Il Riposo... in cui della Pittura, e della Scultura si favella, de’ piu illustri Pittori, e Scultori e delle piu famose opere loro si fa mentione; e le cose principali appartenenti ŕ dette arti s’insegnano

Autore BORGHINI, Raffaello (1537?-1588).
Tipografo Giorgio Marescotti
Dati tipografici Firenze, 
Prezzo € 1900.00
Il Riposo

8vo (160x109 mm). [24], 648 pp. With the printer's device on the title-page and an allegorical woodcut on the verso of the second leaf. Later vellum, some light browning and spots, title-page a bit soiled, a few ink stains, but a fine copy.

FIRST EDITION of what is generally regarded as the best source for the biographies of the later Florentine Mannerists and the first Italian art treatise aimed specifically at the non-specialist connoisseur. “Whereas Vasari had written his Vite for both artists and non-artists, Raffaele Borghini's published his Riposo explicitly for those who do not practice either painting or sculpture. His book enables such laymen to talk about art in an informed way. Borghini considers talking about art to be an art form in its own right, and he maintains that through their verbal endeavours all laymen may become immortal artists. His Risposo will allow them to attain this goal” (T. Frangenberg, The Art of Taking about Sculpture: Vasari, Borghini and Bocchi, in: “Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes”, 58, 1995, p. 118).

The work is dedicated to Giovanni de' Medici, natural son of Cosimo I and Eleonora degli Albizzi. The work is written as an imaginary conversation between four members of the Florentine society (among them Borghini) during a visit to a villa near Florence, named Il Riposo, which belonged to the collector Bernardo Vecchietti, one of the interlocutors (cf. M. Bury, Bernardo Vecchietti: Patron of Giambologna, in: “I Tatti Studies”, 1, 1985, pp. 13-56). The others were two Florentine noblemen, Baccio Valori and Girolamo Michelozzo and the sculptor Ridolfo Sirigatti (cf. D. Pegazzano, Lorenzo Sirigatti: Gli svaghi eruditi di un dilettante del Cinquecento, in: “Mitteilungen des kunstistorischen Institutes in Florenz”, 42/1, 1998, pp. 144-175). The volume opens with a poem by Piero di Gherardo Capponi and on the verso an allegorical woodcut. Then follow a comprehensive index of the painters, sculptors and other names mentioned in the book as well a long subject index pointing to Borghini's marginal subheadings (cf. L.H. Ellis, Jr., Introduction, in: “Raffaello Borghini's ‘Il Riposo' ”, Toronto, 2007, passim).

“Raffaello Borghini's Il Riposo is, to an extent, a continuation of Vasari's Vite of 1568. This in- tent is testified to, not so much by the verses composed by Piero di Gherardo Capponi and addressed ‘A' pittori, et a gli scultori fiorentini', which follow immediately the title page (where the book is explicitly dedicated to ‘il Sig. Don Giovanni Medici'), as by the verso of this page, which bears the same woodcut of Eternal Fame with the Arts of Design and the Artists of the Past that served as an emblem for the first edition of Vasari's Vite (1550). But Borghini's book was primarily addressed to collectors and amateurs of art, an educated lay audience. Borghini writes, ‘I have written for those who do not practice these precepts, but, either for use or delight, are seized with pleasure in knowing them' (pp. 127-128). The first two books contain dialogues which treat, not the artists's vite, but more general questions relating to the arts. Thus the book is of a composite nature... Borghini's conception of the ‘vita' also differs significantly from Vasari's, as well as from a humanist conception of biography. And, as opposed to Vasari's often discursive and anecdotal vite, which offer ample biographical detail, Borghini provides, as he says, only a brief summary of the vite of the modern painters and sculptors (pp. 249f.), explicitly referring the reader to the fuller expositions found in Vasari. Borghini's Vite are constituted largely by lists of works by the artists. But, again as he writes, he includes many artists of the present, many treated for the first time. The vite begin in Book III, where accounts of artists from Cimabue to Giulio Romano are found. Following a brief introduction, Book I contains vite of artists beginning with Baccio Bandinelli. In addition to very many Florentine artists too late for Vasari, many artists active in Venice and Rome are included, as well as ones from Bologna, Milan, Urbino, and elsewhere. The dialogues treat disparate subjects. Religious decorum is a central concern, and religious narrative and sacred iconography receive much consideration, along with erotic or lascivious content and transgressions. Artistic technique is treated at length as well as criteria for artistic judgement... What is one to make of the striking contrast between the hastily compiled, uninformative summaries purloined from Vasari and the extraordinarily well-informed and detailed lists of works by living Florentine artists? And this, despite the fact that Borghini maintains that the latter are discussed with brevity, mentioning only the principal works (p. 542). At several points Borghini implies that what he writes is dependent upon the sources available to him (e.g., pp. 249f.), but there has been scarcely any attempt to define in detail his sources and to engage the text critically. In the dialogues, following the vita of Michelangelo, Sirigatti states that he will discuss the best artists of a later time, those of whom he has personal knowledge, although it seems unlikely that he knew all the artists working in Venice whom he describes. After treating artists who have died in recent years, the book turns to artists still living (p. 551). For the works of Venetian painters Borghini comes close to saying that he is relying upon detailed written reports (p. 559). Information about Bolognese painters seem to have been supplemented by a Florentine informant, Giovambattista Dei (pp. 566f.). Urbino is represented by Federigo Barocci, Rome by Federico Zuccari, Girolamo Muziano, and Scipione Pulzone. In some of these vite, Borghini may rely on information received from Egnazio Danti, who is mentioned at several points, and whose rather obscure younger brother, Girolamo, is, exceptionally, accorded a vita, and whose historicising collection of drawings representing all the good artists is also reported (p. 566: ‘di mano di tutti i valenti huomini dell'arte'). Returning to Florence (p. 579), Borghini treats foreigners in Florence (Stradanus and Giovanni Bologna) and then native Florentines. Much in these vite relies on first hand information from the artists (e.g., Stradanus, Ammannati, and others), and an exemplary and more extensive treatment is often devoted to one of the individual artist's principal works. In these vite a number of mistakes by Vasari are impatiently corrected. The book concludes, rather abruptly, with remarks about the youthful sculptor Giovanni Caccini, who is presented as a hope for the future” (Ch. Davis, Raffaello Borghini and his ‘Il Riposo', in: “Fontes. Quellen und Dokumente zur Kunst, 1350-1750”, 59, 2011, pp. 23-24; see also T. Frangenberg, Der Betrachter: Studien zur florentinischen Kunstliteratur des 16. Jahrhunderts, Berlin, 1990, pp. 77-103).

