Some Papal medals of Gregory XIII Boncompagni (1572-1585): Trajanic influences, cosmic aspirations

An illustrated introductory essay by Thomas Gosart (Rutgers ’20)

Medal reverses of Gregory XIII Boncompagni, as illustrated in Filippo Bonanni, Numismata Pontificum Romanorum…a tempore Martini V usque ad annum M.DC.XCIX I (Roma 1699), plate between pp. 322-3. Three of these images (XXXIII, XXXV-XXXVI) refer to this Pope’s restoration of Rome’s Palazzo Senatorio ca. 1579.

Popes of the Catholic church have issued one or more commemorative bronze medallions each year since the mid-15th century. As a group these medals have several important implications for Papal history, European history, art history, classical reception—and indeed neo-Latin.

The medals are not coins and had no fixed monetary value. They were issued as keepsakes to Papal officials, elite Italian individuals, and important visiting dignitaries, visitors and pilgrims. They commonly depict a significant Papal event or achievement of the Pope in the previous year; starting in 1605, they systematically do so (the so-called “annual” medals). By at least the mid-17th century, these medals were widely collected, with large collections being presented with prestige in Rome. (On all this, see the recent overview by M. K. Averett here.)

The commemorative medals usually depicted the Pope on the obverse (“heads”), and an engraving of the event on the reverse (“tails”), accompanied by a phrase in Latin. In my study, I conduct an initial examination of the Papal medals of Pope Gregory XIII Boncompagni (1572-1585), to examine patterns, anomalies, and understudied aspects of his reign. Here I will limit myself to two specimens of the ca. 135 types that the Papal mint produced under Gregory XIII’s reign, and describe their implications.

A video survey (11 mins.) of Papal medals minted by Gregory XIII Boncompagni, as found in A. Modesti, Corpus Numismatum Omnium Romanorum Pontificum III (Rome 2004)

[Read more…]

Long presumed lost, funerary monument of Petronia Q.f. Rufina (CIL VI 24047) reemerges at Rome’s Casino Aurora

Detail of the funerary monument of Petronia Rufina, daughter of Quintus. Collection of †HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome.

By ADBL editor Corey Brennan

Don’t call it a comeback.

It was last spotted in the Villa Ludovisi in the 1880s, and reported as “lost” in the 1986 Museo Nazionale Romano comprehensive survey of the Villa’s sculptural collection.

But it so happens that, in the interim, the important inscribed Roman funerary monument of Petronia Q.f. Rufina (CIL VI 24047, presumably 2nd c CE) never left the possession of the Boncompagni Ludovisi heads of family.

Today it can be seen in plain view, at practically the very center of the breathtaking garden of Rome’s Casino Aurora—the home of †HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi.

Maria Elisa Micheli article, with text, on the Petronia Rufina funerary monument in B. Palma, L. de Lachanal, M.E. Micheli (ed.), Museo Nazionale Romano, Le sculture I.6: I marmi Ludovisi dispersi (Rome 1986) p120, considering it “disperso”.

 

The Petronia Rufina monument at the Casino Aurora (January 2019). The vase and its base which stand on the monument are unrelated elements. Collection of †HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome.

The modern story of the Petronia Rufina monument goes back to the late 16th / earliest 17th century. At some point before 1605, the humanist and antiquarian Giovanni Zaratino Castellini (1570-1641) spotted it outside of Rome’s Porta Pia, in the vineyard of the evocatively-named Orazio Petronio. There is no reason to think this was the monument’s original location. Perhaps Petronio had acquired it, thinking he had found the tomb of an ancestor, or hoping others would make the connection.

[Read more…]

New views of original decoration (ca. 1570s) of the ‘Stanza del Letto’ of Rome’s Villa Aurora

Detail from newly-revealed upper walls of the ‘Sala del Letto’ in the Casino Aurora, Rome. Collection of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi.

By ADBL editor Corey Brennan

[Revised and expanded from an original post of 6 June 2016, with addition of images taken in July 2017 and January 2019.]

You don’t have to believe it if you don’t want to.

In 1904, historian and archaeologist Giuseppe Tomassetti (1848-1911) composed an overview of the Casino Aurora and its art, for a privately published book dedicated to Prince Rodolfo Boncompagni Ludovisi and Princess Agnese (Borghese) Boncompagni Ludovisi on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary. You can read Carol Cofone‘s masterly narration of that celebration here, here and here.

Tomassetti in his essay of course makes note of the two great frescoes by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri = Guercino (1591-1666) in the Casino Aurora—the Aurora (with its lunettes of Day and Night) and the Fama—as well as his contribution to the famous Landscape Room on the Casino’s ground floor. Each of those Guercino works were commissioned by Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi (1595-1621-1632), nephew of Pope Gregory XV Ludovisi (reigned 1621-1623), when he first created his Villa Ludovisi in 1622.

Guercino’s famed figure of “Night” (1622) high up in a lunette of the NE wall in the ground floor sala of the Villa Aurora is dozing over a book that has the date “1858” at the top of a page of abstracted letters. It is natural to suppose that the painter Pietro Gagliardi (who was active in the VA 1855-8) couldn’t resist adding his brush to the masterpiece. Thanks to Tatiana Caltabellotta of the Amministrazione Boncompagni Ludovisi for pointing out the detail.

Tomassetti in his narrative then adds that Guercino also painted “a Satyr in the vault of an upper room.” The reference to this fourth Guercino painting in the Casino Aurora seems unique.

GUERCINO_SATYR

Reference to an otherwise unknown Guercino “Satyr” in the Casino Aurora, by Prof. G. Tomassetti in private 1904 publication produced by the household staff of the Boncompagni Ludovisi. Collection of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome.

[Read more…]

New from 1578 and 1581: Honors for Papal son Giacomo Boncompagni (1548-1612) at Orvieto, Ravenna

An illustrated introductory essay by Thomas Gosart (Rutgers ’20)

Detail from 1581 Ravenna diploma for Giacomo Boncompagni (ABL prot. 588 no. 23) in Rome Villa Aurora archive, showing Papal arms of his father Gregory XIII Boncompagni. Collection of †HSH Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi

Giacomo (or Iacopo) Boncompagni (1548-1612) was an Italian noble and son of Pope Gregory XIII (1505-1572-1585). Far from hiding their relationship, his father the Pope appointed Giacomo to command the Papal fortress of Castel St. Angelo, and with it the Papal militia, which immediately made him one of the most powerful individuals in Europe.

The Archivio Boncompagni Ludovisi at the Villa Aurora in Rome—owned and curated by †HSH Prince Nicolo’ Boncompagni Ludovisi and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi—holds a series of unpublished documents awarding hereditary honors to Giacomo Boncompagni; one granting him citizenship at Rome (27 July 1573) and another patrician status at Naples (dated to the Ides of March 1581) have already received notice on this site.

Portrait of Giacomo Boncompagni. From Pompeo Litta, Famiglie celebri italiane II (1836), after portrait by Lavinia Fontana

A further two come from the period some years after the accession of Gregory XIII. The first document (ABL prot. 588 no. 20) is from 1578, and grants Giacomo extensive honors at the city of Orvieto in Umbria. The second (prot. 588 no. 23), from 1581, grants Giacomo the office of Senator in the city of Ravenna. This year, for the first time, these documents have been transcribed and translated from the Latin into English.

Honors (ABL prot. 588 no. 20) for Giacomo Boncompagni from Orvieto (18 October 1578). Collection †HSH Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi

The documents, though largely formulaic and panegyric, contain many illuminating insights into the civic culture of Orvieto and Ravenna, which though firmly under Papal control as members of the Papal States, had their own keen sense of historical identity or identity as communities, as well as a sharp awareness of the importance of the honors they were conferring.

Detail from above (ABL prot. 588 no. 20), showing city of Orvieto. Collection †HSH Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi

The Orvieto document of 18 October 1578 granted nobility status to Giacomo Boncompagni and all of his descendants in the Italian city. It is written in a very lavish and flattering fashion, honoring Giacomo in numerous ways.

Detail from above (ABL prot. 588 no. 20), showing Papal arms of Boncompagni at upper left. Collection †HSH Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi

The most significant honor given in the document, besides the nobility status, is complete legal freedom and immunity from being tried in any court throughout the city, granted to both Giacomo and all of his descendants. This is noteworthy for several reasons: most importantly it shows how significant of an honor is being presented to Giacomo, as well as the power nobility had in Orvieto during this time. It also shows the strong Papal control Orvieto was under at the time.

Detail from above (ABL prot. 588 no. 20), attesting that Giacomo Boncompagni’s son Geronimo (b. 1577) was alive in October 1578. Collection †HSH Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi

A second significant aspect of this document is the mention of Geronimo Boncompagni, Giacomo’s firstborn son, who was approximately one year old at the time of presentation of this document. Before the discovery of this document, the only known record of Geronimo was of his birth; no other information was known about his life or of what became of him. This document proves Geronimo lived to at least the point of it being presented, and gives an additional record of his existence. The title “Noble of Orvieto” granted by this document has been passed down throughout the Boncompagni Ludovisi family’s history, and as such was held by HSH Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi (1941-2018).

Archival envelope for Ravenna diploma (ABL prot. 588 no. 23) of 7 August 1581 with honors for Giacomo Boncompagni. Collection †HSH Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi

The second document, from Ravenna, was presented to Giacomo on 7 August 1581 and granted praetorship (i.e., senatorship) to Giacomo Boncompagni and all of his descendants in this Italian city. The document for the most part is very typical of such a document of the time and is written in a very formulaic fashion, praising Giacomo and his accomplishments. For example, Giacomo’s name is written with a gold ink wherever it is simply mentioned, along with the phrase Dux Sorae et Marchio Vineolae, which were two of his other noble titles (Duke of Sora and Marchese of Vignola) that he then passed to his descendants.

Ravenna diploma (ABL prot. 588 no. 23) of 7 August 1581 with honors for Giacomo Boncompagni. Collection †HSH Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi

Yet through this document, Ravenna also seems to express a degree of autonomy as a city. Perhaps this was done to show that, despite being essentially forced by the Papacy to write the document—note the late date of 1581—it still considered itself to be an independent city.

