepolcro.”1 He does not state its size but the price he gives for it is not much more than he received for the other painting, suggesting that the later one was about the same general size, if not the same shape.2 The drawing that Rosso made for Vasari would seem to have been done in Arezzo at the end of April 1528 or shortly thereafter. Unfortunately both it and Vasari’s painting are lost (see Carroll, 1967, 303-304, and 1987, 25). Hence, there is no way to judge what kind of drawing Rosso made for Vasari.3
Vasari seems to indicate that Rosso had actually moved to Arezzo when he made his drawing, but this did not take place until later in 1528 when Rosso received the commission for a series of frescoes in the Aretine church of S. Maria delle Lagrime in November of that year. Rosso must have come to Arezzo from Borgo Sansepolcro, where he had painted his Pietà (P.19), which remains in that town, and which may have been finished by the time that he first met Vasari. The trip to Arezzo could have been to search out commissions. It could also have been a stop on a trip to or from Florence, which it is very likely that Rosso made as his subsequent works indicate knowledge of the art that was being made there. This seems indicated by his early study (Fig.D.29) for his Christ in Glory in Città di Castello, commissioned 1 July 1528 (see P.20). Rosso would have settled in Città di Castello about this time, but only for a short while, for he became ill there and moved back to Borgo Sansepolcro, and then to Pieve S. Stefano to recover more completely. From there he returned to Arezzo. Vasari visited Rosso in Borgo Sansepolcro while he was convalescing, and there met Cristofano Gherardi.4
1 See also Venturi, IX, 5, 1932, 292, but also Kallab, 1908, 44, no. 11, who misplaced this work because he did not know Vasari’s Libro delle Ricordanze; hence also Brizi’s and Pasqui’s misidentifications of this lost work with Vasari’s Deposition in SS. Annunziata in Arezzo (Brizi, N. Oreste, Nuova Guida per la Città di Arezzo, Arezzo, 1838, 119; Pasqui, U., Nuova Guida di Arezzo, Arezzo, 1912, 77). Mentioned by C. Davis and A.M. Maetzke, in Giorgio Vasari, 1981, 273, under no. 31, 319-320. Mentioned by Franklin, 1994, 166, 232, 287, n. 46, 292, n. 31, 232, 316; and by Ciardi, 1994, 92, n. 50. Franklin, 1994, 234, 293, n. 42, notes that Vasari (Vasari-Milanesi, VI, 301) wrote that Bernardino Giuovi wanted Rosso to paint an altarpiece for his chapel dedicated to Sts. James and Christopher in the Badia of Arezzo but that Vasari eventually painted it himself.
2 Vasari gives the measurements of the earlier painting as 1 1/3 high x 3 braccia long, indicating a shape that would accommodate three half-length saints. The painting was evaluated at “grossi 25.” The Resurrection was evaluated at “grossi 28” but its shape would most likely have been an upright rectangle.
3 None of Vasari’s surviving paintings and drawings of the Resurrection give any indication of dependence upon an invention by Rosso. Perhaps the lost painting of 1539-1540 that was in S. Maria in Barbiano still reflected Rosso’s lost drawing (Vasari-Novara, 1967, VIII, 217-218, and n. 2).
4 Vasari, 1568, III, 459 (Vasari-Milanesi, VI, 214), states that Gherardi studied Rosso’s drawings while the latter was in Borgo Sansepolcro executing his Pietà. Then Vasari writes (1568, III, 459; Vasari-Milanesi, VI, 216) that he met Gherardi in Sansepolcro in 1528 when he had gone there to see Rosso. See also Kallab, 1908, 44, no. 10, who is too specific in giving July as the month of the visit.