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A virtual conference on Pope Gregory XV Ludovisi (1621-1623): Call for papers for 5 Feb 2021 event

Announcing an international, virtual conference (Friday 5 February 2021) hosted by Kutztown University of Pennsylvania

Religion, Politics & Culture in the Papacy of Gregory XV Ludovisi (1621-1623)“, is organized by T. Corey Brennan (Department of Classics—Rutgers University; also director, Archivio Digitale Boncompagni Ludovisi) and Pierette Kulpa (Department of Art, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania). Conference website: ludovisi.org

The organizers invite papers (20 minutes, pre-recorded) on any aspect—political, diplomatic, theological, cultural—of the pontificate of Gregory XV Ludovisi (1621-1623), for presentation at a one day virtual conference on Friday 5 February 2021 (9am-5pm Eastern US time). They hope to attract participants from a range of academic levels and fields.

To be considered, please submit an abstract (350-500 words) to progettoludovisi@gmail.com by 23 October 2020. The program will be announced 6 November 2020. Selected participants should plan to attend (via ZOOM) their assigned panel in real time for discussion following their pre-recorded presentation. The default language of the conference is English; however presenters may deliver their papers also in Italian, German, French, or Spanish, if they provide a written English translation. The recorded presentations will be closed captioned for accessibility.

This conference is meant to anticipate the 400th anniversary of the election of Alessandro Ludovisi as pope on 9 February 1621. At the time, few must have expected the frail 67 year old Bolognese cardinal to live long enough to make much of a difference with his pontificate, beyond perhaps resolving the most urgent political challenges he inherited from his predecessor, Paul V Borghese (reigned 1605-1621).

Giovanni Luigi Valesio (ca. 1583-1633), coat of arms of the Ludovisi family. Credit: The Illustrated Bartsch. Vol. 40, pt. 1 via Artstor.

Yet before his death just 29 months later (8 July 1623), Gregory XV Ludovisi registered an impressively broad series of accomplishments that invite renewed attention, analysis and critique.

A highly capable mediator, Gregory XV and his administration quickly developed an interventionist foreign policy that scored conspicuous successes in Bohemia (then the epicenter of Protestant resistance to Catholic Habsburg rule) and in the hotly-disputed Valtellina region in Lombardy.

He canonized five saints—one more than Paul V did, and indeed all on the same day (12 March 1622)—including Ignatius of Loyola and Francis Xavier, who were the first Jesuits to be admitted to sainthood.

G. A. Mori for Gregory XV Ludovisi, the five new saints (1622). Credit: Bertolami Fine Arts Auction 9 Lot 1784 (29 Apr 2014)

He massively invigorated the Church’s foreign mission work by creating the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, which to the present day has directed and animated Catholic evangelization.

Furthermore, he reformed the process of papal elections, introducing rules that lasted untouched until the early 20th century.

It is with good reason that the Ludovisi pontificate is commonly counted as one of the more important papacies for the post-Reformation church since the Council of Trent in the mid-16th century, and indeed as one of the most consequential shorter pontificates ever.

The papacy of Gregory XV also marks a significant cultural moment in Rome. In 1621, his young nephew, the newly-created cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi, purchased and started to redevelop a section of Rome’s Pincio hill that corresponded in part to the ancient Gardens of Sallust. His vision was to create a dramatically landscaped urban villa, all within the ancient city walls, that could compete with the adjoining property of the Borghese family.

Guercino, Aurora (1622). Collection †HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Casino Aurora, Rome

For his new ‘Villa Ludovisi’, the cardinal quickly formed a large and eclectic collection of art, significant especially for its classical sculptures, many of which are exhibited today in Rome’s Palazzo Altemps museum, and its mural painting by contemporary Bolognese artists commissioned for the cardinal’s secondary palace, the Casino Aurora.

For the two and half centuries after the pontificate of Gregory XV, the Villa Ludovisi maintained its position as a principal destination on the Grand Tour, until its gardens were handed over to developers in 1885 for the creation of a new, elegant business and residential quarter.

Of cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi’s two Villa palaces, one is partially preserved today within the compound of the US Embassy in Rome, and the other—the Casino Aurora—remains a private residence of the head of the noble Boncompagni Ludovisi family.

Pietro Gagliardi, portrait of Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi (painted between 1855 and 1858). Collection †HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Casino Aurora, Rome.

