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The Bourbon del Monte and Caravaggio

Palazzo Museo Bourbon del Monte

Amongst the members of the Bourbon del Monte family were warlords, men of the church and careful collectors. Amongst these and deserving particular attention is Francesco Maria Bourbon del Monte Santa Maria, Cardinal, art collector and Italian diplomat, born in Venice on the 5th July 1549 and who died in Rome on the 27th August 1627.

Belonging to the Monte Baroccio line of counts, he had arrived in Rome between 1575 and 1576 and, as the right-hand man Ferdinando de’ Medici, became the representative at the Santa Sede for Tuscan affairs. In 1615 he was nominated ruler of Monte Santa Maria Tiberina, then being part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Amongst the many artists that surrounded del Monte, Michelangelo Merisi, or Caravaggio, was included. (1571-1610). The biographers recount that the Lombardian painter was met with in the Roman residence of the Cardinal at Madama palace, current home to the Senate, and he stayed from the summer of 1597 to approximately 1600. Del Monte was amongst the first to discover the talent of Caravaggio: he had probably bought two of his pieces from the art dealer Costantino Spata, I bari, today at Fort Worth, and La buona ventura of the Musei Capitolini. The painter produced some artwork for the Cardinal del Monte, amongst which the Suonatore di liuto, and “una musica”, identified with the piece I musici, currently on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, a “vase of flowers”, still not identified, Bacco now at the Uffizi Gallery and Santa Caterina d’Alessandria, today in Madrid. One of the most interesting pieces of the first Carvaggio production is connected to the commission of del Monte: Medusa now at the Uffizi Gallery, donated by Del Monte to Ferdinando de’ Medici. Also made for del Monte by Caravaggio was that which at the moment is the only painting on a wall known by Caravaggio: the oil painting of Jupiter Neptune Pluto in the room dedicated to the alchemy in the Casino Ludovisi Villa in Rome, at that time was the property of the Cardinal Del Monte.