Detail of first five lines from above (ABL prot. 588 no. 23). Collection †HSH Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi

For example, throughout the first three lines, it is stated that under Roman rule, Ravenna was a “municipality” (municipium) of Rome and not a “colony” (non colonia). This may have been written as a rather subtle statement of defiance of the papacy and of the Papal State of which Ravenna was a part. The title “Patrician of Ravenna” granted by this document has also been passed down to the heads of family throughout the Boncompagni Ludovisi family’s history.

Each of these documents provide essential historical information concerning Giacomo Boncompagni as well as the cities of Orvieto and Ravenna, which has not been seen for over 500 years. The transcriptions and translations of these documents, as well as a short summary of the contents will be published separately as a second part of this project.

Detail of upper left corner of above (ABL prot. 588 no. 23), showing Papal arms of Gregory XIII Boncompagni. Collection †HSH Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi

Thomas Gosart is a junior in the School of Arts and Sciences (Honors College) of Rutgers University-New Brunswick, with a double major in Classics (Greek and Latin option) and Physics (Professional option). This past academic year, as a participant in Rutgers’ Aresty Research Assistant Program, he researched the cultural history of the Boncompagni Ludovisi under the direction of professor T. C. Brennan. Thomas is presently undertaking a two-semester independent study of the annual Papal medals of Pope Gregory XIII Boncompagni, while continuing his research as a member of the Rutgers Relativistic Heavy Ion Group (part of the STAR collaboration at Brookhaven National Laboratory). He warmly thanks †HSH Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi for their generosity in facilitating his research in their Villa Aurora Archive.  

New from 1622: Fray Domingo de Jesús María, the Boncompagni, and the Gesualdo of Naples

An illustrated essay by Maxwell Wade (Rutgers ’19)

P. de Santa Teresa, Vida, virtudes y obras de fray Domingo de Jesús María, carmelita descalzo (1647). Credit: Biblioteca Nacional de España

Found among the recently digitized documents in the Boncompagni Ludovisi noble family archive in their Villa Aurora in Rome is a series of eight letters from a Barefoot Carmelite monk known as Fray Domingo de Jesús María (1559-1630). Spanning from 1612 to 1624 and written in both Spanish and Italian, the letters reveal details in the internal politics of the Boncompagni, Ludovisi and Gesualdo noble families in Italy, as well as pointing to other key events for European political and religious history in the Counter Reformation.

Fray Domingo, born Domingo Ruzzola in 1559 in the region of Aragon in northern Spain, is a fascinating and somewhat enigmatic figure of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, who, despite having little presence in English-language scholarship, has left quite a serious and profound historical impact in his wake.

[Read more…]

In Memoriam: HSH Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi (Rome 21 January 1941—Rome 8 March 2018)

HSH Prince Nicolò Francesco Boncompagni Ludovisi, KHDM, KJCO, head of one of Italy’s oldest and most distinguished noble families, died in Rome at his ancestral home the Villa Aurora on 8 March 2018. He was 77 years old.

The Prince was the 11th great grandson of Pope Gregory XIII Boncompagni (1572-1585), who introduced the Gregorian Calendar, and 10th great grandnephew of Pope Gregory XV Ludovisi (1621-1623), who founded the modern system of Papal elections. His funeral was held according to traditional noble custom in Rome on 10 March at the church of St. Ignazio, built by his 9th great granduncle Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi.

A memorial Mass will be held on Tuesday 17 April 2018, also at St. Ignazio. Officiating will be Archbishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. [Read more…]

The Dragon’s Tail: “Branding” the Boncompagni family (Part 1 of 3)

An illustrated essay by Carol Cofone (Rutgers ’17)

[This essay, completed in February 2018, is dedicated to the memory of HSH Prince Nicolo’ Boncompagni Ludovisi (Rome 21 January 1941—Rome 8 March 2018). I am grateful to him, and to HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, for the privilege of contributing to this project. It has given me a deep appreciation for the nobility of his family. Prince Boncompagni Ludovisi will be deeply missed but thanks to his generosity in sharing his family’s history and heritage, he will not be forgotten.]

As followers of this blog know well, the heraldic crest of the Boncompagni Ludovisi—the union of two great Bolognese Papal families—consists of two principal elements. Representing the Ludovisi is a red field, and three bands of gold; and for the Boncompagni, also a red field, and a winged dragon of gold, with a truncated tail. Here and in the next two posts I will explore how the dragon came to be associated with the Boncompagni, and how that symbol was managed during the reign of Pope Gregory XIII Boncompagni (13 May 1572—10 April 1585). [Read more…]

Last spotted at Villa Ludovisi in 1885, a Roman praetorian’s monument pops up again at Casino Aurora

An illustrated essay by Corey Brennan

For an 1800 pound monument, it sure has made the rounds. Starting in the early sixteenth century, a long series of humanists in Rome took the time to note a substantial funerary altar that honored—with a full-length portrait in high relief and elegant inscription—Quintus Vetius Ingenuus, a veteran of the “Third Cohort” of Rome’s praetorian guard. Vetius (or perhaps properly ‘Vettius’)  served as a praetorian almost certainly in the third century CE. Eventually, his altar ended up in the famed Ludovisi collection of sculptures, only to disappear more than 130 years ago. Since then it has wholly frustrated scholarly curiosity and scrutiny. [Read more…]

New from ca. 160 CE: Dedicatory inscription of imperial freedman’s temple to Hercules hides in plain sight at Casino Aurora

Rediscovered: the inscription AE 1907, 125, integrated into garden fountain at the entrance of the Casino Aurora. Courtesy of HSH Prince Nicolo’ and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome

A new study by ADBL head T. Corey Brennan in the St Petersburg-based journal Hyperboreus republishes an inscribed architrave/frieze that was found in northern Lazio on Boncompagni Ludovisi property at the turn of the last century, duly reported at the time (see L’Année epigraphique 1907, 125), and then stored away.

After World War I the head of the Boncompagni Ludovisi family gave over the relevant property—named Tor Mancina—to the Istituto sperimentale zootecnico di Roma (today’s CRA-PCM, which remains an important agricultural research center). So what happened to the architrave and its inscription? As Brennan discovered, for more than ninety years it has been hiding in plain sight at their Casino Aurora in Rome—repurposed as the face of perhaps the world’s most elegant trough for watering horses.

The context for the garden fountain; note Boncompagni dragon (and hence carved before the union of the Boncompagni and Ludovisi families in 1681?) positioned above in brick wall. The ensemble probably dates to ca. 1926. Courtesy of HSH Prince Nicolo’ and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome

[Read more…]

New from ca. 1860: Stereoscopic images of the Museo Boncompagni Ludovisi by the Naples firm of Grillet

An illustrated essay by Corey Brennan

Stereoscopic view by Grillet firm of north wall of Museo Boncompagni Ludovisi at transition between Sale I and II, with Ares Ludovisi at center. Collection of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome.

Claude Victoire Grillet and Jean-Louis Grillet (1807-1866) were French photographers active in Naples from the early 1850s; they were pioneers in the production of stereroscopic images, apparently introducing the technique to Italy. Of the two, it is Claude Grillet who is better known to historians of photography, especially for his landscape scenes of southern Italy and Sicily. Those included pathbreaking images from early 1858 of the devastation caused by a 16 December 1857 earthquake in Basilicata.

It was Jean-Louis’ daughter Jeanne Grillet who brought real commercial success to the family studio at Naples, establishing by ca. 1860 “Grillet & Co.” at Via S Lucia 28 and later Via Chiatamone 6. Touting the label of “photographer of the King”—i.e., Ferdinand II (1830-1859) of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies—her studio produced an enormous number of portraits of distinguished contemporaries, including several of Giuseppe Garibaldi. Statuary—which naturally attracted early photographers who had to battle with long exposure times—was another specialty. In Rome, the Grillet company had an exclusive arrangement with the Libreria Spithöver, located at Piazza di Spagna, 85. Spithover distributed Grillet views in both glass and card.

From Murray’s A handbook of Rome and its environs (10th edition, 1871)

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Twenty-four dwellings of the Boncompagni Ludovisi in Rome (and two elsewhere)

An illustrated essay by Carol Cofone (Rutgers’17)

For an interactive version of this map showing domiciles of the Boncompagni Ludovisi in Rome, click here.

The extraordinary documents of the Archivio Boncompagni Ludovisi at the Villa Aurora have many stories to tell. Previous posts have drawn on a large set of unpublished monographs written in the 1940s and early 1950s by family tutor and archivist Giuseppe Felici: 15 detailed studies in 48 volumes on family history from ca. 1550 to 1815.

This post, however, explores a much smaller Felici work: a 6-page, hand corrected typescript of an essay entitled The Dwellings of the Boncompagni Ludovisi in Rome. The essay belongs to the collection of HSH Prince Nicolo’ and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, in Rome. Below I have translated it from the Italian, with minor organizational adaptations.

In this essay (probably penned in the early 1950s), Felici gives us a rapid fire accounting of the palazzi, casini and apartments that members of the family owned, rented, accessed and abandoned in Rome through the course of 17 generations. Though his writing style in his monographs is expansive, in this essay he uses less than 2000 words to introduce us to more than two dozen Boncompagni and Boncompagni Ludovisi properties—hardly mentioning their famed Villa Ludovisi, and leaving ones inhabited post-1900 to the side.

Mid-17th century view of Palazzo di Sora in Parione (see B below), with towers. From G. B. de Rossi, Palazzi diversi nel’Alma Cità di Roma et altre (1638).

[Read more…]

New from 1573: the Papal son Giacomo Boncompagni (1548-1612) receives citizenship in Rome

An illustrated essay by Max Duboff (Rutgers ’19)

Diploma of 1573 granting Roman citizenship to Giacomo Boncompagni, son of Pope Gregory XIII. Collection of HSH Prince Nicolo’ and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome

Among the unpublished documents in the archive of HSH Prince Nicolo’ and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi in their Villa Aurora, a 27 July 1573 diploma granting citizenship from the city of Rome to the Prince’s 10th great-grandfather Giacomo Boncompagni (1548-1612) certainly stands out.

