Giuseppe Cesari

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Self-portrait of the Cavalier d'Arpino in the Accademia di San Luca, Rome, around 1630

Giuseppe Cesari (February 1568 in Arpino , † July 3, 1640 in Rome ), also known as Cavalier d'Arpino (i.e. Knight of Arpino), was an Italian painter.


Cavalier d'Arpino: Madonna and Child and St. Peter and Paul , oil on canvas, 174 × 120 cm, 1608–09, Nelson Atkins Museum , Kansas City (Missouri)

Giuseppe was the son of Muzio di Polidoro, a painter from Arpino; According to van Mander, his mother Giovanna came from a Spanish aristocratic family. On his tombstone in San Giovanni in Laterano , Arpino, a place between Rome and Naples, is given as his place of birth . His biographer and student Giovanni Baglione , on the other hand, claimed that Cesari was born in Rome, which De Dominici (1744) later denied as ( regionalistically motivated) "lies", although he otherwise resorted to Baglione and cited longer passages.

Giuseppe probably came to Rome with his mother in 1582, where he was employed in the workshop of Niccolò Circignani and soon worked on the decorations in the Vatican Palace (loggias on the third floor, Sala vecchia degli Svizzeri, Sala dei palafrenieri). From 1583 he received a regular salary and was apparently already a member of the Accademia di San Luca painters' guild .

In the cloister of the Trinità dei Monti church, he painted the canonization of San Francesco di Paola from 1584–85 , where he also left a first self-portrait. As a result, frescoes were created in the Quirinal Palace and the Palazzo Santori, but both works have not survived. In Sant 'Atanasio dei Greci he created a crucifixion and an ascension of Christ in 1588–91 . He also created templates for copperplate engravings for the Statuta Hospitalis Hierusalem (Rome 1586; Biblioteca Alessandrina, Rome).

In 1586 he was accepted into the Congregazione dei Virtuosi at the Pantheon and "soon one saw in him the greatest painter of Rome".

His first known easel painting dates from 1587-88, it is about an Assumption of Mary with angels (private collection). According to Roettgen, Cesari's style at this time was influenced by Raffaellino da Reggio , Giovanni de Vecchi , A. Lilio and Francesco Vanni , and showed "a transparent, almost watercolor-like " style of painting.

For San Lorenzo in Damaso he painted two large frescoes between 1588 and 1589, which have not survived, but are known from copies and a bozzetto (in the Schapiro Collection, London); it was about paintings in a ceremonial, symmetrical style of representation, in the manner of Girolamo Muziano (according to Roettgen).

Ceiling decoration (detail) in the sacristy of the Certosa di San Martino in Naples, 1596–97

In 1589 Giuseppe Cesari went to Naples to decorate the sanctuary of the Certosa di San Martino , but did not finish the work and only had it completed by his brother Bernardino Cesari in 1592–93. A few years later, around 1596–97, Giuseppe returned to the Certosa di San Martino and decorated the sacristy (see illustration).

Under Pope Clement VIII Aldobrandini , Giuseppe Cesari became the most important official painter of Rome and received numerous commissions for extensive fresco decorations. The young Michelangelo da Caravaggio (as a flower and fruit painter) also worked in his large workshop . Cesari decorated the ceiling of the Cappella Contarelli in San Luigi dei Francesi between May 1591 and June 1593 ; As he did not have time to paint the walls of this chapel, a few years later Caravaggio (1599–1600 and 1603) decorated them with paintings that are now famous.

Cesari's style developed in the meantime in a representative direction with broader, imposing figures and a livelier coloring. Significant examples of this can be found in the Cappella Olgiati in Santa Prassede (1593–95) and in the Cappella Aldobrandini in Santa Maria in Via , with an Annunciation as an altarpiece and frescoes on the walls (1594–96).

Perseus and Andromeda , 1594–98, oil on slate , 52 × 38.5 cm, Gemäldegalerie Berlin

In addition, he received commissions for oil paintings from art collectors across Europe. a. of Emperor Rudolph in Prague and of the kings of Spain and France. His ingeniously painted small-format pictures, some of which he painted on unusual surfaces such as copper or slate , and of which several versions often exist in different places, were particularly in demand . Using this technique, he not only created religious devotional images, but also erotically tinged mythological scenes - there are, for example, several versions and different versions of Perseus and Andromeda (1592 and 1602, Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna; 1594-98, Gemäldegalerie Berlin ; Gallerie dell'Accademia , Venice; Pinacoteca Nazionale , Bologna and others) and also by Diana and Actaeon (Louvre, Paris; 1602–03, Szépmüvészeti Múzeum, Budapest). He painted a representation of the Virgin in the Temple that is in the Louvre's possession and dated 1597 for Maria of Bavaria, Archduchess of Styria.

