In 1544, when Titian went from Venice to Rome, he was 55 years old.
He annoys her leaving his house, his atelier, or Venezia.
Titian (1488) is the first painter of Venice and the whole of southern Europe.
Princes appreciate his talent because he ennobles features.
Carlos V, prefers Titian before any other painter.
He appoints him earl and member of the imperial court and assigns him an annual rent that he never pays him.
The competition over who has the highest rank in Europe, whether the emperor or the Pope, reaches the question of who has the best painters at his service.
Carlos V has already been portrayed, when Paulo III Farnese in 1534 became pope.
The Farnese also love Tiziano and know that he bothers them to travel.
They send Ranuccio Farnesio, a 12-year-old nephew of the pope who is studying in Padua.
His portrait is in the National Gallery of Art in Washington today.
In 1542, the contact is planned by Cardinal Alessandro Farnesio, who appears behind the Pontiff’s chair in the painting Pope Paul III with his nephews.
Alessandro asks Titian if he can move to Rome to work exclusively for the pope and he refuses.
In 1543 the cardinal asks him to go to Bologna where the Pope has to meet Carlos V.
Titian portrays the pope there for the first time.
Then he is invited to Rome for a few months and agrees.
He had never been to Rome despite being 55 years old, nor had he seen ruins, mosaics, sculptures etc.
He was a Renaissance painter with no classical knowledge.
He had been required to work in Rome several times, but he had not accepted fearful that the great models would disturb his speech, his perceptions.
But at that point he was confident enough.
The first week he spent in awe observing ancient classical culture.
The second reason for the trip was the family, his son Pomponius had chosen an ecclesial career and hoped to find a monastery or a church on whose income he could live.
Titian had in mind the abbey of San Pietro in Colle, which adjoined an estate he owned.
Cardinal Farnese gives you hope.
At Bologna he gave her to understand that the matter was about to be resolved in his favor.
March 1544, Titian asks again and receives no answer.
Cardinal Alessandro Farnesio knows Tiziano’s interest in San Pietro in Colle very well and takes the opportunity to blackmail him.
September 1544, the Venetian nuncio informs the cardinal in Rome that the artist is willing to paint the cats of the Illustrious house of his very noble birth, in exchange for a perk.
1544 Titian travels through a dismembered and insecure country, through cities and duchies that are mostly independent but that can only exist through an alliance with a foreign power, that is, with France or Spain.
Armies of mercenaries travel through Italy permanently.
The Duke of Urbino, whom Titian visits during the trip, decides that a group of men protect the painter in the last stage of the journey.
In Rome Cardinal Farnese received him with great honors and had his rooms prepared for him in the papal palace.
The pope needs soldiers, money and good contacts to have a stable situation between the great powers, Spain and France and the Italian supporters of him.
Otherwise the pope would have been easy to blackmail, even on religious matters.
That is why he is not suitable to lead the church by devout Christians and he resorts to men of action, with a left hand for power.
Paulo III proves to be a good manager.
He is descended from a lower nobility family, without any helpful contact in the curia, he has a pretty sister.
Luther says that he exploits her to seduce the pope and thus manages to make him a cardinal.
While Paul III is cardinal, he looks for a concubine and begets three sons and a daughter with her.
Luther reproaches him from Wittenberg, calling him an Epicurean pig.
In Rome this behavior is justified because he watches over the perpetuation of the family.
The survival of this, and even the plan to found a dynasty of rulers, legitimizes the violation of the vow of chastity.
Given that his older brother only had a sickly son who dies at a young age, it is up to the future pope to watch over the family and there is no evidence that he dislikes the task.
Nor is there any indication that he observed the precepts of the Church.
For a man like him, an ecclesiastical career implies the possibility of profiting from the riches of the Church.
The Vatican has countless parishes, abbeys, country estates, towns, cities, bishoprics, and offices.
All of them give benefits that are distributed among the ecclesiastics as perks.
As a cardinal, the future Paul III possesses several ovispados although he lacks the higher orders to be a bishop.
He uses a representative, to whom he gives a part of the income and who establishes a relationship of dependency with him.
Subordinates strengthen influence and power.
When Titian paints Pope Farnese in the company of two of his grandchildren, he is 77 years old and in a delicate situation.
Protestantism spreads north of the Alps and the Reformed princes of Germany join forces in the Schmalkalden league.
Carlos V fights against the league and demands immediate material help from Paulo III.
At the same time, the emperor demands the convening of a council that should serve to pronounce reforms and to put an end to the abuses that the pontiff himself has committed for his own benefit without scruples.
The portrait that Titian paints does not allow us to know who he really was.
He portrays him as a decrepit old man with shoulders that can’t hold his head.
But the pope seems dynamic, because he orients his head and body in different directions, suggesting expectation and even movement.
Unlike what is usually normal in the elderly, the pontiff has wide eyes and brimming with energy.
This ambiguity, this fusion of two facets in the same person make Titian’s pope something disturbing.
Paulo’s son also has four children.
Titian includes in the painting the two eldest Alessandro and Octavio who are called nepotes, who can be grandchildren or nephews, hence the title given to the work of Pope Paul III with his nephews.
The painter elegantly conceals the fact that the Pope allows himself to be portrayed with his grandchildren.
Alessandro is made a cardinal when he is 14 years old.
That happened in 1534, immediately after the grandfather was elected pope and the majority of the members of the curia did not consider him a cause for scandal.
Increasing his possessions and his power in this age has an absolute priority.
The pope procures his grandson Alessandro 30 bishoprics.
Lessandro has as little respect for the rules of conduct dictated by the Church as his grandfather.
He is about to renounce the cardinal’s hat on more than one occasion.
He supports a concubine, perhaps more, he begets a daughter and in the time he spends at the court of France as the pope’s nuncio, he dances with such elegance that Queen Catherine de Medici continues to remember him 30 years later.
He has a considerable income that he spends on the construction of the Palazzo Farnese in Rome which he adorns with ancient treasures and works of art from the time.
Alessandro participated in 7 conclaves but was never elected.
The fluoroscopic examination of the painting shows that Titian places him closer to the pope and makes him grasp the pommel on the back of his chair with his right hand as a sign of his intention to succeed him.
But the Counter-Reformation looks for people with ideals other than their own, his grandfather’s, or the Renaissance popes of the Borgia and Medicis families.
Gössel, P. (2007). The secrets of works of art. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag.
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