Elogia Veris Clarorum Virorum Imaginibus Apposita


Venezia, Tramezzini, 1546

In –folio, ll. (4), 102, (4), a woodcut printer’s mark on title, reprinted on last leaf. Some small wormholes.The first edition of this catalog of the most important and notorius portraits gallery of the Renaissance.

“The most appreciated portraits’ Italian collection was by Paolo Giovio, Nocera Bishop, who stated in a 1521 letterhis intention of putting together true literate men portraits, whose sight could push men towards goodness. His intentionwas gathering artists’, popes’ and princes’portraits andin 1537 he built a museum, in Como, to host the paintings. Giovio persuaded many people to send their portraits, pledgingthat in his museum the would have been eternalised toposterity. The Medici sent a painter to Como, to paint copies of the collection, many of that are now in Uffizi collection. During the XVII Century the Medici’s copies were further copied for the Petite Galerie du Louvre” (L. Campbell, RenaissancePortraits, 1990, p. 190).

The 1521 letter related to “virissimis clarorum in litteris virorum imaginibus” was addressed to Equicola and is date dAugust the 28th (Lettere, ed. G. Ferrero, Rome, 1956; p. 92).Giovio started collecting celebrated men’s portraits whileat papal court, between 1514 and 1534, and started building the museum to include them in the Autumn of 1537; in 1538 spring he wrote “I am building my museum”. The Museum,in Borgo Vico, was conceived after roman villas models, as the Plinio Junior’s one. And as like these ones, it’s on a lake shore. Destroyed in 1615 it’s today known after a painting in Como Garibaldi Museum (Stefano della Torre,Le vedute del Museo Gioviano, in “Quaderni Ebresi”, 1985,vol. VII).

The Giovio’s one was a huge museum and portraits were shown along a serie of room on two floors. There were fout main sections: dead scholars and authors; living scholars and authors; artists; popes, kings, military chiefs. At Giovio’s death, in 1552, the first two sections included about 200 portraits, the last one about 150, while we don’t have much information about the artists’ gallery, never classified by Giovio.

He collected his portraits gathering them by various sources, not only demanding them to be sent by leters, but also copying after originals in other collections, and after coins, medals, or directly ordering. Many were given, for instance Giulio Romano left him the copies made by Raffaello’s pupils of the Bramantino portraits in Eliodoro room on Vatican,done before they were covered by the new frescoes. Giovio’s gallery was extraordinary and peerless, probably the widest ever done in its kind, and he gave new stimulus to the Renaissance tradition of decorating palaces by celebrated men portraits. Still now it’s the source to know the appearance of many characters, including Christopher Columbus or Cesare Borgia.

In Rome Giovio purchased the portraits of Dante, Boccaccio,Alberti, Cosimo de’ Medici the Oldest, Pico della Mirandola, Poliziano, Ficino, Aretino, Bembo and Trissino.We know he owned a Leonardo’s portrait, done after a drawing today in Windsor: Giovio was the author of the first Leonardo’s biography.

Some portraits are still surviving, from his collection, as the Columbus’ one, now in Como museum, and the famous Budè’s one. Given the quality of many paintings, it’s clear that Giovio was less interested to artistic quality of the work than to similarity to the subject. However, some pieces were true works of art, painted by artists like Mantegna and Titian.The collection included also the famous Andrea Doria’s portrait,in Neptune’s clothes, naked over the waist, with his trident, painted by Bronzino, now in Brera gallery, in Milan.This so fine printed catalogue, on scholars and writers’ portraits, dead and alive, doesn’t depict paintings, but it reproduces the inscriptions written by Giovio himself, to combine with paintings. The Elogia were ink-written on vellum, to be put below every portrait.

This edition is not illustrated: Giovio explains in his dedication to Ottavio Farnese, that to copy portraits would have been much hard and the simple reading would have been more profitable (an ante literam example of history of art based on text). The Elogia became exempla to the reader, and models of fair behavior.

A part of original manuscript is preserved at Como library, written in the fine Giovio’s Italic.


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