In scholarly terms, the time certainly seems right for this virtual conference, even without the 400th anniversary of the Ludovisi pontificate.

To focus here only on unpublished materials: in 2010 HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi (who will deliver the keynote presentation at the conference) made the surprising discovery in the Casino Aurora of a large cache of historical documents—well over 100,000 pages dating back to the 1400s, organized in about 2400 folders, “orphaned” from the much larger collection that the Vatican Secret Archive acquired from the family in 1947 (with published inventory appearing in 2008). An overview of these archival items, now completely digitized, can be found at the website for the Rutgers-based project formed to highlight these finds, the Archivio Digitale Boncompagni Ludovisi, and (soon) at its partner Google Arts & Culture platform.

One of the more important documents that has newly come to light is a manuscript copy of an unusually valuable contemporary (ca. 1633) biography of cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi by his personal secretary Lucantonio Giunti, transcribed by a team of undergraduate students at Kutztown University under the direction of Pierette Kulpa.

Title page of Lucantonio Giunti, MS biography of Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi (ca. 1633). Collection †HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Casino Aurora, Rome.

There have been other recent advances in understanding sources relating to the pontificate of Gregory XV. These include a campaign to photograph the mural paintings of the Casino Aurora in extreme detail by specialists from the Laboratorio diagnostico per i Beni Culturali of the University of Bologna at Ravenna, as part of a project Guercino: Oltre il colore.

Furthermore, a collaboration between Professor Bernard Frischer (Indiana University) and Geostudi Astier SRL (Livorno) has resulted in a comprehensive non-invasive underground survey of the Casino Aurora and its grounds, and the creation of a 3D model that sheds much new light on the Roman-era origins of this area, and its later development through the 17th century and beyond.

Stucco rendering of putti with coat of arms of Ludovisi family (ca. 1622). Collection †HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Casino Aurora, Rome

There is much more that can be said, especially about the range of specialized and general published scholarship, from multiple disciplinary perspectives, that has appeared in the past few decades on the era of Gregory XV.

In short, this virtual conference aims to offer those with an interest in the Ludovisi papacy an opportunity to assess recent contributions on the subject, to share fresh research and analysis, and to reappraise this pope’s immediate impact and later relevance.

World Heritage Strategy Forum recap: address by HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi to Institute for Digital Archaeology conference at Harvard

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Harvard University’s Loeb House, principal location for the proceedings of the World Heritage Strategy Forum 2016 (9-11 September)

The 10 September address at Harvard University of HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi to participants at the Institute for Digital Archaeology‘s World Heritage Strategy Forum 2016 made such a splash that we requested to publish the text of her remarks here. Here is the speech as written, with the addition of illustrations and hyperlinks.

“It is such an honor to appear before you, the Monument Men and Women of the 21st Century. You are my heroes and heroines. While others are spreading tyranny, fear and despair—you are fighting back with technology, intellect and hope.

It is stunningly appropriate that we are gathered here on the campus of Harvard University for our World Heritage Strategy Forum. For it was a rather unassuming professor from the Harvard Department of the Classics, Mason Hammond, who in summer 1943 was appointed the first of the Monuments Men.

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Professor Mason Hammond as pictured in the faculty section of the 1941 Harvard Class Album

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IDA conference at Harvard features Villa Aurora film, keynote by Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi

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It’s coming up quick. The Institute for Digital Archaeology (IDA) hosts the World Heritage Strategy Forum 2016 at Harvard University from Friday 9 to Sunday 11 September. The focus of this Forum? Technical solutions to heritage conservation challenges, legal and policy frameworks for preserving heritage material, and the present-day relevance of ancient objects and classical texts.

As a part of the conference proceedings, the IDA will present the world premiere screening of The Princess of Piombino, a feature film co-produced by Dena Seidel and (Archivio Digitale Boncompagni Ludovisi head) Corey Brennan, directed by Gabriela Figueredo and Sean Feuer, with Adam Nawrot as field director. You can see a trailer here.

 

The Princess of Piombino documents the extraordinary heritage conservation program undertaken by HSH Principe Nicolò and HSH Principessa Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi at their home, the Villa Aurora in Rome, which has been in the family’s possession since 1621. The premiere will feature a Q&A with the Principessa and the film’s creative team followed by a reception.

