Showing posts with label 1570. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1570. Show all posts

19 August 2018

Salomone Rossi - violinist and composer

Leading Jewish musician of the late Renaissance 


Salomone Rossi's talent with the violin earned him work for the Mantuan court
Salomone Rossi's talent with the violin
earned him work for the Mantuan court
The composer and violinist Salomone Rossi, who became a renowned performer at the court of the Gonzagas in Mantua in the late 16th and early 17th centuries and is regarded as the leading Jewish musician of the late Renaissance, is thought to have been born on this day in 1570.

Jews had periodically been the subject of persecution in the Italian peninsula for hundreds of years. At around the time of Rossi’s birth, Pope Pius V expelled all Jews from all but two areas of the papal states and Florence established a ghetto, in which all Jews within the city and the wide Grand Duchy of Tuscany were required to live.

The Mantua of Rossi’s day was much more enlightened than many Italian cities, however. Jews were not only tolerated but they were often allowed to mix freely with non-Jews. The liberal atmosphere allowed Jewish writers, musicians and artists to have an important influence on the culture of the day.

The court of Mantua was not only renowned for its royal luxury but as a centre of artistic excellence. At the end of the 15th century the duchess Isabella d’Este Gonzaga actively sought out the finest musicians in Italy, bringing them to Mantua to compose new music and perform it for the entertainment of the royal family.

Vincenzo I was the first duke of Mantua to employ Salomone Rossi
Vincenzo I was the first duke of
Mantua to employ Salomone Rossi
The duke Gugliemo Gonzaga, in the second half of the 16th century, established a resident musical ensemble within the castle walls and his successor, Vincenzo I Gonzaga, at the turn of the 17th century, had on his payroll composers of the quality and standing of Claudio Monteverdi, Giovanni Gastoldi and Lodovico Vladana, to provide music for banquets, wedding feasts, musical-theatre productions and chapel services.

Rossi had come to the court’s attention as a talented violinist and he entered the service of duke Vincenzo I in 1587 as a singer and viola player.

Soon he was given the title of concertmaster as the leader of the duke’s instrumental ensemble, tasked with entertaining the ducal family and their esteemed guests. He was so well thought of that he was excused from wearing the yellow badge that was still required of Jews in Mantua, despite the enlightened atmosphere that prevailed. The privilege was renewed in 1612 by the new duke, Francesco IV.

Nonetheless, it is not thought that he could have enjoyed a permanent salaried position at the court, a privilege almost exclusively reserved for Christian musicians.  He would have been paid by the court on an individual basis for his performances at court events and for his vocal and instrumental compositions.

There is evidence that he also played for Paolo Adreasi, the Count of Rhodes, Fredrico Rossi, the Count of San Secundo, and Alessandro Pico, Prince of Mirandola. He also had support and protection from two prominent Jewish figures in Mantua: Moses Sullam, who provided him with financial support, and Rabbi Leone da Modena, who offered guidance and protection. Rossi was also heavily involved in Mantuan theatrical life.

The opening pages to a Rossi score for a madrigal  played in Venice in 1628
The opening pages to a Rossi score for a madrigal
played in Venice in 1628
As a composer, Rossi applied his creative talents to a new fashion in music known as monadic song, with one leading solo voice supported by a fundamental bass. He is considered the pioneer of these new Baroque forms which include the trio sonata and suite.

His first published work in 1589 was a collection of 19 canzonettes - short, dance-like compositions for a trio of voices with lighthearted, amorous lyrics.

Rossi also composed more serious madrigals, combining the poetry of the greatest poets of the day with his melodies. In 1600, in the first two of his five madrigal books, Rossi published the earliest continuo madrigals, an innovation which marked the beginning of the Baroque era in music.

As a Jewish musician, his lasting contribution is his Ha-Shirim Asher li-Shelomo, 33 settings for three to eight voices of Hebrew texts, edited by Rabbi Leone.

Rossi's name as a violist appears on the ducal payrolls in Mantua until 1622.

The death of the last Gonzaga duke and the sack of Mantua by the Austrian army (1628-30) ended the golden age of Mantuan court music. Many of Mantua’s Jews fled to the ghetto in Venice, where they joined the Jewish musical Accademia degli Impediti. 

It is not known whether Rossi himself was still alive and active in the Accademia. Some historians believe he died during the invasion of Austrian troops, who destroyed the Jewish ghetto in Mantua, or in a subsequent plague which ravaged the area.

Rossi's sister, Madama Europa, who was an opera singer at the court in Mantua and possibly the first Jewish woman to be professionally engaged in that field, also disappeared after the end of the Gonzaga court and subsequent sack of the ghetto.

