Perino del Vaga was one of the most admired and influential Italian artists of the sixteenth century. Blending influences from Michelangelo, Raphael, and classical antiquity, his art, with its emphasis on grace, artifice, and effortless complexity, epitomizes the Late Renaissance style known as Mannerism. Perino's powers of invenzione (invention), a faculty much prized by sixteenth-century cognoscenti and writers on art, are abundantly on display in his drawings; far better known today than his paintings, they represent the apogee of his artistic achievement. Spanning the artist's thirty-year career and including all his drawings in New York collections, this exhibition celebrates the Metropolitan Museum's recent acquisition of two major works by Perino: a previously unknown Holy Family with the Infant Saint John the Baptist, one of only a few independent paintings from his hand, and the newly rediscovered Jupiter and Juno Reclining on a Marriage Bed, which ranks among his most beautiful and important drawings.
Florentine by birth, Perino trained with Raphael in Rome and went on to become the preeminent fresco painter in the city. Following the Sack of Rome in 1527, he relocated to Genoa, where he worked for nearly a decade as court artist to Admiral-Prince Andrea Doria. His decorations in the Palazzo Doria introduced to Genoa the modern maniera all'antica, as the sophisticated, classicizing style of Raphael and his followers was known.
By 1537 Perino was back in Rome, which was undergoing a period of cultural renewal, and within a few years he had become court artist to Pope Paul III, assuming the role that Raphael had filled decades earlier for Pope Leo X. Like Raphael, Perino oversaw a large and industrious workshop, devising monumental compositions for the Vatican and elsewhere while entrusting much of the execution of his frescoes and stucco reliefs, as well as the rock crystals, embroideries, medals, and myriad other precious objects he designed, to his collaborators. Perino died in 1547 and was entombed in the Pantheon near Raphael—the master he loved, according to Vasari, as much as if he were his own son.