UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

The subject matter of the ceiling decorations by Prospero Fontana and Taddeo Zuccaro in the casino of the Villa Giulia, Rome Hunter, Jacqueline Ethel Burnett


The Villa Giulia was erected between 1551 and 1555 as a suburban retreat for Pope.Julius III. Designed by Vignola, Ammannati, and Vasari it was of great importance in the development of mannerist architecture. From contemporary descriptions it is known that the buildings were elaborately ornamented with frescoes and stuccoes. Few of these works survive but among those that do are the decorations of the ceilings of the north and south rooms on the ground floor of the Casino attributed by J. A. Gere to Prospero Fontana and Taddeo Zuccaro. The concern of this thesis is to uncover the subject matter of these ceiling decorations. Each of the ceilings is divided into nine rectangles containing five large works in stucco and four fresco panels. These larger works are surrounded by frames filled with small fresco and stucco ornaments. The subject matter of the major stuccoes has .been identified as, in the north room: Fortuna seized by Virtue, the emblem of Julius, and the four classical virtues, Prudence, Temperance, Justice, and Fortitude; and in the south room: Fortuna overcome by Virtue, and the three Christian virtues, Faith, Hope and Charity, and Religion. The subject matter of the-fresco panels has been impossible to determine. One panel in the north room is based on Philostratus' description of the River of Andros. One panel in the north room and one in the south are related in composition to two plaquettes by Guglielmo della Porta, but their subjects are not the same. The subjects of some of the small, stucco medallions have been identified, but those of the other minor decorations and grotesques have not. As the major panels are not identified it cannot be ascertained whether the minor decorations have any iconological significance. Much of the minor fresco work appears to be purely ornamental in keeping with the taste and custom of the times. The minor decoration of the south room is richer than that of the north room leading to the surmise that the artist had some freedom to improvise this part of the work. Though the subjects of the panels have not been identified, they do fit contemporary ideas of the decoration appropriate for a villa of this type. The programme was probably devised by one of the scholars or poets of whom Julius was patron and may include parodies of classical myths. The search for the iconographical and iconological significance of these works involved an examination of both pictorial and textual sources. The pictorial sources included the photograph collections of the Warburg and Frick art reference libraries, and many books and periodicals containing reproductions of sixteenth century works. The textual sources included sixteenth century works on classical mythology, classical literature known in the sixteenth century, twentieth century works on mannerist iconography and iconology, and to a lesser extent works on sixteenth century literature. As most of this material proved irrelevant, it has been omitted from the bibliography.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.