Artibus et Historiae no. 72 (XXXVI)

2015, ISSN 0391-9064

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COSTANZA BARBIERI - Tam foelix pictor vate, ut pictore Poeta: The Iconography of Sebastiano del Piombo’s Lunettes in the Loggia della Galatea (pp. 125-152)

The ‘Loggia della Galatea’ in the Villa Farnesina has a long history among iconographers. We know that the subjects were selected to convey themes involving the Four Elements in order to celebrate the patron Agostino Chigi: Fire in relation to the vault painted by Baldassarre Peruzzi, Air for Sebastiano del Piombo’s lunettes, Earth and Water for the main frescoes on the wall, Sebastiano’s Poliphemus and Raphael’s Galatea. But whereas Chigi’s horoscope has been recognized as a perfect clockwork of astrology, with the mythological gods associated with the planets, and Chigi’s marital plans are alluded to by the Galatea, symbolizing Neoplatonic love, there has been no explanation concerning the Ovidian themes painted in the lunettes, an embarrassing assembly of baleful events, ranging from rape to abduction, violence, betrayal and death. This author provides specific new readings of them, explaining the violent stories taking place in the realm of Air as symbols of the passions according to the sixteenth-century moralizing commentaries on the Metamorphoses (up to now never considered in this context, but crucial to the understanding the overall organization of the decorative programme of the Loggia), closely connecting them to Agostino’s microcosm. Thanks to this newly discovered system of meanings, which allows for the identification of previously misunderstood subjects, such as the Cumaen Sibyl and Apollo, the lunettes can be now firmly placed into a tightly structured and consistent iconographic programme of the Loggia.

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