Portrait of a Pope

Written by  Elisabetta Lopresti
The restoration of the monument to Pope Paul V for the Fortress of Ferrara.
Last April, the restored monument to Pope Paul V in the open space between the ramparts of San Paolo and Santa Maria was unveiled to the public. The event was accompanied by an exhibition in the former residence of the poet Ludovico Ariosto, documenting the various phases of the restoration.

The exhibition was organised by Ferrara's Musei Civici di Arte Antica, and brings together interesting historical maps and antique books, along with valuable sources such as drawings, paintings and coins, providing the historical background to the story of the Fortress and putting the monument to Pope Paul V into a broader context.

The history of this major sculpture is inextricably linked with that of the Fortress, which was built on the orders of Pope Clement VIII. After the devolution of the d'Este Duchy, the papal government decided to fortify the city further; in order to build the pentagonal citadel a large built-up area of the city, including various churches and magnificent palazzi, was demolished. However, it was not until Pope Paul V came to power that the Fortress really began to take shape.

Camillo Borghese acceded to the papal throne in 1605 under the name of Pope Paul V, and proved to be a good consistorial lawyer, resolutely defending the interests of the Church while at the same time being an enlightened patron of great artists and sponsor of monumental artistic projects.

The work most representative of Borghese's policy is the Pauline Chapel which he commissioned in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome where, beside his funeral monument, there is a reference to the fact that Pope Paul V ordered the Fortification of Ferrara.
In addition to the statue in the Pauline Chapel, there exists another portrait of the Pope, also in Santa Maria Maggiore, modelled by Nicolas Cordier which is very similar to the monument by the same artist in the city of Rimini.

The Ferrara sculpture installed in the centre of the Fortress in 1618 has been attributed by historians since the mid 17th century to the sculptor Giovanni Lucca Genovese, probably with the collaboration of Serafino Colli.

The sculpture retains the same general form Cordier's as earlier works, both structurally and in the physical features and the symbols on the Borghese crest, although the dynamic of the figure is completely different.

Our Pope Paul V does not sit back comfortably in his chair, but conveys a mood of unhurried movement with his right leg extended forwards, as though he is about to stand up, thus emphasising the élan of his benedictory gesture.

The form of the two other monuments shows a more static figure, which contrasts with the vibrant forms of the eagles and dragons, the heraldic symbols of the Papacy whose chiselled forms enhance the dynamic effect of the figures.

Again in conjunction with the unveiling of the restoration, the Musei Civici d'Arte Antica have produced a publication, in collaboration with Ferrariae Decus and the Servizio Beni Monumentali, and with financial support from the Fondazione, which provides the historical background. The restoration is also described in a series of contributions recording the complex scientific and technical efforts involved.

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