Angelo Colocci

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Angelo Colocci (1467 at Iesi, Marche – 1549[1]) of Rome, papal secretary of Pope Leo X and a Renaissance humanist at the collegial center of literary and artistic classicism, assembled a collection of antiquities in his villa beside the Aqua Virgo.


Colocci came to Rome in 1497[2] as a young man. From 1511 he worked as one of the apostolic secretaries, a demanding position that curtailed his private literary abilities[3] at the same time it placed him in the social center of the humanists at the court of Pope Julius II,[4] as a correspondent of Jacopo Sadoleto, Pietro Bembo and Aldus Manutius in Venice.[5] In 1513 he bought a garden property near the Trevi Fountain, which, with the additional draw of his fine library, became a meeting place of the struggling[6] Roman Academy that had been founded by the late Pomponio Leto (died 1497); this garden was sited in the hollow between the Quirinal and the Pincio, in the southern reaches of the ancient Gardens of Sallust,[7] a rich field of buried sculpture, some of which he displayed in his villa. There the grotto that he arranged round a Roman marble sleeping naiad,[8] with a humanist inscription— Huius nympha loci...— that was so exquisitely turned it passed for centuries as authentically Roman, was the original of garden features to be found in the great English landscape garden at Stourhead and into the nineteenth century.

Colocci was a Latin poet of some reputation among his learned contemporaries, an antiquarian whose understanding of ancient metrology and sacrificial implements were particularly outstanding, and a savant collector of Roman sculptures, inscriptions, medals and carved gems,[9] his collection of sculptures was mentioned by Andrea Fulvio in Antiquitates Urbis (1527), a topographical guide to the city's ancient Roman ruins and remains. In connection with Pope Leo X's commission to Raphael to draw the most accurate possible reconstruction of the Rome of the Caesars, Angelo Colocci and Baldassare Castiglione drafted the courtly covering letter, with emendations by Raphael, that was enclosed with the final project.[10] A proportion of his considerable fortune was also expended in amassing one of the most impressive private libraries of his time,[11] brutally treated at the Sack of Rome, in 1527, when Colucci was forced to pay exorbitant bribes to preserve his own life.[5] Colocci had the foresight to send some of his manuscripts for safekeeping in Florence; the remaining Colocci manuscripts in the Vatican Library still number over two hundred, even after Napoleonic depredations removed Provençal lyrics to the Bibliothèque nationale, Paris— for Colocci was one of the first to search out and assemble Provençal poetry. The Greek printing press of Rome was under his care,[12] for he was the patron of the Greek academy founded in Rome by Janus Lascaris; it met in his villa from 1516 to 1521. Colocci was involved in the translation of Vitruvius' De architectura into Italian on Raphael's behest, done by the venerable Marco Fabio Calvo of Ravenna and based on the 1511 edition of Fra Giocondo; Raphael's own copy of it, preserved in Munich,[13] bears Colocci's notes and emendations as well as Raphael's own.

After the death of his wife Girolama Bufalini Colocci, after a long illness, in 1518, Colocci took minor orders and was made Bishop of Nocera in 1537.[14]

A conference on Angelo Colocci in the Palazzo della Signoria of his birthplace, Iesi in September 1969, resulted in V. Fanelli, ed., Atti del convegno di studi su Angelo Colocci (Jesi, 13-14 settembre 1969), (Città di Castello), 1972, and later in Fanelli's Ricerche su Angelo Colocci e sulla Roma cinquecentesca (Vatican City) 1979.


  1. ^ Dates according to M.J.C. Lowry, in Deutscher, Thomas Brian, and Peter G. Bietenholz, Contemporaries of Erasmus: A Biographical Register 2003, s.v. "Colocci, Angelo, of Iesi".
  2. ^ "In 1497 he bought his way into papal service" according to Lowry 2003.
  3. ^ Notebooks for a treatise on Roman weights and measures, a lifelong obsession, never came to fruition: S. Lattès, "A proposito dell'opera incompiuta 'De ponderibus et mensuris' di Angelo Colocci" Atti 97-108.
  4. ^ This literary world is discussed by Ingrid D. Rowland's biographical and anecdotal The Culture of the High Renaissance: Ancients and Moderns in Sixteenth-Century Rome (Cambridge University Press) 1998; Colocci often appears.
  5. ^ a b Lowry 2003.
  6. ^ It had been suppressed by Pope Paul II: A.J. Dunston, "Pope Paul II and the humanists" Journal of Religious History 7 1972-73:287-306.
  7. ^ Phyllis Pray Bober, "The Coryciana and the Nymph Corycia" Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 40 (1977:223-39) p. 224 note 12, and passim.
  8. ^ Perhaps originally intended for a Sleeping Ariadne.
  9. ^ Boder 1977:226.
  10. ^ The longest copy of the presentation letter is in the Bayerisches Staatsbibliothek, Munich: Ingrid D. Rowland, "Raphael, Angelo Colocci, and the Genesis of the Architectural Orders" The Art Bulletin 76.1 (March 1994:81-104).
  11. ^ S. Lattès: Recherches sur la bibliothèque d'Angelo Colocci, MAH 48 (1931).
  12. ^ V. Fanelli, "Il ginnasio greco di Leone X a Roma" Studi Romani 9 (1961:395.
  13. ^ Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cod, it, 37.
  14. ^ His early biographer, Federico Ubaldini, Vita Angeli Colotii episcopi Nucerini, Rome 1673, is noted by Bober 1977:225, note 13; Ubaldini's Vita di mons. Angelo Colocci, was edited by V. Fanelli, (Città del Vaticano) 1969, with copious notes and a bibliography; the Dizionario biographico degli Italiani notes that a bishopric had been reserved for him in 1521. In 1526, however, he legitimized his two-year-old son, Marcantonio, whose mother was married to someone else.