The Justice of Zaleucus
Pietro Bonaccorsi, known as Perin del Vaga (Florence, 1501 - Rome, 1547)
This fresco fragment, together with the Tarquinius Priscus episode, comes from the rooms on the first floor of Palazzo Baldassini in Rome, the first civic building designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, between 1516 and c. 1519. To demonstrate his impartiality before the law, Zaleucus, the Greek lawgiver of Ephyzephyrian Locris (Magna Graecia, Southern Italy, 7th cent. BC) punished his own son, who had committed adultery, by having one of his eyes gouged out. The scene depicts the moment in which Zaleucus holds out his arm to issue the order to the executioner, while the young man, sitting at the foot of a column on the right, resignedly accepts his fate. The narrative vibrancy of the scene, the elegant use of color, and the many references to the culture of the Vatican Loggias (frescoed by Raphael and pupils, among which Perin del Vaga) including the same light, rapid brush strokes, are specific features of Perin del Vaga’s art in this period. They would also lay the foundations for the extraordinarily refined results of his following works: from the frescoes for the Massimo Chapel at Trinità dei Monti, to his commissions for Palazzo Andrea Doria in Genoa, and the decoration of Castel Sant’Angelo and the Apostolic Palace.