Archive for September 19th, 2013

UA1-WA:P2-p2-Ex A Roman Palace

In this exercise I am to imagine myself made a cardinal in seventeenth century Rome, drawing up instructions for the artist/s for the renovation of my Roman palace – in particular the main reception room and my study.

My new identity: I am Cardinal Nogliano. I come from Florence, the second son of a fairly wealthy and very ambitious family – merchants, or perhaps bankers. My older brother is continuing the family line, marrying well and growing the family business. After solid training by tutors as a boy, I attended the University of Pisa where I shared lodgings with Francesco Barberini. I am making my career in the Church and have been fortunate in this and other family connections to the Barberini family. Following Maffeo Barberini’s elevation to become Pope Urban VIII I was made a cardinal. After serving in a number of posts around Europe, including France and Portugal, I am now living in Rome. I have always been interested in the arts, play the lute and write poetry. I see myself as a man of science and have enjoyed an occasional correspondence with Galileo Galilei (although he had left the University of Pisa before my time there).

Goals of renovation: This redecoration is one part of the ongoing strategy for the advancement in social rank of my family and myself. The main reception room in particular must express grandeur and extravagance, an ostentatious announcement of our achievement. The decoration should also make discreet but clear reference to my patrons and benefactors the Barberinis. This would express my gratitude, acknowledge my debt, and remind all who see it of my powerful friends. Also the artworks should enhance, support and celebrate the power and might of the Catholic church.

My family achieved wealth and prominence fairly recently. References to the roots of ancient Rome would suggest we have ancient connections as a noble family. In the main reception room a theme of Aeneas, his journey and the founding of Rome would meet this need. It would act as a metaphor for the journey of the soul, and remind all who come of the triumph of the Church and papacy. The theme will be carried out in fresco on the ceiling and in a series of tapestries on the walls – a suitably aristocratic and expensive art, fit for my aspirations.

My private study should, in addition to the goals above, be an expression of my personal qualities, history and interests. A series of allegorical paintings would achieve this.

Commissioning the work: The actual commissioning of the redecoration can also play a part in extending and reinforcing the network of ties and obligations that I and my family continue to build. I want to use my Barberini connection, and also strengthen links to my family home in the selection of artists. For the purpose of this exercise I will assume I have already to some extent discussed my plans and the possibilities with Francesco Barberini – old friend, fellow cardinal and nephew of the Pope. However the social gap between us has become wider with the elevation of his family and while I welcome the obligation of receiving his views and want to pay the compliment of attending to his opinions, I do not judge it appropriate to involve him directly in the commissioning of the work. Francesco’s secretary Cassiano dal Pozzo has also been of enormous assistance with advice and suggestions of suitable artists. However I have decided to use the services of Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger, the great-nephew of the artist Michelangelo and the childhood friend of Maffeo Barberini – Pope Urban VII. Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger can act as an informal broker or agent between me and the artists, reinforcing my social status and adding another connection to the Pope (1).

Letter from Cardinal Nogliano  to Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger:

Most Illustrious Sir

On many occasions you have shown me your benevolence, and I offer my most sincere thanks and am less wanting than obliged to  serve you (2). Now that I am seeking to renovate my palazzo I find myself once more appealing to your generosity for assistance in finding out and engaging artists who can do honour to the position which has been granted to me. There are two rooms which now exercise my thoughts and test my judgement.

The main reception room or Salone will be decorated with scenes from the life and travels of Aenaes, as told by Virgil in The Aeneid.

The ceiling, to be painted by Pietro da Cortona should be covered in a fresco showing the ending of the wandering of Aeneas, a narrative thread including Jupiter reconciling the goddesses, Fate with the scales of Justice, the landing at the mouth of the Tiber and the battle with Turnus – a journey of the soul and the triumph of the Church and Pope (3).

A series of tapestries must be worked in coloured wools and threads of silver and gold, showing scenes from the journey of Aeneas, to cover the walls of the Salone. The tapestries will be woven at the Barberini arazzoria, by kind permission and under the patronage of Sue Eminenza Cardinal Francesco Barberini.

saloneThe main panels must be 16 feet high, with widths as indicted to fill the room. Four portiere will cover the doors, with sopraporte above (4). Three sopraporte will hang above the arches leading to the oval room. On each long side will be three panels, one large and two smaller. Each panel will include a border including olive branches and showing my family impresa, the blackbird (5).

All scenes for the tapestries must be sketched in oil by Pietro da Cortona, then transposed into a cartoon by a suitable man such as Pietro Paolo Ubaldini, ready for the weavers. The designs must express our Christian values including piety, obedience to God, suffering, leadership.

