The Wallace Collection

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Culverin
  • Culverin
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Italy, Padua
  • 1577
  • Bronze
  • Length: 57.1 cm
    Length: 2.9 cm, calibre
    Weight: 9.91 kg
  • Inscription: 'IO . DE . SANTA / VLIANA . FOR / M . D . LXXVII' 'Giovanni da Santa Guiliana fundator 1557'
  • A1244
  • European Armoury III
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Designed by Giovanni Sant’Uliana (documented 1540-1577)
    Possibly modelled and cast by Vincenzo Grandi (c. 1480/90?-1577/78)

    Italy, Padua, dated 1577.

    Bronze
    Length 57.1 cm. (22 ½ in.); calibre 2.25 cm. (1 [..] in.); weight 9.91 kg.]

    INSCRIPTIONS
    On underside, below vent, within panel: IO. DE. SANTA/VLIANA. FOR/M .D.LXXVII (‘Giovanni Sant’Uliana designed this, 1577’)

    DESCRIPTION
    Small cast bronze cannon or culverin, the surface covered with extensive relief ornament. Cascabel gadrooned, terminating in moulded button. The vent pierced in form of mouth of a bearded mask, set between two oblong panels, each with a leopard passant facing towards the vent. On underside, between two Medusa masks, a panel with the inscription, in relief, IO. DE. SANTA/VLIANA. FOR/M .D.LXXVII (‘Giovanni Sant’Uliana designed this, 1577’).

    The reinforce has reticulated quatrefoil design, containing within fields alternating ‘green man’ satyr masks and lion masks, swags filling spaces at each end. Raised trunnion ring has on upper side frieze of scrolled foliage, on underside representation of cords passed around trunnions, tied in centre. Seven thick acanthus leaves issue from trunnion-ring, overlapping the chase, decorated in relief with interlaced strapwork forming repeating Y-shaped pattern, stippling in the ground. Behind the muzzle circular frieze of three eagles with displayed wings, swags between them. At muzzle a narrow band of acanthus and, beyond this, a more prominent torus moulding bound with ribbons. A sunken moulding on face of muzzle.

    Overall in excellent condition, with detail still fresh and sharp in most areas. Greatest area of wear around cascabel and its knop. A little wear around vent. Some wear to trunnions. Small indentation on edge of trunnion ring, at top; another on moulding between chase and eagles. Slight damage to right edge of inscription panel.

    PROVENANCE
    Possibly the comte de Nieuwerkerke, receipted bill of 20 November 1869 from Baur, Paris, ‘un canon en bronze’, 400 francs’.
    Acquired by Sir Richard Wallace in August 1871
    1890, Hertford House, European Armoury, ‘A small model of a bronzer cannon chased with masks &c. in relief. French 18th . Century’, valued at £15

    BIBLIOGRAPHY
    Hertford House 1890, fol. 302
    Hertford House 1898 [….]
    Hertford House 1898b, p. 93


    Laking 1902-03, VI, pp. 259-60 and 262, no. 1327
    Mann 1941, p. 774, fig. 25
    Mann 1962, II, p. 591, A1244, Pl. 200
    Norman 1986, p. 255

    COMMENTARY
    A1244 is an example of a small cannon, of a type that became popular in the 16th century, both north and south of the Alps, and may be regarded as a product of the increasing sophistication of the technology for casting ordnance. With an approximate ratio of 1:25 between the bore and the length of the cannon, it is a type known as a culverin. A1244 is one of the smaller examples within a group of small Italian cannon, which vary quite substantially in their form. The special status of these objects is demonstrated by the fact that they are often signed and dated; generally no other works by the makers signing them are known.

    Other Italian cannon in this group include a pair in the Victoria & Albert Museum, signed and dated ‘OPVS NICOLAI DE BOLO 1566’, with plainer decoration than no.[A1244], foliage near the mouth and a coat-of-arms on top of the barrels near the base, accompanied by birds. This is presumably the Nicola Bolo who becamse master gunfounder of the Sicilian Royal Court in 1563, and for whom there is a 1568 contract to cast bronze ordnance for the Spanish governor in Sicily. Bolo died in 1579. On the other hand, nothing is known about the Apollonio di Niccolò Perusini, who in 1533 signed a small cannon in the Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge. The mouth of this culverin emerges from the jaws of a ferocious beast, whilst the cascabel is formed from another open-mouthed beast, with what may be another animal emerging from it. Vigorously, even crudely modelled, it has a small plaquette with the Baptism of Christ cast into the top of the barrel, but there are no further clues to where and for what it might have been made. Small cannon of this type are also found from this period in Northern Europe, for example a model cannon made by the Nuremberg maker of ordnance Oswald Baldner, c. 1550-60, in the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg.

