The Display of Art in Roman Palaces 1550–1750
The aim of this project is to establish and analyze typical habits and patterns of display in noble Roman households as they formed and changed over two centuries (1550–1750). This period encompassed the beginnings of collecting as it is generally understood today and the end of the "baroque," by which time a very different concept of the interior had taken shape. Rome formulated a powerful model for how the elites of Europe and beyond should live with an abundance of art. At the same time, the very concept of "art" and the writing of the history of art developed in close dialogue with display in such settings. No broad-gauged study exists of the display of art in Roman palaces; however, the subject is especially compelling now that research on individual collecting has been so highly developed. There is substantial literature on different categories of media such as frescos, cabinet pictures, tapestries, and sculpture, but it has been rare to examine how such objects were integrated into the physical spaces where people conducted their lives, or alternately, how their owners self-consciously filtered, ordered, and displayed them as collections per se. This project taps into new multidisciplinary research on the cultural and social context for display in Italy, providing insight into the mechanics of production and the art market as well as into the processes by which desire and decorum were negotiated in concrete aesthetic environments that responded to the contingencies of life and change.
Several years ago the Getty supported a project to photocopy thousands of inventories from Italian archives for inclusion in the Provenance Index® inventories database. An important but underexploited resource, the inventories and database offer critical evidence for this project. A sub-database of the approximately 800 relevant Roman inventories is under construction to provide enhanced access to the data. In addition, the Research Institute's Special Collections include a significant number of materials and books relevant to the project.
Display of Art in Roman Palaces held a major international conference on December 2–3, 2010. Members of the research team will collaborate to publish a book as well as individual scholarly articles.