If you came directly to this page you may wish to read a page on the town first and see the outside of Palazzo Pamphilj.
In the thirty years between about 1640 and 1670 is worth mentioning (..) the cycle of frescoes in the Pamphili palace at Valmontone near Rome, painted between 1657 and 1661 by Mola, Giambattista Tassi (il Cortonese), Guglielmo Cortese, Caspar Dughet, Cozza, and Mattia Preti.
Rudolph Wittkower - Art and Architecture in Italy 1600-1750 * 1958
The palace was greatly damaged by events related to WWII and its aftermath. It was eventually acquired by the City of Valmontone and a great part of the cycle of frescoes mentioned by Wittkower was restored. The rooms which can be visited include the Four Rooms of the Elements (frescoed ceilings), the Four Cabinets of the Continents (frescoed ceilings) and Salone del Principe, the main hall (frescoed walls and ceiling).
The palace is a very large building, furnished with great propriety; the prince and his family always spending some time here every year.
In the suite of rooms on the first floor are some excellent paintings; particularly a great hall painted in fresco, by Caspar Poussin, to represent an open lodge, exhibiting, between the arches and columns, delightful views which almost deceive the eye of the spectator; so much they have the appearance of real prospects. (..) The colouring of this hall is so fresh and harmonious, the idea so happy, and the whole so finely painted, that it must strike the traveller as one of the most pleasing tilings he ever saw.
Ellis Cornelia Knight - Description of Latium: or, La Campagna di Roma - 1805
Between 1645 and 1650 Poussin's brother-in-law, Caspar Dughet (1615-75), (..) painted the cycle of large landscapes with scenes from the life of Elijah in S. Martino ai Monti as well as landscape friezes in the Colonna, Costaguti, and Doria-Pamphili palaces. Wittkower
The extraordinary wealth achieved by Prince Camillo Pamphilj was not only due to his being nephew of Pope Innocent X and thus having been appointed to lucrative positions, e.g. General of the Papal Army, but also to his marriage in 1647 with Olimpia Aldobrandini, the last of her family, that of Pope Clement VIII. Her dowry included large estates, palaces, villas and collections of paintings and antiquities. The coat of arms at the centre of the ceiling depicts the heraldic symbols of the couple, the dove of the Pamphilj and the stars and stripes of the Aldobrandini.
Salone del Principe - frescoes of the walls
Archaeological excavations at Pompeii, Oplontis and Rome have shown many examples of gardens and trees which were painted on the walls of room to make them seem larger. They were often framed by fake architectures. In the XVth century however these paintings were not known and artists had to develop their knowledge of perspective laws by themselves. The angels and prophets painted in 1477 by Melozzo da Forlì at Loreto are one of the first examples of attempts to "open" the interior of a building to show the outside (in the case of Loreto portions of sky). The fake architectures of Salone del Principe were based on those of Galleria delle Prospettiva at Villa Farnesina which was designed by Baldassarre Peruzzi in the early XVIth century and which can be considered the prototype of this technique, which was employed also in churches, e.g. at SS. Trinità dei Monti.
Salone del Principe - details (most likely by Guglielmo Cortese): (above) members of the Pamphilj family watching what goes on from a fake balustrade; (below) imitation of an ancient relief depicting a sacrifice
As a frieze is a balustrade, over which are seen various figures in Vandyke dresses, some leaning, others playing on musical instruments. Knight
Some aspects of the decoration of Salone del Principe can be noticed in other villas/palaces, e.g. at Casino di Villa Borghese.
Hall of Earth by Giambattista Tassi, il Cortonese (1658): (left) Rape of Proserpina/Persephone/Kore; (right) personifications of Sculpture, Painting and Architecture
In the four principal rooms of this chain of apartments are ceilings, by Pietro da Cortona, Borghignone (Guglielmo Cortese), Cilla (Mattia Preti), and Cozza.(..) In these rooms are several pictures which have great merit, particularly the landscapes. There are also some good pieces of dead game, and one of armour and other military trophies, painted with singular truth. Some of the portraits deserve attention. The first room represents mythological subjects, and is certainly well executed, but not equal to most of the compositions of Cortona (e.g. those at Palazzo Pitti in Florence). Knight
The oil paintings mentioned by Knight are lost. The frescoes of the ceilings depicted personifications of the Elements and of the Continents and their painters largely relied on Cesare Ripa's "Iconologia" for representing them.
