Sebastiano del Piombo

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Sebastiano del Piombo, by Cornelis van Dalen the Younger
"The Holy Family"

Sebastiano del Piombo (* around 1485 in Venice ; † June 21, 1547 in Rome ; maiden name Sebastiano Luciani) was a famous Italian Renaissance painter during his lifetime, a pupil of Giovanni Bellini and colleague Giorgione in Venice , a friend of Michelangelo and competitor of Raphael in Rome . After being almost forgotten for 450 years, it was presented in 2008 in first solo exhibitions in Rome and Berlin.

Beginnings in Venice

High altar picture for S. Giovanni Crisostomo

There is no reliable information about del Piombo's childhood and parental home. At the age of about 20 he was known and loved as a virtuoso lute player in Venetian society. Around this time he began his training with Giovanni Bellini, the most influential painter of the culturally highly developed city. He kept in close contact with Giorgione, who had also learned from Bellini.

Already in the early Venetian works of del Piombo an individual artistic profile was recognizable, characterized by a rather monumental design compared to Bellini and Giorgione. He compensated for the mass of the often larger than life figures with lively colors and impressive lighting - the Venetian coloring . Examples from this period are the winged altar for the church of S. Bartolomeo di Rialto (1506/07), a depiction of Salome (1510) and the high altarpiece for S. Giovanni Crisostomo (1508-10), his first independent altarpiece. With the figure of the doctor of the Church, Johannes Chrysostomos , who, contrary to tradition, he did not show head-on, but in profile and at work, del Piombo clearly broke away from the requirements of his teacher Bellini.

The rise and fall of Rome

The banker Agostino Chigi became aware of the young painter in Venice. Piombo followed him to Rome in 1511, in order to compete with the famous Raphael of the same age and others to decorate the luxurious Chigis house in the Trastevere district , today's Villa Farnesina , with mythological frescoes (1511-1513). Raphael received more applause for his triumph of Galatea than del Piombo for his portrayal of the giant Polyphemus . Nevertheless, the work was a successful entry into the Roman art business for the visiting Venetian. In the further course of his career he kept his distance from the fresco , the technically highly demanding wall painting with lime paints on fresh plaster. On the other hand, he had significant successes as a portrait painter in Rome in his early years , in constant, often hostile competition with Raphael. After his death in 1520 at the latest, he had reached the height of his fame. Contemporaries hailed him as the greatest portraitist of his time and was given the nickname “felix pictor” (happy painter). The portraits of Condottiere Andrea Doria (1526), ​​Pope Clement VII (1526) and the writer Pietro Aretino (1528/29) are among the outstanding works .

The friendship with Michelangelo, ten years his senior, whom he won as a mentor, resulted in larger commissions from members of the influential Medici and Gonzaga families . Thus between 1516 and 1524 the painting of the Cappella Borgherini in the church of San Pietro in Montorio ( the flagellation, the apostle Peter, St. Francis of Assisi, the transfiguration of Christ in the apse calotte and Isaias and Mattias on the outer arch) was created, the awakening of the Lazarus (1516–18) and several large devotional images for Roman churches. Del Piombo succeeded in merging the distinctly different emphases of the Venetian and Roman schools of painting at the time: the colorito , the lively, luminous colors of the Venetians with the disegno , the intellectual concept of an artistic work that was in the foreground in Rome. From Michelangelo he was able to learn more about monumentality, about modeling strong bodies; the preliminary drawings for some of the pictures of del Piombos came from his older friend.

Christ bearer of the cross

After the attack on Rome in 1527 ( Sacco di Roma ) , when German, Italian and Spanish mercenaries ravaged the city and del Piombo, like his patron Pope Clement VII , was trapped in Castel Sant'Angelo for four weeks when many important works of art were destroyed or severely damaged his artistic productivity declined. He went through phases of depression and doubted the meaning of his profession. “There's not much left of me, the universe could break, I wouldn't care. I'm no longer the old Bastiano I was before the Sacco di Roma, I still can't get my head around, ”he wrote in 1531 in a letter to Michelangelo. His late work includes only a few, gloomy pictures. The last known painting, "Christ Cross-Bearer" (1537), is a dramatic composition in dark earth colors; it is considered a forerunner of Mannerism . In 1531 the painter was given the post of papal seal keeper (Italian piombatore or Frate del Piombo ) and then changed his name accordingly. It was now permanently secured materially. He turned back to music and poetry, but also undertook extensive attempts at painting.