First, it must be said that any contemporary document that treats the legitimated son of Pope Gregory XIII Boncompagni during his pontificate has its own intrinsic interest. And this diploma features colorful and highly symbolic illustrations; it formulaically praises Giacomo (also called Jacopo) while expansively describing the rights of citizenship in sixteenth-century Rome; and it has as its companion a large commemorative gold medal (apparently unique) minted for the occasion. The newly elected Gregory XIII secured the honor as a favor for his son Giacomo, in the process providing us with valuable context on Giacomo, Gregory himself, the social importance of citizenship, and the interplay of Papal and civic power in the city. [Read more…]

Pietro Gagliardi’s Rediscovered Gregorian Calendar Fresco: A Snapshot of Scientific History

An illustrated essay by Katy Greenberg (Rutgers ’19)

A large fresco cycle by Roman painter Pietro Gagliardi (1809-1890) was rediscovered in June 2016 hidden behind a complex mid-20th century drop ceiling on the Piano Nobile of the Villa Aurora. Credit (all fresco photos): Nicholas Brennan, from collection of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome.

Slowly, a long-lost series of frescoes by Pietro Gagliardi (1809-1890) on the ceiling of the Villa Aurora’s piano nobile is emerging from the shadows. The frescoes, known only from three 1904 photographs until rediscovered in June of 2016, depict scenes from the life of Pope Gregory XIII Boncompagni. This blog has previously covered Gagliardi’s depiction of the first Japanese embassy to the west (1585), but so far less attention has been paid to the image of the Pope promulgating his namesake calendar. [Read more…]

New from 1929: Attempts to erase “subversive” graffiti in Mussolini’s Rome

An illustrated essay by Timothy J. Valente (Rutgers ’15)

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Excerpt from roster of “subversive” graffiti, reported in early May 1929 to the Governatorato di Roma. Collection of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome.

The many thousands of newly discovered documents in the Boncompagni Ludovisi family archive in the Villa Aurora cover the period from the earliest 1400s through the 1940s. Among these are various dossiers from the office of Prince Francesco Boncompagni Ludovisi as Governor of Rome (1928-1935). One of these, dated to May of 1929, adds unusual insight both into the inner workings of his administration and modes of popular resistance to Benito Mussolini’s Fascist regime.

By spring of 1929, Mussolini had consolidated his dictatorship in political, aesthetic, and personal terms. Rival political parties had been outlawed, and the Public Safety Law of 6 November 1926 had banned dissent in any way damaging to order or the authorities. On 11 February 1929 the “Roman Question” had finally been solved with the Lateran Pacts signed between the Vatican and Italian state. From the cult of ‘Il Duce’ to the re-glorification of Ancient Rome, from architectural reorganization of the Eternal City to the takeover of Italian film production, the regime sought to inundate the masses with propaganda and also censor dissent.

[Read more…]

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

[Read more…]

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)

Rediscovered Gagliardi fresco cycle in Villa Aurora prompts blanket press coverage in Japan; Dr Mayu Fujikawa explains why

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The Yomiuri Shimbun, the largest-circulation newspaper in the world, covers new discoveries at the Villa Aurora on 13 August 2016

As faithful readers of this blog will most certainly know, this June 2016 there was discovered at the Villa Aurora in Rome along-hidden fresco cycle showing scenes from the life of Pope Gregory XIII Boncompagni, including his reception of the (Jesuit-inspired) first Japanese embassy to the west in 1585. The four ambassadors were later ordained as the first Japanese Jesuit fathers.

The location? Above a false ceiling in the former dining room of the Villa’s piano nobile. The artist? Pietro Gagliardi (1809-1890), who is said to have spent the three years 1855-1858 executing the frescoes for his patron Prince Antonio Boncompagni Ludovisi (Prince of Piombino from 1841-1883). The full scene was known previously only from a pair of photographs taken in 1904. You can read about the multi-year quest by Corey Brennan, Anthony Majanlahti and Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi herehere and (most recently) here.

The fresco was photographed in June through two small apertures in the false ceiling and remains covered, though Prince Nicolo’ and Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi are in the process of organizing its exposure and restoration.

Over the weekend of 12-14 August 2016, each of the five national newspapers in Japan (AsahiMainichiYomiuriSankei, and Nikkei Shimbun), and—thanks to distribution by the Kyodo Tsushin news network—most of the regional papers from Hokkaido in the north to Kyushu in the south covered this exciting and unexpected story. Here is an English version, from the national paper the Mainichi Shimbun.

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Coverage of Gagliardi discovery from the English version of the Mainichi Shimbun (13 August 2016)

To better understand the keen interest that the Japanese press has shown in the Villa Aurora discoveries, we turned to Dr Mayu Fujikawa, a Japanese-born expert on Italian Renaissance art who is a 2015/6 Visiting Fellow at the European University Institute in Fiesole. After receiving her PhD in Art History from Washington University in St. Louis (WUSL), Dr Fujikawa has held positions also at Ithaca College, Bucknell University, Middlebury College, WUSL, and the University of California at Berkeley. [Read more…]

New from 1552: An autograph declaration of Ugo Boncompagni (= Pope Gregory XIII) and the threefold legitimation of his son Giacomo, Duke of Sora (1548-1612) [Part II of II]

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Archivist’s cover of Archivio Boncompagni Ludovisi protocollo 1 no. 14. All photos: Collection of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome

An essay / text + translation in two parts by Michael Antosiewicz (Rutgers’18)

In Part I of this piece we examined the context for the decision of the cleric Ugo Boncompagni, the future Pope Gregory XIII (1505-1572-1585) to have a child, and the threefold process by which he had his son, Giacomo or Jacopo Boncompagni (born 8 May 1548), legitimated. Below is my transcription and translation of the second of those legitimation documents, a declaration of paternity that Ugo Boncompagni wrote in his own hand and signed on 22 December 1552  (Archivio Boncompagni Ludovisi prot. 1 no. 14).

Pio Pecchiai in his article “La nascita’ di Giacomo Boncompagni” (Archivi 21 (1954) 9-47, at 32-34)  published a transcription of this document. But my text represents a new (and I hope improved) transcription from the original (digitized) declaration, as well as its first translation into English.

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Palazzo Boncompagni, 6 Via del Monte, Bologna

THE SECOND DECLARATION REGARDING THE PATERNITY OF GIACOMO BONCOMPAGNI (22 DECEMBER 1552)

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Parisius late consuluit cons. X. vol 2. qui loquitur in fortioribus terminis videlicet etiam in nato ex adulterio et in cons. 13. eodem vol. et licet loquatur ibi in nato in domo patris tamen idem est hoc casu cum ex commissione mea ratione honestatis domus nostre et ut supra dixi quia mea intentio erat illam dare in uxorem magistro Simone qui laborabat in domo ne ipse de hoc haberet noticiam exivit domum ad istum effectum pariendi tantum et non ob aliam causam ut scit D. Ludovica a malvasia et D. Dorathea de Scapis et alie mulieres que tunc in domo conservabantur et sic non vero ex hoc fienda difficultas cum domum ex mea commissione exiverit et ad istum effectum tantum. Et sciunt mulier Magistri Alexandri tonsoris Jeronimi et eius fillie in cuius domo peperit.

 Parisio consulted widely Consiglia X. vol. 2, which says in rather strong terms namely in the case of a birth from adultery, and in Consiglia 13 of the same volume, and although it says there in the case of a birth in the home of the father, nevertheless it is the same in respect to this case since it happened by my command for the reason of the integrity of our home, and as I said above that my intention was to give her as a wife to Master Simone, who has laboring in the house, lest he himself have gain any public notoriety of this affair, she exited the house only for the purpose of giving birth and not on account of another cause as D. Ludovica Malvasia knows and D. Dorathea de Scapis and the other women who were at that time staying in the house; and thus trouble should truthfully not be made from this since she exited the home by my command and only to that effect [of giving birth]. And the wife of Master Alexander, the barber of Girolamo and his daughters, in whose house she gave birth, know [these things].

De eius nativitate Jeronimus fecit memoriam in quodam suo libello memorialium qui reperitur in hac capsa copto ex albo ex qua memoria una cum die legitimationis et ex die nuptiarum in quibus rogatus <est> Ser Vitalis de bobus et ex quadam lista existente in dicto libello de bonis illi datis quod tempore nativitatis Jacobi Madalena non erat nupta et sic natus est ex soluta ut in legitimatione dicitur.

 Concerning his [Giacomo’s] birth Gironamo made a memorial in a certain pamphlet of his of memorials, which is found in this chest from a covered album; from this memorial together with the day of legitimation and from the day of marriage, which Ser. Vitale de Bobus recorded [Vitale be Buoi, the family’s notary], and from a certain extant list in the said pamphlet concerning the heredity given to him, [it stands] that at the time of the birth of Jacopo Madalena was not married and thus he [Giacomo] was born from an unmarried woman just as he is said to be in legitimation.

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Recordo como esendo Io Ugo di Bonco(m)pagni tornato dal conc. di Trento et esendo in bologna col detto conc. del a(n)no 1547, et have(n)do diviso co(n) mei fratelli la robba di nostro patre, quale era morto esendo io in Trento et have(n)domi loro (contro mia voglia) data la casa nova per indiviso co(n) Giro. mio fratello el quale no(n) havia figlioli, mi parse di proverdermi de figlioli quali potesano habitar(e) in deta casa volendo io stare a roma, et esendo una giovane in casa quale era senza marito, che stava co(n) Madonna Laura moglie di Giro., mia cognata, e chiamata Madalena hebbi da fare co(n) lei e, dopo alcuni giorni la ingravadai e, stete in casa cusi gravida p. molti mesi como da tutti che venivano in casa seli vedeva el corpo grosso.

I record how I, Ugo di Boncompagni, having returned from the Council of Trent, and being in Bologna with the said Council of the year of 1547, and having divided the estate of our father with my brothers, who died when I was in Trent, and they having given to me (against my will) the new house inalienably with Girolamo my brother who does not have children, it seemed to me a good idea to provide myself with children, who would be able to inhabit the said house with I wanting to stay in Rome, and there being a young girl in the house who was without a husband, that was staying with Madonna Laura, wife of Girolamo, my sister-in-law, and <the girl was> called Madalena; I had business to take care of with her and after a few days I impregnated her; and she stayed in the house pregnant as such for many months so that everyone that kept on coming to the house would themselves see the [her] fattened body;

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Poi quando fu el te(m)po de parturire (p. eser l’intentione mia di maritarla azo no(n) si palegiase cusi che havese fato uno figliolo anchora che si dicesse publicame(n)te chera gravida di me), perche havia pensato in M. Simone che murava in casa, Parse a Gironamo di mandarla in casa di M. Alessandro mio barbiere e, suo compatre dove li stete a parturir(e) e, mi fece un figliolo maschio alli 8 maggio 1548, el quale fu portato in casa dala comatre, consignato a Ma. Laura mia cognata p. mio figlio e, lei p. tale el p/e [NOTE 1] e, li trovo una balia, a la quale io pagava L. 50 l’an(n)o.