    Miniature cannon continued to be made, into the 17th century and beyond. A small cannon in the Robert H. Smith collection, mounted on a wooden carriage, is signed by Orazio Antonio Alberghetti, dated 1670 and further inscribed with a dedication to Carlo Gerolamo Solaro di Moretta, marchese del Borgo, who was from 1666 the Grand Master of the Artillery in the service of Carlo Emanuele II, Duke of Savoy. Anthony Radcliffe proposed that the cannon was cast as a trial piece or prova by Orazio, who was fourteen years old in 1670, a common age for graduating from apprenticeship. It would have served to demonstrate his fitness to work in the Duke’s foundry in Turin to the marchese del Borgo. It is conceivable that many small cannon were made as trial pieces, which would help to explain the care which is often taken in signing them. The tiny model culverin in the Bargello, Florence, signed by Giovanni Mazzaroli, with the arms of the Medici and an allegory of Glory, was almost certainly a trial piece. It can be stated with some confidence, however, that A1244 was not made as a prova. Small cannon seem to have been often regarded as collectors’ pieces, displayed within the context of other sculpture, rather than with armour and weapons in armouries. For example, Cardinal Richelieu’s 1643 post mortem inventory listed, in the small room which contained many of his models after Giambologna and other bronze sculptures, ‘A little cannon on its stock, all in bronze, 21 inches long’. More than a century later, in 1770, the collection of High Baroque sculpture offered for sale to the Grand Duke of Tuscany by the Florentine collector Giuseppe Borri included, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, three miniature cannon.

    Despite the excellence and sophistication of its design, A1244 has been little studied, in part presumably because attempts to discover the identity of the signature, always hitherto assumed to be that of a cannon founder, have been unsuccessful until now. Laking described the cannon as Spanish, no doubt because Sant’Uliana is a more common place name in the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking worlds than in Italy, where the only present-day known Sant’Uliana appears to be a small suburb of Perugia. Mann called A1244 Italian, reasonably enough, but did not discuss it further.

    In design terms, A1244 is considerably more sophisticated than the cannon in the Fitzwilliam Museum and the V&A, with almost every part of the surface covered with relief decoration, and the chase embellished with a sophisticated repeating interlaced strapwork pattern. The decoration gives every impression of being the work of a highly skilled and experienced professional artist. It is astonishing therefore that Giovanni Sant’Uliana, who signed A1244 as its designer, should turn out in fact to be a Paduan nobleman and, at best, an amateur artist. Confirmation that this individual was the designer of the object comes from the passant leopards, which act as supporters for the vent and are a key element in Giovanni Sant’Uliana’s arms, as well as the eagles around the muzzle, which refer to his full name Giovanni Evangelista.

    The Sant’Uliana family, also known as Santa Giuliana or Santuliana, became extinct in 1690, on the death of count Alessandro Sant’Uliana. It was however an ancient family of Padua; its most celebrated member was Ugone, conte di Sant’Uliana, who in 1251 was appointed Podestà of Verona by Ezzelino da Romano, and was later made Podestà of Reggio, also by Ezzolino. The tyrant however subsequently however had Ugone put to death. Ugone was said to have died very well, putting the safety of his innocent fellow prisoners before his own life. Traditionally the family seem, naturally enough, to have been associated with the church of Santa Giuliana, where an earlier Giovanni Sant’Uliana established a vault for himself and his heirs, on his death in 1457.

