“…vivacious and so high-spirited in every action […] both among the other boys at school and everywhere else, always teasing and tormenting both himself and others…”
Giorgio Vasari, Vite
Niccolò di Raffaello di Niccolò dei Pericoli – known as “Il Tribolo” – was an important exponent of Italian Mannerism. His nickname seems to derive from the fact that he was extremely hyperactive as a youth, causing trouble for and being continuously bothersome to his school companions. In 16th-century Florence, it was common to attribute nicknames that often ended up actually replacing the given name, above all when speaking of renowned individuals. The very word “Pericoli” (dangers) derived from the nickname bestowed on his father, who was called “il Riccio de’ Pericoli”. There is not much information regarding his childhood, his date of birth is not even certain but is presumed to be between 1497 and 1500. What is known for certain is that he attended the school of Jacopo Sansovino; several works of his younger period are quoted by Vasari in his “Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects”, but as of today, no one has been able to identify them, although the influence of the maestro is recognisable in all his production.
The first certain date that concerns him is 1517, the year he returned to Florence from a trip to Venice with Benvenuto Cellini, and began his autonomous artistic activity. For some aspects, his works recall Michelangelo, who inevitably influenced the entire artistic production of the time, above all in the stroke of the pencil and the rhythm of the compositions. In the years between 1525 and 1527 he worked on the Reliefs of the door of the Basilica of San Petronio, in Bologna. In 1537, for the same Basilica, he also carved an “Assunta” for placement in the Cappella delle Reliquie. Around the 1530s he became architect to the court of Cosimo I de’ Medici. He was soon sent to Rome to make contact with Michelangelo to finish building the Laurentian Library – left unfinished – and whose works are followed by Tribolo himself. Other commissions as architect see him involved in the design of the funerary chapel of Eleanor of Toledo in Pisa, and from 1545 in the restoration works of the Medici Villa in Poggio a Caiano, with the grand stables and the walled enclosure featuring the "baluardi" bastions.
Among the sculptures of this period is the “Personificazione di Fiesole” at the Museo del Bargello, classically pastoral in style. Between 1530 and 1533 he worked on the Reliefs for the Sanctuary of the Holy House of Loreto, finishing a project begun by Andrea Sansovino in 1513. After 1537, he was still at the service of the Medici family, for whom he designed and carved the Fountain of the Labyrinth in the Medici Villa La Petraia, true residence of the Florentine reigning family. The fountain in pietra serena stone is surmounted by a bronze Venus attributed to Giambologna. Another famous fountain is the Fountain of Hercules and Antaeus at Villa di Castello, a Medici palace used mainly for representative functions. The extremely high pedestal confers the piece extraordinary elegance, surrounded by a circle of putti angels. For the villa, he designed the extraordinary architecture of the “Grotta degli Animali”, decorated with sculptures by Giambologna.
Following the road embarked on by Michelangelo and pursued by many contemporaries, he used the marble quarries of the Apuan-Versilia area for his works. He is very famous for the design of “Italian-style” gardens, that in Tuscany are characterised by geometric forms in open spaces and for the frequent presence of sculptures. His most famous intervention concerns the initial design of the Boboli Gardens. The work remained unfinished due to the death of the artist and was completed by his son-in-law and collaborator, Davide Fortini. These gardens are not only governed by pure aesthetic taste, but follow a precise iconographic theme, specific and different for each project, whose common thread can be found in the choice of the sculptures and decorations, almost always classical and with mythological motifs.
The photographs published in the TimeLine were taken from the websites:
upload.wikimedia.org, catalogo.fondazionezeri.unibo.it, www.romeartlover.it, www.scultura-italiana.com, www.storiadifirenze.org,