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Unknown Painter, Portrait of Urban VIII, 235th Pope, (1623-1644), circa 1640.

The Painting

Antique painting, oil on canvas, XVII century, depicting a portrait of Pope Urban XVIII.
Urban VIII, born Maffeo Barberini (Florence 1568 - Rome 1644) was the two hundred and thirty-fifth Pope of the Catholic Church. In overall fairly good condition, considering its age. There are scattered restorations and some peeling to the painted surface. There are no conservation issues and the original canvas is supported by an old re-lining that does not seem to require restoration. Fine craquelure compatible with age. It looks like the stretcher was replaced, probably when the painting was relined. 
Framed with a nice lacquered and gilt frame, from a fairly recent period.
Canvas size: 53 x 43 cm. Frame size: 66 x 56 cm.

The History

Pope Urban VIII (Latin: Urbanus VIII; baptised 5 April 1568 – 29 July 1644), born Maffeo Barberini, was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 6 August 1623 to his death in 1644. He expanded the papal territory by force of arms and advantageous politicking, and was also a prominent patron of the arts and a reformer of Church missions.

However, the massive debts incurred during his pontificate greatly weakened his successors, who were unable to maintain the papacy's longstanding political and military influence in Europe. He was also an opponent of Copernicanism and involved in the Galileo affair.

Urban VIII's military involvement was aimed less at the restoration of Catholicism in Europe than at adjusting the balance of power to favour his own independence in Italy. In 1626, the duchy of Urbino was incorporated into the papal dominions, and, in 1627, when the direct male line of the Gonzagas in Mantua became extinct, he controversially favoured the succession of the Protestant Duke Charles of Nevers against the claims of the Catholic Habsburgs. He also launched the Wars of Castro in 1641 against Odoardo FarneseDuke of Parma and Piacenza, whom he excommunicated. Castro was destroyed and its duchy incorporated into the Papal States.

Urban VIII was the last pope to extend the papal territory. He fortified Castelfranco Emilia on the Mantuan frontier and commissioned Vincenzo Maculani to fortify the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome. Urban VIII also established an arsenal in the Vatican, an arms factory at Tivoli and fortified the harbour of Civitavecchia.

For the purposes of making cannon and the baldacchino in St Peters, massive bronze girders were pillaged from the portico of the Pantheon leading to the well known lampoon: quod non fecerunt barbari, fecerunt Barberini, "what the barbarians did not do, the Barberini did." (in Wikipedia)

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