Afterwards when it had been time to give birth (for it being my intention to marry her, she therefore did not show herself in such a way that she made me a child, although she proclaimed herself publicly to be pregnant by me), because I was thinking about Master Simone who was building in the house, it seemed to Gironamo a good idea to send her to the house of Master Alessandro, my barber and her godfather, where she stayed to give birth; and she made me a boy on the eighth of May 1548, who was brought into the house by his Godmother, consigned to Madonna Laura, my sister-in-law, as my son, and she as such (?) and she found him, my son, a wet-nurse, to whom I was paying L. 50 each year.

A li 9 fu bategiato e, chiamato Jac. lo tene a batessimo M. Ghedino di Segno. Poi la Madalena, finito chebbe el parto torno in casa e, feci che Giro. li trovo marito p. via di M. Antonio triachino cioe M. Simone murator(e) et io li ma(n)dai p. el bancho de li ozelai [NOTE 2] scudi ce(n)to venti cinq(ue) d’oro quali li pago Math di li amorini cioe sc. 100 d’oro p. la dota e, 25 p. vestirla ne fu rogato Ser Vitale dai boi di deto matrimonio e, dota e, cusi Jaco e sempre stato alevato da Giro et Ma. Laura de le mie entrate e, p. mio figliolo Como sano le done che praticavano in casa cioe Ma. Dorothea di scapi co(n) tutti li soi figlioli Ma. Ludovica malvasia e, tutti quelli di casa sua La moglie di M Jero dal Ferro e, lui e, li soi figlioli, Mo Alex. barbiero co(n) la sua moglie e, sue figliole, Nicola Jacheta e, le sue done Ma. Isabeta e Lucretia sua figliola che stano da S.Martino quale sano el tutto; Orsolina che gia stava co(n) quelli dal ferro Tutti li vicini e, tutti li parenti e, M. Jo. bat. maltacheto la tenuto a cresima p. mio figliolo.

On the ninth he was baptized and called Jacopo. M. Ghedino di Segno held him at his baptism. Afterwards Madalena, once she had finished giving birth, returned to the [our] house. And I made it that Girolamo found there a husband by way of Master Antonio Triachino; that is, Master Simone the mason; and I ordered for him, through the bank of the ozelai, 125 scudi of gold which Math. of the Armorini paid him, namely 100 scudi for the dowry and 25 scudi for dressing her; Ser. Vitale dai boi chronicled the marriage and dowry. And as such Jacomo has always been raised by Girolamo and Madonna Laura by my income and as my son, as the women that were frequenting my house know, namely, Madonna Dorothea di Scapi with all her children, Madonna Ludovica Malvasia and all those of her house, the wife of Mr. Jer. dal Ferro and himself and his children, Master Alexander the barber with his wife and his children, Nicola Jacheta and her girls, Madonna Isabata and Lucretia her daughter who were from S. Martino who know the whole affair; Orsolina that was staying already with the dal Ferro; all the neighbors and all the relatives. And Master Jo. Bapt. Maltacheto held him at his confirmation as my child.

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Tutti quelli praticavano in casa cioe maestro Philepono falignamo Jacomo ferrarese taglia pietra el Brocca da varignana li muratori li falegnami e, li depintori filioli di Biaggio depintor(e) el pentraca bre(n)tador(e) compatre di Gir. Mascarono Ludovico depintor(e) che depinse el cortille, Vince(n)tio pizalpasso Marscoto che alora stava co(n) mi in bologna che sta adeso p. Paraferniero del Rmo Mathera Camilo mio servitor(e) che alora era in bologna con mi, Joane credenciero Tutti li nostri contadini cioe a quello te(m)po li bagnoli, li torches, li poggij Girolamo che stava a S. Lazaro Jac. chera galinaro di Giro Bertino dal scelaro zopo M. Hercule severole da faenza pensator(e) in roma col qual veni a roma dal concilio di bologna e, li co(n)tai tutto el fatto e, tutti li pare(n)ti sano certo eser(e) mio figliolo e dicano asimigliarsi a nui dela casa e, che par(e) figliolo di Ma. Jacoma nostra sorela e, cusi lo te(n)go p. tale mio figlio e, da tutti voglio sia tenuto e, cognoscuto Ne credo che alcuno li possa dir(e) el contrario se no(n) p. malignita, el che non credo ne mancho [NOTE 3] seli habia da fare contraditione esendoli la casa notoria e, p. tale al presente lo te(n)go in casa mia in bologna sotto lo governo di Ma. Laura mia cognata e, in fede alli 22 di decemebr(e) nel 1552. Ho fatto la presente Jo Ugo di Boncompagni.

All those that were frequenting the house, namely Master Philepono the carpenter, Giacomo the stone cutter from Ferrara, the Brocca from Varignana, the masons, the carpenters, the apprentices of the painter Baggio; the Pentraca wine-porter, the godfather of Gir. Mascarono; Ludovico the painter that painted the courtyard, Vincentio Pizalpasso Marscoto who was then staying with me in Bologna, that now remains as the Paraferniero of Rmo Mathera; Camilo my servant that was then in Bologna with me, Joana the wine-taster; All our farmers, namely at that time the Bagnoli, the Torchij, the Poggij, Girolamo that was staying at S. Lazaro, Jacomo who, a lame person, was the seller of hens of Gir. Bertino; Master Hercule Severole from Faenza, a thinker in Rome, with whom I came to Rome from the Council of Bologna, to all of them [whom I just listed] I related the entire affair; and all the relatives know for certain that he is my child and they would say that he resembles us of the said house and that he appears to be the son of Madonna Jacoma our sister. And as such I hold him as my son and I want him to be esteemed and recognized by everyone. Nor do I believe that anyone could speak the contrary against him if not for malignity, and since the reputed house is there [as proof], I do not believe anyone with have cause to make contradiction, and as such for the present I keep him in my house in Bologna under the governorship of Madonna Laura my sister-in-law.


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Et Boncompagnus appellat illum meum fillium ut ex eius litteris hic apparet et ex litteris etiam dictae Laurae apparet

I, Ugo di Boncompagni, made this present <declaration>. And Boncompagno calls that one my son as he appears here from the records of him and as he also appears from the letters of the said Laura.

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Interior of Palazzo Boncompagni, Bologna, built between 1539 and 1546. The attribution to the famed architect Baldassare Peruzzi of the cortile bears investigation, since he died in 1536

[NOTE 1] This phrase has caused much confusion for both of the earlier transcribers of the document and myself. One interpretation renders the phrase “al presente,” “at the present.” I find this solution unsatisfactory. In the first place, it changes the singular masculine article into a preposition. Since lowercase “a” and “e” are very distinguishable in Ugo’s handwriting, I feel that it is a change that cannot be reasonably made. This view also fails to take into account the subsequent occurrences of “presente” in the declaration. “Presente” is otherwise fully written or abbreviated differently from the “p/e” in this case. In one of those instances, the phrase “al presente” does occur with a clearly written “al.” In my view, the “p/e” is an abbreviated adjective or noun and forms a predicative phrase with the article (el p/e) in apposition to an implied object pronoun “lo” and an implied verb, such as “tenere”—the translation thereby being, “she holds him as the (noun)/ (adjective) one” Although this interpretation does make its own assumptions, it does reflect formulations used elsewhere in the document and better accords to the context. Further research into the legal texts used to argue legitimation may reveal what “p/e” actually means.

[NOTE 2] This name most likely refers to a bank or a banking family.

[NOTE 3] The phrase “ne mancho” is still not clear; it most likely bears some legal significance that will be clarified with further legal research. Nonetheless, the sentence indicates that the house, on account of its reputation (“notoria”), confirms Ugo’s account and certifies Giacomo’s legitimate filiation.

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This register of cash disbursements by the Boncompagni family (compiled 1712) shows that a dowry for a  marriage was promised to Giacomo Boncompagni’s mother on 13 November 1548 (five months after she gave birth)—and finally paid on 11 May 1551. Collection of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome.

About the author:  Michael Antosiewicz is an undergraduate student in the School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program at Rutgers University. Michael majors in History and Classics with a focus in both Greek and Latin. He is also a Lloyd C. Gardner Fellow. He has assisted with the Archivio Boncompagni Ludovisi project since 2015, under the auspices of Rutgers’ Aresty Undergraduate Research Assistant Program. His interests primarily consist of early-modern and nineteenth century cultural history as well as examining the evolving meaning of the “classical” tradition during that time period. His plans involve becoming a professor of either History or Classics.

Warmest thanks, as always, are owed to HSH Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, for making this archival research possible.

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Ugo Boncompagni = Pope Gregory XIII. From Pompeo Litta, Famiglie celebri italiane II (1836)

 

New from 1552: An autograph declaration of Ugo Boncompagni (= Pope Gregory XIII) and the threefold legitimation of his son Giacomo, Duke of Sora (1548-1612) [Part I of II]

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An essay / translation in two parts by Michael Antosiewicz (Rutgers’18)

One of the most remarkable documents in the Archivio Boncompagni Ludovisi at the Villa Aurora is the 22 December 1552 declaration written by Ugo Boncompagni, the future Pope Gregory XIII (1502-1572-1585), asserting the legitimate filiation of his son Giacomo Boncompagni, the Duke of Sora. That child had been born to him four and half years previous, on 8 May 1548.

This 1552 document represents the second of three efforts on the part of Ugo to secure the legitimacy of his son begotten out of wedlock. The first effort consists of a diploma of legitimation issued by Tommaso Campeggi, Bishop of Feltre (Veneto), on 5 July 1548, prefaced by a short declaration of paternity in Ugo’s hand, written on 20 July of that year. The third effort was a Papal Bull issued by Ugo as Gregory XIII on 13 June 1572, only a month after his ascension to the papacy.

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From July 1548, autograph declaration of paternity by Ugo Boncompagni (left) and legitimation document by Tommaso Campeggi, Bishop of Feltre, held in the Archivio Segreto Vaticano. Credit: G. Venditti et al., Archivio Boncompagni Ludovisi. Inventario I (2008), plates facing p. 60

The December 1552 document is significant for a number of reasons. In the first place, it discloses full details of a story that would be unimaginable today: a Pope having a son. Secondly, it provides key insights into one of the most formative chapters of the Boncompagni (later Boncompagni Ludovisi) dynasty when the family’s destiny was in serious jeopardy nor foreseeable. Lastly, it captures a convergence of social, legal, cultural and ecclesiastical histories. You can see a transcription and translation of the 1552 Declaration in Part II of this post.

