VI. LESSER LIGHTS

This age of decline for Italy was a resurrection for Savoy. As a lad of eight Emmanuel Philibert might have seen the French invade and conquer the duchy (1536). At twenty-five he inherited its crown but not its soil; at twenty-nine he played a leading part in the victory of the Spanish and the English over the French at St. Quentin (1557); and two years later France surrendered to him his ruined country and bankrupt throne. His regeneration of Savoy and Piedmont was a masterpiece of statesmanship. The Alpine slopes of his duchy were the haunts of Vaudois heretics, who were progressively transforming Catholic churches into whitewashed conventicles of Calvinist worship. Pope Pius IV offered him a year’s ecclesiastical revenues to suppress the sect; Emmanuel took some drastic measures; but when these resulted in large-scale emigration he turned to a policy of tolerance, checked the ardor of the Inquisition, and gave asylum to Huguenot refugees. He founded a new university at Turin, and financed the compilation of an encyclopedia—Teatro universale di tutte le scienze. He was always courteous, and repeatedly unfaithful, to his wife, Margaret of Valois, who gave him wise counsel and diplomatic aid, and who presided over the bright social and intellectual life of Turin. When Emmanuel died (1580) his duchy was one of the best-governed lands in Europe. From his line in the nineteenth century would come the kings of united Italy.

Meanwhile Andrea Doria, who in the late wars had passed from the French to the Spanish side with timely treachery, maintained his leadership in Genoa. The bankers there had helped to finance the campaigns of Charles V, who repaid them by leaving undisturbed their domination of the city. Not as badly hurt as Venice by the movement of commerce out of the Mediterranean into the Atlantic, Genoa became again a great port and strategic citadel. Galeazzo Alessi of Perugia, a pupil of Michelangelo, built sumptuous churches and palaces in Genoa. Vasari described the Via Balbi as the most splendid street in Italy.*

When Francesco Maria Sforza, last of his line as rulers, died in 1535, Charles V appointed an imperial vicar to govern Milan. Subjection brought peace, and the ancient city prospered once more. Alessi built there the handsome Palazzo Marino; and Leone Leoni, engraver in the Milan mint, rivaled Cellini in the miniature plastic arts, but found no Cellini to publish his excellence. The most distinguished Milanese of the age was San Carlo Borromeo, who re-enacted at the close of the Renaissance the role played by St. Ambrose in the decline of antiquity. He came of a rich patrician family; his uncle Pius IV made him a cardinal at twenty-one, and archbishop of Milan at twenty-two (1560). He was probably at that time the richest prelate in Christendom. But he renounced all his benefices except the archbishopric, gave the proceeds to charity, and consumed himself in almost fanatical devotion to the Church. He founded the order of Oblates of St. Ambrose, brought the Jesuits into Milan, and vigorously supported all movements for ecclesiastical reform that remained loyal to Catholicism. Accustomed to wealth and power, he insisted on the full medieval jurisdiction of his episcopal court, took into his hands much of the work of maintaining law and order, filled his archiepiscopal dungeons with criminals and heretics, and for twenty-four years was the real ruler of the city. Literature and art suffered under his passion for conformity and morality; but Pellegrino Tibaldi, architect and painter, flourished under his patronage, and designed the grandiose choir of the great cathedral. All the cardinal’s severity was forgiven when, in the plague of 1576, while most notables fled, he stayed at his post and comforted the sick and bereaved with tireless visits, vigils, and prayers.

At Cernobbio, on Lake Como, Cardinal Tolomeo Gallio, perhaps not sure of another heaven, built the Villa d’Este (1568). At Brescia Giambattista Moroni, pupil of Moretto, painted some portraits worthy to stand beside most of Titian’s.* In Cremona Vincenzo Campi carried on the family tradition of painting less than immortal pictures. At Ferrara Ercole II compromised the long quarrel of his state with the papacy by paying Paul III 180,000 ducats, and pledging 7,000 ducats tribute per year. Alfonso II gave the city another era of prosperity (1558–97), which culminated in the Gerusalemme liberata of Torquato Tasso and the Pastor fido of Giovanni Guarini. Girolamo da Carpi learned the art of painting from Garofolo, but (Vasari says) spent too much time on love and the lute, and married too soon, to indulge himself in the selfcenteredness of genius.

