Rome, S. Maria della Pace, Cesi Chapel.
Fig.P.17a(3), The Cesi Chapel, at floor level
Fig.P.17b bw The Creation of Eve and the Fall of Adam and Eve, before restoration
Fig.P.17b(2) The Creation of Eve, before restoration
Fig.P.17c The frescoes without the window
Fig.P.17d The Creation of Eve
Fig.P.17e The Fall of Adam and Eve
Frescoes, on the nave façade of the chapel above the cornice and in an arched area divided by an arched window above the entrance to the chapel, figures over life size. Dated on a painted plaque decorated with discs and a mask over the window: A•S•M•D XXIIII.
[The frescoes appear very damaged by cracking and flaking and much restored (their “horrible state” already noted in F. Titi, Descrizione delle pitture, sculture e architectture esposte al publico di Roma, Rome, 1763, 414, as in Franklin, 1994, 283, n. 41). Nevertheless, the figures show in many details kinds of drawing and modeling that are characteristic of Rosso. According to Kusenberg, 1931, 188, n. 64, they were restored in April 1927 by Professor Papini whose brushwork, or that of some other restorer, is visible throughout. The genitals of Adam in the Fall have disappeared. In April 1985 the frescoes looked very chalky especially above the window at the top right of the left fresco making it impossible to judge the underlying condition of the paintings.]
[The flesh tones are dark and reddish brown. God’s robe in the Creation is pinkish. There are traces of a blue sky behind him, and traces of green at the bottom of this fresco. Adam in the Fall has reddish blond hair. There are dark leaves in the uppermost part of this fresco.]
April 2014: Since Franklin, 1994, the frescoes have been fully cleaned and restored. I know them in their new and careful restoration only from several color photographs that have appeared on the web, one of which, taken from far below, is dated December 29, 2012. The tonality of the frescoes is now blond and the figures wholly intact. Adam’s genitals in the Fall have reappeared within the slightly darkened area of his groin. Only the top of the head of God-the-Father may be damaged and his right hand above the flying drapery at the top of the fresco is perhaps much missing. The blue of the sky has almost entirely disappeared and as well as most of the foliage in both scenes. It is difficult to see the large branches of the tree in the right fresco and to distinguish the rocky terrain upon which Adam sleeps in the the Creation of Eve. But it can now be seen that Eve’s hair in the Fall is elaborately waved and braided as in Rosso’s drawing at Harvard (Fig.D.20). Clearly visible now also are the toes of Adam overlapping the painted rounded molding along the bottom of both scenes. His right hand in the right fresco no longer clearly grips the branch of the tree and his left hand is so damaged to obscure just what it is doing although its position next to Eve’s right hand about to take the piece of fruit from Eve is clear.
DOCUMENTS: The contractual note of 26 April 1524 for these frescoes, and the record of three payments, the first of that date, the other two of 11 June and 3 October 1524, are preserved in A. S. F., Corporazioni religiose soppresse, 20 (S. Orsola detto la SS.ma Annunziata di Arezzo), 18 (Filza seconda di memorie della venerabile Compagnia della SS.ma Annunziata, 1380–1620), folios 99r and 106v:
106v: Allogagione da Messer “Antonio da San Gallo
99r: In the margin: “1524: Allogagione per fare una Cappella”
(In Antonio da Sangallo the Younger’s hand:) “Io Antonio sa Sangallo i’nome di mess. Agniolo da Ciessi aluogo a fare una capella i’nella Pacie a maestro Giovanbatista alias Rosso di pittura a chanto a quella fatta di Austino Gisi cioè la facciata e un’a[n]cona a olio in tavola e altre pitture e adornamenti di Capella di stuchi, da pagare sechondo per che me Antonio da Sangallo sopraschritto sarà judichato. E per questo ò fatto la presente di mia propria mano, questo dì 26 d’aprile 1524, a per chominciare ditta opera io Antonio sopra schritto ho pagati questo dì ducati venti cinque d’oro [cancelled: “in oro di Camera del chonio”] a giulii 10 per duchato e chosì lui la sottoschriverà di sua mano e io ci schriverrò tucti li danari che llui riscieverà da me o da altri per me a ditto conto. E ttutto ditto lavoro se à a da fare sechondo che per me Antonio sopra schritto sarà ordinato.”
(In Rosso’s hand:) “Io Rosso pictore sopra scripto son contento e confesso quanto per questa si contiene e in fede ho facto questi di mia mano propria questo dì decto”
(In Antonio’s hand:) “Ane [à ne] auto a questo chonto li sopra schritti duchati venti cinque d’oro [cancelled: “in oro”] questo di sopraschritto da me Antonio sopraschritto, per arra e parte di pagamento di giulii cioè … duc. 25 b.____.” [“b” = “Bolognini”)
(In Francesco da Sangallo’s hand:) “E più à’uto in dua partite inn una otto duchati d’oro di chamera e inn una cinque in schudi di sole: sono in tutto a dua le vollte duchati tredici d’oro di chamera, cioè … duc. 13 b ____.”
