Key to Umbria

Detail of self-portrait (ca. 1640)

Palais Fesch, Ajaccio, Corsica

Pietro Berrettini, who is almost always named for his native city,  trained in Florence but was based in Rome from ca. 1612. His first major commission came from the papal treasurer, Marcello Sacchetti, who commissioned him to lead a team of young artists in the decoration of Villa Sacchetti at Castel Fusano, near Ostia in 1626.  This team included included Andrea Sacchi  and Andrea Camassei.  He trained a large number of other artists in his studio in Rome, including Salvi Castellucci, Pietro Montanini, Giacinta Gimignani, Francesco Allegrini, Antonio Gherardi and Giovanni Ventura Borghesi.

The project for Marcello Sacchetti led to the patronage of Pope Urban VIII and his Barberini relatives.  He also enjoyed the patronage of the Grand Duke Ferdinando II in Florence in the decade from 1637.

Pietro da Cortona became the Director of the Accademia di San Luca in 1634.  However, two years later, his exuberant style attracted the public criticism from other artists, led by his erstwhile follower, Andrea Camassei.  He nevertheless remained one of the most important Baroque artists in Rome.


Frescoes (17th century)

The frescoes in the cupola of the Cappella della Santissimo Sacramento, Santa Maria Assunta, which depict an Allegory of Prayer, are from a cartoon by Pietro da Cortona


Birth of the Virgin (1643)

Sofonisba Petrini commissioned this altarpiece, which is signed and dated, from Pietro da Cortona for his family chapel (the Cappella della Natività di Maria) in San Filippo Neri.  The Oratorian fathers were upset by the voluptuous representation of the female figures, but they were over-ruled.   The altarpiece is now in the Galleria Nazionale.

St Martina’s Vision of the Madonna and Child (ca. 1644)

This his terracotta preparatory model by Pietro da Cortona and Cosimo Fancelli formed part of the collection of the art historian Valentino Martinelli and is exhibited in Palazzo della Penna.  It depicts a vision of the 3rd century martyr, St Martina, in which the baby Jesus hands her the palm of martyrdom.  Pietro da Cortona was devoted to St Martina, whose relics were rediscovered in 1634 during his work on the refurbishment of the church of SS Luca e Martina, Rome.  This model was for a relief for the ciborium of the high altar of the church.   

St Martina’s Vision of the Madonna and Child (ca. 1647)

This small panel by Pietro da Cortona in the Galleria Nazionale is of unknown provenance.  As noted above, Pietro was devoted to St Martina: this is one of a number of images of the saint that he painted during his career.

Immaculate Conception (1658-62)

Cardinal Luigi Capponi, Archbishop of Ravenna commissioned this altarpiece from Pietro da Cortona for the high altar of San Filippo Neri.  Progress was delayed because of the artist’s poor health, and the work was finished by his Ciro Ferri, Pietro’s “scolaro famoso” (famous student).

The altarpiece has unusual iconography, in which God creates the Virgin using the gesture that Michelangelo used in his famous fresco (1509-12) of the creation of Adam in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  The Virgin stands on a cloud above a vanquished dragon that represents original sin.  This altarpiece has been recently restored.

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Pietro da Cortona (1596-1669) 

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