In spite of the tube strike scheduled on Monday 9 January 2017 all day, the Seminar in Collecting and Display will go ahead at the normal time, i.e. 6pm and will take place at the Institute of Historical Research (Senate House). Of course, latecomers will be welcome.

As a reminder, the speaker will be Karen J. Lloyd and she will present a paper on Displaying the Pope’s Living Presence: Bernini’s Clement X in Cardinal Paluzzo Altieri’s Collection.

The 1698 inventory of Cardinal Paluzzo Altieri’s Roman apartments places a sculpted bust of his uncle, Pope Clement X Altieri, in the cardinal’s ‘Room of Paintings.’ The bust was particularly precious, as it was the last papal portrait in marble made by the then-aged Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Analysis of the inventory indicates that Paluzzo intended his collection to shape his public image as a rigorously devout prelate and, as was typical of the time, to acknowledge his political allegiances and debts. Bernini’s bust was however set apart, as the only sculpture and the only portrait displayed in a space dedicated solely to art. How did the circumstances of display shape the meaning and reception of Bernini’s last papal bust?

Some scholars, most recently Caroline Eck, have argued that early modern sculpture was at times perceived as having a ‘living presence,’ that the boundaries between art and life could become blurred in viewer experience. However, the mechanisms by which such an experience might be triggered and the extent to which patrons sought to cultivate such a response, remain murky. Consideration of the display of Bernini’s Clement X, as well as seventeenth-century descriptions of the installations of the artist’s busts of Popes Paul V Borghese and Urban VIII Barberini in their respective family palaces, provide valuable insight into how such responses may have been intentionally fostered in learned audiences. Drawing on Alfred Gell’s theory of art and agency as well as early modern literary and theological sources, this talk explores Bernini’s papal busts at the intersections of patronage, display, and living presence.


Karen J. Lloyd is an Assistant Professor of Renaissance and Baroque art history at Stony Brook University. She is the co-editor of A Transitory Star. The Late Bernini and his Reception, and author of articles on Bernini, art collecting and display in seventeenth-century Rome, and the polemics of the early modern devotional image. Her work focuses in particular on the visual apologetics of nepotism in papal Rome, from rhetoric to modes of reception. Most recently, she has examined Italian representations and reform of the colonial Peruvian Virgin of Copacabana for a forthcoming book on early modern Italy and the Americas.

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