I had intended for this post to explain how Pontormo’s portrait of Lorenzino de’ Medici connected with the image of King Francis I in the Vasari painting of the marriage between Henry II and Catherine de’ Medici, but instead I shall focus on the group of four figures to the right of the French king (shown below).
Tucked in immediately behind Francis is Lorenzino de’ Medici. Next is Cardinal Ippolito de’ Medici. Behind him is the Spanish priest and former soldier Ignatius Loyola, placed next to another cardinal, Girolamo Verallo.
What binds these four men together is that they all have a connection with Venice. The group can also be split into two pairs: Lorenzino connects with Ippolito; Ignatius links with Verallo.
Giorgio Vasari or his assistant Giovanni Stradano (and I’m beginning to sense it was Stradano who was responsible for the composition) connected the four-man group to a famous porphyry sculptured group of figures known as the Portrait of Four Tetrarchs and attached to the façade of St Mark’s Basilica in Venice. The two sets of sculpted tetrarchs are located on the south corner of the Basilica and were brought to Venice as loot following the Sack of Constantinople in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade.
This also makes a connection to the figure of Pope Clement VII and the Sack of Rome in 1527 by rogue troops of Emperor Charles V. Clement was kept captive for six months in Castel Sant’Angelo. While imprisoned, Clement grew a beard which he kept for the rest of his life as a sign of mourning for the sack of Rome, an example followed by his successor Paul III, placed at Clement’s right shoulder and looking upwards.
An earlier Sack of Rome by Visigoths happened in 410, about a century after the figures of the Four Tetrarchs were said to have been sculpted. As to their identity one theory is “they represent a dynastic group of the Constantinian dynasty”. If so, this in turn would connect with the figure of Lorenzino de’ Medici who, in a drunken state as a youth, set about decapitating and mutilating some of the statues on the Arch of Constantine in Rome. His actions would have served as a painful reminder to Pope Clement VII of the sack of Rome and his own captivity. For his crime, Lorenzino was exiled from Rome.
Now to the Venice connections. Lorenzino was assassinated in Venice on February 26, 1548; Ippolito was once a papal legate assigned to the Republic of Venice by his cousin Pope Clement VII. They are paired because of their same interest in deposing Alessandro de Medici as Duke of Florence.
Ignatius Loyola was ordained priest in Vienna on June 24,1537. He renewed his vows of poverty and chastity to the then papal legate to Vienna, Cardinal Girolamo Verallo who became the priest’s protector. Verallo was already acquainted with Pope Paul III as his father served as the pope’s personal physician. Hence Girolamo’s placing behind the figure of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, standing in line for the papacy behind Pope Clement VII. Girolamo’s head is also placed immediately behind the head of Henry, Duke of Orleans, later to become Henry II of France. After Julius III was elected to the papacy in 1550 the new pope made Girolamo legate a latere to Henry II the following year.
It’s important to note that some of the figures in the marriage scene have been assigned more than one identity by the painter.
• More disclosures on this work in my next post.
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