The facade of the Palazzo Ducale in Mantua, which was the palace of the Gonzagas between 1328 and 1707
The facade of the Palazzo Ducale in Mantua, which was
the palace of the Gonzagas between 1328 and 1707
Travel tip:

Mantua is an atmospheric old city in Lombardy, to the south east of Milan, famous for its Renaissance Palazzo Ducale, the seat of the Gonzaga family between 1328 and 1707. The Camera degli Sposi is decorated with frescoes by Andrea Mantegna, depicting the life of Ludovico Gonzaga and his family. The beautiful backgrounds of imaginary cities and ruins reflect Mantegna’s love of classical architecture.

The ampoules that allegedly contain drops of the blood of Christ, mixed with soil
The ampoules that allegedly contain drops
of the blood of Christ, mixed with soil
Travel tip:

In the Renaissance heart of Mantua is Piazza Mantegna, where the 15th century Basilica of Sant’Andrea houses the tomb of the artist, Andrea Mantegna. The church was originally built to accommodate the large number of pilgrims who came to Mantua to see a precious relic, two ampoules containing what were believed to be drops of Christ’s blood mixed with earth. This was claimed to have been collected at the site of his crucifixion by a Roman soldier.

More reading:

The Gonzaga duke who spent his childhood as a political hostage

Andrea Mantegna - master of perspective

The genius of Claudio Monteverdi

Also on this day:

1580: The death of Antonio Palladio, the world's favourite architect

1957: The birth of former azzurri football coach Cesare Prandelli


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27 November 2016

Jacopo Sansovino – architect

Death of the designer praised by Palladio


A portrait of Sansovino by Tintoretto, currently  housed in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence
A portrait of Sansovino by Tintoretto, currently
 housed in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence
Jacopo d’Antonio Sansovino, the sculptor and architect renowned for his works around Piazza San Marco, died on this day in 1570 in Venice.

He designed the Libreria Sansoviniana in the Piazzetta, which was later praised by the architect Andrea Palladio as ‘the finest building erected since antiquity’.

Sansovino had been born Jacopo Tatti in 1486 in Florence and was apprenticed to the sculptor Andrea Sansovino, whose surname he subsequently adopted.

He was commissioned to make a marble sculpture of St James for the Duomo and a Bacchus, which is now in the Bargello in Florence.

However, his designs for sculptures to adorn the fa├žade of the Church of San Lorenzo were rejected by Michelangelo, who was in charge of the scheme.

In 1529 Sansovino became chief architect to the Procurators of San Marco, making him one of the most influential artists in Venice.

The Palazzo Corner della Ca'Grande was the first building in Venice designed by Sansovino
The Palazzo Corner della Ca'Grande was the first
building in Venice designed by Sansovino
His first Venetian building was the Palazzo Corner della Ca’ Grande, a huge classical palace for one of the richest families in Venice.

Sansovino designed the Loggetta and its sculptures adjoining the Campanile and statues for the Basilica of San Marco. He also helped rebuild many of the churches and palaces in Venice.

His masterpiece is considered to be the library building in the Piazzetta, which houses the national library of San Marco, the Biblioteca Marciana.

Construction began in 1537 opposite the Doge’s palace and it became one of the most richly decorated Renaissance structures in Venice, surmounted by statues of mythological gods.

During the construction, the roof vaulting collapsed and at the time Sansovino was blamed and imprisoned. He was freed only after appeals from eminent people in Venice, including the artist Titian.

After Sansovino’s death in Venice in 1570 he was buried in St Mark’s Basilica.

The Libreria Sansoviniana, which houses the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, is considered Sansovino's masterpiece
The Libreria Sansoviniana, which houses the Biblioteca
Nazionale Marciana, is considered Sansovino's masterpiece
Travel tip:

The National Library of St Mark’s, the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, is housed in the Renaissance building designed by Sansovino opposite the Doge’s Palace in the Piazzetta. It is one of the earliest surviving public manuscript depositories in the country holding one of the greatest collections of classical texts in the world. The library is named after Saint Mark, the patron saint of Venice. One of the first librarians was poet and scholar Pietro Bembo, who had earlier written beautiful love letters to Lucrezia Borgia while they were having an affair.

Travel tip:

Sansovino was buried in the beautifully decorated Baptistery of Saint Mark’s near the altar. The Baptistery was built on to the southern end of the church in the first half of the 14th century. In the centre of the room stands a baptismal font in marble and bronze, which was designed by Sansovino.

More reading:


The worldwide influence of the Renaissance giant Titian

Andrea Palladio - the world's favourite architect

The day the Campanile of St Mark's collapsed


Also on this day:



1964: The birth of footballer and manager Roberto Mancini

(Picture credits: Palazzo Corner della Ca'Grande and Libreria Sansoviniana both by Wolfgang Moroder via Wikimedia Commons)


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