Showing posts with label Palazzo della Cancelleria. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Palazzo della Cancelleria. Show all posts

29 February 2020

Pietro Ottoboni - patron of music and art

Venetian cardinal spent fortune on composers and painters


Francesco Trevisiani's portrait of Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, painted in around 1689
Francesco Trevisiani's portrait of Cardinal
Pietro Ottoboni, painted in around 1689
Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, who is remembered as the biggest sponsor of the arts and music in particular in Rome in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, died on this day in 1740 in Rome.

Despite a somewhat licentious lifestyle that reportedly saw him father between 60 and 70 children, Ottoboni, whose great uncle was Pope Alexander VIII, was considered a candidate to succeed Pope Clement XII as pontiff following the death of the latter on 6 February.

However, he developed a fever during the conclave and had to withdraw. He died three weeks later.

Born into a noble Venetian family, Ottoboni was the last person to hold the office of Cardinal-nephew, a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages that allowed a pontiff to appoint members of his own family to key positions. The practice was abolished by Alexander VIII’s successor, Pope Innocent XII, in 1692.

Ottoboni was also made vice-chancellor of the Holy Church of Rome, a position he held until his death, which gave him an annual income that would have been the equivalent today of almost £5 million (€5.79m).  Although he had several positions of responsibility, including superintendent general of the affairs of the Apostolic See, and governor of the cities of Fermo and Tivoli, he was an unashamed seeker of sensual pleasure.

This translated into a considerable number of mistresses but also a great love of music, in the pursuit of which he spent lavishly and, despite his wealth, managed to run up substantial debts.

Arcangelo Corelli's career flourished with Pietro Ottoboni's financial support
Arcangelo Corelli's career flourished with
Pietro Ottoboni's financial support
Soon after he was made a Cardinal, he set about restoring the theatre at the Palazzo della Cancelleria, his residence in Rome.  The theatre had been unused for 15 years but Ottoboni was determined to make it the centre of music in Rome.  Filippo Juvara, his court architect, enlarged the theatre and turned it into one of the most technically advanced opera venues in the city, while Ottoboni hired the finest singers and musicians available. One of his favourites, the castrato Andrea Adami, was made master of the papal choir at the Sistine Chapel.

Operas by Alessandro Scarlatti, Antonio Caldara and many other leading composers were premiered at the Cancelleria.  Ottoboni supported Arcangelo Corelli, the greatest violinist of his generation, and worked with the German musician and composer George Frideric Handel for a period early in the 18th century.

His relationship with Corelli was such that when the musician died in 1713 he left his entire estate to the Cardinal, who in turn distributed it among Corelli’s family and arranged for him to buried at the Pantheon in Rome, his tomb marked with an elaborate memorial. 

Other composers who had Ottoboni to thank for the advancement of their careers included his fellow Venetians Antonio Vivaldi and Tomaso Albinoni.

Ottoboni’s patronage extended beyond his own theatre. He was also the major benefactor of what is now the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Italy’s premier conservatory, and the Accademia Filarmonica di Bologna. 

The cover of the libretto for Scarlatti's  'The Martyrdom of St Cecilia'
The cover of the libretto for Scarlatti's
 'The Martyrdom of St Cecilia'
He made his own contribution to the advancement of the opera genre as a librettist.  His position in the Church meant he could not publish them under his own name, especially after Clement XI banned all public opera performances in 1701. It is widely thought, for instance, that the libretto for Scarlatti's 1693 opera La Giuditta was written by Ottoboni.

Beyond the world of music, the Sicilian architect Giovanni Battista Vaccarini, who became one of the most prominent figures in the Sicilian Baroque movement that grew after the earthquake of 1693, and painters Sebastiano Conca, Sebastiano Ricci and Francesco Trevisan also benefited from his support. The Seven Sacraments, which he commissioned in 1712 and was executed by Giuseppe Maria Crespi, is now in the Museum of Dresden in Germany.

Ottoboni was a collector of art as well as a sponsor, yet much of his vast collection was lost to Italy when he died, as a result of his debts, which demanded that his possessions be sold and the proceeds shared among his creditors.