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From Pompeo Litta, Famiglie celebri italiane II (1836). This image of Giacomo Boncompagni (detail) reproduces his (1594) portrait by Lavinia Fontana; that story is told here

Besides its scholarly significance, the document is also striking on account of its placement in the Boncompagni Ludovisi private archive over the past several centuries. To date, only a few scholars—and none in the last 60 years—have ever seen the declaration. For the circumstances of its preservation and rediscovery, and then second rediscovery, see here.

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From the Archivio Boncompagni Ludovisi at the Villa Aurora: archival “cover” for the 1552 declaration relating circumstances of its rediscovery in 1870

Boncompagni Ludovisi family archivist Giuseppe Felici typed up a tentative transcription of this document in the late 1940s, that has remained unpublished in the Villa Aurora archive. And Pio Pecchiai (1882-1965) in his article “La nascita’ di Giacomo Boncompagni” (Archivi 21 (1954) 9-47, at 32-34) published a transcription of this declaration, as well as those of additional documents that together form a dossier on the legitimation of Ugo Boncompagni’s son, with extensive commentary. But scholars have not had access to the document in the interim, and an English translation of the document has not existed before now.

However amazing and impactful this document is, it never should have been written. As a tonsured cleric on course to an austere life of legal and doctrinal disputes, Ugo Boncompagni was never supposed to have a son, if not for a family crisis compelling him for the sake of securing the family’s heredity.

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Detail from diploma granting Roman citizenship to Giacomo Boncompagni, 27 July 1573. Collection of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome.

Here is some basic background. Between 1543 and 1546, the Boncompagni family suffered a scourge of deaths. Altogether five of eight sons would perish: Gian Francesco (b. 1494), Antonio (b. 1496), Giorgio (b. 1498), Sebastiano (b. 1506), and Ludovico Boncompagni (b. 1507). These deaths had great ramifications for the process of inheritance; with the eldest son, Gian Francesco, dead, the inheritance had fallen into some confusion. This confusion peaked with the death of Cristoforo Boncompagni, the family’s patriarch, in 1546.

At the time of Cristoforo’s death, only three Boncompagni brothers were alive to manage their family’s estate, which now included a palazzo in Bologna still under construction. In addition to Ugo, there were his older brother by three years Girolamo Boncompagni (b. 1499) and his younger brother by two years Boncompagno Boncompagni (b. 1504). Unfortunately, neither Girolamo nor Boncompagno would prove viable heirs.

One would suspect that as the eldest remaining brother, Girolamo would have been a perfect heir, especially since he was already married, to one Laura Dal Ferro. The couple, however, did not have any children nor would produce any in their lifetime. If the family’s heredity was transferred to them, it would have soon been discontinued.

On the other hand, Boncompagno was an even worse candidate. Although he was married with a child, he was severely estranged from his family, especially from Ugo. Historians would later note that upon his election as Pontiff, Ugo refused to receive his brother at the Vatican. The exact reason for their estrangement remains uncertain, although his wife Cecilia Bargellini may have contributed to a rift between him and his father. Nonetheless, both Girolamo and Boncompagno did not represent viable heirs.

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Detail from diploma granting Roman citizenship to Giacomo Boncompagni, 27 July 1573. Collection of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome.

Ugo was as an equally unviable heir as his brothers if not more so. In 1539, he received the first tonsure and started his meteoric rise within the Church. This act barred Ugo from marriage and consequently eliminated any possibility of producing a naturally legitimate heir. Just as in the case of Girolamo, Ugo had no descendants to whom to transmit his family’s increasing heredity. In order for the Boncompagni family to retain their heredity, drastic measures had to be taken.

Having left the Bolognese universities in 1539 to work in the Roman Curia, in 1547 Ugo finally returned to Bologna, to attend the Council of Trent. In that year the Council was transferred from Trent to Bologna, though the Council was to never meet in this location.

Ugo had been aloof of the details of his family’s situation. In fact, the evidence suggests that Ugo did not know of his father’s death until he returned to Bologna. As one could imagine, his homecoming after an absence of eight years would have been hectic. He would have discovered not only the deaths of his father and his brothers, but the urgency of resolving the family’s inheritance crisis.

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Palazzo Boncompagni, Bologna. Credit: Corey Brennan

From the 1548 and 1552 documents we know the details of what happened next. When Ugo arrived in Bologna, Girolamo and his household inhabited the family’s new palazzo. One of the members of Girolamo’s household was an unmarried young woman (“dona soluta”) named Madalena De Fulchinis. She is described as staying with Laura, the wife of Girolamo, and most likely was a domestic servant. Ugo decided to have a child with her.

In the 1552 declaration, Ugo describes this sequence of events with the following (euphemistic) words: “hebbi da fare con lei e dopo alcuni giorni la ingravadai” (“I had things to get done with her, and after a few days I impregnated her”).

Over the next few months Madalena stayed in the family’s home. Right before she gave birth, Girolamo sent her to stay in the house of Maestro Alessandro, Ugo’s barber. On May 8, 1548 Madalena “made a masculine child” in Alessandro’s house; Giacomo was born!

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Palazzo Boncompagni, Bologna: detail of doors. Credit: Corey Brennan

Some time after she gave birth (no sooner than November 1548) Madalena was married to a Simone Antonio Scarani of Milan, a mason working in the palazzo. She went to live with Simone and had no part in raising Giacomo. Not much other information is available on the remainder of her life.

Giacomo was immediately delivered into the “guardianship” of his aunt Laura Dal Ferro, wife of Girolamo, and was raised by her. Ugo played no direct role in his upbringing at this time having immediately returned to Rome to resume Curial affairs. His only contribution consisted of his financial reimbursements to Laura and Girolamo for any costs incurred in raising the child.

According to the 1552 declaration, it seems Laura assumed this position without resisting. Moreover, Giacomo is said to have “resembled” those of the house, fitting into his home and his family’s elevated social sphere.

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Detail from diploma granting Roman citizenship to Giacomo Boncompagni, 27 July 1573. Collection of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome.

With Giacomo’s birth, the process of legitimation commenced to make Giacomo a legal and rightful heir. Back in Rome Ugo stayed at the house of Tommaso Campeggi, the Bishop of Feltre, who himself hailed from a prominent Bolognese family. Just two months after his birth, on 5 July 1548, Campeggi issued a diploma that legitimated Giacomo. In his own handwriting, Ugo a few weeks later (on 20 July) added a paragraph to the front of the document that briefly summarizes the circumstances of conception and the sequence of events.

Although Ugo technically accomplished his goal of securing a legitimate heir, he continued to reaffirm Giacomo’s legitimation. The 1552 document plays a special role in this process.

Whereas the 1548 diploma and the 1572 document wield ecclesiastical authority, the 1552 declaration constructs a legal argument for legitimation. The declaration operates in two parts and uses two languages.

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Detail from diploma granting Roman citizenship to Giacomo Boncompagni, 27 July 1573; he had been prefect of the Papal stronghold of Castel S Angelo (depicted here) since 23 May 1572. Collection of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome.

The first section cites, in Latin, legal precedents for legitimation. The legal precedents derive from the Consilia of Pietro Paulo Parisio, Ugo’s prolific colleague at the University of Bologna.

The next section, in Italian, demonstrates compliance to the legal stipulations. The Italian narrative relates the sequence of events once Ugo returned to Bologna, the circumstances of conception, the arrangement of Madalena’s marriage and dowry, as well as the arrangements for Giacomo’s upbringing.

Most importantly, the document provides an extensive and comprehensive list of all those in the house or close to the family’s affairs that possessed knowledge of the affairs and thus could corroborate claims of legitimation. In fact, out of the document’s total four pages, nearly one full page of witnesses is given by Ugo—ranging from the family’s many friends, to workers in the house, to the tenant farmers on the Boncompagni estate.

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Detail from diploma granting Roman citizenship to Giacomo Boncompagni, 27 July 1573. Collection of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome.

A close reading of the document provides details and insights into Ugo’s mindset and reasons for producing the 1552 declaration.

First and foremost, Ugo clearly wanted to ensure that Giacomo’s reputation and legitimate filiation were unassailable. He states: “cusi lo te(n)go p. tale mio figlio e, da tutti voglio sia tenuto e, cognoscuto Ne credo che alcuno li possa dir(e) el contrario se no(n) p. malignita” (“As such I hold him as my son, and from everyone I want him to be acknowledged and held; nor do I believe anyone could speak the contrary against him if not for malignity”).

Furthermore, it is clear that Ugo decided to have a child out of familial necessity. With chilling ease he explains in the beginning of the document that he decided to “provide myself with children” who “potesano habitar in deta casa volendo io stare a roma” (“could live in the said house [the Palazzo Boncompagni] since I want to stay in Rome”).

Clearly, Ugo wished to continue his ascendance in the Curia and viewed Giacomo as a way to secure and maintain a presence over the family’s affairs in Bologna.

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Palazzo Boncompagni, Bologna. Credit: Corey Brennan

Another interesting facet of the document consists of its legal language. Ugo uses particular words and phrases throughout the document as well as emphasizes certain details.

One legal formulation stands out; it concerns the family’s public reputation: “p. eser l’intentione mia di maritarla azo no(n) si palegiase cusi che havese fato uno figliolo anchora che si dicesse publicame(n)te chera gravida di me” (“it being my intention to marry her off, she [Madalena] therefore did not show herself in a way that she had a child, although she did publicly declare to be pregnant by me”).

For the sake of legitimation Ugo’s paternity had to be well-attested, but knowledge of Madalena’s giving birth could not be dispersed publicly as it would interfere with her marriage to Simone the mason.

The legitimation process of Giacomo Boncompagni finally ends 24 years after his birth, and 20 years after our document. In a Papal Bull of 1572, Ugo decrees his son’s legitimate filiation and thus also validated his social prominence.