    The date of birth of Giovanni Sant’Uliana is not currently known, but he is likely to have been born early in the 16th century, and to have died some time before 1593. He appears to have been an individual of some standing in Padua and Venice during his life time. He was a wealthy timber merchant, but appears to have mixed in humanist circles. He was a correspondent and friend of Pietro Aretino, who wrote in December 1540 to his ‘amico carissimo’ to thank him for the gift of some poetry by Aicardino Capodivacca, finishing a letter full of learned sparring by asking Sant’Uliana to pass on his greetings to the Paduan humanist Sperone Speroni (1500-1588). Other letters from Aretino to Sant’Uliana survive from January 1546, when Aretino refers to his friend’s noble nature, and April 1546, when he thanks Sant’Uliana for having sent him melons from Padua. In 1545 the writer Francesco Sansovino dedicated to Giovanni Sant’Uliana an edition of translations of the letters of Phalaris, Tyrant of Agrigentum. In his dedication, Sansovino described Giovanni as an old and close friend of his father, the sculptor and architect Jacopo Sansovino (1486-1570), and as an exemplum of the perfect gentleman: ‘in you may be found all the perfection that one may wish for in a gentleman, who has always behaved most nobly in his country and in benefiting his fellow citizens.’ Sant’Uliana may have come to know Jacopo Sansovino around 1529, when the sculptor began his association with the Santo in Padua, being awarded a commission for a marble sculpture of Saint Sebastian. After having completed Antonio Minello’s relief of the Miracle of the Child Parisio for the Cappella del Santo, Sansovino was awarded the commission for his own relief in 1536. The Miracle of the Maiden Carilla took him some 27 years, until its installation in 1563. In March 1562 Giovanni Sant’Uliana, who was at the time in Venice, acted for the Santo as an intermediary concerning negotiations over the bonus Sansovino was due to receive for his work, being, with Jacobo de Leone, granted power of attorney by the Arca del Santo.

    Before 1551 Giovanni Sant’Uliana commissioned the Paduan architect Andrea da Valle to build his family’s palace, close to the church of San Francesco. The house, the style of which must have seemed somewhat old-fashioned at the time of its construction, still stands in the via San Francesco. Giovanni appears also to have served the Venetian Republic in an official capacity. He was nominated Ambassador for the city of Padua in 1570 by Doge Pietro Loredan, who also made him a ‘Cavalliere’. He was a special Ambassador for the Republic at the ‘congratulatione’ of Pope Pius V and was an Ambassador to the Holy Roman Emperor.

    Giovanni Sant’Uliana seems also to have been largely responsible for the most important surviving legacy of the Sant’Uliana family in Padua, the collection of books acquired in 1692 by the library of the University from Pietro Franceschi, heir to count Alessandro Sant’Uliana, whose death in 1690 had led to the extinction of the Paduan branch of the family. The collection consisted of 225 volumes, of which 144 survive in the library of the University. The books date from 1518 to 1675 and are almost all concerned with two principal subjects, duelling and the chivalric gentleman. Many date from the 16th century, making it probable that the collection was originally formed by Giovanni Sant’Uliana, who was knighted in 1537, and who was regarded by Francesco Sansovino as an exemplar of gentlemanly qualities.

    Giovanni Sant’Uliana’s son, Marcantonio Sant’Uliana, was in service in the Venetian navy and played an active part in the Battle of Lepanto, which took place on 7 October 1571. On 21 February 1571, Marcantonio was elected by the Consiglio of Padua the ‘Sopracomito da galea’, and he armed a galley, which he called ‘la Piramide con un cane legato’ and to which he gave the motto IN VTRAQVE FORTVNA. He set out from Venice with thirteen further galleys in April 1571, with his brother Camillo (c. 1542-1640) and his cousin Sigismondo Polcastro on board. Marcantonio Sant’Uliana’s galley was in the central formation of the League for the battle, and the nineteenth in the order of battle. The Piramide con un cane distinguished itself in the fighting, destroying one Turkish galley and capturing another. Marcantonio and Camillo brought back with them a number of slaves, and adorned the family palace in the contrada of Santa Sofia with weapons and other spoils taken from the Turks.

    Giovanni Sant’Uliana was dead by 1593, [Archivio del Santo, Vol. 2847, processo S, p. 39] and was eventually buried in the Santo in the Cappella del Crocifisso, in a tomb prepared for his father and for himself by his son Camillo, who died at the advanced age of 98, on 1 January 1640. The family seem to have developed a closer association with the Santo over the course of Giovanni’s lifetime. The 1529 inventory of the Treasury of the Santo recorded ‘the statue of a baby on a triangle, from the Santuliana’, whilst in 1548 a nephew of Giovanni Sant’Uliana entered the Order of the Franciscans. In 1584 Marcantonio Sant’Uliana was appointed Treasurer of the Arca.

