Pilot Project: 17th-Century Rome

Mola / Rocan scudo
Artists' wealth, like that of most Renaissance and Baroque painters, was principally derived from what they earned selling their art. Data that documents payments to artists—as opposed to resale prices or inventory evaluations—is the primary means for analyzing the socioeconomic lives of painters in early modern Europe. This online database contains approximately 1,000 payments recorded in Rome between 1576 and 1711. Information concerning painters active in Rome for a small portion of their careers is limited to their Roman phase.

Richard Spear gathered this set of data in order to write the Rome section of the book Painting for Profit: The Economic Lives of Seventeenth-Century Italian Painters (New Haven: Yale University Press 2010), which focuses on painters active in five major Italian cities. During the past few decades, art historians have increasingly recognized the importance of economic factors in the making, selling, and display of art. In particular, John Michael Montias and Richard Goldthwaite have pioneered the way for art historians of the Northern Baroque and the Italian Renaissance to study the economic lives of artists, yet there has been no comparable work on 17th-century Italy or numerous other periods and places.

In its initial phase, this new Provenance Index® database is limited to information from Richard Spear's research on 17th-century Rome. It nonetheless is conceived as an open-ended, pilot project that can be easily corrected and significantly expanded as other scholars provide information from all periods of Western painting. To that end, users are encouraged to contact us about submitting complementary data sets.