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Cassiano dal Pozzo

Cassiano dal Pozzo

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Cassiano dal Pozzo was an Italian scholar and patron of arts. The secretary of Cardinal Francesco Barberini
Francesco Barberini (seniore)
Francesco Barberini was an Italian Catholic Cardinal. The nephew of Pope Urban VIII , he benefited immensely from the nepotism practiced by his uncle...

, he was an antiquary in the classicizing circle of Rome, and a long-term friend and patron of Nicolas Poussin
Nicolas Poussin
Nicolas Poussin was a French painter in the classical style. His work predominantly features clarity, logic, and order, and favors line over color. His work serves as an alternative to the dominant Baroque style of the 17th century...

, whom he supported from his earliest arrival in Rome: Poussin in a letter declared that he was "a disciple of the house and the museum of cavaliere dal Pozzo." A doctor with interests in the proto-science of alchemy
Alchemy
Alchemy is an influential philosophical tradition whose early practitioners’ claims to profound powers were known from antiquity. The defining objectives of alchemy are varied; these include the creation of the fabled philosopher's stone possessing powers including the capability of turning base...

, a correspondent of major figures like Galileo, a collector of books and master drawings, dal Pozzo was a node in the network of European scientific figures.

Biography


Dal Pozzo was born in Turin
Turin
Turin is a city and major business and cultural centre in northern Italy, capital of the Piedmont region, located mainly on the left bank of the Po River and surrounded by the Alpine arch. The population of the city proper is 909,193 while the population of the urban area is estimated by Eurostat...

, to a noble family originating from Vercelli
Vercelli
Vercelli is a city and comune of about 47,000 inhabitants in the Province of Vercelli, Piedmont, northern Italy. One of the oldest urban sites in northern Italy, it was founded, according to most historians, around the year 600 BC.The city is situated on the river Sesia in the plain of the river...

, the grandson of the first minister of the Grand Duke of Tuscany.

He was raised in Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

 and educated at the University of Pisa
University of Pisa
The University of Pisa , located in Pisa, Tuscany, is one of the oldest universities in Italy. It was formally founded on September 3, 1343 by an edict of Pope Clement VI, although there had been lectures on law in Pisa since the 11th century...

. In 1612 he moved to Rome, where with deft diplomacy he moved among influential and cultivated patrons. After taking up a position as secretary in Cardinal Barberini’s household in 1623, Cassiano soon became a prominent figure in Rome’s intellectual life; both he and the Cardinal were members of the Accademia dei Lincei
Accademia dei Lincei
The Accademia dei Lincei, , is an Italian science academy, located at the Palazzo Corsini on the Via della Lungara in Rome, Italy....

, the scientific society founded by principe Federico Cesi
Federico Cesi
Federico Angelo Cesi was an Italian scientist, naturalist, and founder of the Accademia dei Lincei. On his father's death in 1630, he became briefly lord of Acquasparta.- Biography :...

. Cassiano was soon joined in Rome by his younger brother Carlo Antonio (1606-89), who shared his artistic and scientific interests and played a significant role in augmenting the collection that Cassiano commenced about 1615 and came to call his Museo Cartaceo ("Paper Museum"). Aside from drawings of artists of the Quattrocento and the High Renaissance, he commissioned from his “giovani ben intendenti del disegno” hundreds of drawings after the Antique and examples of curiosities of every kind. Cassiano had casts made of works of sculpture, such as the reliefs of Trajan's Column
Trajan's Column
Trajan's Column is a Roman triumphal column in Rome, Italy, which commemorates Roman emperor Trajan's victory in the Dacian Wars. It was probably constructed under the supervision of the architect Apollodorus of Damascus at the order of the Roman Senate. It is located in Trajan's Forum, built near...

, which Poussin seems to have drawn at leisure, rather than working from the original (Friedlaender 1964).

Aside from his lasting friendship with Poussin, who shared his antiquarian interests and from whom Cassiano commissioned the series of seven Sacraments and the illustrated manuscript of Leonardo
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

's Le Regole e Precetti della Pittura, Cassiano’s patronage extended to the French painter in Rome Simon Vouet
Simon Vouet
Simon Vouet was a French painter and draftsman, who today is perhaps best remembered for helping to introduce the Italian Baroque style of painting to France.-Life:...

 and the classicizing sculptor Alessandro Algardi
Alessandro Algardi
Alessandro Algardi was an Italian high-Baroque sculptor active almost exclusively in Rome, where for the latter decades of his life, he was the major rival of Gian Lorenzo Bernini.-Early years:...

, to Artemisia Gentileschi
Artemisia Gentileschi
Artemisia Gentileschi was an Italian Early Baroque painter, today considered one of the most accomplished painters in the generation influenced by Caravaggio...

