Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Zuccaro, Federigo

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

ZUCCARO, ZUCHARO, or ZUCCHERO, FEDERIGO (1542?–1609), painter, born at St. Angelo in Vado in Tuscany in 1542 or 1543, was son of Ottaviano Zuccaro, a painter of little merit, and younger brother by thirteen years of Taddeo Zuccaro, who obtained great repute as an historical painter. The family name seems to have been spelt Zuccaro, though Federigo, in such letters of his as have been preserved, usually signed himself ‘Zucharo.’ The spelling Zucchero is only found in England, or derived therefrom. Federigo when seven years of age became a pupil and assistant to his brother Taddeo, who was engaged on important works at Rome, and for several years he continued to work with his brother on paintings in the Belvedere at the Vatican for Pius IV and in the Villa Farnese at Caprarola. His own success gained him a summons to Florence by the grand duke of Tuscany to complete the paintings in the cupola of the cathedral, which had been commenced by Giorgio Vasari. He was also employed on important decorative paintings at Venice. After the death of his brother Taddeo in 1566 Zuccaro was recalled to Rome by the new pope, Gregory XIII, to paint the vault of the Cappella Paolina in the Vatican. While engaged on this work Zuccaro quarrelled with some of the papal officers, and revenged himself by painting a scurrilous picture, which he exhibited to the public at the festival of St. Luke. For this insult he had to fly from Rome and took refuge in France, where he was employed by the cardinal of Lorraine. From France he went to Antwerp and Amsterdam, and in 1574 came to try his fortune in England.

The name of Zuccaro has been attached in reckless profusion to numberless portraits of this period, especially those of Queen Elizabeth herself. The painter remained in England for only four years, and, had he met with the patronage with which he has been credited by posterity, it is hardly likely that, considering the dearth of native painters in England, he would have set forth to seek his fortunes again. It is certain that Zuccaro did paint Elizabeth, and probably Leicester, and two drawings in the print-room at the British Museum can safely be attributed to his hand. Elizabeth was forty years old when Zuccaro came to England, so that he could not have painted her in youth or old age. Perhaps the so-called ‘Rainbow’ portrait of the queen at Hatfield was the work of Zuccaro, and the fine portrait recently discovered and now in the Gallery of Fine Arts at Siena, although this last portrait would appear to be taken from an earlier portrait of the queen, now at Holyrood Palace. Burghley and Walsingham may very well have sat to Zuccaro, but Mary Queen of Scots, whose portrait has been frequently ascribed to him, was in close confinement at Sheffield, and it is not likely that an Italian painter would have been allowed access to her. There is no record of Zuccaro's being attached to the court as painter-in-ordinary, and he probably obtained but scanty employment, the Italian style not being so much in vogue as later; for after four years he returned to Italy, and was for a time employed at Venice, where he was rewarded by the honour of knighthood. It was on the strength of this, it may be supposed, that Zuccaro was allowed to return to Rome, and complete his paintings in the Cappella Paolina. About 1586 he was sent for by Philip II to Madrid to execute some paintings in the Escorial. After that he returned to Rome, where Sixtus V was now pope, and founded the Accademia S. Luca, of which he was the first president. Zuccaro built himself a house in Rome by the steps of the Monte di Trinità, which he adorned with frescoes by himself. After other visits to the north of Italy, Zuccaro died at Ancona in 1609. In 1607 he wrote ‘L'Idea di Scultori, Pittori ed Architetti,’ an attempt at a biographical dictionary of artists, in rivalry with the celebrated work by Vasari.

Zuccaro was a moderate painter of historical and decorative subjects at the beginning of the decadence of Italian painting. He was not a portrait-painter by profession. Many of the countless ‘costume’ portraits of Queen Elizabeth and her contemporaries so recklessly attributed to Zuccaro are in all probability the work of Netherlandish artists. According to a good tradition Zuccaro, when in England, made copies of the famous paintings by Holbein in the Steelyard at London. Of the copies attributed to him one, ‘The Triumph of Poverty,’ is in the British Museum; the other, ‘The Triumph of Riches,’ belongs to Mr. Harry Quilter.

[Vasari's Vite dei Pittori, &c. (ed. Milanesi); Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting, ed. Wornum; Bryan's Dict. of Artists, ed. Graves and Armstrong; Gaye's Carteggio degli Artisti; Lanzi's History of Painting.]

L. C.