Day into night: the Nozze d’Oro (50th wedding anniversary) of Prince Rodolfo and Princess Agnese Borghese Boncompagni Ludovisi, 31 May 1904 (Part II of III)

An illustrated essay in three parts by Carol Cofone (Rutgers’17)

NozzeDOro1904Book copy

In Part I of this story we saw how on 31 May 1904 the Boncompagni Ludovisi aimed to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of the head of family, Prince Rodolfo and his wife Princess Agnese (Borghese), at their Casino Aurora in Rome. But since 1895 the new American Academy in Rome had occupied the historic palace as renters, and so some negotiation was necessary to make the event possible.

After a mass celebrated in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, the same church in which Rodolfo and Agnese were married in 1854, twenty-seven members of the Boncompagni Ludovisi family – four generations – celebrated in the Stanza dell’ Aurora. They dined together under Guercino’s depiction of Aurora’s transit from dawn to night, the course of one day.


Modern photo of the main hall of the Villa Aurora, the Stanza dell’Aurora. Collection of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome.

The six children of Rodolfo and Agnese very carefully planned this party, although clearly many of the details fell to the agent of the estate, Alessandro Rocchi.


Villa ‘La Quiete’ 20 October 1907 (detail of photo). Standing behind center of bench (with hat) is Rodolfo Boncompagni Ludovisi, and seated at center is his wife Agnese Borghese, with granddaughter Maria Campello della Spina (1902-1987) on lap. Standing behind Agnese, in clerical garb, is her son Ugo (1856-1935). Sitting, on right of bench, Ugo’s son Francesco (1886-1955), holding the hand of nephew Lanfranco Campello (1901-1969). Directly to the right of the boy is the family agent, Alessandro Rocchi. Collection of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome.

Rodolfo and Agnese’s fifth-born child and youngest son, Giuseppe Boncompagni Ludovisi (1865-1930), had appointed Alessandro Rocchi  to handle details of the lunch—as the calling card below indicates.



Avverte che il latore del presente Cavalier Alessandro Rocchi è la persona che mi rappresenta e cassa quale ne dovete mettere d’intesa per la colazione del 31 maggio. “Be advised that the bearer of this, Cavalier Alessandro Rocchi, is the person who represents me to provide what must be arranged for the breakfast of 31 May.”

This occasion – designed to remind everyone who the Boncompagni Ludovisi were – was celebrated on a grand scale. It was thoroughly reported the next day in the 1 June editions of the leading national newspapers of the day: Il Popolo Romano, L’Osservatore Romano and L’Italie. One paper in particular, the Giornale d’Italia, which invented what they called “The Third Page” to cover events concerning politics and art—we might consider it the forerunner to the New York Post’s “Page 6″—astutely described it as a “conspicuous and brilliant party.”


Here is their account:

The Golden Wedding Anniversary of the Prince [and Princess] of Piombino

A conspicuous and brilliant party

“Today, the 31st of May, marks the Golden Wedding Anniversary of the Prince and Princess (née Borghese) of Piombino, that was solemnly commemorated with a great show of affection from their children and innumerable grandchildren: the gracious and stately party, reuniting in the same room all the representatives of various generations of the same family tree, gladdened their spirits and touched their hearts.”

“This morning at 10:30, Cardinal Vincenzo Vannutelli celebrated a commemorative mass in the Borghese Chapel in Santa Maria Maggiore, where 50 years ago, Cardinal [Lodovico] Altieri blessed the marriage…We noted among so many others the Duke of Fiano…Then at 12:30 in the Villa Aurora, owned by the Prince of Piombino, more precisely in the splendid hall where the Aurora of Guercino was painted, a sumptuous lunch was offered by the children.”

The Archivio Boncompagni Ludovisi’s extensive documentation of the Nozze d’Oro includes a copy of the menu, printed for the lunch. As was the custom at aristocratic gatherings, French haute cuisine was served:


Menu for the lunch served at the Casino dell’Aurora on the 31st of May 1904. Collection of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome.

Consommè Frappe en Tasse [clarified broth, chilled on ice, served in a glass]

Truites Saumonèes à la gelée [a European species of rainbow trout with gelatin]

Tournedos à la Benjamin [a thick filet mignon possibly in a madeira wine sauce with truffles, sweetbreads and mushrooms]

Mignons de Poulets en Chaufroid [cooked poultry, cooled and coated with a jellied white or brown sauce]

Asperges en Branche-sauce Argenteuil [a side dish of white asparagus]

Pudding Glace Diplomate [glazed bread pudding]

Feuillantines [puff pastry leaves]

Fraises [strawberries]

The lunch was provided by La Cuisine Soignée (located in Palazzo Pericoli at Via del Corso, 337). The envelope from the caterer still exists. On the back of the envelope, costs for twenty-seven guests have been figured.


Ugo Boncompagni Ludovisi’s 1921 memoir, Ricordi di mia madre, describes many of the same details covered in the newspaper accounts, but offers greater insight into the events of the day:

“In particular, the 31 May 1904 reception on the occasion of their Golden Wedding was extraordinarily crowded. That morning, relatives and friends had gathered round them in the Borghese Chapel in Santa Maria Maggiore, where Cardinal Vincenzo [Vannutelli], Archbishop of the Basilica, who was exquisitely considerate, wanted to concelebrate Mass with [his brother] Cardinal [Serafino] Vannutelli.”

