The Doria family, an old feudal dynasty, was established in Genoa as early as the 13th century and owned numerous houses in the surrounding areas, but no large holdings in Genoa itself. Andrea Doria (1466 - 1560) was orphaned at an early age and became a soldier of fortune. He first served Pope Innocent VIII, then Kings Ferdinand I and his son Alfonso II of Naples. He outfitted eight galleys and patrolled the Mediterranean Sea against the Ottoman Turks and the Barbary pirates, increasing his fortune and fame. Doria bought houses and land in Fassolo (now part of Genoa) starting in 1521. Not even a year later Doria had to flee into exile when the Spanish under Charles V sacked the city. In 1525 he was entrusted with the command of the Papal fleet under Clement VII and the following year with that of the French fleet under François I. When in August 1527 the French re-conquered Genoa from the Spanish, Doria returned, now married to Peretta Usodimare Cibo, niece of Pope Innocent VIII. He commenced the renovations at his palace (Palazzo del Principe Doria) immediately with Perino del Vaga hired as 'direttore artistico.' When in September 1528 his pact with the French King expired and François I did not fulfill his promises to Doria nor to Genoa, Doria switched allegiance to the Spanish and occupied the city for them. Charles V bestowed riches and honors upon him, naming him Grand Admiral of the Imperial Fleet and Prince of Melfi. Genoa was granted status as an independent Republic and was repeatedly visited by Charles V and later his son Philip II who stayed at Doria's palace. Andrea Doria, the foremost naval leader of his time, became the new oligarchic ruler of Genoa and instituted a reformed constitution for the city, which lasted until 1797.
Andrea Doria was particularly fond of textiles and employed Nicola Valentini as his uphosterer and embroiderer. Upon Doria's death in 1560, his inventory not only recorded enormous holdings of brocades and velvet, but also more than 200 tapestries. During the mid-16th century Doria was indeed one of the most important if not the most important Italian patrons for Brussels tapestry workshops.
PERINO DEL VAGA
Pietro Buonaccorsi (d. 1547), known as Perino del Vaga, was a student of Raphael's in Rome from 1516 and worked with him on the decoration of the Vatican Loggia as well as with other artists on major commissions. He was invited to Genova by Nicola Valentini in 1528 and was entrusted with the decoration of Doria's Fassolo palace.
HISTORY OF THE SERIES
It is believed that the iconography and design of the Doria Grotesques series was created as a collaboration between Andrea Doria and Perino del Vaga and alludes to the qualities that Doria strove to achieve; strength, wisdom, fame, prosperity, the protection of the cities, fertility, seafaring and trade (E. Hartkamp-Jonxis, H. Smit, European Tapestries in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 2004, p. 79). Ten different themes for these Grotesques centered by various Gods are known from three sets originally consisting of 25 tapestries. Two of the sets carry the coat-of-arms of Doria while the third has blank cartouches and was apparently woven without its lower border. In more recent times it has been proven that all three sets probably belonged to Doria as he had three camere of these subjects (P. Boccardo, Andrea Doria e le Arti, Rome, 1989, pp. 82-85) with the set lacking the coat-of-arms hanging in the Camera dell'Historia according the the inventory taken after Doria's death in 1561. Although no documentary evidence of del Vaga's authorship for the series exists, his strong involvement in the overall decorative scheme of the palazzo and the similarities with its frescoes allow the attribution. It is possible that the series was designed by del Vaga after his return to Rome in circa 1538 as there are payments by Doria to him on 5 November 1545 that are annotated and suggest this link.
The three sets from this series are today widely scattered with 16 panels that can still be traced. Of these there are panels in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Cooper Hewitt Museum, New York; the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm; the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; and various private collections.
(P. Boccardo, Andrea Doria e le Arti, Rome, 1989, pp. 82-85; T. Campbell, et al., Tapestry in the Renaissance, Art and Magnificence, 'exhibition catalogue', New York, 2002, pp. 351 - 361)