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In addition to formal talks, the World Heritage Strategy Forum offers technical demonstrations, panel discussions, hands-on workshops and unstructured sessions designed to promote conversation and fellowship. The diverse group of more than 30 expert speakers includes Roger Michel (The IDA, Boston University), Azra Akšamija (MIT), Emma Dench (Harvard University), Khaled Hiatlih (Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums, Syria), Mary Lefkowitz (Wellesley College), Mariya Polner (World Customs Organization), and Minna Silver (CIPA-ICOMOS).

Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi will deliver the conference’s keynote address, in connection with a gala dinner at Harvard’s Peabody Museum.

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Harvard’s Peabody Museum 100 years ago—postcard of 1916

Further information and registration for the World Heritage Strategy Forum 2016 is available here. Students who wish to can apply for a fee waiver by emailing a short personal statement to the Institute for Digital Archaeology at erin@digitalarchaeology.org.uk. See you there!

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In the Villa Aurora, from the making of The Princess of Piombino. From l., Adam Nawrot, HSH Principessa Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Sean Feuer. Above, Caravaggio‘s ‘Jupiter, Neptune, Pluto’

 

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At Harvard’s Loeb House, 9 September 2016: from left, Dr Alexy Karenowska (Magdalen College Oxford / IDA Director of Technology), Roger Michel (Boston University / IDA Founder & Executive Director), Prof Herb Golder (Boston University / Editor, Arion) and HSH Principessa Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi

 

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At the premiere screening (10 September 2016), ‘Princess of Piombino’ directors Gabriela Figueredo Rutgers ’15) and Sean Feuer (Rutgers ’14)

2021 marks the 400th anniversary of the historic papacy of Gregory XV Ludovisi. Get ready for what’s in store

By ADBL Editor Corey Brennan

View of Guercino’s Aurora (1622), in the Casino Aurora. Collection of †HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome. Design: Alexis Greber (Kutztown ’21)

The year was 1947, and HSH Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi was just six years old when his grandfather Francesco gave the bulk of their noble family’s sprawling archive to the Vatican. Enclosed in 31 massive shelving units whose footprint alone occupied ca. 100 square meters, the Archivio Boncompagni Ludovisi filled four large rooms in a family palace on Rome’s Via della Scrofa.

Sketches of early 20th century disposition of the archive at Rome’s Via della Scrofa. Source: G. Venditti (ed.), Archivio Boncompagni Ludovisi: Inventario vol. I (2008) p. xix

The contents? In short, almost a millennium of family and indeed European history. Its holdings are of crucial importance especially for documenting the family’s two Popes, Gregory XIII Boncompagni (1572-1585) and Gregory XV Ludovisi (1621-1623), as well as the history of Rome’s famed Villa Ludovisi, founded in 1621 by Gregory XV’s cardinal nephew, Ludovico Ludovisi. The whole was organized and annotated by a long series of highly learned family archivists. The last of these was Giuseppe Felici, who continued his efforts through the harrowing events of World War II. Yet after arrival at what is now known as the Vatican Apostolic Archive, the Boncompagni Ludovisi documents took more than 60 years to receive a proper inventory, which a team led by Gianni Venditti published in 2008 in five corpulent volumes.

From the Archivio Boncompagni Ludovisi at the Casino Aurora: Registry of vineyards at the Villa Sora (Frascati) by surveyor Antonio Giuliani (1691). Collection of †HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome.

Two years later came a genuine plot twist. In September 2010, the wife of Prince Nicolò, HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, discovered in their newly restored home, Rome’s Casino Aurora, an “orphaned” cache from the archive. The unexpected find consisted of over 100,000 pages dating back to the 1400s, organized in about 2400 labelled folders. In addition, the Princess recovered an unpublished documentary history of outstanding figures of the Boncompagni Ludovisi family, written by archivist Giuseppe Felici in 48 typescript volumes.

Today all of these recovered documents are fully digitized, thanks to a dynamic collaboration that Prince Nicolò (whom we sadly lost in 2018) and Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi developed with Rutgers University—New Brunswick. Generous support came from Rutgers—NB’s School of Arts & Sciences, and its Office of the Chancellor (especially during the 2014-17 term of Inaugural Chancellor Richard L. Edwards).

To highlight these spectacular archival finds, there is of course this website, as well as our new (since October 2020) partner platform with Google Arts & Culture, and also a YouTube channel. The next phase of the project will focus on a way to share the 350 gigabytes of newly scanned material, with at least basic metadata.

Detail of home page of Archivio Boncompagni Ludovisi partner site with Google Arts & Culture. The Archive is one of just over 2000 cultural institutions from 80 countries to be featured on the platform.

