The exhibition, curated by Simone Verde, will will take a comprehensive view on the Farnese family’s collections and their patronage of architecture, dance, theater and music in the sixteenth century. It will bring together extraordinary loans, many from the Museo di Capodimonte in Naples, of works that were once collected and displayed in the family’s Parma palaces.
The Parma show traces the rise of the upstart Farnese family from their origins as condottieri north of Rome, to their rapid ascent after the election of Alessandro Farnese as Paul III, to their standing as a powerful dynasty with branches throughout Europe and close connections to the Habsburg and Portuguese ruling houses.
A volume of collected essays to be published in conjunction with the exhibition will consider the Farnese family’s extraordinary trajectory within Italian and European contexts, with a focus on the impact of emerging global Iberian empires. The book will include essays by Simone Verde, Davide Papotti, David Abulafia, Serge Gruzinski, Alessandra Russo, Richard Bösel, Salvatore Settis, Catherine Fletcher, Maddalena Spagnolo, Kelly Helmstutler Di Dio, Annemarie Jordan Gschwend, and Girolamo Imbruglia.
Kathleen Christian contributed the essay Le collezioni Farnese nel Cinquecento e la geopolitica dell’Impero. It argues that one of the themes that emerges most prominently in the Farese collections is empire: the collections articulated not only the concept of a reborn ancient Roman empire, but also an affiliation with the most successful empire-builders of the sixteenth-century, the Habsburg and Portuguese courts. Attention to this context broadens the scope of interest in the Farnese beyond their identity as ‘Italian Renaissance’ princes focused on humanism and antique revival. It contextualises in a broader geopolitical sphere the major collections of antiquities amassed by the Roman branch of the family, which are catalogued in the Census.
As part of this focus on the Farnese, the Census student assistants have been updating the records of the database related to the Farnese antiquities and other works of art now housed in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples. This update, expected to be completed in the Summer of 2022, will add c. 350 new photographs of objects in the Museo Archeologico to the Census database.