A controversial pope, Alexander VI, a.k.a. Rodrigo Borgia; a fine and beautiful lady, Giulia Farnese; a brilliant artist of the Renaissance, Pintoricchio. They are the leading characters of an intriguing exhibition that recently opened in Rome at the Capitoline Museums, featuring paintings that tell of court stories (and scandals) in late 15th century Rome.
It especially focuses on a mystery that has fascinated scholars for a long time and that, after centuries of research and scientific investigations, appears to have been solved: who is the lady portrayed in the famous Madonna, part of a groundbreaking cycle of frescoes that Pintoricchio painted for the new papal apartment in the Vatican? For a long time, it was thought that the beautiful, ethereal lady was Giulia Farnese, the very young, and not too concealed, lover of pope Alexander VI.
The painting depicts a blessing Virgin with Child, and, at her feet, an adoring Pope. Because of the supposed depiction of Giulia Farnese as the Madonna, the work of art caused much scandal: first it was covered, then torn from the wall, and finally dispersed in several fragments. Such was the fascination of this painting that leading author and artist Vasari ignored the rest of the frescoes in the cycle to focus solely on this one and on the ‘gossip’ around it.
This is the first time the painting is displayed in a public exhibition as it belongs to a private collection. The exhibit, whose aim is to bring the visitor into the Rome of the end of the 15th century, a time of great cultural change, features 33 works of art from the Renaissance including portrayals of the Borgia family, paintings by Pintoricchio and 7 sculptures from ancient Rome.
“Pintoricchio. Painter of the Borgias” is open until September 10, 2017. More info at this link.