Our two new bronze arms, each more than a meter high, bear the eagle and dragon of the Borghese family of Rome and, on stylistic grounds, may be dated in our second decade of the seventeenth century. One is surmounted by the princely crown of the family's title;1
the other by a cardinal's hat. Each side of the arms is ornamented by sportive putti.
Important examples of early Italian Baroque sculpture, these arms, which were made during the papacy of Paul V (Borghese), can be connected with one of Italy's greatest artistic patrons, Cardinal Scipione Borghese, the Pope's nephew, and remained in the family until 1893.2
The author and the use of the arms are both unknown, although they represent the late Mannerist taste of several Borghese artists, Flaminio Ponzio, the architect, and Cavaliere d'Arpino, the painter. In 1611 Ponzio completed the great Capella Paolina, the family chapel of the Borghese, in S. Maria Maggiore, Rome. Cavaliere d'Arpino was one of its decorators as was Camillo Mariani (1556-1611), the sculptor of the bronze angels above its altar, which are most comparable in style. Between the pairs of putti
of the Minneapolis arms there seems a difference of personality. Might one pair be due to Mariani—who died in 1611—and the other one of the Borghese sculptors, for example Pietro the father of the great G. L. Bernini? The Borghese became princes of Vivero in 1609, by which time Scipione was already a cardinal.Endnotes
Referenced Work of Art
- Illustrated on the cover of this Bulletin.
- One is apparently referred to in the confused catalogue entry (no. 110) of the 1893 Borghese sale (I owe this information to Dr. Italo Faldi) and both traditionally come from this sale. They were brought to America by Stanford White for use in the Harry Payne Whitney mansion, 871 Fifth Avenue, New York.
- Unknown Sculptor, Roman, 17th century. Arms of Cardinal Scipione Borghese, c. 1620. Bronze, 43”. Miscellaneous Purchase Funds, 1961, 61.63.2.