Perino del Vaga and his collaborators were responsible for the entire decorative project of the original nucleus of the Villa del Principe, and this is recognized by scholars critics as one of the most beautiful and complete fresco cycles of the first half of the sixteenth century in Italy. The outcome of a fortunate common purpose shared by Andrea Doria and Perino, apprentice and assistant of Raphael in Rome, this was a remarkable undertaking as regards dimensions, iconographic variety and beauty. The remarkably uniform cycle was begun in 1529 and completed in 1533 in order to provide a worthy setting to receive Charles V, who stayed in the palace during March of that year. Perino del Vaga’s creations marked a fundamental moment of transition for the history of Genoese art, introducing the artistic language of the Renaissance to the city.
Perino’s modern style translated a complex iconographic programme into images, celebrating the figure of Andrea Doria and his family. The decorative cycle draws on sources belonging to different times, ranging from Ancient Rome to mythology, in order to express the variety of aspects that characterized the position of this patron of the arts, who was de facto lord of the Republic of Genoa as well as being Admiral of Emperor Charles V.
The entire decorative cycle of Perino del Vaga is complemented by a rich array of stuccoes attributable to his workshop and to the master’s own designs. Of exceptional significance are the stuccoes on the vaults of the Loggia of the Heroes: the exuberance of the decorations in lime and marble dust is inspired by Roman examples of the Vatican Loggias and Villa Madama, and show the skills Perino acquired in Rome when he studied ancient history.
The rooms added to the original core of the palace by Giovanni Andrea I contain a decorative stucco cycle commissioned from the famous stucco artist from Urbino, Marcello Sparzo, who began working at the Villa del Principe in 1586. The culmination of his work was the decoration of the Galleria Aurea. Just as the Perino del Vaga cycle was ordered for the visit of Charles V, Sparzo’s work had to be completed before the visit in February 1599 of Margaret of Habsburg, daughter of Charles of Styria, and of her cousin Albert, Archduke of Austria, bound for Spain to join their newly-betrothed spouses, King Philip III and his sister, the Infanta of Spain, Isabella Clara Eugenia.