(b. ca. 1545, Cremona, d. 1615)

Grotesques with Imaginary Landscapes

Stanza del Lupo, Rocca dei Rossi, San Secondo

Some of the Roman paintings found in the Domus Aurea and elsewhere correspond quite precisely what Vasari and others determined to be the typical features of grotesques. These paintings inspired several ceiling designs 'all'antica' in the first part of the sixteenth century. The desire to revive not only the forms of ancient Roman architecture but also their decoration may help to explain the success of these paintings. In particular, Raphael and the specialist in his workshop, who mastered the genre completely, helped the grotesque style to spread quickly in Rome. This style enjoyed a long-lasting success, which can still be demonstrated even after mid-century. Nevertheless, quite early on the genre developed independently and distanced itself increasingly from ancient models. Later grotesques differed from antique iconography in every respect and retain only the principle of an absurd and paradoxical combination of varied buildings, figures, animals, and plants that Vitruvius criticized.

The fresco decoration in the Rocca dei Rossi is an example of the later grotesques. Rocca dei Rossi is a castle located in San Secondo Parmense, northern Italy. It was begun in 1466 on land donated to Giacomo Rossi, a member of one of the most prestigious families in Parma. The stronghold was later turned into a luxurious manor including many beautiful frescoes by the best local artists of the 16th century.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.