05-06 / 122017

Report of the third research seminar
Rome – École française de Rome – 5 December 2017

Guest speaker: Arnold Witte (Universiteit van Amsterdam – Royal Netherlands Institute of Rome)
Discussant: Stefano Lorenzetti (Conservatorio A. Pedrollo, Vicenza)

Meeting with the following members of the research team in attendance: Michela Berti, Orsetta Baroncelli, Marco Cavietti, Teresa Chirico, Émilie Corswarem, Valeria De Lucca, José María Domínguez, Cristina Fernandes, Gloria Giordano, Anne-Madeleine Goulet, Barbara Nestola, Élodie Oriol, Chiara Pelliccia, Foucauld Pérotin, Aldo Roma, Huub van der Linden and Giulia Veneziano.

After a welcome by Fabrice Jesné, director of studies for modern and contemporary history at the École française de Rome, the meeting opened with an introduction from project director Anne-Madeleine Goulet, linking the methodology behind this workshop to that of its predecessor, held in Tours in September 2017, and thus stressing the crucial PerformArt aim of transcending the chronological and geographical boundaries of the project or of individual seminars.

Émilie Corswarem and Cristina Fernandes, academic coordinators for the seminar, then presented its research content. Introducing Witte’s paper, both emphasised the mediating role of cardinals in networks of cultural and artistic circulation across Europe, and drew attention to some of the problems in researching cardinal patronage: the many different types of cardinal, the institutional and jurisdictional variation of loci where their patronage was focused (colleges, academies, theatres), the relationship with ceremoniality between performance and theatricality, and the search for a study framework that moves beyond Claudio Annibaldi’s description of a patronage based on exchanging protection for submission. There was debate on these topics, above all during the discussion following the paper.

Arnold Witte’s contribution, entitled “Commissioning without taste”: cardinals, institutions and the arts across the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, put the concept of “taste” centre-stage in the study of cardinal-led patronage in the modern era, as well as the importance of giving due weight to the dynamics of “institutional” patronage for cardinals in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Witte closed his presentation with a provocative methodological point, amply demonstrated by the title which aptly sums up the polemical spirit of his paper: “Studies of patronage should do without the term ‘taste’, both for us as researchers and for the object of our investigation, i.e. cardinals in the early modern age”. The paper took up a well-substantiated historiographical critique of the view of patronage consecrated by Francis Haskell’s book on the concept of “taste” and other studies that have implicitly followed his approach. For Haskell, “taste” was the key that induces the researcher to see the patron as an amateur of the arts.

Witte proposed an alternative vision placing the emphasis on the cardinal not as an individual but rather as a component part of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, thus interpreting the role of cardinal as a function rather than as a person imbued with a certain “taste” for the arts: a function, moreover, that was defined by the legal regulation of the cardinal’s role.

The first part of the paper focused on several assumptions underlying the study of cultural patronage. The “academisation” of arts, for instance, can be linked to a research question that underpins many of the studies on patronage: did the patron have real “taste”, was he a true amateur as often inferred from inventories or correspondence with artists and writers? This perspective easily leads us to forget – or at least to underestimate – other aspects such as the iconographic content of works produced in a given context of patronage. Witte therefore proposed that we think of the origin of the current concept of “taste” within the tenets of eighteenth-century English empiricism, exploring some of its seventeenth-century meanings (which predate the adoption of the term in its current meaning in the Dizionario della Crusca of 1729). A clear conclusion emerged about the problems inherent in applying a term and meaning that took shape in such different times and places to Rome between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

The second part of the paper focused on the consequences of a concept of patronage relying of the idea of “taste” for the study of cardinal-led commissioning. In order to transcend the biographical approach (based on the cardinal as individual) and instead put group identity and the role of cardinal in the modern era centre stage, Witte re-examined references to the arts in treatises by Paolo Cortesi (De Cardinalatu, 1510), Giovanni Botero (Dell’uffitio del cardinale, 1599) and Fabio Albergati (Del Cardinale, 1589). He thus drew attention to the Platonic and Aristotelian origins of such references particularly in the last two treatises, over and above their relationship with contemporary artistic or musical practice, but also the exceptional character of Botero and Albergati’s treatises themselves within the corpus of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century writings on cardinals.

