Eternal Ephemera: The Papal Possesso and Its Legacies in Early Modern Rome

Edited by Jennifer Mara DeSilva & Pascale Rihouet - ES45

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Eternal Ephemera is the first book dedicated to the visual culture and history of the possesso. This post-election procession led the pope from the Vatican to the Lateran, where he took solemn possession of his diocese as bishop of Rome.

In this collection, six essays symbiotically expose the long-lasting ramifications of possessi in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Rome. This triumphant parade affected architecture and urbanism, triggered new art forms (prints of the cavalcade or arches and chiaroscuro painting), and connected ephemera with the popular demand for moral economy. This volume innovatively shows the artistic and architectural legacy of the ephemeral in the Eternal City.

Jennifer Mara DeSilva is Associate Professor of History at Ball State University and the editor of The Borgia Family: Rumor and Representation (Routledge, 2019).

Pascale Rihouet is Senior Lecturer of Art History at the Rhode Island School of Design and the author of Art Moves. The Material Culture of Processions in Renaissance Perugia (Brepols, 2019).

304 pp. + 52 ill.
ISBN: 978-0-7727-2520-2 softcover
Published: 2020
“From fine-grained art historical analyses that reveal the importance of artistic ephemera for permanent monuments to archival investigations that shed conside-rable light on the moral economy of the Eternal City, each study in this volume demonstrates the extent to which the possesso was both a bellwether of the papacy it introduced and an indicator of change.”
Elena Calvillo, University of Richmond

“Eyeing the ritual turn, this lively volume tracks the pope’s ceremonious installation as Rome’s own bishop. It surveys urban layout, ephemeral architecture, commemorations by word and image, social participation, and eager commentary on the pomp that pitched papal self-promotion against Rome’s lively moral economy.”
Thomas V. Cohen, York University

“In these essays, political power and conflict reanimate the streets of papal Rome with their decorations, officials on horse- back, scripted public ceremony, and ritual challenges to order. Through close examination of the prints, inscriptions, urban spaces, and other records of the spectacle with which power was transferred from one pope to another, we better understand the development of the city as well as forms of art, labour, and communication in the early modern world.”
Evelyn Lincoln, Brown University


Pascale Rihouet, "Defining the Possesso and its Legacies"

1. Jasmine R. Cloud, "Echoes of the Emperors: The Possesso’s Ephemera and the Roman Forum (1536-1656)"
2. Antonella De Michelis, "Possesso as Master Plan? Reading the Processional Route as Paul III’s Urban Manifesto"

3. Patricia L. Reilly, "Triumphal Chiaroscuro Painting during the Reign of Julius II"
4. Pascale Rihouet, "Giovanni Guerra’s Order of the Cavalcade (1589) and the Birth of Possesso: Prints in Sixtus V’s Rome"

5. Jennifer Mara DeSilva, "Episcopal Charity and Princely Liberality: Leo X’s Household and his Possesso (1513)"
6. John Hunt, "The Possesso and the Moral Economy of Baroque Rome, 1590–1655"