Piacenza and Parma rose to excited prominence in this age. Though they had for centuries belonged to Milan, and that duchy was now a dependency of Charles V, Pope Paul III claimed the two cities as papal fiefs, and invested his son Pierluigi Farnese with them in 1545. Not quite two years later the new duke was assassinated at Piacenza by a revolt of nobles reconciled to his lechery but resenting his monopoly of power and plums. Paul rightly ascribed the initiative in the conspiracy to Ferrante Gonzaga, then ruling Milan as vicar for Charles; and noted that imperial troops, providentially at hand, at once took possession of Piacenza for the Emperor (1547). Soon after Paul’s death Julius III appointed Pierluigi’s son Ottavio Duke of Parma; and as Ottavio was also Charles’s son-in-law, he was allowed to rule Parma till his death (1586).

No decline was visible in Bologna. Here Vignola designed the Portico de’ Banchi for a group of traders; Antonio Morandi added to the University an Archiginnasio famous for its noble cortile; and Sebastiano Serlio wrote an architectural treatise that rivaled Palladio’s in influence. In 1563 Pope Pius IV commissioned Tommaso Laureti of Palermo to set up a fountain in the Piazza di San Petronio. The sculptural part of the undertaking was offered to a young Flemish artist, who now came from Florence and perhaps received his name from the city in which he produced his greatest work. Giovanni da Bologna, or Gian Bologna, molded nine figures for the immense Fontana di Nettuno. At the summit of the group he raised a gigantic god of the waters, naked and strong; on the corners of the basin he cast in bronze four happy children in a game with leaping dolphins; at the feet of Neptune he placed four graceful maidens squeezing streams of water from their breasts. Bologna sent Gian back to Florence with florins and praise, and did not grudge the 70,000 florins ($875,000?) that it had spent on the magnificent fountain. The spirit of civic art was still alive in Italy.

As we take our parting look at Renaissance Rome, we are struck by the rapidity of her recovery from the disaster of 1527. Clement VII had shown more skill in remedying the ruin than in preventing it. His surrender to Charles had saved the Papal States, and their revenues helped the papacy to finance the restoration of Church discipline and the partial reconstruction of Rome. The full effect of the Reformation in reduced income was not yet felt in the papal treasury; and under Paul III the spirit and splendor of the Renaissance seemed for a moment revived.

Some arts were dying, others were being born or changing form. Giulio Clovio, a Croatian domiciled with Cardinal Farnese, was almost the last of the great illuminators of manuscripts. But in 1567 Claudio Monteverdi was born at Cremona; soon opera and oratorio would be added to the arts; and the polyphonic masses of Palestrina were already celebrating the reinvigoration of the Church. The great age of Italian painting was ending; Perino del Vaga and Giovanni da Udine, epigoni of Raphael, turned the art toward decoration. Sculpture was becoming baroque; Raffaello da Montelupo and Giovanni da Montorsoli exaggerated the exaggerations of their master Michelangelo, and produced statues with limbs contorted into original but bizarre and ungainly poses.

Architecture was now the most flourishing of the arts. The Farnese Palace and Gardens on the Palatine were improved by Michelangelo (1547) and completed by Giacomo della Porta (1580). Antonio da Sangallo the Younger designed the Pauline Chapel of the Vatican (1540). In the Sala Regia—leading to the Pauline and Sistine Chapels—Pope Paul III had the marble floor and paneling designed by this Sangallo, the walls frescoed by Vasari and the Zuccari brothers, the ceiling beautifully carved in stucco by Daniele da Volterra and Perino del Vaga. The papal apartments in Sant’ Angelo were embellished with frescoes and carvings by Perino, Giulio Romano, and Giovanni da Udine. The second Cardinal Ippolito d’Este built near Tivoli (1549) the earlier of two famous Villas d’Este; Pirro Ligorio prepared the plans, the Zuccari decorated the casino; and the terraced gardens still attest the fine taste and reckless wealth of the Renaissance cardinals.

The most popular architect in or about Rome in this age was Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola. Coming from Bologna to study the classic ruins, he formed his style by marrying the Pantheon of Agrippa to the Basilica of Julius Caesar, seeking to combine cupola and arches, columns and pediments; and, like Palladio, he wrote a book to propagate his principles. He achieved his first triumph at Caprarola, near Viterbo, by designing for Cardinal Farnese another vast and luxurious Palazzo Farnese (1547–9); and ten years later he built a third at Piacenza. But his most influential work was done at Rome in the Villa di Papa Giulio for Pope Julius III, the Porta del Popolo, and the church of the Gesù (1568–75). In this famous edifice, built for the rising Jesuits, Vignola designed a nave of impressive breadth and height, and converted the aisles into chapels; later architects would make this church the first clear manifestation of the baroque style—curved or contorted forms surfeited with ornament. In 1564 Vignola succeeded Michelangelo as chief architect at St. Peter’s, and shared in the honor of raising the great dome that Angelo had designed.

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!