Melozzo, Francis

, called Melozzo of Foiii, flourished about 1471, and was probably the scholar of Ansovino da Forli, a pupil of Squarcione. The memory of Melozzo is venerated by artists as the inventor of perspective representation and true foreshortening on arched roofs and ceilings, of what the Italians style “di Sotto in Sti;” the most difficult and most rigorous branch of execution. A tolerable progress had been made in perspective after Paolo Uccelio, by means of Piero della Francesca, an eminent geometrician, and some Lombards; but the praise of painting roofs with that charming illusion which we witness, belongs to Melozzo. Scannelli and Orlandi relate, that, to learn the art, he studied the best antiques; and, though“born to affluence, let himself as servant and colour-grinder to the masters of his time. Some make him a scholar of Piero della Francesco: it is at least not improbable that Melozzo knew him and Agostino di Bramantino, when they painted in Rome for Nicolas V. towards 1455. Whatever be the fact, Melozzo painted on the vault of the largest chapel in Ss. Apostoli, an Ascension, in which, says Vasari, the figure of Christ is so well foreshortened, that it seems to pierce the roof. That picture was painted for cardinal Riario, nephew of Sixtus IV. about 1472 and at the rebuilding of that chapel, was cut out and placed in the palace of the Quirinal, 1711, where it is still seen with this epigraphe” Opus Melotii Foroliviensis, qui summos fornices pingendi artem vel primus invenit vel illustravit.“Some heads of the apostles were likewise sawed out and placed in the Vatican. His taste on the whole resembles that of Mantegna and the Padouati schools more than any other. The heads are well formed, well coloured, well turned, and almost always foreshortened; the lights duly toned and opportunely relieved by shadows which give ambience and almost motion to his figures on that space; there is grandeur and dignity in the principal figure, and the lightsome drapery that surrounds him; with finish of pencil, diligence, and grace in every part. It is to be lamented, that so uncommon a genius has not met with an exact historian, of whom we might have learned his travels and labours previous to this great | work painted for Riario. At Forli, they shew, as his work, the front of an apothecary’s shop, painted in arabesque, of exquisite style, with a half-length figure over the door pounding drugs, very well executed. We are informed by Vasari, that Francesco di Mirozzo da Forli painted before Dosso, in the villa of the dukes of Urbino, called L’lmperiale; we ought probably to read Melozzo, and to correct the word in the text, as one of that writer’s usual negligences, of which Vasari gives another instance in Marco Palmegiani, of Forli, whom he transforms to Parmegiano; a good and almost unknown artist, though many of his works survive, and he himself seems to have taken every precaution not to be forgotten by posterit3 T inscribing most of his altar-pieces and oil-pictures with Marcus pictor Foroliviensis, or, Marcus Palmasanus P. Foroliviensis pinsebat. Seldom he adds the year, as in two belonging to prince Ercolani, 1513 and 1537. In those, and in his works at Forli, we recognise two styles. The first differs little from the common one of Quattrocentist’s, in the extreme simplicity of attitude, in the gilding, in minute attention, and even in anatomy, which extended its researches at that time seldom beyond a S. Sebastian, or a S. Jerome. Of his second style the groups are more artificial, the outline larger, the proportions grander, but the heads perhaps less varied and more mannered. He used to admit into his principal subject others that do not belong to it thus in the crucifix at St. Agostino, in Forli, he placed two or three groups in different spots in one of which is S. Paul visited by S. Anthony in another, S. Augustine convinced, by an angel, of the absurdity of his attempt to fathom the mystery of the Trinity; and in those small figures he is finished and graceful beyond belief. Nor is his landscape or his architecture destitute of charms. His works abound in Romsagna, and are met with even in Venetian galleries: at Vicenza there is, in the palace Vicentini, a Christ of his between Nicodemus and Joseph; an exquisite performance, in which, to speak with Dante,” il morto par morto e vivi i vivi. 1


By Fusili in Pilkington.