Also an interesting aspect of Il Riposo is that Borghini offers in it codes of conduct for the aging artist. “The key source for this courtly image of the artist appears in that most gracious of texts, Raffaello Borghini's Il Riposo... [His] image of artists such like Pontormo, who creates a spectacle by continuing to paint in old age, finds parallel in Castiglione's depiction of the aging courtier who fails to relinquish the pursuits of his youth... In light of Pontormo's negative example, Borghini offers a mod- el for artistic behaviour inspired by the role fashioned for the elderly courtier in courtesy literature. Through a transcendent rhetoric that echoes Castiglione's characterization of the final years of the courtier, Borghini aligns artistic practice with youth and the senses, and old age with pedagogy and contemplation” (E.J. Campbell, The Art of Aging Gracefully: The Elderly Artist as Courtier in Early Modern Art Theory and Criticism, in: “The Sixteenth Century Journal”, 33/2, 2002, p. 327-8).

Raffaello Borghini was born into a noble Florentine family. As a young man he was connected with those Florentine nobles who opposed the Medici; but later became a supporter of the powerful family. He spent most of his life in Florence, except for a period in France (1572-5), where he enjoyed the patronage of the Jean I de Pontève, Comte de Carcès and his wife Marguerite in Provence. On his return to Florence he began his career as a man of letters, poet and playwright, producing two successful comedies La donna costante (1578) and L'amante furioso (1583) and a pastoral play Diana pietosa (1586). He also began to frequent the cultured society around the court of Francesci I de' Medici and moved in the circles of the Capponi, Vecchietti, Valori and Pitti families. In this milieu, under the in- fluence of Francesco I, he assembled a collection that included not only works of art, but also bizarre and curious natural objects, achieving a mixture of naturalia and artificialia that was typical of the German Wunderkammer. He was buried in the church of Santa Croce in Florence (cf. R. Ceserani, Raffaello Borghini, in: “Dizionario biografico degli italiani”, XII, 1971, pp. 677-680).

Edit 16, CNCE 7120; H.M. Adams, Catalogue of Books printed on the Continent of Europe, 1501-1600 in Cambridge Libraries, Cambridge, 1967, B-2495; B. Gamba, Serie dei testi di lingua, Venice, 1839, no. 241; Index Aureliensis, 122.394; P. Barocchi, ed., Scritti d'arte nel Cinquecento, Milan-Naples, 1971-1977, I, pp. 674-90, 936-944, II, 1982-1991; A. Blunt, Artistic Theory in Italy, 1450-1600, London, 1985, p. 101; L.H. Ellis, ed. & transl., Raffaello Borghini's ‘Il Riposo', Toronto, 2007, passim; G.M. Fara, Appunti per una storia critica della pittura toscana dal naturale fra Cinque e Seicento: da Raffaello Borghini a Luigi Lanzi, in: “Luce e ombra: caravaggismo e naturalismo nella pittura toscana del Seicento”, O. Carofano, ed., Pisa, 2005, pp. 33-39; J. Schlosser, La letteratura artistica, Florence, 1956, pp. 349-354.

  • Il Riposo
  • Il Riposo