The Aristocratic Families That Shaped Rome: A Four-Part Course with Cecilia Martini

The Aristocratic Families That Shaped Rome: A Four-Part Course with Cecilia Martini


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From the Middle Ages through the 12th century, a select number of aristocratic families ruled the roost in Rome. They built palaces and chapels, creating art collections that are among the city’s most beautiful jewels. From Caravaggios to Titians to Raphaels, we’re lucky that many of these collections still live on in private collections today.

In this four-part course, led by art historian and native Roman Cecilia Martini, we will delve into the most beautiful private palaces and art collections of Rome that still exist today. We will also use these artworks to connect to related pieces around the globe. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased understanding of Rome and the role of its aristocracy in the patronage of art.

Lecture 1 The Colonna family

The Colonna is one of the most ancient families in Europe: we can trace their history back to the 12th century. In a rare case, they still live in their family palace and own their original art collection. We will learn about the most famous members of their family; we will explore their stunning palace ( Rome’s Versailles) and discover the jewels of their collection, such as the Bean Eater by Carracci and Bronzino’s Venus and Satyr.

Lecture 2 The Farnese family

The Farnese family has enough stories to inspire several novels. As a papal family raised in Renaissance, their story begins with a woman and ends with a woman. They were the patrons of Antonio da Sangallo and Michelangelo, of Salviati and Annibale Carracci. They owned the second-most fabulous collection of the antiquity of the world, after the Pope. We’ll virtually visit their Renaissance palace with its magnificent frescos and discuss their ancient art collection (the jewel of the Archeological Museums of Naples).

Lecture 3 The Borghese and the Barberini families

In the 17th century, new papal families rose to power. When a member of the family reached the apex of power to become Pope, the family celebrated this latest achievement by building a palace and amassing a vast art collection. Their patronage in art shaped Rome: Bernini and Caravaggio, Borromini, and Pietro da Cortona are just some of the artists who worked for them. This lecture will explore two families that still exist today, the Borghese and the Barberini. We’ll study their residences and art collections, now owned by the Italian State and open to the public.

Lecture 4 The Doria Pamphili family

Along Rome’s main street, via del Corso, lies a large palace door with an elegant green courtyard: here lies the Doria Pamphili Palace. Still owned by the princes, this treasure chest of the 17th century has an eye-opening art collection that boasts the paintings of Caravaggio, Titian, Raphael, Brueghel, and Velasquez. This lecture will dig into just what is behind the closed palace doors.

Cecilia is an art historian and a native Roman with a Master's degree in Medieval and Renaissance art from the Sapienza University of Rome. Although her specialty is painting and decorative arts, she has a broad knowledge of the history of Rome and a personal passion for ancient history, which she shares on many antiquity-themed itineraries. Cecilia has worked actively in the past as a lecturer, teacher, and curator of exhibitions. She had been a staff member of the didactive service of the Vatican Museums, the Galleria Doria Pamphili and the Galleria Colonna where she still frequently consults. As a licensed guide for Rome and Florence and with a specialized teaching degree, she has more than 20 years of experience in leading highly-qualified tours.

How does it work?

This is a four-part series held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule for the specific dates and times for each lecture.

Is there a reading list in advance?

Though the course is open to participants with no background in Roman history, there are suggested readings for further investigation. You will receive this soon after course registration.

How long are the lectures?

Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time for Q&A.

How much is the course?

The course is $140 for four lectures.

Is a recording available?

In general, our courses are not recorded. However, if you need to miss a lecture please let us know in advance and we can arrange for a recording for that session on an individual basis.

This course is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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