Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Week 3: The Papal Collections during the High Baroque.

Before the Barberini. 

Though patronage in the baroque period is predominantly associated with the Barberini family, namely Pope Urban VIII and his entourage, a number of players inspired art which has entered the Vatican collections, or has strong connections with it. The chain of baroque patronage begins with Clement VIII (Aldobrandini) who presided over a “period of transition” for the arts.[1] Clement added the bronze orb and cross that top the lantern above Michelangelo’s cupola, as well as commissioning the Cavalieri d’Arpino to design mosaics on its inner surface. This was the period when Caravaggio radicalised style with such altarpieces as the Madonna with a Serpent, painted for the papal grooms. Clement also commissioned a Last Supper by Barocci, but he did not live to see it completed. We should also not forget the patronage of other important painters like Guido Reni and Domenichino. For his successor Paul V (Borghese), the refurbishment of St Peter’s became a priority, as well as the employment of high calibre artists, the end of what Haskell called the “functional austerity” of his reign.[2] The Bolognese Gregory XV (Ludovisi) summoned painters from that city to Rome. A Jesuit, Gregory gave official recognition to the Congregation of Missions of the  Propaganda Fide, as well as canonizing four Spanish saints, Ignatius Loyola, Teresa, Francis Xavier, St Philip Neri, which resulted in paintings of them. The intelligence and sensitivity of the pope is captured more successfully in Bernini’s marble portrait rather than the many paintings that exist.

Vatican Splendour in the Reign of the Barberini. 

Born of a family of distinguished Florentine merchants, schooled by the Jesuits, and favoured by papal preferment, Maffeo Barberini was destined for great things. As Haskell says, the young cleric’s ambitions must have been stimulated by walking through the emerging Sistine Rome with its scaffolding, workmen and its sense of renewal. All Maffeo had to add to the heady mixture of “power, money and ruthlessness” was taste, which as a poet he had in abundance.[3] After various visits to other cities Barberini settled in Rome in 1617, which he found full of luxury items bought for large sums by such collectors as Pope Paul V and his nephew Scipio Borghese.  After a stormy conclave, Maffeo Barberini was elected Pope, as Urban VIII, in 1623. From now on cardinals would skulk in his shadow, as Urban set about making himself the visible centre of his splendid ambition. Nepotism was encouraged; wealth was the cement that kept the papal entourage intact as status was too precarious with the “frequent shifts of power.”[4]  Urban’s vision for the papacy included Bernini- both were Florentine- and he set the sculptor to work on the gigantic Baldacchino, a project which took nine years to complete.  Bernini also produced one of the marble saints whose relics were venerated: St Longinus whose lance helps to give “a triangulation to the figure.”[5]  Arguably Bernini is the most representative of artists connected with the Vatican, and the Vatican complex does possess many works by him. 

Mainly Miracles and Martyrdoms: Painting for the Barberini. 

A walk through the Vatican galleries and the museums of Rome will confirm the importance of painting to the Vatican during the Barberini’s rule. These tend to fall into two main groups: scenes of martyrdoms and visions of miracles, though there are gentler scenes such as Barocci’s Rest on the Flight to Egypt. Though Barocci was an old man when Maffeo Barberini became pope, Urban said that he would accept anything painted by the artist, so esteemed was the artist. From the early seventeenth-century we could choose Guido Reni’s Crucifixion of St Peter, heavily influenced by Caravaggio, though at no sacrifice to Guido’s “elegance of design” and classical principles.[6] Domenichino’s Last Communion of St Jerome (above) painted for the Aldobrandini provides a bridge between the Carracci and Poussin, whose Sacraments were certainly influenced by it. From the period of the Bolognese pope, Gregory XV, we could opt for Guercino’s Martyrdom of St Petronila, painted in the year of the pontiff’s death- and now housed in the Capitoline. Entering Urban’s VIII’s period, we see a significant number of martyrdoms, painted by French artists like Poussin and Valentin. The Barberini were very friendly with the French, and Cardinal Francesco Barberini put Valentin under his protection, while Poussin had influential contacts within the Barberini Circle like his patron Cassiano dal Pozzo, the Barberini librarian. Poussin’s Martyrdom of St Erasmus is something of an anomaly in his career. Though a prestigious commission, he was not really a painter of large baroque altarpieces. The same might be said of Valentin’s whose Martyrdom of Sts Processus and Martinianus recalls in its types something of his smaller genre scenes; it also blatantly borrows from  Poussin’s altarpiece which would have been painted at the same time. After Urban’s reign, we have a wonderfully spirited rendering of a Vision of St Francis by the Tuscan painter Pietro da Cortona, a canvas commissioned by the Chigi pope Alexander VII. 