“o schritto io Franco da Sangallo ogi questo dì 11 di g[i]ugnio 1524.”
“E più à’uto insino adì 3 d’ottobre 1524 duchati digianove e giuli quatro a giuli dieci per duchato, chome apare di suo mano alla schritta abiano di suo, sono … duc. b. 40.”1
PREPARATORY DRAWING: Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland, no. D4870, Study for the Figure of Eve in the “Fall of Adam and Eve” (Fig.D.10).
Vasari, 1550, 800 (Vasari-Ricci, IV, 246), mentions this work first in his account of Rosso’s activity in Rome: “Quivi fece nella Pace sopra le cose di Raffaello una opra, della quale non dipinse mai peggio a suoi giorni: ne posso imaginare onde cio procedesse: se non ch’e egli gonfio di vana gloria di se stesso, niente stimava le cose d’altri: perche gli avvenne che cio poco apprezzando, la sua fu poi meno stimata.”
Vasari, 1568, II, 207 (Vasari-Milanesi, V, 161–162), changed after “procedesse” to read: “senon da questo, che non pure in lui, ma si è venuto anco in multi altri. E questo (il che pare cosa mirabile, e occulta di natura) è che chi muta paese, ò luogo, pare che muti natura, virtu, costumi, e habito di persona, in tanto, che tallora non pare quel medesimo, ma un’altro, e tutto stordito, e stupefatto. Il che potè intervenire al Rosso nell’aria di Roma, e per le stupende cose, che egli vi vide d’Architettura, e Scultura, e per le pitture, e statue di Michelangolo, che forte lo cavarono di se. Lequali cose fecero anco fuggire, senza lasciar loro alcuna cosa operare in Roma, fra Bartolomeo di s. Marco, e Andrea del Sarto. Tutta via, qualunche si fusse di cio la cagione, il Rosso non fece mai peggio; e da vantaggio è quest’opera è paragone di quelle di Raffaello da Urbino.”
Inferred in the “Life” of Salviati, Vasari-Milanesi, VII, 14.
Cellini, 1558–1565 (Cellini-Ferrero, 1971, 293) records in his Autobiography, after saying that because Rosso spoke ill of Raphael, his disciples wished to kill him: “Ancora per aver detto male di maestro Antonio da Sangallo, molto eccellente architettore, gli fete torre un’opera che lui gli aveva fatto avere da Messer Agnol de Cesi; dipoi cominciò [Rosso] tanto a far contro a di lui, che egli [Antonio] l’aveva condotto a morirsi di fame.” This must refer to the Cesi Chapel commission.
Titi, Studio di pittura…nelle chiese di Roma, 1674, 453–454, following Vasari, as above Raphael’s frescoes, and as “poco buono, non hauendo mai dipinto peggio à suoi giorni.”
Titi, 1686, 385, as above Raphael’s fresco, and as “opera benche d’un gran Virtuoso poco buona, e di maniera assai diversa dall’altra sua solita.”
Titi, Nuovo Studio…, Rome, 1721 (reprint, Bologna, 1974), 440, as above Raphael’s pictures.
Milanesi, in Vasari-Milanesi, V, 1881, 162, n. 1, gives notice of the document of 26 April 1524 and that the commission was made in the name of Cesi by Antonio da Sangallo.
Goldschmidt, 1911, 22, as Rosso’s first sure Roman work; he tends to believe Vasari’s criticism that Rosso’s art was perverted by his study of the Sistine Ceiling.
Voss, 1920, 186.
U. Pasque, in Di Bartolomeo Della Gatta…, Arezzo, 1926, 36, n. 3, partially publishes the document of 26 April 1524 but wrongly as related to SS. Annunziata, Arezzo (from Hirst, 1964, 121, n. 6).
Colnaghi, 1928, 236, repeats Milanesi.
Antal, [1928–29] 1966, 55, 57, 84.
Kusenberg, 1931, 25–26, 188, ns. 59–60, 64, 129, does not believe Cellini’s story, and agrees with Vasari that they are Rosso’s worst works. He sees the sleeping Adam as influenced by Michelangelo’s dead Holofernes, and the Fall as recalling Michelangelo’s scene of the same subject. The serpent’s body he sees as influential on a figure in Bronzino’s Martyrdom of St. Lawrence.
Venturi, IX, 5, 1932, 195, 231, as commissioned in 1524.
Kusenberg, 1935, 62.
Becherucci, 1944, 29, 55, as showing Rosso’s assumption of Roman culture in the gigantism of Michelangelo and the easy and rich language of Raphael’s followers.