The real success story of Ripa's Iconologia started in 1603 when it came out as a magnificent quarto adorned with large format woodcuts. This edition and its successors became the standard handbook throughout Europe until the end of the 18th century as we can tell from its being in the older sections of our libraries. Literary and representational artists used this book not only in its original form but also in its many translations, adaptations and revamped versions. For the student of art and literature it is obviously important to know or to find out which version of Ripa's handbook served as the source of specific information on allegories in any given instance. (..) An English version was published in 1779 by the London architect and decorator George Richardson in four sumptuous folios dedicated to George III.
Hans-Joachim Zimmermann - English Translations and Adaptations of Cesare Ripa's Iconologia - 1995
SCULPTURE. Exactness of proportion, and elegance of design, are the chief excellencies of this study. The origin of sculpture is reckoned more ancient than any of the liberal arts, as the scripture makes mention of the idols of Laban. This subject is allegorically represented by the figure of a fine woman dressed in beautiful coloured drapery, and a simple head dress, crowned with laurel. The figure is in the attitude of forming an antique bust, into a proper shape and just proportions. PAINTING. This noble art of representing objects by delineation and colours, is characterised by the figure of a fine woman, with a diadem on her head, and dressed in changing coloured garments, to denote the excellency, and pleasing variety of this art. She has a golden chain about her neck, from which hangs a mask, with the motto imitatio, and implies that imitation is inseparably connected with painting, and the relation that this art has to poetry. ARCHITECTURE. The properties of the art or science of building, are chiefly strength, convenience and beauty. It is allegorically represented by the figure of a matron, dressed in changing coloured drapery, to signify the pleasing harmony and variety that this useful art affords the eye, and may be compared to the harmonious sounds of musick which delight the ear. The figure is in a thoughtful attitude, and appears to be studying the plan of an antique temple, delineated upon a chart, which she holds with the right hand.
George Richardson - Iconology (Selected from the compositions of Cesare Ripa) - 1779
The second, by Borghignone, is happily composed and very interesting, the subject of it is Galatea discovering Acis changed into a river god. Knight
Guglielmo Cortese (1627-79) began his career as a Cortona pupil and the ceiling he painted at Valmontone was partitioned in sections by gigantic monochrome paintings, similar to what his master had done in the ceiling of Palazzo Barberini. The portrayal of Galatea calls to mind that by Raphael at La Farnesina and the triton blowing into a conch shell the fountain by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. In later works e.g. at S. Maria dell'Assunzione at Ariccia, he moved towards more illusionistic patterns.
Hall of Water - Neptune (the image used as background for this page shows a detail of the ceiling)
Guglielmo Cortese was the Italianized name of Guillaume Courtois, the son of a painter from Burgundy who fled his country during the Thirty Years' War and settled with other refugees in Via Borgognona.
The depiction of Neptune might have influenced the design of the central group of statues of Fontana di Trevi.
Hall of Fire by Francesco Cozza (1659): (left) Forge of Vulcan (you might wish to see a very similar depiction of the forge of Vulcan in a IIIrd century AD floor mosaic at Thugga); (right) Venus, according to Ovid her chariot was drawn by swans
Cozza has painted the forge of Vulcan, with Venus, in her car, coming to sue for armour to adorn her son
Aeneas. Her figure is astonishingly foreshortened, but it has a good effect. Knight
Now Venus (..) spoke to Vulcan, her husband, in their golden bridal chamber, beginning this way, breathing divine passion into her words: "I didn't ask weapons of your skill or power, dearest husband, nor any help for my poor people, while the Argive kings destroyed doomed Troy in the war. (..) Now at Jove's command Aeneas has set foot on Rutulian (Italian) shores, so I come likewise as a suppliant and ask arms of the power sacred to me, a mother on behalf of her son." (..) The god, with the power of fire, rose now from his soft bed, no idler at that hour, to labour at the forge. An island, its rocks smoking, rises steeply by the Sicilian coast. (..) Beneath it a cave, and the galleries of Etna, eaten at by the Cyclopean furnaces, resound, and the groans from the anvils are heard echoing the heavy blows. (..) It is Vulcan's home and called Vulcania. Here then the god with the power of fire descended from the heavens. In the huge cave the Cyclopes, Brontes, Steropes, and bare-limbed Pyrcamon, were forging iron.
