After spending 7 years in Rome, Francesco made a journey of to Northern Italy, and spent 2 years in Venice and Bologna. He was recommended to several patrons in Venice by Pietro Aretino (1492-1556) and Paolo Giovio (1483-1552),4
among which Alfonso d’Avalos, Marchese del Vasto (1504-1546), who commissioned this newly discovered Portrait of Marcus Aurelius,
which was to be the first of a proposed series of twelve imperial portraits. D’Avalos wanted to emulate the now lost series painted by Titian between 1538 and 1540 for Federico Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua (1500-1540). A series of letters describe how Aretino and Giovio urge Salviati to accept this commission and ask him to send an initial canvas as an example of his skill. It is unknown why the series was never completed, but Prof. Carlo Falciani has uncovered in recent research that this portrait can be identified as the first portrait of the series. The highly-arched expressive eyes are typical of Salviati’s Mannerist style and the monumental proportions of Marcus Aurelius’ arms and hand, as well as the sculptural power of the armour all’antica
, are evident of Salviati’s inspiration from classical statues.5
Francesco travelled to France from 1554-1555 on the invitation of the Cardinal of Lorraine to work in the Château de Dampierre and then by King Francis I (1494-1547) to work at the Fontainebleau Palace, after which he also painted altarpieces in Paris. He never stayed away from Rome long, where he worked and lived until his death in 1563. Francesco Salviati preferred frescoes to paintings, which is clearly reflected in his oeuvre. Some of his most outstanding frescoes are those of the Sala dell’ Udienza (1544-48) of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence and the Palazzo Farnese (1555) in Rome, which allowed him to demonstrate his inventive and varied compositions within grandiose works of art.
1. The J. Paul Getty Museum, “Francesco Salviati,” accessed 2 June 2021 from, http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/artists/952/francesco-salviati-italian-1510-1563/.
2. Benezit Dictionary of Artists, “Rossi, Francesco Salviati del also called Il Cecchino del Salviati or Il Salviati,” accessed on 2 June 2021 from, https://www-oxfordartonline-com.lonlib.idm.oclc.org/benezit/view/10.1093/benz/9780199773787.001.0001/acref-9780199773787-e-00156240?rskey=zyUdgB.
3. Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Francesco Salviati,” accessed 1 June 2021 from, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Francesco-Salviati.
4. Iris H. Cheney, “Francesco Salviati’s North Italian Journey,” The Art Bulletin, Dec., 1963, Vol. 45, No. 4, 338.
5. Prof. Carlo Falciani, in private correspondence, 2020.