“My good parents were at that same place where fifty years earlier they had promised faith and love, promises that they had well kept! Alongside my father was my Uncle Don Marco, Duke of Fiano, his witness. My mother didn’t have hers; Prince [Camillo] Aldobrandini had died two years earlier, on 5 June 1902. How many were missing among those who had surrounded them, celebrated, who prayed with them fifty years earlier!”


Reproduction of portrait by Giovanni Battista Canevari (1789-1876) of Agnese Borghese Boncompagni Ludovisi in 1856. From Ugo Boncompagni Ludovisi, Ricordi di mia madre (1921)

“And my mother, advanced in years, and now far from that day, would have had in mind some thought for her beloved mother [i.e., Lady Gwendoline Talbot, 1817-1840], interred below in the church. Fortunate indeed are those spouses who are able to see their Golden Wedding; but I had, and I have the impression, and my mother certainly experienced this very strongly on that day, that the melancholy note prevails in the depth of the glad human heart. They would have experienced this feeling so much more given not only the many people but also the many things they had seen disappear!”


Stemma of Princess Agnese, combining arms of the Boncompagni Ludovisi (left) and Borghese (right). Collection of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome.

“The lunch took place at the beautiful Aurora,” continues Ugo, “the only old house the family still held, and this also reminded them all of the past! Here the first place was given to the Duke of Fiano.”

“Many were the gifts. Pope Pius X had given a Byzantine Madonna with an enamelled heart and a metal frame during their audience the night before. Our children gave our mother a very successful portrait of Dad, the work of Prof. [Giorgio] Szoldatics [reproduced in Part I] that in so many ways, depicts the whole countenance of our Father, his good nature, so placid and friendly.”

“Other than that portrait, we gave them a small broach – a love knot – with the names of six of us. My Eleanor, now a sister with the order of the Sacred Heart, offered my parents a great watercolor depicting the hall of the Aurora, and Francesco, his work [see below] on the first two Japanese embassies to Rome, that came here precisely, the first under the pontificate of Gregory XIII (Boncompagni), the other under that of Paul V (Borghese).”


“The employees of the estate extended to them, with kind thought, a beautiful illustrated work on the Aurora and its paintings; the text was written by Prof. [Giuseppe] Tomassetti.” [The cover of this work is reproduced at the top of this post.]


The first page of a book created by members of the Administration of the Boncompagni Ludovisi estate as a gift on the occasion of the Golden Wedding anniversary of Prince Rodolfo and Princess Agnese.

“My mother had many other gifts and souvenirs, and flowers without number; that evening the sitting rooms of Via della Scrofa were overflowing with all of it.”

“Pius X in the audience on the vigil of their anniversary, wished for my parents to celebrate their Diamond Wedding; the wish did not come true! When my Father’s earthly life concluded [in 1911], eight years had not passed from the day of the wish.”


Letter (27 May 1904) from (St.) Pope Pius X to Rodolfo Boncompagni Ludovisi, on the occasion of his 50th wedding anniversary. Collection of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome.

The fact that the Duke of Fiano is mentioned prominently in both the Giornale’s story and in Ugo’s memoir is significant. He was Marco Boncompagni Ludovisi Ottoboni (1832-1909), whose mother was Constanza Boncompagni Ludovisi (1811-1851), and maternal grandfather Luigi Boncompagni Ludovisi (1767-1841, Prince of Piombino after 1805). He was also Rodolfo’s brother-in-law, having married in 1857 the Prince’s sister (and his own first cousin) Giulia Boncompagni Ludovosi (1839-1897). In addition, the Duke of Fiano was since 1872 a Senator of the Kingdom of Italy.


Marco Boncompagni Ludovisi Ottoboni (1832-1909), Duke of Fiano

As a guest with exceedingly close connections to the Boncompagni Ludovisi by both blood and marriage, and high political standing at the time, his presence further validated the importance of the family. The seating plan for the breakfast shows he was given the place of honor to the immediate left of Agnese (at 1 o’clock on the chart below).


Seating chart for the breakfast held in the Casino dell’Aurora to celebrate the Golden Wedding anniversary of Rodolfo and Agnese. Collection of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome.

The Giornale d’Italia added the detail that since the Duke had been witness to Rodolfo and Agnese’s wedding, it fell to him to offer a toast to the couple at the anniversary celebration:

“The Senator and Duke of Fiano also served in the capacity of sole surviving witness of the wedding of fifty years ago, and indeed taking his cue from this event, he toasted happily the bride and groom and their entire family.”

Given the currency he lent to the occasion, a special courtesy was extended to him. Ugo’s account refers to an anniversary gift, a souvenir book (mentioned in an earlier post) that the members of the administration of the Boncompagni Ludovisi estate created and gave to Rodolfo and Agnese; it detailed the history and the importance of the art in the Casino dell’Aurora.

This book also became a gift for the Duke. He made a special request of Alessandro Rocchi to receive a copy. The Duke’s calling card is also included in the archive:



The text reads: Sig. Rocchi, Lo prego far sapere al Prè di Piombino che desidererei molto avere un esemplare della pubblicazione illustrate dal Casino della Aurora ora fatto. (“Mr. Rocchi, Please let the Prince of Piombino know that I would love to have a copy of the illustrated publication made about the Casino dell’Aurora.”)

It was found among the hundreds of cards and letters of congratulations in the Archive that were sent to the couple.

The story continues in Part III



Above: a small selection from the hundreds of messages of congratulations to Prince Rodolfo and Princess Agnese on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary. Collection of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome.

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