Matteo Zaccolini: Biography

Matteo Zaccolini, [also spelled Zacolini and Zocolino], (born Cesena, bapt. 12 April 1574; died Rome, 13 July 1630) was an Italian painter and author.

After studying optics and perspective in Cesena with the scientist, Scipione Chiaramonti, Zaccolini established himself in Rome as a perspective specialist. He assisted Baldassare Croce with the nave frescoes at SantaS Susanna, painting the fictive architecture and decorative borders. In collaboration with Giuseppe Agellio, a pupil of Cristofano Roncalli, he painted the rear choir vault at S Silvestro al Quirinale with an illusionistic opening to the sky, revealing his interest in the contemporary ceiling decorations of Cherubino and Giovanni Alberti. After joining the Theatine order in 1605, he worked exclusively for their monasteries and churches.

He is known for a four volume treatise, written 1618-1622, of which the only surviving copy is in Florence (Bib. Laurenziana, MS.Ash.1212). De Colori treats the theory of colour; Prospettiva del Colore treats practice, emphasizing the use of hue and value gradients to create the illusion of depth; Prospettiva lineale presents perspective projection and measurement; and Della Descrittione dell'Ombre prodotte da corpi opachi rettilinei explains the projection of cast shadows. His ideas reveal a knowledge of the manuscripts of Leonardo da Vinci as well as the major writings on optics.

His erudition and expertise were highly respected; 17th-century sources connect him with Domenichino, Giuseppe Cesari, and Nicolas Poussin. Cassiano dal Pozzo, art patron and secretary to Cardinal Barberini, disseminated his ideas in Rome, and Poussin took a copy of his treatise to France. His emphasis on the importance of scientific knowledge in the imitation of nature encouraged the development of a rationalist approach associated with classicism in 17th-century art.

© 1997

author: Janis Bell

Further Reading

G. Mancini: Considerazione sulla pittura (c. 1618); ed. A. Marucchi, intro. L. Salerno (Rome, 1956)

G. Baglione: Le Vite de' pittori, scultori, architetti, ed intagliatori (Rome, 1642)

J. B. Silos: Historiarum clericorum regularium, 3 vols (Palermo, 1666)

J. Hess: 'La data della morte di Fra M. Zaccolini,' Nota per la storia di alcune biblioteche romane nei secole XVI-XIX, ed. G. Mercati, Testi e studi 164, Vatican City 1952, pp. 160f

C. Pedretti: 'The Zaccolini manuscripts,' Bibliothèque d'Humanisme et Renaissance, xxxv (1973), pp. 39-53

C. Pedretti: The Literary works of Leonardo da Vinci: A commentary to Jean Paul Richter's edition, 2 vols (Berkeley, 1977)

E. Cropper: 'Poussin and Leonardo: Evidence from the Zaccolini MSS', Art Bulletin, lxii (1980), pp. 570-83

J. Bell: Color and theory in Seicento art: Zaccolini's 'Prospettiva del Colore' and the heritage of Leonardo (diss., Brown University, 1983)

J. Bell: 'The Life and works of Fra Matteo Zaccolini', Regnum Dei, xli (1985), pp. 227-258

J. Bell: 'Cassiano dal Pozzo's copy of the Zaccolini MSS', Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, li (1988), pp. 103-125