Among his 530 paintings, some of which he inherited from his great uncle but many that he bought himself over half a century, included works by Guido Reni, Tintoretto, Pietro da Cortona, Jacopo Bassani, Giuseppe Cesari and Paolo Veronese.  They were disposed of in four sales and have consequently been distributed around the world.

The Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome was Cardinal Ottoboni's home as vice-chancellor of the Holy Roman Church
The Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome was Cardinal Ottoboni's
home as vice-chancellor of the Holy Roman Church
Travel tip:

The Palazzo della Cancelleria, which was Cardinal Ottoboni’s residence in Rome, is situated between Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and the Campo de' Fiori. It is probably the earliest Renaissance palace to be built in Rome, designed by the architect Donato Bramante and constructed between 1489 and 1513, initially as a residence for Cardinal Raffaele Riario, who was treasurer of the Holy Roman Church under Pope Sixtus V, and subsequently evolved as the seat of the Chancellery of the Papal States. It was also used as the parliament building by the short-lived Roman Republic in the mid-19th century.

Rome's ancient Pantheon is the burial place of many famous individuals, including Arcangelo Corelli
Rome's ancient Pantheon is the burial place of many
famous individuals, including Arcangelo Corelli
Travel tip:

Considered to be Rome’s best preserved ancient building, the Pantheon, which can be found in Piazza della Rotonda, was built in AD 118 on the site of a previous building dating back to 27 BC. It was consecrated as a church in the seventh century and many important people are buried there, including the kings Victor Emmanuel II and Umberto I, and Umberto’s wife, Queen Margherita, and the writers Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo and Émile Zola.

More reading:

How Arcangelo Corelli influenced the development of music

Why Alessandro Scarlatti was ahead of his time

Vaccarini's legacy to the city of Catania

Also on this day:

1792: The birth of composer Gioachino Rossini


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26 October 2019

Domenico Scarlatti - composer

Neapolitan famous for his 555 keyboard sonatas


A portrait of Domenico Scarlatti, painted by  Domenico Antonio Valasco in 1738
A portrait of Domenico Scarlatti, painted by
Domenico Antonio Velasco in 1738
The composer Giuseppe Domenico Scarlatti, known as Domenico Scarlatti, was born in Naples on this day in 1685.

Born in the same year as Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel, Scarlatti was the sixth of 10 children fathered by the composer Alessandro Scarlatti.

Like his father, Domenico composed in a variety of musical styles, making the transition in his lifetime from Baroque to traditional Classical. Today, he is known mainly for his 555 keyboard sonatas, which expanded the musical possibilities of the harpsichord.

Although he began his career in Naples, Scarlatti spent a large part of his life in the service of the Portuguese and Spanish royal families. In fact, he died in Madrid in 1757.

Early in 1701, at the age of just 15, Scarlatti was appointed as composer and organist at the royal chapel in Naples. At 17, his first operas, L’Ottavia restituita al trono and Il Giustino, were produced there.

In 1705 his father sent him to Venice, reputedly to study with the composer Francesco Gasparini, although nothing is known with certainty about his life there. It is thought he may have met a young Irishman, Thomas Roseingrave, who later described Scarlatti’s advances in harpsichord music to the English musicologist Charles Burney, although other accounts of his life suggest he may have first encountered Roseingrave in Rome.

Alessandro Scarlatti passed on his musical versatility to his son, Domenico
Alessandro Scarlatti passed on his musical
versatility to his son, Domenico
Scarlatti is known to have been in Rome from 1709, having entered the service of the exiled Polish queen Marie Casimire. In Rome, Scarlatti is believed to have developed a friendship with Handel, against whom, legend has it, he featured in a trial of skill on harpsichord and organ at the palace of Cardinal Ottoboni in Rome. Handel is said to have been judged the better organ player but outperformed by Scarlatti on the harpsichord. He became known as the "greatest Italian harpsichord composer of all time".

While in Rome, Scarlatti was maestro di cappella at St. Peter's from 1715 to 1719. Also in Rome, he produced his last opera, Ambleto and collaborated with Nicola Porpora in Berenice, regina di Egitto.

