Cortona, Pietro da (1596-1669)

"Cortona, Pietro da (1596-1669)" submitted by RomeTour Editorial Team and last updated on Wednesday 27th April 2011

P.Berrettini named Pietro da Cortona, Italian painter and architect, was born in Cortona in 1596 and died in Rome in 1669. He was a pupil of Florentine master Andrea Commodi in Cortona from 1609 till 1611, and in 1612 followed his teacher in Rome, entering later the studio of Baccio Ciarpi. These years were basic for the young artist, who studied the painting of Raphael, and Venetian artists of the 16th century, works of A.Carracci and first sculptures of G.L.Bernini; contacts with the culture of antiques and friendship with Cassiano dal Pozzo, Marcello and Giulio Sacchetti, his protectors. Among the paintings of Cortona executed before 1624 should be noticed the frescoes in Palazzo Mattei: Sacrificio di Polissena and Trionfo di Bacco (Pin.Capitolina).

Having entered into the contact with the family of pope Barberini, Urban VIII, and most of all, thanks to the favour of cardinal Francesco Barberini, Pietro had continuous success and stable important work orders. Between 1624 and 1626 he frescoed the wall in the church of Santa Bibiana in Rome, representing the martyrdom of the saint on the background of the classic scenery. In 1627-1629, for the order of the Sacchetti's, he depicted Ratto delle Sabine (Pin.Capitolina); decorated their villa in Castelfusano and projected the Villa del Pigneto (now destroyed).

In 1633-1639 he executed on the ceiling of the hall in Palazzo Barberini in Rome Trionfo della Divina Provvidenza, the work based on the multiply perspectives and scenographic illusions, which gave birth to the phenomenon of "cortonismo", destined to have numerous and famous successors.
cortona enea
Pietro da Cortona, who was highly appreciated by contemporary critics, recognizing in him one of the greatest artists of the Baroque, was playing one of the most important roles in architecture as well. In 1634, he was elected the head of the Academy of San Luca, and reconstructed the church of Santi Luca e Martina al Foro (1635-1650), making it two-storied and synthesizing the Renaissance schemes of the central plan and the new conception and dynamics of space. In Florence, he decorated in 1637-1647 the Palazzo Pitti (halls of Stufa, Venere, Giove and Marte), leaving to his successors to finish this painting cycle.

After his return to Rome, he created the most grandiose works of his maturity (1647-1665): Storie di Enea (pictured right: Enea giunge alle foci del Tevere) in Palazzo Pamphili and frescoes of the dome and nave in the church Chiesa Nuova, his most important works in the field of sacred art. He also designed the prospect of the church Santa Maria in via Lata (Corso, 1658-1662); the other projects about transformation of Palazzo Pitti and for the church of Filippini in Florence (Uffizi, Gabinetto delle Stampe) were not put in realization.

As a masterpiece of Cortona could probably be considered the intervention (1656-1657) in the church of Santa Maria della Pace (facade, internal decorations, arrangement of the square in front), for the fact of successful introduction of the modern church in Medieval urbanistic aspect. The last years of artist are marked with the interpretation of the Michelangelo's forms in the dome of the church San Carlo al Corso (since 1668).

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