Basso Della Rovere Chapel (Santa Maria del Popolo)
The Basso Della Rovere Chapel (Italian: Cappella Basso Della Rovere) is located in the south aisle of the basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome. This is the third side chapel from the counterfaçade and was dedicated to St. Augustine. The cycle of beautiful quattrocento frescoes was executed by Pinturicchio and his workshop.
The chapel was built by Bishop Girolamo Basso della Rovere after his uncle, Pope Sixtus IV had started the total reconstruction of the basilica from 1471 to 1484. The architecture shows a certain Lombard influence and it is attributed to Andrea Bregno. The painted decoration is attributed to Pinturicchio and his workshop, who worked here in an unspecified period between 1484, when the chapel was fitted, and 1492, when his patron received the bishopric of Palestrina instead of that of Recanati, which is mentioned in the dedicatory inscription on the monument of his father, Giovanni Basso.
Description and style
Compared to the nearby Chapel of the Nativity, frescoed by the same Pinturicchio, the Basso Della Rovere Chapel has a greater decorative fervour. The small chapel is hexagonal with a sexpartite ribbed vault and the entrance is protected by a slim balustrade. Fake porphyry columns with Corinthian capitals support an entablature of white and gilded marble. They are placed on a pedestal which is decorated with painted benches and illusionistic monochrome reliefs. Two books were painted on one of the benches in perfect perspective, deceiving the viewer. The pedestal has remarkable similarities to the inlays of the small study of Guidobaldo da Montefeltro originally at Gubbio but now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The panels of the vault are covered by a lush floral decoration on a golden background with images of prophets in medaillons.
The profusion of polychrome decoration is complemented by the maiolica floor tiles, contemporary works from Deruta, which show heraldic devices, Della Rovere trees, animals and other decorative motifs.
The five lunettes are decoreted with Stories from the Life of the Virgin, now much damaged and repainted. The great fresco of the Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints Augustine, Francis, Anthony of Padua and a Holy Monk above the altar, with a lunette that shows the God the Father Blessing, is enclosed by a white marble frame with rich golden decorations. There are two arched windows on the two adjacent walls with splays decorated with grotesques. The first wall is decorated by the fresco of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary while last section is covered by the funeral monument of Giovanni Basso (†1483). That was created around 1485 by the workshop of Andrea Bregno. Its design is analogous to the now truncated tomb of Pietro Mellini in the Mellini Chapel and other similar monuments in Rome. The handling is less refined, when closely examined, but still a beautiful work.
The complex painted decoration, although in general follows the Umbrian style, has the characteristics of multiple hands with very different individual accents. In addition to the assistants from the workshop of Pinturicchio and Perugino, the Bolognese Amico Aspertini may have participated in the stories of the martyrs on the false reliefs of the base, because he stayed in Rome in those years. One of the hands notably present in the main scenes, if not Pinturicchio himself, is assigned to a generic „Master of the Basso Della Rovere Chapel”, perhaps recognizable even in the frescoes of the Piccolomini Library in the Cathedral of Siena.
- Acidini, cit., pag. 184.
- Acidini, cit., pag. 186.
- Gerald S. Davies, cit., pag. 305.
- Acidini, cit., pag. 188.
- Cristina Acidini, Pintoricchio, in Pittori del Rinascimento, Scala, Firenze 2004. ISBN 88-8117-099-X
- Gerald S. Davies: Renascence. The Sculptured Tombs of the Fifteenth Century in Rome, E. P. Dutton and Company, New York, 1916
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