Renaissance and Reformation Federico Barocci
Ian Verstegen
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 April 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0442


Federico Barocci (b. c. 1532–d. 1612) was the most famous and well-paid Italian artist of the later 16th and early 17th centuries. Born in Urbino to a prosperous artisan family, he traveled to Rome in the early 1950s and then again in the early 1560s, receiving a papal commission through his elder countryman Taddeo Zuccaro. In the meantime, he began to receive local commissions, leading to his breakthrough Deposition in Perugia Cathedral in 1569. The work announced Barocci’s mature, reforming style, which disciplined latent Maniera (Mannerist) influences in Italy at the time in favor of life observation and careful construction of the painting through numerous stages of drawing. Barocci went on to provide a series of important altarpieces in Arezzo (Madonna del Popolo, 1579) and Ravenna (Martyrdom of St. Vitalis, 1583), leading to a series of important Roman commissions that cemented his reputation (Visitation, 1586; Presentation, 1603, both Chiesa Nuova; and Communion of the Apostles, 1608, Santa Maria sopra Minerva). Barocci’s reputation was strong in the 17th century but dropped off in the 18th, perhaps due to the sentimentality of his painting. Therefore, literature about the artist is not large, in spite of the fact that research has picked up substantially over the last few years. Today, Barocci is recognized for his importance for his time and also—in spite of ideas about his painting style—one of the most brilliant draftsmen of the Early Modern period. For a review of Barocci’s recent change in critical acceptance, see “‘Maniera sfumata, dolce, e vaga’: The Recent Canonization of Federico Barocci.” Perspective 1 (2015): 161–168 (cited under Monographs).


Considerable attention to Barocci was given by early-20th-century scholars both in Italy and in Germany (Krommes 1912, Schmarsow 1909). By the mid-century specialists were interested primarily in the artist. In Sweden, Harald Olsen wrote an important monograph in English (Olsen 1962) and Andrea Emiliani in Bologna produced a series of exhibition catalogues and monographs (Emiliani 1985).

  • Emiliani, Andrea. Federico Barocci: Urbino, 1535–1612. 2 vols. Bologna, Italy: Nuova Alfa, 1985.

    Although little changed from Emiliani’s groundbreaking exhibition catalogue of 1975 (see Emiliani 1975, cited under Exhibitions and Catalogues), it remains a very complete resource for Barocci’s canonical paintings and drawings. See the review by Edmund P. Pillsbury, “Federico Barocci (Urbino 1535–1612) by Andrea Emiliani,” Master Drawings 25.3 (1987): 285–287.

  • Emiliani, Andrea. Federico Barocci. 2 vols. Ancona, Italy: Il Lavoro Editoriale, 2008.

    The final two-volume set by Italian dean of Barocci studies, which grew from the 1975 exhibition catalogue (Emiliani 1975, cited under Exhibitions and Catalogues) and 1985 two-volume monograph (Emiliani 1985). For its comprehensiveness it is the basic reference on Barocci. But some questionable works have been added to his body of work.

  • Gillgren, Peter. Siting Federico Barocci and the Renaissance Aesthetic. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2011.

    A review of most of Barocci’s important works and commissions with an eye to their site and the role of the observer in constructing their meaning. Also includes a short catalogue at the end (pp. 238–267).

  • Krommes, Rudolf. Studien zu Federigo Barocci. Leipzig: Verlag von E. A. Seemann, 1912.

    Early monograph, still useful for transcribing payment information for various paintings.

  • Lingo, Stuart. Federico Barocci: Allure and Devotion in Late Renaissance Painting. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008.

    A nuanced study of Barocci’s altarpieces amidst debates over sacred images of the time, including the problem of retrospection and archaism. Investigates the critical vocabulary to describe Barocci’s paintings.

  • Olsen, Harald. Federico Barocci. 2d ed. Copenhagen: Munksgaard, 1962.

    The first significant monograph in English, superseding Olsen’s first edition in 1955. Still useful for its checklist of drawings and inventory of copies.

  • Schmarsow, August. Federigo Barocci: Ein Begründer des Barockstils in der Malerei. Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1909.

    Pioneering study of Barocci. Although quite old, Schmarsow’s work is theoretically independent and highly sensitive.

  • Turner, Nicholas. Federico Barocci. Paris: Adam Biro, 2000.

    The first English-language monograph since Olsen 1962. A good review of the basic works with a new translation of Bellori’s Life of the Artist.

  • Walters, Gary. Federico Barocci: Anima Naturaliter. New York: Garland, 1977.

    Pioneering attempt to link Barocci to Franciscan spirituality and the Counter-Reformation more generally. Some of its observations on working methods have not been followed up.

  • Witte, Arnold. “‘Maniera sfumata, dolce, e vaga’: The Recent Canonization of Federico Barocci.” Perspective 1 (2015): 161–168.

    DOI: 10.4000/perspective.5818

    Reviews recent changes in the critical reception of Barocci and his work.

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