    The construction of the chapel involved the destruction of the sacristy of the adjoining Sacristy of the Chapel of San Giacomo, with its precious frescoes by Altichiero. Presumably his brother Marcantonio was by this time dead, so the petition was made in Camillo Santuliana’s name alone. In his petition to the Citizens’ Council of Padua, requesting permission to erect the chapel, Camillo specifically stated his intention as being to honour his late father: ‘I Camillo Sant’Uliana have for a long time now wished to effect an act of piety with respect to the bones of my late father, the Magnificent Knight of blessed memory, with the building of a chapel and the erection of an altar with the daily sacrifice of the Holy Mass. I have been moved to this resolution by Christian charity and by the ardent zeal which a good son should show towards a father of such distinction, and it is only because of my duties which are well known to many of your Magnificences that I have not hitherto been able to put my mind to realising my resolution.’ Camillo was spurred into making his formal petition because, he claimed, he had been trying for months to speak to the two fathers Giovanni Battista Crema et Piero Ballotta about the endowment for the chapel, but had not become aware that a rival bid for the space had been submitted by Polish gentlemen. Camillo hoped that the ‘services rendered to this city by my father’ (‘memore delli prestati servitij a questa patria da esso signor mio padre’) would still be fresh in the memories of the members of the Council, which they evidently were, as the Council voted 77 to 9 in favour of permitting the construction of the Chapel. There seems nevertheless to have been opposition within the Santo to the construction of this chapel, since it required the destruction of the sacristy adjoining the Chapel of S. Felice, with its frescoes painted by Altichiero de Zevio. This may have been one reason why construction of the Chapel took many years. It seems to have been completed by 1624, the date of an inscription above the entrance arch recording its dedication, Work on the chapel was finally completed in 1630, and the chapel dedicated on 8 June 1631. The original altarpiece, now in the Museo Antoniano, was a sombre altarpiece of the Crucifixion by Pietro Damini. The contract for Camillo’s endowment of the Chapel to permit the perpetual saying of masses specified that the Chapel was to be dedicated to Saint John the Evangelist, in reference to his father’s full name. This explains the presence on the muzzle of no.[A1244] of three eagles, the symbol of John the Evangelist. The gravestone for Giovanni and Camillo Sant’Uliana may still be seen, in a heavily worn state, in the centre of the Chapel, formerly known as the Cappella della Sacra Cuore, and today as the Cappella di Santa Chiara. Either side of the entrance arch are heraldic devices with the arms of the Sant’Uliana surmounted by Turkish trophies and devices representing the family, including the Piramide con un cane. In further commemoration of their roles in Lepanto, the Sant’Uliana family had the walls of their palace in the contrada of Santa Sofia decorated with similar heraldic trophies.

    Camillo Sant’Uliana was evidently devoted to his father’s memory and was presumably his heir, so is likely to have inherited A1244. Perhaps it was displayed among the relics of Lepanto. Camillo appears from time to time in documents; two letters in 1600 and 1604 to the Venetian patrician Antonio Grimani show him advising on a suitable convent for Grimani’s daughter Chiara (just four years old in 1600!). In his first letter, Camillo blamed his delay in replying on his , ‘which was not because I had forgotten, but because I have been so busy until now with the affairs of the city.’

