(As Per Sign)
Castel S. Angelo
When Paul III (Alessandro Farnese) was elected pope (1534) the city of Rome was still in a state of abandon following the pillaging of Emperor Charles V of Hapsburg’s troops. Indeed the Sack of Rome had brought destruction throughout the whole city, but Castel S. Angelo had remained unscathed. The new pope was committed to a grandiose plan to rebuild the city along the lines of classical Rome, inspired by the supremacy of the arts achieved under his predecessor Leo X, and choose to transform the former Mausoleum of Hadrian (123 A.D.) from a fortress into a noble residence. A regal apartment with a reception room, more than ten rooms, a library, corridors and staircases was created in the central part of the building with a loggia opening onto Ponte S. Angelo, the Tiber and Rome. The rooms were all lavishly decorated with tasteful frescoes and the apartment boasted two loggias, placed opposite each other, known as the loggias of Paul III and Julius II, which still offer one of the most charming views of the city. The former rooms of the apartment of Nicholas V located on the lower floor, subsequently frequented by his various successors including Julius II, Leo X and Clement VII, were also decorated with paintings. Clement VII’s bathroom, known as “la stufetta” (the little stove) in Italian, with a heating system similar to the one used in Roman baths where the air circulated in the thick walls, is stylishly decorated with stuccowork and frescoes attributed to Giovanni da Udine. The works carried out in the apartment of Paul III were entrusted to Perino del Vaga and his team during the period from 1545-47, and were completed by Domenico Zaga the following year (1548). Perino reaped Raphael’s inheritance and created the decoration of Castel S. Angelo in the light of ancient Roman art and his own personal narrative streak. Each room is linked to the figure or theme it is dedicated to with scenes fitted in between incomparably imaginary grotesques. Called upon to take part in this revocation of Rome in its glory days by Pope Leo, Perin took over from Luzio Romano or of Todi, already involved in works in the northern part of the castle (1543-45) (Library, Cagliostro’s Room, Hadrian’s Room, Sala dei Festoni). Perin worked in the southern part of the castle (Paoline Room, Hall of Perseus, Hall of Cupid and Psyche) was surrounded by other famous names such as Pellegrino Tibaldi, Girolamo Siciolante de Sermoneta (loggia of Paul III, Paoline Room) Prospero Fontana (Hadrian’s Room and Sala dei Festoni) and Domenico Zaga (Hall of Apollo). The organization and working methods employed, which have come to light from documents, are of great interest. There were four figures in charge of the works and indeed alongside the name of Perin del Vaga we can find the names of Siciolante, Luzio Romano and Domenico Zaga, personalities of varying levels, involved in the works in successive periods and in separated parts of the castle, each acting independently and with five or six co-workers. They were responsible for the architecture and decorative design of each room and availed themselves of the services and creative freedom of their own teams (E. Gaudioso). Grotesque decoration prevails in the northern part while historical painting with narrative decoration seen in the Hall of Apollo offering a pleasant summary, dominates in the southern part. The castle’s Farnesian rooms form one of the strongholds of mannerist painting in Rome and are on par with the other important cycles of paintings linked to the name of Paul III such as the ones found in Palazzo Farnese in Caprarola and in the Vatican Museums. Together with those found in the Sala Regia (Royal Room) and the Paoline Chapel, which also feature works by Michelangelo, they form the expression of the supremacy of the papacy and the need for continuity of tradition from Pagan to Christian, and also represent an important example of “collective work” according to the custom of the times. The Courtyard of Honour, known as the Courtyard of the Angel, at the entrance to the papa residence was a place of prestige desired by the Pope. It is home to the marble statue of St. Michael the Archangel Sheathing his Sword, sculpted by Raffaele da Montelupo (1544), follower and assistant of Michelangelo for the tomb of Julius II in St. Peter in Chains, in addition to two ancient statues of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius symbolizing power. The marble statue is linked to the tradition of St. Gregory’s vision of the St. Michael the Archangel waving his spade of fire to defeat the plague in Rome. It was replaced in the 1700s by a bronze version by the sculptor Antoon Verschaffelt (1752) which can still be seen today. The Paoline Room, completed in 1544 with the installation of the entrance door’s lintel, brings together the individual imprints of a number of artists: Perino with his latter, more epic, dramatic style, Luzio Luzi with his energetic, enchanted grotesque and P. Tibaldi with his plastic tension that hints at his future gigantic style. The wall decoration avails itself of a spectacular group of stuccowork and frescoes, in the illusion of different materials, which culminates in the five monochromes telling the History of Alexander the Great (1546-48), dummy bronze bas reliefs set inside dummy frames. This room, which formed the heart of the papal apartment (1542-49), with its walls adorned with allegorical figures, the Farnese family symbols and dividing columns, represents the apotheosis of the papacy. This is achieved through the union of the values of the classical world, retrieved through the virtuous feats of a leader such as Alexander, with the actions and symbols of the Christian religion of the Old and New Testament. The St. Michael the Archangel dominates the room’s painted stage in his role as a soldier of the battle of all time against evil and a messenger bridging the human and the divine.