The Finding of Romulus and Remus (detail), fresco , 1596, Palazzo dei Conservatori , Rome

In 1596 he began with one of his best-known works: the wall frescoes in the Conservator's Palace on the Capitol in Rome - the work dragged on for decades. The first thing that came about was the rediscovery of Romulus and Remus with the she-wolf in the Sala degli Orazi e Curiazi, a work of broad narrative, epic style in a poetic landscape that is considered one of the best works of Roman history painting from the end of the 16th century. With interruptions he painted between 1597 and 1601 the battle between the Romans and the Venetians , and in 1612 the battle of the Orazians and the Curiatians ; the other frescoes were only created in the last years of his life 1635–40 and are of lesser quality.

Commissioned by Clement VIII, Cesari painted two pictures for the Church of San Giovanni in Fonte in 1597–98: St. John drinks poison (not preserved) and St. John is brought to the grave (today in the sacristy of San Giovanni in Laterano ). In 1598, following the Pope's entourage, he traveled to Ferrara for the Austro-Spanish double wedding; he also made a few smaller paintings. A trip to Venice is also attested.

Now the honors piled up: On November 1st, 1599 Cesari was elected Principe of the Accademia di San Luca. And after he had completed the enormous fresco of the Ascension of Christ in the transept of San Giovanni in Laterano in 1600 , Pope Clement VIII awarded him the Knight of Christ , which gave him the nickname Cavalier d'Arpino . The fresco is considered to be one of his most important contributions in the sense of the new classical style ideal of Roman painting.

From September 26, 1600 to March 29, 1601, the newly elected knight traveled to France with Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini - a nephew of the Pope . Also for Aldobrandini he created some frescoes in his villa in Frascati in 1602-03 with scenes from Genesis and four episodes with important women of the Old Testament .

In 1601 he finished the altarpiece of the Rosary Madonna for San Domenico di Cesena , a commission he had received as early as 1589.

Cavalier d'Arpino reached the absolute peak of fame and prestige with the commission for the mosaics in the dome of St. Peter's Basilica , which were created between 1603 and 1612 according to his designs and under his direction. From 1610 to 1612 he also directed the painterly decoration of the Cappella Paolina in Santa Maria Maggiore , on which Cigoli , Guido Reni and Giovanni Baglione contributed; Cesari himself painted the prophets in the pendentives of the dome, the lunette and St. Luke above the altar.

Financially, too, he was now so well off that in 1604 he was able to buy a palazzo on Corso , which he had Flaminio Ponzio expand after 1608 ; after further changes in the 18th century, the building is now known as Palazzo Rondinini . He also had a palazzo built in Arpino, some of which is still standing.

After the death of Clement VIII, Cavalier d'Arpino fell out of favor under the new Pope Paul V of the Borghese family . In 1607 the painter was even arrested for illegal possession of weapons and all of his property was confiscated; in fact, according to Mancini (1621), he is said to have owned a very fine collection of arquebuses . In reality, however, the indictment was only a pretext and ended with the Camera Apostolica awarding the art-loving nephew of the Pope, Scipione Borghese , the important collection of Cesari's paintings.

Coronation of the
Virgin Mary (1614–15) in Santa Maria in Vallicella , Rome

From 1610 Cesari's style became stricter and “quasi reactionary” compared to the innovations of the Baroque ; his painting now reminded (according to Roettgen) of Sebastiano del Piombo and received a note of ascetic refinement like in early Christian art . Examples are the Coronation of Mary from 1614–15 in Santa Maria in Vallicella ; St. John the Evangelist (1611–1619 / 21) in Santa Maria della Pace , and the Birth and Death of the Virgin (1629) in Santa Maria di Loreto (Rome) .

Around 1613-15 he was also in charge of the decorations for the Casino Montalto at Villa Lante in Bagnaia .

In 1618 he married Dorotea, daughter of Arcangelo Maggi from Rome; she died in 1669. Of their children together, Muzio (born May 19, 1619 - † March 1, 1690) and Bernardino († January 7, 1703 in Rome) were painters. Little works of them are known, however.

De Dominici narrates that Giuseppe Cesari (probably before 1630) was invited back to Naples to paint the Cappella del Tesoro di San Gennaro in the cathedral - an extremely prestigious commission. However, he was intimidated by death threats or assaults by the so-called Cabala napolitana, led by Belisario Corenzio , Jusepe de Ribera and Battistello Caracciolo , and fled " quasi disperato " (desperate) first to Montecassino , where he left behind his preparatory work and designs for the cappella, and then back to Rome. The same thing happened later for Guido Reni , whom he himself recommended, and his student and colleague Francesco Gessi . The job finally went to Domenichino , whom they tried to intimidate but continued anyway (perhaps because of the enormously high pay).