Freedberg, 1950, 65, the Creation as influential on a drawing by Parmigianino in the British Museum.
Barocchi, 1950, 60–61, 246, Figs. 38–39, speaks of precise recollections of the Sistine Ceiling, the Creation of Eve recalling Michelangelo’s scene, the figure of Adam, his Holofernes.
Becherucci,  1964, 457, as recalling Parmigianino.
Sinibaldi, 1960–1961, 34, as indicating an artistic crisis resulting from the sight of the Sistine Ceiling.
Urban, 1961, 215, 221, frescoes and contracts mentioned.
Brugnoli, 1962, 341–342, the Adam influenced by the Holofernes and by Michelangelo’s Dying Slave.
Berenson, 1963, 195.
Frommel, 1963, 144–148, publishes the document of 1524; he also publishes a document of 1515 that indicates that the chapel was dedicated to the Annunciation.
Hirst, 1964, 120–122, publishes the document given above, and points out that Rosso was to paint not only frescoes on the facciata, implying probably the lunette and spandrel, but also the chapel’s altarpiece. He also mentions the reference to stucco in the document. As in 1529, a document indicates that the chapel was dedicated to the Annunciation. Hirst believes that Rosso’s altarpiece would have been of this subject although a drawing of his of the Virgin Annunciate, Uffizi 6492F [D.11], would reflect another scheme and placement of this subject. But he points out that the light in the drawing is at odds with that in the frescoes. Hirst also suggests that the project was unfinished because of a quarrel between Rosso and Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, as indicated by Cellini’s story. The Creation he sees as related to Rosso’s Moses and Eliezer pictures with the sleeping Adam related to the sleeping figure in the latter. In the Fall, related to Michelangelo’s scene, but reversed, he detects “Rosso already moving towards the style of poised refinement which he and Roman contemporaries evolved in the brief period prior to 1527.”
Brugnoli’s letter and Hirst’s response in BM, CVI, 1964, 290.
Carroll, 1964 (1976), I, Bk. I, 103–105, 109, BK. II, 132–133, P.19, II, BK. III, Figs. 32–33a.
Dezzi Bardeschi, 1964, 88, 99, published the document of 1524 thinking it was related to the S. Maria delle Lagrime commission (see Preface to D.31–D.34).
Borea, 1965, as indicating a crisis in Rosso’s style as the result of his knowledge of the Sistine Ceiling.
Freedberg, 1966, 583.
Giorgio Falcidia, Tesori d’arte cristiana. 100 chiese in europa, 71, Rome, S. Maria della Pace, Bologna, 8 July 1967, 286, Fig. 2, color reproduction of the Creation, 287, Fig. 3, color reproduction of the façade of the chapel showing the Fall, 298.
Marabottini, 1969, I, 92, 262, no. 89, mentions the effect of Roman classicism on these frescoes.
Fagiolo Dell’Arco, 1970, 92, 215, n. 6, mentions the relation between Rosso and Parmigianino and the patronage of them by Cesi.
Freedberg, 1971, 30, as influenced by the Sistine Ceiling, by Sebastiano del Piombo, and by Raphael.
Nyholm, 1977, 142, as not meriting Vasari’s criticism.
Shearman, 1980, 9.
Chastel, 1983, 163–164, states that the Creation contains contortions not found in the Fall.
Darragon, 1983, 24, 38, 39, Fig. 14, mentions Rosso’s fight with Antonio da Sangallo; wrongly he thinks that Adam is brandishing a club and hence compares him with Hercules.
Wilmes, 1985, 78.
A. Bacci and D. Benati, in Pittura. Cinquecento, 1987, II, thought Rosso may have been prevented from executing the altarpiece for this chapel because of the sack of 1527.
Carroll, 1987, 10, 21–22, 23, 24, 66–68, under no.6, with Fig.
Leone de Castris, 1988, 40.
Franklin, 1988, 326, under No.6, indicates that a 15 week gap between Rosso’s second and third installments is not unusual.
Caron, 1988, 370–371, 372, Fig. 8 (Creation of Eve) commented on the influence of Raphael and Michelangelo.
Ciardi and Mugnaini, 1991, 10, 29, 110–111, 150 with 2 Figs., as more influence by Raphael of the Farnesina than Michelangelo of the Sistine Chapel.
Mortari, 1992, 40, 99, n. 66, a new kind of project and the precedent for Salviati at the Cancelleria.
Franklin, 1994, 121, 124–133, 144, 155, 170, 188, 230, 246, 265, 305–306. Appendix E, DOCUMENT 1, 316, Pls. 90–92, as likely that Rosso was promised the commission before he left Florence and that it determined his departure, with Antonio da Sangallo, crucial to the commission and in a sense Rosso’s patron for the project.
