PERUZZI, Baldassare

(1481-1536)
Baldassare Peruzzi, sometimes better known as an associate of Raphael,* was a painter, draughtsman, stage designer, and especially an architect in his own right. His early work has been called typical of the High Renaissance in Italy, while some of his later buildings introduce the complex visual ideas associated with Mannerism.
Born in Ancaiano near Siena, Peruzzi spent his early life and presumably received his artistic training in Siena. The source of this training, however, remains unknown; Giorgio Vasari* reported that Peruzzi studied with an un­named goldsmith. Vasari also noted that Peruzzi was less well known than he could have been because of the artist's innate timidity. He was reported to have painted a series of frescoes in Siena Cathedral (1501-2), but these are no longer extant. The Sienese elite, however, began taking advantage of his architectural skills early in the sixteenth century. The Chigi family of bankers, merchants, and later popes commissioned a villa outside of Siena from Peruzzi in 1500. The villa's plan was a U-shape and owed much to the influence of his fellow Sienese, Francesco di Giorgio Martini.
Peruzzi traveled to Rome in 1503, perhaps because Pius III, a Sienese pope of the Piccolomini family, had just been elected, and the prospects for important commissions looked promising. By 1506 at the latest, Peruzzi was given another Chigi commission, this time in Rome. Agostino Chigi, banker to the pope, wanted a villa outside of town. Now referred to as the Villa Farnesina (the Farnese family purchased it in the seventeenth century), it has a U-shaped plan much like that of Peruzzi's earlier work in Siena. Peruzzi used classical motifs in the architecture, and the structure as a whole conveys a sense of High Re­naissance harmony and balance. The interior decoration was mostly done by Raphael* and his workshop, but Peruzzi himself painted the Sala delle Prospettive (perspective room), in which he displayed his mastery of illusionism. The walls of the frescoed room seem to be painted away to reveal ancient Roman sites through the painted columns. During this period Peruzzi also collaborated with Raphael in the Vatican stanze for Pope Julius II.* It has been suggested that the ceiling of the Heliodorus Room showing Old Testament scenes of sal­vation was done by him. Peruzzi received numerous other commissions in Rome and elsewhere, and at the death of Raphael in 1520 he was put in charge of the building of St. Peter's. What precisely he contributed to that grand and polyglot structure is unclear.
The sack of Rome in 1527 found Peruzzi imprisoned by the armies of Em­peror Charles V.* Fortunately, he was ransomed by the Sienese and became architect to the Republic of Siena, where he used much of what he had learned and observed in Rome to design fortifications and churches. In 1532 Peruzzi returned to Rome, where he again worked on St. Peter's. His last work was the Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne, begun in 1532 and finished after his death. This house presented numerous problems, not the least of which was the already-existing curved street. In a total break with High Renaissance ideas of the ar­chitectural plane, Peruzzi curved the facade of the house around the curve of the street. He also used the system of progression of almost flat engaged pilasters at the outsides of the facade toward freestanding columns at the center to ac­centuate the curve and thereby made one of the earliest structures in Italy to be called Mannerist.
Bibliography
M. Fagiolo and M. L. Madonna, eds., Baldassarre Peruzzi: Pittura, scena, e architettura nel cinquecento, 1987.
Lynne E. Johnson

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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