Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Pirro Ligorio: The Renaissance Artist, Architect, and Antiquarian

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Pirro Ligorio: The Renaissance Artist, Architect, and Antiquarian

Article excerpt

Pirro Ligorio: The Renaissance Artist, Architect, and Antiquarian. By David R. Coffin. (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press. 2004.Pp. xv, 226. $55.00.)

The present volume is the most authoritative exploration of the life and work of one of the Renaissance great figures, the Neapolitan artist and antiquarian Pirro Ligorio. References to this multifaceted artist have often appeared in a variety of bibliographical material from Giovanni Baglione's brief biographical account of Ligorio in his Vitae (1642) to a 1960 publication by Coffin, Villa d'Este at Tivoli. The volume at hand has its origins in a seminar on Renaissance and Renaissances given at Princeton in the mid-1940's by that luminary Erwin Panofski, who obviously inspired Coffin to pursue the study of Ligorio's classical and humanistic background.

Central to Ligorio's artistic thesis is the need to seek the ideal model for contemporary society in classical antiquity, particularly Roman antiquity. Thus, imperfect or fragmentary classical remains as well as fragmentary inscriptions must be restored, and then studied and imitated. Nevertheless, in spite of his penchant for imitation, Ligorio did not eschew innovation, as is evidenced by the form of and information contained in the second encyclopedia written alphabetically by him at Ferrara, now found at the Archivio di Stato at Turin, which sets forth an organizing principle that would be used in years to come.

Chapter 1 of this volume deals with Ligorio's early years in Rome, caught in the midst of political and social problems but at the same time enjoying the first benefits of the creative milieu found in and sponsored by the newly elected pontiff, Paul III, the former Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, and more specifically by his grandson, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese. It is here and during this pontificate that we discover Ligorio's artistic flair, as seen in his Victory drawing, in his Dance of Salome and his Map of Home, as well as several engravings and sketches, all of which serve as testament to his genius. Chapter 2 picks up on the events of the previous chapter and delves into the particulars of Ligorio's new papal service under Pope Paul IV, a service marked by increased popularity and appreciation of Ligorio as architect and archaeologist. …

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