Trattato della nobilta della pittura. Composto ad instantia della venerabil’ compagnia di S. Luca, et nobil’academia delli pittori di Roma.
Roma, Francesco Zanetti 1585.
4to. (8)+54pp (no final blank leaf). Recent vellum, silk ties, in morocco-backed cloth-covered box. From the library of Arnaud de Vitry, with his full-page engraved bookplates inserted before title page.
A key text for an understanding of attitudes to painting in late sixteenth-century Italy, written with two distinct aims: to convince sceptics that painting should generally be considered a liberal rather than a mechanical art, the author invoking a wide range of classical authors to show precedent ; and to emphasise the moral and Christian benefits both of painting and of the training of young painters. Romano Alberti was himself a painter while in his native town of Borgo San Sepolcro, where there is a fresco attributed to him, and Pevsner (Academies of Art, 1973 reprint, p.61) records that he was one of the original painting masters at the Accademia di S. Luca when it was established in 1593, but he came to be better known as the Accademia’s secretary and procurator, under the protection of his long-term friend Federico Zuccari, the founder and president of the Accademia, whose ideas on the Christian nobility of painting are echoed in the present work.This treatise, however, predates the opening of the Accademia by eight years, and seems to have been published after the issue of a directive by Pope Gregory XIII intended to establish such an academy to counter the perceived decadence of Roman art, particularly feared in the light of the city’s status as the centre of the Counter-Reformation. It is, therefore, particularly significant for the history of the Accademia and although it had no direct bearing on the date of the Accademia’s foundation (no serious progress with its establishment was made until a further papal bull issued by Pope Sixtus V in 1588), it may well have had some real influence on the remit of the new institution, and was also an intelligent contribution to the debate on the status of the arts. A scarce book, described by Cicognara (his no. 69) as “edizione elegante di un eruditissimo opuscolo”.