By Jennifer D. Webb

Baldassare Peruzzi, architect of St. Peter’s and for the Republic of Siena, died in Rome on January 6, 1537. His career started in Siena, very near to the place where he was born, Ancaiano, on January 15, 1481.

Peruzzi may have trained with Francesco di Giorgio Martini as his design for the Villa Le Volte illustrates his command of the designs of the older Sienese architect and engineer. Like Francesco di Giorgio, Peruzzi’s career involved the design of buildings as well as responsibility for fortifications. In addition, both men relied on drawing to experiment with forms. Nicholas Adams notes that more than 500 Peruzzi drawings survive in the Gabinetto dei Disegni in the Uffizi and that the architect was the first to explore axonometric drawing.

There is no official documentation of Peruzzi until 1501-02 when he is recorded working on the frescoes in the Chapel of San Giovanni in the Siena Cathedral. At about the same time, from 1500 to 1505, Peruzzi was constructing the Villa Le Volte for Sigismondo Chigi. This first project for the Chigi family proved invaluable for his career development. After completing the Sienese project, he next traveled to Rome where, in 1503, he was assisting in the Stanza della Segnature. In 1505 he began work on the Villa Farnesina for Agostino Chigi. For this project Peruzzi not only drew from his architectural experience in Siena but also displayed his skill in disegno. Working alongside Raphael and his workshop, Peruzzi completed ceiling frescoes and illusionistic perspectives in the villa’s interiors.

His career as architect, painter, and stage designer continued to flourish in Rome. By 1508 he joined the Compagna di San Rocco and in 1520, following the death of Raphael, he was named coadjutore at Saint Peter’s.

Peruzzi’s time in Rome has disrupted by the Sack in 1527; he was imprisoned by the French forces. The Republic of Siena paid his ransom and it is likely because of this that Peruzzi headed straight to Tuscany upon his release. He was named the Architect of the Republic of Siena upon his arrival in the city in July. For the next several years, he worked on a number of projects in Siena and in the surrounding areas including the “reorganization” of the high altar and the choir of the Cathedral. However, by 1531, his focus had returned to Rome where he again was involved with Saint Peter’s and, in 1532, began his final project, the Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne.

References: Heiko Damm & Henning Hoesch. Galleria portatile: Old Master Drawings from the Hoesch Collection. Petersburg: Michel Imhof Verlag, 2017; Nicholas Adams. “Peruzzi, Baldassare.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press.


Villa Farnesina (from 1506), Rome (Image source: Combusken, Wikimedia Commons)

Main altar (after July 1527), Duomo, Siena (Image source: Tango7174, Wikimedia Commons)

Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne (begun 1532), Rome (Image source: Jensens, Wikimedia Commons)

Further reading: Malafarina, Gianfrano. La Villa Farnesina a Roma (The Villa Farnesina in Rome). Modena: Panini, 2006; Kent, William Winthrop. The Life and Works of Baldassare Peruzzi of Siena. Whitefish MT: Kessinger Publishing LLC, 2007; “Holy Family with Saints”, Pierpont Morgan Library & Museum.

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