J. Paul Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive
The Getty Center
Taddeo and Federico Zuccaro:
Artist-Brothers in Renaissance Rome
October 2, 2007-January 6, 2008
The journey to becoming an artist in Renaissance Rome during the 16th century was fraught with daily hardships and struggles. These tribulations are best exemplified in the tale of Taddeo Zuccaro, a young lad who left his home on the eastern coast of Italy at the tender age of 14 to pursue a career as an artist in Rome. His journey of starvation, deprivation, sickness, and ultimately triumph — sensitively recounted by his younger brother, Federico, who himself became an artist of great significance — are celebrated in a major exhibition organized by J. Paul Getty Museum.
Taddeo and Federico Zuccaro: Artist-Brothers in Renaissance Rome is the first exhibition devoted to the artist-brothers that focuses on their relationship and brings together some of their greatest drawings. The exhibition reveals the processes and struggles young artists in Renaissance Rome underwent in order to learn to draw and establish themselves as painters. It features nearly 80 works, mainly drawings, including loans from the Louvre, British Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Taddeo Zuccaro (1529-1566) was among the most famous Italian artists of his time and was a virtually unrivaled draftsman. He was also the teacher of his younger brother, Federico (about 1541-1609), who became one of the major painters and art theorists of his own generation. Both are considered exponents of so-called Mannerism, which formed a bridge between the Renaissance and Baroque periods. The Getty exhibition chronicles the artists’ careers in three sections: A Young Artists Journey, Taddeo & Federico’s Success, and Heroes & Inspiration.
A Young Artist’s Journey: Taddeo Zuccaro in Rome This section features the exhibition’s highlight, a series of 20 drawings (ca. 1595) by Federico Zuccaro — acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum in 1999 — chronicling the artistic coming of age of his older brother, Taddeo. Beginning with the moment Taddeo left his home in a provincial town as a 14-year old boy through his veneration as he works on a prestigious commission for the Palazzo Mattei, Rome, Federico painstakingly renders his brother’s arduous journey to artistic fame and fortune with impassioned reverence and impeccable draftsmanship to lionize the memory of Taddeo, who died at the young age of 37.
The series is the first illustrated artist’s biography in western art, and represents a pivotal moment in artists’ self-awareness. The hardships it documents were widespread for aspiring artists in Rome at that time. In addition to celebrating the Taddeo Zuccaro story, the drawings provide a vivid record of methods and processes by which all Renaissance artists trained and worked. The series depicts Taddeo grinding pigments, working on scaffolding, and studying masterpieces in private and public spaces throughout Rome, just as all artists at that time would have done. The curious shape of the drawings most likely derives from Federico’s aim to use their designs for the decoration of a lavish Roman palace, which he intended as a hostel for young artists visiting the city. Unfortunately, Federico’s palace was never utilized as he intended. Some of the series highlights include:
Taddeo Rebuffed by Francesco il Sant'Angelo (ca.1595) Taddeo here seeks an apprenticeship in Rome with his cousin, the painter Francesco il Sant’Angelo. In a wonderful counterpoint of gestures he offers his letter of introduction but is brusquely sent away, and leaves in tears. Nevertheless, Taddeo continues to study, and is seen in the background copying a large frescoed facade.
Taddeo in the House of Giovanni Piero Calabrese (ca. 1595) Taddeo eventually gained an apprenticeship, but was mistreated and starved. Here he appears twice: grinding colors in the background, and holding a lamp so Calabrese can study a drawing by Raphael. The text reads “you deprive me of that which I desire most” referring to Taddeo’s anguish at not being allowed to look at the Raphael. To keep Taddeo from helping himself to any bread, the family kept it in a basket hanging from the ceiling with a bell attached as an alarm.
Taddeo Copying Raphael’s Frescoes in the Loggia of the Villa Farnesina (ca. 1595) By the light of a crescent moon, Taddeo copies Raphael’s famed frescoes in the arches of the Farnesina loggia. In the background, the poor homeless lad has fallen asleep with his sketching board still on his knees. This is one of the most striking and heart-wrenching drawings of the series.
Taddeo Decorating the Facade of the Palazzo Mattei (ca. 1595) This is the climax of the series, as Taddeo decorates the facade of the famous Palazzo Mattei. He sits on a scaffold, while the Three Graces crowd him along with allegories of Spirit and Pride. Two allegorical figures of Fame fly above as the facade is admired by the greatest artists of the day, including Girolamo Siciolante da Sermoneta (ca.1521-1575), Daniele da Volterra (1509-1566), Michelangelo (1475-1564), and Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574).
Of special significance in this section is the reunion of the magnificent series with a drawing recently rediscovered in the Louvre by Getty curator Julian Brooks, one of four in the series, which was lost in the 1700s. These were portraits by Federico of Michelangelo, Polidoro da Caravaggio, Raphael, and of course Taddeo. By depicting his brother in a series with such masters, he elevated Taddeo to their status in the canon of art history.
Triumph: Taddeo & Federico's Success While the drawing series gives a complete and detailed picture of Taddeo’s artistic journey from rags to riches, it ends at the moment of Taddeo’s success at 18 and begs the question, what happened next?
The adjoining gallery at the Getty will explore the mature projects of the artist-brothers in Renaissance Rome, including several commissions from the Pope and great Roman families to execute frescoes for church chapels, Roman palaces, and pleasure villas before Taddeo’s early death. The installation also includes a wall of Taddeo’s drawings recreating the facade of the Palazzo Mattei, the great commission celebrated in the climax of Federico’s series. Tragically, weather has destroyed the original frescoes on the facade, making these drawings the last testament to the remarkable work that secured Taddeo’s fame. The busy streets of Rome were once lined with such painted buildings, but few paintings now remain. Federico’s great achievement on the facade of a building in Piazza Sant’Eustachio (around 1559) is also represented in this gallery. In addition to being Federico’s crowning glory, this Piazza was also the subject of a serious argument between the brothers when Taddeo repeatedly interjected, trying to perfect his brother’s work.
The most sentimental pairing in the gallery is two drawings of A Heavily Draped Apostle Seen From Behind (both from 1566), one by the hand of Taddeo Zuccaro and the other by the hand of Federico. Taddeo’s version was completed first and from the inscription on it in Federico’s handwriting this is known to be the last drawing made by Taddeo before his death. Federico diligently copies the pose to perfect it for his own use in future compositions, reaffirming Federico’s lifelong admiration of his brother as well as the tradition of copying other artist’s work to perfect one’s own hand.
Heroes & Inspiration Rome attracted aspiring artists from provincial towns throughout Italy and from all over Europe during the Renaissance. They flocked to the city not only to see the incredible chapels, palazzo facades, and antiquities, but also to sketch them and perfect their own draftsmanship. This was illustrated frequently in Federico’s portrayal of his brother Taddeo, including when Taddeo copies Michelangelo’s newly completed Last Judgment fresco in the Sistine Chapel. A gallery will be dedicated to drawings showing how Taddeo and Federico Zuccaro and other artists learned from Raphael, Michelangelo, Polidoro da Caravaggio facades and antique statues.
Taddeo and Federico Zuccaro: Artist-Brothers in Renaissance Rome is organized by the J. Paul Getty Museum, and is curated by Associate Curator of Drawings Julian Brooks.