After the Barberini. 

As Haskell observes, Urban did not transform Rome: there are no squares that recall his memory like his successors Innocent X and Alexander VII. Yet the art and style produced during the Barberini tenure was to profoundly affect Rome for many centuries. At the centre was Bernini who was the unqualified “genius of the age” a perfect artist for Urban since they had many things in common: “a remarkable width of culture, a deep respect for the past, a combination of real religious feeling with dramatic ostentation- above all the most strenuous ambition.”  Bernini’s tomb for Urban VIII is the artistic culmination of the pope’s reign. Reviving the remnant of Della Porta’s earlier tomb for Paul III, with the addition of a bronze seated effigy displaced from another project, Bernini used his energy and ingenuity to create an artistic and iconographical tour de force.  Hardly any drawings survive for the commission, but the Vatican owns bozzetti (terracotta sketches) for the figure of Charity. 

The Fortunes of Collecting Sculpture under the Barberini. 

When Maffeo Barberini ascended to the papacy in 1623, he was very keen to rival the collections of the Borghese and Ludovisi who kept sculpture for themselves. Yet “with greater resources and more time available, than both the earlier families combined” the Barberini were only to discover one sculpture of note- the so-called Barberini Faun, a statue of a sleeping mythological creature that was universally acclaimed.[7] The Faun was first recorded in a receipt for a restoration dated 6th June 1628. It belonged to Cardinal Francesco Barberini, who is thought to have discovered it at Castel S. Angelo. Admired in the 17th century- Cassiano dal Pozzo considered it “not inferior to the Belvedere Torso.” It was kept in the Palazzo Barberini until it was sold in 1788 to a sculptor Vincenzo Pacetti who offered it to various English and French clients. In 1820 it arrived in Munich, and was in place in a completed installation by 1827. Mention should also be made of the Cesi Juno which is now in the Capitoline museum, and which earned Michelangelo’s praise.  


1)      Caravaggio, The Madonna with a Serpent, 1606, Oil on canvas, 292 x 211 cm, Galleria Borghese, Rome.

2)      Detail.

3)      Detail.

4)      Bernini, Bust of Paul V, 1617-18, Carrara marble, height 34 cm, Galleria Borghese, Rome.

5)      Guercino, Portrait of Gregory XV, 1622-3, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, oil on canvas, 133.5 x 98 cms.

6)      Bernini, Bust of Pope Gregory XV, marble, 83.2 cm (with base) x 62.3 x 32.4 cm, Toronto, on loan to Art Gallery of Ottawa.

7)      Barberini Tapestry, Cardinal Maffeo Barberini Elected Pope, after 1667-8, tapestry in silk and wood, 403 x 525 cm. Conclave following the death of Pope Gregory XV on 8th July 1623 was a long and arduous one; outbreaks of malaria didn’t help- the low-lying territory of the Vatican was susceptible. 8 of the 54 cardinals succumbed to the disease, and Maffeo was to fall sick at the close of the conclave. Consideration of his name only occurred towards the end of the session, when supporters brought a successful vote on 6th August. A recount was called, and this time he was accepted pope by a nearly unanimous vote. This scene shows the papal tiara offered to him  whilist he gestures Cardinal Boncompagni to make a recount.

8)      Bernini, Bust of Scipione Borghese, 1632, Marble, height 78 cm, Galleria Borghese, Rome. One of Bernini’s crucial portraits. Scipio had got Bernini’s career off to a flying start with by commissioning a number of mythologies and the celebrated David Scipio died in October 1633, and Bernini was paid just before Christmas 1632- 500 scudi with more to come. An avid collector with no scruples, Scipio’s taste was formed on what he liked.

9)      Bernini, Baldacchino, 1624, Bronze, partly gilt, Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican.

10)   Bernini, Saint Longinus, 1631-38, Marble, height 450 cm, Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican. Proposal accepted in May 1628, and full scale stucco model produced by July 1631. Each statue made from more than one block of marble- Longinus needed four pieces. Sandart on a visit of 1629-35 recalls being shown no fewer than 22 bozzetti, reflecting Bernini’s habit of competing with himself. Terracotta probably favoured medium for these models. Lance helps to give “a triangulation to the figure” (Avery).

11)   Frederico Fiori Barocci, Rest on the Flight into Egypt, 1570, Oil on canvas, Pinacoteca, Vatican.

12)   Guido Reni, Crucifixion of St Peter, 1604-5, oil on panel, 305 x 175 cm.  Despite its Caravaggio motifs, it still owes much to the Carracci’s principles of decorum, Guido’s “elegance of design.”

