Francesco Raibolini – New Documents About Francia

IN the Archiginnasio Library there is a series of volumes of manuscript bearing the following title : ” Notizie de Professori del Disegno cive Pittori, Scultori ed Architetti Bolognesi e de Forestieri di sua scuola racolte ed in piu tomi divisi,” by Marcello Oretti, “Bolognese Accad. del Institu. della Scienze di Bologna.”

My attention was drawn to these books by the Chief Librarian when I was working in the library, and on examining them I found that they contained a large amount of interesting information.

They appear to have been compiled by Oretti as a sort of commonplace book, in which he has put down with the greatest care every scrap of information that he could gather as to the Bolognese artists, copying his notes from papers, deeds, and documents that he came across, and also gathering up all the information from his friends that he could find as to his favourite subject.

The volumes do not bear any date, but from internal information I judge that they were in course of construction during a prolonged period ; and as Oretti is said to have died at a great age (over ninety years), it is probable that they were the work of his life, and occupied much of his leisure time. I place their compilation between the years 164o and 1740, and am unable to ascertain nearer than that their approximate date.

Under each artist Oretti gives in the first place a careful bibliography, marking not only the very edition that he has used of each book, but the very page, and in some instances, in the case of folio books, the very line in which the reference to the artist appears.

This list he follows by a list of the works of the artist as far as he is acquainted with them, adding information that he has gathered up about the picture that he names.

Much of this list it is important to give, as it records the pictures which in Oretti’s time were given to Francia. It is well to mention at once that Oretti is very careful to distinguish between Francesco Francia and Giulio and Giacomo, who followed him, and he gives a list of the works of the two latter men quite separately from the one he gives of the master, attributing to the two sons most of the works now ascribed to them, and considering them far less worthy of notice than Francia himself. I mention this as the question may be raised whether Oretti has not confused the three men in his lists, the reply to which is that he has taken very evident care to keep them apart, and that the pictures which he gives to Francia are those which he considers should rightly belong to that master.

In Bologna he gives the following works to Francia :

San Stefano : A Crucifixion with Mary Magdalen and St. Francis.

Santa Teckla in the Sacristy : A Virgin and Child

with St. Peter and Sta. Teckla, dated 1496.

San Domenico : A Blessed Virgin and Child. Della Morte : The Painter and St. Roch.

San Petronio : A Crucifixion with St. Francis only. San Tommaso : A Fresco of Our Lady in the Portico. San Paolo : A Madonna on the Tabernacle.

San Girolamo, Via di Bagno A Virgin and Child with St. John the Baptist.

San. Lorenzo : Madonna and Two Saints.

Hospital of St. Francis : Madonna, St. Francis, and St. Anthony of Padua.

Palazzo Boschi : Portrait of Francia like the one sent to Raphael.

There are also pictures by the artist, he states, in the following palaces : Albegari, Caji, Bolognini, Boncompagni, Bentivoglio, Bianchi, Cospi (Presentation in the Temple), Gozzadini, Girolami, Guavi, Guadavillani, Lambertini (portraits of that family), Malvasia, Pepoli, Sampieri, Riarvi, Scappi, Zani, and Zambeccari.

Of pictures in other cities he records the following :

Cesena—Santo Spirito : A Madonna.

Cremona—St. Lorenzo : First chapel (left), Madonna and Child. St. Joseph’s Chapel, San Giuseppe.

St. Monica : Virgin with Child, and with St. John the Evangelist and St. Augustine.

Dresden : Adoration of the Kings.

Ferrara—Capuchin Church : Madonna on Foot contemplating the Child in a Rose Garden. San Sylvestro : Madonna and Child.

San Benedetto’s Refectory A Marriage of Caria

Santa-Maria degli Angeli : St. Catherine of Siena, and a portrait of Alessandro Farussini and Caterina Macchiavelli, his mother.

Della Scala : Christ dead in the Arms of His Mother, with St. John, St. Francis, and St. Mary Magdalene.

San Salvadore : St. Roch, St. Sebastian, and the Madonna.

Mantua—Convent of St. Ursula : Virgin adoring the Child (from the Apartment of the Duchess Margharita Gonzaga).

Milan—Casa Pertusati : Blessed Virgin and St.

Francis, signed ” Francia aurifaber Bono.” Modena—Carmelite Church : Picture of St. Albert, the Carmelite, given by the Duke Francesco

Maria d’ Urbino ; also A Baptism.

Church of St. Cabaldo (?) fuori di Citta: An Annunciation and Madonna after his predella (? correct, as writing is not clear).

Parma—San Giovanni Monaco (a Benedictine Church): The Dead Christ. Ducal Palace Garden, A Madonna.

Reggio—San Pietro : A Madonna.

Carmine Church : St. Alberto.

