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The Florentine Rosso Fiorentino (Giovanni Battista di Jacopo) moved to Rome in 1523 and was deeply traumatised when the city was sacked in 1527.  According to Giorgio Vasari, “poor Rosso was taken prisoner by the Germans and used very ill, for, besides stripping him of his clothes, they made him carry weights on his back barefooted and with nothing on his head, and remove almost the whole stock from a cheesemonger's shop”. 

Rosso Fiorentino managed to escape and to reach Perugia in 1528.  There, he was given hospitality by Domenico Alfani (see below).  He subsequently moved to Borgo Sansepolcro, and also secured work in nearby Città di Castello (see below).   He left Italy for France in 1530.

Città di Castello

Transfiguration (1528-30)

The Compagnia del Corpus Domini commissioned this important panel from Rosso Fiorentino for their chapel in the Duomo.  Its corners were sadly removed in 1685, when it was moved to its current location on the back wall of the Cappella del SS Sacramento there.  The panel as restored in 1982-3 and is now in the Museo del Duomo.

The upper part of the picture, which follows the stipulations of the original contract, depicts the Risen Christ in glory, with the Virgin and SS Anne, Mary Magdalene and Mary of Egypt.  This contract added that “below ... several different figures [should be painted] to denote and represent the people".  According to Giorgio Vasari, the roof fell in while Rosso was at work on this picture, damaging it and causing him to develop a high fever.  He took refuge at Sansepolcro, where, "in a fury he depicted the figure of Christ ascending heavenwards flanked by four worshippers, with below them a group of people including moors, gypsies and some of the strangest beings in the world.  All these figures, though perfectly executed, form a composition that was far removed from the expectations of those who had commissioned the picture".  It is equally likely that the revolutionary nature of the composition was conditioned by Rosso’s during the sack of Rome.


According to Giorgio Vasari, after his mistreatment in Rome, Rosso “escaped with difficulty to Perugia, where he was warmly welcomed and reclothed by the painter Domenico di Paride [Domenico Alfani], for whom he drew the cartoon for a panel picture of the Magi, a very beautiful work, which is to be seen in the house of Domenico”.

Design for the Adoration of the Magi (1528) 

The design that Rosso gave to Domenico Alfani has been lost, but it is known by a copy (1574) by Cherubino Alberti that is now in the British Museum

Domenico Alfani used the design for the main panel of an altarpiece for the high altar of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Castel Rigone: this commission was formally renewed in 1528 and completed in  1534.  Unfortunately, the altarpiece has not survived, although it is known from a photograph.

Read more:

D. Franklin, “Rosso in Italy”, (1994), Boston

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Rosso Fiorentino (1494-1540) 

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