Virtù: Italian, literally, “virtue.” A term used in 16th-17th century art theory to describe involvement with the visual arts of a particularly high quality, it denotes technical excellence and overall worth - e.g., Vasari’s description of Michelangelo as possessing the “virtù” of “divinissimo ingenium (the most divine talent).” Works of art may possess virtù, as well as artists. Also used in a courtly context to describe an ideal of refined behavior, and applied to collectors and connoisseurs of art in the 17th century.
Furia: an Italian term traditionally applied to painting, literally meaning, “fury.” The term is used to denote the energy and autonomy of figures (but characterized at the same time the temperament of the artist).
Ascanio Condivi (1525-74): Italianpainter and writer, known principally for his biography of Michelangelo, Vita di Michelagnolo Buonarroti (1553), probably written directly under Michelangelo’s influence. Condivi emphasizes his personal relationship with the artist, and contests certain aspects of Vasari’s 1550 biography.
Figura serpentinata: Italian, literally, “serpentine, or snaking, figure.” An elaboration of the contrapposto pose, the figura serpentinata is a figure including dramatic torsion (hips and head vs. shoulders turned to opposite directions), and appearing differently at different viewing angles. The term came to denote an ideal of 16thcentury painting and sculpture, and was an important element in the Mannerist style. (See Michelangelo’s Christ in S. Maria Sopra Minerva as example)
Pope Julius II (b. 1443 as Giuliano della Rovere, elected pope 1503, d.1513): Michelangelo’s great patron, Julius II commissioned an elaborate tomb from the sculptor (eventually realized in a much-diminished form), along with the Vatican Sistine Chapel ceiling in 1508. Julius simultaneously commissioned frescoes from Raphael (along with other collaborating artists) to decorate his private apartments at the Vatican palace (the stanze). Julius was also responsible for the building of the new St. Peter’s (by Donato Bramante), among many other major artistic and architectural commissions.
Cosimo I de’Medici: The first of the Medici Granddukes of Tuscany, Cosimo was a major patron of Michelangelo, Bronzino, Vasari, and Cellini, among other artists. He served as co-director of the Accademia del Disegno in Florence, in partnership with Michelangelo. Cosimo commissioned the Grotta Grande as part of the Boboli Gardens at the Palazzo Pitti, just outside Florence, beginning in 1550. Bernardo Buontalenti created the Grotta Grande between 1583 and 1585: commissioned works for the grotto include frescoes by Bernardino Poccetti, Giambologna’s Venus, Vincenzo de’ Rossi’s Theseus and Helena, and Baccio Bandinelli’s Adam and Eve. Michelangelo’s Slaves (commissioned for the Tomb of Julius II) were added in 1585.
Accademia del Disegno: Drawing academy founded in Florence in 1563. Vasari served as one of the first heads of the Accademia, where drawing was taught both from natural models and from copying the masters.
Non finito: Italian for ‘unfinished’.
Italian terms used to describe artistic ideals (with Michelangelo as their ‘incarnation’) in 16th century art theory: Difficoltà, literally, “difficulty.”
Sprezzatura, loftiness, lightness, ease, grace (also used as a behavioral ideal in a courtly context).
Leggiadria, loveliness, lightness.
Maniera, literally, “manner,” translated as “style.” First used by Vasari (1550) to denote the “maniera Greca,” (Medieval style with a rather negative connotation for Vasari) in contrast to Michelangelo’s High Renaissance maniera.