Virgil - Aeneid - Book VIII - Translation by A. S. Kline
Hall of Air by Mattia Preti (1661): Selene and sleeping Endymion (see this myth in a Roman sarcophagus in the Doria Pamphilj Palace in Rome) between Time and Fame
The room by Cilla (Preti) shews Fame, Fortune, Love, and Time, with their different attendants. Knight
The stylistic change from the High to the Late Baroque can be traced in Preti's fresco of the Stanza dell' Aria in the Valmontone palace. It was here for the first time that the High Baroque method of using time-honoured concepts of firm organization and clear, incisive structure as well as of stressing the individuality and massiveness of each single figure were abandoned and replaced by a flickering dotting of the entire ceiling with seemingly casually arranged figures so that the eye seeks a focusing or resting point in vain. Compared with Preti's Valmontone fresco, even such contrasting performances as Cortona's and Sacchi's Barberini ceilings have basic features in common. Wittkower
TIME. Is defined to be the duration of a thing, whose existence - is neither without beginning nor end. It is allegorically expressed by the figure of an old man, with large wings at his shoulders, resembling Saturn, who was the God of Time amongst the ancients. In his right hand he holds a scythe, and in the left, a serpent, biting its own tail, and forming a circle. The wings point out the velocity of Time; the scythe is the emblem of destruction, and denotes the cutting down and impairing all things. The serpent in a circular form, alludes to the revolution of the year, and the vicissitude of earthly things. He is represented with all the marks of age and infirmity in his face, alluding to the duration of Time; and to the dissolution of every thing in this mortal state. FAME. Is represented by the figure of a woman with large white wings at her shoulders, holding a trumpet in her right hand, and in the left, an olive branch; her garments may be overspread with eyes, mouths, and ears. The wings denote the candour and velocity of Fame; the trumpet signifies that the voice of Fame resounds like this instrument, and encourages men to imitate the virtuous. Richardson/Ripa
Hall of Air - Allegory of Night who sleeps while the twilight holds the reins of the horses
The EVENING TWILIGHT. Is so called from the short space of time that follows the setting sun, and is represented as a young boy of a brown complexion, in the precipitate action of flying towards the West, with the evening Star Hesperus above his head, which precedes the night; he holds a bat in his left hand with its wings extended, in the other he holds a dart. Richardson/Ripa
In a varying degree elements of Preti's revolution will be found in the decoration of churches from about 1670 on. (..) In the palaces the most sumptuous decorations follow after 1670. (..) Mention must be made of the frescoes of Giovanni Coli's and Filippo Gherardi's in the immense Gallery of the Palazzo Colonna (1675-8). Wittkower
Hall of Air - Aurora and Day (you may wish to see the ceiling of Casino dell'Aurora which was painted by Guido Reni in 1614)
AURORA. She holds a basket full of flowers in her left hand and she distributes flowers with the right hand. The DAY.
Is represented by an allegorical figure of a graceful aspect dressed in white, with wings at his shoulders to indicate the celerity of time. He has a lighted torch in one hand, and a bunch of flowers in the other. Richardson/Ripa
In 1672 Gaulli began in the Gesu the most ambitious decoration of the Roman Baroque, which kept him occupied for over a decade. (..) Padre Pozzo's immense frescoes in S. Ignazio were painted between 1691 and 1694. Wittkower - You may wish to see these and other illusionistic Baroque ceilings in a page covering this topic.
Mattia Preti left Italy shortly after having painted the Hall of Air at the request of the Grand Prior of the Order of Malta: you may wish to see some of his paintings in St. John's Co-Cathedral of Valletta.