Marchetti Letta, 1994,73.
Brilli, 1994, 26.
Costamagna, 1994, 64, notes their Michelangelism.
Falciani, in Gnocchi and Falciani, 1994, 16.
Burresi, in Rosso e Volterra, 1994, 145, under no. 3.
Ciardi, 1994, 51, iconographically related to the Sistine Ceiling but opposed to Michelangelo’s super dimensional heroic manner, and showing especially in the Creation of Eve a dialectic interpretation of Raphael’s two figures of Psyche at the Farnesina filtered through Perino.
The contract of 25 April 1524 calls for Rosso to paint “la facciata” of the Cesi Chapel as well as to execute “un’a[n]cona a olio in tavola e altre pitture e adornamenti di capella di stuchi.” After the initial payment on the day of the contract there were two more on 11 June and 3 October 1524. We know from Cellini that Rosso was in Rome on 24 June 1524 but that sometime in June or shortly thereafter he was staying in Cerverteri to escape the plague in Rome (see Cellini-Ferrero, 1971, 293). Hence, perhaps, the skip in payments from June to October. One might suppose that the two frescoes were executed between late April and late June and that the early October payment indicates a resumption of work on the Cesi Chapel project. Sometime thereafter work stopped because, it may be concluded from what Cellini reports, of the argument that Rosso had with Antonio da Sangallo the Younger who had in the name of Agnolo Cesi originally obtained Rosso for this project. (On the various misattributions of Rosso’s frescoes and the confusion of them especially with Raphael’s nearby frescoes (Fig.Cesi Chapel), see Franklin, 1994, 126, 283, ns. 30–34.)
Hirst’s suggestion that Rosso’s Seated Woman in Niche in the Uffizi (D.11) is a drawing for the Virgin Annunciate that would have been used for another part of this chapel may well be correct. Its style is so similar to that of the frescoes that it is probable that they were all designed at the same time, possibly before the frescoes were executed, when the decoration of the entire façade of this chapel was first being considered. The Virgin Annunciate could have been placed on the front of the left pier, that has quite the right dimensions for the image of the drawing, across from an Angel Annunciate also in a niche on the right pier. Although the chapel eventually received an altarpiece by Marcello Venusti of the Annunciation,2 it is not necessary to assume, as Hirst does, that Rosso would have planned an altarpiece of this subject or at least planned one from the very beginning, however appropriate it might seem that he should have. An Annunciation on the façade would have been sufficient to correspond to the dedication of the chapel to the Annunciation (see Frommel above). However, as Hirst points out, the light in the drawing is at odds with that in the frescoes that were executed. This is a major discrepancy. If the drawing was intended for this chapel and for a fresco on its façade then one would have to recognize its lighting as a mistake that Rosso would later have changed, provided of course that he would have followed through with the scheme of which it might have been a part. However, it is also just possible that the figure represents an image that was to be realized as sculpture in stucco and that the light in the drawing pertains only to the conception of the image in the drawing and not to the direction of the light in the church, which would not have been constant, nor to the fixed light in the frescoes that would be painted above it. The eventual decoration of the façade spandrels and piers of this chapel entirely with sculpture may lend some support to the possibility that such a conception goes back to Rosso’s project with its “adornamenti…di stuchi.”
However, there is another possibility. The Virgin Annunciate could have been intended to occupy the place where Rosso actually painted the Creation of Eve, with the Angel Annunciate across from, it where he painted the Fall. In a drawing by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger for the façade of the chapel he shows an angel, very possibly of the Annunciation, in the space of the Fall.3 But here, too, the light in the drawing seems not right for a fresco as the left side of the top of the façade of the chapel abuts the arch that crosses the nave of the church from which direction no light falls directly. It could, of course, be suggested here again that stucco could have been used here.4
1On the publication of this document by Pasque, 1926, Frommel, 1963, Hirst, 1964, Dezzi Bardeschi, 1964, and Franklin, 1994, see LITERATURE below. Hirst commented that the archival location of this document with the material from the Compagnia of SS. Annunziata of Arezzo suggests that it was Rosso’s copy left behind when he fled this town in 1529.
3 Uffizi 703A recto, see Urban, 1961, 223, Fig. 150. Although this drawing has been connected to the 1529 renewal of Antonio da Sangallo’s contract for his work on this chapel (see Giovannoni, 1959, 377–378, and Urban, 1961, 221–222), it is interesting that he shows an angel in the place of Rosso’s fresco. But Rosso’s contract and dated frescoes show that a large plan for the chapel was already projected and work on it begun as early as 1524.
4 Franklin, 1994, 125, that beneath the executed frescoes Rosso would likely have painted four prophets, following the model of Raphael in the adjacent Chigi Chapel, where, however, the prophets are at the top of the chapel façade flanking the window.