De Dominici also reports that Cavalier d'Arpino was allowed to paint a picture for the King of Spain Philip IV for a truly royal reward , although he had to prevail against twelve high-ranking and younger competitors, including Guido Reni, Domenichino, Guercino , Andrea Sacchi , Pietro da Cortona , Lanfranco , Orazio Gentileschi and Sandrart .

In 1615 and 1629 he was repeatedly elected Principe of the Accademia di San Luca, and on July 13, 1630 he received from Louis XIII. the Michael Cross , with which he depicted himself on the self-portrait he painted for the Accademia (see illustration above). In 1636 he bought a house in Via dei Serpenti, where he probably spent the last years of his life.

Giuseppe Cesari, the Cavalier d'Arpino , died on July 3, 1640 and was buried in Santa Maria in Aracoeli ; later his remains were transferred to San Giovanni in Laterano , where his grave is in the corridor of the choir room.

Baglione (p. 375) described Giuseppe Cesari as a man “... of good disposition ( buona complessione ), strong and efficient, ... he was rarely sick, ... walked quickly, was proud and headstrong ( bizzarro ), ... happy, funny , and without resentment ( libero di sentimento ) ”; At the same time he is said to have been "forever dissatisfied" and to have complained about everything ( lamentoso ). Bellori added in a footnote: "... he always spoke badly of Spagnuoli and Preti, from which he had learned so much good from childhood."

Appreciation, style

The Capture of Christ , ca.1597, oil on copper , 77 × 56 cm, Galleria Borghese , Rome
The Archangel Michael and the Rebel
Angels , approx. 1592–93, 47.8 × 41.8 cm, oil on tinplate or copper, Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum , Glasgow

Giuseppe Cesari is sometimes considered a late mannerist painter , but at the end of the 16th century he was one of the most important protagonists of a new, simpler, and classical direction that replaced Mannerism and led to the Baroque . His figures correspond to more natural ideals and his compositions are much simpler and simpler than in Mannerism; At the same time, however, he retains a tendency towards slim, graceful grace that tends to be angular in male figures. Apart from very early works, he often crossed the border into the baroque and can be considered one of the first and most radical representatives of the classicist baroque . At its coloring u. a. noted that he often paints the sky with grayish or powdery blue tones - an exception, however, are his small pictures on unusual painting grounds such as copper or slate, where the sky is usually intensely blue and is reminiscent of northern European painters such as Jan Brueghel the Elder. Ä. remind. As his biography above shows, Cesari had enormous success until around 1610/1615, but was then more and more replaced by younger and more progressive painters, such as the Carracci and Caravaggio and his epigones, and above all in his own classical direction by Guido Reni and Domenichino . Cesari was Caravaggio's teacher and a patron of Reni, he worked with both of them and he paved the way for both of them with his painting.

Some of his works directly influenced other important artists, for example Van Dyck's famous Imprisonment of Christ in the Prado was inspired by a small-format painting by the Cavalier d'Arpino (c. 1596–97, several versions, including in the Galleria Borghese , Rome). Luca Giordano's spectacular and gigantic Fall of the Angel by St. Michael in the KHM Vienna is actually a gigantic, only slightly changed copy of a small picture by Cesari (today, among others, in 1593, Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum , Glasgow . See Fig. In Gallery below).

“With the appearance of Carracci and Caravaggio , however, the Roman school that he ruled took on different paths…. Cesari is considered to be an extremely skillful artist, gifted with a lively imagination. His works are designed with zeal and pleasantly colored. One shouldn't look for a wealth of detail in his pictures, especially in the works of his second period ... "

- Meyers Konversations-Lexikon , 1888-90, p. 864

Picture gallery


Frescoes, altarpieces, etc. a. in Italy

Frescoes of the Cappella Olgiati (including the Ascension of Christ ) in Santa Prassede , 1593–95

Single images in museums

Diana and Actaeon , oil on copper , 50 × 69 cm, 1602–03, Szépmüvészeti Múzeum , Budapest

There are also numerous drawings, sketches and drafts by Giuseppe Cesari, some of which are beautifully worked out, in various collections.



17th & 18th centuries

  • Giovanni Baglione: Le Vite de 'pittori, scultori, et architetti. Dal pontificato di Gregorio XIII del 1572 in fino a 'tempi di Papa Urbano Ottavo nel 1642 , Rome 1644 (Italian).
  • Bernardo De Dominici: Vita del Cavalier Giuseppe Cesari d'Arpino, Pittore e Architetto (excerpt from Baglione) and Vita di Belisario Corenzio Pittore . In: Vite de pittori, scultori e architetti napolitani, vol. II , 1744, Bologna, 1979, pp. 260-272 (Cav. Gius. Cesari d'Arpino) and 292-318 (Belis. Corenzio), online as an ebook (Italian; accessed February 15, 2019).
  • Karel van Mander: Het schilder-boeck , Haarlem: Wesbusch 1604, f. 187v-188 .