Spirito Church : Another picture.

Rome—Casa Pamphilici : Madonna with little St. John.

Casa Guiesti : Mary Magdalene.

Casa Sacchetti : A picture.

Widow Ludomisia : Two pictures in two rooms.

There are also pictures in the Palazzi Spada, Colonna, and Giustiniani, and there is his own portrait in Rome which he sent to Raphael.

Urbino : Lucrezia.

Of the pictures at Bologna, those in the churches of San Stefano and Santa Teckla cannot be traced. The latter church is no longer in existence, and of the picture, which would be most interesting, I can hear nothing.

The one in San Domenico is the picture, in all probability, upon which the metal crowns have been placed, and which is named on p. 105. The ones in Della Morte, San Petronio, San Tommaso, and San Paolo, cannot be found at present. San Paolo has been entirely restored since Oretti wrote. The one named in the Church of San Girolamo, now no longer in existence, may be either the group in the Barberini Palace or the similar one at Parma, probably not the latter (see p. 104). The Madonna and two saints at San Lorenzo is the picture that now hangs in the Hermitage Gallery at St. Petersburg, which is known to have come from that church (see Plate XX.).

There is a picture of the Madonna with St. Francis and St. Anthony now in the Accademia in Florence, about which there has been some considerable controversy. Most critics, including the custodians of the gallery, give it to the school of Francia rather than to the master himself; but from this attribution I am disposed to differ, especially as it is clear that this picture was once in Bologna. It certainly differs in many ways from the style and colouring of Francia, but in more ways has a close resemblance to his work. The face of the Madonna can be found in two of his accepted works, the Child in three, the face of St. Anthony in one, and that of St. Francis in two. The draperies are those of Francia, and, although the landscape is not very characteristic, yet it closely resembles that of ” The Adoration ” at Bologna ; and, on the whole, I am inclined to find in this picture the one that Oretti names.

The portraits of Francia, to which reference will be made in Chapter IX., are, unfortunately, no longer to be found, unless they are known under other names ; but it is clear that Oretti believed in the tradition, related by Malvasia, as to Francia sending his portrait to Raphael, since he twice refers to the portrait—once in this passage, and again when he records the pictures in Rome.

It is also quite clear that he accepts Francia as a portrait-painter to a far fuller extent than he has lately been accepted.

I have not been able to trace the history of either of the pictures that Oretti gives at Cremona, although there is a local tradition that there was a work by the artist in the San Giuseppe Chapel in the cathedral, and that building had San Lorenzo as one of its patron saints.

In the picture-gallery at Cesena there is a small picture that might possibly be the one to which Oretti alludes. The Dresden picture we know (Plate XXXIX.).

The first picture named at Ferrara is evidently the one now in Munich.

The one named in the Church of Della Scala may possibly be ” The Deposition ” now at Turin, dated 1515 ; but in that case the saint, whom I style St. Anthony, and who is called by the custodians in Turin St. Albert the Carmelite, must be St. Francis if Oretti is right. I do not believe him to be St. Albert, as there is no sign of the dragon under his feet, and he is not represented as St. Albert is, but carries a lily, usually borne in Francia’s pictures by St. Anthony ; but it is quite possible that it may be St. Francis. The early history of the Turin picture is not very clear, nor how it got to Casale, whence it came to Turin.

The other pictures at Ferrara it would indeed be delightful to find, especially the one with the donor and his mother. The Convent of San Benedetto has now been turned into barracks, and there is no trace of any work such as Oretti names to be found in it. ” The Marriage ” would very possibly have been a fresco-painting.

The picture named in Milan was in the palace of the Pertusati family until quite a recent date, but now I am unable to hear what has become of it.

Of the Modena pictures, I take it that ” The Baptism ” is the one now in Dresden, which is said to have come from that city, but which does not appear in the list of works acquired from Modena which is now in Dresden. As it is evident that there was a ” Baptism ” in Modena, and as tradition has always said that the one in Dresden came from that city, even although it may not be mentioned in the list, I am disposed to think that Oretti’s statement may be taken to settle the question.

The Carmelite picture I have already (see p. 74) stated is, in my opinion, the one at Chantilly.

I am not clear what is Oretti’s meaning about the other picture, ” The Annunciation,” nor can I at present find out to which church he alludes.

At Parma it is satisfactory to find allusion to the fine ” Deposition ” still in the gallery, and probably the ” Madonna,” which is also named, is the one that hangs near it in the same gallery.