Scenes in individual panels (6) may include  Aeneas carrying his father Anchises from burning Troy;  The rescue of the Trojan fleet by Neptune calming the tempest; Aeneas hunting stags to feed his comrades, wrecked on the shore of Libya. (Here a swarm of bees settled in the tree of Apollo would remind all of our father, His Holiness Pope Urban.); Dido displaying her virtue and nobility, presiding over the building of the city of Carthage and administering laws; The feast of Aeneas and Dido; Dido burning herself rather than break her vow of chastity (7), while Aeneas and the Trojans sail away in obedience to God; Aeneas in the underworld, viewing the torments of the damned. (This may be combined with the Elysian Fields and his yet-unborn line of kings.)

For my study I wish first of all for a Madonna and Child, with a tenderness between mother and child by one such as Artemisia Gentileschi who I know has spent much time in our city of Florence, is a some time Caravaggisti, and is well known to you (8) (9).

Second I would have a portrait of myself, in the red bestowed on me by the grace of God and His servant, His Holiness Pope Urban.

For the rest, I desire paintings to hang showing those muses who best express my own person and interests: Clio with her book and laurel, my interest in history and learning; Euterpe, garlanded with flowers and for my sake with lute instead of pipe; Erato, lover of poetry, the swan with feathers of black for the Nogliano bird (10); Urania, globe and compasses in hand, exploring the skies (11). For these I know you will be able to recommend to me artists of skill and stature, able to undertake such work in a suitable manner.

I ask this favour of you, that you will find these artists and send to me their names and subject, when they can have this work completed and their fees.

I thank you for your help and it will delight me if, just as from such a distance you find ways in which to serve me, you will also find ways for me to reciprocate by involving myself in things that bring your satisfaction.

And with this I wish you from God our Lord true happiness and prosperity, etc. (12)

(1) This arrangement is based on (Cole, 2007)

(2) Uses fragments of wording from a letter from Maffeo Barberini to Buonarroti, in (Cole, 2007, p. 739)

(3) This theme was executed by Cortona in 1655 in Galleria Pamphili. My description is based on that in (Toman, 2004. p. 385)

(4) The layout proposed is based on Garfinkle’s suggested installation of the History of Constantine tapestries in the Salone of Palazzo Barberini (Garfinkle, 1999).

(5) For example of such work see A similar panel  woven by the Barberini Manufactory in Rome after the design of Giovanni Francesco Romanelli can be seen online, illustrating (University of Oregon, 2012)

(6) Some of the episodes listed are based on (Shaw, 2003)

(7) An alternate to the story, avoiding the sexual liaison of Dido and Aeneas.

(8) (Garrard, 1989. p. 34)

(9) An somewhat earlier Madonna and Child by this artist can be seen at

(10) For this exercise I’ve adapted the Nolan name and heraldry, the martlet becoming a blackbird. Here I’m trying to add the extra twist of a reference to the as yet unknown black swans of Australia.

(11) Names and attributes of muses from (Hall, 2008)

(12) A mix of words and phrases taken from text of letters to and from Artemisia Gentileschi (Garrard, 1989)


Cole, J (2007) ‘Cultural Clientelism and Brokerage Networks in Early Modern Florence and Rome: New Correspondence between the Barberini and Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger’, Renaissance Quarterly, 60, 3, pp. 729-788, Academic Search Alumni Edition, EBSCOhost, viewed 14 September 2013.

Garfinkle, ES (1999) The Barberini and the New Christian Empire: A study of the History of Constantine tapestriesby Pietro da Cortona. Master of Arts thesis. McGill University. [online] Available from (Accessed 18-Sept-2013)

Garrad, MD (1989) Artemisia Gentileschi: The image of the female hero in Italian baroque art Princeton: Princeton University Press

Hall, J. (2008) Dictionary of subjects and symbols in art. (Second Edition). Boulder: Westview Press.

Shaw, RW (2003) Agmine facto: Rampant rhetoric in Aeneid I [online] Available from (Accessed 19-Sept-2013)

Toman, R. (ed) (2004) Baroque: Architecture. Sculpture. Painting (English edition) Königswinter: Könemann

University of Oregon (2012) Harper presides over sneak preview of restored tapestries [online] Available from (Accessed 17-Sept-2013)

UA1-WA:P2-p2-Ex A Roman Palace
Understanding Art 1 – Western Art.
Part two: From the High Renaissance to Post-Impressionism
Project two: The age of Baroque
Exercise: A Roman palace


No Instagram images were found.

Calendar of Posts

September 2013

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.