The third part of the paper took up the historiographical critique of art historians who, following in Haskell’s footsteps, have attempted in studies on the cardinals to show how each trumped his peers in the matter of patronage. This is the case when we read the work for instance of Clare Robertson (on Cardinal Alessandro Farnese), Wazbinski (Francesco Maria del Monte) or Lisa Beaven (Camillo Massimo). Other scholars have developed different approaches in response to this tendency, viewing the phenomenon of patronage beyond individual biographies, as Arne Karsten does in his recent Künstler und Kardinäle. In the fourth part of his presentation, Witte therefore noted the salutary direction of these new approaches in attempting to move past the results of the concepts of “taste” and “quality” in order to understand the logic of patronage. The most interesting methodological proposal discussed here was based on Eric Wolf’s article “Friendship, Kinship and Patron-Client Relations in complex societies”. For Witte, Wolf’s definition of complex societies as a combination of formal and informal structures offers a way of moving beyond the constraints of the material work of art to consider formal (derived from ecclesiastical structure) and informal (friendship) relationships as an integral part of research on patronage by cardinals. Witte explored both these contexts in the final part of his paper. The cardinal’s ties with his (strongly legalistic) titular church were made manifest in many acts of patronage (from to the decoration of the church that, for a long succession of cardinals, became a veritable artistic palimpsest). Informal contacts, on the other hand, played more of a role in relationships of institutional protection (congregations, confraternities, holy places, crowned heads) that formed part of the patronage system.

In the discussion that followed, Lorenzetti raised the issue of the identity of cardinals as an adjunct to already extant identities (personal, family, political, etc.), asking to what extent this “extra” identity affected and altered previous affiliations, what institutional obligations new cardinals took on, and if there really was a type of patronage that we can define today as particular to cardinals. While agreeing with Witte that the notion of “taste” was foreign to actors of the modern era, Lorenzetti suggested that we should nonetheless reflect on the aesthetic dimension, at least with regard to the idea of the depth of appearances. He stressed that we cannot interpret the body of treatises on the cardinals in isolation from the treatises that define the identity system of the Italian nobility (based on codes of behaviour, and far removed from the French system based on family ties), also recalling that De cardinalatu appeared at the same time as Castiglione’s The Courtier. Finally Lorenzetti considered the possibilities to move beyond Annibaldi’s tenets of functional patronage, reprising the new direction that Annibaldi himself has more recently proposed: viewing music as as aestheticisation of existence. Does the role of music end with the fulfilment of its function, or is there more to it? Lorenzetti closed by asking whether it is viable to envisage patronage as a phenomenology of disobedience.

José María Domínguez
Chiara Pelliccia

Report of the fifth workshop on the “PerformArt Database” (version 0.6.1)
Rome – École Française de Rome – 6 December 2017


Anne-Madeleine Goulet opened the session with a presentation of the database as it currently stands, offering two work levels:
– Conception of the software tool, drawn up in near daily consultation with Foucauld Pérotin (anticipation of problems, response to troubleshooting issues)
– Supervision of users in the process of data insertion.

After a year of constant development, the tool is functioning effectively. It can therefore now be viably used for serious research. The importance of group work in order to achieve a comprehensive (and complex) overview of the Roman field was stressed. If early on the “Document” rubric was the most important, it should not be forgotten that the originality of the database is that it makes other rubrics available on the same level: Works, Events, People, Places, etc.

This raises the question of management and supervision of data. The meeting took up Huub van der Linden’s suggestion of appointing a primary supervisor for each database table to work in close contact with the database administrator Michela Berti. Huub van der Linden will be in charge of the People rubric, Michela Berti Events, Elodie Oriol Groups, Orsetta Baroncelli and Marco Cavietti Documents, Christine Jeanneret Scores, Barbara Nestola Librettos.

Anne-Madeleine Goulet presented the “Event” and “People” rubrics in order to demonstrate the type of searches that are feasible. The purpose of the “People” rubric is to rapidly draw up all available information about a person and to offer as complete a CV as possible, taking into account new documents that have emerged in the framework of archival research of the archive. The “Events” rubric has three sub-categories: historical, family, and performance.

