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Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Cardinal Andrea della Valle – antiquities collector

Restoration and conservation techniques set example to others


A medal bearing the image of Cardinal Andrea della Valle
A medal bearing the image of Cardinal Andrea della Valle
Andrea della Valle, remembered for amassing one of the earliest known collections of Roman antiquities, was born into a noble family on this day in 1463 in Rome.

He was the son of Fillippo della Valle and Girolama Margani, and was the second of their four children.

After entering the Church, he was elected Bishop of Crotone in 1496. He was chosen to direct the Apostolic Chancery between 1503 and 1505 and served as Apostolic secretary during the reign of Pope Julius II.

Della Valle was transferred to the titular diocese of Miletus in 1508, but resigned from it to give way to his nephew, Quinzio Rustici, in 1523.

He was created cardinal priest in 1517 and participated in the papal conclaves of 1521 and 1523.

As archpriest of the Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore, Della Valle ceremonially opened and closed the holy door in the Jubilee year of 1525. The door is sealed by mortar and cement from the inside so it cannot normally be opened, but is ceremoniously opened during holy year to allow pilgrims to enter and gain plenary indulgences.

An engraving by the Dutch artist Hieronymus Cock of the inner courtyard of the Palazzo Valle
An engraving by the Dutch artist Hieronymus Cock of the
inner courtyard of the Palazzo Valle
Della Valle had inherited some antiquities collected by his ancestors but was always eager to acquire more, according to the art historian, Giorgio Vasari.

In 1520 he commissioned the sculptor and architect Lorenzetto Lotti to create a palace for him which would be a suitable setting for the sculptures, inscriptions and other antiquities he had amassed.

The sculptures were eventually displayed in a loggia in Palazzo Valle’s inner courtyard, which was described by Vasari as a sort of hanging garden. The architectural framing and the care with which the collection was presented became a model for other collections of Roman antiquities.

The systematic restoration of damaged items was carried out on his collection, which was to become common practice with other Roman antiquities during the sixteenth century.

After Della Valle’s death in 1534, the Palazzo passed to his niece, Faustina, who was married to Camillo Capranica. The antiquities collection was moved to the palace of Bishop Bruto della Valle.

In 1584 it was purchased by Cardinal Ferdinand dè Medici and was shared between the Villa dè Medici in Rome and other Medici homes in Florence.

Cardinal della Valle was buried in the tomb of his ancestors in the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli in Rome.

The Basilica of Sant'Andrea della Valle is opposite Palazzo Valle.
The Basilica of Sant'Andrea della Valle
is opposite Palazzo Valle.
Travel tip:

Palazzo Valle in Corso Vittorio Emanuele II was designed by Lorenzetto Lotti with an inner courtyard to house Della Valle’s large collection of Roman statues and reliefs. It was unfinished at the time of his death in 1534 and after it was inherited by his niece, Faustina, who was married to Camillo Capranica, it became known as Palazzo Valle-Capranica. It is now the headquarters of the Confederazione Generale dell’Agricoltura.

Travel tip:

The Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli - St Mary of the Altar of Heaven - where Cardinal della Valle was buried in his family tomb, is on the Campidoglio, the Capitoline Hill, one of the seven hills of Rome. It has a 13th century brick facade but its origins are believed to date back to the Augustan era. In the Middle Ages condemned criminals used to be publicly executed at the foot of the steps.



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