There’s clearly a lot of Boncompagni Ludovisi history to process. And on 5 February 2021 an international roster of established and emerging scholars will be making a start, in the form of a virtual conference: Religion, Culture, & Politics in the Papacy of Gregory XV Ludovisi (1621-1623). This one-day event, hosted by Kutztown University of Pennsylvania with the patrocinio of the American Academy in Rome and the Rutgers Department of Classics, is meant to anticipate the 400th anniversary of the election of Alessandro Ludovisi as Pope on 9 February 1621. The event is co-organized by the author and Professor Pierette Kulpa (Department of Art, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania).

Confirmed participants for the 5 February virtual conference include: Salvatore Andrea APICELLA (Lumière Technology, Ponthierry), Ivica ČAIROVIĆ (Univ. Belgrade), Gloria CAMESASCA (Sondrio), Martina CATALDO (Univ. Bologna at Ravenna), Carol COFONE (Red Bank NJ), Pascal COTTE (Lumière Technology, Ponthierry), Laura GARCÍA SÁNCHEZ (Univ. Barcelona), Barbara GHELFI (Univ. Bologna at Ravenna), Jacqueline GIZ (Rutgers Univ.), Isabel HESLIN (Lehigh Univ.), Sonia ISIDORI (Boston Coll.), Christine KONDOLEON (MFA Boston), Pierette KULPA (Kutztown Univ.), Claudia LA MALFA (American Univ. of Rome), Denis LARIONOV (Belarusian State Univ.), Anthony MAJANLAHTI (Rome), Carlo MARINO (Rome), Chiara MATTEUCCI (Univ. Bologna at Ravenna), Raffaella MORSELLI (Univ. Teramo), Martin RASPE (Bibliotheca Hertziana, Rome), Pasquale STENTA (Univ. Bologna at Ravenna), David STONE (Univ. Delaware) [discussant], and Daniel M. UNGER (Ben-Gurion Univ.). HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi will deliver both opening remarks and the keynote address from Rome. For the full conference schedule and registration, please visit ludovisi.org.

Through Google Arts & Culture’s Gallery View feature, users can virtually ‘walk through’ the garden or the principal interior spaces of the Casino Aurora, using the same controls as Google Street View or by clicking on the gallery’s floorplan.

It’s fair to say that, at present, the history of no other Roman noble family is receiving such sustained academic attention. The rich material in the ‘Archivio Digitale Boncompagni Ludovisi’ has already inspired about a dozen and half year-long student projects at Rutgers, most under the umbrella of the Aresty Undergraduate Research program. A summer internship program for undergraduate students debuted in 2020, and drew participants from Rutgers as well as Edinburgh, Kutztown and Lehigh Universities; the program will continue in 2021 and (one hopes) beyond.

‘Walk through’ Gallery view of Casino Aurora rear facade and garden, via Google Arts & Culture

Rutgers student videographers have travelled to Rome twice to document Boncompagni Ludovisi history and patronage. Prince Nicolò and Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi worked with these students, this writer and ADBL board member Anthony Majanlahti to create a Rutgers online course entitled “Papal Rome and its People”, largely filmed in and around the Casino Aurora. They also enabled Rutgers’ School of Arts and Sciences to produce a student-directed feature film “The Princess of Piombino”. The film had its premiere screening at Harvard University’s Fogg Museum in September 2016, in the context of the Institute for Digital Archaeology‘s World Heritage Strategy Forum. Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi attended, answered audience questions, and also appeared as the conference’s principal keynote speaker.

The work of sifting through centuries of Boncompagni Ludovisi history naturally has brought surprises. For instance, a set of photographs from 1904 led to the rediscovery in June 2016 of an entire 19th century fresco cycle in the Casino Aurora, long hidden under a false ceiling. The first glimpses of this ceiling received blanket coverage in the Japanese national and regional press, and featured in a 2019 Milan MUDEC exhibition. In July 2017 a second hidden ceiling emerged, in this case dating back to ca. 1570, the earliest stratum of the Casino’s construction. A series of four small Mannerist paintings was revealed on the upper walls, evidently the original decoration of an important room in the Casino known as the ‘Sala del Letto’. In November 2019, Carole Raddato (whose stunning photographs of Roman antiquity have now found an institutional home at the American Academy in Rome) convincingly identified a fine Roman-era head as a portrait of Lucius Aelius Caesar, the emperor Hadrian’s first chosen heir—one of just a handful known.