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From 1572, Papal bull by Pope Gregory XIII legitimating his son Giacomo Boncompagni, held in the Archivio Segreto Vaticano. Credit: G. Venditti et al., Archivio Boncompagni Ludovisi. Inventario I (2008), plates facing p. 60

On the whole, this series of events concerning the legitimation of Giacomo Boncompagni constitute more than one of the most crucial periods in the history of the Boncompagni Ludovisi dynasty. It details and illuminates a world that in so many ways feels so remote but yet reverberates to the present day.

A transcription and translation of the 1552 Declaration follow in Part II of this post.

Warmest thanks, as always, are owed to HSH Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, for making this archival research possible.

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From Pompeo Litta, Famiglie celebri italiane II (1836). This image of Giacomo Boncompagni (detail) reproduces his (1594) portrait by Lavinia Fontana; the letter shows his status on the “Secret Council” of the Duchy of Milan

New from 1855-1858: Masterwork of Pietro Gagliardi for Antonio Boncompagni Ludovisi (Prince of Piombino 1841-1883) rediscovered

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Newly-revealed decorative Telamon, from NE corner of Salone of Piano Nobile, Casino Aurora. All photos from collection of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome.

Avid readers of the VillaLudovisi.org blog may remember the quest for the lost frescoed ceiling of Pietro Gagliardi (1809-1890) depicting scenes from the life of Pope Gregory XIII Boncompagni that he executed in the Casino Aurora in the years 1855-1858. (If you don’t, here is Part I and Part II.)

Well here ’tis.

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Newly-revealed portrait of Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi (1595-1621-1632), from east wall of Salone of Piano Nobile, Casino Aurora

In September 2012 Corey Brennan discovered photographic proof (from 1904) of the existence of this ceiling, and from the photos and various written accounts identified the scenes, painter and date, and posited two possible locations in the Casino Aurora.

A combination of Anthony Majanlahti’s minute examination of the Villa Aurora’s floor plans and Corey Brennan’s discovery of further written accounts forced the conclusion that the missing frescoes must be well above a modern (post WW II) drop ceiling in the former salone of the piano nobile, which was spectacularly confirmed on 11 June 2016.

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Newly-revealed depiction of first Japanese embassy to the west (1585), from N wall of Salone of Piano Nobile, Casino Aurora

Deep thanks as always are owed to HSH Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, who have encouraged this research for many years.

More to follow!

Photo credits for all color images in this post: Simeon Rykembusch. Special thanks for expert advice on the iconography of the Embassy scene: Dr. Mayu Fujisawa (European University Institute).

Additional thanks to Archivio Digitale Boncompagni Ludovisi board member Professor Bernard Frischer, and also Matthew Brennan (both Indiana University) for technical support on day of find.

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Several US newspapers in January-March 1904 ran a feature on the Casino Aurora that contained a photo of its upper Salone as decorated by Pietro Gagliardi in 1855-1858, no longer visible today. This was the clue that started this investigation

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Two photos above: view of  S wall (Gregory XIII’s calendar reform of 1582) and N Wall (Japanese Tensho Embassy of 1585) of Casino Aurora’s Salone of Piano Nobile, long obscured by post WW II drop ceiling

In Sweden, the rediscovery of a Lavinia Fontana portrait—of Pope Gregory XIII Boncompagni’s daughter-in-law, Costanza Sforza

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Medal (dated 1611, by F. A. Casoni) depicting two sides of the Bolognese painter Lavinia Fontana. The reverse legend: PER TE STATO GIOIOSO MI MANTENE (“because of you I am in a constant fervor”). Credit: Dr Busso Peus Nachfolger

Well, this certainly is unexpected. Just announced in Sweden by the renowned Uppsala Auktionskammare is the rediscovery of a brilliant example of Boncompagni patronage of the arts. It is a 1594 portrait by none other than Lavinia Fontana (1552-1614).

Fontana’s subject? Costanza Sforza of Santa Fiore (1560-1617), wife of the Duke of Sora, Giacomo Boncompagni (1548-1612). Giacomo himself was the legitimated son of Ugo Boncompagni = Pope Gregory XIII (1505-1572-1585). So at the time of her marriage in 1576—at the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican, with the whole College of Cardinals in attendance—Costanza Sforza found herself in the unusual position of daughter-in-law to a reigning Pope.

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The rediscovered portrait of Costanza Sforza by Bolognese painter Lavinia Fontana. The sale by Uppsala Auktionskammare takes place 14 June 2016. Credit: Uppsala Auktionskammare

[Read more…]

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)

[Read more…]

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

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

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Detail of Guercino’s Aurora. Collection of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome.

Our discussion continues of the celebration of the Nozze d’Oro (Golden Wedding Anniversary) of Rodolfo Boncompagni Ludovisi (1832-1911), the eighth Prince of Piombino, and the Princess of Piombino Agnese Borghese Boncompagni Ludovisi (1836-1920).

In Part I we explored how the Boncompagni Ludovisi family was forced due to financial exigencies to rent their famed Casino Aurora (starting in 1895) to the new American Academy in Rome—and then to see the Americans leave them off the invitation list when King Vittorio Emanuel III and Queen Elena attended a landmark exhibition there on 11 January 1904.

In Part II we discussed how the Boncompagni Ludovisi managed to get back for the space of one day the use of their Casino Aurora for the Golden Wedding festivities of 31 May 1904, and why the lunch they staged attracted national press attention in Italy as “a conspicuous and brilliant party.”

In this final segment we shall see that the choice of the Casino Aurora as a venue was significant not just as a celebration of the fifty year marriage of the Prince and Princess. It was a powerful reminder of the family’s continued relevance at a time when powerful political, economic and social changes challenged it.

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Plan of the Casino Aurora and its immediate area, made in connection with preparations for the 1904 Golden Wedding anniversary of Rodolfo and Agnese Boncompagni Ludovisi

[Read more…]

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)

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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.

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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.

[Read more…]

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

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

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Paired portraits by Giorgio Szoldatics (1873-1955) of Prince Rodolfo and Princess Agnese commissioned for their 1904 Golden Wedding anniversary. Collection of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome.

The members of the Boncompagni Ludovisi family have celebrated in Rome many important occasions over the centuries. One such event was Tuesday 31 May 1904, which marked the Nozze d’Oro (50th wedding anniversary) of Rodolfo Boncompagni Ludovisi (1832-1911), the eighth Prince of Piombino, and his wife Agnese Borghese Boncompagni Ludovisi (1836-1920). The couple had married in Rome on 31 May 1854.

The 50th anniversary fête came eight years after the resolution of the worst of the family’s financial difficulties which had started in the late 1880s and early 1890s. But even in 1904, the Boncompagni Ludovisi were still renting out their famed Casino dell’Aurora, to the new American Academy in Rome, which had occupied it since 1895.

Indeed, one of the American Academy’s early strategies was to purchase the Casino Aurora outright from the Boncompagni Ludovisi. Previously unpublished correspondence from Boston lawyer Samuel A.B. Abbott (1846-1931) to noted architect Charles Follen McKim (1847-1909) reveals schemes of early 1896 to get the Casino Aurora from Prince Rodolfo at a knockdown price, and betrays a general lack of respect for the family.

For their part, in 1904 Rodolfo and Agnese now had as their principal residence in Rome quarters at Via della Scrofa, 39 (now the location of the Assunta Domus hotel).

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The entrance to Via della Scrofa 39, the Rome home of Rodolfo and Agnese Boncompagni Ludovisi in 1904

[Read more…]

Villa Aurora, Boncompagni Ludovisi subject of ‘The Princess of Piombino’ feature film

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Rutgers Rome Stories is a student-directed series of four films, each of which seeks to animate an aspect of the idea of the Eternal City. You can see the projects—two theatrical trailers for feature-length documentaries to be released in 2015/6, and two short documentaries now complete—at the website classics.rutgers.edu/rome-stories.

Chief among these is a documentary film— titled The Princess of Piombinoon the efforts of Prince Nicolo’ and Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi to preserve their iconic urban villa, the Casino Aurora.

 

Rutgers Rome Stories is the product of a multi-year collaboration between the Rutgers Center for Digital Filmmaking (Mason Gross School of the Arts), represented by its founding director, Dena Seidel; and the Department of Classics (School of Arts and Sciences), through associate professor (and Archivio Digitale Boncompagni Ludovisi director) T. Corey Brennan. The undergraduate student videographers have their academic homes in either Mason Gross or SAS; all are enrolled in the certificate program of the Rutgers Center for Digital Filmmaking.

In general, the character-driven narratives that these Rutgers students have created, and filmed largely on location, offer a particularly innovative way of communicating some vital personal histories of Rome to a broad audience.

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Credits for The Princess of Piombino:
A Rutgers Center for Digital Filmmaking production
Directed and filmed by Sean Feuer ’14 and Adam Nawrot ’14
Co-directors Gabriela Elise ’15 and Shaodi Huang ’16
Editors Sean Feuer ’14, Gabriela Elise ’15 and Shaodi Huang ’16
Producers Professors Corey Brennan and Dena Seidel
Associate producer Anthony Majanlahti
Funded by Rutgers University School of Arts and Sciences
Made in the Rutgers Center for Digital Filmmaking, Mason Gross School of the Arts under the supervision of Professor Dena Seidel

School of Arts and Sciences : Department of Classics

Mason Gross School of the Arts : Center for Digital Filmmaking

Some 19th century ‘case’ of the Casa Boncompagni Ludovisi (Part II of II): Foligno

By Carol Cofone

In our last post we examined how the Boncompagni Ludovisi in the latter part of the 19th century came into some spectacular properties in central and north Italy. Marriages of a daughter, a granddaughter and a grandson of Rodolfo, Prince of Piombino (VIIII) from 1883-1911, increased still further the number of impressive case at the family’s disposal. These additions included a villa at Pelago in Tuscany, another (massive) villa at Bagnarola di Budrio near Bologna, a palazzo and villa at Merate in Lombardy, and a palazzo at Varallo Sesia in the Piedmont region.

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Then there is the villa ‘La Quiete’ at Foligno in Umbria, closely associated with Agnese Borghese, who soon after her 18th birthday married Rodolfo Boncompagni Ludovisi on 31 May 1854. But this villa was not an ancestral Borghese family possession.  Rather it came to the Boncompagni Ludovisi through Agnese’s own deep-seated desire, one which inspired her search for a summer home near Foligno. [Read more…]

Some 19th century ‘case’ of the Casa Boncompagni Ludovisi (Part I of II): Pelago, Bagnarola, Merate, Varallo

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By Carol Cofone

In English, we have two words to help us understand how we feel about where we live:  “house” is the physical structure; “home” is the emotional shelter.  Not so in Italian. The word casa means house, and it means home, and it also means dynasty—as in the instance of the Casa Boncompagni Ludovisi, the Roman noble family that counts its lineage back to the 10th century AD.

