The Definitive Source for the Iconography of Cortona's Ceiling Painting in the Palazzo Barberini - From the Library of Horace Landau

MUSEUMS. ART. Cortona, Pietro Berrettini da (1596-1669), artist; Rosichino, Mattia (pseudonym?), author

Dichiaratione delle pitture della sala de' signori Barberini.

Rome: appresso Vitale Mascardi, 1640


Quarto: 12 p. Collation: A6


A second edition was printed by Fabio de Falco in 1670. Modern wrappers. A fine, clean copy with wide margins. Engraved vignette on title page. Landau book label. Very rare. Only a single copy located in the U.S. (Harvard.)

Extremely important description of the ceiling vault painted by Pietro Berrettini da Cortona (1596-1669) in the salone of the newly completed Palazzo Barberini. Cortona's painting is recognized as a masterpiece of the Roman Baroque and one of the most important ceiling paintings of the seventeenth-century. “The fresco is one of the first and yet one of the most complete manifestations of Baroque decorative painting in Rome, with its combination of illusionism and glowing colouring” (Anthony Blunt, Guide to Baroque Rome, p. 165).

This pamphlet was written as an explanatory guide for visitors by (a pseudonymous?) Mattia Rosichino, a scopatore (sweeper) charged with admitting visitors into the saloneto view the ceiling. In his "Images of Nepotism: the Painted Ceilings of Palazzo Barberini", John Beldon Scott calls the "Dichiaratione" the "definitive source for the iconography of the fresco"(p.136) Rosichino writes that he was frequently asked by visitors about the meaning of the fresco. He therefore sought out an authority who could provide him with an explanation. Scott believes that Rosichino's source was the poet Francesco Bracciolini, who is believed to have provided Cortona with a written program from which to work.

The Barberini celebrate their own glory:

"Maffeo Barberini, who became Pope Urban VIII in 1623, made two of his nephews cardinals and appointed his third nephew, Taddeo, prince of Palestrina and prefect of Rome. In 1625 Cardinal Francesco Barberini acquired the Palazzo Sforza, which he gave to his brother Taddeo. It was then incorporated into the much larger edifice designed by Maderno and Bernini which we know as the Palazzo Barberini."

"Begun in 1632 and finished in 1639, Cortona's is the largest and most splendid of the three ceilings that celebrate the heavenly recognition of Pope Urban VIII and his nephews. Divine Providence occupies a prominent place in the central field of the ceiling, where she directs Immortality to place a crown of stars upon the Barberini coat of arms. This is pictured not as a heraldic shield but as a trio of giant bees supported by Faith, Hope, and Charity. The uppermost figures of the group represent religion with the keys of heaven and Rome with the papal tiara."(John Rupert Martin)

Provenance: From the celebrated library of Baron Horace Landau (1824-1903), the Rothschilds' representative in Turin, Florence, and Constantinople. A partial catalogue of the collection was published by A. Roediger between 1885 and 1890. The library was dispersed at auction after World War II.

Cicognara 3382: "divenne in breve rarissima". Rossetti 762 b. Schlosser, Magnino p. 599. Literature: John Beldon Scott, Images of Nepotism: the Painted Ceilings of Palazzo Barberini.