“And now, because (painting) finds itself full of errors and abuses […]”
Year mention: 1564
historic painter ; poetic painter ; Religious painter
Ignorance/Negligence of the artist

Artists tend to give more importance to their own ambitions than to correct representation

Gilio, Giovanni Andrea
Frontispiece of: Gilio, Giovanni Andrea, Due dialogi (1564), Camerino : Antonio Giojoso
Frontispiece of: Gilio, Giovanni Andrea, Due dialogi (1564), Camerino : Antonio Giojoso
© ÖNB ABO Projekt/in Kooperation mit Google, Sig. 74.E.84 ALT PRUNK

At the beginning of his treatise, Giovanni Andrea Gilio addresses his initial motives for dedicating himself to the subject of artists’ mistreatment of art. He is amazed at the omnipresence of ignorant people and the many mistakes that are made. Although he says that he wishes not to correct or criticize, Gilio ultimately tries in the following treaties to create a guideline for artists and art. This work is addressed and dedicated to the Italian Cardinal Alessandro Farnese.

“‘[…] Nowadays, because it is practised by many, mainly ignorant people, who do not know how to differentiate between figures in that way, and who are not alert to the need for it, I am resolved to give them some guidance to explain the care that needs to be taken over the painting of religious pictures (pitture sacre), secular histories (istorie mondane), and poetic fictions. Because nearly everybody trusts in the saying of Horace that to painters and poets everything is permitted, I have written this dialogue in order to show them how far that licence should be extended, so that those who know more than me will in the future have a field marked out in which they can run in any direction.
I am particularly astonished that this beautiful and excellent art does not have either a book or a set of rules (regole) laying out for painters the manner (modo) and method (ordine) they should adopt for every kind of figure they have to paint. Therefore, because the majority proceed in a disorderly way, they commit an infinity of errors in their histories, as is clearly to be seen throughout the whole of Italy and especially Rome. For it seems to me that today, when modern painters have to produce a work, their first thought is to twist the heads, arms, or legs of their figures so they could be said to be strained (sforzate), and sometimes these movements (sforzi) are such that it would have been better to have done without them; while they pay little or no attention to the subject of their intended painting. But I published this work not to instruct but to open up discussion, not to reprove but to show what is involved, not to accuse but to advise caution; and I dedicate it to your most illustrious Lordship so that with that unerring judgment that makes you so admirable and deserving of honor and reverance by all men, you can judge and correct it’.”

“‘[…] Conciò fusse che questa nobilissima arte per molti anni e secoli di mano di nobili e dotti uomini uscita si vedesse, che rendere a tutte le figure in ogni caso sapevano il proprio e convenevole decoro; et ora trovandosi redotta in mano di molti, che per la maggior parte ignoranti sono, per la qual cosa questa differenza far non sanno, né avere quella avertenza che in ciò si deve:mi disposi darne loro un cenno, per dimostrare la diligenza che si deve ne le sacre pitture, ne le istorie mondane e ne le poetiche finzioni. Perché quasi tutti confidano nel detto d’Orazio che al pittore et al poeta ogni cosa lecita sia, per mostrar loro quanto innanzi questa licenza stender si deggia ho fatto questo discorso, acciò chi più di me ne sa abbia per l’innanzi campo da currerci per ogni verso. E più maravigliato mi sono, che questa bella et eccellente arte non abbia né libro né regola, che dia a’ pittori il modo e l’ordine di quanto in ogni maniera di figure a fare abbino. Perché dunque a la scapestrata la maggior parte se ne vanno, ne l’istorie infiniti errori commettono, come chiaramente in tutta Italia e più in Roma veder si può; onde mi pare ch’oggi i moderni pittori, quando a fare hanno qualche opera, il primo loro intento è di torcere a le loro figure il capo, le braccia o le gambe, acciò si dica che sono sforzate, e quei sforzi a le volte sono tali che meglio sarebbe che non fussero, et al soggetto de l’istoria che far pensano poco o nulla attendono. Però non per insegnare ma per ragionare, non per correggere ma per mostrare, non per tassare ma per avertire ho data fuora questa mia fatica, et a V.S. illustrissima la dedico, acciò con quel rettissimo giudizio, che la fa riguardevole e degna d’onore e di riverenza appo tutti gli uomini, la possa giudicare e correggere’.”

Quoted Authorities

Horace, Ars Poetica

historic depiction, modo e l'ordine, poetic depiction, religious depictions

modo e l'ordine, pittura istroico, pittura misto, pittura sacre, regole, sforzi
Date mention

Historical Location

Gilio, Dialogue on the errors and abuses of painters (2018), 86-87; Gilio, Dialogo. Nel quale si ragiona degli errori e degli abusi de’pittori circa l’istorie. In: Due dialogi di M. Giouanni Andrea Gilio da Fabriano (1564), 3-4

Gilio 2018, 86-87, n.6-11

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