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Neroni, Bartolommeo (di Sebastiano) [il Riccio]locked

(b ?Siena, 1505–10; d before July 12, 1571).
  • Nicholas Adams

Italian painter, illuminator, architect, stage designer, and engineer. His earliest surviving documented works, illuminations for an Antiphonal, signed and dated 1531–2 (ex-Olivetan convent, Finalpia; Genoa, Bib. Berio), suggest training with or sympathy for Sodoma, and later he seems to have been drawn more broadly into the orbit of other influential painters in Siena, such as Domenico Beccafumi, and Baldassare Peruzzi, the latter having returned there after the Sack of Rome (1527). Although he shows an affinity with all three at one time or another, the breadth of Neroni’s activities, from painting to engineering and especially his architectural work, most closely resembles the arc of Peruzzi’s career, and Vasari describes him as a follower.

Neroni’s first independent large-scale commission, in which he reveals the strong influence of Sodoma, is the fresco depicting the Departure of SS Maurus and Placid, executed in 1534 for the cloister of the convent of Monte Oliveto Maggiore. In the same year he was also commissioned to decorate the chapel of the master masons in the cathedral, Siena. Fragments of the fresco survive, notably scenes depicting the Martyrdom of the Four Crowned Martyrs (Siena, Mus. Opera Duomo). The design of the chapel is based on Peruzzi’s frescoes (1516) in the Ponzetti Chapel, S Maria della Pace, Rome, and the figure style reflects aspects of Sodoma, Beccafumi, and Peruzzi. The figures have the sharp-nosed features of those of Beccafumi, the eyes are soft and limpid recalling Sodoma’s figures, and the bodies and full, monumental spatial composition suggest Peruzzi’s work. In later works the links with Sodoma are strengthened. In the Lamentation at the Cross (Siena, Col. Chigi–Saraceni), executed (1537–9) for the Compagnia di S Giovanni Battista della Morte, the dark tonalities and fleshy, solid figures mark a turning away from Peruzzi’s style. The Coronation of the Virgin (Siena, Pin. N.), possibly dating from the mid-1540s, also strongly reveals the influence of Sodoma in the twisting figures and the dark tonality. Another example of Sodoma’s influence can be seen in the Dead Christ (1554–6; Siena, Col. Monte dei Paschi). Neroni’s artistic relationship to Sodoma was probably reinforced by his marriage to Sodoma’s daughter in 1543. He is also cited as Sodoma’s heir. Nonetheless, elements emerge to recall the work of Beccafumi, as in the Fondi tomb frescoes (1547–8) in the Azzoni Chapel for the church of S Agostino, Siena.

Neroni is recorded as providing apparati (temporary architectural decorations) for the entry of Pope Paul III into Siena (1538, 1540). His name is also associated with several buildings in Siena. He may have been responsible for designing the Palazzo Chigi alla Postierla (?1548), with its rusticated quoining, and for completing the Palazzo Tantucci alla Dogana (1548–9). In 1554–6 he built the Conservatorio delle Derelitte. The relatively plain, brick panelled façade with stark pilasters recalls Peruzzi. The garden façade of the Palazzo Guglielmi nel Casato, Siena, its storeys linked by giant pilasters, recalls Peruzzi’s façade for the Villa Farnesina, Rome. From the end of 1552 until the surrender of Siena to Florence in 1555, Neroni was active building fortifications and making military models and drawings (destr.). He is documented working at Sinalunga, Chiusi, and Massa Marittima (1552) and Monterotondo Marittima and Chiusdino (1553). In January 1555 he was forced to move from his workshop so that a guard house could be built there. After the fall of the Republic, he went to Lucca, where he taught drawing and perspective and military architecture. He returned to Siena in 1560 to design a stage set (a sketch is preserved in London, V&A) for Alessandro Piccolomini’s L’Ortensio to be played at the Teatro degli Intronati, Siena. He returned for various commissions thereafter only settling definitively again in 1568.

A collection of drawings by Neroni (Siena, Bib. Com. Intronati, S. IV. 6), consisting for the most part of machines, mills, pumps, and siphons, are largely copied from earlier Sienese engineers Mariano Taccola and Francesco di Giorgio Martini. Copies after military drawings by Francesco di Giorgio (Turin, Bib. Reale, MS. Ser. Mil. 238) have also been attributed to Neroni. Whether his interest in these matters was spontaneous or the result of a commission is not known. Neroni’s last years were relatively difficult. Designs for the lectern and choir-stalls to be executed in wood in the cathedral, Siena, date from 1567, but Neroni had to take his claim for salary to court. He was responsible for the bishop’s chair (1567), and a wooden lectern behind the main altar was also designed by him. Drawings for these works are in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Siena. Through ill-health he was forced to renounce commissions as early as 1567. Among the artists who worked for him at various times are Girolamo Mazzei, Crescenzio Gambarelli, Tiberio Billo (fl 1574), Michelangelo d’Antonio Anselmi, and, possibly, Bartolommeo di Francesco Almi. Almost all his work is located in Siena and on Sienese territory.

Unpublished sources

  • Siena, Bib. Com. Intronati, MS. L.II.6 [E. Romagnoli: Biografia cronologica de’ bellartisti senesi dal secolo XII a tutto il XVIII, vol. 7] [before 1835], pp. 711–805



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