Melozzo da Forlì (1438–1494) – the one who introduced the delicate touch of Renaissance to Rome

Melozzo da Forlì, frescoes from the old apse of the Basilica of Santi XII Apostoli, currently Pinacoteca Vaticana

Melozzo da Forlì, frescoes from the old apse of the Basilica of Santi XII Apostoli, currently Pinacoteca Vaticana

His Roman frescoes, are today scattered and preserved only in fragments, but still attract attention with clarity and brightness of colors, surprising foreshortening perspectives, excellence of drawing and balanced composition. The painting of Melozzo da Forlì without a doubt created a new quality in the city on the Tiber, which was first and foremost appreciated by a great admirer of art – Pope Sixtus IV.

Melozzo da Forlì, frescoes from the old apse of the Basilica of Santi XII Apostoli, currently Pinacoteca Vaticana
Melozzo da Forlì, image of St. Mark (pope) in the transept of Basilica of San Marco
Melozzo da Forlì, Pope Sixtus IV appointing Platina as Prefect of the Vatican Library, Pinacoteca Vaticana
Melozzo da Forlì, one of the musical angels, Pinacoteca Vaticana
Melozzo da Forlì, frescoes (Christ as Judge of the World), adorning the tombstone of Cardinal Juan Diego della Coccia, Basilica  of Santa Maria sopra Minerva
Melozzo da Forlì, mosaics decoration of the Chapel of St. Helena (Christ Surrounded by the Evangelists), Basilica of Santa Croce
Melozzo da Forlì,  Annunciation – attributed to the artist work in the Church of Santa Maria ad Martyres (Pantheon)
Melozzo da Forlì, one of the musical angels, Pinacoteca Vatacina
Melozzo da Forlì, Christ among angels from the old apse of the Basilica Santi XII Apostoli, currently Palazzo Quirinale

His Roman frescoes, are today scattered and preserved only in fragments, but still attract attention with clarity and brightness of colors, surprising foreshortening perspectives, excellence of drawing and balanced composition. The painting of Melozzo da Forlì without a doubt created a new quality in the city on the Tiber, which was first and foremost appreciated by a great admirer of art – Pope Sixtus IV.

 

We know very little about the artist. After coming to Rome in 1464 he worked on the rather raw in expression paintings for the Basilica of San Marco and perhaps together with Antoniazzo Romano created, the recently discovered decorations in the chapel of cardinal Bessarione in the Basilica of Santi XII Apostoli. A year later he left for Urbino and it was his stay in this town that turned out to be a significant chapter in his career and development. It can be said that Melozzo’s painting style developed on the local court known for its artistic ambitions. As a mature artist he returned to Rome in 1475 at the invitation of Sixtus IV, who made him his court painter. Firstly, he was to occupy himself with the decoration of the Vatican Library created by the pope, of which only one outstanding fragment of the fresco (Sixtus IV Appoints Bartolomeo Platina as Prefect of the Vatican Library) remains. This is the first so consciously shown portrait of the pope and his court, in which the pontifex is not a pious donor but a self-assured patron of science. The second significant work of Melozzo da Forlì in the Eternal City were the decorations of the apse of the Basilica of Santi XII Apostoli commissioned by one of the papal nepots, Giuliano della Rovere (the later Pope Julius II). In this movingly beautiful work he let himself be recognized as a master of perspective foreshortening and an excellent drawer. Originally frescoes depicted the Ascension of Christ, shown among the figures of the apostles.  Although they remained only in scant fragment, they provide us with the possibility to look at clear lines, gestures and colors of this master of early Renaissance.

After the death of Sixtus IV (1484) his court painter left the city to go to Loreto, where he still worked for the della Rovere family. He returned to Rome five years later, this time completing a design of the mosaic decorations in the Basilica of Santa Croce.

Works of the artist in Rome:

 


  •       Image of St. Mark (pope) in the transept and of St. Mark the Evangelist in the sacristy of the Basilica of San Marco, 1465
  •       Decorations of the chapel of cardinal Bessarione in the Basilica of Santi XII Apostoli (co-creation?)
  •     Frescoes in the Vatican Library, 1477, present the Pinacoteca Vaticana (Musei Vaticani)
  •       Frescoes in the apse of the Basilica of Santi XII Apostoli (Melozzo da Forlì’s Musican Angels), 1480, currently fragments in Palazzo del Quirinale and Pinacoteca Vaticana (Musei Vaticani)   
  •     Frescoes (Christ as Judge of the World), adorning the tombstone of Cardinal Juan Diego della Coccia in the Chapel of St.          Raymond of Penyafort – Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva
  •     Design of the mosaic decoration of the Chapel of St. Helena (Christ Surrounded by the Evangelists) – Basilica of Santa Croce
  •       The Annunciation – attributed to the artist work in the Church of Santa Maria ad Martyres (Pantheon