Pope Clement VII
Pope Clement VII (Giulio de’ Medici) was the nephew of
He was the illegitimate son of Giuliano de’ Medici
(1453–1478) and Fioretta Gorini.
An intellectual and a renowned musician, he was a highly
discriminating patron whose circle included Baldassare Castiglione and Paolo
Educated at Padua University, he travelled extensively in
Europe during the Medici exile from Florence (1494–1512).
When the Medici were restored to power, Giulio was appointed Archbishop of Florence and cardinal
by his cousin Pope Leo X. He travelled to Rome in 1513 and became Papal Vice-Chancellor in 1517. He is depicted on
the left in Raphael’s Leo X with Cardinals Giulio de’ Medici and Luigi de’ Rossi.
In late 1516 he commissioned Sebastiano del Piombo and Raphael to execute altarpieces for his
archiepiscopal church, the cathedral of Narbonne, France: Sebastiano’s Resurrection of Lazarus and Raphael’s
Transfiguration (pics bellow)
Sebastiano’s Resurrection of Lazarus (left) and Raphael’s Transfiguration (right)
He continued the Medici patronage of Raphael and requested him to design a villa (later known as
Villa Madama) outside Rome. Work began around 1518, with the assistance of Giulio Romano and Antonio da Sangallo
II. Fresco decorations were painted by Giulio Romano, Giovanni da Udine and Giovanni Francesco Penni, and Baccio
Bandinelli produced a pair of stucco Herculean Giants for the gardens. Only part of the villa was completed, and it
was largely destroyed in 1527, in the Sack of Rome. Giulio governed Florence from 1519 onwards, and the marble
sculpture of Orpheus he ordered from Bandinelli dates from that year. In 1520 he was involved with commissioning
Pontormo’s lunette fresco of Vertumnus and Pomona for the saloneof the Medici villa at Poggio a Caiano.
Giulio was elected Pope, at the age of 45, on 19 November 1523 and took the title Clement VII:
the decorations for his coronation were produced by Bandinelli. Clement continued the decoration by Giulio Romano
and Penni of the Sala di Costantino, in which they incorporated a portrait of Clement as Pope Leo I. On 10 December
1523 Clement confirmed the commission given by Leo X to Michelangelo to design a chapel at San Lorenzo in Florence
for Medici family tombs. In January 1524 he asked Michelangelo to design a library at S Lorenzo to display the
Medici book collection to the public.
Numerous drawings exist for these two projects, and the
surviving correspondence reveals Clement’s high degree of involvement: he
requested an unusual design with small figures for the ceiling and asked Paolo
Giovio to devise an inscription for the entrance to the reading-room of the
Biblioteca Laurenziana; he even specified the type of wood to be used for the
desks and ceiling of the library.
By 1525 Sebastiano had produced two further works for
Clement; a head of Christ and a Holy Family; the latter is identified with the
Holy Family with St John the Baptist.
In 1525 Clement commissioned Bandinelli to produce a statue
of Hercules and Cacus (photo below) for the Piazza della Signoria,
Florence as a pendant to Michelangelo’s David.
Hercules and Cacus by Bandinelli, Piazza della Signoria, Florence
During the Sack of Rome on 6 May 1527, Clement took refuge in Castel Sant’Angelo; he then fled
to Orvieto and Viterbo, where he remained in exile. After his return to Rome in October 1528, he vowed, according
to Vasari, to order bronze statues of the Deadly Sins for the gate-tower of Castel Sant’Angelo to commemorate this
traumatic event. The commission was given to Bandinelli but never executed. Sebastiano’s magnificent portrait of
Clement VII dates from this period. Benvenuto Cellini, who was master of the Papal Mint from 1529 to 1534, produced
seals, medals and finely wrought coins bearing the Pope’s portrait with the highly personal iconography of the
obverses chosen by Clement himself. Cellini also produced a renowned papal morse.
After 1529 Clement concentrated his resources on completing the Medici Chapel and the Biblioteca
Laurenziana. From November 1529 to March 1530 Clement was in Bologna to crown Charles V as Holy Roman Emperor, and
Sebastiano drew a double portrait of them that currently is at the British Museum. In 1531 Clement rewarded
Sebastiano for his loyalty by appointing him keeper of the papal seal, the Piombo. For the marriage of Henry II of
France to Clement’s niece Catherine de’ Medici in 1533, Clement commissioned a jeweled unicorn’s horn as a gift. In
August 1533 Clement commissioned Michelangelo to fresco the Last Judgement on the altar wall of the Sistine
Chapel. Work was started only after Clement’s death. His tomb was begun by Bandinelli but completed by assistants