13)   Domenico Zampieri, called Il Domenichino, The Last Communion of St Jerome, 1614, oil on canvas, 419 x 256 cm. Probably commissioned by Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini, this altarpiece was unveiled on the high altar of S. Girolamo della Carita on 30 th September 1614. Research has shown that Domenichino was paid handsomely for it – 240 scudi. Jerome who lived from c. 345 to c. 420 was responsible for the Vulgate, a translation of the Scriptures from Greek and Hebrew into Latin, making it more accessible to the Christian world. Domenichino’s altarpiece was carried off by Napoleon’s troops to Paris where it remained until 1815, until it was returned with other Vatican works.

14)   Guercino, The Martyrdom of St Petronila, 1623, 720 cm × 423 cm (280 in × 167 in), Capitoline Museums, Rome. The Burial of St. Petronilla is an altarpiece painted by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri (Guercino) around 1623. It simultaneously depicts the burial and the welcoming to heaven of the martyred St. Petronilla. The altarpiece was painted for St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, for a chapel dedicated to the saint and containing her relics. It is now on display in the Capitoline Museums of Rome. Petronilla, whose name means "little rock", is popularly believed to have been the daughter of St. Peter, whose Greek name, Petros, means "rock". Her relics had rested in the catacombs of Rome until 1606, when they were transferred to the basilica church dedicated to her father.

15)   Ottavio Leoni, Cardinal Francesco Barberini, engraving, 1624.

16)   Poussin, Martyrdom of St Erasmus, 1629, oil on canvas, 320 x 186 cm, Pinacoteca, Vatican.

17)   Valentin de Boulogne, Martyrdom of Sts Processus and Martinianus, 1629, oil on can vas, 302 x 192 cm, Pinacoteca, Vatican. These two Roman soldiers were martyred when they allowed St Peter to baptize them with water from a spring he had miraculously created in his cell. Nero condemned them and they were martyred on the Via Aurelia, where their tomb is to be found. Because of their link with Counter-Reformation stipulations for martyrs, it was decided that an altarpiece would be created to honour them. Documents reveal that the job was first assigned to Sementi, a pupil of Guido Reni. Yet on the 14th of May of the following year, Cortona’s name appears. Shortly after due to Cardinal Francesco’s direct intervention the commission was given to the French artist Valentin on the 9th May 1629. A scene of Peter baptizing the two soldiers was later added by Passeri. Valentin arrived in Rome shortly after the death of Caravaggio in 1610, and his work was profoundly influenced by that painter. Valentin lived on Via Margutta in the parish of Sta Maria del Popolo, and led a bohemian existence attested by the number of genre and tavern scenes in his work. His biographers record that he enjoyed the protection of Francesco, whose portrait he painted before 1628, and an Allegory of Rome, now in the Villa Lante outside Rome. Valentin died in his early forties in Rome, though his blend of Caravaggism was taken back to France by his pupil Tournier.

18)   Pietro Berrettini called Pietro da Cortona, The Vision of St Francis, oil on canvas, 227 x 151 cm, Vatican, Pinacoteca. Cortona had painted a larger version of this for a church in Arezzo, but this version was commissioned by Pope Alexander VII- stars, his emblem on the frame. Cortona’s Tuscan origins stood him in good stead with the Chigi pope who came from Siena, whilist the Barberini came from Florence.

19)   Bernini, Tomb of Urban VIII, Tomb of Pope Urban VIII, 1627-47, Golden bronze and marble, figures larger than life-size.

20)   Bernini, Charity, study for the tomb of Urban VIII, terracotta, 41.5 cm, Vatican. Matronly features downplayed in the marble. terracotta evokes the softness and mobility of the bodies modelled with great virtuosity. Voluminous drapery, multiple movement, expressive face of the child, cupped hands showing detail. Transferred to the Vatican Library in 1923 as part of the donation of the Chigi Library by the Italian State, which had acquired the Palace in the Piazza Colonna in 1917. Probably the final small-scale model from which a full scale versin would have been prepared. Design probably established by 1634.

21)   Detail.

