Theses Doctoral

Ruptures in Painting after the Sack of Rome: Parmigianino, Rosso, Sebastiano

Ng, Aimee

The Sack of Rome of 1527 was the greatest disruption to the history of sixteenth-century Italian art. Sufficient attention has been paid to its ramifications in terms of the diaspora of artists from Rome that disseminated "Mannerism" throughout Europe and monumental papal projects executed in its wake, including Michelangelo's Last Judgment (1534-41), Perino del Vaga's decoration of the Sala Paolina in Castel Sant'Angelo (1545-47), and the propagation of a more disciplined use of classicism in architecture and literature by the papacy of Pope Paul III. Focus on these consequences, of a grand scale, emphasizes the impact of the event for papal history but has obscured to some extent a set of works that was directly and immediately affected by the Sack of Rome: paintings by artists who were dispersed from Rome, produced in cities of exile. These paintings by displaced artists are the subject of my dissertation. Repercussions of the Sack disrupted the practice of painters who were forced to flee the ruined city, including Polidoro da Caravaggio, Perino del Vaga, Giovanni da Udine, Giovanni Antonio Lappoli, Vincenzo Tamagni, Parmigianino, Rosso Fiorentino, and Sebastiano del Piombo. The first post-Sack paintings of three of these artists, executed for private patrons (rather than under papal or imperial direction as in the cases of Giovanni da Udine and Perino), signal the disruption of the Sack through both marked stylistic innovation and iconographic manipulation: Parmigianino's St. Roch with a Donor in Bologna, Rosso's Lamentation at the Foot of the Cross in Sansepolcro, and Sebastiano del Piombo's Nativity of the Virgin in Rome. In these altarpieces, each artist exhibits a distinct change in his creative production and disturbs the iconography of a well-established sacred subject by inserting an aberrant and conspicuous reference to Rome. Together, these examples suggest that, while the artists do not illustrate the event of the Sack itself in their works, they mark their paintings as products of a specifically post-Sack context, in which the identity of the three painters as refugees from Rome was an essential component. This study raises the problem of the roles of historical trauma and of biography in art historical investigation.
Chapter One examines contemporary writings about artists and the Sack and explores the extent to which an artist's association with the event was both a deeply personal issue as well as a public aspect of identity. The cases of Polidoro, Lappoli, and Tamagni are presented here as complementary cases to the chapter studies of Parmigianino, Rosso, and Sebastiano. Chapter Two investigates Parmigianino's production of the St. Roch altarpiece in Bologna, where his new monumentality and dramatic effect combine with an incongruous inclusion of antique costume to assert his artistic lineage to and recent departure from Rome. Chapter Three studies Rosso in Sansepolcro and the ways in which his Lamentation signals his distance from Rome - both physical and artistic - through appropriation of local culture and through his inversion of the figure of the Roman soldier. Chapter Four follows Sebastiano back to Rome after exile where he resumed the project for the Nativity that had been interrupted by the Sack. His emulation of the art of his former rival, Raphael, introduces an aberrant classical component that acknowledges at once the nostalgia for pre-Sack Rome inherent in his commission and the transformation, initiated as a result of the Sack, of the legendary site of the Nativity itself, at Loreto.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Art History and Archaeology
Thesis Advisors
Rosand, David
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 1, 2014