The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0351 Monday, 9 February 2004
Date: Friday, 06 Feb 2004 11:25:51 -0500
Subject: Giulio Romano
Those of us who have chuckled over the years at Shakespeare's use of
Guilio or Julio Romano as the "rare Italian master" who made the statue
of Hermione for The Winter's Tale, may need to laugh out of the other
sides of our mouths.
The NYTimes on 1/30 ("Inside Art") reported the sale to the Kimbell
Museum of a portrait bust of Isabella d'Este by "Romano, one of the
leading sculptors of Renaissance Italy." "That it is a bust of a woman
makes it particularly rare."
The Times includes a picture of the bust, and it is incredibly detailed
and life-like. But this is not Giulio Romano, illustrator of the bawdy
sonnets of Aretino. This is Gian Cristoforo Romano (b. before 1470, d.
1512). A Google search for images by this sculptor turned up another, a
bust of Beatrice d'Este.
Apparently, Shakespeare had heard of him as a sculptor who made
portraits of women.
Here are some particulars about him:
Romano was a pupil of Bregno in Rome, was first employed in Ferrara and
travelled to Pavia to work on the Certosa. He precipitated a change in
Lombard sculpture, influenced by his own courtly style indebted to Roman
The delicate and quattrocentesque bust depicts the Renaissance princess
from Ferrara, [Beatrice] who was betrothed at five and married at
fifteen as still a child. Presumably she is portrayed during her
betrothal, because the inscription terms her daughter of Ercole d'Este.
She tried to compensate for an unsatisfactory marriage by transforming
Milan into a cultural centre of great distinction but her influence,
like her life, was transitory.
On the bust Romano acknowledges but restrains the fussy Lombard taste in
the decorative detail of the costume and head-dress. Her intricate
coiffure terminates in long a braid, neatly bound with ribbons, which
falls down her back like a plumb line.
Gian [Giovanni] Cristoforo Romano
(b Rome, c. 1465; d Loreto, 31 May 1512). Italian sculptor and
medallist. He was the son of Isaia da Pisa. Some scholars have followed
Vasari in suggesting that he was trained by his father or by Paolo
Romano, but Isaia stopped work and Paolo died too early to have had any
significant influence on him. It is likely that he studied with Andrea
Bregno, who worked in Rome from 1446 to 1506. He may have been in Urbino
before 1482, working at the Palazzo Ducale with the Lombard master
Ambrogio d'Antonio Barocci. Several doorframes in the palazzo have been
attributed to him. He then probably went to the Este court at Ferrara.
In 1490 he carved a portrait bust of Beatrice d?Este (Paris, Louvre),
the daughter of Ercole I d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, for her betrothal to
Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan. The attribution of this bust derives
from a letter of 12 June 1491 from Isabella d'Este, requesting that
Ludovico send Gian Cristoforo, who had done Beatrice's portrait, to
Mantua to work for her. The bust is inscribed with the imprese of a
sieve surrounded by a diamond ring. The sieve was a symbol of Ludovico,
the diamond of Ercole; entwined they suggest marriage and the hope of
fertility. This bust is the sculpture most securely attributed to Gian
Cristoforo and, with his medals, provides the basis for the assessment
of his style.
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