    A1244 is therefore the work of an individual who, like his son Camillo, played an important role in the life of his native city, was a successful businessman and was ennobled for his services. He was well-connected and known in the humanist circles in Padua and Venice, and was evidently passionately interested in the concept of knightly chivalry and gentilezza, with its associated art of fencing. He must have been intensely proud of his sons’ achievements at the battle of Lepanto; it can be imagined that the main impetus for the displays in the Sant’Uliana’s palace of the trophies from the battle of Lepanto might have come as much from Giovanni as from his sons. As a weapon which (although it could in principle be used) was designed essentially for show, A1244 is the sort of object that one could imagine a civilian nobleman such as Giovanni Sant’Uliana wanting to own. What remains such a mystery is how an individual, who was certainly not a practising artist, could have produced a work of art of such sophisticated design. However, there is a considerable degree of evidence, in Padua and elsewhere in Italy, for the role of the amateur in the design and the making of sculptures. In 15th-century Rome, Andrea Guazzalotti and Giovanni Candida, both individuals now regarded through the retrospective lens of art history as professional medallists, in fact were principally employed as humanistically-educated secretaries to various powerful individuals, and thus the making of medals seems to have been for them in fact something of a sideline. In the Veneto, the treatise De Sculptura by the Neapolitan humanist Pomponius Gauricus (1480-1530), published in 1504, provides much evidence for the close relationship in Padua between intellectual circles and practising sculptors. Gauricus, at this time resident in Padua, presents himself as an amateur artist, beginning his dialogue with a visit by the humanist Raffaele Regio (1436-1520), who examined various ‘images made in bronze and in marble’, probably made by Gauricus himself. Gauricus explained to Regio that he had from his early years, in order not to fall into the sloth of leisure (otio), practised sculpture as the art form best suited to his humanist studies. Later in the treatise Gauricus refers to two specific sculptures he had made, a bronze figure of a man climbing onto or down from a horse, and a portrait of the humanist Giovanni Calfurnio (1443-1503). The best-known gentleman sculptor in the early 16th century by whom works survive was perhaps the lawyer and humanist Giulio della Torre (c. 1481-1563), who made not only a series of medals of his relatives and friends, but also a self-portrait bust in bronze. It was Giulio della Torre who commissioned the monument to his father Girolamo and his brother Marcantonio in San Fermo, Verona, from Andrea Riccio, further demonstrating the close links between humanists and practising sculptors in Padua.