, Gian Lorenzo Bernini
Gian Lorenzo Bernini
Gian Lorenzo Bernini was an Italian artist who worked principally in Rome. He was the leading sculptor of his age and also a prominent architect...

, Pietro da Cortona
Pietro da Cortona
Pietro da Cortona, by the name of Pietro Berrettini, born Pietro Berrettini da Cortona, was the leading Italian Baroque painter of his time and also one of the key architects in the emergence of Roman Baroque architecture. He was also an important decorator...

, Caravaggio as well as lesser-known contemporary artists whom he kept busy with lesser commissions for his Museo Cartaceo. His close connections with leading European scientists such as Galileo, with scholars and philosophers, kept him fully informed of the latest archaeological and scientific discoveries, for all of which he attempted to provide a visual record in his Museo. Cassiano also appears to have patronized the publication of manuscripts on painting by Matteo Zaccolini
Matteo Zaccolini
Matteo Zaccolini was an Italian painter, priest and author of the late Mannerist and early Baroque periods. He was a mathematical theorist on perspective.-Works:...

.

Cassiano accumulated illustrations of Roman sculpture and antiquities, including drawings by and after Pirro Ligorio
Pirro Ligorio
Pirro Ligorio was an Italian architect, painter, antiquarian and garden designer.-Biography:Ligorio was born in Naples. In 1534 he moved to Rome, where he developed his interest in antiquities, and was named superintendent to the ancient monuments by the Popes Pius IV and Paul IV...

, and—unusually—of early medieval works. In addition, he collected a whole range of natural history
Natural history
Natural history is the scientific research of plants or animals, leaning more towards observational rather than experimental methods of study, and encompasses more research published in magazines than in academic journals. Grouped among the natural sciences, natural history is the systematic study...

, geological samples and fossil
Fossil
Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of animals , plants, and other organisms from the remote past...

s, botanical illustrations and drawings of microscope observations, in effect, wunderkammer of objects. As antiquarian, Cassiano applied a new systematic methodology: classical monuments were painstakingly measured, drawn and annotated, in a manner that would not become usual until the mid-eighteenth century. This massive accumulation he classified thematically, according to the testimony they represented of antique cult, customs, dress, and architecture. The Museo was never published—a herculean venture currently under way— but dal Pozzo generously made it available to scholars in Rome.

After the death of Federico Cesi, it was left to Cassiano dal Pozzo and Francesco Stelluti to conserve the precious inheritance of scientific instruments, books and research. Rather than see Cesi's library dispersed, Cassiano purchased it, with part of Cesi's natural history cabinet, in December 1633 and housed it with his own collection at Sant'Andrea della Valle.His financial and intellectual support helped the Lincei achieve its most lasting monument, Il Tesoro Messicano, which was brought to the printer between 1628 and 1651.

After the visit to Rome in 1636 of the English physician George Ent
George Ent
George Ent was an English scientist in the seventeenth century who focused on the study of anatomy. He was a member of the Royal Society and the Royal College of Physicians...

, (later a Fellow of the Royal Society
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

) a correspondence ensued, in letters of extraordinary interest. Cassiano sent Ent specimens of petrified wood
Petrified wood
Petrified wood is the name given to a special type of fossilized remains of terrestrial vegetation. It is the result of a tree having turned completely into stone by the process of permineralization...

 and a tabletop made from fossil wood, which had come from the estates of Federico Cesi at Acquasparta; the specimens and the tabletop were shown to early meetings of the Royal Society and had a significant part in the developing debate on the origin of fossil
Fossil
Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of animals , plants, and other organisms from the remote past...

s. The correspondence also records exchanges of books between London and Rome; among medical matters there is news of William Harvey
William Harvey
William Harvey was an English physician who was the first person to describe completely and in detail the systemic circulation and properties of blood being pumped to the body by the heart...

 and his works.

His contemporary biographer was Carlo Dati, whose laudatory oration Delle lodi del Commendator Cassiano dal Pozzo was printed in Florence, 1664. His portrait by Jan Van de Hoeck was included in the exhibition Cassiano dal Pozzo. I segreti di un Collezionista, 2000.

Further reading

  • Francis Haskell, Mecenati e pittori (Florence) 1966.
  • Ingo Herklotz, Cassiano dal Pozzo und die Archaologie des 17. Jahrhunderts in series Romische Forschungen der Bibliotheca Hertziana, 28 (Munich: Hirmer) 1999.
  • Cassiano dal Pozzo. I segreti di un Collezionista (Galleria Borghese, Rome, 2000, etc) Travelling exhibition; catalogue by Lorenza Mochi and Francesco Solinas. Briefly described on-line
  • Walter Friedlaender, Nicolas Poussin: A New Approach (New York: Abrams) 1964.