N02973 LUCRETIA BORGIA REIGNS IN THE VATICAN IN THE ABSENCE OF POPE ALEXANDER VI
Canvas backed with wood, 87×60 1/2 (221×154).
Chantrey Purchase from the artist 1914.
Exh: R.A., 1914 (103).
The picture was begun in Rome in the Borgia Apartments of the Vatican. These had been occupied by Cardinal Merry del Val, the Papal Secretary of State, and were not open to the public, but had been vacated just before the artist first came to Rome in 1908, so he was able to paint there. The rooms were decorated by Pinturicchio and the frescoes of the Annunication and the Nativity appear on either side of the throne. The subject was suggested by the Diary of John Burchard, Bishop of Orta, Papal Master of the Ceremonies, 27 July 1501, and the following quotation was printed in the R.A. catalogue: ‘Before his Holiness, our Master, left the city, he turned over the palace and all business affairs to his daughter Lucrezia, giving her full power to open all letters which arrive.’
The Cardinals around Lucrezia were painted from contemporary portraits: the one writing on the right is Cardinal Giovanni de Medici, afterwards Leo X, the one on the left holding back her robe is Cardinal Farnese, afterwards Paul III, and the one standing on the right is the Cardinal of Lisbon who had to advise Lucrezia on her official duties. (Letters from the artist 18 and 23 January 1956).
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, I
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