These definitions can help us see how four generations of the family in the 19th and earlier 20th centuries who had ownership or access to a stunning array of properties felt about them. Their sensibilities were likely complex and confounding. For these four generations—whose birthdates encompass the period from ca. 1830-ca. 1910—the wonders of these castles and palaces, villas and tenute, perhaps seemed even commonplace. At any rate, in this period we do not find much evidence for the family indulging in a hedonistic enjoyment of the luxuries that attended their lives.

This ethos was sustained not least thanks to the influence of Agnese Borghese Boncompagni Ludovisi, born on 5 May 1836, and—as we shall see—from her earliest childhood instilled by her maternal grandmother with a “Borghesian” sense of the duty of nobility. Agnese married Rodolfo Boncompagni Ludovisi, Prince of Piombino (VIII), on 31 May 1854, and died on 22 March 1920 at the age of 83. All six of the couple’s children survived them. [Read more…]

“The Destruction of Rome”: Herman Grimm (1886) on the development of the Rione Ludovisi

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The Villa Ludovisi as it appears in Rome’s Piano Regolatore of 1883—as yet untouched.

Herman Friedrich Grimm (1828-1901) was a groundbreaking German art historian with a special expertise in the art of Raphael and Michelangelo; more generally, he saw himself as the intellectual heir of Goethe. He was born into an academic family: his father Wilhelm and uncle Jakob (who for their entire lives shared the same roof) were the famous philologists and folklorists known as “The Brothers Grimm“.

In late January 1886 Herman Grimm penned a “letter”—really a full-blown essay—entitled The Destruction of Rome, in which he strongly expressed his disapproval of how Rome was physically adapting itself to serve as capital for the recently-created kingdom of Italy. It saw publication first in March of that year, in the Deutschen Rundschau, but then in many other venues, with translation into Italian and English. Here Grimm reserved particular scorn for the tragic dismantlement of “the most beautiful garden…[on] the whole earth”, the Villa Ludovisi. The relevant bits of the letter can be found below, at the end of this post. [Read more…]

Henry James and the Villa Ludovisi (Part I of II, non-fiction)

By Cecily Smith 

The American novelist Henry James (1843-1916) travelled to Italy a number of times (1869/70, 1873, 1880, 1886/7, 1894, 1899, 1907). During these visits, he spent a considerable amount of time in Rome and published extensive accounts of his stays in several American magazines. Those included Scribner’s MonthlyThe Century Magazine, The Galaxy, The Atlantic Monthly and The Nation. He later went on to revise these essays and republish them in two principal collections: the first, Transatlantic Sketches (1875), the second, Italian Hours (1909).

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Among the many places he saw in Rome were the most important in the series of great urban villas. Though James stated that “he prefers none of them to the Villa Borghese“, and had special admiration for the Villa Medici, he wrote “and yet…you may stand in the little belvedere which rises with such surpassing oddity out of the dusky heard of the Boschetto at the latter establishment—a miniature presentation of the wood of Sleeping Beauty—and look across at the Ludovisi pines lifting their crooked parasols into a sky of what a painter would call the most morbid blue, and declare that the place where they grow is the most delightful in the world.” [Read more…]

New from the 1860s: a privileged admission list for the Villa Ludovisi, from its Portineria

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Filippo Cancani Montani served as archivist of the Boncompagni Ludovisi family at the time of the dissolution of the greater part of its Villa Ludovisi in 1885. In 1886 he managed to preserve this wooden frame, containing a “Nota” from the principal gate listing nobility that had unrestricted entrance to the property, i.e., the ability to enter the Villa grounds on any day they wanted.

As we shall see, this economically composed document—which hung within the portineria, and evidently was produced for internal staff use—provides a fascinating window into the social relations of the Boncompagni Ludovisi with other leading Roman noble families during the mid to late 19th century. [Read more…]

New from 1706: an inventory (and cash assessment) of coins and medals in the ‘Museo Boncompagni Ludovisi’ (Part II of II)

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In our last installment, we were examining a fascinating early eighteenth century inventory of coins and medals in the collection of the Boncompagni Ludovisi. The title page of this inventory, some 240 pages in length, reads “Descrizione succincta del Museo dell’ Ecc[ellessi]mo Sig[nore]e Principe di Piombino Boncompagni Ludovisi con l’apprezzo esiguito dal perito antiquario Sig. Giuseppe Magnavacca da Bologna sotto il dì 5 ottobre 1706″.

The Prince of Piombino in question is Gregorio Boncompagni Ludovisi (1642-1707), who—with his wife Olimpia Ippolita Ludovisi, whom he married in 1681—was the first to join the Boncompagni and Ludovisi names. And the assessor? Giuseppe Magnavacca (1639-1724) was a Bolognese erudite known especially as a pioneer in the emerging field of numismatics. But he also can be counted as an intimate of GuercinoPietro da Cortona, the art historian Carlo Cesare Malvasia, and indeed the contemporary artists who comprised Bologna’s Accademia Clementina, of which Magnavacca was a founding member.

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This unpublished treatise by Boncompagni Ludovisi archivist Giuseppe Felici (completed March 1949) offers a comprehensive overview, working from primary documents, of the family’s historically important collections of gems, cameos, coins and medals.

So what were the circumstances of Giuseppe Magnavacca’s 1706 inventory of the Boncompagni Ludovisi coins and medals? For that, one has to go back—in fact, way back… [Read more…]

New from 1706: an inventory (and cash assessment) of coins and medals in the ‘Museo Boncompagni Ludovisi’ (Part I of II)

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Collection of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome (this and all MS photos below).

Here’s an item from the newly-recovered Boncompagni Ludovisi archive at the Villa Aurora that positively leaps to the eye—not so much for intrinsic value (it’s a copy, as we shall see) but for the brilliant light it throws on the history of collecting in the Seicento. Put briefly, it’s a careful inventory of 3557 coins and medals that Cardinal Girolamo Boncompagni (1622-1684, direct great-grandson of Pope Gregory XIII Boncompagni) had either inherited or purchased, and then willed (with the rest of his amazing estate) to the Ospedali della Vita e della Morte in Bologna.

The fascinating bit is that each item is assigned a contemporary cash value, in scudi Romani (the currency of the Papal States until 1866). As such, one gets not just a comprehensive overview of a premier 17th century numismatic collection, but also a spectacular lesson on what factors determined relative worth in the art market of that era. [Read more…]

New from 1581: Giacomo Boncompagni, son of Pope Gregory XIII, receives patrician status at Naples

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Collection of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome (this and all MS photos below).

Among the titles of Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi, Prince of Piombino (XI), is Patrician of Naples. The origin of this distinction is not in doubt. It was Giacomo (Jacopo) Boncompagni (1548-1612), son of Pope Gregory XIII and 10th great-grandfather of Prince Nicolò, who was first in the family to be entered into the rolls of “Napoli Nobilissima”—more specifically, in the patriciate of the city’s Sedile di Capuana. But a precise date has been lacking, until the recent emergence of a spectacular document of 15 March 1581 in the Boncompagni Ludovisi family archives in their Villa Aurora in Rome. [Read more…]

Boston Globe (5 March 2013) highlights restoration of ex-Ludovisi ‘Juno’ at city’s Museum of Fine Arts

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The ex-Ludovisi colossal ‘Juno’ receives a new nose and upper lip at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Credit: David L. Ryan/Boston Globe staff

Right on the front page of the 5 March 2013 Boston Globe—above the fold, at that—reporter Geoff Edgers offers an extensive feature on the colossal ex-Ludovisi ‘Juno’ that the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) acquired in 2011. Recently on this blog we detailed how the MFA received “Acquisition of the Year” accolades in December 2012 from Apollo magazine for the discovery and inspired purchase of the statue. The ex-Ludovisi ‘Juno’ is now firmly established in the MFA’s George D. and Margo Behrakis Wing for Art of the Ancient World, spectacularly installed in the Gallery that also bears the Behrakis name.

We’ll let the Boston Globe tell the latest chapter in the statue’s story. The headline? Massive facelift for ‘Juno’ at the MFA. Dogged sleuthing, sculptor’s finesse help recreate classical statue’s lost profile.

[Read more…]

New from 1858: Forgotten Gagliardi frescoes in the Villa Aurora [Part II]

Our last installment examined the evidence for frescoes that Pietro Gagliardi (1809-1890) executed in one of the 19th century wings of the Villa Aurora. The first clue that caught the eye of Archivio Digitale Boncompagni Ludovisi director Corey Brennan? A grainy photograph that ran in several American newspapers in the winter of 1904.

The image (see above) showed part of an art and architectural drawing exhibition staged by the young American Academy in Rome. (The institution was renting the Villa Aurora from the Boncompagni Ludovisi at the time.) The newspapers showed the Academy Fellows’ work set in a richly frescoed sala—with ceiling paintings that since have disappeared from view in the Villa Aurora. [Read more…]

New from 1858: In the Villa Aurora, forgotten Gagliardi frescoes illustrating the pontificate of Gregory XIII Boncompagni [Part I]

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The Deseret Evening News, 27 February 1904

It’s certainly an unexpected place to learn of a forgotten feature of Rome’s Villa Aurora. Salt Lake City’s Deseret Evening News in February 1904 was one of several American newspapers that ran the same long, illustrated article on the recent successes of the young American Academy in Rome.  “At last, it is put on a footing with the German and French Academies—a long, hard fight”, proclaimed the Utah paper. At that point, the American Academy (founded 1894) was still in rental quarters—but “domiciled in the Casino of the famous Villa Ludovisi”. What is more, the Academy was now “RECOGNIZED BY ROYALTY”, as the Deseret Evening News noted in an all caps subhead to its piece. Indeed, as the paper explains, Italian King Victor Emmanuel III had just viewed the American Academy’s January 1904 public exhibition of the Fellows’ work in architecture, painting and sculpture.

