TIBALDI, Pellegrino
(b. 1527, Puria (Valsolda), d. 1596, Milano)

View of the ceiling vault

Sala di Ulisse, Palazzo Poggi, Bologna

Giovanni Poggi (1493-1556) was a papal diplomat and financier to the Curia under Clement VII and Paul III. He was named Bishop of Tropea in 1540 and cardinal in 1551. From 1549 he was responsible for the continuation of constructing and furbishing the family palace in Bologna.

In the palace, Poggi had the halls of the piano nobile painted by Niccolò dell'Abate, Prospero Fontana, and others. They painted friezes with landscapes and grotesques, as well as numerous episodes from the Old Testament. In the ground floor, the twenty-three-year-old Pellegrino Tibaldi created the Odysseus frescoes, a major work that he would never again equal, one which even Annibale Carracci would decisively fall back upon as a model at the end of the sixteenth century.

Tibaldi's frescoes, depicting the Adventures of Odysseus, were created in 1550-51. Poggi must have been satisfied with the decoration, since shortly thereafter he also commissioned the artist to paint his newly built family chapel in Bologna's San Giacomo Maggiore. Tibaldi adorned the chapel with scenes from the life of Poggi's name saint, John the Baptist.

The Odysseus frescoes adorn the vaults of two rooms. From the entry corridor of the palace one walks first into a large hall (Sala di Ulisse), where the cycle begins. One finds the continuation and conclusion in a smaller room directly adjoining the hall (Stanza di Ulisse). The ceiling articulation and the arrangement of the paintings in both rooms are oriented along the lines of a famous Roman model, Raphael's Logge in the Vatican Palace. The scenes are inserted as 'quadri riportati' (framed paintings that are seen in a normal perspective and painted into a fresco). Between the fields of the painted histories, illusionistic views open onto colonnades that seem to reach up to the heaven. The framings are executed in stucco.

With their various decorative systems, each of the two rooms achieves a wholly individual character, one corresponding to its respective size and position.

The ceiling in the Sala di Ulisse contains five scenes from the Adventures of Odysseus, namely

1. Blinding of Polyphemus

2. Polyphemus and the Flight of the Greeks

3. Aelos Gives Odysseus the Bag of Winds

4. Neptune and the Ship of Odysseus

5. Odysseus and Circe