Michela Berti gave a first presentation of the thesaurus, here understood as a controlled hierarchical lexicon describing the performance context of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Rome in all its variety. This is eventually to be made available to all researchers and to institutions outside the project. There are six major categories: Persons, Places, Subjects, Objects, Literary Forms and Musical Forms.


Foucauld Pérotin presented the “qualifiers”, explaining their function and use. Descriptors, links and qualifiers can be combined for an advanced search. An example was provided with simultaneous use of four tables: Thesaurus, People, Events, Links.

Difference between qualifiers and descriptors: there is only one qualifier for each link, while descriptors may be multiple without limits. For the qualifier, there may be . Qualifiers may be confirmed (based on documents or on bibliographical references), while this does not apply to descriptors. For qualifiers, there may be list within each type, while descriptors are organised according to a thesaurus (language structured following a hierarchy). These are complementary functions.

Anne-Madeleine Goulet and Michela Berti presented the updates to the database:
– The “Location” and “Symbol” fields on the Document tab. Only the Location field will be visible. The Symbol field will be for internal use only. Both can be edited manually by contributors.
– Iconography rubric: images can now be viewed. It is important to ensure that links between the Iconography and Document rubrics are correctly made.
– Libretto rubric: option to add a PDF.
– Bibliography rubric: option to insert URL linked to digitalised items.
– Navigation between rubrics: option to click on automatic links.

Barbara Nestola

Report on the guided visit to Palazzo Pamphilj

On Wednesday, 6 December 2017, the second day of the third PerformArt meeting of 2017, the project team, Arnold Witte and Stefano Lorenzetti took part in a guided visit to one of the gems of Roman Baroque architecture, led by Blanche Bauchau. The venue was the Palazzo Pamphilj in Piazza Navona, which since 1930 has been home to the Brazilian Embassy and the ambassador’s official residence, and was sold to Brazil in 1960 by its eponymous family.

The palace was born of the marriage of Angelo Benedetto Pamphilj, son of Antonio (first member of the Pamphilj family of Gubbio, which lived in Rome for half of the fifteenth century) and Emilia Mellini. Part of the bride’s dowry was made up of three adjacent houses which, together with others purchased in the area, constitute the original core of the single noble palace in Piazza Navona, which at the time was a garden. When in 1644 Giovanni Battista Pamphilj, brother-in-law of Donna Olimpia, became Pope under the name Innocent X, the family decided to make the palace more prestigious still, and engaged Francesco Borromini and Girolamo Rainaldi to design a new, impressive building.

During the guided tour, the team had the chance to see some of the 23 rooms on the main floor. From the mid-seventeenth century we have the Sala di Bacco with frescoes by Andrea Camassei showing scenes from the life of Bacchus, the Sala dei Paesaggi decorated by Giacinto Gemignani and Gaspard Dughet with frescoes on the history of Rome and the Sala di Ovidio, with a ceiling by Giacinto Brandi narrating the Metamorphoses of Ovid. Other rooms were frescoed by painters such as Francesco Allegrini and Pier Francesco Mola. During the visit the team was highly impressed by the Galleria designed by Borromini, 33 metres long, which runs through the entire palace. This room, directly adjacent to the church of Sant’Agnese, houses a bust of Innocent X, but is especially celebrated for the frescoes created between 1651 and 1654 by Pietro da Cortona who painted the spectacular compartmented ceiling with scenes from the life of Aeneas. The motif of three lilies and a dove (the Pamphilj coat of arms) recurs not only in this room but throughout the building. In the room painted by Cortona in particular, the dove has a specific meaning in that it is an attribute of the Roman goddess Venus, mother of Aeneas, to whom the dove appears in the episode of the golden bough.

Highly remarkable and of interest for the PerformArt project is the Sala Palestrina. After the marriage of Anna Pamphilj to Giovanni Andrea III Doria in 1671 the family took up residence in the new building on the Corso. Once the palace in Piazza Navona had been leased, among others to the Accademia Filarmonica Romana, musical academies and concerts were organised here accommodating up to 130 musicians.

The meeting of the project team drew to a highly satisfying close with this viewing of the Palazzo Pamphilj.

Diana Blichmann