    It seems most probable that rather than making the model with his own hands, Giovanni designed the cannon, perhaps in a drawing, which was then turned into a model in a professional sculptor’s workshop, before being cast in a professional foundry. This was presumably a workshop in Padua, although given Giovanni Sant’Uliana’s close links with the city, he could also have gone to Venice. The decoration of A1244 contains a number of repeated motifs cast in wax from standard moulds and applied to the model, of the sort commonly used to decorate utensils, such as bells, mortars, candlesticks, and indeed cannon. The style of the ornament and repertory of forms do not match those generally used on cannon and smaller objects by the principal Venetian state cannon founders at this time, the Alberghetti and the di Conti. One cannon in Istanbul, with the arms of the Contarini and datable before 1589, is to some extent comparable, with remarkably fine ornamental detail in low relief, within a pattern of interlaced circles which run its entire length. However this sort of The decorative programme of A1244 cannot really be compared either with that found on utensils or figures associated with other contemporary Venetian and Paduan workshops, such as those of Andrea Bresciano, or Tiziano Aspetti. In fact, A1244 is perhaps a little old-fashioned in its tight, rather formal decoration, perhaps not surprising, given that Giovanni Sant’Uliana was at an advanced age when he designed his cannon, and is quite likely to have retained a preference for the fashions of the earlier decades of the century. It would be no less surprising therefore had he turned, for the creation of his model, to an older-established workshop. The best candidate in Padua would seem to be the Paduan workshop of Vincenzo Grandi (c. 1480/90?-1577/78). Vincenzo Grandi and his brother Gian Matteo (c. 1470/5-1545) arrived in Padua in the first decade of the 16th century and were at first active principally as stonemasons. Gian Matteo’s son Gian Girolamo Grandi (1508-1560) began to play a crucial role in the workshop from the 1530s, the decade during which the Grandi worked mainly in Trent, as part of the large team of artists employed by Prince Archbishop Bernardo Cles on his ambitious programme of refurbishment of the Magno Palazzo. In addition to work in stone, the Grandi began during the 1530s to design bronze utensils of extraordinary sophistication, including doorknockers, buckets (secchielli), bells and candlesticks. It seems to have been Gian Girolamo, the inscription on whose monument indicates that he also worked in precious metals and carved gems, and was practised in casting, who brought the new metalworking skills to the workshop. Although he was not aware that they were products of the same workshop, Wilhelm von Bode described the handbell from the Grandi workshop in the Frick Collection as the finest Renaissance bell he knew, and a candlestick in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, along with a related pair in the Victoria & Albert Museum, as ‘the most beautiful candlesticks that have been preserved to us from this period...’ The best of the Grandi’s bronze utensils, which also include a magnificent perfume-burner in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, show, in their rich, precise ornamental decoration, a mastery of Vitruvian decorative vocabulary together with an acute sensitivity to form and function. There are strongly architectonic qualities in much of the Grandi’s work which relate to the architecture of Andrea Palladio, whose godfather was in fact Vincenzo Grandi. The Grandi do also tend to demonstrate a horror vacui in much of their work with, as here, almost every part of the surface covered with decoration. Although Vincenzo, who was very close to Gian Girolamo, never really recovered from his nephew’s early death in 1560, he appears to have continued working right until the end of his life – as late as 1572 he petitioned to be allowed to complete the relief in the Cappella del Santo allocated to Danese Cattaneo, after that sculptor’s death. There is some evidence that towards the end of his long life, Vincenzo Grandi found it increasingly difficult to compete against a new generation of talented young sculptors in Padua. In the case of the Santo relief, Vincenzo was commissioned to evaluate the work done by Cattaneo, but the contract for completing the relief was awarded to the young Veronese sculptor Girolamo Campagna (1549-1625). The date of A1244, 1577, would just fit within Vincenzo Grandi’s lifetime. It would seem entirely conceivable that Giovanni Sant’Uliana, who must have been close in age to Vincenzo Grandi, might have chosen to work with him on his cannon. Stylistically, A1244 is very close to secure works in bronze by the Grandi, in the sophistication and elegant beauty of its tight, somewhat architectonic design. It compares especially well with the perfume burner in Cambridge, which uses a recurring strapwork motif, the concept of which is reminiscent of the Y-shaped strapwork on the chase. The fleshy acanthus decoration can be compared with that on many of the Grandi’s utensils, and the cords passed around the trunnions on the underside are absolutely typical of the witty design solutions often seen in their small bronzes. It is however more difficult to find in A1244 any precise repetition of decorative elements found in the work of the Grandi; the ‘green man’ satyr masks on the reinforce for instance are not at all similar to the distinctive green man masks seen on the Oxford candlestick, which it must nevertheless be remembered was, like the Fitzwilliam perfume burner, probably made at least 20-30 years before A1244. The closest comparable feature is the grotesque mask forming the vent, very similar to the repeated masks around the upper section of the perfume burner, the mouths of which are also open, in this case to allow the scented smoke from the burning incense to escape. On balance, therefore, a tentative association of A1244 with the workshop of Vincenzo Grandi may be proposed. If it was made by him to Giovanni Sant’Uliana’s design, it must have been one of this distinguished sculptor’s very final works.

    Assuming that it was made in Padua, A1244 would probably have been cast at the Maglio, the foundry in the Prato della Valle area of the city, not far from the Santo. The Maglio was established by the early 1400s and was during the fifteenth century a large industrial site equipped with two hammers (magli) for working copper and a third for iron, from whence it derived its name. It was used for the preparation and manufacture of a very wide range of objects, ranging from everyday items such as tin and bronze buckets through to more sophisticated objects in precious metal. In the 1440s the Maglio was used to cast Donatello’s equestrian statue of the condottiere Gattemelata, and his reliefs and statues for the High Altar of the Santo. In the 16th century, the Maglio appears to have operated along similar lines to the State foundries in Venice, casting new guns and repairing or recycling older ordnance, but was also used for the manufacture of gunpowder, its name changing to the Polveriera del Maglio. Newly cast guns were tested by the city’s Bombardiers at their firing range (Bersaglio). Around the time that A1244 was made, the Bersaglio was situated close to the monastery of San Giovanni in Verdara, the Regular Canons of which submitted a formal complaint in July 1584 about the constant noise and reverberations. Other than disturbing the peace of the sacred place, the impact from the artillery firing had caused the organ to go out of tune, the vines in the vineyard were ruined, and pieces of cornice in the great cloister were beginning to fall off. It was agreed to move the range a hundred paces further away, the costs to be borne by the monks.

    One of the arms of the Casali/Sant’Uliana families shows a gold heraldic lion similar to the one in the cartouches on A1244.

    Angela Zabarella, buried S. Agostino, mother of Giovanni Sant’Uliana, died 1601, aet. 54.