More than the meets the (shifty) eye: new book looks at the life of 16th-century polymath Jacopo Strada

    Shifty? Titians Portrait of Jacopo Strada (1566-67) Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

    In the introduction to his comprehensive two-volume work, Dirk Jacob Jansen laments the fact that today Jacopo Strada, the Mantuan goldsmith, numismatist, publisher, dealer, imperial antiquary and architect, is famous merely for having had his portrait painted by Titian. Certainly, the work, produced around 1566-67 and now in Viennas Kunsthistorisches Museum, is one of the most magnificent and simultaneously most expressive portraits of the Venetian artists late period. Twentieth-century art historians, most notably John Pope- Hennessy and Augusto Gentili, have viewed the distinctive way Strada looks to one side as evidencing the characteristic shiftiness of a dealer, even the personality traits of a mafia boss—someone “you wouldnt buy a used car from”.

    Quite apart from the discussion around Titians portrait, Strada has been of interest to art historians, for example, for his 1575 edition of Sebastiano Serlios Seventh Book and for his acquisition of Raphaels vast body of drawings from the artists heirs, leading to the conclusion that as a patrician he possessed a considerable private fortune. Jansen has previously revealed various facets of Stradas multiple activities in numerous essays—yet with this book he wanted to amalgamate these different aspects in a major overview that would establish the Mantuans significance once and for all.

    The first volume covers Stradas life—from his birth in Mantua in around 1515, through his education, his marriage to a Franconian noblewoman and his relocation to Nuremberg, supported by his long-term friend and patron Hans Jacob Fugger, his later move to Vienna and initial contacts with the imperial court, his appointment as imperial architect and antiquary, to his death in Vienna in 1588. The second volume deals with Stradas “Musaeum”—his term for his house, library, workshop and his extensive collections of various art objects, encompassing coins, medals, Kunst­kammer objects, antiquities, prints, drawings and paintings. Finally, Stradas role as an agent in artistic matters is discussed. A comprehensive back-matter apparatus concludes this richly illustrated work. This structure inevitably produces some overlapping and repetition. The books real strength lies in the infinitely rich detail of well-­researched and documented context. Jansen offers a fascinating insight into Italian antiquarian art production and into art north of the Alps, which was increasingly influenced by Italy.

    Strada demanded that the art of antiquity should not only be studied, preserved and taken as a model in all spheres of contemporary art, but also led the way by example: during his early travels he was already making acquisitions and commissioning young artists to produce drawings copying classical buildings and the reliefs on Trajans Column in Rome, as well as contemporary works such as Giulio Romanos decorations for the Palazzo del Te and Palazzo Ducale in Mantua, and Raphaels loggias in the Vatican. One artist entrusted with this task was Giovanni Battista Armenini, famous for his 1587 work De veri precetti della Pittura, who lived in Stradas house in Rome in 1555. Jansen also ascribes to Stradas influence the increasing adoption of Italian architectural forms in imperial projects at the Hofburg, the Stallburg and the Neugebäude in Vienna, and also in many aristocratic buildings in Bohemia and Hungary. Drawings by Strada himself, however, survive only for the Munich Antiquarium that he designed for Duke Alb­recht V of Bavaria. Strada created his own magnificent residence in the centre of Vienna, setting up a studio there and, on the piano nobile, his “Musaeum” with its abundant and diverse art treasures—designed to make plain his ideas to the Emperor, the aristocracy and the community of scholars and antiquaries.

    Stradas intention was for his collection of visual documentation—comprising drawn copies of classical or classically influenced designs, from portraits and architectural images on antique coins and medals, through to statues, busts and reliefs—to be organised thematically and prepared for publication, in order to promote the art of antiquity as the ultimate aesthetic standard. This and even more ambitious projects—such as an 11-language dictionary—remained unrealised due to a lack of financial support. After the death of Emperor Maximilian II in 1576, Stradas role as imperial architect Read More – Source

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