Am I the only person who thinks that nepotism and tapestries sounds like an album name?
Maybe not. But still, they are the source of my interest in Pope Urban VIII. That’s right, folks, I have chosen my first research topic of the year (unless you count the research paper about Frank Churchill’s use of Latin derived words in Emma that I’ve been dying to write forever). The topic: The Barberini Tapestry Cycle and the Self and Familial Editing of Papal History in Roman Baroque Art.
The Barberini Tapestry Cycle is a self of three tapestries that depict the lives of three important Christian figures: Constantine, Jesus Christ and Pope Urban VIII. The first seven tapestries of Constantine were designed by Peter Paul Rubens for the House of Bourbon and then later given to Cardinal Francisco Barberini during a visit to France. Pietro da Cortona completed the Constantine cycle, replacing the French coat of arms with that of the Barberini Family.
The last two cycles, of Christ’s and Pope Urban’s lives, were completely Italian made. The choices of which Christ episodes were depicted were heavy on the Papal imagery, and Pope Urban’s life is shown as one of an intellectual pope who has brought relics to Rome.
Thing about Pope Urban VIII: not that great of a pope. He really liked Bernini and da Cortona and he really liked making his nephews Cardinals.
So I am looking at the iconography/events/spectacles represented in the Italian made tapestries to see how Urban VIII and his nephews edited the story of the Barberini pope, directly within the cycle of his life and indirectly with that of Constantine and Christ.