Cardinal Alessandro Albani the papal nephew maintained a high profile that was

Cardinal alessandro albani the papal nephew

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Cardinal Alessandro Albani, the papal nephew, maintained a high profile that was manifest in a superb collection of antiquities, pieces of which were sold conspicuously, for example, to King Augustus III of Poland in 1728.Alarmed, Pope Clement XII purchased as a precautionary measure against their dispersal all of Albani’s remaining pieces for display in Michelangelo’s buildings on the Capitoline Hill. The Palazzo Nuovo was opened as a public museum according to the Corsini pope “for the curiosity of foreign visitors and dilettantes and for the use of scholars.”Albani began to amass a second collection of finds from Hadrian’s Villa. His honorable image as a protector and promoter of the arts is largely accepted by historians today, but contemporaries interpreted his actions as bald speculation on Rome’s cultural assets.Albani trafficked in antiquities, often collaborating with Baron Stosch until the latter was expelled from Rome on charges of espionage.Albani’s interest in antiquities is obvious on the financial level as it is on the aesthetic level. Indeed, he delighted in the works.The exquisite images of Emperor Hadrian’s homosexual lover Antinous were tucked away in the intimate spaces of his villa, where he could spy them in private. In 1747, a new villa was planned for his second collection at a suburban site along the Via Salaria. Nolli surveyed the land for him and may have also designed the parterres and hemicycle included in the upper corner of his map.A two-floor palazzina was begun at the other end of the garden in 1755.This is a narrow building, much like the Palazzo Nuovo at the Capitoline that houses Albani’s first collection. Low wings extend left and right and finish in pavilions whose small temple facades are entirely constructed of ancient elements. Caryatids, herms, statues, reliefs, decorative masks, columns, basins, and colored marbles fill every available space in profusion.The designer was the papal architect Carlo Marchionni, a man of extraordinary compositional virtuosity, but Albani himself is often 66 the architecture of modern italy
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given credit.The emulation of the Palazzo Nuovo could have been the cardinal’s idea, worked out with facility and success by the able Marchionni. Like Nolli before him, Marchionni was one in a succession of experts the cardinal hired to create this precious reliquary of vestiges of ancient Rome. The Villa Albani was admired for its exceptional fusion of the ancient and the modern, right down to the nature of the statues’ restoration.The current specialist in the field, Bartolomeo Cavaceppi, reintegrated—made whole again—the ancient fragments with new and virtuosically carved additions.Ancient works were in turn fluidly assimilated in a wholly contemporary setting with, as an inscription at the villa says, a romano animo , a Roman spirit.Winckelmann praised the Villa Albani as “a most modern place...the most beautiful building of our time.”The sycophantic talk was, perhaps, required of Winckelmann as he too was on Albani’s payroll, hired in 1758 to advise on the disposition of the collection.
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  • Spring '17
  • Archt. De Veyra

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