America and Africa by Pier Francesco Mola (1659)
Pier Francesco Mola (1612-66) began under the Cavaliere d'Arpino but received his direction for life from a prolonged stay at Venice. Back in Rome in the early 1640s in the following two decades he used a rich palette of warm brownish tones and created works in which once again the landscape element often forms the hub of the composition. He gave his best in small pictures which display a quite personal idyllic and even elegiac quality. (..) The landscape plays a predominant part, but the organization of the painting with a figure composition as much indebted to Raphael as to Cortona exposes a tendency towards reconciliation with the prevailing classicism of the period. Wittkower
AMERICA. The fourth and last part of the world is represented almost naked , of a tawny complexion, and a fierce aspect; has her head and other parts of the body adorned with various coloured feathers, according to the custom of the country. In the left hand she holds a bow , and in the right a bunch of arrows, these being the arms of both men and women in many of the provinces. (..) AFRICA. This third part of the world is exposed to the south, and situated mostly under the torrid zone, and crossed by the equator. It is represented by the figure of a woman, of a tawny colour, and in a moorish dress; she is crowned with the trunk of an elephant, (according to a medal of the emperor Adrian and others) and a lion by her side, these sort of animals being natives in that part of the globe: she holds a scorpion in her left hand, and a cornucopia in her right, containing the ears of corn, to denote the fertility of the country; the Africans having two harvests and two summers. Richardson/Ripa
See the Four Continents by Filippo Gherardi in the ceiling of S. Pantaleo.
Asia by Francesco Cozza and Europe by Giambattista Tassi
ASIA. It is represented by a woman richly dressed in embroidery, with pearls and other jewels of value, and crowned with a garland of fruits and flowers. In her right hand she holds branches of cassia, pepper, and July flowers, and in her left a vase of incense. The camel by her side, is an animal of great service and a native of Asia. The dress embroidered with gold, pearls and other jewels, denote not only the value and abundance of them in that country, but also alludes to a custom of the inhabitants, who wear various ornaments of this sort. The garland of fruits and flowers, signify, that Asia is a temperate climate, producing not only every thing necessary to human life, but also eyery kind of delicacy. The branches of aromatics in her hand, points out the fecundity of the country, and that she distributes them liberally to other regions . The vase of incense, indicates the variety of odoriferous spices produced in many provinces of Asia. EUROPE. For learning and arts, the Europeans have been most renowned; all the scolastic sciencies they have brought to great perfection, and the invention and improvement of many useful and ingenious arts, particularly navigation, are wholly owing to the genius and industry of the inhabitants in this principal part of the world, which is represented by the figure of a matron magnificently dressed, having a crown of gold upon her head. She is standing by an elegant temple, indicating the sanctity of their religion, the wisdom and ingenuity of the inhabitants, and the excellency of their government. The horn of plenty in her left hand, containing fruits and flowers, allude to the fertility of the soil, throughout the great plenty of corn, cattle, wine, oyl, and all things necessary; not only for sustenance, but even for the luxury of human life . The trophies, the owl upon the books, and the musical instruments and other things lying at her feet, denote her superiority above all other parts of the world, with respect to arms, to literature, and all the liberal arts. A horse is an attribute, and signifies the warlike disposition of the inhabitants; her embroidered garments of various colours, mark her superior riche; the crown on her head is to show that Europe has always been esteemed the queen of the world. Richardson/Ripa
Return to the page on the town or see the frescoed ceilings of Palazzo Rospigliosi Colonna at Zagarolo.
Introductory page on Ferdinand Gregorovius
Next pages in this walk: Segni, Carpineto, Norma and Cori
The Roman Campagna: Colonna and Zagarolo, Palestrina, Cave, Genazzano, Olevano, Paliano and Anagni
The Ernici Mountains: Ferentino, Frosinone, Alatri, Fiuggi (Anticoli di Campagna), Piglio and Acuto
On the Latin shores: Anzio and Nettuno and Torre Astura
Circe's Cape: Terracina and San Felice
The Orsini Castle in Bracciano
Subiaco, the oldest Benedictine monastery
Small towns near Subiaco: Cervara, Rocca Canterano, Trevi and Filettino.