Gavin Hamilton had already studied in Rome in the 1740s. After a short stay in London, he returned there for good in 1756. In the 1770s, he undertook many excavations as an art dealer and archaeologist. When he painted this life-size Venus giving Helen to Paris as his wife, now held by the Palazzo Braschi, in 1782-84, he had already spent about thirty years in Rome.

Il Palazzo Branconio dell’Aquila

In the last years of his life, Raphael designed a palace for his friend Giovanbattista Branconio dell’Aquila, a papal advisor, goldsmith, and the personal keeper to Hanno, the white elephant brought to Rome in 1514. The palace was located in the Borgo, the district between Castel Sant’Angelo and the Vatican.

Around 1660, the palace was demolished together with the adjoining block, named Isola del Priorato after the nearby Priory of the Knights of Malta, to create the Piazza Rusticucci. Not much remains, an engraving from not long before the demolition and this sketch by Giovanni Battista Naldini.

Portrait of Pope Clemens IX by Carlo Maratta.

Giulio Rospigliosi, who took the name Clemens IX, was Pope for only two and a half years, from June 1667 to December 1669. He was an accomplished man of letters, who wrote poetry, dramas and libretti, as well as what may be the first comic opera. He was a patron of Nicolas Poussin, commissioning A Dance to the Music of Time from him and dictating its iconography.

Jacopo Zucchi: Amor and Psyche (1589)

Instigated by her jealous sisters, Psyche, oil lamp in hand, sneaks up to take a forbidden peek at her as yet unseen lover. Jacopo Zucchi sticks close to Apuleius’ story in this life-size painting: Psyche has a weapon in her hand, quite an impressive one, after all her sisters have suggested he might be an evil serpent, planning to devour her and her child as soon as she gives birth. One of Amor’s arrows is under her foot, she will soon prick herself with it and thus fall madly in love with him. This is one of Zucchi’s last and best paintings, and maybe the first rendering of the famous scene.

Continue reading

Andrea Sacchi: Marc’Antonio Crowned by Apollo (1641)

The castrato Marc’Antonio Pasqualini was the leading male soprano of his day. He joined the choir of the Sistine Chapel in 1630, and from 1632 was a protagonist of many operas produced at the Palazzo Barberini. His right hand rests on the keys of an upright harpsichord, which is decorated with a figure of Daphne and a bound satyr.

The figure of Apollo in the center is loosely based on the Apollo Belvedere. Behind him is a figure of Marsyas tied to a tree with his bagpipes beside him. It was widely accepted in antiquity that the sound of a kithara was more “intellectual” and therefore superior to that of the pipe, and in the present picture the wreath of laurels over Pasqualini’s head is probably intended to celebrate not only his triumphs, but the triumph of the nuova musica, with its emphasis on the accompanied voice. The painting is therefore both a portrait and an allegory of music.

Andrea Sacchi was the leading classical painter in Rome at the time. He was on terms of intimacy with Nicolas Poussin, whose style the present work recalls. (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Bust of Agrippina the Elder

Marble bust of Agrippina the Elder, 17 B.C.–33 A.D.
Hall of the Emperors, Palazzo Nuovo, Musei Capitolini, Rome

The Portland Vase

It is not known exactly where and when the vase was found. It is recorded as being seen in 1601 when it was in the collection of Cardinal del Monte, who purchased it around 1582. After the cardinal’s death it was bought by the Barberini family where it remained for 150 years. Eventually, in 1778, it was purchased by Sir William Hamilton, British Ambassador at the Court of Naples. He brought it to England and sold it to Margaret, dowager Duchess of Portland, less than two years later, in 1784. In 1786 it came into the hands of her son, the third Duke of Portland, and it was he who lent it to Josiah Wedgwood, who made it famous through various copies.

The vase probably originated around 5–25 A.D. in Rome at the hands of craftsmen trained in Alexandria, where cameo-glass manufacturing techniques were first practiced. The meaning of the images on the vase is unclear and controversial.

Via The British Museum and The Wedgwood Museum.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini: Bust of Camilla Barbadori (1619)

CAMILLA BARBADORI was already ten years dead when Bernini made this portrait bust, possibly commissioned by her son Carlo Barberini, who as the elder became head of the Barberini family when his father died. The other son, Maffeo, would some years later become Pope Urban VIII and is nowadays mostly known for his controversy with Galilei.

The bust is now located at the Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen.

John Gibson: Aurora (1842)

John Gibson, born near Conwy in Wales, was already twenty-seven when he travelled to Rome. He would stay there all his life. In 1842 Henry Sandbach, a Liverpool merchant, commissioned this figure of Aurora for his wife Margaret, who had become a close friend of the sculptor. The Sandbach family later built a gallery in their new house, Hafodunos, to display their Gibson sculpture.

A bust of this statue is in the Yale Center for British Art.

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema: Flora (1877)
Spring in the Gardens of the Villa Borghese