His Rome adventure also brought a commission from the Portuguese embassy, for which in 1714 he composed a cantata in honour of the birth of a crown prince of Portugal. A few years later, he quit his position at the Vatican to move to Lisbon, where his serenata La Contesa delle Stagioni was performed at the royal palace.

Scarlatti became musical director to King John V of Portugal, as well as music master to the king’s younger brother Don Antonio and to Princess Maria Bárbara de Bragança, who was to remain his patroness and for whom most of the harpsichord sonatas were written.

In 1728, after his father had died, Scarlatti returned to Italy, where he married a Roman girl, Maria Caterina Gentili, who was much younger than him and who bore him six children.  In the same year, after his pupil, Maria Bárbara, married the Spanish crown prince, the future Ferdinand VI, he followed the newlywed royal couple to Spain.

The castrato singer Farinelli, like Scarlatti, enjoyed the patronage of the court of Madrid
The castrato singer Farinelli, like Scarlatti, enjoyed
the patronage of the court of Madrid
Initially based in Seville, Scarlatti moved to Madrid in 1733 to be music master to Maria Bárbara. He stayed in Spain for the last 25 years of his life.  After the death of his first wife in 1742, he married a Spaniard, Anastasia Maxarti Ximenes, with whom he had five more children.

Among his compositions for the Spanish court were most of his 555 keyboard sonatas.  While in their service, he befriended the Neapolitan castrato singer Farinelli, who also enjoyed royal patronage in Madrid.

Scarlatti died in Madrid at the age of 71. His residence on Calle Leganitos is designated with a historical plaque. His descendants still live in the Spanish capital.

His music, the sonatas in particular, had a profound influence on the compositions of contemporary and subsequent composers. Among his admirers, apart from Handel and Bach, were Bartók, Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt, Brahms, Chopin and Debussy.

The Conservatorio di Musica San Pietro a Majella became  the centre of the 18th century music scene in Naples
The Conservatorio di Musica San Pietro a Majella became
the centre of the 18th century music scene in Naples
Travel tip:

The famous Conservatorio di Musica San Pietro a Majella, which became the centre of the city’s musical world in the years after Scarlatti, evolved from four institutions set up in the 16th century with the prime purpose of providing a refuge for orphan children.  The name ‘conservatorio’ relates to this original purpose, which was to conserve the lives of the children.  The oldest was the orphanage of Santa Maria di Loreto, situated in the poor fisherman’s district of the city. These institutions aimed to provide tuition in various skills, including music.  In time they acquired such a good reputation for providing a musical education that they began to be seen as music colleges primarily, and Naples eventually became one of the most important centres for musical training in Europe, nicknamed the “conservatory of Europe". Under the rule of Joachim Murat, the French cavalry leader Napoleon installed as King of Naples for a short period in the early 19th century, the original four conservatories were consolidated into a single institution, which was relocated in 1826 to the premises of the ex-monastery, San Pietro a Maiella.

The Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome was the home of Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, a patron of music in the city
The Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome was the home of
Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, a patron of music in the city
Travel tip:

The Palazzo della Cancelleria, the palace of Cardinal Ottoboni where Domenico Scarlatti’s musical trial against Handel is thought to have taken place, is situated between Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and the Campo de' Fiori. It is probably the earliest Renaissance palace to be built in Rome. It is the work of the architect Donato Bramante between 1489 and 1513, initially as a residence for Cardinal Raffaele Riario, who was the Camerlengo - treasurer - of the Holy Roman Church under Pope Sixtus V. It evolved as the seat of the Chancellery of the Papal States.  The Roman Republic used it as their parliament building.


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3 May 2017

Raffaele Riario – Cardinal

Patron of arts linked with murder conspiracies


Raffaele Riario captured in Raphael's 1512 painting of Mass at Bolsena
Raffaele Riario captured in Raphael's 1512
painting of Mass at Bolsena
Renaissance Cardinal Raffaele Riario was born Raffaele Sansoni Galeoti Riario on this day in 1461 in Savona.