But that’s not the story. What caught the eye of Archivio Digitale Boncompagni Ludovisi director Corey Brennan was one of the interior photos that accompanied the Deseret Evening News article. It showed the Academy Fellows’ work exhibited in a richly frescoed sala, said to be in the Villa Aurora. But it was a room that he had never seen. [Read more…]

New from 2012: Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts wins “Acquisition of the Year” accolades for colossal ex-Ludovisi ‘Juno’

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Christine Kondoleon, the MFA’s George D. and Margo Behrakis Senior Curator of Greek and Roman Art, with the colossal ‘Juno’ (in process of conservation) and a cast of the statue’s head. Photo: Corey Brennan

Talk about hiding in plain sight. A colossal female Roman sculpture with the head of the goddess Juno stood prominently for more than 100 years in the gardens of a famed Italianate estate in Brookline, Massachusetts. Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) managed to purchase it in 2011, after five years of negotiation and careful planning.

In spring 2012 the MFA painstakingly moved the 13 foot tall, seven ton goddess to its George D. and Margo Behrakis Wing for Art of the Ancient World, for permanent installation in the Gallery that also bears the Behrakis name. (An 80 foot crane had to lower the statue through a skylight to get it into the building.) And there the Museum staff has continued the work of consolidation and restoration it had started at the sculpture’s previous site at the Brandegee estate in Brookline. It so happens that the MFA “Juno” is the largest classical marble statue in the United States. [Read more…]

New from 2012: Gaetana Enders highlights the Villa Aurora in Spain’s ARS Magazine

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We almost missed this one. The October-December 2012 issue of Madrid-based ARS Magazine highlights the work of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi in preserving and renovating their home, the Casino Aurora—the greatest vestige of the Villa Ludovisi.

The article “El legado Aurora” features an interview with the Prince and Princess and some superior images of the Casino’s interior spaces. These range from the entrance hall, with its vault fresco commemorating Francesco del Nero (1487-1563), treasurer of the Camera Apostolica under Clement VII and father of the first owner of the Casino; the justly famed CaravaggioGiove Nettuno Plutone“, the artist’s sole oil-on-plaster painting; the sitting room with competing landscapes by Bril, Viola, Domenichino and Guercino, and a center piece by Pomarancio (all recently digitally reproduced at a major exhibition in Paris’ Grand Palais and at the Prado); Giovanni Luigi Valesio‘s ceiling with “puttini” glorifying Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi (1595-1632); and of course the stunning “Aurora” fresco of Guercino, with frame by Agostino Tassi. [Read more…]

New from 1896: Designs to purchase the Casino Aurora (or Palazzo Farnese, or Villa Celimontana) for the new American Academy in Rome

Here comes light on the late 19th century Boncompagni Ludovisi from an unexpected quarter—a new archival collection that has surfaced in Tacoma, Washington. This large cache is particularly rich in correspondence between the Boston lawyer Samuel A.B. Abbott (1846-1931) and his friend the noted architect Charles Follen McKim (1847-1909).

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Letter (detail), 18 January 1896, from Samuel A.B. Abbott to Charles F. McKim, listing noble properties then for sale in Rome

Abbott was president of the Board of the Trustees of the Boston Public Library from 1888-1895, and as such brought in the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White to implement his vision of the magnificent Library building (built 1888-1892) that today adorns Copley Square. Walter Muir Whitehill‘s outstanding 1956 institutional history of the Boston Public Library superbly details the relationship of these two men.

A newly-uncovered letter from January 1896—transcribed in full below—finds Abbott in Rome, writing candidly to McKim about the (many) noble palazzi then for sale in the city. McKim at that time was seeking to establish a permanent home for the new “American School of Architecture in Rome“, which he essentially had founded in 1894. As it happened, at that point the Americans were leasing the Villa Aurora from Rodolfo Boncompagni Ludovisi (1832-1911), Prince of Piombino (VIII) from 1883. As this letter reveals, they were then seeking to buy it, but at the lowest possible price. [Read more…]

The 1858 visit of Nathaniel Hawthorne to the Villa Ludovisi, illustrated

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The Boncompagni Ludovisi family’s own photographic album (late 1880s-early 1890s) of their sculptural collection. Collection of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome.

In January 1858, after four years of service as US Consul in Liverpool, American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) came to Rome with his wife and three children. He spent almost a year and a half in Italy, into May 1859, with visits to Siena and Florence. In his journals he recorded from what was essentially a tourist’s vantage point many exquisitely detailed impressions of the country and its cultural riches. The chief literary expression of this Italian experience was Hawthorne’s 1860 work The Marble Faun, the last of his four great romances, which he mostly wrote after leaving the Continent for England.

The journals include  Hawthorne’s account of a family visit to the Villa Ludovisi (quoted in full below), on 26 March 1858, some two months after their arrival in Rome. Here one can sense early glimpses of a melancholic view of the Eternal City that soon became much more pronounced after his eldest daughter, Una, then aged about 18, suffered a serious attack of  the notorious strain of malaria known as “Roman fever”.  [Read more…]

New from 1701-1714: Royal letters (including from Louis XIV of France) to Ippolita Ludovisi, Princess of Piombino

PreviewScreenSnapz001A new dossier of sovereigns’ letters to Ippolita Ludovisi, powerful Princess of Piombino. Collection of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome.

Olimpia Ippolita Ludovisi (born in Cagliari 24 December 1663, and died in Rome 29 December 1733) was to be the last member of the Ludovisi family proper. She was the fourth of five children of Niccolò Ludovisi (1613-1664), who acquired the Principate of Piombino in 1634, and his third wife Costanza Pamphili (1627-1665, niece of Pope Innocent X). Ippolita and her siblings thus had two Popes as great-uncles; for their father’s paternal uncle was Alessandro Ludovisi (1554-1623), named as Archbishop of Bologna in 1612, Cardinal in 1616, and then as Pope Gregory XV in 1621. Yet Ippolita hardly was to know her parents. Her father Niccolò died in Sardinia just one day after her first birthday, and her mother Costanza only three months after that, in her ninth month of pregnancy with a posthumously-born (and short-lived) son. [Read more…]

New from 1889: Parting glimpses of the Palazzo Piombino on Rome’s Piazza Colonna

One of the most conspicuous monumental buildings in Rome today is the Galleria Alberto Sordi on the Via del Corso, directly facing the Piazza Colonna on the east. It was the architect Dario Carbone (1857-1934) who designed this as the “Galleria Colonna”. Construction covered the years 1914 to 1922, with final completion coming only after Carbone’s death in 1940.

GalleriaSordiThe Galleria Alberto Sordi on Rome’s Via del Corso, as seen from Piazza Colonna

 What is less noticed is that the two arcades of this 20th century Galleria occupy the spot where the late 16th century Palazzo Piombino stood until its demolition in 1889.

PiazzaColonna1889The Piazza Colonna shortly before the destruction of the Palazzo Piombino (at left) in 1889. Collection of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome.

In this post are gathered some previously unseen Boncompagni Ludovisi family photos of the interior of the Palazzo Piombino just before the Comune di Roma expropriated it and knocked it down. This was part of the city’s long-standing project (envisaged certainly by 1874) to widen the Via del Corso. The photos offer a remarkable glimpse into the private life of this noble family in the late 1880s, at the pinnacle of its fortunes. [Read more…]

New from 1775: Marie Therese of Austria, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette congratulate Ignazio Boncompagni Ludovisi on his elevation to Cardinal

One of the most spectacular finds that the Villa Aurora yielded in summer 2010 was a long series of letters by Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette of France. There are 25 in all, written from Versailles over the period 1775-1787. Thirteen are by Louis XVI, and twelve by Marie Antoinette. Each of these newly discovered letters is addressed to Cardinal Ignazio Boncompagni Ludovisi (1743-1790), who after 1777 governed Bologna (then in the Papal States) as Cardinal Legate of Pope Pius VI. Boncompagni Ludovisi eventually rose to the position of Secretary of State for the Vatican in 1785, but resigned after just four years, because of poor health.

Google ChromeScreenSnapz008Letter of 1775 from Louis XVI, addressed to Card. Ignazio Boncompagni Ludovisi. Collection of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome.

The Archivio Segreto Vaticano possesses just one letter from Louis XVI (also to Cardinal Ignazio) and none from Marie Antoinette in its Fond Boncompagni Ludovisi. So this fresh discovery marks a particularly significant contribution to the study of the relationship of European rulers to the Boncompagni Ludovisi family. [Read more…]

The 1644 visit of the English diarist John Evelyn to the Villa Ludovisi

It was Niccolò Ludovisi (1610-1664), younger brother of Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi, and nephew of Alessandro Ludovisi (= Pope Gregory XV), who acquired for the Ludovisi family the Principality of Piombino (1634) and then the Principality of Venosa (1656). He also obtained high-ranking political positions under Spanish patronage, such as Viceroy of Aragon (since 1660) and of Sardinia (since 1662).

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Quattrino of Piombino featuring portrait of Prince Niccolò Ludovisi on obverse, arms of Ludovisi on reverse [Read more…]

New from 1578-1581: Further light on the early career of Giacomo Boncompagni, son of Pope Gregory XIII

Ravenna makes Giacomo Boncompagni a citizen and Senator

One of the new archival finds from the Villa Aurora is a magnificently executed declaration of 7 August 1581. It records that Ravenna has granted to Giacomo Boncompagni (1548-1612, son of Pope Gregory XIII) citizenship and a place in its Senate.

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Collection of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome (this and all MS photos below).

The grant is otherwise attested by a document in the Biblioteca Comunale di Bologna (lvi, Cancelleria 34, e. 136 v.°). Giacomo followed up this grant with a grand ceremonial entrance into Ravenna on 7 December 1581. [Read more…]

New from 1552: Ugo Boncompagni (=Pope Gregory XIII) confirms his paternity of son Giacomo

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Collection of HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome.

One of the most valuable items to emerge from the new archival finds from the Villa Aurora is an autograph declaration in Latin and Italian dated 22 December 1552 by Ugo Boncompagni (1502-1585, from 1572 Pope Gregory XIII). Here Ugo confirms his paternity of Giacomo (or Jacopo) Boncompagni (1548-1612) by Maddalena de’ Fucchinis, a servant in the employ of his sister-in-law Laura Ferro.

The future Pope explains in detail the circumstances of the boy’s conception, which took place in 1547 in Bologna, after the Council of Trent had moved to that city; his motive was to assure his inheritance rights following the death (in 1546) of his father Cristoforo Boncompagni. [Read more…]