An ultra-rare portrait head of Aelius Caesar, as identified by Carole Raddato, from the collection of †HSH Principe Nicolò and HSH Principessa Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi. Image: Laboratorio diagnostico per i Beni Culturali of the University of Bologna at Ravenna

Indeed, the span of just a few months in late 2019 and early 2020 saw some dramatic developments. These included a campaign to photograph the mural art of the Casino Aurora—including Caravaggio‘s only ceiling painting—in extreme detail by specialists from the Laboratorio diagnostico per i Beni Culturali of the University of Bologna at Ravenna, led by Professor Barbara Ghelfi and Dottoressa Chiara Matteucci, as part of a project Guercino: Oltre il colore. Furthermore, a collaboration between Professor Bernard Frischer (Indiana University, and ADBL board member) and Geostudi Astier SRL (Livorno) resulted in a comprehensive non-invasive underground survey of the Casino Aurora and its grounds, and the creation of a 3D model that sheds much new light on the Roman-era origins of this area, and its later development through the 17th century and beyond. Meanwhile, back in the States, a team of undergraduate students at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania under the direction of Professor Pierette Kulpa transcribed an unusually valuable contemporary (ca. 1633) MS biography of cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi by his personal secretary Lucantonio Giunti.

Detail of Guercino’s Fama (1622) on the Piano Nobile of the Casino Aurora, during the November 2019 photographic campaign conducted by the Laboratorio diagnostico per i Beni Culturali of the University of Bologna at Ravenna. Collection of †HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome.

Which brings us back to the 5 February 2021 Kutztown-sponsored conference “Religion, Politics & Culture in the Papacy of Gregory XV Ludovisi (1621-1623)“. There is good reason that this Bolognese Pope’s reign is widely counted as one of the most consequential short pontificates in the history of the Church. Before his death after just 29 months as Pope (8 July 1623), Ludovisi registered an impressively broad series of accomplishments that invite renewed attention, analysis and critique. Our virtual event aims to offer an opportunity to assess recent contributions on Gregory XV and his cultural world, to share fresh research and analysis, and to reappraise the Ludovisi papacy’s immediate impact and later relevance. Again, for the full conference schedule and (free) registration, please visit ludovisi.org. Hope to see you there!

In Cincinnati, a sculpture gifted in 1931 by Francesco Boncompagni Ludovisi draws new scrutiny

By ADBL Editor Corey Brennan

As so often these days, it started with a tweet.

In this case, it was the Twitter feed of Chris Seelbach, a third-term member of Cincinnati’s City Council. On 6 January 2020 Seelbach linked to a Cincinnati Enquirer article published almost precisely five years earlier. The piece had raised a legitimate question: what is a Fascist-made bronze copy of Rome’s Capitoline Wolf doing in Cincinnati’s picturesque Eden Park?

“The Governor of Rome to the city of Cincinnati”, reads the (Italian) inscription on the sculpture’s base, located near the park’s Twin Lakes. A date (“1931 —[Fascist] Year X”) clearly identifies it as a gift from Mussolini’s regime.

Seelbach fired off a tweet in which he promised to draft legislation the very next day to cast the Wolf—and the suckling twins Romulus and Remus, rival founders of Rome—out of Eden.

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Ex-Ludovisi portrait of Antinous, long split between Rome and Chicago, stunningly matched then reunited through thrilling technology

When it comes to investigative art history, you’ve got to hand it to the Department of Ancient and Byzantine Art of the Art Institute of Chicago. Since early April—and until 28 August 2016—a fascinating exhibition has been telling the story of how the museum managed to reunite the truncated face of a Roman marble portrait, long held in its collection, with its original sculptural bust housed at the Museo Nazionale Romano Palazzo Altemps [inv. no. 8620].

The paired portrait fragment and the bust (now with an early modern face, and a clearly visible join) represent the emperor Hadrian’s presumed lover, the Bithynian youth Antinous, who drowned under suspect circumstances in the Nile on 30 October 130. And the kicker is that the bust—and conceivably also the separated face—once formed part of the Ludovisi collection of ancient sculpture.

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3D scale model at (one-third) combining the Antinous pieces in Chicago and Rome. From the online catalogue Roman Art at the Art Institute of Chicago (in turn crediting Studio MCM srl, Rome)

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