A patron of the arts, he is remembered for inviting Michelangelo to Rome and commissioning Palazzo della Cancelleria to be built. He was also embroiled in murder conspiracies which nearly cost him his life.

Although Riario was born in poverty, his mother was a niece of Francesco della Rovere, who became Pope Sixtus IV in 1471.

As a relative of the Pope he was created a Cardinal in 1477 and was named administrator of several dioceses, which gave him a good income at the age of 16, while he was studying canon law at the University of Pisa.

On his way to Rome in 1478, Riario stopped off in Florence, where he became a witness to the Pazzi conspiracy against the Medici. The Pazzi family wanted to replace the Medici as rulers of Florence. They attempted to assassinate Lorenzo, who was wounded but survived, and his brother Giuliano, who was killed, while they were attending mass in the Duomo. The conspirators were caught and executed and Riario was also arrested because he was related to Girolamo Riario, his uncle, who was one of the masterminds behind the plot. However, Lorenzo arranged for him to be released a few weeks later.

Sandro Botticelli's portrait of Giuliano de' Medici, murdered in the Pazzi conspiracy
Sandro Botticelli's portrait of Giuliano de'
Medici, murdered in the Pazzi conspiracy
In 1480 Riario was ordained a priest and received the entitlement of San Lorenzo in Damaso. He commissioned a palace to be built next to the church for his personal residence.

Riario became involved in the war between the Orsini family and the Colonna family four years later. He tried in vain to save the life of one of his friends, who was charged with murdering one of the Orsini, but the friend was executed on the orders of Pope Sixtus IV.

In the Conclave of 1492 he voted for Rodrigo Borgia, Pope Alexander VI, and was rewarded with a lucrative bishopric for his support. He went on to gain distinction as a diplomat during the Borgia pope’s reign.

A lover of art and sculpture, Riario’s large palace was influenced by Florentine architecture. He noticed the talent of the young Michelangelo and invited him to Rome, where Michelangelo was to work on the major pieces of his career.

In 1517 there was a conspiracy to murder Pope Leo X and although Riario did not participate in it, he is believed to have been aware of it and done nothing to prevent it.

Leo arrested the conspirators and ordered their execution but Riario saved himself by giving his palace next to San Lorenzo in Damaso to the pope.

It became the seat of the Apostolic Chancery and was known thereafter as Palazzo della Cancelleria.

Riario died in Naples at the age of 60 and was buried in a tomb in Basilica dei Santi Apostoli in Rome.

The Palazzo della Cancelleria is believed to be the earliest Renaissance palace in Rome
The Palazzo della Cancelleria is believed to be the
earliest Renaissance palace in Rome
Travel tip:

The Palazzo della Cancelleria, the Papal Chancellery, is believed to be the earliest Renaissance palace in Rome. It was designed by Donato Bramante and built between 1489 and 1513 as a palace for Cardinal Raffaele Riario. The rumour was that the funds for the build came from a single night’s gambling winnings. The palace is now a property of the Holy See and has been designated a World Heritage Site. Just to the south of the square named after the palace, Piazza della Cancelleria, is the Campo dè Fiori, the site of a market in Rome for centuries, which has plenty of bars and restaurants and is a popular nightspot when the markets stalls have all been packed away.

Savona's baroque Cattedrale di Nostra Signora Assunta
Savona's baroque Cattedrale di Nostra
Signora Assunta
Travel tip:

Savona is the third largest city in Liguria and the fifth largest port in Italy yet its reputation as a sprawling industrial zone is unfair. It has an attractive medieval centre, with an elegant baroque Cattedrale di Nostra Signora Assunta, behind which is Italy’s other Sistine Chapel, like the Rome version erected by Pope Sixtus IV. Fishing boats share the harbour with expensive yachts and there is a good beach within walking distance of the centre. In between the beach and the harbour is the 16th century Priamar fortress, which served as a prison during most of the 19th century.

More reading:


Girolamo Riario and the plot to overthrow the Medicis

How Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo's greatest work

Why the Renaissance pope Leo X supported the arts


Also on this day:


1469: The birth of statesman and diplomat Niccolo Machiavelli

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