The Vatican Museums. Five centuries of history

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Autore: Carlo Pietrangeli
Casa editrice: Edizioni Quasar e Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana
Anno edizione: 1993
Isbn: 88-7140-044-5
Materie: Storia dell'Arte
Formato: 22,5x32
Pagine: 320

A great museum is not only a collection of works of art or artefacts of various interest and various importance: it is also a living organism which has its own history to tell. And if the museum is of ancient origin, this can be of great fascination in itself. It is enough to think of a collection’s formation; of its progressive development which, over the centuries, takes account of, and is shaped by, the cultural interests of the time. Or of the acquisition, sometimes fortuitous, of the various works. Or of the changing tastes reflected in their display, and the various methods used in their restoration; or of the political developments or doctrinal implications in which the museum may find itself involved. The Vatican Museums, whose origins go back to the early 16th century, exemplify all these concerns in a particularly comprehensive and fascinating way. Their initial formation, almost in the character of a private collection; their threatened dispersal in the Counter-Reformation; their recovery under the impetus of the intellectual revival in the 18th century; their development, also in defence of the artistic patrimony of the State threatened by exports, at the end of the same century; their subsequent enlargement up to more recent times, thanks to the distinguished patronage of the various Popes; and lastly their incorporation, at times exemplary, in the context of the Vatican Palaces, first with Simonetti’s Museo Pio-Clementino, then with Stern’s Braccio Nuovo and more recently with Beltrami’s Pinacoteca and Passarelli’s Museo Paolino: all this constitutes not only a field of study, comparison, and reflection, but also at times an example which others have followed. The present book, ideally, would have required a far more extensive archival documentation than the author has been able to consult. It is to be hoped that the systematic exploration of the huge, but very scattered, archival sources available may make it possible in future to update, or to amplify, those parts of the book that were unable to benefit from this irreplaceable support. It may be claimed, nonetheless, that it has proved possible to reconstruct the history of the Vatican Museums in sufficient detail, and that this book may prove useful at a time when the history of collecting is arousing increasing interest.
Translated by P. Spring


Foreword. I. The «Antiquario delle Statue» from Julius II to Paul III (1503-1549). II. The first Vatican collection of antiquities from Julius III to Sixtus V (1550-1590). III. From Clement XI to Clement XIII: the «Museo Ecclesiastico» and the Museums of the Vatican Library (1700-1769). IV. Clement XIV and the foundation of the Museum Clementinum (1769-1774). V. A great season for the Vatican Museums: the pontificate of Pius VI (1775-1799). VI. The works of art of the Papal State in Paris. VII. Reconstitution and growth of the Vatican Museums from Pius VII to Pius VIII (1800-1831). VIII. The foundation of new museums in the Vatican and at the Lateran by Gregory XVI (1831-1846). IX. The Vatican Museums from Pius IX to Pius X: the Museo Pio-Cristiano and the new Pinacoteca Vaticana (1846-1914). X. Reorganization and growth of the collections from Benedict XV to Pius XII: the building of a special gallery fro the Pinacoteca and the foundation of the Museo Missio-nario Etnologico (1914-1958). XI. From John XXIII to Paul VI: amalgamation of all the Papal Museums within the Vatican. Foundation of the Collection of Modern Religious Art and of the Museo Storico (1958-1978). XII. The Vatican Museums today. Bibliography: Abbreviations; Archival sources; Periodicals; General bibliography. Indexes: Topographical index of the works of art in the Vatican cited in the text; Analytical index.