Polidoro, Caldara

Polidoro, Caldara called Caravaegio, from his birthplace, was an eminent Italian painter of the Pre-Raffaelites. He was born in 1495, near Milan. He went to Rome at the time when Leo X was raising some new edifices in the Vatican, and not knowing how to get his bread otherwise, for Polidoro was very young, he hired out as a day-laborer to carry stones and mortar for the masons there at work. He drudged this way till he was eighteen, when he was led to think of devoting his life to painting. It happened thus: Several young painters were employed by Raffaelle in the same place to execute his designs. Polidoro, who often carried them mortar to make their fresco, was touched with the sight of the paintings, and the pleasure he took to see the painters work stirred up the talent which he had for painting. In this disposition, he was very officious and complaisant to the young painters, pushed himself into their acquaintance, and opened to them his intention; whereupon they gave him lessons, which emboldened him to proceed. He applied himself with all his might to designing, and advanced so rapidly that Raffaelle was astonished, and set him to work with the other young painters; and Polidoro distinguished himself so much from all the rest, that, as he had the greatest share in executing his master's designs in the Vatican, so he had the greatest glory. The care he had seen Raffaelle take in designing the antique sculptures showed him the way to do the like. He spent whole days and nights in designing those beautiful things, and studied antiquity to the nicest exactness. The works with which he enriched the frontispieces of several buildings at Rome are proofs of the pains he took in studying the antique. He did very few easel pieces, most of his productions being in fresco, and of the same color, in imitation of the bass- reliefs. In this way he made use of the manner called scratching, consisting in the preparation of a black ground, on which is placed a white plaster, and where, taking off this white with an iron bodkin, we discover through the holes the black, which serves for shadows. Scratched work lasts longest, but being very rough, is unpleasant to the sight. He associated himself at first with Maturino, and their friendship lasted till the death of the latter, who died of the plague in 1526. After this, Polidoro, having by Raffaelle's assistance filled Rome with his pieces, thought to have enjoyed his ease and the fruits of his labors; when the Spaniards in 1527 besieging that city, all the men of art were forced to fly, or else were ruined by the miseries of the war. In this exigency Polidiro retired to Naples, where he was obliged to work for ordinary painters, and had no opportunity of making himself noted; for the Neapolitan nobility in those days were more solicitous to get good horses than good pictures. Seeing himself therefore without business, and forced to spend what he had got at Rome, he went to Sicily; and, understanding architecture as well as painting, the citizens of Messina employed him to make the triumphal arches for the reception of Charles V coming from Tunis. This being finished, and finding nothing further, he set out for Rome but, scarcely out of the place, was murdered by his servant for his money. This happened in 1543. Polidoro's principal work was done at Messina, and represented Christ bearing his Cross. This, with several small pictures of sacred subjects, is now in the Studj Gallery at Naples. His works have power, life, and passion, and he may be said to have originated the style which in later time formed the basis of the Neapolitan school. See Spooner, Biog. Hist. of the Fine Arts, s.v.; Mrs. Clement, Handbook of Painters, etc. p 171, 172. (J. H. W.)

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