Forli, Melozzo da

(1438-1494)
   Painter from Forli, a town in the Romagna region of Italy. Little is known of Melozzo's formative years, and scholarship on this master is complicated by the fact that much of his work has been destroyed. He was active in Rome, Loreto, and Urbino, where he worked alongside Piero de la Francesca in the court of Federico da Montefeltro. Giovanni Santi, Raphael's father, wrote a poem in which he praised Melozzo for his unsurpassed ability to render perspective. This fact is demonstrated by the few works by Melozzo to have survived, including Sixtus IV, His Nephews, and Platina, His Librarian (1480-1481; transferred to canvas; now Rome, Pinacoteca Vaticana), one of the frescoes he created for Sixtus as part of the decorations of the pope's rebuilt and reorganized library at the Vatican. This scene, the earliest known papal ceremonial portrait of the Renaissance, unfolds in an audience room rendered in convincing perspective, with the pope enthroned and surrounded by his nephews, including Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere who later would become Pope Julius II, Michelangelo's patron. Kneeling in the foreground is Platina, the humanist who worked as the pope's librarian. He points to the inscription below the figures that extols his patron's achievements while the della Rovere oak branches, the papal family's heraldic symbols, are intertwined on the piers in the foreground. In 1481-1483, Melozzo also frescoed the apse in the Church of Santi Apostoli, Rome (fragments now in Vatican, Pinacoteca, and Rome, Palazzo Quirinale), a work that utilizes the di sotto in sù technique, an extreme form of foreshortening. Partially destroyed in the 18th century during the building's renovation, the scene, believed to have been commissioned by Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, depicts Christ in Glory surrounded by windswept musical angels. Melozzo treated the apse as an outdoor space where a miraculous vision unfolds, with figures viewed from below that seem to float above the faithful. This work presages the illusionistic ceiling frescoes of the late 16th and 17th centuries that seem to break architectural boundaries.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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