It is natural to consider the one that Oretti states was at Mantua as the one now in the Munich Gallery, which is always said to have come from the Gonzaga family into the possession of the Empress Josephine, and thence into the Munich Gallery ; but this one is so well described by Oretti as in Ferrara, that the matter becomes one of some doubt as to which of the two entries must be taken as referring to the Munich picture. I am disposed to give the Ferrara one the preference, and to look further for the picture out of the Convent of St. Ursula. No pictures can now be traced in Reggio, and, with regard to Rome, the information is of too slight a character to enable a search to be made with much chance of success. The Urbino picture, which Vasari says was painted for Duke Guido Baldo, is said to have been at one time in the Borghese Gallery, and to have been numbered 64; but it is there no longer. Lord Northbrook has a fine picture of this subject, which is evidently of the school of Francia, if not by the artist, and there is a still finer one in the National Gallery of Ireland. It is quite possible that this is the one named by Oretti.

In addition to this list of the works of the master, Oretti gives odd scraps of information as to Francia when he refers to other artists connected with Bologna in his portly volumes.

Thus, with reference to Perugino, he speaks of the “Virgin and Child in Glory” in the Church of San Giovanni-in-Monte, which is now to be found in the Pinacoteca, and also of the “Assumption” in the Church of San Martino Maggiore, respecting which some critics have doubted whether or not it should be given to Perugino at all. The latter, he says, hangs in the Orsi Chapel, and he also speaks of another work by Perugino; a Presepio, which is not now in the city.

He, however, records the fact — important in its bearing upon Francia—of Perugino coming to Bologna to receive the instructions for the pictures for San Giovanni-in-Monte ; and again in 1499, that he might superintend the placing of the picture, and so, indirectly, he not only dates this fine work—which in my book on Perugino ” I had given to about 1496—but also sets at rest the question of Perugino coming to the place where Francia was, and makes the chances of these two artists having met so much the more probable (see pp. 40, 41). He tells us that the ” Virgin in Glory” that Perugino painted was for the Vizzani Chapel in San Giovanni-in-Monte, which is also a new piece of information.

Another manuscript in Bologna, by one Amorini, gives a few more detached pieces of information.

It states that the artist who made the frame for the Bentivoglio altar-piece in San Giacomo Maggiore was named Andrea Formigini. It states that the picture at Reggio of the ” Madonna and Saints,” which is probably the one that Oretti says was in the Church of San Pietro, was done for Benedictines, and has Benedictine saints in it.

It further states that in the Church of Santa Maria del Monte, outside the walls of Cesena, there was painted for the Benedictines an altar-piece of great beauty, and there certainly is a picture in that church which might answer to his description ; but I cannot believe that it is by Francia, and am disposed to think that reference is intended to the ” Presentation in the Temple,” which now hangs in the gallery, and which was commissioned by Benedictines. A Life of Francia issued in 1841 by another person named Amorini gives some reference to the picture now at St. Petersburg, with ” St. Laurence and St. Jerome,” but contains no new information as to it. It was painted for San Lorenzo in Bologna in 1501.

In the original records of the Guilds, I found the mention of Francia’s matriculation as a goldsmith recorded thus : ” 1482.-Francesco de Maurus de Raibolino 10 X” (perhaps the tenth of the tenth month) ; and again further on, when he took office in the Guild, the fact is thus stated : “1486.—Francesco Marco de Raibolino Congr. S. Niccolo e S. Felice” (referring to where he resided) ” detto il Pittore il Franza.” There are also the entries as to the matriculation of his sons to be seen in the same book,)

In a paper about the Mint at Bologna I found two entries—one stating in very lengthy form that in November, 1506, the painter Francia was Master of the Mint, by the seal of Pope Julius IL ; and the other recording that ” on November 27, 1508, Messer Franza the painter and engraver of metals of all sorts was Master of the Mint by the will of the Pope.”

There are also records of his appointment as Gonfaloniere del Popolo and Tribuni della Plebe on December 1o, 1482; and, lastly, the two entries of the death of the painter to which Calvi alludes, one of which simply records that Francia died in 1517, as follows : ” 1517 a di Gennaro mori Francesc Francia orefice e pittore eccellente “; the other, which is the Seccadinari record, reads : “1517-7 Gennaro mori Messer Francesco Francia miglior orefice d’ Italia et buonissimo pittore, bravissimo giojelliere, bellissimo di persona et eloquentissimo, benche fosse filiuolo di un falegname, della cappella di Santa Caterina di Saragozza.”

Such are the pieces of information that have re-warded my search in Bologna-those relating to the Gozzadini predella and the Chantilly picture having been already mentioned. There are, however, a large number of other manuscripts that should reward the diligent searcher who is possessed of unlimited time ; and in the Oretti volumes alone there are quantities of important records relating to all the Bolognese painters, with, in some cases, extracts from their own letters, copies of their signatures, and even, in a few instances, autograph letters of the later men bound in with the pages. It would be a praiseworthy task to reprint the whole of the series of volumes for the use of students, and one quite worthy of the attention of a Government, or of some wealthy lover of literature and art.