Above all, he examined the possibilities of working with oil paints on heavy, durable materials, on slate , such as in the portrait of Baccio Valori , on marble and various metals - works of this kind would make the barbarism as he had experienced it better can resist. The long-standing friendship with Michelangelo broke up after 20 years when del Piombo advised him not to paint the “ Last Judgment ” in the Sistine Chapel as a fresco but as an oil painting on the wall - in a special process that he had developed and perfected . Michelangelo found it unforgivable to give up the difficult, "masculine" technique of frescoes in favor of risk-free, "effeminate" painting with oil paints. For Piombo, the break with the famous painter of the Sixtine meant not only a personal loss, but also a noticeable loss of reputation and fame.

Almost forgotten and rediscovered

The episode of the end of the friendship between del Piombo and Michelangelo was narrated by Giorgio Vasari , the leading art historian of the Italian Renaissance. In the third part of his artist biographies, published in 1550 and in a heavily changed second edition in 1568, the writer drew an extremely unfavorable picture of del Piombo. In him he saw a, at best, secondary, not very original, model-dependent painter - at least not a real genius , like Michelangelo, for example, whom he enthusiastically admired. He interpreted the change in style del Piombos after the attack on Rome as artistic inconsistency, the declining creative power as laziness, especially with reference to the financial comforts of the office bestowed on him. "His death means no loss for art, since he has been counted among the lost since his appointment as custodian," wrote Vasari in summary - a judgment that continued well into the 20th century. As a result, some of del Piombo's best portraits were ascribed to Raphael or other artists because they were no longer trusted to the actual author.

The world's first comprehensive solo exhibition with works by Sebastiano del Piombo was first shown in the spring of 2008 in the Palazzo Venezia in Rome. From June 28th to September 28th it was titled “Raphael's Grazie - Michelangelo's Furor. Sebastiano del Piombo (Venice 1485 - Rome 1547) ”is shown in the picture gallery of the State Museums in Berlin .

In 2017 the National Gallery in London showed the exhibition Michelangelo & Sebastiano , for which a catalog was also published.


  • Giorgio Vasari: The Life of Sebastiano del Piombo . Edition Giorgio Vasari Volume 5. In the new translation by Victoria Lorini. Edited by Alessandro Nova . Arranged by Christina Irlenbusch. Verlag Klaus Wagenbach, Berlin 2004, ISBN 978-3-8031-5024-0 , 96 pages with many z. T. colored fig.
  • Kia Vahland: Sebastiano del Piombo. A Venetian in Rome . Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern 2008, ISBN 978-3-7757-2144-8 .
  • Claudio Strinati, Bernd W. Lindemann (eds.): Sebastiano del Piombo 1485 + 1547 . Federico Motta Editore, 2008, ISBN 978-3-88609-623-7 , 383 pages with numerous illustrations.

Web links

Commons : Sebastiano del Piombo  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. A forgotten man steps into the light. For a long time, the great Renaissance painter Sebastiano del Piombo was despised and reviled by critics. Now is finally his first exhibition in Berlin to seeel Piombo . In: Die Zeit , No. 27/2008.
  2. ^ Christiane J. Hessler: The Man on Slate: Sebastiano del Piombo's Portrait of Baccio Valori and Valori the Younger's Speech in Borghini's Il Riposo . In: Source. Notes in the History of Art , Vol. 25 (2006), Issue 2, pp. 18-22.
  3. ( Memento of the original from June 28, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. last accessed on August 10, 2008 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  4. One can draw the other's thoughts in FAZ of April 20, 2017, page 11