"When Polidoro da Caravaggio arrived in Rome around 1515, possibly untrained, he was hired to carry plaster for Raphael's workshop in the Vatican. Under foreman Giulio Romano and co-worker Perino del Vaga, Polidoro advanced quickly to fresco painter. Between 1524 and 1527, Polidoro became renowned for his monochrome re-creations of Roman history that spanned palace facades."
"Just before the Sack of Rome in 1527, Polidoro [..] decorated the facade of the Palazzo Milesi in the city with a series of monochrome frescoes, depicting classical scenes, trophies and vases. The wit and invention, particularly of the designs of the vases, meant that these motifs became widely admired, and their fame spread as a number of series of prints reproduced them."
"The subject of the paintings is the myth of Niobe, although many scenes were inspired by the reliefs of Colonna Traiana. The name of the street - via della Maschera d'Oro (Golden Palace Road) - is due to a detail of the decoration showing a little boy hiding behind a golden mask."
[Google Maps: Via della Maschera D'Oro, 7, Rome, Province of Rome, Italy - you can catch glimpses of the wall figures with street view [also]
"Composed of illusionistic classical figure scenes, trophies and vases, they were not only highly visible but also revolutionary in design. Most remarkable were the vases painted on the Palazzo Milesi shortly before 1527, which Vasari [artist/historian], even though accustomed to the distortions of later Mannerist design, described as being 'so curiously wrought that it would be hard to find anything more beautiful or novel'. Perhaps because they had no need even to pretend to archaeological correctness, Polidoro's vases carried fantasy a good deal further than [contemporaries].
The vases rapidly became famous and were drawn by many artists in Rome. By 1544, versions had appeared in a Roman set of prints and some of the designs reached France in the middle years of the century through interpretations by Ducerceau and René Boyvin. It was not, however, until 1582 that the first set of prints dedicated to them alone appeared, engraved by Cherubino Alberti in Rome.
The Palazzo Milesi vases, being on the second floor, were accordingly severely distorted so that they would read correctly from below. Unlike earlier printmakers, Alberti made no attempt to correct the distortions. Shown in their distorted form but viewed from straight ahead, the striking boldness and complexity of Polidoro's ideas was considerably increased, setting in train a long series of reissues, copies and other versions. [..]
Although prints after Polidoro's vases led to many imitations in metal, stone and ceramic [..], their picturesque shapes made them equally or perhaps more influential as a source of motifs and pictorial props for decorative and easel painters, including artists like Sir Joshua Reynolds and, much later, Cézanne.
Their most important effect, however, was to license the distortions, rearrangements and additions to the classical language which characterized the increasingly bizarre baroque and rococo vases conceived in the hundred years after 1660."
[quote source | Amazon]
- The Pilazzo Milesi vases by Polidoro da Caravaggio were engraved as a suite of 34 prints by Cherubino Alberti^ in 1582. Only ten of the original set survived and were republished - in reversed appearance from the originals - in 1605 in Prague by Aegidius Sadeler^ and it's these ten prints seen above, hosted by Budapest's Museum of Fine Arts : Prints & Drawings [search on Alberti, Cherubino OR Polidoro da Caravaggio from the drop-down menu under 'Production People'].
- Homepage of the wonderful Budapest Museum of Fine Arts - Collection of Prints & Drawings in Hungary. - with more than 4,500 images available online.
- Pilazzo Milesi at the romasegreta site [trans.] has more background on the Golden Palace and the frescoes, including a couple of pictures. (but all the varied links above are worth seeing too; no single site has a comprehensive overview of the palace or the facade paintings, engraved prints and people invovled).
- One of the intriguing features - for me - about this set is the way in which slightly warped perspective has been rendered into the prints. The original fresco paintings were between the 1st and 2nd floor of the building and Polidoro produced a tromp l'oeil effect^ so that the vases, when seen from the street below, appeared in regular proportion, but they were only seen that way because the figures were drawn out or elongated. That distortion has been retained in the prints (more obvious in some), so I wonder if Polidoro's approach was an honest attempt at 'realism' or whether the distortion was in keeping with one of the traits of the emerging style of mannerism. Or perhaps I'm overthinking things. Again. [About | Wikipedia].
- Sincere thanks to Will C for his advice and research. I hope this is a satisfactory - if lazy - outcome.