Ave Papa Ave Papabile: The Sacchetti Family, Their Art Patronage, and Political Aspirations

Edited by Lilian H. Zirpolo - ES06

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In 1624 Pope Urban VIII appointed Marcello Sacchetti as depositary general and secret treasurer of the Apostolic Chamber, and Marcello’s brother, Giulio, bishop of Gravina. Two years later, Urban gave Marcello the lucrative lease of the alum mines of Tolfa and raised Giulio to the cardinalate. To assert their new position of socio-political and economic power, the Sacchetti began commissioning works of art. Marcello was responsible for discovering and promoting some of the leading masters of the baroque era, including Pietro da Cortona, Nicolas Poussin, and Simon Vouet, thus playing a key role in defining the artistic trends of the period. His brother, Cardinal Giulio, commissioned works from well-established masters like Guercino and Guido Reni, and purchased a considerable number of works by artists of previous generations. The works the Sacchetti amassed were sold in the eighteenth century to Pope Benedict XIV, who placed them in the Capitoline Museum, Rome, where they now form a substantial portion of the museum’s collection.

This study examines the art patronage of the Sacchetti family in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries in Rome. By focusing on the Sacchetti’s relationship with the artists in their service, it expands our knowledge of the careers of these individuals and points to the complexity of the processes of agency in the fulfillment of commissions. In so doing, it underlines how the Sacchetti used art to proclaim a certain public image and to announce Cardinal Giulio’s candidacy to the papal throne.

Lilian H. Zirpolo has published extensively on Sacchetti family history and art patronage in venues like Architectura, Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Baukunst, Augustinian Studies, The Seventeenth Century, and Gazette des Beaux-Arts. She has taught art history at Rutgers University, Muhlenberg College, Seton Hall University, and Fairleigh Dickinson University. She is co-editor/co-publisher of Aurora: The Journal of the History of Art and, since 1997, president of the WAPACC Organization.

256 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-7727-2028-3 softcover
Published: 2009


Renaissance Quarterly, 59:1 (Spring 2006), pp. 159-161. Reviewed by Charles M. Rosenberg.

The Sixteenth Century Journal, 37:3 (Fall 2006), pp. 816-817. Reviewed by Piers D. Britton.



List of Illustrations

List of Diagrams


Chapter 1: Death, Philosophy, and Civic Duty in the Sacchetti Chapel at S. Giovanni dei Fiorentini
Chapter 2: In the Service of the Pope: Marcello Sacchetti, The Barberini's Art Agent
Chapter 3: Art and Propaganda in the Domestic Setting: The Villa Sacchetti at Castelfusano
Chapter 4: Cardinal Giulio Sacchetti and the Patronage of Papal Ambition
Chapter 5: The End of the Golden Era: The Sacchetti's Financial Decline
Conclusion: The Question of Display and Taste