20th & 21st centuries

  • Marco Simone Bolzoni: Il Cavalier d'Arpino - Maestro del disegno. Catalogo ragionato dell'opera grafica , Ugo Bozzi editore, Rome, 2011, ISBN 88-7003-052-0 .
  • Gianpasquale Greco: Le spoglie del Cavalier d'Arpino tra S. Maria in Aracoeli e il monumento in S. Giovanni in Laterano . In: Rivista dell'Istituto Nazionale d'Archeologia e Storia dell'Arte (RIASA) , LXXI, ser. III, 2016, pp. 283-289.
  • Arturo Quadrini: Il Cavalier d'Arpino , Macioce & Pisani, Isola del Liri, 1940.
  • Herwarth Roettgen: CESARI, Giuseppe, detto il Cavalier d'Arpino . In: Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani , Volume 24, 1980, online on Treccani , (Italian; viewed February 13, 2019).
  • Herwarth Röttgen : Il Cavalier Giuseppe Cesari D'Arpino. Un grande pittore nello splendore della fama e nell'incostanza della fortuna . Ugo Bozzi editore, Rome, 2002, ISBN 88-7003-035-0 .
  • Herwarth Röttgen: Cavalier Giuseppe Cesari D'Arpino - The drawings - I Disegni (3 vols.). Opus magnum Verlag, Stuttgart, 2013, ISBN 978-3-939322-70-2 , ISBN 978-3-939322-72-6 , ISBN 978-3-939322-74-0 .

Web links

Commons : Cavalier d'Arpino  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be Herwarth Roettgen: CESARI, Giuseppe, detto il Cavalier d'Arpino , in: Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani , Volume 24, 1980, online on Treccani , (Italian; viewed 13 February 2019)
  2. Karel van Mander: Het schilder-boeck , Haarlem: Wesbusch 1604, f. 187v-188
  3. Bernardo De Dominici: "Vita del Cavalier Giuseppe Cesari d'Arpino, Pittore e Architetto", in: Vite de pittori, scultori e architetti napolitani, vol. II , 1744, Bologna, 1979, pp. 260-272 (Cav. Gius. Cesari d'Arpino), online as an ebook (Italian; viewed on February 15, 2019), here: p. 260
  4. Quotation from: Hermann Julius Meyer (ed.): "Arpino, il Cavaliere d ', actually Giuseppe Cesari", in: Meyers Konversations-Lexikon , 4th edition, 1888-90, p. 864, online , (seen on 13 February 2019)
  5. From Cesari are u. a. the figure of Fama (Roettgen, 1973, p. 47 and fig. 23; C. Lazzaro-Bruno: The Villa Lante at Bagnaia , doctoral thesis, Princeton University, 1974); see: Herwarth Roettgen: CESARI, Giuseppe, detto il Cavalier d'Arpino , in: Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani , Volume 24, 1980, online on Treccani , (Italian; viewed February 13, 2019)
  6. De Dominici reports this in his biographies of Giuseppe Cesari and Belisario Corenzio: Bernardo De Dominici: Vita del Cavalier Giuseppe Cesari d'Arpino Pittore, ed Architetto and Vita di Belisario Corenzio Pittore , in: Vite de pittori, scultori e architetti napolitani, vol. II , 1744, Bologna, 1979, p. 263 and p. 301, online as an ebook
  7. The incident is hinted at by: Hermann Julius Meyer (ed.): Arpino, il Cavaliere d ', actually Giuseppe Cesari , in: Meyers Konversations-Lexikon , 4th edition, 1888-90, p. 864, online , ( seen on February 13, 2019)
  8. Bernardo De Dominici: Vita di Belisario Corenzio Pittore , in: Vite de pittori, scultori e architetti napolitani, vol. II , 1744, Bologna, 1979, pp. 292-318, online as an ebook , here: pp. 299-301
  9. Bernardo De Dominici: "Vita di Belisario Corenzio Pittore", in: Vite de pittori, scultori e architetti napolitani, vol. II , 1744, Bologna, 1979, pp. 292-318, online as an ebook , here: pp. 302 f
  10. De Dominici only speaks of "Filippo Re delle Spagne", but from the list of artists (including Pietro da Cortona ) it can be concluded that it must have been Philip IV.
  11. Bernardo De Dominici: "Vita del Cavalier Giuseppe Cesari d'Arpino Pittore, ed Architetto", in: Vite de pittori, scultori e architetti napolitani, vol. II , 1744, Bologna, 1979, p. 264, online as ebook (accessed February 15, 2019)
  12. Quotation from: Hermann Julius Meyer (ed.): Arpino, il Cavaliere d ', actually Giuseppe Cesari , in: Meyers Konversations-Lexikon , 4th edition, 1888–90, p. 864, online , (viewed on February 13th 2019)