22)   Cathedra Petri, The Throne of Saint Peter, 1657-66, Marble, bronze, white and golden stucco, Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican. The Chair of Saint Peter (Latin: Cathedra Petri) is a relic conserved in St. Peter's Basilica, enclosed in a sculpted gilt bronze casing that was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and executed between 1647–53. The name derives from the Latin cathedra meaning chair or throne, which is used to denote the chair or seat of a bishop. The cathedra in St. Peter's Basilica was once used by the popes. Inside the Chair is a wooden throne, which, according to tradition, was used by Saint Peter. It was, however, actually a gift from Charles the Bald to Pope John VIII in 875. he cathedra is lofted on splayed scrolling bars that appear to be effortlessly supported by four over-lifesize bronze Doctors of the Church. The cathedra appears to hover over the altar in the basilica's apse, lit by a central tinted window through which light streams, illuminating the gilded glory of sunrays and sculpted clouds that surrounds the window. Like Bernini's Ecstasy of St Theresa, this is a definitive fusion[3] of the Baroque arts, unifying sculpture and richly polychrome architecture and manipulating effects of light. Above, on the golden background of the frieze, is the Latin inscription: "O Pastor Ecclesiae, tu omnes Christi pascis agnos et oves" (O pastor of the Church, you feed all Christ's lambs and sheep). On the right is the same writing in Greek.[4] Behind the altar is placed Bernini's monument enclosing the wooden chair, both of which are seen as symbolic of the authority of the Bishop of Rome as Vicar of Christ and successor of Saint Peter.

23)   Marble Faun, Museo Capitolino, marble, height, 1.705m, probably a Hadrianic copy of a Greek statue of the time of Praxiteles without any necessary connection with the artist himself. Probably one of 14 statues bought by Pope Benedict XIV from the Villa d’Este, possibly recorded in an inventory of 1572. Probably a source for Guido’s David of 1605. Though antiquarians like Wincklemann, its fortunes improved when the America writer Nathaniel Hawthorne was inspired to write a book called The Marble Faun (1860).

24)   Guido Reni, David with the Head of Goliath, c. 1605, Oil on canvas, 220 x 145 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris.

25)   Barberini Faun, marble, height, 2.15 m., Munich, Glyptothek, possibly a copy or studio replica of a Pergamene bronze, of the late third or early second century, or even an original creation of that time in marble. First recorded in a receipt for a restoration dated 6th June 1628. Belonged to Cardinal Francesco Barberini, said to have been discovered at Castel S. Angelo. Admired in 17th century- Cassiano dal Pozzo considered it “not inferior to the Belvedere Torso.” Kept in Palazzo Barberini until it was sold in 1788 to a sculptor Pacetti who offered it to various English and French clients. In 1820 it arrived in Munich, and in place in a completed installation in 1827. When described in 1628, the Faun was “seated” but in a print published in 1642, it is shown lying on its back. By then the right leg, truncated at the thigh, had already been completed, probably with stucco. In 1679, the Faun was again restored, with more additions, and an elaborate tree like support which allowed it to sit again. Winckelmann thought it might have been used as a projectile hurled at the Goths.

26)   Another View of Barberini Faun with visitor for scale.

27)   Detail: head.

28)   After Nicolas Poussin, The Triumph of Silenus, National Gallery, London, 1637, oil on canvas, 142.9 x 120.5 cm. 

29)   Cesi Juno, marble, height: 2.28 m, Rome, Musei Capitolini, copy of a Pergamene statue dating from before the second half of the second century B.C. First described in 1556, as in the CEsi sculpture garden by Aldovrandi. Much admired by Michelangelo, whose fame of it was known to the early 17th century. Despite its approval it was seldom catalogued or reproduced, “its merits more apparent to the connoisseur than the general traveller” (Has and Pen). Drapery esteemed, “beautifully draped.” Arms amended (e.g. Reynolds for a statue of Fortitude in New College, Oxford, changed the position of the arms).

30)   Apollo Barberini, a 1st–2nd century Roman sculpture of Apollo Citharoedus. It is a probable copy of the sculpture of Apollo Citharoedus (possibly by Scopas and perhaps from the sanctuary of Apollo at Rhamnus, in Attica) that was the cult statue in the temple of Apollo Palatinus in Rome.It is named after the Barberini who acquired it. It is now held in the Munich Glyptothek

Week 3 Skydrive images available here.

[1] Catherine Johnston, “The Role of Papal Patronage in Italian Baroque Art” in Vatican Splendour (Ottawa, 1986), 15-40, 16.
[2] Francis Haskell, Painters and Patrons: A Study in the Relations between Italian Art and Society in the Age of the Baroque (Yale University Press, 1980), 27.
[3] Haskell, Painters and Patrons, 24.
[4] Haskell, Painters and Patrons, 31.
[5] Charles Avery, Bernini: Genius of the Baroque (Thames and Hudson), 101.
[6] Richard Spear, The “Divine” Guido: Religion, Sex, Money and Art in the World of Guido Reni (Yale University Press, 1997), 284.
[7] Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny, Taste and the Antique: The Lure of Classical Sculpture 1500-1900 (Yale University Press, 1981), 28.

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